Our Quirky Video Monitor: The Levana Safe ‘N See

We are on our second baby video monitor.  Both have been purchased from Costco.  The first one was by a company named Lorax and it did pretty much everything we needed.  The issue was the connector was very poorly placed.  It was essentially a micro USB connector that stuck up out of the base.  This meant that you had to wiggle it on and place it exactly onto the base.  My wife noted right after we got it in February 2011 that it was ‘weird’.

Sure enough, the design caused the receptacle in the actual monitor unit to come loose and eventually break off within the unit.

Costco has a great return policy where most items can be returned indefinitely.  So, we took it back even though it had been 18 months.  They took it back no questions asked.

They don’t sell the monitors in the store, only online, so we went looking for a replacement.  Our biggest requirement is that it have two video cameras so that we can monitor both kids.

They no longer sell the Lorax, but the closest that they had with our price point was the Levana Safe N’ See monitor.

We ordered it and it came a few days later.

It’s definitely different.  Here are a few things we like and don’t like:


  • Temperature gauge – It actually shows the temperature in each room which is a nice feature.
  • Big screen – The screen is 3.5” diagonal which is pretty big.  The Lorax was probably 2”
  • Remote intercom – The Lorax had this as well but this also has the ability for us to ‘speak’ to our children from the monitor
  • Lights and music – You can also turn on a nightlight and start a lullaby to play in your babies room from the monitor unit
  • Price – It was the most economical unit available which included two cameras.


  • Pairing the second camera – The second camera must be paired to the base unit, as it is a closed circuit unit.  We followed the directions and it didn’t work.  One of the steps was to cover the light sensor of the camera, which tells it to start transmitting the pairing signal.  Even though I covered this completely, it wouldn’t work because I did it in the afternoon and some ambient light must have been getting through.  When I tried it again in the evening, it worked like a charm.  They should tell you to do this in a darkened room.
  • The video can’t be fully turned off – Both monitors have a feature where it will flip back and forth between the two cameras.  This doesn’t work though if you want the video off (and who doesn’t during the middle of the night?).  The only way to turn the video off is to set the ‘VOX’ which monitors the sound level and only turns on when it detects noise.  Unfortunately, when you activate VOX, it locks on one camera. Luckily we have a sound-only monitor so we can use this in one kids room, and set the other for the second kids room, but it seems silly.
  • Harder to hear – Most monitors we’ve seen are a little too good at picking up noise.  My in-laws have one that can pick up someone having a conversation across the street….through a closed window!  Ours are about 12’ from the kids beds and it is pretty muffled.
  • Out of the box battery issue – The monitor can be unplugged, so it has a rechargeable battery. It looks as if ours is defective, as the charging light never turns green, even though it’s plugged in all night.   I have to call them and see if they will send me a replacement.

All in all, it’s a pretty average unit, but for the price you can’t beat it.  A comparable two video system will cost you at least $100 more.  There’s nothing wrong with the Levana unit, it just has some features (and non-features) that you could tell were not engineered by parents that actually used the thing.   Considering our oldest is over three, I don’t expect that we’ll need the video for all that long, so I didn’t want to put much more into it.  And, since it was purchased at Costco, we have a warranty for as long as we need it.

Do you use video monitors for your kids?

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If You (Or Someone In Your House) Isn’t On Pinterest, You Should Be

I first laughed when I heard chatter about Pinterest.  For those who don’t know, it’s a social media outlet where you share images rather than statuses.  It’s really caught on with women, as many women have found things like recipes, fashion tips, and other things that (not to be sexist) generally aren’t as interesting to men as they are to women. I thought ‘Oh, just another passing fad’.

Soon, I started seeing my wife sitting in front of the computer for long stretches at a time, failing to answer roughly two-thirds of questions directed her way.  When I probed to find out what was the new source of interest, it turns out she had come across Pinterest.

Now, I have only seen Pinterest in passing, but I have to say, having one person in our household has been a good thing.

My wife has found some pretty awesome recipes.  I don’t have the links for them but I know they should be easy enough to find.  Some examples of yummy food we’ve had:

  • Chocolate chip cookies that are softer than usual after you add pudding to the mix
  • Fiesta rice that is similar (and even better) than the rice you get at Chipotle
  • Pulled chicken that we’ll be serving at our daughter’s first birthday party.

