A Financial Education Event

Dead, Near Dead, and Drop Dead Gorgeous

I just got back from the Thelma Wells “Ready to Win” cruise for women where I was a featured speaker. My girlfriends, Brenda and Allison were drop dead gorgeous in their formal night clothing. But don’t let this photo deceive you, we survived some strange adventures before we ended up smiling in a photo!

Brenda and I had to come in the day before the cruise and stayed at a Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. TIP: I used an “best available rate” room special where you prepay, but save over $200 by getting the room cheaper than the local Hampton Inn. Plus, I get frequent stayer points & a free breakfast with my Hilton Honors gold card. When we checked into the room, it smelled like smoke. TIP: We knew you should always let management know and that by asking, we could possibly get a room upgrade. The hotel manager was great! He met us at our room with keys to the PRESIDENTIAL SUITE! The nicest room in the 8 story hotel! When he took us in, it was gynormous, featuring a table for twelve, a full kitchen, a private balcony and several sitting areas. The bedroom suite was off the main room. There was just one insey weensy problem.

He showed us around the suite, highlighting the amenities. When he got to the bathroom, he pointed at some stains on the tile, “Don’t worry about those stains, they are going to replace the tiles later this week. It’s just that a woman died here last night and there was a lot of blood. But they cleaned up all the blood and it’s really no problem.”

Then he left.

I looked at Brenda, “Did he just say what I thought he said and was he kidding?” Looking pale, she nodded her head and whispered, “He said there was a dead body in this room last night.”

We bolted off the main suite and barricaded ourselves in the bedroom area while dreaming of the Sixth Sense and “I see dead people.”
The adventure continued when we got on the cruise and reached our first port–Grand Caymans. We signed up for the kayaking and snorkel excursion. When we arrived it was sprinkling and they announced they only had 6 power scooters for 8 people, so if someone wanted to get 1/2 a refund on their excursion, they could forgo the scooter. TIP: It’s really easy to share a power scooter when snorkeling with a friend. In fact, it’s relaxing to just snorkel on your own, then take a turn with the scooter. We saved 50% in the process.

By the time we paddled out, it was a steady drizzle, but it didn’t keep us from enjoying the snorkel experience around the reef with beautiful tropical fish and bright blue waters! When everyone got back on their kayaks to go over to the shipwreck area, it was raining harder. Then–all of the sudden, the heavens opened up and we found ourselves in the middle of a STORM at sea! The guides were too far ahead of us and couldn’t see us. Visibility was limited and the rain felt like sharp pepples pelting down on our faces and legs. The kayak was taking on water and the waves were swelling bigger and bigger. We positioned the kayak to meet the ways head on to avoid capsizing. That’s when the lightening started. We looked down at our metal paddles and just kept paddling in tandem for shore. It was one of those surreal experiences when you find yourself wondering what your family would do if you were swept out to sea, struck by lightening or put in a psych ward because you freaked out over the trauma.

It took us only fifteen minutes to paddle out but almost an hour to paddle back to the shore. The guides finally got a clue and came back for the other two kayaks that were still in the storm and attached a line to them to get them back safely.

The final day was our big parasailing excursion in Cozumel. We prayed for it to be singularly UNEVENTFUL. We wanted NO more dead bodies or “near death” experiences. Just the intrinsic thrill of flying tandam 600 feet above the water in a parachute. As you’ll see from the photo–we succeeded in our goal, putting the “death” theme to rest in peace!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

I’m in Israel!

Wow! I’m having a great time in Israel. I’m finding that it is really a good value as well. Once you get here, the attractions usually charge only $3 to $4 and the Spa at the Dead Sea was only $7 to get a tram ride to float in the sea, have access to the mud baths, swimming pool and sulfer pool. I indulged in a sea salt scrub, aromatherapy and swedish massage for an hour and it was only $58. More on how to get here economically later but in this picture on the right, I’m holding a smooth stone in the river bank of the valley where David met Goliath.

We started our tour in the wilderness (En Avdat, Nahal Zin) visiting En Gedi, the gravesite of Ben Gurion and hiking up to the place where Moses struck the rock and you actually see water flowing from that rock. In the photo on the left, I climbed these stairs that were cleft into the rock. We’ve also seen ancient roman civilization excavations, the Jordan river (where it’s so muddy, it’s only brown), and the sea of Galilee.

The food is amazing, the people are warm and friendly and we still have several days to go. Plus, I get to see some of our family who live here later this week–I can’t wait.

