Monday Links-A-Lot

The Festival of Frugality was hosted at Frugal For Life this week. It included my article Stamp Prices Are Going Up, Even if You Don’t Care.

More terrific articles to read:

  • I enjoyed The Ethics And Economics Of Used Baby Clothes by Kelly at My $mall C€nts. I have also sold at garage sales, but you get much less there than on consignment or on Ebay. I’m very excited that I just finally found a kids’ consignment store near me. Yay!!! If items were handed down to us I offer them back to the person who gave them, but if they decline I feel no remorse for selling them. I give away many of Son’s clothes, too.
  • Cash Money Life‘s Save Money with Refurbished Electronics is very informative. Now I ‘ll actually consider buying a refurbished product!

The Carnival of Money Stories was hosted at Free From Broke this week. My article My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Arrive When Promised!, my most popular article ever, was included. Apparently lots of people didn’t get their checks!

Great posts include:

The Money Hacks Carnival was hosted at Save and Conquer and included my article Bank Fee Phobia. I’ll try not to be insulted that he thought it only “somewhat humorous”.

I also liked:

  • Single Guy Money talks about Reasons to Join A Credit Union. I was in one in college and joined one after I bought my last car to get a really good extended warranty for a really good price. They’re not nearly as hard to get into anymore, either. The one I joined has a branch in my local WalMart!
  • Dough Roller wrote a great roundup of Tax Rebate Deals–Supersize Your Economic Stimulus Payment. I’m not going to be using any of them, but I keep checking back to see if Costco or Publix appears on the list!

I’d also like to thank Quest for Four Pillars for including a link to my post I am a Stay at Home Mom. Here’s How I Finagled My Finances to Make It Happen. in their post Everyman’s Guide to Decreasing Expenses.

I’d also like to thank Donna at MSN MoneyBlog for including Stamp Prices Are Going Up, Even if You Don’t Care in her post Snail-mail bargain: Time to buy forever stamps.

Another great week. Thanks to all the hosts for their hard work, and to all the bloggers for great material!

Edited to add:

I mistakenly left the wonderful Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted this week at the Alpha Consumer Blog at US News and World Report, off of this week’s links.  Mea  culpa.

They did, though, include my post Why Life Insurance for Kids Isn’t Always a Bad Idea along with a ton of other great articles!

Thank you~

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Old Navy and the Tragedy of the Turn-Cuff Socks

Dear Old Navy:

My three-year-old son has wide feet. As a result many of the socks on the market don’t fit him correctly. When he was about three months old I discovered the joy that is the Old Navy Turn-Cuff socks and have been buying them ever since. There have always been a variety of colors so that I could match every outfit. I’ve been thrilled.

I tried Target’s store brand, and even Gymboree’s and they just don’t hold a candle. Target’s don’t wear as well, and Gymboree’s are too stiff and tight – and they run small.

The other day I went into my local Old Navy to stock up and was saddened to see that you are no longer selling the socks individually in the stores. You still offer a multi-pack in white, but only four colors in your boy’s multi-pack – navy, gray, beige and white. Not only that, the store I went to only had sizes up to 12 months and the manager could not tell even me if or when they’d get more in (another issue that irks me to no end).

Navy, gray, beige and white? That’s it ? These are kids. Babies. Toddlers. Preschoolers. Why can’t they have green, or red, or light blue socks? Why must they be in boring shades of neutral?

You do offer more colors for girls. The girl’s pack has two shades of pink, purple and white and the rainbow pack includes purple, pink, yellow and red. But once again boys’ fashion gets shafted.

Old Navy is supposed to be the hip, now, up-to-the-minute frugal fashion store. Navy, gray, beige and white?

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am.

Navy, gray, beige and white.

Sigh.

Justify My Love

I have a difficult confession to make.

There are certain songs that are iconic. They are perfect. They cannot be improved upon.

I don’t like it when people sing them differently than they were sung when recorded, even if it’s the original person singing.

When Husband and I were dating we went to a Melissa Manchester concert. When Melissa sang, “Through the Eyes of Love”, one of my favorite songs of all time, she changed it up. She threw in some new voice riffs and even picked up the tempo.

I was not pleased.

I know I should appreciate the artistry, the voice quality, the creativity of the musicians. I do.

But don’t screw with my music.

So it comes as a huge surprise that I love the cover of another of my all-time favorite songs. It’s an American classic, and many people were up in arms when it was remade.

