Category Archives: Government & Legal

How Much Would A Mortgage Cost

If you want to purchase a home but you can’t pay for it upfront, a mortgage loan can be your best option. However, you will be tied paying for the house to as long as 30 years. Plus, the interest rates can make the total cost of your purchase really big once payment has been completed. And if you cannot afford paying for the house anymore at any given time, the bank can claim the house from you.

If you are considering getting a mortgage loan, understand first the costs involved in getting one. Since this is a long term and expensive endeavor, you might want to prepare for the expenses big time.

Typical Cost Of A Mortgage

The typical cost of a mortgage is $6.65 monthly per $1,000 borrowed.

The price includes the principal as well as interest for borrowing $1,000 from a company in a 30-year term. This means that if you have purchased a home that costs $200,000, your monthly mortgage cost is $1,330. The cost of a mortgage can also be calculated as 28 to 30 percent of your monthly income. So if you have a gross monthly income of $2,000, you will be likely given a mortgage that will cost $560 to $600 a month.

Factors That Affect The Price Of A Mortgage

Interest rates. Mortgage companies offer different interest rates for mortgage loans. The higher the interest rate is, the higher the cost of the monthly mortgage payment will become.

House. How much is the house you are getting? The more expensive the house is, the more you have to pay for the mortgage every month.

Term. You can choose a mortgage term of 15 or 30 years usually. A 15-year mortgage will mean higher monthly rates but oftentimes with lower interest rates as compared to a 30-year mortgage term.

Type of loan. A mortgage loan can either be a fixed rate or an adjustable rate mortgage. In a fixed rate mortgage, you pay exactly the same amount of principal and interest rate for the whole duration of the loan term. On the other hand, an adjustable rate loan means the principal and interest rate can go higher or lower after three to ten years or so.

Income. Your annual income greatly determines mortgage prices. Usually, you will be granted a loan that is 28 to 30 percent of your gross annual income. So the more your income is, the more mortgage loan can be granted to you.

Debt. If you have a debt that exceeds 26 percent of your monthly income, it is less likely that you will be granted a mortgage loan. However, the clearer your debt record is, the more mortgage you can actually quality for.

Credit score. If you have a perfect credit score, you usually can get lower interest rates for your loan. And if the interest rate is low, your monthly obligations may be lower as well.

Down payment. When you get a loan for a home, you will be required to pay a down payment. The monthly mortgage payments will be determined by how much money you have put on the down payment. The more you give as a down payment for the home, the lower the monthly mortgage will be.

Additional Costs

There are a lot of expenses associated with getting a mortgage loan. This includes the following:

Down payment. Usually, a good down payment is 20 percent of the total cost of the house purchase.

Origination/application fee. This is the fee that the lending officer charges for his services in doing the loan. This is usually one to two percent of the total loan amount.

Appraisal fee. Purchasing a home requires an appraisal, which must be done by a licensed appraiser. Expect to pay $300 to $500 extra for this.

Processing fee. A broker will collect $400 or less from you as a processing fee most of the time to cover the processing of all tasks such as ordering title, appraisal, and insurance preparing all documents, and the like.

Credit report. Expect to pay $12 to $20 extra for getting a credit report.

Late fees. If you fail to make the mortgage payments on time or the payment is received 15 days after the due date, you will be subjected to a late fee.

Title search and title insurance fees. The lenders will need to examine the public records of the property to ensure there are no discrepancies that will put them at loss.

Closing costs. You usually have to pay two to five percent of the total value of the purchase for closing the sale of the house.

mortgage document
Photo by TheTruthAbout

Tips Before You Decide To Get A Mortgage

Evaluate your current financial status and see whether or not you can afford to get a mortgage. Analyze your monthly and annual income, your debts, your job, and a lot of other details in your financial status. You can also analyze your monthly expenses and see how much you can afford to spend on a mortgage every month.

Make sure you have a good credit rating. A perfect credit score is crucial towards qualifying for a loan in the first place.

Pre-qualify for a loan through mortgage lenders that you know. There are a lot of online mortgage loan calculators that will help you determine how much loan you can afford and how much you can actually qualify for.

