How to File a Tax Extension

How to File a Tax Extension

This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

You might have a lot of paperwork to get in order by Tax Day, or maybe you just tend to procrastinate. Whatever the case, if you need more time, it is possible to ask for a six-month extension to file your federal tax return.

Filing for an extension does not mean you have more time to pay the taxes you owe. The government still wants that money by the regular due date, and you will incur interest and likely a penalty if the payment is late.

Here’s what you need to know to file a tax extension.

What Is a Tax Extension?

A tax extension extends the deadline for filing your federal tax return by six months. All you have to do to get an extension is request one by April 18, 2023 (since April 15 falls on a Saturday, and Emancipation Day is April 17).

Again, note that a tax extension does not give you extra time to pay any taxes owed. If you can’t afford to pay your full tax bill, it’s a good idea to pay as much as you can by Tax Day and then apply for an individual payment plan on IRS.gov or call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss payment options.

The agency may waive the late-payment penalty in a few cases, but it will not waive interest charges on unpaid tax bills. The interest rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points. In early 2023, for individuals, the rate was 7%, compounded daily.

The late-payment penalty, aka failure-to-pay penalty (you filed for an extension on time but still owe taxes), is much less severe than the failure-to-file penalty (you didn’t file your tax return by the due date and did not request an extension).

Either way, a penalty plus interest on taxes owed past the deadline might be a grand incentive for many taxpayers to try to cough up most of their bill on time.

Recommended: Visit the Tax Season Help Center

How Do Tax Extensions Work?

There are three ways to request an automatic extension of time to file your return:

1.    File IRS Form 4868 electronically using your personal computer or through a tax professional who uses e-file. You’ll be asked to provide your prior year’s adjusted gross income for verification purposes. (If you do not know your prior year’s AGI and do not have a copy of that tax return, you can find the information by signing in to your IRS online account.)

2.    Mail a paper Form 4868. (The IRS says, though, not to mail in Form 4868 if you file electronically unless you’re making a payment with a check or money order.)

3.    Pay all or part of your estimated income tax due, and indicate that the payment is for an extension, using Direct Pay or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. You can also pay taxes with a credit card or debit card.

Special rules about filing extensions may apply to those serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area or living outside the United States.

Reasons to File for a Tax Extension

Many high earners routinely seek tax extensions because their business dealings and investments can take longer to sort out.

Other people might seek a tax extension for different reasons, such as:

•   Needing extra time to track down missing tax documents, especially if you’re dealing with an extenuating circumstance (for instance, the closure of a place of employment shortly before tax documents were due to be issued).

•   A major unplanned life event interrupts your plans and makes it hard to get things together on time.

•   You’re still figuring out how to do taxes as a freelancer and want to take all the deductions you can.

•   You’re going to take the home office tax deduction as a self-employed person and want to carefully crunch the numbers because you’re skipping the simplified deduction of up to $1,500.

•   General life busyness led to the deadline sneaking up on you.

•   Maybe you’re filing taxes for the first time and you simply procrastinated.

•   You have a primary and second home and are still unsure whether to itemize and take the mortgage interest deduction.

Filing for a Tax Extension Online

Remember, you don’t need to file Form 4868 if you make a payment using IRS electronic payment options or by phone and indicate that you want an extension.

If you do need to file Form 4868, you can do so electronically by accessing IRS e-file with your tax software or by using a tax professional who uses e-file.

IRS e-file options include Free File, which lets you prepare and file your federal income tax online using guided tax preparation at an IRS partner site (for filers with AGI of $73,000 or less) or Free File fillable forms (for any income level).

Filing for a Tax Extension by Mail

You can simply download and print Form 4868 from IRS.gov, fill it out, and mail it in, along with a check for estimated income taxes owed.

The form itself includes information about where to send the document, depending on where you live.

Recommended: Steps to Prepare for Tax Season

Can I File for a Tax Extension If I Owe Money?

Yes, you can still file for a tax return extension if you owe the government money — but the money itself is still due on the original due date.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to file for an extension of taxes owed. Rather, your best bet is to pay as much of your estimated taxes as you can when you file for the extension, and then apply for a payment plan online or call the IRS to learn about your options for complete repayment.

Can Someone Be Denied a Tax Extension?

Yes, but it’s uncommon. If your tax extension was denied, it was probably because of a mistake in your personal information on Form 4868.

Just resubmit your request and make sure to enter your current address, name, and Social Security number correctly.

How to Know If You Owe Taxes

While self-employed individuals must estimate their taxes and pay on a quarterly basis, those who file using W-2 wage reports may not do this kind of taxation math.

The good news is, there are several easy ways to find out if you owe Uncle Sam. You may receive a notice in the mail from the IRS, but ensure that it’s official correspondence and not a note from a scammer. The IRS will never email, text, or reach out to individuals via social media.

