Can You Include Tax Debt in a Bankruptcy?

Including Tax Debt in a BankruptcyMany Americans struggle with paying their federal taxes. Even though you know you have to pay taxes every year, you have found it impossible to do. You may hear people complain about student loans, credit cards, and rent or mortgage payments, but their tax debt can be just as much of a headache.

Bankruptcy has helped many people who have found themselves unable to manage their debt, but if you are considering bankruptcy, you may have questions about your tax debt and whether or not this debt can be included.

What is bankruptcy?

Tax debt is just another financial burden that many Americans are looking to unload, making bankruptcy very appealing to those who have an ever-growing pile of debt. Bankruptcy is a legal process of eliminating or decreasing a person’s debt. There are several bankruptcy chapters available to individuals, but you’ll likely choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy when dealing with tax debt.

Each chapter will determine how much of your debt, what kinds of debts, and how the debt will be reduced or discharged. For example, Chapter 7 will require the debtor’s assets to be sold to repay debts.  Chapter 13 requires debtors to repay all or a portion of the debt over three to five years.  Depending on your financial situation, you may not even qualify for Chapter 7.

Can you include tax debt in bankruptcy?

Your primary motivation for filing bankruptcy may be to relieve yourself of all responsibility for your debt. You may have accrued various debts over the years, but your tax debt may be the one that is the most overwhelming. Bankruptcy can give you the relief you need, but keep in mind that certain debts cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Luckily, Federal tax debt can be included in a bankruptcy, so it could be the answer to your problems when you simply can’t afford to pay off this debt.

Between the available bankruptcy Chapters, or options, many consumers opt for Chapter 13. This specific chapter of bankruptcy does have requirements, so not every taxpayer is eligible. You’ll want to make sure you are what the IRS considers a wage earner, self- employed or sole proprietor of a business.

Additionally, if you are planning to file Chapter 13, there are a few things you will want to note about filing your taxes.

  • Taxes must be filed every year during your bankruptcy.
  • Taxes must be filed for every year within four of your bankruptcy.
  • Taxes must be paid by the due date.

Should you file for bankruptcy?

Many people choose to file bankruptcy when they can’t afford to pay down their debt. Before opting for bankruptcy, you will need to have a clear picture of things. Consider evaluating your circumstances and financial situation, including your income, total amount of debt, expenses and more, to determine if you truly cannot afford to pay down your debt.

Keep in mind that while filing bankruptcy may eliminate or reduce a person’s debt, the negative impacts shouldn’t be ignored. For example, filing bankruptcy will affect your credit score and your ability to obtain new credit. Before filing for bankruptcy, consider the effects, how long they will last and what plans you may have for your financial future that may have to be put on hold until you recover from bankruptcy.

Ultimately, it is up to you if you wish to file for bankruptcy. It is understandable that when your debt becomes overwhelming, you will start to consider the many ways you can get relief. If bankruptcy is the ideal solution for your situation, then you should be debt-free in a matter of years.

Have questions about how bankruptcy may affect your credit or how you can recover from bankruptcy quickly? Schedule a free consultation with us today!

Source: creditabsolute.com

How Much Is Capital Gains Tax on Real Estate? Plus: How To Avoid It

Capital gains tax is the income tax you pay on gains from selling capital assets—including real estate. So if you have sold or are selling a house, what does this mean for you?

If you sell your home for more than what you paid for it, that’s good news. The downside, however, is that you probably have a capital gain. And you may have to pay taxes on your capital gain in the form of capital gains tax.

Just as you pay income tax and sales tax, gains from your home sale are subject to taxation.

Complicating matters is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018 and changed the rules somewhat. Here’s what you need to know about all things capital gains.

What is capital gains tax—and who pays it?

In a nutshell, capital gains tax is a tax levied on possessions and property—including your home—that you sell for a profit.

If you sell it in one year or less, you have a short-term capital gain.

If you sell the home after you hold it for longer than one year, you have a long-term capital gain. Unlike short-term gains, long-term gains are subject to preferential capital gains tax rates.

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Watch: How Much a Home Inspection Costs—and Why You Need One

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What about the primary residence tax exemption?

Unlike other investments, home sale profits benefit from capital gains exemptions that you might qualify for under some conditions, says Kyle White, an agent with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul.

The IRS gives each person, no matter how much that person earns, a $250,000 tax-free exemption on capital gains from a primary residence. You can exclude this capital gain from your income permanently.

“So if you and your spouse buy your home for $100,000, and years later sell for up to $600,000, you won’t owe any capital gains tax,” says New York attorney Anthony S. Park. However, you do have to meet specific requirements to claim this capital gains exemption:

  • The home must be your primary residence.
  • You must have owned it for at least two years.
  • You must have lived in it for at least two of the past five years.
  • You cannot have taken this exclusion in the past two years.