Get quotes from different mortgage companies and choose one with low interest rates. You may also want to check out the mortgage policy as well as associated fees being collected by the company. If you are wary enough, you’ll get good deals from good lenders who will not collect too much money from you when speaking of the fees alone.

Understand everything about a mortgage first. You must also know all legal and questionable mortgage fees so you don’t end up paying unnecessary fees in relation to your mortgage.

Know whether you will benefit more from a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable rate mortgage. The former protects you from sudden increases in the interest rates over the duration of your term. However, if the rates decrease, you are locked into paying the fixed amount you have agreed on at the beginning of the term.

How Much Does It Cost To Break A Lease

Are you thinking of breaking your apartment lease before it is up? There can be a lot of reasons to do so including the need to move, getting a new house, and the like. However, before you break a lease, understand that breaking a contract has its cost. Read on and find out how much it will cost you to get out of a lease.

Typical Cost Of Breaking A Lease

The usual cost of breaking a lease range from $500 to $2,000 or equivalent to one or two months of the apartment’s rental cost.

This price includes the penalty you pay to break the rental agreement.

Factors That Affect The Price Of Breaking A Lease

Monthly rental. The higher your apartment monthly rental is, the higher the termination penalty you must expect.

Contract. Your lease agreement will basically determine the cost to break a lease most of the time. Some agreements may charge a termination fee of only a month’s rent while others may charge two month’s rent. However, some agreements may charge you steeper penalties.

Landlord. Your landlord can also affect prices of breaking a lease. There are some cases that the cost of breaking a lease can be negotiated with the landlord. Some landlords may give you discretion on the penalty you have to pay for breaking the contract depending on your reasons. Other landlords, on the other hand, may be strict with what is written in the agreement.

Additional Costs

Getting out of a lease amicably is very important to make sure you won’t be hurting your credit rating as well as you won’t be finding a hard time to find a new place. You can get the help of a professional like a contract lawyer or real estate lawyer to know your rights and help you fix issues.

commercial space for lease in lake oswego, oregon - DSC02598
Photo by sean dreilinger

Tips Before You Decide To Break A Lease

Know your contract prior to breaking a lease. Read not only the cost of breaking it but as well as how many days of notice you must give your landlord before moving out.

Once you know the penalties involved when breaking a lease, check whether or not it is a worthy option to move out. If a dream job is at stake, go on and pay for the penalty fees as this will be worth it.

Talk to your landlord about your decision. Take note that you need a reference from your landlord if you are planning on renting out another one. Negotiate the penalty fee with him as much as you can. The point here is not to get out of the lease without paying for anything but getting out of the agreement without hurting your credit rating.

How Much Is Job Seekers Allowance In UK

In the UK, a jobseeker’s allowance is a benefit offered to unemployed individuals who are actively looking for a job. People who are eligible to claim this benefit are those 18 years old and above but below the State Pension age. They must also work less than 16 hours weekly on average. The jobseeker’s allowance is paid every 14 days and the amount of this benefit varies due to several factors. This article will discuss how much the jobseeker’s allowance currently is (end of 2011).

Typical Jobseeker’s Allowance

For contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance, the maximum weekly rates start from £53.45 to £67.50.

For income-based jobseeker’s allowance, the maximum weekly rates start from £53.45 to £105.95.

Here is the list of the weekly maximum jobseeker’s allowance an individual can be entitled to as published in Direct.gov.uk:

Contribution-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Age

Amount

16-24 £53.45
25 and above £67.50
Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Status

Amount

Single (under 25) £53.45
Single (25 and above) £67.50
Couples and civil partnerships (18 and over) £105.95
Lone parent (under 18) £53.45
Lone parent (18 and above) £67.50

Factors That Affect The Height Of A Jobseeker’s Allowance

Type. There are basically two types of jobseeker’s allowance in UK. One is contribution-based, which pays applicants that have paid enough National Insurance Contributions. The other type is the income-based jobseeker’s allowance, which qualifies people who have not paid enough National Insurance contribution, paid only self-employed contributions, and those who have low incomes. For some people, there are higher chances to get a higher rate in an income-based allowance as compared to its counterpart.

