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Bargains are on the brains of shoppers as the holiday gift-buying season gets into high gear.

And talk about information overload: You’d be hard-pressed to miss the flood of “best deals” lists offering tips on which retailers or brands are slashing prices on goods and services.

But what if the nation’s official price tracker, the Consumer Price Index, was used as a bargain-hunting tool?

  • INFLATION TRENDS: What’s up? What’s cheaper? What’s next? CLICK HERE!

My trusty spreadsheet looked at the CPI’s 330 expenditure categories, seeking out large price declines between July and October. Perhaps it could find a cost-shaving shopping idea or two within the CPI’s biggest price cuts – or at least a hint of what’s behind inflation’s recent moves. Inflation rose 1% during the past three months after a 2.2% gain in the previous nine months.

Here are some items with gift-season possibilities and noteworthy price dips, as suggested by recent CPI moves – plus a peek at the previous nine-month change …

Apples: Off 9.1% past three months after a 5.7% gain previous nine months. Who’s up for pie or a crumble?

Laundry equipment: Off 7.1% past three months after a 4.1% drop previous nine months. Is a washer or dryer as an appropriate holiday gift?

Men’s suits/outerwear: Off 6.9% past three months after a 3.4% gain previous nine months. Does a man in your life need more “back to the office” garb?

“Other” condiments: Off 6.4% past three months after a 13.2% gain previous nine months. Another hint for dessert! Lots of baking goods included – yeast, flavorings, chocolate chips, butterscotch, and maraschino cherries.

Women’s outerwear: Off 5.5% past three months after a 9.8% gain previous nine months. Price breaks just before winter’s chill.

  • HOLIDAY SHOPPING OUTLOOK: 12 trends to watch CLICK HERE!

Women’s dresses: Off 5.3% past three months after a 5.1% gain previous nine months. Does a woman in your life need more “back to the office” garb?

Girls’ apparel: Off 5.1% past three months after a 5% gain previous nine months. Back-to-school has ended but bargains persist.

“Other” video equipment: Off 5% past three months after a 1.4% gain previous nine months. Less demand for “set-top boxes” as consumers flee cable TV for streaming services.

Used cars and trucks: Off 4.4% past three months after a 2.8% drop previous nine months. The pandemic boom is clearly over as new car dealers have plenty of inventory.

Potatoes: Off 4.1% past three months after a 0.8% gain previous nine months. Mashed seems more appropriate than baked or fried around the holidays.

Not everything is fine with inflation as some goods are still seeing price surges. Here are five recent noteworthy CPI upswings that may dent the holiday gift budget …

Sports tickets: Up 12% past three months after a 12% gain previous nine months. Gifting entrance to athletic events won’t be cheap.

Bacon: Up 11% past three months after a 10% drop previous nine months. Maybe bacon-wrapped appetizers next year?

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Photographic equipment/supplies: Up 7% past three months after a flat previous nine months. Cell phone snapshots may have to do.

Window coverings: Up 6% past three months after 1% drop previous nine months. Maybe new blinds weren’t a great gift idea anyway.

Indoor plants/cut flowers: Up 6.2% past three months after 2.6% drop previous nine months. Green gifting can be costly.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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