“Your Online Account” on IRS.gov allows you to see how much you owe in taxes. This user profile also allows you to pay any owed taxes directly.

Finally, you can always call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to confirm any amount of back taxes you might owe.

The Takeaway

Is it hard to file a tax extension? Not really. What may prove difficult is paying all taxes owed by the filing deadline, or paying a balance still owed plus a penalty and interest after the April date to file taxes.

Here are some general tips to help.

3 Money Tips

  1. If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.
  2. If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.
  3. An emergency fund or rainy day fund is an important financial safety net. Aim to have at least three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses saved in case you get a major unexpected bill or lose income.
Better banking is here with up to 3.75% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How do I know if I’ve been approved for a tax extension?

Extension requests are rarely denied, but news of a denial would come by email. In the event of an error in an address or name, a taxpayer will be given a few days to remedy the error and file a tax extension again.

You can get an automatic extension of time to file your tax return by filing Form 4868 electronically. You’ll receive an electronic acknowledgment of your request.

If you mail in Form 4868, you probably will not get verification of receipt of your request. You could (endure the hold time and) call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to confirm that your request was received.

Is there a fee to file for a tax extension?

No. It’s free.

Is the process for filing a tax extension easy?

Yes. You simply submit Form 4868 electronically or on paper by the filing deadline, or make a tax payment through approved methods and indicate you want an extension of time to file your federal return.

What happens if I file my taxes late and without an extension?

If you don’t pay your tax balance by the filing deadline and you did not file for an extension, you’ll get hit with a failure-to-file penalty (in most cases) and interest. The failure-to-file penalty is usually 5% of the tax owed for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to 25% of the total owed.

Interest compounds daily on any unpaid tax from the due date of the return until the date of payment in full.

Let’s say you file for an extension but can’t pay all of your tax bill. The “failure to pay” penalty is much less severe than the failure-to-file penalty. Interest is still charged daily.

If you’re expecting a tax refund, you won’t face a penalty for filing late. You just won’t get the refund until you file.


Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson
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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Home Equity Loans and HELOCs vs Cash-Out Refi

Home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and cash-out refinances are all borrowing options that allow homeowners to access the equity they’ve built in their home. By tapping into home equity — the difference between a home’s current value and the amount still owed on the mortgage — homeowners can secure funds to meet other financial goals, such as making home improvements.

While these three types of loans do have similarities, there also are key differences in how each one works. Understanding the differences in a home equity loan vs. HELOC vs. cash-out refi can help you better determine which option is right for you.

Defining Home Equity Loans, HELOCs, and Cash-Out Refi

To start, it’s important to know the basic definitions of home equity loans, HELOCs, and cash-out refinances.

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan allows a homeowner to borrow a lump sum that they’ll then repay over a set period of time in regular installments at a fixed interest rate. Generally, lenders will allow homeowners to borrow up to 75% to 85% of their home’s equity.

This loan is in addition to the existing mortgage, making it a second mortgage. As such, a borrower usually will make payments on this loan in addition to their monthly mortgage payments.

HELOC

A HELOC is a line of credit secured by the borrower’s home that they can access on an as-needed basis, up to the borrowing limit. The amount of the line of credit is determined by the mortgage lender and based on the amount of equity a homeowner has built, though it’s usually around 80% to 90% of the equity amount. Like a home equity loan, this is a second mortgage that a borrower assumes alongside their existing home loan.

How HELOCs work is somewhat like a credit card, in that it’s a revolving loan. For example, if a borrower is approved for a $30,000 home equity line of credit, they can access it when they want, for the amount they choose (though there may be a minimum draw requirement). The borrower is only charged interest on and responsible for repaying the amount they borrowed.

Another point that borrowers should keep in mind is that there is a draw period of 5 to 10 years, during which a borrower can access funds, and a repayment period of 10 to 20 years. During the draw period, the monthly payments can be relatively low because the borrower pays interest only. During the repayment period, on the other hand, the payments can increase significantly because both principal and interest have to be paid.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance is a form of mortgage refinancing that allows a borrower to refinance their current mortgage for more than what they currently owe in order to receive extra funds. With a cash-out refinance, the borrower’s current mortgage is replaced by an entirely new loan.

As an example, let’s say a borrower owns a home worth $200,000 and owes $100,000 on their mortgage at a high interest rate. They could refinance at a lower interest rate, while at the same time taking out a larger mortgage. For instance, they could refinance the mortgage at $130,000. In this case, $100,000 would replace the old mortgage, and the borrower would receive the remaining amount of $30,000 in cash.

Recommended: Home Buyer’s Guide

Turn your home equity into cash with a HELOC from SoFi.

Access up to 95% or $500k of your home’s equity to finance almost anything.


