Series EE Savings Bonds for Children

Baby Frugalista is a lucky little lady. Not only is she getting a $5 weekly “allowance” from one of her grandpas, she’s also the recipient of two $100 US Series EE savings bonds. Hopefully, there will be more to come, because heaven knows how much a four-year degree will cost in 18 years…

Bonds are a pretty safe way of investing your money in the long-term. Paper-issued US Series EE savings bonds are purchased for half the face value — for example, a $100 bond costs $50 upfront, while electronic bonds bought through TreasuryDirect.gov cost face value. The bond then earns interest at a fixed rate based on when it was purchased (this Treasury Direct link breaks it down — notice the drastic drop after the April 2008 period was up!). Baby Frugalista’s current bonds are at 0.60% and 1.10% interest. After 20 years, the paper bonds are guaranteed to be worth the $100 face value, and will continue to accrue interest for another 10 years. If bonds are purchased electronically, they’re worth the full face value sooner, when they can be redeemed.

What’s nice is that Series EE savings bonds are exempt from state and local taxes, while the federal taxes are deferred until the bond is redeemed or stops earning interest after 30 years. Another perk is that the tax on the interest might be reduced or excluded if the bonds are used to pay for higher education. I hope that will still be the case when this little girl heads to college — not that I want to think that far ahead!

Baby Frugalista will be four months old on Thursday, and its amazing to see how far she’s come. She appears to be hitting all of her developmental milestones, and really, really wants to sit up! I catch her pulling her head and shoulders up when she’s seated in a reclining position, such as on the bouncy seat. She discovered her hands weeks ago, and now raises her legs straight up into the air to gaze at her feet. She rolled over from tummy to back twice, and is regaling up with her ‘baby chatter’ multiple times a day. It’s really wonderful and amazing to see her progress!

Happy Retirement!

Wanted to wish my dad (an avid Penny Frugalista reader) a happy retirement! You’ve definitely earned it!

Gutting the Bathroom? Yes, I’m Nuts.

Now that our two upstairs bedrooms have been remodeled, I’ve turned my attention to the full bathroom up there, the last piece in the second-floor renovation puzzle.

Yes, I know. I have a 3 1/2-month-old baby at home. But I also need to do something constructive with my down time (yes, I still have some of that).

So yesterday, I decided I wanted to see how big the bathroom would be when I busted out the walk-in closet that was built into the bathroom space — we’d sealed up the entry door from the hallway side. And who the heck designs an L-shaped bathroom with a huge closet taking up all the room? That’s a question for another time.

Here’s the bathroom, with the wall I ‘removed’ — there’s a full shower behind the other gray-green wall, next to the toilet. See what I mean?

I think I’m just going to continue tearing the wood paneling off the walls and see how it goes. We have another (real) full bathroom on the first floor, so it doesn’t matter that this will take a while. After I go back to work, I’ll see how much it will cost to replace the shower with a tub and build a small closet in the space. The rest I can do myself because I plan to use the existing plumbing.

Did I mention my husband thinks I’m nuts?

Am I?

Brita Comes Through With Metal Faucet Adapters

I can’t stress it enough: It pays to speak up and be your own advocate, especially when it comes to consumer products. I’ve had a ton of success when bringing legitimate complaints to the attention of the manufacturers or service providers.

Back in December, I asked for a Brita faucet filtration system as a Christmas gift. (Yes, I know I’m weird.) We had the Brita pitcher but since we drink so much water, it got to be a pain to refill all the time. When I opened the Brita faucet filtration system packaging, I saw it came with plastic adapters to fit different sink faucets. Eventually, it was going to be problematic. My plastic adapter lasted about 4 months — with lots of leaking — before the damned filtration system just fell off the faucet one day. The threads on the plastic adapter had worn off — and no DIY powers can fix that, not even mine.