If you haven’t been to Israel, it’s time you plan this life changing experience. Three faiths were born here (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and there’s evidence of all three. The food is completely amazing here. The hummus is heavenly, the cottage cheese is cheesier and even the salt tastes saltier–plus, they serve cheesecake for breakfast! Gotta run, we’re about to go to dinner and then take a night tour in a boat on the sea of Galilee.

Ellie Kay

Ellie In Germany — I LOVE the Army!

I’m in Germany to speak to the military and their families stationed around Katterbach. They put me up at Colmberg Castle in a sweet suite that overlooks the village….oh, my, goodness–what a view out of my window.

We toured the village and I snapped this photo of the Kathy Wohlfahrt Christmas Village and I caught the reflection of the beautiful building across the street. Believe it or not, I actually found the small 1/2 price clearance section in that story (even though it was written in German, I can sniff out a bargain anywhere). I bought many small gifts there and will get a tax back break when I take my receipts to the airport. This was true when I traveled in Israel, too. So be sure to see if the country you visit has tax back offers and get the information from the merchants so you’ll be equipped at the airport to get your refund.

The last photo is me in the wrong kind of stocks! I prefer the financial ones. We toured the criminal justice museum and saw forms of “justice” throughout the ages including iron maidens and chastity belts. I would have been a criminal during the 1700s when drinking coffee was outlawed in this part of Germany and they had official “coffee sniiffers” to find you out! I also would have been forced to wear the “flute shamer” for musicians who sang or played musical instruments badly.

I talk to the military audience tomorrow night and I’m so honored to be able to give them a good work in due season–they need all the encouragement they can get in the midst of the sacrifices they make for all of us.


Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Writers Corner – Can You Handle an SMT?

So you’re a writer. Then you get a book published and now you’re an author. Now it’s time to try your hand at media and you begin to do “phoners” or radio interviews on the phone. Next, you have a nice break and get to do some regional and even national television. Eventually, you’ll progress to the point where you’ll hit out of the nearest large city via Satellite and do an interview for a major cable or network station. Then, if you’re among the top 10% of authors, at some point, you may be ready to try an SMT or a RMT.

A Satellite Media Tour or Radio Media Tour is where an author is interviewed in back-to-back shows for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. It usually starts at 6:00 AM Eastern Time, which is 3:00 AM Pacific Time (my time). This means I’ll wake up at 1:30 in the morning, go to the studio, go through makeup, then rehearse the interviews, then hit the first show live at 3:00 AM. The challenge is to stay alert and high energy for the next six hours through sometimes as many as 35 interviews. You won’t see your interviewers, but they will be in your ear as the the morning news teams from Boston to Los Angeles. You’ll hear them ask questions while you look straight into the camera and sometimes they’ll stick to the question list, but at other times they’ll throw you a curve ball. You will have 3 minutes for the entire interview in which you will need to deliver your points and then it’s off the air with a 2 to 3 minute break and on to the next show. Forget about going to the bathroom, that’s a luxury that isn’t built into the schedule!

Who sponsors SMTS? Sometimes, if your publisher has a boat load of money, they’ll give you media training and sponsor a book tour SMT. But those are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Most of the time there is a corporate sponsor, who will handle the bookings, pay the expense of the SMT and handle all the details. Your job is to give a good interview based on the predetermined focus of the SMT. It becomes a win/win for the author and the corporate sponsor. You get to promote your book and the sponsor gets to say “this interview brought to you by….”

SMTs are a strange breed, but I find them to be loads of fun because I like a good challenge. They’re like a media marathon and at the end, you get to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. Since most SMTs are done out of NYC, you might also wake up in time to hit a Broadway show.

It’s an adventure, but one that is worth it!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Go Big, Don’t Go For Broke: Tailgating at its Best

My husband and our son Jonathan with the Drum and Bugle Corps at an Air Force game.

When my husband was assigned to his alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy, we knew we were in for an adventure. We lived on the Academy grounds and found deer in our front yard, wild turkeys in our back yard, and an occasional brown bear by the community dumpsters. But nothing prepared me for the ultimate adventure—tailgating before a football game at over 7,000 feet. The games in September and early October were filled with crisp, cool weather and lots of pregame fun. But by the time Air Force played Army in November, I knew we were in for trouble. The freezing rain started halfway through our tailgate party and was in full force by the time we were guzzling hot chocolate and apple pie. At the start of the game, I had become one of the frozen chosen in the stands, wearing layers of clothing but still chilled to the feet. Our efforts were ultimately vindicated; we whipped Army and brought home the Commander-in-Chief trophy.

