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Photo by memoossa

Photo by memoossa

With 55.8 million kids enrolled in public and private schools this fall, retailers can anticipate their usual brief stint of shoppers. But given lackluster consumer spending and a 9.4 percent unemployment rate, it is no surprise analysts at industry research firm IBISWorld expect back-to-school spending to decline by 3.4 percent – from the $20.42 billion generated in 2008.

“Parents will inevitably put more thought and less dollars into their back-to-school shopping strategies,” said George Van Horn, senior analyst at IBISWorld. “In particular, dollar-variety stores can expect to see a greater wave of traffic since parents are doing everything they can to save an extra buck”.  In fact, IBISWorld approximates 21.3 percent of sales from the $47 billion discount-retailer industry to come from school and office supplies alone.

The fastest growing category, electronic school supplies, will see a slight decline of 1.8 percent, down to $5.12 billion. Parents on average will spend $91.69 per child on electronic equipment this year, a fairly significant leap from the $43.36 average observed in 2005. Items such as calculators and personal laptops are must-haves in today’s learning environment, and IBISWorld predicts that by 2016, this sector will become the number one back-to-school spending category – overtaking the core area of clothing, as the learning environment becomes more technologically focused.

The biggest decline this year comes from the clothes category, expected to plunge 5.4 percent. For each child enrolled in school this year, sporting the latest trends in clothes and accessories will cost parents $136.60 on average.

And for the 1.23 million kids that will be home-schooled this year, IBISWorld found that while parents may be saving on certain expenses like clothes and shoes, educating a child at home escalates costs in other areas. In particular, parents incur the hefty price of purchasing the latest teaching tools, textbooks, and learning equipment – typically covered by public and private schools.

“Back-to-school spending is a necessary and justifiable expenditure,’” said Van Horn. “Retailers have driven down overall prices in order to draw consumers, so price-conscious parents won’t need to significantly cutback because they will get a lot more for their dollar this year.”

plan wedding on budgetYour wedding is suppose to be one of the most memorable events in your life. However, in the current economic situation, you are probably cutting back on expenses for your special day.  But just because you’re making cutbacks doesn’t mean the event can’t be fabulous!

That’s why Minoo Hersini, Creative Director at Au Ciel Design Studio, has some vital tips on how to respect your budget while still having that fairy tale wedding you always dreamed of.  It may be simpler than you thought: 

 

 

  • Invite less guests. Limit attendees to your close family and friends.
  • Look into unusual spaces such as barns, galleries, studios, rooftops.  Also, consider the use of your home and your friends and families.
  • Choose a location that is in a close vicinity to your guests.
  • Create a more casual environment by sampling food dishes.
  • Create your own cocktail.  Find an original name to reflect your wedding.
  • Use the most creative people in order to give you the simple solutions for décor.
  • A great DJ is the way to go instead of live music.
  • Encourage your guests to donate to a specific charity of your choice.

Despite cutbacks, there is an upside to the recession according to industry research firm IBISWorld.  The average cost of a wedding dropped by more than 20 percent in 2008, and is expected to decline further by 8 percent this year. While some of this will be due to consumers cutting costs where possible, prices are expected to average lower than previous years.

“While some couples are putting off their ceremony until the financial time is right, those who can afford it should consider getting married in 2009,” said Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld. “They may get more bang for their wedding buck.”

groceriesAmericans have many choices when it comes to supermarket purchases: store brand, commercial brand, organic, etc. – but what is the cost difference and does it vary across the nation?  Industry research firm, IBISWorld, investigated grocery costs in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago to gage consumer spending across the U.S.  Here are the findings for the average grocery cart:

 Photobucket

On average for all food-brand categories (store, commercial and organic), Chicago is the cheapest of the three analyzed regions, coming in at $115.73. Los Angeles was the most expensive at $124.43, while New York City was slightly cheaper at $122.66.

The consumers with the lowest grocery bill ($92.04) are those in Chicago purchasing store brand products. This compares with $104.54 and $110.64 for New York City and Los Angeles, respectively.

Chicago did however have the most expensive organic bill, coming in at $142.95, and Los Angeles had the cheapest at $137.52. This is due to Los Angeles’ proximity to Mexico as well the high volume of food production in California.   With the biggest selling area of organic groceries being fresh produce – expected to account for 42 percent of sales this year – and California accounting for 53.8 percent of the nation’s melon and vegetable production, it is no surprise Los Angeles shoppers have cheaper organics.

“Large supermarkets have bypassed wholesaling activities as much as possible, and by taking greater control of the entire supply chain they have been able to minimize the cost structure for store brands versus competing products,” said George Van Horn, senior analyst with IBISWorld.  “Organic markets still look to ‘own the supply chain’, but they operate on a much smaller scale, resulting in markups.” 

