This is an article I found from a newspaper in New Jersey last week !!
The new year brings a dose of sticker shock for New Jersey consumers, who face increased prices for many of life’s necessities, including heating oil, gasoline, health insurance, food and even Phillies tickets.
Nationally, consumer prices rose 3.4 percent for the 12 months ending in November, propelled upward by big increases in energy costs and a smaller uptick in the price of food.
New Jersey residents can expect increases in many of the items they buy in 2012, experts say.
Most of the price rises will be moderate — food costs are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2012, for example — but the combined increases in essential goods and services will further squeeze consumers’ pocketbooks.
“Inflation is running ahead of wage increases,” said economist Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa.
Commuters took the largest hit Jan. 1, when tolls on the Garden State Parkway rose 50 percent, while those on the New Jersey Turnpike jumped 53 percent.
Average passenger vehicle tolls rose to $1.05 to use the Parkway, up from 70 cents. On the turnpike, they jumped from $2.20 to $3.30.
Surveys find that may commuters have already found alternate routes, such as Interstate 295, to avoid the increases.
Those with oil heat are also feeling the pinch.
Heating oil in New Jersey has jumped from an average of $3.479 a gallon in January 2011 to $3.96 a gallon this month, a 14 percent increase, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. A relatively mild winter has kept prices from rising even further.
Gas prices have also soared, rising 9 percent from a year ago, to $3.31 a gallon Friday, according to a survey by AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Tuition was also up at the state’s public universities and 19 community colleges. Rutgers University raised tuition 1.6 percent; Montclair State about 5 percent.
Community college tuition jumped about 3.4 percent statewide.
New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes also went up in 2011, to an average of $7,746 annually.
The 2.3 percent increase in property taxes is actually a much lower percentage than in recent years; in 2010, for example, property taxes rose 4.1 percent.
It’s a good time to be a vegetarian — but a bad time to water your garden.
The Labor Department reports that prices for veggies decreased 11.1 percent in December after ticking up for months.
Then again, New Jersey American Water wants to tap customers for 15 percent more to pay for $300 million in infrastructure improvements. The Voorhees-based water company serves 640,000 households in 188 communities.
At Doris Rodriguez’s house in Mount Laurel, the automatic sprinkler system already has been adjusted to conserve water. Now that cold weather has arrived, she turns down the heat at night to save on utilities.
“I have allergies and it’s actually healthier to keep it a little cooler,” she says.
At the same time, income is shrinking in the Garden State. In 2010, the median household income was $67,719, down from $68,444 in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Prices for Phillies tickets ticked up for the second year in a row, with seats priced from $16 to $65. Increases range between $1 to $5 per seat, depending on location.
Fans were good sports about paying more. Tickets at Citizens Park sold out and there is a 3,000-name waiting list.
Heading down the shore this summer? The Wildwoods — Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood — have decided not to charge fees for beach access this summer. Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. says the issue could be floated in a referendum for 2013.
If you travel, eat animals, dress or correspond, expect to pay more this year. Prices are rising for six basics: airfare; gasoline; meat, including fish; coffee; postage; and clothing.
“Meats are through the roof,” Rodriguez says. “We are eating a lot of chicken.”
Starting this week, it will cost a penny more to buy a Forever stamp, going from 44 to 45 cents.
That’s the first increase in almost three years. Postcards will increase from 29 cents to 32 cents.
Some prices are heading down.
PSE&G and other utilities are giving credits to residential customers to reflect lower natural gas prices.
Expect about $30 off on your February or March bill, depending on the meter reading.
Consumers are feeling the pocketbook pinch even more because wage increases have not kept pace with inflation.
New Jersey’s average annual wage rose to $56,385 in 2010, the most recent year for which the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development has complete data.
That represented a 2.2 percent increase over 2009’s $55,173 average wage.
Only 47 percent of New Jersey companies plan to give their employees pay raises in 2012, according to a New Jersey Business & Industry Association survey.
While that’s up from the 42 percent of employers who gave raises in 2011, employees who receive wage increases this year can expect their raises to be modest.
Thirty-nine percent of New Jersey employers plan to give raises of between 1 and 3.9 percent this year, while only 9 percent plan to boost employee pay by 4 percent or more.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says real average weekly earnings have declined 1.7 percent since October 2010.
The real earnings statistics combines fluctuations in earnings with increases and decreases in the Consumer Price Index.
“The reality is that real earnings are going down,” Naroff said. “And for the average person, that’s not good news.”