Home Equity Loans and HELOCs vs Cash-Out Refi

Here’s a look at how a home equity loan vs. HELOC vs. cash-out refinance stack up when it comes to everything from borrowing limit to interest rate to fees:

Home Equity Loan HELOC Cash-Out Refinance
Borrowing Limit 75% to 85% of borrower’s equity Up to 85% of borrower’s equity 80% of borrower’s equity
Interest Rate Fixed rate Generally variable May be fixed or variable
Type of Credit Installment loan: Borrowers get a specific amount of money all at once that they then repay in regular installments throughout the loan’s term (generally 5 to 30 years). Revolving credit: Borrowers receive a line of credit for a specified amount and have a draw period (5 to 10 years), followed by a repayment period (10 to 20 years). Installment loan: Borrowers receive a lump sum payment from the excess funds of their new mortgage, which has a new rate and repayment terms (generally 15 to 30 years).
Fees Closing costs (typically 2% to 5% of the loan amount) Closing costs (typically 2% to 5% of the loan amount), as well as other possible costs, depending on the lender (annual fees, transaction fees, inactivity fees, early termination fees) Closing costs (typically 3% to 5% of the loan amount)
When It Might Make Sense to Borrow Home equity loans can make sense for borrowers who want predictable monthly payments, or who want to consolidate higher interest debt. HELOCs can be useful for shorter-term needs or situations where a borrower may want to access funds over a specified period of time. Cash-out refinances may be useful if borrowers need a large sum of money, often used to improve their overall financial situation (for example, to pay off debt or finance a large home improvement project).

Borrowing Limit

With a home equity loan, lenders generally allow you to borrow up to 75% to 85% of a home’s equity. HELOCs allow borrowers to tap a similar amount, generally up to 85%. Cash-out refinances, on the other hand, have slightly lower borrowing limits, at up to 80% of a borrower’s equity.

Interest Rate

With a home equity line of credit, the interest rate is usually adjustable. This means the interest rate can rise, and if it does, the monthly payment can increase. Home equity loans, meanwhile, generally have a fixed interest rate, meaning the interest rate remains unchanged for the life of the loan. This allows for more predictable monthly payment amounts.

A cash-out refinance can have either a fixed rate or an adjustable rate. Homeowners who opt for an adjustable rate may be able to access more equity overall.

Type of Credit

Both home equity loans and cash-out refinances are installment loans, where you receive a lump sum that you’ll then pay back in regular installments. A HELOC, on the other hand, is a revolving line of credit. This allows borrowers to take out and pay back as much as they need at any given time during the draw period.

Fees

With a home equity loan, HELOC, or cash-out refinance, borrowers may pay closing costs. HELOC closing costs may be lower compared to a home equity loan, though borrowers may incur other costs periodically as well, such as annual fees, charges for inactivity, and early termination fees. Cash-out refinances may also have higher closing costs because the loan amount taken out is higher.

When It Might Make Sense to Borrow

A home equity loan vs. HELOC vs. cash-out refi have varying use cases. With a fixed interest rate, home equity loans can allow for predictable payments. Their lower interest rates can make them an option for borrowers who want to consolidate higher interest debt, such as credit card debt.

HELOCs, meanwhile, provide more flexibility as borrowers can take out only as much as they need, allowing borrowers to continually access funds over a period of time. A cash-out refinance can be a good option for a borrower who wants to receive a large lump sum of money, such as to pay off debt or finance a large home improvement project.

Which Option Is Better?

Like most things in the world of finance, the answer to whether a cash-out refinance vs. HELOC vs. home equity loan is better will depend on a borrower’s financial circumstances and unique needs.

In all cases, borrowers are borrowing against the equity they’ve built in their home, which comes with risks. If a borrower is unable to make payments on their HELOC or cash-out refinance or home equity loan, the consequence could be selling the home or even losing the home to foreclosure.

Scenarios Where Home Equity Loans Are Better

A home equity loan can be the right option in certain scenarios, including when:

•   You want fixed, regular second mortgage payments: A home equity loan generally will have a fixed interest rate, which can be helpful for budgeting as monthly payments will be more predictable. Some may appreciate this regularity for their second monthly mortgage payment.

•   You want to get a lump sum while keeping your existing mortgage intact: Unlike a HELOC, where you draw just as much as you need at any given time, a home equity loan gives you a lump sum all at once. Plus, unlike a cash-out refinance, you aren’t replacing your existing mortgage. That way, if the terms of your current mortgage are favorable, those can remain as is.

Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans

Scenarios Where HELOCs Are Better

In the following situations, a HELOC may make sense:

•   You have shorter-term or specific needs: Because HELOCs generally have a variable interest rate, they can be useful for shorter-term needs or for situations where a borrower may want access to funds over a certain period of time, such as when completing a home renovation.

