Though cable providers still have plenty of subscribers–roughly
101.7 million Americans, in 2014, according to research firm
IBISWorld–those numbers are declining. The firm predicts that cable
providers will lose a net of around one million subscribers for each of
the next several years, reaching 97 million in 2019.
One of the reasons for this subscriber defection: Consumers are
increasingly embracing (often cheaper) cable alternatives. Indeed,
PricewaterhouseCoopers notes that subscriptions to cable alternatives
like Netflix (up 25% over 2013), Amazon Prime (up 14%) and Hulu (up
3%)—each of which costs around $8 a month—are on the rise.
Next year, you may have more reason than ever to cut the cord, as
cable TV rates are rising, even as more relatively inexpensive streaming
options emerge. In 2015,
research group NPD expects the average pay-TV bill (for basic and premium channels) will hit $123 a month, up from $86 in 2011.
What’s more, in 2015, there will be even more streaming options to
watch: In October, HBO, Univision and CBS all announced new stand-alone
streaming services. “There are a lot more options out there so we don’t
all have to subscribe to cable anymore,” says Sarah Kahn, an industry
analyst for IBISWorld.
— Catey Hill
2. Name-brand razorblades
Americans love their Gillette razorblades—so much so that the shaving
giant controls 66% of the nearly $13 billion shaving industry. But just
because Gillette is popular doesn’t mean it’s cheap, especially if
you’re buying the blades (or cartridges, to be exact) at the corner
Which is why more shavers are turning to membership programs; the
Dollar Shave Club, whose membership has grown by nearly 200% in the past
year to 1.3 million, is perhaps the most prominent example. Such clubs
sell blades on a mail-order subscription basis for a fraction of the
cost. A blade purchased through Dollar Shave can run as little as $1.50;
by contrast, a Gillette blade can run as much as $5. And the blades
aren’t necessarily inferior:
A survey by the grooming-oriented Sharpologist website gave high marks to just about every low-cost Gillette competitor.
Still, what if a shaver swears by Gillette? Gillette and shopping
experts says consumers can still find ways to save on their beloved
blades by buying them at discount retailers (Costco is an oft-mentioned
example) or creating what amounts to their own subscription
model–meaning purchasing the brand-name blades in larger quantities on a
recurring basis through sites like Amazon.com and Drugstore.com.
— Charles Passy
3. Bottled water
Who would pay $2 for a what amounts to a bottle of tap water?
Millions of Americans, it turns out. In the four decades since Perrier
water was launched in the U.S. market in the mid-1970s, U.S. consumption
of bottled water has surged 2,700%, to 10.1 billion gallons in 2013,
according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. And sales in the U.S.
rose 4% year-over-year in 2013 to $12.3 billion.
The Beverage Marketing Corporation predicts that bottled water will become the top-selling packaged beverage in 2020, up from No. 2 currently.
Scares over possible water contamination have helped boost demand for
bottled water over the last few decades, experts say. The American
public thinks bottled water is going to be safer and cleaner than tap
water, says Mae Wu, attorney in the health program at National Resources
Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in
Washington, D.C., but “for the most part, that’s not true.”
Indeed, 45% of bottled water brands are sourced from the municipal
water supply—that’s the same source as what comes out of the tap,
according to Peter Gleick, a scientist and author of “Bottled and Sold:
The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.” Bottled water
sourced from municipal water supplies include Dasani, owned by Coca-Cola
Consumers can purify their own tap water for a fraction of the cost,
says Nick Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx, a brokerage and a
services firm. It’s more economical and better for the environment to
filter tap water at home, “and one way to avoid using a lot of scrap
plastic,” he says.
Filters from companies such as Brita and Pur start at around $15 for a year’s supply.
4. Credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance
The year 2014 saw an almost unrelenting avalanche of security
breaches that struck retailers, banks and medical providers, among many
others. At least 744 data breaches have been disclosed this year, with
more than 115 million consumers’ records exposed, according to the
Identity Theft Resource Center.
To protect themselves and their data, consumers may opt for credit
monitoring services or identity theft insurance. But such coverage,
which can cost anywhere from $25 to more than $100 a year, may not be
worth paying for, consumer advocates say. “It depends on how important
peace of mind is to you, because that’s essentially what you’re buying
at the end of the day,” says Al Pascual, senior analyst for security,
risk and fraud at Javelin Strategy & Research.
Some credit monitoring services place all of a person’s financial
information in one place, making it easier to check your account for
fraudulent activity. These services also often help victims of identity
theft get through the crisis, aiding with paperwork and potential fees
or expenses like lost wages, if a person has to take off work to deal
with the fallout, though such extensive cases are rare.
