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9 things you’ll likely pay more for in 2018

Published: Friday, December 29, 2017 @ 12:40 PM

With 2017 just about in our rear view, it’s a good time to remember that pretty much nothing stays static over an extended period. Prices are no exception. That’s why it’s important that we adjust our expectations (and our budget) for 2018.

Unless you always buy in bulk and have loaded up gobs and gobs of stuff in your pantry, you likely will fork over a bit more money year for the same stuff in the coming year — and you might as well get a head’s up.

10 things that are probably going up in price in 2018

While we don’t claim to be soothsayers, here some prices that are expected to rise significantly next year.


Just when you thought snail mail couldn’t get any more frustrating, the price of a mailing letters and packages will increase in early 2018. The U.S. Postal Service proposed new postage rates to be implemented on Sunday, January 21, 2018, and they were approved recently by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).

Most stamps will see a one-cent increase, including the Forever stamp, which will go from 49 to 50 cents. Postcard stamps will go from 34 to 35 cents and the same for metered letters (46 to 47 cents). To learn more about the pricing, see the USPS website.


The price of prescription medications is expected to climb as the pharmaceutical industry continues to push expensive specialty drugs, according to Vizient Inc.’s July 2017 Drug Price Forecast. This overall increase in 2018 is predicted even though the cost of generic brands is expected to continue to drop, according to the report.

“The topic of the high cost of medications continues to draw bipartisan scrutiny within the U.S. Congress,” the study’s authors said. “Several pending pieces of legislation introduced in 2017 attempt to remove barriers to generic and biosimilar development as well as expedite approval of competition when limited numbers of manufacturers exist for critical medications. This focus on drug costs has prompted several suppliers to pledge that they will limit price increases to certain thresholds or even externally defined indices.”

High-end smartphones

Apple’s iPhone X hit the market in late 2017 with a price tag of $999, an almost $250 increase over the previous model. Then Google unveiled the Pixel 2 XL with a 128GB version going for $949. We’re guessing that high-end smartphones will continue to rise in price as companies dream up new functionalities and even more creative ways to sell you on them. The average U.S. price for a smartphone rose 4% to over $400 in the third quarter of 2017, according to, signaling consumers’ willingness to pay for premium phones. As manufacturers roll out more features, those prices aren’t expected to drop anytime soon.

Real estate

It’s no secret that home prices are climbing to levels not seen since before the Great Recession in 2018. While the market back then had evolved into a bazaar of home-flipping ventures and sub-prime mortages, the landscape today is a lot sturdier as homeowners are no longer using their residences as appreciating credit cards. Home prices are expected to rise in 2018, but not at the clip they did in 2017, according to  Spurred by more single-family home construction, expect prices to climb around 4% next year, compared to around 6% this year.

Health care

President Trump boasted on Twitter just this week that “Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill … the Democrats & Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new HealthCare plan!” While that may or may not happen, health care costs are expected to rise in 2018, as you probably already know from the plans you saw during this year’s open enrollment period. One of the reasons insurance premiums will increase is a previously postponed Obamacare tax on health plans that is scheduled to take effect. So far, lawmakers have signaled that they will not act to repeal it.


Some of the world’s most prolific wine-producing countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, were hit hard in 2017 with extreme weather. Combine that with the wildfire damage done to California’s wine valleys and slow seasons in other places around the word and the grape harvests for 2018 is expected to be the worst in decades. For the vino lovers around the world, that means prices have nowhere to go but up, according to experts.

“We still foresee a dramatic decline in wine availability going into 2018,” Stephen Rannekleiv, a global beverages strategist at Rabobank, told CNN Money. “We expect the decline [in consumption] to be felt most tangibly in the lower-priced tiers.”


Whether you travel by train, plane or automobile, brace yourself for higher prices, experts say. The “2018 Global Travel Forecast,” released this past summer at GBTA Convention 2017 indicates that global airfares are expected to climb 3.5% in 2018 while hotel prices are poised to hike be 3.7% and ground transportation (either via bus, taxi or train) is expected to rise only 0.6%.