Yes, it’s American Pie. Don McLean sang it to perfection. Perfection. When the cover was being released I was sure I was going to hate it. You just don’t screw with perfection. And Madonna was the artist re-recording it. Madonna, for goodness sake. While I don’t hate her music, I’ve certainly never bought any. And I was in college in the 1980’s!

Then I heard it.

Hmmm. It stinks! No….hmmmm. Hey! Where’s the rest of the verses?

Huh. Kinda catchy…

I kinda like it.

Whoa!

I like it so much that I eventually have a friend download it as part of a mix CD for me. And listen to that CD constantly.

Before the flaming comments start please understand that Don’s version is still my favorite. By a country mile. Still, I really like Madonna’s version.

Husband is appalled.

And I’m not the only one who likes it.

It’s the first song Son has ever requested.

Madonna.

Oy.

My Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Arrive When Promised!

Every morning this week I’ve turned on my computer and immediately went to my bank’s website to see if our Economic Stimulus check was deposited yet (Is that anal? My friend says it is. I don’t think so. Do you?). Every morning I’ve been disappointed. Well, except for Wednesday when our tax refund was deposited. I did a little happy dance that day.

Husband was irritated because we “should have been in the first wave,” but I reassured him that the published schedule promises our payment no later than May 2nd. There’s still time.

Yesterday morning I went through the same routine but could not connect to my bank’s website. Their server must have been temporarily down – all those people checking to see if their money arrived. I had to leave home to do the World’s Biggest De-cluttering Job to get my Dad’s house ready for it’s first official showing, so I wasn’t near a computer again until 8pm last night.

As expected, the first thing I did when I sat down at my computer was to check to see if our Economic Stimulus check was deposited yet.

It wasn’t.

Dadgummit!!! Where the heck is our money?

So I did a little research and found out:

If you file your taxes after April 15th yours will not go out until at least May 9th.

Well, I filed before the 15th.

If you had any fees taken out of your initial refund (like their processing fee like many people do), you’ll get a paper check.

Nope. No fees. It pays to be The Accountant’s Daughter.

Then I found this little tidbit on the Stimulus Payment Schedule:

“A small percentage of tax returns will require additional time to process and to compute a stimulus payment amount. For these returns, stimulus payments may not be issued in accordance with the schedule above, even if the tax return was processed by April 15.”

Aha! There’s an exception to every rule. Apparently I’m it.

(Why can’t I be the exception for something fun? For example, why can’t I be the one who can eat and eat and not gain weight? Why can’t I be the one who can wear really high heels and not have them kill my feet? Why can’t I be the one that enjoys cleaning? Noooooooooo. I get to be the one who doesn’t get my money when almost everyone else does. Lucky me.)

The delay is likely because even though I am a Stay at Home Mom I did do some work last year and earned about $2000. And I declared it as income to our freelance Sole Proprietorship, so my situation may not easily fit into one of their computation formulas.

It’s great to be special.

But wait!

I went to the IRS website again this morning because PaidTwice mentioned in a post that you can go there to find out when to expect your Economic Stimulus check.

I found on the IRS website, but in a different spot than the above info (and wouldn’t it be nice if all of the pertinent information was in the same location?):

In general, the payment schedule only applies if your return was received and the IRS finished processing your return before April 15. If you filed your return on time, but close to the April 15 deadline, the IRS may not have finished processing it before April 15.

Processing times for tax returns and stimulus payments vary. If you are getting a regular income-tax refund, the IRS will send you that refund first. Normally, your stimulus payment will follow one to two weeks later.

Ahhh. Well, I did file before April 15th. On the 13th, to be exact.

So it looks like my little morning ritual will have to last awhile longer. And I’ll lose out on a little interest income.

But I’m still special, right?

~

Edited to add some helful links:

Didn’t get the amount you were supposed to get for your kids? You may be getting another check! Click here for info!

When will your economic stimulus payment arrive?

Frequently Asked Questions: Received the Stimulus Payment?

Economic Stimulus Calculator – Or How Much to Expect

Do I Have to Pay to Appreciate Them?

This note was in my son’s folder at school today:

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5th – 9th

If each family donates $20.00, we can make it a GREAT TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK for all the teachers here at C___ C___.

The money will be used to buy: Breakfast, Lunch, gifts, cards & more. Please place $20.00 cash into B____ M____’s folder ASAP!