Age. The jobseeker’s allowance can also be calculated depending on the age of the individual. Usually, older people get more. For instance, in a contribution-based allowance, people aged 16 to 24 get a maximum weekly rate of £53.45 while people aged 25 and above can get as much as £67.50.

Status. The status of the person can also affect how much a jobseeker’s allowance is. Say for example the income-based allowance. Single people aging 25 below can get £53.45 weekly while couples can get £105.95.

Costs Associated with Getting JSK

Claiming a jobseeker’s allowance does not end in just getting the support. You have to attend interviews at the Job Centre as well as regular job search reviews. This can cost you travel and formal clothing expenses. However, in most cases, expenses that are related to getting back to work quickly can be covered by the allowance.

Future planning
Photo by rutty

Tips Before You Apply For A Jobseeker’s Allowance

Make sure you are eligible to get a jobseeker’s allowance. Eligibility requirements include age of 18 and above but below State Pension age, capability and availability to actively seek work, working hours of less than 16 hours weekly on average, and Great Britain residence. If you are eligible, you can apply through Direct.gov.uk. If you live in Northern Ireland, you have to apply at NIDirect.gov.uk.

Get the help of a specialist from the Job Centre Plus in your area to determine whether or not you will be eligible for the allowance by discussing your work history, reason of unemployment, and attempts for re-employment. Usually, a specialist can also help you determine whether you will be eligible for contribution-based allowance or the income-based one.

Make sure you know the rules in line with getting the benefit. For instance, you have to be ready to gain employment within 182 days because this is the maximum period covered by the benefit disbursement. Moreover, you must learn about instances when the allowance may be stopped such as missing a restart interview, leaving work voluntarily, refusing a job vacancy, and refusing to attend compulsory scheme.

Be one hundred percent driven about finding a job soon. The jobseeker’s allowance is a limited benefit and must be used wisely to cover daily expenses while unemployed.

How Much Is Road Tax For My Car In UK

In the UK, road tax is collected by the government for most motor vehicles used on public roads. Road tax is also known as the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), car tax, and vehicle tax. To know how much road tax you have to pay for your car, read on further.

Typical Cost Of A Car’s Road Tax

The typical cost of road tax for a car in the UK is £0 to £460.

This price includes the road tax for a vehicle for a complete year.

Factors That Affect The Price Of A Car’s Road Tax

CO2 emissions and type of fuel used. The Department of Transport has based the cost of road tax on the level of CO2 emissions a particular car generates while driving and the type of fuel the vehicle uses. The department has categorized vehicles from Band A to Band M where A is the least polluting and M is the most polluting. This rule implies that the less polluting your car is, the less VED you pay. Check the following tables from Direct.gov.uk for a price list of road tax from Band A to M. Visit the link to find the complete list of road tax prices for all kinds of vehicles.

Standard Rates (Petrol Cars and Diesel Cars)

Band

CO2 Emission (g/km)

Annual Rate

6-Month Rate

A

up to 100

£0 n/a

B

101-110

£20 n/a

C

111-120

£30 n/a

D

121-130

£95 £52.25

E

131-140

£115 £63.25

F

141-150

£130 £71.50

G

151-165

£165 £90.75

H

166-175

£190 £104.50

I

176-185

£210 £115.50

J

186-200

£245 £134.50

K

201-225

£260 £143.00

L

226-255

£445 £224.75

M

Over 255

£460 £253.00

 

Standard Rates (Alternative Fuel Cars)

Band

CO2 Emission (g/km)

Annual Rate

6-Month Rate

A

up to 100

£0 n/a

B

101-110

£10 n/a

C

111-120

£20 n/a

D

121-130

£85 £46.75

E

131-140

£105 £57.75

F

141-150

£120 £66.00

G

151-165

£155 £85.25

H

166-175

£180 £99.00

I

176-185

£200 £110.00

J

186-200

£235 £129.25

K

201-225

£250 £137.50

L

226-255

£435 £239.25

M

Over 255

£450 £247.50

 

Date of registration. The above-mentioned road tax prices apply for all vehicles that are registered from March 1, 2001 onwards. All vehicles registered before that date pays road tax using a different calculation. Their car tax is based only on the engine size. Here is the standard road tax rate for vehicles registered before March 1, 2011 as per Direct.gov.uk:

 

Engine Size (cc) Annual Rate 6-Month Rate
Not over 1549 £130 £71.50
Over 1549 £215 £118.25

 

Additional Costs

When you are taxing for a brand new car, the rate differs than the standard rates. This is usually taken out during the first registration. This table shows first year road tax rates taken from RoadTaxPrices.co.uk.