•   You want the option of interest-only payments: During the draw period, HELOC lenders often offer interest-only payment options. This can help keep costs lower until the repayment period, when you’ll need to make interest and principal payments. Plus, you’ll only make payments on the balance used.

Scenarios Where Cash-Out Refi Is Better

Cash-out refinances can make sense in these scenarios:

•   You need a large sum of money: If there’s a need for a large sum of money, or if the funds can be used as a tool to improve your financial situation on the whole, a cash-out refinance can make sense.

•   You can get a lower mortgage rate than you currently have: If refinancing can allow you to secure a lower interest rate than your current mortgage offers, then that could be a better option than taking on a second mortgage, as you would with a home equity loan or HELOC. If interest rates have risen since you first took out your loan, however, a cash-out refi could mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

•   You want just one monthly payment: Because a cash-out refinance replaces your existing mortgage, you won’t be adding a second monthly mortgage payment to the mix. This means you’ll have only one monthly payment to stay on top of.

•   You have a lower credit score but still want to tap your home equity: In general, it’s easier to qualify for a cash-out refinance vs. HELOC or home equity loan since it’s replacing your primary mortgage.

The Takeaway

Cash-out refinancing, HELOCs, and home equity loans each have their place in a borrower’s toolbox. All three options give borrowers the ability to turn their home equity into cash, which can make it possible to achieve certain goals, consolidate debt, and improve their overall financial situation.

Homeowners interested in tapping into their home equity may consider getting a HELOC or taking a cash-out refinance with SoFi. Qualifying borrowers can secure competitive rates, and Mortgage Loan Officers are available to walk borrowers through the entire process.

Learn more about SoFi’s competitive cash-out refinancing and HELOC options. Potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify in just a few minutes.

FAQ

Can you take out a HELOC and cash-out refi?

If you qualify, it is possible to get both a HELOC and cash-out refinance. Qualified borrowers can use their cash-out refinance to help repay their HELOC.

Is it easier to qualify for a HELOC or cash-out refi?

It is generally easier to qualify for a cash-out refinance. This is because the cash-out refi assumes the place of the primary mortgage, whereas a HELOC is a second mortgage.

Can you borrow more with a HELOC or cash-out refi?

Ultimately, the amount you can borrow with either a cash-out refi or HELOC will depend on how much equity you have in your home. That being said, a HELOC can offer a slightly higher borrowing limit than a cash-out refi, at 85% of a home’s equity as opposed to a top limit of 80% for a cash-out refinance.

Are HELOCs or cash-out refi tax deductible?

Interest on your cash-out refinance or HELOC can be tax deductible so long as you use the funds for capital home improvements. This includes projects like remodeling and renovating.


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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Does Leasing a Car Build Credit? How Leasing a Car Can Affect Your Credit

Does Leasing a Car Build Credit? How Leasing a Car Can Affect Your Credit

When you’re in the market for a new car, you have several options for how to finance the vehicle. Leasing a car, getting an auto loan, or paying for your car in cash are all possibilities, depending on your specific situation. If you’re unsure about your credit situation, you might wonder if leasing a car is possible for you, or how leasing a car affects your credit.

In most cases, you’ll need to have good credit to qualify for a lease on a car. If you have poor or no credit, you may have better luck getting an auto loan, although your interest rate may be high. Should you opt to lease a car or buy one with an auto loan, your payment history is usually reported to the major credit bureaus. As such, making on-time and regular payments can help build your credit.

Cash in on up to $250–and 3% cash back for 365 days.¹

Apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card. Then open a bank account with qualifying direct deposits. Some things are just better together.


Leasing vs Buying a Car

When you buy a car, you agree on a purchase price with the seller. You then can either pay for the full amount of the car at the time of purchase, or use an auto loan for some or all of the purchase amount.

With a lease, you may put some money down, and then you will pay a fixed amount each month for the duration of the lease. Your monthly lease amount will be based on how much the car is worth at the end of the lease period. At the end of your lease, you can either return your vehicle to the lessor or buy your leased car.

It’s also important to keep in mind that leasing a car often comes with some restrictions on how you use your car, which is not the case with buying a car. If you lease, you might have limits on the number of miles you can drive during the lease term, for instance.

Both buying and leasing a car can impact your credit score, since your monthly debt obligation and payment history (positive or negative) shows up on your credit report.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Pros and Cons of Leasing a Car

Beyond knowing whether leasing a car builds credit, it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of leasing a car. By understanding the upsides as well as the drawbacks, you’ll be better able to choose between leasing or buying a car.