She’s also got some wonderful decorating ideas for the aforementioned party, and the great thing is that she’s found stuff that is frugal, fun and easy, yet with very unique results.

Again, I don’t have a Pinterest account and have no interest (I keep using that rhyme, which is fun) but I think as long as someone in your house has a Pinterest account, that should be sufficient.

Do you use Pinterest or know someone that does?  Has it led you to any frugal ideas? 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

I Got A Citi Dividend American Express Card Without Asking For One (But It’s OK!)

I saw a post a few weeks ago on Consumerism Commentary where Flexo got a credit card that he didn’t ask for and really wasn’t all that happy about it.   When Citi sent a replacement credit card for his Dividend MasterCard, they also sent an American Express card.

I read the story with interest, because both my wife and I hold Dividend MasterCards and use them as our primary credit cards, turning down other cards in favor of the cash back that our Dividends card gives us. Most of Flexo’s readers that left comments were similarly put off by getting a card ‘forced’ without asking.

So, when my replacement card came in the mail last week, I looked inside, and also found two cards.  My MasterCard had the same account number, just with a new expiration date.  The American Express card was right there as well.
All credit cards good here

I sat down and read some of the questions on the FAQ sheet attached.  Here’s a brief rundown:

  • You can’t activate just one card without the other (hmmm…not good so far)
  • It only shows up as one account on your credit card (OK, that’s not so bad)
  • For the first twelve months, you get an extra 0.2% cash back when you use the AmEx card over the Master Card, so for purchases where you would get 1%, you get 1.2% and on their rotating special categories you could get up to 5.2%. (Not a huge improvement but a few extra bucks in my pocket is a few extra bucks in MY pocket, OK)
  • Everything shows up on one billing statement and transaction list.  No need to log in to two accounts or pay two bills or anything like that.

I wasn’t too bothered by all this and was sort of neutral by the whole thing, so I decided to activate the card.  I’ve had the card since 2004, have never paid a lick of interest, and have gotten cash back in the four figures, so I was OK with it.  During my call, though, I actually realized this could be a good thing for me.

The automated schpeel was going through the ‘benefits’ of the additional card, notably that you got the extra 0.2%, when they also mentioned “and you can use it at merchants everywhere like,, and Costco.”

Wait a minute, did she just say Costco?

Yep.  She did.

Costco only accepts cash, debit cards, or American Express payments.  We don’t do much in the way of cash for most of our spending.  We only want and have one credit card each (the Citi Dividends card), so we never went with an American Express.  This meant that our Costco purchases get made using our debit card.

This worked, but our days of getting any rewards for using our debit card are long gone.  But, with the new AmEx card add-on, I can swipe it at Costco and get cash back!  Now, our Costco spending isn’t astronomical so this isn’t going to make us rich, but it will definitely add some extra cash back in our pockets, and every little bit of that helps, right?

Now, I know there are other cards that give you better rewards at Costco.  I get that.  But, I try to keep a minimum number of credit cards for the sake of convenience and for keeping my credit score pristine.  Now, I can get some cash back and not have any additional payments to make or any additional credit lines showing on my credit report.

I’m more than good with that.

Have you heard of having one credit card with two different providers?  Are you in Flexo’s court where you think this is a bad idea or am I onto something by being OK with this?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Review Of SquareTrade Warranty Service

Many people say that you shouldn’t bother with extended warranties at all, but if you do have to use them, to make sure to get the best deal and reliable service possible.

mb-201109brokenSquareTrade has moved to the front of the pack in terms of this ‘alternate’ service.  SquareTrade will warranty almost any electronic item, usually if you purchase a warranty within 30 days.  They have gotten great reviews as a reputable service and their prices can’t be beat.

I’m pretty nervous about a lot of electronics, so I’ve purchased four warranties from them.  My wife and I purchased new Blackberry phones last summer, and I got warranties for both of them.  In addition, I obtained a warranty on a flat screen TV.  Finally, I purchased a warranty on a basement dehumidifier that had good reviews, except a few too many that said it didn’t last more than a year.  For $15 I was happy to cover the $129 I paid for the unit.

Warranties are like insurance.  They’re one of those things that you feel good having but that you really never want to use.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get through that when it came to my wife’s cell phone.

