"The only things certain in life are death and taxes."
-- Benjamin Franklin
Actually, make that death, taxes, and inflation.
Surveying the raft of end-of-year surveys floating around right now, it quickly becomes apparent that not only are our taxes set to rise in 2013, but the cost of a whole lot of other stuff is going up, too. The question is: How much more expensive will life get in the new year? Here are the grim statistics.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, your average American family of four spent $236.60 a week on groceries in 2012, roughly $1,000 a month. Thanks in large part to this past summer's drought, that number will rise in 2013.
The USDA estimates that grain prices will be about 3% higher in the new year. Add in the cost of converting grain to meat and dairy products, and food items could take an even bigger bite out of your budget. When all's said and done, expect your grocery bill to go up about 4% in the new year. Call it $40 a month.
Health care: $247
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that this same average U.S. family of four spent about $4,129 on health insurance premiums in 2012. Other researchers estimate we spent an average of $962 on top of those premiums, in out-of-pocket spending (OOPS) on medical costs.
Even if you're an optimist, though, and assume those OOPS costs hold steady in 2013, benefits analyst Aon Hewitt says you should expect a 6% hike in the cost of employee health care premiums alone: an extra $247, give or take (more likely taken), out of your paycheck.
Getting around: $3,000
Getting to work these days generally requires the use of a car. And whether your ride is a Tesla (TSLA) Model S, a me-too electric like the Lexus CT 200h, or even a humdrum Hyundai, expect higher sticker prices in the new year.
Tesla's bumping the price of its flagship electro-sedan a cool $2,500 to $59,900 in 2013. The cheaper 2013 Lexus is rising nearly $3,000 in price. Meanwhile, the $2,000 price hike at Hyundai -- the "econobox" car company -- represents a staggering 16% price hike to $14,545. Of the three, Lexus' buggy sells closest to the 2012 average cost of a new car -- $30,748. So don't be surprised if many of the cars you window-shop this new year cost about $3,000 more than they used to.
Computing costs: $20
It's hard to live in this modern world without the Internet and a computer to connect you to it. Unfortunately, Microsoft (MSFT) knows that, and it's probably why Mr. Softy feels it can safely raise prices on its latest edition of Microsoft Office by as much as 17% in 2013.
Next year, expect an Office Home & Student 2013 disk containing Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to set you back $140 -- $20 more than Office 2010 did last year. If you need the more powerful Office Home & Business 2013 suite, that'll come with a similar $20 bump (to $220).
Everything else: $47
These days, it seems most everyone buys most everything online. That's bad news for two reasons. First, the more sales tax deals Amazon.com (AMZN) signs with several states, the more likely you are to get hit with higher transaction costs on online purchases. And that's just the start. After you've bought an item online, you still have to get it shipped.
That's particularly distressing, because in December, both FedEx (FDX) and UPS (UPS) announced they're raising rates. FedEx says it's hiking the cost of shipping via FedEx Express by 3.9% on Jan. 7, and upping the cost of FedEx Ground service by 4.9%. Taking its cue, UPS said it will raise its own UPS Air rates 4.5%, and UPS Ground will cost 4.9% more.
Now consider that InternetRetailer.com estimated that the average consumer spent about $1,207 online in 2012. Consider further that although many online stores advertise their goods as coming with "free shipping," there's rarely such a thing as a free lunch. Generally speaking, when an e-tailer says it will ship something "for free," it means the shipping cost has been built into the item's price. That being the case, online shopping in 2013 could conceivably cost you $47 more than it did last year... just to guarantee FedEx and UPS their Christmas bonus.
Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith thinks higher taxes and more inflation are still better than the alternative. Slightly. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Tesla Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Amazon.com, FedEx, Microsoft, Tesla Motors , and United Parcel Service.