 

First Year Rates (Petrol Cars and Diesel Cars)

Band

CO2 Emission (g/km)

Annual Rate

6-Month Rate

A

up to 100

£0 n/a

B

101-110

£0 n/a

C

111-120

£0 n/a

D

121-130

£0 n/a

E

131-140

£115 £63.25

F

141-150

£130 £71.50

G

151-165

£165 £90.75

H

166-175

£265 n/a

I

176-185

£315 n/a

J

186-200

£445 n/a

K

201-225

£580 n/a

L

226-255

£790 n/a

M

Over 255

£1,000 n/a

 

First Year Rates (Alternative Fuel Cars)

Band

CO2 Emission (g/km)

Annual Rate

6-Month Rate

A

up to 100

£0 n/a

B

101-110

£0 n/a

C

111-120

£0 n/a

D

121-130

£0 n/a

E

131-140

£105 £57.75

F

141-150

£120 £66.00

G

151-165

£155 £85.25

H

166-175

£255 n/a

I

176-185

£305 n/a

J

186-200

£435 n/a

K

201-225

£570 n/a

L

226-255

£780 n/a

M

Over 255

£990 n/a

how much is road tax for my car
Photo by kenjonbro

Tips Before You Pay Your Car’s Road Tax

Know which band your car falls under. If you know your car’s emission, you can simply check the table above to see your car’s road tax band. On the other hand, you can use several tools to help you identify the band of your vehicle. RoadTaxPrices.co.uk categorizes all kinds of vehicles under car tax bands A through M. You can also use this website to easily find your vehicle tax band as you can search vehicles by brand and by type here. You can also use Parker’s VED calculator to know how much your road tax will be. You simply have to input your car’s manufacturer and model for a quick search. You may also use this link to help you find how much road tax you have to pay for a vehicle by type.

If you are taxing a vehicle that you purchased in a used state, you can easily determine how much road tax is due to you by going to the DVLA website. You need to supply the vehicle’s number plate or vehicle registration mark and also the vehicle make. The lookup tool will display information that DVLA holds on your car including its VED rate for six and 12 months.

When buying a brand new car, always take into consideration the road tax you have to pay for it year after year. As much as possible, go for vehicles that are less polluting so you can take advantage of cheap or free road tax.

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Will

A lot of people delay writing a will for various purposes. However, what everyone must know is that writing a will must be given the right attention to ensure that your assets are distributed to the right beneficiaries and your minor dependents are designated to the right guardians in case of your death. Dying without a will can mean leaving every decision to the court.

So if you have various assets and a number of children, it may be beneficial to write a will. You do not have to wait until you are ill before you do so. It can be done anytime as long as you are at the right age and with a sound mind. This article will discuss the cost involved in making a will.

Typical Cost Of Making A Will

The typical cost of making a will depends on how you write it.

DIY wills can range from $10 to $100. Hiring an attorney to draft the will for you can cost $150 to $800.

Included In The Price Of Making A Will

For DIY wills, the price includes a pre-made form where you simply have to fill in information on the blanks. The higher end of the spectrum can refer to will-making software. On the other hand, making a will using an attorney involves the attorney’s fees, consultation, drafting of will, and final review.

Factors That Affect The Price Of Making A Will

Complexity of your will. The simpler your will is, the cheaper it will cost you because you can easily use pre-made forms to draft your will. However, when your assets become bigger, you may need a more complex will and so a lot of legal time and professional skills are needed to complete it. This is especially true for people who have numerous properties and complicated family situation such as a children coming from different marriages. If a simple will cost you less than $50, complex wills can go from $5,000 to $10,000.