“Geopolitical risks, uncertainties in emerging markets and ever-changing political environments in Europe and the United States mean today’s travel professionals have more than ever to take into account when building their travel programs,” Jeanne Liu, GBTA Foundation vice president of research said.

Cyber threats

If the Equifax data breach taught us anything, it’s that we’re clearly in the age of increased cyber threats. That means our personal information is at risk like never before. In a new report titled “Paradigm Shifts: Trend Micro Security Predictions for 2018,” Trend Micro predicts that digital extortion is poised to become a global threat as the world’s banking systems become more interconnected. That means that cyber protection spending, already at unprecedented levels, is expected to skyrocket to $96 billion in 2018, according to research firm Gartner. It’s likely this spending will be passed on to consumers.

College tuition

The price tag on higher education will continue its upward trend in 2018, thanks to a litany of factors, including deep budget cuts on the state level and the costs of employee health care and benefits. Tuitions for in-state students at public four-year colleges rose on average by $300 and $800 at private colleges for the 2017-2018 school year, according to CNN.  The increases come even as many states and municipalities look to make tuition free for some residents.

And one positive note…

Social Security payouts

One positive development for older Americans is that in 2018, monthly Social Security benefits will increase by 2%, the government announced in October. “The increase, which is a cost-of-living adjustment, adds about $27 more a month or $329 a year for the average retired worker,” according to Newsweek.

5 fast facts that will help make filling out FAFSA a breeze

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 10:32 AM

The following points are what you need to know, as well as common mistakes to avoid when filling out the FAFSA Fill it out – you have nothing to lose The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better Gather the information you'll need Watch out for common mistakes like leaving fields blank Keep an eye out for requests for more information

It's that time of year again when parents and college or college-bound students fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

The idea of wading through a form – especially one that requires financial information – is definitely not an appealing idea, but the FAFSA could be a tremendous help in getting your student money to attend college.

RELATED: 20 financial aid terms every college student and parent should understand

The following points are what you need to know, as well as common mistakes to avoid when filling out the FAFSA.

Fill it out – you have nothing to lose.

You may think that you don't need to fill out the FAFSA, especially if you believe you might not qualify for need-based aid. But there's no income cut-off point with federal student aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the FAFSA can help you qualify for all kinds of grants, loans and scholarships, including those offered by your state, school or private organizations.

By investing a few minutes of time, you could reap thousands of dollars in potential rewards.

Submit it ASAP.

The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better, according to consumer adviser Clark Howard. Although the federal deadline isn't until June 30, 2018, you should check with the financial aid administrator at colleges you're interested in to make sure their deadlines aren't earlier.

Submitting earlier will help you plan how you'll pay for college. You'll also have a better chance of getting as much aid or scholarship money as possible since some colleges distribute their available money on a first-come, first-serve basis, Howard says.

Gather the information you'll need.

The FAFSA asks questions about the student as well as his or her parents if the student is a dependent.

You'll need the following information on hand as you fill out the FAFSA:

  • The student's Social Security number
  • The parents' Social Security numbers
  • Driver's license number (if you have one)
  • Alien registration number (if you're not a U.S. citizen)
  • Federal tax information for the student (and his or her spouse, if applicable) and the parents. This can often be imported online, so you may not need your records.
  • Information on the student's and parents' assets, such as money held in bank accounts and real estate holdings (not your primary residence)
  • Records of the student's or parents' untaxed income, such as veterans benefits and interest income

Watch out for common mistakes.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators points out some common mistakes that can delay your form's submission or cause you to not get the aid and scholarships you might qualify for. They include the following:

  • Leaving some fields blank – Instead, put in a "0" or "not applicable."
  • Listing an incorrect Social Security or driver's license number – It pays to recheck these numbers.
  • Failing to use your legal name – Use the name on your Social Security card, not a nickname.
  • Forgetting to list colleges – Even if you're not sure of which college you'll be attending, add any reasonable possibilities to the list of colleges that will receive your information. You're under no obligation to apply to or attend these colleges, and they can't see which other colleges you're interested in.