Here’s an overview of the major pros and cons of leasing a car to consider:

Pros

Cons

Leasing can often offer lower monthly payments than buying the car outright. There may be restrictions on how you use the vehicle, such as the number of miles you can drive during the lease.
You can potentially upgrade your car every few years. You don’t actually own the car, so you won’t build any equity to show for your monthly payments.
The lease may include coverage for maintenance and some repairs. You may get charged for excessive wear and tear on the vehicle.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

Ways Leasing a Car Builds Credit

In most cases, your lessor will report the payments you make on a leased car to the major credit bureaus. This means that a car lease will show up on your credit report as an installment loan, and your payment history will be recorded. This can help your credit if you make on-time payments, but it may have a negative impact if you miss a payment or the lease becomes delinquent.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Can You Lease a Car With Bad Credit?

The exact credit score needed to lease a car will depend on the lender or lessor that you use, but you generally will need to have good or excellent credit (meaning 670+) to qualify for a lease. If you don’t have a good credit history or are still working on improving your credit, leasing a car may not be the right fit for you.

Alternatives to Leasing a Car

If you’re not able to or don’t want to lease a car, you do have some other alternatives.

Buying a Car With an Auto Loan

It is more realistic that you might be able to qualify for a car loan rather than a lease if your credit isn’t great. While your monthly payment may be higher with a purchase as compared to a lease (since you’re buying the car rather than just leasing it for a short period of time), that may still end up being the right option for you.

You will want to keep in mind that auto loan interest rates often vary depending on your credit score. That means that someone with fair credit will likely have a higher interest rate than someone with good or excellent credit.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Using a Cosigner

Another possibility if you can’t qualify for a lease is to use a cosigner. If you have a trusted friend or family member with good or excellent credit who is willing to cosign on your auto lease, you may stand a better chance of getting approved.

When you use a cosigner, the potential lessor can use the credit score and profile of both the primary applicant and the cosigner in determining whether to approve the lease.

Making a Large Down Payment

If you’re able to, you might consider making a large down payment as part of your auto lease. While you still may not be approved, providing a large down payment shows the potential lessor that you are serious and committed. Making a large down payment also will lower your required monthly lease payment, which may help you get approved as well.

Tips for Building Your Credit for the Next Lease

If you want to build up your credit to prepare for your next car lease, there are a couple of things you can do:

•   Improve your overall financial situation. For one, you can work on solidifying your finances overall, including by setting up a budget and paying down debt. Remember that owning a car means you have to pay not only for your monthly car payment but also auto-related expenses like repairs, gas, and car insurance.

•   Use credit cards responsibly. Responsibly using credit cards is another way to improve your credit profile. Make sure you’re paying off your monthly statement in full each and every month.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

Leasing a car can build credit in much the same way as taking out an auto loan. When you lease a car, it is reported as an installment loan on your credit report. Your payments (either on-time or late) are also reported to the major credit bureaus, and can have a positive or negative impact on your credit score.

If you’re looking to build your credit profile, another path to consider might be a credit card, where you can show you’re responsible by paying off your statement in full, each and every month. One option to look at might be a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. You can earn unlimited cash-back rewards if you’re approved for a credit card with SoFi. You can apply those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares, or put them toward other financial goals, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.

Apply for a SoFi credit card today!

FAQ

Does leasing affect your credit score?

Yes, leasing can affect your credit score, since activity is usually reported to the major credit bureaus in a very similar way to an auto loan. A lease will be reported as an installment loan, and your payment history will be included on your credit report. That means that regular and on-time payments can help improve your credit score, while late payments or delinquencies can hurt your credit score.

Can I lease a car with a low credit score?

Generally, potential lessors are looking for lessees with good or excellent credit. There are a variety of reasons for this, including a higher rate of delinquencies or car repossessions associated with less favorable credit. If you have a low credit score, you may not be able to qualify for a lease and may need to consider alternatives.

What is the minimum credit score I can lease a car with?

The exact minimum credit score that you’ll need to lease a car will depend on a variety of different factors. These include the specific lessor you’re working with, the car you’re considering leasing, and your overall financial situation. Many lessors are looking for people with good or excellent credit. If your credit is below that, you may not be able to qualify for a lease.


Photo credit: iStock/EmirMemedovski

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Average Cost of a Wedding in 2021

Average Cost of a Wedding in 2023

Dress? Check! Rings? Check! Masks? It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has totally upended the wedding industry. Both state- and federal-level mandates have imposed restrictions that would rightfully make any wedding planner throw in the towel. But with 93% of couples originally set to wed in 2020 still intent on holding their nuptials, most couples are taking on this extra stressor in stride.

But what does that mean for cost? The 2020 wedding season introduced a slew of new wedding trends such as sanitizing stations, virtual streaming, and secondary celebrations. The question is, how does that impact your already complex planning, and what does that mean for your bottom line in 2023?

Wedding planning is a tall order, especially with the aftermath of a pandemic, but it’s not impossible. Here’s a look at what you can expect from venues, vendors, and other costs as you plan this happy day.