Value of your assets. The more your assets are, the higher the lawyer fees will be. This is not due to the idea of the lawyer knowing you can afford more but because it requires more tax planning. Plus, the more assets you have, the greater the liability of the lawyer gets if he happens to make a mistake.

Your requests. If there is nothing unusual with your requests, the cost of hiring an attorney to draft your will is cheaper. However, if you have unusual bequests, the cost can be affected substantially. For instance, if you happen to leave everything to a caregiver or someone else outside of the immediate family and relatives, the lawyer will need a lot of time to establish your competency when you made the will because more often than not, this kind of will is usually challenged. Besides, this, the more detailed your requests are, the higher the cost can be because it requires lots of work most of the time.

Rush or not? The lawyer can ask you higher fees if you want to get your will done as fast as possible. This is true because this kind of request usually involves the lawyer dropping everything else to handle your will.

Your health. Your mental and physical health during the drafting of the will can greatly affect its cost. For instance, a will made when your health is really bad can have an increased chance of being challenged. This gives the lawyer more work as he needs to minimize the possibilities of the will being challenged.

Your choice of lawyer. Lawyers charge differently for taking care of a will. Top lawyers in big cities usually charge more. The same is true for highly experienced lawyers.

DIY wills. If you plan to do the will yourself without consulting a lawyer, the prices can be cheaper. A pre-made form for a basic will can range from $10 to $20 while will-making software can range from $20 to $100.

Additional Costs

Buying a book or kit to help you draft a DIY will can cost you extra on top of pre-made forms. Last will and testament guidebook prices usually vary. Here is a collection of last will and testament books from Amazon.com.

Appointing an executor for your will can also cost you something. The executor is the person who ensures that all your wishes are carried out appropriately such as distributing your assets according to your will and do all paperwork involved in the process. Usually, the payment for the executor is 10 percent of your assets but this still varies depending on the negotiations between you and the appointed prosecutor.

how much does it cost to make a will
Photo by PunkJr

Tips Before You Make A Will

Know whether you need to consult a lawyer or not when making your will. Usually, you can decide on this matter by analyzing your situation. If you have a lot of assets that may involve complex issues, you may need a lawyer. Nolo.com tells you when to make a will yourself and when to call a lawyer. You can also use the information from Law.FreeAdvice.com for all the types of wills you can consider.

Make sure you understand the laws of the state you are in when making a will. This is to ensure validity of the will you will be writing. Most states require people to be at least 18 years old and have a sound mind before they can write a will. However, some states can have different rules when speaking of age. For instance, Georgia’s minimum age requirement is 14. Check out your state’s laws on wills to be certain. Legal Zoom gives you an overview of the laws on wills similar to most states. The website also carries complete information of state laws on wills.

If you are making your own will, make sure you follow the right steps to ensure the validity of your last will and testament. Read How to Go About Making A Will from LegalZoom.com to guide you in every step of making a legal will.

Hire only efficient and experienced lawyers to help you with your will. Take note that it is best to spend more on good quality lawyers to ensure the efficiency of your will and to lift a lot of burden out of your heirs. You can use FindLaw.com’s directory of wills lawyer by state. You can also use the resources offered by the American Bar Association.

 

How Much Does It Cost To Go Bankrupt

Those who are deeply stuck in debt can consider declaring bankruptcy to wipe clean their debt slate and give themselves a fresh start. However, this move must be given a lot of thought. A lot of people fear considering filing bankruptcy because of the costs involved in doing so. This article will introduce you to the costs involved in going bankrupt to help you come up with a good decision for your financial situation.

Typical Cost Of Going Bankrupt

According to the United States Courts,

the filing fee for bankruptcy is $274 for Chapter 13 cases (Individual Debt Adjustment)

and $299 for Chapter 7  cases (Liquidation Under the Bankruptcy Code)

The attorney’s fee is a different cost when you file for bankruptcy. The average cost of attorney’s fees today is $1,700. However, some lawyers may charge per hour, usually $100 to $300.