According to IBISWorld’s findings, the average organic grocery cart is about 18 percent more expensive than a grocery cart primarily filled with commercially branded products.  But the organic grocery cart is a staggering 37.6 percent more expensive than a basket primarily filled with store branded products.

“Despite the high price of organic products and the recession restricting budgets, the organic food market is still growing by four percent in 2009,” adds Van Horn.

Photo by mailsparky

Photo by mailsparky

This year, 4.3 million babies will be born in the United States, representing a 0.4 percent decline from 2008.  While recessions typically lead to fewer birth rates, the latest research from Los Angeles-based IBISWorld shows that not only does parenting get pricier with time, but the impact of current economic conditions will further exacerbate the financial commitment.

“We can expect to see a surge in the boomerang generation [ages 18-24] returning home and continuing financial dependency on parents due to a scarce and competitive job market,” said Toon van Beeck, senior analyst at IBISWorld. “This phenomenon has become more apparent in recent years, with higher costs in tuition and rent making transitioning into adulthood increasingly difficult. Thanks to the recession, many parents will get prolonged time with their kids until the graduate’s debt is paid off or market conditions improve.”

From the moment of conception to age 18, the average cost of raising a child is about $227,862—which translates to an average cost of $12,658 a year.  A household yielding an annual income of less than $45,000 will spend roughly $156,469 on their child until they turn 18.  Incomes between $45,000 and $75,000 spend $214,829, while households earning $75,000 and above splurge over $312,286 by the time their teen graduate’s high school. Afterwards, parents can expect to shell out for college tuition, along with additional financial burdens induced by a stagnant economy.

Photo by night_fate

Photo by night_fate

Something old, new, borrowed and blue – that is the wedding tradition – but this season brides may struggle to get something new.  According to industry research firm IBISWorld, spending on rented bridal gowns is expected to grow 7.5 percent to $43 million – up from $40 million in 2008. 

With brides renting dresses, sales of new wedding gowns are expected to decrease 2.8 percent this year, reaching just $973 million.  While the decline is not as steep as the 4.2 percent drop experienced in 2008, the industry has seen declines since 2001.  Brides who do purchase a dress will more likely buy their garments in high-end department stores, formal clothing stores, or online – like PreOwnedWedddingDress.com – opposed to a bridal store.

The one thing couples will not be renting this year is wedding planners. Compared to 2008, the amount spent on wedding planners is expected to drop 4.2 percent to $785 million.  In fact, the average cost of a wedding is expected to drop eight percent in 2009 to just $20,000 – in 2007 the average was $30,000.

“The recession is expected to exacerbate the already declining marriage rate, as couples put off the ‘big day’ until the time is right financially,” explained Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld.  “Spending will undoubtedly be impacted by such postponements.”

Photo by jarsem
Photo by jarsem

There’s an ongoing question in the pet-owner world:  Are you a dog person or a cat person? But which is easier on the wallet?

According to industry research firm IBISWorld, the total cost to raise a dog and cat for the full duration of their lives (an estimated 13 years) is $13,330 and $8,506, respectively.   That means it costs 56.7 percent more to raise man’s best friend opposed to a furry feline. 

In the first year a dog owner can expect to shell out $1,966, while a cat owner only expends $1,318.  From there on the price gap grows to $947 per year for canines compared to a mere $599 for felines. 

“Although one might think the initial outlay cost for a dog or cat can be high, it really only represents a mere 2.6 percent or 3.5 percent per pet, respectively, for the total cost over the animal’s lifetime,” explained Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld.  “People need to realize that owning a pet is a significant expense, and in the end, the original purchase price of the animal really doesn’t factor.”

In 2009, there will be about 169 million cats and dogs as pets in the U.S. – this represents an increase of 2.4 percent from 2008.  Of these pets, 39 percent of households own a dog and 34 percent own a cat.  Despite the problem with overpopulation, 10 percent of dogs and 18 percent of cats are adopted from animal shelters. 

memorial spending

This Memorial Day it’s all about savings, as consumers look to cut costs while still maintaining a fun three-day weekend.  Fortunately savvy shoppers, who purchase store brands over brand-name products, stand to save 16.3 percent on their total holiday grocery bill, according to IBISWorld research to the left.

“In essence, store brands turn the clock back two to three years,” said Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld. “Without inflation, store-brand groceries this Memorial Day weekend are comparable in price to brand-name groceries during the 2007 holiday.”  

 Based on the average holiday shopping cart above, the 16.3 percent savings puts about $10 back into consumers’ pockets.  That means with approximately 117,641,000 households in the U.S., the nation could save about $1.18 billion if everyone celebrated Memorial Day in the same fashion and went the store-brand route as opposed to the brand name route.


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