If you don’t meet all of these requirements, you may be able to take a partial exclusion for capital gains tax if you meet certain exceptions (e.g., if your job forces you to move before you live in the home two years). For more information, consult a tax adviser or IRS Publication 523.

What’s my capital gains tax rate?

For capital gains over that $250,000-per-person exemption, just how much tax will Uncle Sam take out of your long-term real estate sale? Under the new tax law, long-term capital gains tax rates are based on your income (pre-2018 it was based on tax brackets), explains Park.

Let’s break it down.

For single folks, you can benefit from the 0% capital gains rate if you have an income below $40,000 in 2020. Most single people will fall into the 15% capital gains rate, which applies to incomes between $40,001 and $441,500. Single filers with incomes more than $441,500, will get hit with a 20% long-term capital gains rate.

The brackets are a little bigger for married couples filing jointly, but most will get hit with the marriage tax penalty here. Married couples with incomes of $80,000 or less remain in the 0% bracket, which is great news. However, married couples who earn between $80,001 and $496,600 will have a capital gains rate of 15%. Those with incomes above $496,600 will find themselves getting hit with a 20% long-term capital gains rate.

  • Your tax rate is 0% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer earning less than $40,000, married filing jointly earning less than $80,000, or head of household earning less than $53,600.
  • Your tax rate is 15% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer earning between $40,000 and $441,500, married filing jointly earning between $80,001 and $486,600, or head of household earning between $53,601 and $469,050.
  • Your tax rate is 20% on long-term capital gains if you’re a single filer, married filing jointly, or head of household earning more than $496,600. For those earning above $496,600, the rate tops out at 20%, says Park.

Don’t forget, your state may have its own tax on income from capital gains. And very high-income taxpayers may pay a higher effective tax rate because of an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

If you held the property for one year or less, it’s a short-term gain. You pay ordinary income tax rates on your short-term capital gains. That’s the same income tax rates you would pay on other ordinary income such as wages.

Do home improvements reduce tax on capital gains?

You can also reduce the amount of capital gains subject to capital gains tax by the cost of home improvements you’ve made. You can add the amount of money you spent on any home improvements—such as replacing the roof, building a deck, replacing the flooring, or finishing a basement—to the initial price of your home to give you the adjusted cost basis. The higher your adjusted cost basis, the lower your capital gain when you sell the home.

For example: if you purchased your home for $200,000 in 1990 and sold it for $550,000, but over the past three decades have spent $100,000 on home improvements. That $100,000 would be subtracted from the sales price of your home this year. Instead of owing capital gains taxes on the $350,000 profit from the sale, you would owe taxes on $250,000. In that case, you’d meet the requirements for a capital gains tax exclusion and owe nothing.

Take-home lesson: Make sure to save receipts of any renovations, since they can help reduce your taxable income when you sell your home. However, keep in mind that these must be home improvements. You can’t take a deduction from income for ordinary repairs and maintenance on your house.

How the tax on capital gains works for inherited homes

What if you’re selling a home you’ve inherited from family members who’ve died? The IRS also gives a “free step-up in basis” when you inherit a family house. But what does that mean?

Let’s say Mom and Dad bought the family home years ago for $100,000, and it’s worth $1 million when it’s left to you. When you sell, your purchase price (or “basis”) is not the $100,000 your folks paid, but instead the $1 million it’s worth on the last parent’s date of death.

You pay capital gains tax only on the difference between what you sell the house for, and the amount it was worth when your last parent died.

What if I have a loss from selling real estate?

If you sell your personal residence for less money than you paid for it, you can’t take a deduction for the capital loss. It’s considered to be a personal loss, and a capital loss from the sale of your residence does not reduce your income subject to tax.

If you sell other real estate at a loss, however, you can take a tax loss on your income tax return. The amount of loss you can use to offset other taxable income in one year may be limited.

How to avoid capital gains tax as a real estate investor

If the home you’re selling is not your primary residence but rather an investment property you’ve flipped or rented out, avoiding capital gains tax is a bit more complicated. But it’s still possible. The best way to avoid a capital gains tax if you’re an investor is by swapping “like-kind” properties with a 1031 exchange. This allows you to sell your property and buy another one without recognizing any potential gain in the tax year of sale.

“In essence, you’re swapping one investment asset for another,” says Re/Max Advantage Plus’ White. He cautions, however, that there are very strict rules regarding timelines and guidelines with this transaction, so be sure to check them with an accountant.

If you’re opting out of the rental property investment business and putting your money in another venture that does not qualify for the 1031 exchange, then you’ll owe the capital gains tax on the profit.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

3 Financial Dates and Deadlines in March 2021

Man using a digital calendar on his computer
Photo by NicoElNino / Shutterstock.com

Life moves quickly. It’s easy to get distracted. But that can be costly.

Miss an important financial date or deadline, and you could be on the hook for a penalty or lose out on a limited-time opportunity to save money.

Enter our “Money Calendar” series.

