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News that caught my eye, stuff that matters

I-Bond fixed rate goes to zero

This is sort of significant news in financial world. US Treasury has just announced new rate for the fixed portion of I-Bond treasury bond, something they do every 6 months. For the first time in the life of the program (since 1998) the rate went down to zero which to me signifies how terrible the state of our economy is and how desperate the Fed is in encouraging people to spend more.

I Savings Bonds Rates & Terms at Treasury Direct

Hidden airline fees

I was surprised to see many of these. I guess the airline industry does a great job keeping them under hood.

  1. Getting a seat assignment. Fee: $5-$11 (each way)
  2. Paying for lap children. Fee: $10 to 10 percent of the adult fare
  3. Flying standby on the same day of travel. Fee: $0-50
  4. Getting a refund when a fare goes down. Fee: $25 to $200 or more.
  5. Checking luggage. Fee: $3-10 (each way)
  6. Re-banking frequent flyer miles. Fee: $50-100
  7. Bringing a pet onboard in the cabin/ Fee: $50-85 (each way)
  8. Cashing in frequent flyer miles without “sufficient” advance notice. Fee: $0-100.
  9. Making a reservation on the phone or in person. Fee: $5-$20

Top 10 Most Obnoxious Hidden Airline Fees (via Consumerist)

Refill disposable Brita water pitcher filters

The instructions involve drilling a hole in a used filter and replacing the content with fresh activated carbon. If you buy the activated carbon bulk, each refill will only cost you a few cents as opposite to $2-3 per filter which is the lowest price I have seen (when buying them in 10-packs at Costco). The question is, will the new filter work just as good as the original?

Read the complete guide at Instructables

Convert your Prius into plug-in hybrid online

Based on my earlier research, even at $4 per gallon, the plug-in convertible will still cost you extra. If savings is not what you are after, A123 Systems has created a web site where Toyota Prius owners who don’t want to wait till 2010 can pre-order a battery to convert their cars to plug-in hybrids now, or at least very soon. The parts and installation will cost you $9,995 plus $400 in other fees and taxes.

Hymotion (via Cnet News)

USPS to raise postal rates

On May 12th, 2008 the United States Postal Office will be raising the following postal rates:

  • First class mail one ounce or less: Up one cent to 42 cents
  • Post card: Up one cent to 27 cents
  • Large envelope, 2 ounces: Up 3 cents to $1.
  • Certified mail: Up 5 cents to $2.70
  • First-class international letter to Canada or Mexico: Up 3 cents to 72 cents
  • First-class international letter to other countries: Up 4 cents to 94 cents

New Postal Rates Are Coming, Should You Stockpile the Forever Stamp? at WiseBread


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6 Responses to “News that caught my eye, stuff that matters”


  1. 1 Trent Hamm May 5th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    The modified replacement Brita filters seem to work – they pass the smell test, anyway.

  2. 2 Alex May 5th, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Do you really think that our economy is in terrible shape?

  3. 3 Yan May 5th, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I don’t keep close enough tabs on macro-economic events to have a good feeling of where our economy is. Neither have I sufficient economic background to make the right conclusions from what I do spot. The news headlines/reports I see give me very mixed signals.

    Given that, my investment approach over the past couple of months has been to:

    1. stick to the stocks for long term investments, with 50% in overseas markets
    2. buy high yield CD’s and I-Bonds for short term (I did manage to get into I-Bonds before the rate fell end of the month)
    3. occasional strong stock picks (at weakness) for mid term investment

    I still have not explored commodities, and I plan to devote some time into it. I have a strong feeling that soaring food prices are here to stay, which probably opens some new investment opportunities.

  4. 4 Mike G. May 5th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Alex:

    The economy is not in good shape, but considering we just went through a huge expansion a slow like this is necessary. There was still slight growth last quarter, which is amazing considering what’s been happening.

    Yan:

    I listen to CNBC during the day, and many analysts think commodities (which are at an all time high) are a bubble. It could continue to go up of course, but you are buying high, hoping to go higher in the future.

  5. 5 Alex May 5th, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    That’s exactly my point. Don’t mean to be overly picky but terrible shape means get rid of your money and buy some gold, guns and the place to stay in Canada. ;) We didn’t even hit the recession barrier. I guess to me terminology is somewhat important as it determines what I do with my income and other assets.

  6. 6 Yan May 5th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Can contracting or even flat growth economy support the lifestyle we all enjoy here in the US?

    I am in no way claiming to be a guru but something tells me that taken the way our economy is structured we need constant growth to enjoy our luxury cars and houses. We would need to add much more gov. regulation and restructure how social benefits are distributed for this dependency to break. But then it will not be exactly the country of opportunity and freedom we all know.

    So provided we don’t change much the basics, we still have to break the dependency between the health of our economy and our consumption rates. Our growth cycles are already fewer and less in amplitude and it will take many years and a lot of tuning to get an alternative system in place (where growth is achieved by improving quality and not quantity). We have an advantage of vast natural reserves and low population, but we will have to do it sooner or later before we find ourselves hopelessly behind the rest of the world.

    This is the big picture. Now, how does it map to our current time line? Will we have more good times before it gets worse? Is our economy flexible enough to undertake a smooth transition? One can only guess.

    What the I-Bonds rate change highlights is that the government doesn’t know how to (or is not willing to) fix the bigger problem and instead applies patches they know have worked in the past. Is our economy in terrible shape? From the gov. point of view it is.

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