What Is the Average Cost of a Wedding?

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding ceremony and reception in 2020 was $19,000. This is nearly one-third less of the costs from 2019, which averaged $28,000 for both events.

The drop in spending can be directly attributed to Covid-19, although one-third of couples who kept their 2020 wedding dates opted to hold mini ceremonies that averaged fewer than 20 guests. This tactic allowed them to keep their special days, conform to any covid gathering restrictions, and significantly cut costs in the process. But what do these trends mean for 2023 planning?

As brides and grooms rush to reclaim the large celebrations they were denied in 2020, they’ve budgeted approximately $22,500 for 2021 receptions, similar to the $23,000 spent on receptions in 2019. With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us, these couples are planning ahead with no inhibitions. It’s important to note however, that true wedding costs will vary based on how elaborate the event and the unique vendor and venue costs of the region.

What Goes Into the Cost of a Wedding?

Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking. From the dress to the decor, there are so many details involved that many couples choose to pay the $1500, on average, for a professional wedding planner to handle them all.

Also, because 2020 was such an anomaly for the wedding industry with most couples choosing to scale down their events, reviewing average wedding spending from 2019 will provide a better look at what to expect. These 2019 numbers are courtesy of The Knot’s Real Wedding Survey.

Pre-Wedding Costs

The purchase of engagement rings is generally what kicks off the entire wedding planning process. While the tradition of spending three month’s salary on a ring may be old and outdated, couples are known to spend $5,500 on rings on average.

The cost of wedding invitations can vary widely depending on many factors. Handmade paper will cost more than cardstock. Letterpress printing will cost more than digital printing. More guests means more invitations, which means a higher cost. The average cost of invitations is $590.

Then comes the dress, which can take months to find. Assuming you’re not bent on purchasing an elaborate couture gown, but definitely want to secure something nicer than what might be found on a bargain rack, a dress can average $1,600.

It would be a mistake not to hold a rehearsal with your full wedding party, and taking the opportunity to treat them to dinner, thanking them for being a part of your celebration, is tradition. Rehearsal dinners can cost around $1900.

Recommended: The Cost of Being in Someone’s Wedding

Vendor Costs

What is your big day if no one is there to capture it? Photographer costs can be as high as $2400 for a wedding. Should you choose to film it as well, you can expect to pay around $1800 for a videographer.

Wedding photos are lifetime memorabilia and people want to look good in them. Average costs for professional services are $110 for hair and another $100 for makeup.

If you need transportation to the wedding, from the wedding to the reception venue, or for a guest shuttle, it can cost around $800 on average.

Wedding decor is a must, and flowers are one of the most common choices. From the choice of your bouquet to the centerpiece arrangements on your guest tables, a proper florist can average $2000.

The star of the show—after the bride—is the cake. Whether traditional white or unconventionally colored, tiered or cupcakes, a wedding cake can cost around $500.

Reception Costs

The reception venue will likely be your largest expense. It is where you will feed and entertain your guests for the longest portion of your celebration and, depending on the type of venue you book, it may or may not come with decor. This can cost around $10,500.

You can’t let your guests go hungry. Catering your reception, accounting for any special dietary restrictions, and toasting with champagne, you’ll pay around $70 per person. If you want to offer top-shelf liquor, that cost can increase.

Now let’s dance! The music is what will set the tone for your celebration, and it’s likely what your guests will remember most after your “I dos.” A DJ can cost around $1200 for a wedding. A live band on the other hand will cost significantly more at $3700.

Some couples choose to give their guests wedding favors, a gift that says ‘thank you for coming.’ Purchasing favors for your guests that remind them of the great time they had on your big day will cost around $400.

A few ways that can help you cut spending costs include trimming the guest list, opting for a cash bar, and enlisting family and friends to help you DIY a few things. Make a shortlist of the planning details that are most important to you and you don’t want to skimp on, and consider spending less on the unlisted details that aren’t as meaningful. Also, be sure to leave a buffer in your budget. You never know if you’ll have to cover an unexpected wedding expense or even a last-minute guest, and having extra room in your budget will allow you to cover those costs without overspending.

Recommended: Affordable Wedding Venue Ideas

Smart Ways to Finance a Wedding

Knowing how much you can expect to spend is only one half of the wedding planning puzzle. The other half is actually funding the spending. With average wedding costs in the tens of thousands of dollars, it’s important to plan ahead so you can enjoy your special day with minimal stress.

Gifts and Contributions

A bride and groom seldom pay for their wedding alone. As a matter of fact, in 2019, couples only contributed 41% toward their total wedding costs with their parents taking on the brunt of expenses. Immediate family members can be a resource to help cover costs and are often happy to do so. Whether it’s the groom’s family that agrees to cover rings and clothes, or the bride’s family that takes care of the flowers and food, having a family discussion about who is able and willing to cover what on your big day can help relieve some of the spending stress.