In this edition, we’ve rounded up the noteworthy money dates in March 2021. Take a look and mark your calendar with any dates that apply to you.

March 14 — Daylight Saving Time starts

While it’s not an inherently financial event, we wanted to remind you that clocks are to “spring forward” at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, March 14.

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead, so you’re not late for work or appointments the next day.

March 31 — Medicare Advantage open enrollment period ends

As if Medicare isn’t complicated enough, this federal health insurance program for folks age 65 and older and those with certain disabilities or conditions has not one but two annual open enrollment periods.

The annual Medicare open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, while the annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period runs from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Medicare Advantage plans, one of the two main types of Medicare, are offered by private insurance companies that are approved by Medicare. (The other type, Original Medicare, is the traditional government-managed health care coverage.)

During the current enrollment period, folks with Medicare Advantage plans (with or without prescription drug coverage) have the option to do one of the following:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage).
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare (with or without also enrolling in a drug plan).

For more Medicare news, check out our latest coverage.

March 31 — Last day for free coronavirus antibody testing (presumably)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross has been testing blood, platelets and plasma donations for the presence of antibodies, as we reported in “How to Know If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies.”

But with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines continuing and the rate of new deaths and cases slowing, the Red Cross still plans to offer this freebie only “through the end of March,” according to the organization’s “COVID-19 Antibody Testing” page.

So, if you’re wondering whether you’ve been infected by the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, consider donating blood, platelet and plasma before March is out. If you need another reason to donate, blood banks have been experiencing shortages, as we detail in “11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Grab These Buy 1, Get 1 Deals on Cellphones While They Last

Excited couple with new cell phones
Photo by Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Nothing beats a buy one, get one deal when you want a new cellphone. Seriously, out of the many types of cellphone deals that exist, the rare BOGO offer gets you the most value.

Cellphone carriers usually don’t let BOGO offers sit for too long, so don’t expect these BOGO deals to last forever. Here are the latest buy one, get one cellphone deals available right now.

T-Mobile BOGO Offers

Free iPhone XR

The iPhone XR is a few years old at this point, but it’s still an excellent phone with a beautiful display and reliable battery life.

You can get a free iPhone XR if you switch to T-Mobile and purchase two iPhone XR devices via monthly payments. You’ll automatically get $730 credited to your account, thus canceling out the monthly payments you would pay for the second iPhone XR.

Free Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

To qualify for a free Samsung Galaxy S21 5G from T-Mobile, you’ll need to buy two S21 devices on a monthly installment plan and sign up for at least one new T-Mobile line.

Once you do that, you’ll $800 in credits added to your account, effectively paying for the second Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.

Verizon BOGO Offers

Up to $800 Off a Second iPhone 12

If you buy a new iPhone 12, opt for monthly payments and sign up for a new Verizon unlimited plan, you qualify for $800 off on the next iPhone 12 you purchase.

That $800 off can be used to completely pay off an iPhone 12 (64GB), or you can get $800 off on one of the higher-tier iPhone 12 devices.

Free iPhone 12 Mini

You can get a second iPhone 12 Mini for free when you purchase the first device and sign up for a new Verizon unlimited plan.

All you need to do is add two iPhone 12 Minis into your cart on Verizon, opt for monthly payments on the phones, make sure one of the phones will be used for an unlimited plan, and you’ll get $700 in credit back.

This $700 will automatically cover your monthly payments on the second iPhone 12 Mini.

Those are the best wireless BOGO deals available right now. Sadly, AT&T isn’t offering any BOGO right now, but these are excellent opportunities if you were thinking about switching to Verizon or T-Mobile.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

You Should Never Buy These 12 Things New

Man with guitar
Luis Molinero / Shutterstock.com

Some things really are better the second time around.

In fact, many used items can be every bit as good as those purchased new. Plus, buying used almost always saves you cash.

So, without further ado, following is our list of the top things you should never buy new.

1. Timeshares

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Don’t ever pay full price for a timeshare. Some people are practically giving them away because they’re so desperate to get out from under the annual fees.

As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson puts it in “Ask Stacy: How Can I Sell My Timeshare?“:

“I’d chop off my own foot with a dull ax before buying a timeshare, especially a new one from a developer.”

2. Basic tools

javitrapero.com / Shutterstock.com

If you are handy, you need a good set of tools. Buying tools used typically will save you money, and you might even end up with something that is better crafted than what you would find new today.

In fact, Money Talks News’ resident thrifting expert Kentin Waits cites tools in both “8 Things I Always Buy at Thrift Stores” and “7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales.”

If you aren’t handy, you might be able to check out tools from your local library when you do need them.

3. Cars

Driver with thumbs up
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

We’ve talked about it time and time again: The value of a new car drops like a rock as soon as you drive it off the lot.

Rather than finding yourself upside-down on your car loan five minutes after signing the paperwork, look for a quality used car that has already taken the huge depreciation hit.