All money needs to be collected by May 2.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t have an issue with announcing that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I didn’t know, and it’s always a good idea to acknowledge people.

Still, several things bother me about this request. And it’s not just about this particular request, and it’s not about the teachers. Its about office group gifts and family group gifts and a general shift to doing things out of obligation, not because we really want to.

I hate that these days appreciation equals cash. To me showing appreciation is making a personal gesture to thank someone for doing a good job, or showing extra care, or going the extra mile. Giving cash is, to me, the most impersonal of gifts. It seems to say, “you’re not worth the time or effort for me to either figure out something you’d really enjoy,” or, “you’re not worth the time or effort to give you something of myself.” That’s why I hardly ever give cash. That said, I know lots of people like getting cash and gift cards, including me. I’m not saying anyone should never give cash, but it should be the choice of the giver.

I also don’t like the note practically mandating a $20.00 donation. Especially when gas is now $3.67 a gallon, and milk is about the same. And when my grocery bill went up 25% this month and Husband’s income didn’t. Perhaps for some people $20.00 is too much, but $10.00 would be doable. No mention is made of a lesser contribution, and no telephone number is included for questions.

And if I do decide to contribute cash, I’d like the gift to be not quite so complicated. The money will be used to buy: Breakfast, Lunch, gifts, cards & more.?” What, are we sending them to Club Med? If we’re going to give cash then let’s give them cash, or a gift card to Target or Barnes and Noble or Outback even Publix. Heck, they’re having to pay the same high prices for food and gas that we are.

And why must everything be a group gift? I really dislike group gifts, unless it’s to pitch in for a really expensive gift that I know the recipient would love to have.

I would like this occasion’s gift to be more personal. So I’m going to bake my World Famous Banana Bread and write each of the two teachers a nice note thanking them for investing themselves in Son. I’m pretty sure they’ll feel appreciated.

Why Life Insurance for Kids Isn’t Always a Bad Idea

While making the rounds of the carnivals I came across an article called Kids Don’t Need Life Insurance posted by Mom over at Wide Open Wallet.

I knew before I clicked on the link that I was going to disagree with the article, but that’s to be expected. After all I was an insurance agent for many years. I don’t think that makes me biased towards insurance; I think it makes me an informed consumer. I was never one to sell a policy just to make a commission, and I only sold (and bought) what I felt were the best policies we offered.

I’d seen other posts on this topic, and I always leave a comment with the opposing point of view. Before I’d even clicked on Mom’s link I’d decided to finally write my own article about it, so when Mom e-mailed me and asked me to either write a guest post or write my own article this post was already halfway written. A fait accompli’.

Mom’s article specifically mentions the Gerber Life policy. Yes, we all get inundated with brochures from them almost from the moment that our children are nothing more than a twinkle in our lovestruck eyes.

The Gerber Life policy isn’t the policy I’d buy. I’m going to address two of the reasons Mom wasn’t fond of it, but that aren’t specific to the Gerber policy…

So, yes, I respectfully disagree that kids don’t need life insurance. Sure, most kids don’t neeeeeed it, and we hope and pray that they never will. A lot.

Still, I purchased a policy for my son at birth. Why? Husband has diabetes, and I had bad allergies (that my doctor now says is mild asthma). These two illnesses are hereditary. Those with a family history of diabetes, asthma and other health issues face higher rates for life insurance, sometimes significantly. Depression, anemia and even seemingly mild conditions can also lead to higher life insurance rates. Heck, I wonder if gene testing will one day be a part of life insurance underwriting…

Mom wasn’t impressed with the uninsurability issue. She says,

“Another stated benefit is that between the ages of 21 and 28 the child has the option to double the amount of their policy no questions asked. Which means that if they are uninsurable because of a disease they can still get life insurance. First off, it’s highly unlikely that at age 21 they will be ill enough to be uninsurable.

Insurability is, to me, the most important reason to buy life insurance for your children. Its not just about being able to get life insurance, its also about how much they’ll have to pay to get it. Parents can help their child avoid having to pay substandard rates for life insurance if they are unlucky enough to develop any of those or a brazilian other medical conditions.

My son started showing signs of Reactive Airway Disease, the precursor for Asthma, at two months old. He’s been hospitalized and on nebulizers and/or other lovely medications ever since. Now he’s nearly four, and it seems to be full-fledged asthma. Thank goodness it’s under control.

I’d still have bought the policy for the insurability protection even if we didn’t have the family history we have. Even if he never benefited from it. I hoped he wouldn’t.