Also, contributing cash isn’t the only way to help. Any time your family, friends, or even your wedding party can offer with planning, creating, or decorating anything that you might have otherwise paid someone else to do can help keep your budget in the black.

Recommended: Wedding Gift Etiquette

Savings

Being able to cover costs with funds from a saving account is one of the more ideal ways of covering large wedding costs. Couples that plan long engagements might be able to take advantage of this method more so than those with short engagements, simultaneously saving for and planning their big day over several months or years.

Retaining a comfortable amount of savings separate from wedding funds to have on hand for an emergency is always a smart money move that can help prevent financial roadblocks in the future. As much as you may want to fund your big day with savings, if doing so will put you in a financially precarious position or prevent you from reaching other financial goals, it may be better to err on the side of caution. Having those funds post marriage may be more important than spending them now.

Credit Cards

Credit cards provide quick and immediate access to cash that can be used to cover wedding costs. If you have particularly high credit limits, and not much cash on hand, it may be possible for you to cover the entire cost of your wedding on a credit card.

Though this may be one option among many, using your credit card might also come with a few drawbacks, such as high interest rates and an increase in your credit utilization ratio. Charging wedding purchases to your credit cards means you’ll be subject to paying interest on those charges until you pay off those credit cards. Also, using large amounts of credit will increase your credit utilization ratio and could, in turn, trigger a drop in your credit score. If that scenario will keep you from reaching future financial goals, you may want to think twice about using this method.

Personal Loan

Applying for a personal loan is another method for securing wedding funds. Personal loans tend to offer qualified applicants lower interest rates than traditional credit cards. A personal loan may also have a fixed interest rate that can help you manage and maintain steady payments over the life of the loan.

Another benefit of a personal loan is that it can help you build your credit. Diversifying the types of credit you have helps the three credit bureaus view you as a responsible borrower, and in turn may raise your credit score.

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The Takeaway

Average costs are just that: average costs. Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be a budget breaker, but an event with this significance does come with some costs that probably don’t easily fit into most budgets. Using a personal loan to pay for wedding costs is reasonable if you are financially able to repay it.

SoFi wedding loans have no fees, low fixed rates, and can save thousands of dollars in interest compared to using a credit card. Getting prequalified takes just a few minutes, and loans can be funded in as little as three days.


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The College Money Talk: Explaining to Your Child What You Can and Can’t Afford

The College Money Talk: Explaining to Your Child What You Can and Can’t Afford

When your high schooler starts thinking about college, one of the best things you can do is to have The College Talk: a frank discussion about education, career, and life goals. The College Money Talk — the dollars and cents of the process — should be a part of the conversation. This will help you and your child stay on the same page during the college search.

We’ve assembled a list of topics you may want to include, such as how much you, as parents, can contribute toward college. We’ll also guide you through how to structure the conversation, explain financial aid, and more.

Figure Out How Much You Can Afford

First and foremost, parents should look at their finances as a whole: retirement savings, other investment accounts, monthly budget, upcoming large expenses, etc. Also think about the current economy, especially inflation and the bear market.

“Parents need to keep in mind their own financial security first and foremost,” says Brian Walsh, senior manager of financial planning at SoFi. “We don’t want parents to take on too much debt or put themselves in a sticky situation because they helped their kids too much.”

Walsh adds that it’s essential for parents to figure out on their own how much they can contribute before talking to their kids. One way to do that is to see how their retirement savings stack up against suggested amounts:

Age

Amount Saved

30 50% of salary
40 1.5 to 2.5 times salary
50 3 to 5.5 times salary
60 6 to 11 times salary

Recommended: Inflation and Your Retirement Savings

Consider the Timing

You may wonder when, and how often, you should have the college and money talk. Walsh says you can relax during the early high school years.

“Things will heat up junior and senior year,” Walsh says. “That’s when you’re looking at schools the kids are interested in, and determining how realistic it is they’ll get into those schools and secure financial aid. Senior year is when everything comes together — making decisions about where to go and ultimately coming up with a plan for how to pay for college.”

Consider blocking out time to have the conversation freshman year in high school, then intermittently throughout junior and senior year. Use your best judgment in broaching the conversation, and choose a time when your kids seem receptive.

Structure the Conversation

Walsh suggests beginning with a discussion of the paths available to your child after college. This may involve different professions and careers and how to attain them, even jobs that don’t require a college education. Your child may also have no idea about the potential earning power of various professions — a great segue into the cost of college.

According to Walsh, it’s best to have this talk in an environment where everyone feels comfortable. That may be a favorite coffee shop or the living room couch. If you’re not sure, ask your student what they prefer.