4. Books

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We could take this category one step further and say you shouldn’t buy books at all. Many of us live near a public library system that can meet most of our reading needs.

However, we won’t go quite to that extreme. I personally enjoy having a well-stocked home library. I also realize that some books, such as college textbooks, have to be purchased. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay full price.

Check out “11 Places to Find Free E-Books,” or head to Amazon to find cheap used books, which are often as good as new.

5. Big toys like boats, motorcycles and RVs

Boating
freevideophotoagency / Shutterstock.com

That advice about buying a used car can apply to any type of vehicle.

Virtually anything with an engine — from off-road vehicles to yachts — will depreciate over time. So, in most cases, you’ll get more bang for your buck by purchasing used.

New boats, for example, depreciate quickly. So, even if you buy a vessel that’s just 1 year old, you stand to save a boatload.

6. Houses

sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.com

Your house is another big-ticket item that is better to buy used rather than new. Not only can you save money, but older homes also may have better “bones” than some new construction.

If you love the idea of new construction, remember that an existing home doesn’t necessarily have to be 50 years old. If you want an energy-efficient home with new amenities, you can probably find it at a lower price if you’re willing to be owner No. 2 or No. 3.

7. Movies and CDs

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Many of the same places that sell used books also sell used DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and CDs. No need to spend money for a new disc when you can get a used one for less money online, at a garage sale or in the thrift shop.

Of course, there’s also your public library, where movies and music are free for the (temporary) taking and cheap when the library holds a sale.

8. Sports gear

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Raise your hand if your kids have ever started a sport and quit after one season. I’m right there with you.

Instead of spending tons for new equipment, go to a specialty store like Play It Again Sports and buy used items. You can also scour garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist for bargain finds.

Don’t forget to look for fitness equipment for yourself, too. Buying new weights and kettlebells, for example, doesn’t make sense if you can get used ones for a fraction of the price.

9. Musical instruments

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Musical instruments are another parental purchase that could be money down the drain.

To avoid purchasing something overpriced or broken when buying used, consider spending a few dollars to have it appraised by a local music store. Or, better yet, buy a used item directly from a shop.

Renting an instrument is another option. However, keep in mind that renting a clarinet for three years could end up costing you more than if you purchased a used one in the first place.

10. Jewelry

Jasmin Awad / Shutterstock.com

Jewelry is also better bought used than new. Before buying off Craigslist or from a private seller, however, be sure to get an appraisal, particularly if a significant amount of money is involved.

You can also find quality used baubles by shopping for estate jewelry from jewelers or reputable pawn shops.

11. Gift cards

Gift cards
Iryna Tiumentseva / Shutterstock.com

Here’s one you probably haven’t thought about. Some people receive a gift card to a retailer they don’t like. Others use a portion of a gift card, but have no reason or desire to spend down the remaining balance.

You can find unwanted gift cards by going to a site like Raise. Buying “used” gift cards in this fashion can save you a bundle, as we detail in “How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year.”

12. Pets

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Some of you might disagree, but there really is no reason to spend a lot of money on a brand-new pet from a breeder when plenty of preloved (or not so loved) animals need homes.

My local animal shelter and Humane Society regularly have free or almost-free adoption days, during which you can bring home everything from dogs and cats to bunnies and birds. Your local shelter might offer the same.

Unless you’re planning to show your pet, spending hundreds or even thousands on a purebred animal is probably not money well-spent. The $50 puppy from the pound is just as likely to smother you with wet kisses and stare at you with unbridled adoration.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

Couple shopping at Costco
Pictures_n_Photos / Shutterstock.com

The weekly runs to Costco bring to mind crowded parking lots and parents and kids loading up their carts in aisles full of bulk-sized items and standing in long lines.

But the big-box retailer is also a great place for anyone looking for great deals, including retirees. That group isn’t necessarily looking to fill up a pantry or closet with food, but they’re still looking for discounts as they manage budgets during the post-working years.

Take a tour through the aisles with us as we look at some of the many items retirees should be getting at lower prices at Costco — if they don’t mind the long lines.

1. Prescriptions

Costco pharmacy
Cassiohabib / Shutterstock.com

You don’t have to join Costco to take advantage of its generally low drug prices, as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership.” But joining brings additional perks for retirees looking to save on prescription drugs.

For example, Costco members who don’t have health insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover certain drugs, can take advantage of the Costco Member Prescription Program. The retailer describes it as “a prescription drug discount card program that provides eligible Costco members and their eligible dependents with the ability to obtain lower prices on all medications.”

Retirees with Medicare as health insurance also can browse Costco-preferred pharmacy plans right on Costco’s website.

2. Eyeglasses

Older woman in eyeglasses
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Whatever your optical style — eyeglasses, contact lenses or sunglasses — you can find it for less at Costco. The retailer has an optical department, where you also can get an exam and help choosing what’s best for you.