Keep an eye out for requests for more information.

Your FAFSA may be selected for verification, which means you'll have to provide some additional or supporting information, U.S. News & World Report explains. This process doesn't necessarily mean you've done anything wrong. You may have a discrepancy or mistake on your form, but some FAFSAs are just randomly selected for verification (lucky you!).

These requests will often come to the student's personal email account or university email address, so he or she will have to be diligent about checking it and responding to any requests by the stated deadline.


Is credit monitoring a scam?

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 12:01 PM

Clark Howard explains how to protect yourself.

With the recent massive security breach of Equifax — one of the three credit bureaus with which many may have thought their private information was safer than most — now many people are dealing with more insecurities, wondering where they can entrust their private information, if anywhere.

Here are some options:

Credit freezing

Better and cheaper than credit monitoring, an option for optimal security is freezing your credit through each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), according to WSB money expert Clark Howard at

The fee is $3 to $10 per person per bureau, depending on your state, to allow you to seal your credit reports — except now it's free with Equifax from here on out due to the recent data breach.

You will be provided with a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and can be used to temporarily unfreeze (or "thaw") your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed such as when you are buying a car.

This added layer of security means thieves can't establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain your personal information.

LifeLock vs.

While LifeLock advertises it can help consumers secure their information to guard against identity theft, LifeLock charges monthly services that start at $10 a month.

This kind of credit monitoring is not the same or as effective as a credit freeze, said Craig Johnson for

Instead, he recommends for free credit monitoring.


If you haven't already frozen your credit, now would be the time since Equifax recently got hacked and the information of possibly 145.5 million people was attained by these hackers.

Information accessed primarily includes names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers.

To try to compensate, Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring (but only through Jan. 31, 2018) with its TrustedID Premier.


Another point of confusion is the unsolicited free Dark Web Email Scan offered by Experian to your email, leading to a monthly fee for further scanning.

Experian IdentityWorks also offers a free 30-day trial membership for identity theft protection and resolution, involving a monthly automatic deduction of $9.99 for the plus plan or $19.99 for the premium plan.

It's free to cancel within the 30-day trial period, but the consequences are not revealed up front for those who decide to cancel their membership once the monthly fees begin.


The third credit bureau, TransUnion, also offers credit monitoring at $19.95 monthly. However, TransUnion says it offers free identity protection through its TrueIdentity program.

Free helpline

Those with specific questions about the Equifax breach and how it may impact them may contact Howard's Consumer Action Center — a free helpline open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday with Team Clark volunteers available to answer concerns at 404-892-8227.


4 of the best ways to turn your home into a cash cow

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM

Sites like Airbnb let you rent out your home to make money.
Sites like Airbnb let you rent out your home to make money.

Your house is a large expense with many associated costs like a mortgage payment, insurance, maintenance and more.

RELATED: How to Cash In on Short-Term Rentals Like Airbnb, VRBO

It provides a roof over your head, of course, but since it usually costs you money each month, why not put it to work for you and earn some cash in the process?

The following are four ways your house can make you money:

You can relax on the lake, in the woods or even in the back of a van when you're looking for a staycation in Gwinnett County.(Airbnb)

List your home with Airbnb or VRBO.

If you're planning to be out of town for a few days or don't mind bunking with a friend, you may be able to make some money by renting out your home through sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Before jumping in, you'll need to take time to learn about the market, your expenses and any taxes you may need to pay. And before you list your property, you'll need to understand how to make it stand out with a good listing, including compelling photos and competitive pricing. Airbnb has a series of toolkits to help with this.

RELATED: Atlanta has Airbnb's most desired rental property in the world.

