It’s going to cost an extra two cents to mail letters and parcels starting today. The price of first-class stamps is rising from 39 cents to 41.

The good news is that the Post Office will offer “forever” stamps that remain valid regardless of any future increase. The first of these forever stamps are selling for 41 cents apiece and won’t have a price printed on them.

The bad news is that while forever stamps will always be valid for mailing letters, it doesn’t mean the prices of stamps won’t continue to rise. As a matter of fact, a former director of strategic planning for the U.S. Postal Service says today’s increase marks the first of what may become annual rate hikes.

Postage rates last went up in January 2006.

“If the Postal Service does not address its ballooning costs, stamp-price increases could become regular events,” said Dr. Charles Guy, now an adjunct scholar with the Lexington Institute.

Today's price change brings into effect the recommendation made by the Postal Regulatory Commission — the U.S. Postal Service’s regulatory body — back in February to raise stamp rates to 41 cents, according to Guy.

Recent legislation requires the Postal Service to keep future rate increases within the rate of inflation, a mandate that Postmaster General John Potter recently called “extremely challenging” during congressional testimony.

While the first-class rate will rise from 39 cents to 41 cents for the first ounce, people sending heavier letters — such as wedding invitations — will see a reduction in the price. That’s because each additional ounce will cost just 17 cents, down from the current 24 cents. That means a two-ounce letter will cost 58 cents to mail, compared with 63 cents now.

Letters to Canada and Mexico will rise to 69 cents and to most other countries to 90 cents. Other international services are being redesigned to more closely resemble domestic rates, and the charges will vary by country.

Prices based on size and shape are also included in the new domestic rates. For example, while a first-class regular envelope is 41 cents for the first ounce, the charge will be 90 cents for the first ounce of a large envelope and $1.13 for the first ounce of a first-class parcel. For all three each additional ounce is 17 cents.

Information about the new rates are available at www.usps. com or 1-800-275-8777.

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