In the midst of game-time seasons, I learned the fine art of tailgating with some guiding principles to boot. Here are some tips to make your tailgates more complete—come rain, snow or sleet.

Make a List—Check it Twice

Getting organized will help avoid the frustration of forgetting an essential tailgaiting tool. Make a checklist at home for everything you want to bring to your party and be sure to include everything, even if you think you won’t forget it (We once left the game tickets at home).  Here is a fairly comprehensive list:

Cookout Essentials. Whether you’re going for the all-out barbecue or a simple picnic, it’s important to remember every detail. One slip of the memory can turn baked beans into finger food (not recommended) or leave warm water in place of an ice-cold soda.

  • Food (list it each item individually), beverages (don’t forget a bottle opener or cork screw), condiments, coolers and ice, charcoal and lighter fluid, lighter or matches, cooking and eating utensils, cooker or grill, water (for drinking and for cooling charcoal), serving trays, trash bags, paper products (plates, cups, towels, napkins), plastic products (storage baggies, leftover containers, utensils), pots and pans, and grilling gear (apron, oven mitts, and chef hat).

The Perfect Setup. Tried and true tailgaters know that the right setup can be the difference between the best party and an awkward get-together. If you have the means to take some amenities along, these extras can turn your tailgate into the ultimate tailgate.

  • Canopy or tent, chairs and table (a table cloth makes it better), generator (a portable power source for hard-core tailgaters), flag and holders (GO TEAM!), rope or bungee cords (to tie things down in the wind), decorations, music (radio, iPod, speakers, karaoke machine), and fun stuff (football, Frisbee, games, etc.).

Emergencies and More. Fair-weather fans and tailgating novices may be deterred by a slight chance of rain, but a few preparatory measures will make the difference between worst-case scenarios and slight hiccups in the plan.

  • Blankets and protective rain gear, binoculars, camera, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sun block, and umbrellas.

Each tailgate is a different experience, so plan ahead and think of every possibility. When in doubt, consider the Boy Scout motto: “be prepared.” And whatever you do, don’t forget the tickets!

Beyond the things to bring, there are a few more considerations to make game day an experience to remember. Check back next week for more tips on game-day preparation and for resources to get more affordable tickets to sporting events.

Tailgating at its Best: A Safe and Successful Game Day

Tickets to the big game are an essential element to the tailgate experience. For most, NFL or similar season tickets are hard to come by and even harder to afford. While multiple tickets and prime seats may be difficult to acquire, companies like Stub Hub and Ticketmaster often sell tickets for less than the going rate. If you’re just looking for the tailgate experience, many professional teams offer tailgate tickets alone for a fraction of the game admission price.

Three of the Kay men and I at the Army Navy game.

No matter where you buy the tickets or how much you pay for them, you always want to make the best of the experience. With that in mind, I’d like to offer some things to consider to keep your focus on the game and not on the circumstances, because nothing can ruin the big game like lost friends and family, wet socks, and food poisoning.

Dress for Success: Temperatures can change from tailgate time to game time, so be sure to bring layers of clothing for each family member. For cold weather, dress in layers and don’t forget hats, gloves, and appropriate footwear—leave those adorable stilettos at home.

The Early Bird Gets the Location: If you can handle a few hours of downtime, you are hereby appointed to stake the claim 3 to 4 hours ahead of time. Look at it as some extra time to do whatever you enjoy, and the tradeoff is that the early bird doesn’t have to participate in cleanup duty.

If you’re tailgating in a parking lot, select the end of a row at the innermost area for the most space and least traffic. Search for grassy areas or bring your own turf (rollout grass) to mark your spot. Be sure to mark it with a team banner as well, so everyone knows you’re the real deal and so other tailgaters can find you when they arrive much later.

Safety and Such: Timing is everything on food safety. Make sure your potato salad isn’t sitting out too long and that your hot foods stay hot and the cold stuff stays cold. My rule when it comes to such questions: when in doubt, throw it out. Try to avoid high traffic tailgating locations if you have smaller children or teens who have earbuds permanently attached. Lastly, be sure to douse those flames and properly dispose of smoking briquettes or hot coals—never dump them in a trash can or on the grass.

Tailgating at local sporting events can be even more fun with a personal connection, especially with special guests. Philip came home to support his younger brother Joshua on the field.


BYOC and No Worries: When you’re hosting the tailgate, be sure to delegate as well; it will allow you to have more fun. Most party people are more than happy to BYOC—bring your own chairs and loads of other things, too. Assign food items to attendees or let them volunteer to bring their favorite dishes. It will help relieve stress, save some money, and feel more a part of the team party.