But you may not need that kind of help. Banks have zero liability
policies that protect consumers from unauthorized charges For free,
people can opt to receive alerts each time a transaction is made over a
certain value; they can also ask the credit bureaus to put a security
freeze on their account to prevent fraudsters from opening new lines of
And if you decide you want the protection, chances are you already
have multiple offers in your inbox that can give it you free—given that
many breached companies extend these services to customers free of
charge to save their reputations.
— Priya Anand
5. DVDs and CDs
Compact discs and DVDs have going the way of the dodo, and streaming media will keep that trend going in 2015, experts say.
Sales of DVDs and high-definition Blu-ray discs dropped by 8% to
$7.78 billion last year, and are expected to have fallen even further in
2014, according to Digital Entertainment Group, an industry trade
group. Revenue for DVD rental subscriptions–from companies like Netflix
-0.60% and Red Box—plummeted 19% last year to $1.02 billion. And
while digital movie purchases are playing catch-up on DVDs, revenue
still soared by 47% to $1.19 billion last year.
Digital music tracks also declined for the first time in 2013,
according to Nielsen SoundScan, and that slide continued throughout
2014. On-demand streaming of music rose 42% year-over-year to 70 billion
songs in the first half of 2014, while digital track sales fell 13% to
594 million in the same period. Sales of compact discs dropped by 19%
year-over-year to $716 million in the first half of 2014, according to
by revenue in the Recording Industry Association of America, although
vinyl LP sales surged 43% to $146 million in the same period.
— Quentin Fottrell
6. Memory sticks and thumb drives
Computer memory sticks and thumb drives are becoming obsolete as the online storage wars heat up. Microsoft
-0.54% announced last October that it’s offering unlimited cloud
storage to Office 365 subscribers (although subscriptions themselves
cost $70 to $100 a year). That came shortly after Google Drive slashed
storage prices for its monthly online storage plans to $1.99 from $4.99
for 100 gigabytes. Microsoft and Google
+0.99% also offer free storage under a certain gigabyte limit, and
many tablets and computers also come with free storage for new buyers.
“Cloud storage costs companies so little due to economies of scale,
and they get the benefit of deepening their relationship with you,” says
Avram Piltch, online editorial director of Laptop Mag and Tom’s Guide.
“It makes it that much harder for you to bail on them in the future,
even when they eventually charge you for the space.”
Memory sticks can sometimes be cheaper than cloud storage: Their prices typically
start at around $25.
But they can spread viruses from computer to computer and, unlike the
cloud, they can be left behind in a cafe. Of course, the cloud isn’t
invulnerable, as a security breach of Apple’s iCloud system showed this
fall. And some consumers fear losing access to cloud data if storage
providers suffer more technological problems, or opt to raise their
— Quentin Fottrell
7. Mini tablets
+1.77% launched the iPhone 6 Plus phablet in 2014, it may have
harmed the sales of another one of their product lines–mini tablets.
“Phones are getting bigger and better, and there is no reason to have a
mini tablet,” says Howard Schaffer, vice president of retailing website
Offers.com. Brent Shelton, spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com, argues
that mini tables like the Samsung
+0.67% Galaxy Tab 8 ($270) and iPad Mini 3 ($399 for 16 gigabytes)
are becoming a “redundant technology,” especially with the introduction
of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus ($299 with a two-year contract) and
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 ($399 with a two-year contract).
The popularity of phablets—roughly defined as smartphones with
5.5-inch and larger screens—is causing many people to “second-guess”
smaller tablet purchases as the larger screens are often adequate for
tasks once reserved for tablets, says Tom Mainelli, program vice
president of devices and displays at IDC. Shelton notes that consumers
can make phone calls on phablets (without FaceTime or Skype) and that
they’re easier to handle for taking photos. “Plus, you can put them in
your coat pocket quite comfortably.”
iPhone 6 Plus sales made up more than 40% of all phablet sales in the fall of 2014,
according to market research firm Kantar WorldPanel ComTech, even though it didn’t debut until Sept. 19 in most countries, including the U.S.
Meanwhile, people who are buying iPads appear to be turning up their
noses at the 7.9-inch iPad Mini: According to a recent survey released
by e-commerce firm Slice Intelligence, some 93% of iPad preorders are
for the larger 9.7-inch iPad Air 2.
