April 24, 2014

The Marriage Tax Bonus

You've probably heard of the Marriage Tax Penalty.    Have you heard of the Marriage Tax Bonus?

Most married couples receive a Marriage Tax BONUS rather than a penalty.


My wife and I pay a lower tax bill then I would pay if I was single.   Since my wife doesn't work we get a lower tax rate and higher deduction and exemption.   This is generally the case for a married couple with only one income earner.   This gives us a Marriage Tax Bonus of several thousand dollars a year.

Lets look at a couple examples.

Say you make $50,000 and you're single.   Your basic tax bill would be $5,929.   If you get married and your spouse does not work then your taxes would be $3,608.   The Marriage Tax Bonus is the difference or $2,321.
  
If you make $100,000 then the single filer tax bill would be $18,493 and married would be $11,858.    Thats a Marriage Tax Bonus of $6,635.

 A single income couple is going to cause the largest Marriage Tax Bonus.   For married couples with two incomes there may be a bonus or there can be a penalty.  It depends on the income levels and resulting tax brackets before and after marriage.

The TaxPolicyCenter said :
"Before the 2001 tax act, married couples were already significantly more likely to get bonuses than penalties. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 51 percent of married couples received marriage bonuses totaling nearly $33 billion in 1996, and 42 percent incurred marriage penalties totaling almost $29 billion."

But note that is before the 2001 tax act.   The 2001 tax act changed things to remove the penalty for the lower tax brackets.   After that 2001 reform the % of people getting bonuses should be even higher.   So now the % of people getting a marriage bonus is above 51%.

To roughly figure if you have a Marriage Tax Bonus or a Marriage Tax Penalty you can use the calculator at the Tax Policy Center.

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April 20, 2014

Cheap Photo Books via Deal of the Day Websites

I like using photobooks to create physical photo albums of our digital photos.   Normally photobooks retail for ~$20-40 for a typical 20 page hardcover book.    Through deals on Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local I've been able to get a dozen photo books for under $7 each on average.  The most recent 7 books I've gotten were only $3.29 each on average. 


It seems there are a lot of companies out there selling photo books on the web and they often have deals.  If you go to the daily deal sites (Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon Local) you can often find a deal on photo books from various merchants.    Just search for keyword 'photo' and something may come up.  I've gotten the best deals when combined with promotional coupons or credits.   I see those kind of randomly from the deal a day sites or 3rd party promotions.
To find the deals in general :  I've signed up for Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local.   They spam you with email all the time and I don't always read all of it.   I also watch Fatwallet.com and Slickdeals.net for good deals.    Through the emails or watching the deal sites you should be able to find some bargains.   I've also gotten other promo deals like credits or freebies for something like liking a merchant on Facebook.

For example on Living Social right now they have a deal for a $11 photo book from York photo.
Amazon Local has a $14 photo book from Photobin.

Those are OK deals.   Do be careful to pay attention to whether or not the deal includes shipping or if shipping is extra.    That is a big deal here.  Shipping often runs $7-9 or more for these photo books.   So for example a $10 photo book at Groupon is really going to cost you $22 with their $11 shipping cost.    A different merchant on Groupon is currently offering a $9 photo book with shipping included.   Thats a big difference.

Another way to save is through the site Gathr.com.   I talked about Gathr.com once before.   You can get a bundle deal through Gathr.com to combine gift cards/codes.    One bundle you could make is $20 to buy a $10 Amazon card, $10 Groupon credit and $10 Livingsocial credit.   I could use this deal right now to pay $20 to get a $10 Amazon card which I'd credit to my account and use later on misc. purchases (good as cash as far as I'm concerned), then get $10 Groupon credit to buy a $9 photo book plus a $10 credit on Living Social to get a $11 book for $1 net.   In total I'd be spending $20 and getting 2 photo books for $11.   That does assume the $10 Amazon card is usable as good as cash, which isn't always the case.    I'd basically be spending $11 for 2 photo books.

You can even save a little more on top of these deals by buying your deal a day voucher/coupon through Ebates.   Right now Ebates gives 3% for Amazon Local, 2% for Livingsocial and 4.6% for Groupon.


Standard Ebates blurb:
To get the cash back you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to the the store before you do your shopping.  I also get a referral bonus if you use my links to sign up with Ebates

-- This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

April 18, 2014

Best of Blogs for Week of April 18th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week

Doughroller gives 5 Factors to Consider Before Using a HELOC for Your Emergency Fund


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April 17, 2014

Virtually All Vegas Casino Resorts Charge Daily Resort Fees of $10-25

I wrote Beware Las Vegas Resort Fees about how Vegas hotels charge resort fees a few years ago.


At the time not all hotels had resort fees.   In fact if my memory is right it seems that a good number of the major casinos did not.   But that has changed.   Vegas.com has a handy list of all the resort fees.

Now its pretty much a given that a Vegas hotel casino will have a resort fee.   

The charges range from $10 to $25 typically.    There are a handful of casinos that do charge less than $10.   Silver Nugget is only $5.      The average fee is about $17.   The only major casinos that don't charge a fee are Four Queens and Fremont.

A selection of major hotels and their fees are :
Bellagio, Ceasars Palace, MGM Grand, Palms, Treasure Island, Venetian = $25
Tropicana, Ballys, Hard Rock, Luxor, Monte Carlo, New York, NY, Rio = $20-22
Circus Circus, Stratosphere, Riviera, Excalibur, Harrahs, LVH = $14.50 - $18


Fees have gone up a lot in the past few years.   I don't have a full record from 2010 but in my previous article I did capture a few examples.   Comparing those hotels from 2010 and today we can see the average has more than doubled :



2010 2014
Excalibur  $10.00 $18.00
Riviera  $0.00 $15.00
Stratosphere $7.50 $14.99
Tropicana  $8.00 $19.99

One annoying part about these fees is that they are not included in the booking price of the hotels when you shop for rates.  For example if you search on Orbitz you'll get a list of hotels and prices.  But the resort fee isn't shown there and you have to click on the 'see details' button for each hotel to actually get the resort fee totals.    For example I just did a random search for later in April and Riviera came up at just $15 a night.  What a bargain!      And only when you go to the 'book room' option do they point out the $15 resort fee which doubles the cost.


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