Costco says it also accepts most insurance vision plans, and you don’t even have to be a Costco member to see an optometrist there.

3. Vitamins and supplements

Costco deals
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Always talk to your doctor before trying any new vitamin or supplement. But after that, look to Costco.

The wholesale club offers an extensive selection of vitamins, multivitamins, dietary supplements and herbal supplements. Whatever you might need, Costco is bound to have it at a decent price, if not the best price — especially if you take advantage of sales.

Costco regularly offers additional discounts that it calls “Member-Only Savings” or “Warehouse Savings” but that are essentially sales, as we detail in “11 Ways to Save Even More Money at Costco.”

Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher, who never shops at Costco without first checking the sales, says these discounts always include numerous price cuts on supplements. For example, Costco’s current sales, which are available through Feb. 28, include price cuts on more than a dozen vitamins and supplements.

4. Hearing aid batteries

Otolaryngologist putting hearing aid in woman's ear
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

The cost of hearing aid batteries can quickly add up, but you can get a 48-pack of hearing aid batteries from Costco’s house brand, Kirkland Signature, at warehouse locations that have hearing aid centers.

These locations also offer free hearing aid cleanings and check-ups, among other services, as we note in “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Hearing Aids.”

5. Mobility aids

Son pushing his father in a wheelchair
Halfpoint / Shutterstock.com

For seniors who need help staying on the move, Costco offers good deals on wheelchairs and walkers.

The retailer even sells medical alert systems. For more on these devices, check out Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s advice in “What’s the Best Medical Alert System?”

6. Gift cards

Discounted gift cards on display at a Costco
melissamn / Shutterstock.com

Heading out to eat? Need gift cards for the grandkids? Be sure to check Costco first. It’s one of few places where you can buy gift cards for less than their face value — often 25% off, or more.

Restaurant gift cards are most common at Costco, but you can also find digital gift cards for gaming, for example.

7. Golf balls

Golf course
Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com

Playing two rounds of golf per week — 36 holes in total — and briskly walking the course rather than riding in a golf cart counts toward the American Heart Association’s recommendations for weekly exercise to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Before you hit the green, grab yourself a few dozen golf balls at Costco for a reasonable price.

8. Mattresses

Couple jumping on bed, holding hands
4 PM production / Shutterstock.com

Finding the right mattress is critical to battling insomnia and soothing aching bodies, and Costco lets you choose from a wide variety of brands, types and sizes — as well as bedding.

If you’re confused about which way to go, Costco has a handy buying guide.

9. Car rentals

kurhan / Shutterstock.com

While you may not plan to travel anytime soon due to the coronavirus pandemic, keep this in mind for your next trip: It’s not well-known that you can utilize Costco for renting cars, but doing so could save you.

Costco Travel offers a Low Price Finder search tool that lets you compare the rates of big companies, from Enterprise to Budget, to find your best price — one-stop shopping.

10. Cruises

Senior couple taking a selfie on deck of a ship.
View Apart / Shutterstock.com

Again, while the pandemic has left many cruise ships docked and vacant for now, it pays to know that you can buy your next cruise vacation through Costco, whenever that might be.

You can book cruises to a variety of places and with a variety of cruise lines. The Costco Travel website lets you explore options, by destination, cruise line and duration.

11. Caskets and urns

Funeral
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

They aren’t exactly enjoyable items to shop for, but a variety of caskets go for less than $1,000 at Costco. If you’re looking for urns, there are a few of those available as well — all for $120 or less.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

14 Stores With the Best Return Policies

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The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be leaving few things unchanged. Some retail stores, whether brick-and-mortar or online (or both), are loosening their policies on returns, says ModernRetail, an industry publication. This buys customer goodwill and gives the companies time to process returned products. Other retailers may have tightened previously liberal returns policies.

To help ensure that you and the recipients of your gifts can exchange a too-small sweater or return an extra toaster, consider shopping at stores like these, whose return policies are more customer-centered. We’ve summed up the rules. We link to each store’s policy so you can read the fine print, including exceptions and caveats.

1. Costco

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Selling everything from cucumbers to caskets, Costco says it stands behind its products 100%. That means full refunds on almost anything. A caveat: Some products — mainly electronics and appliances — must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a full refund.

Exceptions include diamonds, which are subject to special terms, and cigarettes and alcohol, which may not be returned where prohibited by law.

Love shopping at Costco? See “18 Surprising Things You Can Buy at Costco.”

2. Lands’ End

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The Lands’ End return policy is short and sweet. If you aren’t happy with a product, return it at any time for a refund or exchange.

The policy says:

“Refund requests received within 90 days of purchase will be issued to the original form of payment when available. Refund requests received beyond 90 days from the date of purchase or refund requests without a Lands’ End proof of purchase will be issued a Lands’ End Merchandise Credit.”