— Quentin Fottrell
8. Paid online dating services
Love might be priceless, but the dating industry is expected to earn
$2.2 billion in revenue this year, according to IBISWorld. In addition
to Match.com and eHarmony, the two most popular paid services, niche
options abound: VeggieDate.com, FarmersOnly.com, GlutenFreeSingles.com,
Meet-an-Inmate.com and even ClownDating.com. One in five
25-to-34-year-old adults has online-dated, according to Pew Research
Center data and 5% of Americans in marriages or committed relationships
said they met their significant other online. And Match.com and
eHarmony, the two most popular paid services, charge love-seekers
between $20 and $60 monthly, depending on the type of subscription.
Still, The Beatles may have been on to something when they sang that
“money can’t buy me love.” Free dating apps are surging in popularity.
Tinder users swipe right or left on their smartphones more than 1.4
billion times in aggregate daily, indicating interest in or rejecting
Tinder might be better known for hooking people up with flings,
unlike Match and eHarmony, which advertise their algorithms as the ones
that can find you a lasting relationship. But other free apps, like
OkCupid, say that their matching algorithms are now competitive with
those on the paid sites. Like the paid sites, OkCupid, which claimed
about 10 million users in the past year, also offers basic
questionnaires that allow users to rank their priorities in a potential
date and match people based on compatibility. Hinge, another free app,
matches users with contacts of each other’s Facebook friends to filter
the pool of strangers and, hopefully, avoid psychopaths and creeps.
To be sure, paid services (and premium versions of free sites) often
include more detailed compatibility questionnaires, more filtering
options for candidates or anonymous browsing of profiles, and could weed
out daters who are just looking for a quick fling.
“Do you like expensive restaurants, or do you feel like you can get a
great meal at a cheaper restaurant that’s well-chosen?” says Dan
Slater, author of “Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does
to Meeting and Mating.” “Whether or not you pay, it’s always going to be
hard to find someone you have that spark with.”
— Priya Anand
9. Boutique moonshine
In recent years, Americans have rediscovered quality whiskey: Sales
of single-malt Scotch alone have grown by 134% since 2002, according to
the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. But these days, there’s a lot
of clear or “white” whiskey—meaning un-aged corn or rye
whiskey–competing for space on liquor store shelves with the classic
Brands based everywhere from Kentucky to New York are touting what
amounts to a boutique version of moonshine or white lightnin’, costing
as much as $40 a bottle. The trend started to take off around 2009,
particularly as states looking for ways to boost business during the
Great Recession started relaxing regulations governing the production of
according to one published report.
Indeed, from 2010 to 2012, sales of moonshine in the U.S. quintupled to
more than 250,000 cases, according to Technomic, a prominent firm that
analyzes the beverage industry.
But while these new-school moonshine makers speak of estate-grown
corn and proprietary recipes, some spirits experts say that consumers
shouldn’t be fooled—un-aged whiskey simply lacks the depth and character
that an aged one, be it a Scotch or bourbon or
even a Taiwanese spirit,
can attain. Basically, time in the barrel equates to more flavor. “I’ve
never had a white whiskey that I would say I prefer to an aged
whiskey,” says Clay Risen, author of “American Whiskey, Bourbon &
Rye,” a buying guide.
— Charles Passy
10. 4K Televisions
With their super-sharp pictures, 4K and other ultrahigh definition
(UHD) televisions are tempting for those who spend hours in front of the
TV. (And, ahem, that’s most of us: The average American watches nearly
three hours of TV a day,
according to government estimates).
But experts say that despite their perks, you shouldn’t buy these
yet. For one, despite rapidly plummeting prices, 4K TVs are still quite
Research firm NPD Group notes that they have an average price of $2,400, compared with about $450 for flat-screen TVs overall.
Plus, there isn’t a lot of ultrahigh definition content for owners of
4K TVs to watch right now. “Realistic expectations are that content to
match the display is approximately two to three years out,” says Phong
Vu, CEO of deal intelligence site DealScience.com. “There’s little logic
in paying a premium for a TV that consumers will rarely get to enjoy in
To be sure, prices for 4K/UHD TVs will likely drop. Flat screens also
made their debut at a high price point: Stephen Baker, the vice
president of industry analysis for NPD Group, notes that a 42”
flat-screen in 2006 or 2007 might have cost about $3,000, while now you
can get one for $200 to $300. “The decline in the prices of flat screen
televisions is due to greater manufacturing capacity that has increased
supply, the entrance of low-cost manufacturers, and technological
developments that have lowered production costs,” says IBISWorld analyst
Darryle Ulama. With the 4K/UHD market, we might see similar forces
bring prices down.
— Catey Hill