The financial crisis has had many painful economic effects, but it also has provided a few welcome benefits in the form of price breaks for some essentials as well as splurges. We asked five pricing experts about the best of these…

More bread for your bread. After two years of soaring food prices, inflation in the supermarket is moderating, especially for some basics.

Example: Milk prices were down 2.2% in September from the previous year.

Shopping bargains. Struggling retailers are slashing prices more heavily than usual as consumers hold back on making purchases. Also, various chains are closing stores, including Circuit City, which is shutting 155, and Ann Taylor, which will shut 117 by 2010. All this is creating excess inventory for an array of merchandise. Discounts of 50% or more are available on some plasma TVs, as well as appliances, such as washers and dryers, and clothing. Web sites such as, and, which specialize in brand-name merchandise, are offering discounted clothing and accessories from such luxury brands as Prada, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Kenneth Cole.

Deals on wheels. Sales of new cars are at their lowest levels in 25 years, and carmakers are doing all they can to get buyers onto the lots. Incentives for cars sold in October averaged $2,667, up from $2,177 in October 2007, and cash rebates averaged $1,811, compared with $1,352 in October 2007. The selection of 0% financing promotions also is wider than ever, provided you have good credit. Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota have been among the automakers offering 0% financing.

Energy relief. Amid soft demand, oil prices have dropped by more than 60% from peak levels of $147 per barrel in July, yielding savings not only at the gas pump but also at the oil burner for those homes that use oil heat. Natural gas prices have been cut in half since July. That means that electricity rates are being reduced — or increased less than expected — by utilities that use natural gas–based generators.

Travel discounts. Hotels, cruise ship lines and airlines are using aggressive discounts to fill empty rooms, cabins and seats.

Example: The four-diamond Swiss-Hôtel Chicago was offering standard rooms at $99 per night in late November, more than 30% off its regular published rate.

Related Articles