3. Ikea

IKEA
FotograFFF / Shutterstock.com

Thanks to its “No-Nonsense — 365 Days to Change Your Mind” policy, Ikea is one of the best stores for customer returns.

As the policy name suggests, shoppers get one year (365 days) to make a return for a full refund — for new and unopened products.

But you must have a receipt. If you don’t, the store will attempt to locate your purchase in its system. Failing that, you’ll get merchandise credit equal to the lowest selling price of the purchase from the previous 365 days.

Opened products may be returned within 180 days. You’ll need proof of purchase for a full refund.

If you love shopping at Ikea, here some tips: “4 Ways to Save More Money at Ikea.”

4. Bath & Body Works

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If you’re looking for a sweetly scented gift, Bath & Body Works can be a good place to go.

In case the fragrance you selected from the vast selection isn’t just what they wanted, the store has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Return a product for any reason with a receipt for a full refund. No receipt? Your refund will be for the lowest selling price of the item.

5. REI

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REI is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. The store has a liberal return policy. In brief, you can return or exchange almost anything from the store within one year.

Outdoor electronics must be returned within 90 days. Tip: REI won’t take returns on items for normal wear and tear or damage caused by accidents or improper use. Used gear is covered by the policy, but must be returned within 30 days. REI Store Garage Sale (as is) purchases aren’t covered — those sales are final.

6. Zappos

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You don’t need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online when you purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer allows 365 days to return unused products and will pay for the return shipping.

So, if those strappy heels don’t look quite as cute on you as they did on the model, you can send them right back. Just don’t wear them to a party first; returns must be unworn and in the original packaging with original tags attached.

7. Athleta

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A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. Other stores (including other Gap brands) may only take back unwashed or unworn items, but Athleta lets you return anything for any reason within 60 days, thanks to its Give-It-a-Workout Guarantee. An exception: final sale goods.

Athleta covers the shipping cost for returns and exchanges.

8. Nordstrom

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The days when Nordstrom let shoppers return anything in practically any condition for any reason are in the past. But the chain’s return policy remains one of the best around.

It says:

“We handle returns on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate objective of making our customers happy.”

You can return a purchase without a receipt, and the retailer will try to find it in its computer system. If it can’t, customers may show identification to receive a Nordstrom gift card for the current price.

9. L.L. Bean

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The L.L. Bean policy says it will accept returned products that don’t live up to customer expectations within one year of purchase. It’s even better for purchases made before Feb. 9, 2018. These are not subject to the one-year limit.

The retailer adds:

“After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.”

10. Macy’s

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Macy’s once-mighty chain of department stores is in the midst of a three-year plan to close one-fifth of its stores — shutting roughly 125 locations in all.

But many of its stores still are in business. Macy’s return policy gives shoppers 90 days to take back a purchase. Returned goods must be in original, salable condition with the original tags.

Some exceptions are carved out. These include products from certain lines and manufacturers, lighting, area rugs, tech accessories and watches, dresses, furs, foods and beverages, and furniture and mattresses.

11. Kohl’s

Kohl's store
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Hassle-free returns are a Kohl’s tradition, although the rules can be a bit more complicated than the name implies.

An in-store purchase with an original receipt can receive a refund or an even exchange up to 180 days after the original purchase date, with an exception for premium electronics. If you don’t have a receipt, and the store can’t find one, you may get a merchandise credit based on the lowest discounted 13-week sale price of the item.

12. Target

Target
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Target’s return policy varies, depending on what you purchased, its condition and whether you paid with a Target REDcard.

Most goods that are returned within 90 days, are unopened and in new condition can receive a refund or exchange. Read the policy and check your sales receipt or packing slip for exceptions.

Target allows up to a year to return Target-owned brands or registry purchases.

Using your Target RedCard to make the purchase earns you an extra 30 days to make returns.

Returns by mail are postage-free; you can download and print a prepaid mailing label.

13. JC Penney

JCPenney
Supannee_Hickman / Shutterstock.com

As with Target, JC Penney’s return policy varies significantly based on what you’ve purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights:

  • Most purchases can be returned with a receipt for a full refund or exchange. No time window is given. Read the policy to see exceptions.
  • When you return something without a receipt, the refund with be issued as a JC Penney gift card; you’ll get the amount of the lowest selling price in the last 45 days and you’ll need to show a photo ID.

14. Bed Bath & Beyond

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Bed Bath & Beyond promises “Easy Exchanges & Returns.” If you have a receipt, you’re in luck. Returns and exchanges can be made (postage-free) online or in stores that are open to the public (this doesn’t include curbside only locations).

You can take back unwanted goods, with exceptions, for a refund in the original form of payment, within 90 days with your receipt. You may be asked to show ID.