If you want to make it a more collaborative process, you can give your child assignments. For example, you may work with your child to search for colleges, look up financial concepts, debate the trade-offs of a big-name school vs. a lesser-known institution, and more.

Your student may also want to research the graduation rates of colleges. Walsh suggests having students identify the schools where students tend to graduate in four years or close to that.

When you start the money conversation, consider bringing up the average “net cost.” That’s a college’s cost of attendance (which factors in tuition, fees, books and supplies, and living expenses) minus any grants and scholarships. According to the College Board, the average net cost for 2022-2023 of a private college was $32,800. The average net cost for public college was $19,250.

Avoid looking at the sticker price, or what school websites say tuition and room and board will cost. Instead, kick off the affordability conversation based on net price.

Explain About Financial Aid

Financial aid can come from various sources: colleges and universities, the government, and private lenders. Financial aid can include grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans:

•   Grant: A type of need-based aid that you don’t have to repay.

•   Scholarship: A financial award based on academics, athletics, other achievements, or diversity and inclusion. It may or may not be based on financial need, and doesn’t have to be repaid.

•   Work-study: An on-campus job that helps cover the cost of school. You must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for work-study.

•   Federal Student Loan: A loan is money you borrow to pay for college or career school. You must pay back loans with interest. Federal student loans come from the federal government by filing the FAFSA.

•   Private Student Loan: These loans come from a private bank or online lender. Private student loans do not offer the same federal protections that come with federal student loans, such as loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. Consider these factors before you decide to pursue private student loans.

For detailed information on all available financial aid options, reach out to the guidance office or college office at your child’s high school. Online resources, like StudentAid.gov and SoFi’s FAFSA Guide, are also helpful.

“When you’re down to the final couple of colleges, work with the admissions and financial aid offices at those schools,” Walsh says. “They will be the best resources during senior year and going forward.”

Recommended: Scholarship Search Tool

Talk About Debt (and Debt Repayment)

Many high school students don’t have experience with loans or understand them at all.

“One of the risks of student loan debt is that it can feel like Monopoly money — it’s not real,” Walsh says. In your discussion, try to make student debt more concrete for your child.

Walsh recommends going through a sample budget based on the average starting salary of a career related to your child’s preferred major. (Also check out our guide to ROI by bachelor’s degree.) Calculate the amount your child may earn each month. Estimate what they may pay for rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, student loans, and more. How much will they have left over after those expenses?

Although it may feel awkward, it’s worth talking to your kids about student loans to help them understand how to handle them.

Discuss Parent / Child Contributions

“Be transparent with the student so they know what to expect when they look at different schools,” Walsh says. He urges parents not to overextend themselves or feel guilty if they can’t contribute as much as they’d like. Just 29% of parents say they plan to foot the entire bill for their kids to go to college, down from 43% in 2016.

Look for Ways to Cut Costs

During your college money talk, you may want to explore strategies for cutting expenses. Walk through a sample college budget, and look for ways to save on living arrangements, transportation and travel, Greek life, computers, books and supplies, dining out, and Wi-Fi. Doing all this ahead of time allows you to pick and choose what’s important and plan how parents and kids will spend their money.

You might also suggest that your child begin at a two-year school to save money, then transfer to a four-year institution.

Recommended: Money Management for College Students

The Takeaway

Paying for college often involves an emotional tug-of-war between a student and their parents. Walsh urges families to use The College Money Talk as a teaching moment. “It’s an opportunity for your child to learn valuable lessons on how debt and savings work,” he says. “And that can help them make better financial decisions in the future.” Parents should examine their finances and agree on their family contribution before discussing it with their student. Because high schoolers have little experience with money, parents can make it more concrete by walking through sample budgets: one for their expenses while in college, and another that projects their income and student loan debt after graduation.

SoFi private student loans can help families bridge the gap between financial aid and the cost of college.

SoFi can help you find the right private loan for you.

FAQ

How do you tell your kid you can’t afford their dream college?

It may come as a surprise to your child when The College Money Conversation takes a turn and you reveal that you cannot pay for their dream school. However, it’s best to answer the question early on in high school while they can still consider other, more affordable colleges.

Do most parents pay for their kids’ college?

About 29% of parents plan to pay the full college costs. However, that doesn’t mean you must follow suit, particularly if it will put a strain on your finances. Consider all aspects of your financial situation before deciding how much you can put toward the cost of college.

How do middle class families pay for college?

Paying for college involves planning and research, and that’s the case for families at any income level. Most families cover the cost of attendance through a combination of personal savings, need-based grants, scholarships, work-study, and student loans. This involves filing the FAFSA to see the amount of need-based financial aid your child may receive. You can also arrange to set up a payment plan, in which you make payments over the course of 10 or 11 months during each school year.


Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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