Rent it out to the area's growing TV and film industry.

When TV, film and commercial producers want to depict a home on screen, many times they'll rent the real thing, according to Money. It can be inconvenient for owners, however, since their homes may be taken over by a large crew and be completely rearranged.

On the other hand, homeowners often have fun with the experience while making some extra money. And while you're watching TV or a movie, you may be able to spot your home.

Host a foreign exchange student or faculty member.

Temporarily hosting a foreign exchange student or faculty member who's studying or teaching in this country can help you make some extra cash for anywhere from six weeks to six months at a time. You'll also be exposed to a different culture and language, and the experience could help you form a bond that lasts even when your guest returns home.

The Penny Hoarder suggests contacting student housing offices at local community colleges and universities, asking to be placed on their list of host families. After this, you'll have to apply, be interviewed, and allow your home to be toured. You'll also need to pass background and reference checks.

The 4-bedroom house sits on a corner lot with a concrete driveway that leads up to the two 2-car garages both having rear service doors. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS BY KATHY TYLER

Rent out your driveway or storage space.

If you have extra space in your driveway, you may be able to make some money by letting others park there, according to Men's Health. This is especially true if you live near a commuter rail line or sports stadium, but you'll need to check to make sure you're not violating any local ordinances. Check out websites like JustPark to get started.

The Balance also suggests renting out any extra storage space you may have. From vehicles to personal items, your garage or home could help you make money through a site like StoreAtMyHouse.


5 ways to get the most out of your health insurance plan

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 3:15 PM

Here are five ways to ensure you're getting the most out of your health insurance Choose your plan carefully Take advantage of preventative care benefits Work within your formulary Utilize HSAs and FSAs Watch out for surprise out-of-network charges

Health insurance has a large impact on your finances, so it pays to get the most out of your plan.

Understanding its ins and outs can be confusing, but it's worth your time to check on benefits you could be losing out on or mistakes that could cost you money.

Here are five ways to ensure you're getting the most out of your health insurance:

Choose your plan carefully.

When it's time to renew your health care coverage, consumer adviser Clark Howard recommends not just blindly signing up for your current plan, even if you've been happy with it.

Your plan – as well as other options you may be able to sign up for – may have changed. Take a close look at the co-pays, deductibles, in-network providers and other specifics to make sure you're making the best possible choice.

Take advantage of preventative care benefits.

Almost every plan, according to, offers preventative care benefits that are free. You won't have to pay a co-pay or meet your deductible to get these services at no charge.

Services for adults include age-appropriate vaccinations and colorectal cancer screenings for patients over 50.

RELATED: 8 ways to get the cheapest car insurance possible

Work within your formulary.

Health care plans typically have a formulary, which is a list of medications that they're willing to pay part of or the entire cost of. It may include a list of preferred medications, for which it will pay the highest percentage of the cost.

It pays to be familiar with your formulary before you get an unpleasant surprise at the pharmacy, according to NerdWallet. Print out a copy of the document from your health insurance company's website, or call up an online copy at your doctor's office. Your doctor can work with you to make sure you get an effective medication that you can afford.

Utilize HSAs and FSAs.

If your health insurance plans allow you to put aside tax-free dollars in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you should learn how they can help you. Consumer advisor Clark Howard's website,, has a chart that explains the pros and cons of each.

An HSA is usually associated with high-deductible plans, and like an FSA, it helps you save money to pay for health care expenses. These can include everything from prescription eyeglasses to medication.

Watch out for surprise out-of-network charges.

Your insurance plan has a list of network providers, and when you can, you should stay in-network. That's easy enough if you're visiting a single doctor, but if you need to have surgery, things can get more complicated.

For pre-planned surgery, Consumer Reports recommends talking with your doctor's billing department to get a list of everyone who will provide your care, including radiologists and anesthesiologists. Call your health care company to see if they're in-network, and if not, ask your doctor if in-network providers can be used.