Without a receipt, things get a little trickier. If it was purchased within the last 365 days, Bed Bath & Beyond will try to find a record of the transaction. If they can’t, and you are returning new and unopened goods, you may be able to get an exchange or merchandise credit for the current selling price minus 20%.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Rent Prices Have Dropped in These 9 Formerly Hot Markets

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You may have heard or seen firsthand how fast home prices have risen. In January, home value appreciation was 9.1% higher than one year prior, the largest annual increase since 2006, according to new data from Zillow.

Perhaps less known is this: The cost of renting is affected, too. But unlike with home prices — rising across most of the country — rents are up in some cities and down in others.

Overall, the cost of renting was relatively stagnant in the United States last year, say Zillow economists. The company, a real estate website, tracks and analyzes home prices and rents. The typical rent this January, $1,721, was up just $9, or 0.5%, from January 2020.

But that flat line masks big changes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and widespread changes to work-from-home policies have also pushed many to reconsider what they want and need in their living space, and where it should be,” says Zillow.

Many workers were freed to work from home and live virtually anywhere, at least while pandemic lockdowns lasted.

Rents in pricey, formerly desirable coastal meccas — especially New York City, Boston and the Silicon Valley centers of San Francisco and San Jose — saw the most dramatic drops in rents.

Below, listed by the change from January 2020 to January 2021, are the nine major metropolitan areas where rent costs are down, according to the Zillow Observed Rent Index. Even with reductions, rents in these metros remain steep:

  1. San Francisco: $2,876 (down 9.2% from January 2020)
  2. New York City: $2,465 (down 8.8%)
  3. San Jose, California: $2,892 (down 7.2%)
  4. Boston: $2,277 (down 6.3%)
  5. Seattle: $1,866 (down 5.5%)
  6. Washington, D.C.: $2,006 (down 3.4%)
  7. Chicago: $1,614 (down 2.9%)
  8. Austin, Texas: $1,511 (down 1.2%)
  9. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California: $2,542 (down 0.8%)

In the rest of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., rent increased on Zillow’s index between January 2020 and January 2021. These increases were as small as 0.1% in Denver and as big as 10% in Memphis, Tennessee.

A recent analysis by MyMove, a website that helps people relocate, also found that many people who moved during the pandemic left crowded urban areas for (often nearby) smaller cities and suburbs.

MyMove analyzed U.S. Postal Service change-of-address requests filed from February through July 2020. It found that the number of requests for temporary moves — meaning requests from people who planned to live at the new address for less than six months — increased about 27% compared with the same period in 2019.

New York City (110,978 people moved), including its borough of Brooklyn (43,006), lost the most residents to moves, followed by Chicago (31,347), San Francisco (27,187) and Los Angeles (26,438).

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

Surprised man shopping for groceries
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Do you love your neighborhood grocery store and buy everything you need there?

If so, your local grocery store probably loves you, too. It loves that you’re willing to spend so much on items you could get for a whole lot less money elsewhere.

You can continue supporting your local grocery store, but skip buying these goods there because cheaper options are available.

1. Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
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Anyone who’s bought a grocery store greeting card has felt the sticker shock — $4.95 for a piece of cardstock with a pretty design? You can do better.

Go to the dollar store and pick up some equally nice options for a buck. Greeting cards are one of the “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.”

If you don’t want to make a trip to another store, check out the options on Amazon. Or if you’re the crafty type, make your own.

2. Batteries

Couple in living room using remote control
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Batteries are an essential part of life, whether you’re a parent on Christmas morning or someone who relies on the TV remote. However, there’s no reason to overpay.

Head to the warehouse club of your choice, where you can stock up on bulk packages that bring your per-battery cost down. Amazon also sells bulk packages of batteries, including its own AmazonBasics brand.

3. Magazines

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A single issue of a magazine at the grocery store can set you back $3 or $4. Or more.

For many publications, you can subscribe to have them delivered to your home for the entire year for less than $20.

There are also plenty of ways to get discounted access to your favorite titles, as we detail in “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

4. Diapers

Baby drinking a bottle of milk
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Who knew it cost so much to cover your little one’s bottom? Well, experienced parents know, but it’s often a surprise to new moms and dads.

Using cloth diapers that you wash and reuse is always cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But for many people, disposables are the only way to go.

Buying them from a grocery store is easy, but you’ll pay a lot less per diaper using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service. It gives Amazon Prime members up to 20% off diaper subscriptions (basically just recurring deliveries), depending on how many subscription deliveries you buy.

If you’re willing to watch and wait for sales to stock up, another option is drugstore-brand diapers. See “7 Things You Can Buy for Next to Nothing at the Drugstore.”

5. Alcoholic beverages

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Beer and wine are money makers for grocery stores. You can minimize the markup by shopping at a warehouse club instead.

You may not even need a membership, as we explain in “18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores”:

“In some states, nonmembers can buy booze at a warehouse club due to state laws that regulate alcohol sales. So call your closest club and ask about its policy for selling alcohol to nonmembers.”