Factors That Affect The Price Of Filing For Bankruptcy

Type of bankruptcy. The U.S, Bankruptcy Code categorizes bankruptcy in several types. However, Chapter 7 and 13 are the two most common bankruptcy types. Chapter 7 refers to a straightforward liquidation of all the assets of the debtor and sharing all the proceeds to the creditors. Check more facts on the Chapter 7 bankruptcy here. On the other hand, Chapter 13 covers an adjustment of the debts of the individual. It allows the debtor to keep his properties and pay debts in a term of three to five years. The U.S. Courts website has a clear explanation of this type of bankruptcy.

Case. The difficulty of your case can greatly affect the attorney’s fees. The more difficult your case is, the more you can expect a lawyer to charge you.

Lawyer. Different lawyers charge differently for handling bankruptcy. Big cities where there is a high cost of living charge more on attorney’s fees.

Additional Costs

Bankruptcy court miscellaneous fees can add up to the total cost of going bankrupt. Here is a price list of miscellaneous services as issued by the U.S. Courts:

  • Reproduction of any document ($0.50 per page)
  • Certification of any document ($9)
  • Exemplification of any document ($18)
  • Reproduction of an audio recording of a court proceeding ($26)
  • Filing an amendment($26)
  • Search of bankruptcy court records ($26 per name or item)
  • Payment to trustees ($15)
  • Retrieval of a record ($45)
  • Filing an appeal ($250)

Filing a motion to convert a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case is priced $10.

A motion to reopen a case is also possible when filing for bankruptcy. However, filing a motion to reopen a case is not free. The filing fee is $245 for a Chapter 7 case and $235 for a Chapter 13 case.

how much does it cost to go bankrupt
Photo by michaelstyne

Tips Before You Decide To Go Bankrupt

Understand that bankruptcy must be declared only when there are no other alternatives left. Take note that a bankruptcy will reflect on your credit reports for up to 10 years. As per the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you are required to get consumer credit counseling from entities approved by the U.S. Trustee to help you with deciding on the declaration of bankruptcy. Here is a database of U.S. Trustee-approved credit counseling agencies from the Department of Justice.

DeclaringPersonalBankruptcy.net has a form that you can use to evaluate the possibility of going bankrupt yourself.

Know the bankruptcy laws specific to your state to analyze your stand when filing bankruptcy. Check out these bankruptcy laws per state.

Check whether or not you are qualified to file for bankruptcy. One eligibility requirement is that you must live, have a residence, place of business or property in the United States. Taking the means test and credit counseling is also a requirement for filing bankruptcy. The means test is your way to determine whether you are eligible for Chapter 7 or you should file under Chapter 13. More bankruptcy requirements are explained here.

Choose a qualified lawyer to help you with the whole process. A good lawyer must guide you from deciding what kind of case your situation is best suited to until the very end of the process. You must do a background check of the trainings and experiences of the lawyer in handling cases similar to yours. BankruptcyHome.com lists suggestions on how you can choose the right bankruptcy attorney for your case. You can use the Attorney Finder feature from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys to find a qualified lawyer near you.

If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you can be eligible for a waived court fee. However, here, you are not allowed to hire a lawyer to help you out with the whole process. To know more about the Chapter 7 Fee Waiver, check the U.S. Courts website.

How Much Are My Savings Bonds Worth

A savings bond is one form of Treasury bond that is issued by the federal government. Most Americans see this bond as a totally secured investment because they are backed up with full credit by the U.S. government no matter what the situation of the financial market is. Plus, it is free from state and local income taxes.

If you have notes there with you, they simply are not a piece of paper. Check this article and see how much your savings bond is worth today.

Typical Value Of A Savings Bond

Series EE savings bonds are worth $50 to $10,000
Series I savings bonds are worth $50 to $5,000

Go to Treasury Direct to calculate the exact value of your savings bond.

Included In The Value Of A Savings Bond

This includes the cash you can get out of cashing in a savings bond. If you have the maximum value, you can get more than what the face value is when interests are calculated.

