The Cost of Love

by Stacy Tharp 12. February 2013

Falling in love can be easy or it can be a rough and bumpy road. Either way, it comes at a price - literally. Just how high is that price? We looked at how much time and money is spent on average from beginning the search for that special someone to walking down the aisle and saying, "I do." Here is what we found:

The Best Things to Buy in the Winter

by Andrew Schreiber 7. February 2013

Winter Sales


If you are like me, now that the holiday season has passed you’ve been counting down the days until spring. We all try to pass the time in different ways, but some of those things you plan to do in the spring might be beneficial to do sooner rather than later. The slow times of the winter are felt across many industries including real estate, consumer electronics and construction. This is good news for those of us that are always looking for a good deal. Here is a list of the best things to purchase during the winter.


For those of you who are looking to purchase a new home, winter is a great time to find a good deal. Most people don’t want to trudge through the winter weather to shop for a house, so they put the shopping off until the spring. This lack of demand provides a great opportunity to find a good deal. Less competition for available homes allows you to offer below the list price, especially since if a home is placed on the market in the wintertime when sellers are aware that they could make more money waiting, it could mean they are motivated to sell quickly.

Home Improvement

Home Improvement

Everyone spends a lot of money during the holiday season which often causes them to put off any big purchases for awhile so they can recuperate funds. This provides a perfect opportunity to those of us who plan ahead. Contractors have large holiday bills as well, but demand for contractors is down in the winter because of the spending during the holidays, which makes them more eager to find jobs that will keep them busy. Also, material demand is lower due to the slow time of the year so you are likely to save some money there as well.

Electronics and Cameras

The International Consumer Electronic Show in which technology companies introduce their new and improved products occurs in January. This event helps build buzz and demand for the new products. So if you are one of those people that doesn’t always have to have the newest, most up-to-date gadget, now is a perfect time to buy last year’s model of TVs, cameras, home entertainment systems, etc. With all of the new products and lines being introduced, retailers need to make room for the new inventory. You can usually find higher end items that weren’t on sale for Black Friday on sale now to make room for the newest models. If holiday sales were less than expected, you can expect better deals on a wider range of products after the holidays are over. Despite the winter being a good time to purchase most electronics, laptops are not one of these.


Sometimes the best time to purchase something is when it is painfully obvious that you have no reason to currently use it. The winter months are a great time to purchase motorcycles, bicycles, and even boats. Demand for motorcycles is low during the winter so you can usually find dealers having sales to help boost sales. These sales have a trickle-down effect, causing current motorcyclists purchasing new bikes to sell their old ones. So whether you are looking for a new or used bike, winter is the best time to find a good deal. Bicycles are also on sale due to the lack of demand during the winter months, plus retailers are looking to clear their inventories after the holiday season for the newest models due out soon. Finally, boats are also a good buy in the wintertime; most dealers offer their best sales during the slow winter months, especially at winter boat shows.

Overall, when planning your annual purchases, a good bet for finding discounts is to buy at a time that seems to make the least bit of sense. Take a look at your fellow consumers’ behaviors…and do the opposite!

Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire

by Anirban Basu 16. January 2013

Anirban Basu

U.S. Avoids Fiscal Cliff but Familiar Challenges Remain

With the noteworthy exception of the nation’s still expanding national debt, 2012 will be viewed by economic historians as predominantly a year of progress. Financial markets performed, the number of jobs expanded, unemployment fell, auto sales surged, housing prices stabilized and consumers were active. According to the most recently revised estimate supplied by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, national gross domestic product expanded 3.1 percent during the third quarter of 2012 on an annualized basis. The fourth quarter wasn’t nearly as good, and though fourth quarter data have yet to be released, the expectation is that the U.S. economy expanded only about 1 percent on an annualized basis during the quarter. Despite that, many economists estimate that the nation’s economy expanded 2.2 percent last year, a bit better than 2011’s 2.0 percent performance.

Equity markets started 2013 with a bang, in part because of news regarding partial resolution to a variety of fiscal cliff issues. On the year’s first trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 308.41 points or 2.4 percent to 13,412.55. The S&P 500 rose 36.23 points (2.5 percent) to 1,462.42, the index’s biggest one-day improvement in more than a year (December 20, 2011). The NASDAQ composite index rose 92.75 points, or 3.1 percent, to 3,112.26.

While all major stock indexes were down for the fourth quarter, they were up for the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 886.58 points from 12,217.56 on December 30, 2011 to 13,104.14 one year later (7.3 percent). The S&P 500 rose 13.4 percent to 1,426.19 and the NASDAQ was up 16 percent to 3,019.51.

Despite the heightened uncertainty that characterized the fourth quarter, businesses continued to hire. In December, the nation added 155,000 nonfarm jobs (168,000 private sector jobs) following a gain of 161,000 jobs in November and 137,000 in October. For the year, the nation added approximately 1.84 million net jobs, almost exactly the same number added in 2011. Job growth was sufficient to tug the nation’s unemployment rate below 8 percent. In January 2012, unemployment stood at 8.3 percent. By December of the same year, the corresponding figure was 7.8 percent, translating into 542,000 fewer unemployed workers.

One of the most noteworthy improvements in 2012 occurred in the housing market, which is now associated with both rising sales and median prices. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November from 4.76 million in October. The number of existing home sales is now 14.5 percent higher than a year ago, due primarily to a combination of consistent job growth and extraordinarily low mortgage rates. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $180,600 in November, up 10.1 percent from November 2011.

Consumer Spending, January 2008 - November 2012

Looking Ahead

Even during the fourth year of economic recovery, massive uncertainty lingers. While fiscal cliff part I is behind us, in front of us is the grisly sequel. Over the next two months, Congress will be wrestling with another set of issues, including whether or not to raise the debt ceiling and to what extent as well as scheduled automatic federal spending cuts.

Taxes have also risen, including in the form of the elimination of the payroll tax cut and an increase in the rate at which dividend income is taxed. With the economy already expanding slowly and with taxes having risen recently, expect the first half of the year to be another period of subpar growth. If Congress fails to appropriately deal with the budget and tax issues now facing it, the first half of the year could be worse than mediocre. On top of that, there is plenty of headline risk emerging from other parts of the world, including Europe where the economy remains in disarray. News from China has been better of late, however.

If Congress is able to successfully navigate the debt ceiling and other issues, the latter part of 2013 could be quite good for the U.S. economy. It is for this reason among others that many financial analysts remain bullish about the longer-term. However, investors should be prepared for a good bit of volatility during the months immediately ahead.


Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

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