We were, as luck would always have it, on vacation, when my wife noticed a problem with her phone.  It didn’t seem to be holding a charge and was very hot to the touch.  Thinking little about it, she pulled the battery to give it a ‘reset’, and tried again.  Battery pulls and Blackberry’s are pretty common occurrences, with the battery pull solving many quirks.  Not this one.

We tried different chargers.  No change.  I even swapped the battery with mine to verify it wasn’t a battery problem. It definitely was the phone.

I went to SquareTrade and began the process to file a claim.  I selected the device that we were entering the claim against, and started the process.  Everything was pretty straightforward (Tip: By chance, I had gone online a couple of months prior and noted that the status of each warranty was ‘Needs Receipt’, something I hadn’t thought of but makes sense.  They’ll sell you the warranty with the coverage amount that you enter, but if you ever have a claim, they will need proof of the transaction.  At the time I saw this, I sent in all my receipts for the items, which probably saved some time.  So, if you use SquareTrade, go through and send in your receipts now).

After submitting, I got an e-mail later that day from a representative indicating that he thought it might be a problem with the wall charger. Since I hadn’t entered that we had tried this, I e-mailed him that detail.  The next day, they e-mailed saying that they approved the claim but needed to see if the item could be repaired.

This is where things got a wee bit messy.

With the warranty we had, they asked us to send the item in.  They said that they would e-mail a pre-paid shipping label for us to use.  OK.

First issue: It took over 24 hours to get this label.  Now, granted, their terms of service does say that it can take 1-2 days to get this label, so they didn’t violate their terms, but you really never think of how long that actually is until you’re in that mix.  Reading between the lines of a conversation I have, I think their repair service is sub-contracted, and the sub-contracted repair facility actually sends out the label at their discretion.

Second issue: SquareTrade indicated that they would arrange for the phone to be sent to a ‘centrally located’ repair facility.  Once I printed out the label, I was bummed because it was going to Los Angeles, which doesn’t seem very ‘central’ to me.  In addition, the label was for two day shipping.  I guess I’d been hoping for overnight shipping to a more centrally located spot (Chicago, maybe?).  Again, they were technically doing everything they said, but we were already to the point where it was going to be at least four business days from having the claim approved before they might even look at it.

Once the phone was received and looked at, things moved quickly.  I’m not sure if it’s because I sort of complained to them about how long things took, but they determined that the phone was beyond repair and approved the payout.  A nice thing is that they will PayPal the money to you, so you get the money quickly.  We were off shopping that weekend for a new phone, so that was nice.

Did SquareTrade do everything and meet every ‘date threshold’ that they said they would?  Yes.  So, I’ll take a bit of blame for the fact that, as it turns out, some of those timing thresholds were just a bit too long for comfort when dealing with an item that you use everyday and don’t have a backup for.

It didn’t help that my sister-in-law, who has a phone that was insured under Sprint’s plan, happened to break her phone screen, yet she had a brand new replacement phone in less than three days.

For the bigger ticket items, I think they would invoke their option of having you take it to an authorized local store, and on the items I mentioned (the TV and dehumidifier), they’re also items that you could live without for a few days.  But, when you have a cell phone with no land line backup, those extra few days can seem like a long time.

I also think that you can effectively use SquareTrade for cell phone claims, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that you should have a backup cell phone.  If you have an old cell phone that still works, you could have your carrier activate it, then re-activate your repaired phone or activate your replacement phone.  You might get hit with activation fees, but I’ve always been able to convince Sprint to waive these.

So would I use SquareTrade again?  Absolutely. For items that you can live without for a while that you’d like added assurance against failure, they are a slam dunk.  For cell phones or other ‘cannot live without’ items, I would but probably with a backup plan.  What we’re going to do is use Sprint’s (albeit more expensive) warranty coverage for my wife’s new phone, but cancel it next June when she and I both become eligible for the maximum discounts on new phones (we were able to get one for her that did not reset the agreement *yay*).  Whenever we choose to get new phones, we’ll keep one or both of our current phones as ‘backups’ and buy SquareTrade warranties for whatever we get.  Then, if we ever need to file a claim, we’ll at least have the backups to use in the interim.

Does this make sense?

What is your SquareTrade experience?

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