Consider These Factors

  • Face Value. What is the amount on your savings bond note? Series EE savings bonds have the following face values: $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. On the other hand, Series I bonds have these face values: $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000 and $5,000. Usually, you cash in the face value of the note including the interests it has accummulated over time. Check out the difference between these two types of savings bonds at SavingsBonds.com.
  • Redemption period. Both types of bonds can be redeemed after one year. However, there is a three-month interest penalty if you redeem the value of the bonds before it matures to five years. For instance, if you get a Series I bond worth $5,000 after 30 months of the purchase period, you are entitled to get the full amount of your investment plus only 27 months of interest.
  • Maturity Date. The face value of the savings bond usually doubles after the maturity period. SavingsBonds.com lists the maturity periods of Series EE and Series I bonds depending on their issue dates.

Additional Costs

  • Federal taxes. Although savings bonds are exempt from state and local taxes because they are released by the federal government, they are still subject to federal taxes. This is true, however, only for the accumulated interests of one savings bond. Check out this information from WorldWideWebTax.com regarding taxing rules for savings bonds.

Tips Before You Cash In Your Savings Bond

Collect your savings bond notes and check their face values, maturity dates, issue dates, and serial numbers. You need these things to calculate the face value of your bond.

Treasury Direct has an online calculator that will help you know the current value of your savings bonds. You need to indicate the bonds’ series, denomination, serial number, and issue date. It is very important that you calculate the worth of your savings bond using this calculator prior to cashing it in to avoid mistakes.

Call in your local bank and ask whether they handle cashing in U.S. savings bonds. Take note that some banks do not offer such kind of service. Once you have found a local bank that handles savings bond, bring the note to them.

When you redeem the value of your savings bond in a bank, you need to establish your identity first by providing documentary identification or having an active account for at least six months at the bank you are trying to transact with. Check out this link from Treasury Direct regarding information on the proper redeeming of savings bonds.

Remember that both types of savings bonds can be eligible for cash in only when it is at least one year old. However, there is an exemption to this rule. In times of declared federal disasters, the savings bond can be cashed in even before it reaches one year old.

If you have savings bond inquiries that your local bank cannot help you with, you can contact the Minneapolis Treasury Retail Securities.

Federal Reserve Bank
of Minneapolis
P.O. Box 214
Minneapolis, MN 55480
800-553-2663

How Much Is Child Tax Credit

Did you know that your kids can save you a lot of money when tax time comes? The child tax credit can subtract a sum out of your tax bill as long as your child is under 17 and has met the qualifications set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Check out this information on how much child tax credit you can take advantage of.

Amount Of Child Tax Credit

The maximum amount of child tax credit that you can deduct is $1,000 per child.

The amount is a non-refundable credit from the IRS that can be deducted from your tax bill.

Consider These Factors

  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Your gross income can very well determine how much child tax credit you can get from the IRS. Your credit starts phasing out when your AGI exceeds the amount set by the government, which is $110,000 if you are married, $55,000 if you file separately, and $75,000 if you are single. This means that $50 will be deducted from your child tax credit per $1,000 that you have exceeded in your calculated and declared AGI. Check out a quick explanation of how the income limit works at Turbo Tax.
  • Number of children. How many children below 17 years do you have? You can get a maximum of $1,000 child tax credit per child.
  • Tax Owed. In some cases, you can have more child tax credit than the amount of tax billed to you. When this happens, your tax bill is zeroed and all the remaining credits are lost.
  • Make sure that your children meet the qualifying criteria as set by the IRS in terms of age, relationship, citizenship, residence, and the like. Read this Ten Facts About The Child Tax Credit from the IRS website.

Tips Before You Get Child Tax Credit

Before you can calculate your child tax credit, you need to complete the following forms first: Form 1040, 1040A or 1040N, Form 2555-EZ, and Form 4563 9if applicable)

Check out this Child Tax Credit Worksheet (page 4) from the IRS website to calculate how much child tax credit you are entitled to.

In some cases, if your tax liability is less than your child tax credit, you can claim for additional child tax credit. This refers to a refund of your credit through check. Calculate your additional child tax credit here. Learn more about the additional child tax credit from Investopedia.com.