6. Toothbrushes

Mom and daughter brushing teeth together,
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Are you really buying toothbrushes at the grocery store? Don’t you go to the dentist? If you do, you’ll find they have drawers full of them for the asking.

Yes, most people go to the dentist once every six months, and you should change your toothbrush more often than that. However, we’ll bet that, if you ask really nicely, your dentist will give you one or two extra to last until your next visit.

7. Special occasion cakes

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Getting a birthday cake at the grocery store is convenient, but it isn’t all that cheap, especially if you need to feed a crowd.

Instead, we’re going to send you back to your warehouse club, where you can get a giant decorated sheet cake for the same price many grocery stores charge for their small ones.

8. Pet food

woman kissing cat
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The grocery store isn’t the worst place to buy pet food, but you can do better.

These retailers are among those offering discounts when you set up automated shipments:

Some pet store chains also offer coupons and loyalty programs that can lower costs, as we detail in “8 Ways to Cut Your Pet Food Costs.”

9. Bottled water

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Unless you happen to live in a city where the water is unfit to drink, there is no reason to buy bottled water.

The water from your tap will hydrate you just fine. Invest in a couple of reusable water bottles, and fill them for cheap at home.

Does the local tap water taste iffy? Buy a water filter or a filtering pitcher, and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cold drink or need to refill those reusable bottles.

If you must have bottled water from a store, buy it at a lower price at your warehouse club.

10. Frozen pancakes

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It is a mystery why anyone buys frozen pancakes. Making pancakes at home is super easy. A basic recipe takes a few minutes to whip up, and slightly longer to cook. We know you can do it.

Cook up a big batch on the weekend and freeze the extras to eat throughout the week. Your cost will be pennies per pancake.

11. Basic baking mixes

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Let’s take it one step further and say you should banish buying all basic baking mixes from the grocery store. If you’re baking with Bisquick, you really aren’t saving any time if you think about how long it takes to mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. All you’re doing is paying more.

The same can be said for basic cookie, cake and brownie mixes. These things aren’t hard to make from scratch. By skipping the mixes, you’ll save money and possibly be a little healthier, too, because of those mysterious added ingredients in processed foods that you don’t put in at home.

Need a recipe? See “10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself.”

12. Kitchenware

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Speaking of baking, the grocery store knows you might need some equipment to cook up all the delicious food you’re buying. That’s why many have a selection of pots, pans and even small kitchen appliances for purchase.

Resist the urge. You can probably find better prices and quality at big retailers stores like Walmart and Costco, or at Amazon.

13. Spices

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Herbs and spices can be another item leading to sticker shock in the grocery store. That tiny little bottle costs how much?!

If you have a bulk food store that sells spices, you can save a bundle. Not only could the per-ounce cost be less than at the grocery store, but you can also buy only as much as you need. No reason to get a whole jar when you only want a teaspoon for a recipe.

You can also find cheap spices at the dollar store, but the quality and freshness may be questionable.

14. Party supplies

Family Together Christmas Celebration diverse multi ethnic family
By Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Like greeting cards, party supplies are sold at the grocery store for a premium. Don’t make the mistake of getting your candles, tablecloths and colorful napkins there.

Swing by the dollar store and buy them on the cheap instead.

15. Coffee

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It’s the elixir of life for many people, which is probably why it costs so much at the grocery store. To get cheaper coffee, you have a couple of options.

Your warehouse store — noticing a theme here? — is a good place to stock up on bulk packages of whole-bean, ground and K-cup coffee.

If you have a Keurig machine, you can also register it at Keuirg.com, where they send out the occasional good deal.

Perhaps most surprisingly, you can find low sale prices on coffee at office supply stores, like Staples, for instance. These shops also have online coupons and loyalty programs to help you save even more.

16. Toilet paper

Toilet paper
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There may be no more essential product to family harmony than toilet paper. And it’s shocking how much tissue paper rolled around a tube can cost in the grocery store.

Head to your warehouse club or office supply store for discounted bulk purchases. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service is also your friend here.

17. Light bulbs

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It can cost a lot of money to light up your house. Walk past that display in the grocery store if you want to save some cash.

You could go to a warehouse club for lower prices, but you may find the best selection at Amazon.

18. Individually wrapped snacks

Woman eating cookies with milk
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You know you should buy the jumbo box of goldfish crackers and put them in baggies for school lunches, but that’s way too much work. OK, fine. Just don’t buy those individually wrapped snacks at the grocery store.

You can get a big box of them at a much cheaper price per serving if you go to a warehouse club. Or, see what your local dollar store has in stock.

19. Gift cards

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Forgot to buy a gift? No problem. Grocery stores have set up convenient displays of all sorts of gift cards by the checkout lanes.

Now, for many of these, you might only pay face value. So, you’re probably wondering why we’re saying that you’re overpaying. That’s because you can go to a warehouse club and get, for example, $100 worth of gift cards to many restaurants for only $80. Different chains offer different options, as you can see by looking at:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com