Mom also said,

“And secondly, even if they double their coverage, it still isn’t very much life insurance.”

True with the Gerber policy. But they’re not the only game in town.

The policy I bought for my son is a whole life policy (more on that in a minute) with a base benefit of $25,000 and includes a $25,000 guaranteed insurability option that allows him to purchase an additional $25,000 coverage at eleven different ages (17, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 37, 40, 43, 46 & 49, AND and he can “trade” his next option to increase coverage when he marries, AND a few other perks like automatic 90 day term riders for his kids as they’re born…) without having to prove he’s still healthy. That adds up to $325,000 coverage. Yes, he’d have to pay for the additional coverage if he chooses to purchase it (and it doesn’t have to be whole life; he can choose term), but he’d pay standard rates, not the much higher rates he’d be paying otherwise.

About whole life insurance, Mom says,

One advertised benefit of baby life insurance is that it’s a whole life policy. Which means that it doesn’t expire like term life does. Most financial planners avoid whole life policies even for adults. You pay more for whole life because some of your payment is invested which builds the cash value. Financial planners argue, and I agree, that you should pay less for the life insurance and invest your money yourself.

I don’t mind whole life insurance as an adult as much as most financial planners do, and in fact I have one. Taking them out when you’re an adult can be very, very expensive indeed, but the premiums never go up. And, if the policy performs well, you may at some point be able to stop paying the premiums. But when the policy is purchased as a child the rates are very low. There’s something to be said for a diversified portfolio, too.

Also, I’ve always thought that having a small whole life policy that’s taken out when you’re a child is a good base for an adult life insurance program later in life. You can supplement the small whole life policy with term when you’re raising a family and paying a mortgage (when you need a high death benefit with the lowest possible premium). When you no longer need the large death benefit you can let the term lapse and then you have that lovely little policy your parents or grandparents got you as a child, and that can see most people through the balance of their lives. It always made sense to me…

The policy I have on myself is the same one I have on Son. The premiums are payable for only ten years and then the policy is guaranteed paid up forever (watch out for ones that don’t say “guaranteed paid up”). Of course the premiums are higher, but we save money by paying them annually. After ten years we’ll stop paying, and he will have the policy forever. At less than $300 for the year it doesn’t break the bank. Son will only have to pay more if he increases the coverage by exercising his guaranteed insurability option.

If you don’t want the whole life, or if you want to pay less, many adult term policies offer children’s Term Riders for just a few dollars a month. You can’t get the guaranteed insurability option that way, but most companies will allow the children to spin off their own policies when the rider expires (usually at age 18 or 21).

Of course most children aren’t going to develop serious illnesses, and thank heavens for that. But I knew there was a likelihood that he would develop asthma, and I feel as a parent that I made the right decision for my son.

Sure, I know we could take that $3000 and invest it for him and with the power of compounding he’d have a brazilian dollars by the time he’s ready to retire. Son may or may not choose to exercise the options, or he may cash it in and take a trip to Bora Bora.

What you really buy with any kind of insurance is peace of mind. Buying life insurance on my son gives me peace of mind that he’ll have options. That, for me, is well worth the premiums.

~

The preceding information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent and/or a mortgage professional licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

.

Wish I Had Some Pretend Money

Son is nearly four and has just recently started asking me to buy him things. Last week we were at the airport waiting for some relatives and he eyed the Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk a few feet away.

“I want a donut!” was out of his mouth before the kiosk even registered in my subconscious.

“You do?”

“Yes!”

I looked at him and asked, “Well, do you have any money?” This is my standard response to that type of statement.

He looked at me, reached into his pocket and said, “I have pretend money!” This is his standard response to that type of statement.

“Hmmm,” I replied, “I don’t think the lady will take pretend money. You need real money to buy donuts and toys and food and trains.”

My determined little guy pronounced, “Yes she will!” and proceeded to walk up to the cashier and offer her pretend money in exchange for a donut.

The lady declined, despite the extreme cuteness factor.

I did not buy him a donut. I wanted him to take the lesson with him.

This morning we were in a store and he saw a toy he really wanted. We had the same conversation we had at the airport (with truck substituted for donut), but this time when I told him I didn’t think the lady would take the pretend money he looked at the cashier, looked at the toy and put it back on the shelf.

And my son just learned something about money.

I’d love to find someplace that takes pretend money. I could use me some of that.

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