How Much Does It Cost To Renew A Passport

Renewing a passport costs the same price as getting a new passport for the first time, only you don’t have to pay a $25 execution fee when you renew your passport.

The price of renewing a passport book is $110 for adults and $95 for minors. For more information on what makes up the cost of a passport and to read tips on getting your passport, look at our page How much are passports .

Crisp New Passport
Photo by ellenmac11

How Much Do Stamps Cost

Do you need to send a mail through the post office? Then, you have to know how much do stamps cost. They may not be much of a financial burden but it still pays to know the cost of stamps to guide you in most of your postage needs. Especially with the postage rate increases of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from time to time, you need to keep yourself updated in the current cost of stamps.

Typical Cost Of Stamps

The cost of stamps usually varies depending on the kind of shipping service you are looking to take advantage of. The same is true for the weight of the package you are trying to send. Here is a complete list of how much are stamps now for different services effective January 2, 2011 as released by the U.S. Postal Service:

U.S. Postal Service Mail Class Rates
First-Class Mail letter (1 oz.) $0.44
Postcard $0.29
First-Class Mail flat (1 oz.) $0.88
First-Class Mail parcel (1 oz.) $1.71
First-Class Mail International to Canada (1 oz.) $0.80
First-Class Mail International to Mexico (1 oz.) $0.80
First-Class Mail International to all other countries (1 oz.) $0.98
Priority Mail (1 lb.) $5.10 and up
Express Mail (0.5 lb.) $13.25 and up

Included In The Price Of Stamps

The price of stamps mentioned above include the shipping of the mail or parcel as well as its taxes.

Consider These Factors

  • Weight. The heavier your mail is, the more expensive the postage stamps will be.
  • Location. The distance of the postage address you are sending the mail to has a lot to say with how much does a stamp cost. This is the reason why International mails are priced higher than local mails. Just like the weight, the farther the distance is, the more expensive the postage will become. This is especially true for Priority and Express Mails.
  • Stores. There may be a lot of stores near you that carry stamps for your different postage needs. However, take note that some of them may charge more than the face value of the stamp. This is not illegal, though. So if you want to pay for the face value of a stamp and nothing more, consider buying stamps at the post office or at consigned USPS stores that do not make profit from the stamps.

Why are First Class Stamps More Expensive?

The USPS cost of 1st class stamp is usually higher because they are given priority as compared to other kinds of mail. First class mails are usually delivered the day or two days after postage in exchange for a slightly higher stamp price. Second class mails include newspapers and magazines, third-class mails involve bulk advertisements, and fourth-class mails are books and media packages.

Additional Costs

  • The average price of stamps usually does not include additional ounces or weights in the mail or parcel. For instance, you need to purchase an additional First-Class Mail letter stamp for every additional ounce it weighs. The current price of additional stamps is $0.20 per added ounce from the one-ounce standard of a $0.44 First-Class Mail letter stamp.
  • If you need special services in line with the postage of your mail, additional rates may apply. For instance, a Certified Mail costs an additional $2.85 to postage rates while a Signature Confirmation costs an additional $2.45.
  • Ordering the stamp from the USPS website can mean an additional shipping and handling fee. This usually depends on the location where you request the stamps to be delivered.

USPS logo on packaging display, APC in background
Photo by Aranami

Tips Before You Buy Stamps

Check the USPS website for the latest updates on the price of stamps.

Avoid unnecessary things in your mail so you won’t be burdened by additional costs that can be delivered to you due to weight issues.

Double check the address of the recipient to ensure successful delivery and to ensure no waste of stamps.

Consider shopping for stamps at the USPS website. Various stamp options are offered in the website. You can purchase a roll or a book of stamps if you use them often for better convenience. You can also consider stamp subscriptions in your choice of terms such as once or twice monthly in a term of six or 12 months.

If you are looking for discounted stamps, there can be a lot of sources you can trust. Check out the Internet for stamp retailers that give off stamps for less the amount of its face value. Discounted stamps are usually items that are bought by collectors in bulk and then sell it for less the price when getting rid of excess stamps in their collection.

Check out Stamps.com for a convenient way to shop for postage stamps online. You can also find good discounts here.