The rising cost of living is an ever-present theme. The game of 'how far can you stretch your salary?' is one that fewer and fewer people are wining, and most of us would like to give up entirely. The good news is that this year, things are going to be different.
With inflation at the lowest level on record - and prices actually falling 2.2% in December last year, the Bank of England has forecast that prices will rise at 1% or less for the first half of the year at least, and when they start rising slightly faster in the second half, we still don't have anything to fear. Within the overall picture, the cost of a number of things will actually fall.
Deflation across the economy has some real downsides - slowing economic growth and leaving us all with less in our pockets. However, we're not talking about wholesale deflation here, just drops in some key things - which could help make all the difference in balancing the budget.
The oil-producing nations are showing no signs of enthusiasm for cutting production, which means the oil price could fall still further from its current low level. These things are notoriously difficult to predict, but with the oil price so low, and suggestions that it could fall further, it's reasonable to expect relatively low oil prices in 2015: BP recently predicted oil would stay cheap for a couple of years.
It takes time for lower oil prices to filter through to prices at the petrol pump, but (far too slowly) this is gradually happening. Average petrol prices are back to levels last seen in the autumn of 2010, with unleaded prices down 6.6p to 116.3 ppl, and diesel down 5.2p to 122.2 ppl. And in the first half of 2015 we will see this fall still further.
Gas prices are currently around 27% lower than they were this time last year, and the sluggish energy companies have started passing on modest price cuts - with customers urged to shop around for a cheaper deal from a provider with a more nimble pricing policy.
Of course the future of energy prices is difficult to predict, but all the signs are that energy will remain cheap this year, which will mean over the course of the year the big energy companies will have less and less reason for keeping prices at this level, and we should see more cuts as the year wears on.
Continued pressure from the growth of the discount chains, and the desperate fight for market share from the larger players, means that the supermarket price war is not over yet. Companies are sacrificing profits in order to bring prices down, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. Already in January Sainsbury's and Asda have pledged more price cuts, so canny shopping will see everyone sending a little less at the supermarket in the next few months.
The price of meat in particular is expected to fall, as not only are the energy costs associated with rearing animals falling, but the price of feed is currently around half it was at its peak in 2012. Unfortunately price falls take a while to feed into the production process and be reflected in the price on the shelves, but as we work our way through 2015 we can expect the cost of meat to fall significantly.
This is another area where we can expect to benefit from the drop in fuel prices - in some cases. Fuel is by far the biggest cost for airlines, and rising prices have put them all under pressure. Unfortunately this means that the major players in the UK have been buying their fuel in advance, in order to ensure certainty of pricing. It means that most of them have bought all the fuel they will use in 2015 at the higher price.
It's the smaller players, and overseas airlines, where we could see the benefit. Here we could see any fuel surcharges drop, and overall prices come down during 2015.
The economic woes of Europe have finally ended in quantitative easing, and a consequent plunge in the euro. In the long-term we have to be nervous about this kind of trouble in our major export market, but in the short-term we can at least take advantage of the lower euro to get amazing holiday discounts in the eurozone.
The experts say you can expect to pay between 5% and 10% less this year for your travel and accommodation, and the price of expenses like eating out will fall as much as 20% in some resorts. It's likely to be the cheapest year for holidays to Europe since the onset of the financial crisis.
London house prices
There's bad news for anyone who has bought recently, but great news for those struggling to imagine ever being able to afford a place of their own in the capital: house prices could be on the wane in London.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that overall prices in the UK will drop 0.8% this year, and that this will be driven by falls in London - where prices got out of hand last year.
These TV's have incredible definition, and have been around for a few years, but the price has always been prohibitive. The technology experts predict that 2015 will be the year when we see prices come down to the kinds of levels where more households can seriously consider buying one. Prices halved in 2014, and they are expected to almost halve again in 2015.
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