What’s in and what’s out — financially — this year?

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 11:56 a.m. CDT

Just into the New Year, here’s my take on what’s in and what’s out — financially — in 2013:

In: Credit cards

Out: Cash

Granted, some Americans are beginning to use cash instead of credit, but most of us are still relying on plastic. Balances and delinquency rates are up (90 days past due), and this trend is expected to continue this year, according to a forecast by credit reporting agency TransUnion. Why? In part because credit has loosened, and risky borrowers are getting cards.

In: Contract/freelance work

Out: Full-time employment

According to some labor experts, the number of U.S. workers who are “contingent” (meaning they work as freelancers/contractors, take on projects, etc.) is currently at about 30 percent, and this number is expected to rise. Companies have grown accustomed to the flexibility, and you’re paying the price: no job security, no benefits, nah dah.

In: Credit unions

Out: Big banks

Credit unions have been growing in popularity in part because of consumers’ growing disillusionment with big banks. We’re annoyed with all the fees (especially the monthly maintenance fees), and the nickel-and-diming. Furthermore, we don’t like or trust big banks, and that has us looking for alternatives such as credit unions, which offer not only higher rates on deposits and lower rates on loans, but a kinder, gentler experience overall.

In: Homeownership

Out: Renting

Given that homes are more affordable than ever and mortgage rates are still at record lows, and given that rents keep rising (Zillow’s data shows nationally rents are up 4.5 percent this past year) it makes more financial sense to buy in most markets today than it does to rent, according to Zillow’s Breakeven Horizon analysis. In some markets — such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, Las Vegas and others — you can break even in under two years.

One caveat: Remember, all real estate is local, and in major markets such as NYC and San Francisco, renting continues to make more sense than buying. Check out Zillow’s analysis to see how your market fares in the rent vs. buy debate.

In: Buying local

Out: ‘Made in China’

Granted, most of us still shop at the big-box chains, but some local businesses — whether selling homegrown food, gifts or specialty items — have seen a surge in interest in keeping business dollars at home/putting the money back into the local economy and going for that quality, personalized shopping experience. The “buy local” campaigns have helped drive this awareness/interest.

Related:

Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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