2008 outlook: Spending
The big question: Will oil prices continue their surge in 2008 and wreak havoc with your budget? The answer, fortunately, is, not likely.
(NEW YORK) Money Magazine -- Although the cost of a barrel of crude jumped more than 40 percent this year to over $90 in October, the spike was driven more by jitters about unrest in the Middle East and forecasts of strong demand than by a drop in supply.
As a result, most oil watchers expect the price of crude to recede from its recent level of about $93 a barrel to an average of about $80 in 2008.
That's still up noticeably from a year ago, though, so when you combine next year's higher price with a colder weather forecast, you can expect to pay at least 10% more to heat your home this winter than in 2007 - and possibly a lot more.
Meanwhile, analysts forecast that you'll also face slightly higher prices at the pump - about $2.83 a gallon on average in 2008 (and $3.05 in the peak summer driving season) vs. $2.75 this year. Still, that's an improvement from the $3.15 a gallon you were shelling out in May, when prices topped out.
In addition, you'll find that the weak dollar has made everything from Italian leather handbags to a ski vacation in the Canadian Rockies more expensive.
But for travelers, there are still many places in the world where the dollar goes a long way. Among them: Latin America, Eastern Europe and many parts of Asia.
There's also good news if you're a gadget junkie, as competition among manufacturers leads to sharply lower prices on all sorts of consumer electronics, from flat-screen televisions to laptop computers and digital cameras.
The wild card: A crisis in the Middle East - for instance, a major confrontation with Iran - could cause a serious disruption in the supply of oil. So could a natural disaster that shuts down refineries as hurricanes did two years ago.