Does every owner of the Brita faucet filtration system deal with crappy adapters? As usual, I turned to the Internet for answers. I found a lot of owners complaining about the poor connection with the plastic adapters. I also discovered that Brita is well aware of the problem. From the Brita website, under “Brita Replacement Parts”:

Brita® Faucet Filtration

Note: If you have difficulty attaching your Brita® Faucet Filtration System to your faucet you may need a special set of adapters that Brita will mail you free of charge. Call 1-800-24-BRITA or 1-800-387-6940 (CANADA).

I called up and spoke to a very nice Brita customer service rep, who promised to send out the new metal adapters free of charge — I didn’t even have to get into a song-and-dance routine to finagle them out of her. They arrived at my doorstep in a few days, and now my Brita faucet filtration system is staying put.

My question for Brita: Wouldn’t it be easier — and perhaps cheaper, to save on time/energy/postage fees/poor PR — to just INCLUDE the “special set of adapters” (which are metal, not plastic) in the package in the first place?

I Missed a Credit Card Payment

True confession: I missed a credit card payment. Oops.

I’ve never missed a credit card payment before…NEVER. It’s embarrassing to admit, never mind to blog about it.

How did it happen, you ask? Well, it’s not that I forgot it. On the contrary, I thought I had paid the bill through my online billpay portal. But instead of paying this particular credit card creditor, I mistakenly entered the payment into the wrong payee field. And I didn’t notice it until I’d logged back into our online banking — 3 days AFTER the due date. I immediately sent the payment to the correct creditor, but it was technically late.

If he’s reading this, I know exactly what my father is thinking at this moment: “This is why I still mail my bills!” True, it’s hard to screw up and pay the wrong creditor when you’re writing a check and mailing it, but you could always write out the check to the wrong company… right?

My Punishment

The creditor charged me a $15 late fee, which was the minimum payment due, and upped the next month’s minimum to $33, plus the $15 from the previous month, for a total of $48 due. As a rule of thumb, I pay much more than the minimum payment, so it’s not an issue.

The payment wasn’t 30 days overdue, so I’m hoping it doesn’t get reported to the credit agencies — that would suck. But I don’t plan to need any credit anytime soon, and the last time I checked, my credit scores hovered around 800 for all three agencies.

Trying Not to Spend Money

Now that I’ve been home for 14 weeks (!!!), the baby and I are finally getting into a daily routine. She’s getting tummy time, eating like a champ and suddenly sleeping 7 hours a night, all of which makes for a very happy mommy.

It also gives me a bit of extra free time. Free time that has me looking around the house and wanting to improve the decor. This is a bad, bad thing, because home decor is probably my one money weakness.

The new curtains

Back in January, we ordered new sofas, which arrived far earlier than the 12-14 weeks the store estimated — they were here in just 4 weeks. They’re a berry red, while the old living room accents are blue — curtains, area rug and wall decor. So I splurged on beautiful curtains from JCPenney to match our new couches — $160, with discount/sale. They look nice, but now I’m trying to wait a bit to get a new area rug and pictures for the walls. Never mind the fact that we still need to get a new coffee table and TV stand to complete the room transformation…

I’d also bought a new comforter set for our bed to match our newly renovated room and its light-gray wall color. That was $110.

Yesterday, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up some more coffee K-cups — Baby Frugalista has turned me into a coffee fiend — and came home with dark, cordless cellular blinds for the baby’s room to keep out the sun in the mornings. Those were $60 after applying my 20% off coupons.

And there are so many other things on my home to-do list. Of course, we have a lot of things we want to do to our home to renovate it further. I want to replace all of the interior doors with white 6-panel models. We need to redo the upstairs bathroom to complete the second-floor renovations. Eventually, I want to get new kitchen countertops, and I’m contemplating doing the floor tile myself while I’m home on maternity leave. Our first-floor bathroom also needs a revamp, but it’s a lot better than the upstairs one (pine wood walls, anyone?).

Outside, our mint-green aluminum trim is outdated, and makes us the recipients of contractor brochures and letters, promising the best price on siding painting. We don’t have a deck or patio, and our landscaping is the laugh of the block. Those are all long-term projects, but in the meantime, I’ll be spending a bit more money to buy some pretty flowers to spruce up our front yard.