One last thing:  GO AIR FORCE, BEAT ARMY!

Black Friday: Fact or Fiction?

The Kay Family, Christmas on the Move, 1995

The Kay family has been waking at the crack of dawn the Friday after Thanksgiving for almost two decades in order to save as much as 50% on our Christmas purchases. But does all that hot chocolate and bleary-eyed effort really pay off? There is a lot of misinformation about this retailers’ dream day, so I’d like to set the record straight on what is fact and what is fiction regarding this special day.

  • Black Friday sales begin on Black Friday.

FICTION:  It seems that the holiday sales begin earlier and earlier each year. We are used to almost bypassing Thanksgiving as a holiday and decorations go out in stores even before Halloween is over. While some stores like, JC Penneys have issued press releases that they will “honor Thanksgiving as a family day” and not open until 6:00 AM on Friday, other stores aren’t sharing the sentiment. For example, some big sales will start on Thanksgiving day, including stores like Sears, Wal-Mart and K-Mart; you’ll find them at Bradsdeals or BlackFriday So if you need an excuse to get away from your annoying sister-in-law and walk off some of that turkey, you may want to do some shopping on Thanksgiving.

  • Getting a store credit card to get a discount will hurt your FICO score & you should never use any credit  card for purchases.

FACT: Every time you open a line of credit, or there’s an inquiry about your credit you run the risk of getting a hit on your Fair Isaac Credit Score, or FICO. So trying to receive that extra 20% off all your purchases and then closing down the account in a couple of months is usually a very bad idea. It’s especially bad if you’re going to buy a new car or a home in the next several months. Plus, if you are someone who is prone to run up your credit cards and not pay off the balance each month, then you’re in for a double whammy. Your best friend may tell you she does this all the time to get the discounts, and all she’s telling you is that she also gets hit on credit score. Give her the facts, and help a sister out!

When it comes to using a credit card, you are are often better off using credit if you know you can pay the balance at the next billing cycle. It will help you in a dispute with an online vendor and can help you earn rewards points to buy other gifts. Check out LowCards for the rewards and cash back conus you might get. Some credit cards have their own extended warranties if you buy that item (think electronics) with the card. They’ll take a one year warranty and double it. Go to Credit.com to find out the details on what your card is offering.

  • Price Matching Doesn’t Apply on Black Friday

FICTION:  Wal-Mart has offered to match competitor’s ads for years, and this year is no exception. Last year, Best Buy, Amazon, and Home Depot got in on the price comping, and this year you can expect even more including
Target.  So bring in the ads to these various stores to get the good deals (some stores will even match online offers), and save those receipts as well. Because if you have an elite credit card, including  or some offered by Citi and Visa, they will offer a price-protection feature where they will refund you the difference if you find a lower price for the item you’ve bought. For example,the  Chase Freedom card refunds up to $500 per eligible purchase and up to $3500 per calendar year and is valid 90 days after purchase.

Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year.

FACT:   According to the International Council of Shopping Centers the busiest shopping day of the year is actually the Saturday before Dec. 25. In fact, only 35% of respondents plan on shopping on BF—which is more good news for you. It won’t be as crowded as you thought!

  • They give away products for free on Black Friday

FICTION: Yeah, right. You may have been dipping into the cider a bit early if you really believe there are free door busters on Black Friday. The most you will get is some cheesy little ornament worth $2.99 given to the first 100 customers. This also means that sleeping outside the store to get something you think is free.

  • The Best prices of the year are found on Black Friday

FACT: Sorta. There is no doubt that some items will never be cheaper than on Black Friday, but other items may be part of a large retailer’s push to get those Saturday-before-Christmas shoppers and may cut their Black Friday prices. You can use a cool tool at Decide.com to help you figure out whether you should buy that item now or later. It uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.

  • Black Friday deals are worth sleeping on the curb to get

FICTION:  If you really love the great outdoors and want to sleep under the starts to get one of the 3 HDTV deals that Best Buy is offering in your city, then knock yourself out. But really, this year there are more BF deals available online and in the store as well. For example, this year Kohl’s is offering its online shoppers all early bird deals on Nov 21 and all day on Thanksgiving!  So unless you just have a whole lot of free time on your hands, I’d pass on the sleepover.

  • Be careful before you buy because you may not be able to get a full refund on some of your Black Friday purchases

FACT: Retailers sometimes tighten their return policies during the holidays.  I remember one year I got 35% less than what I paid for a camera because of restocking fees that Best Buy charged me. Not fun. Other stores may only give you an in-store refund, so you are locked into spending your refund at that store. So be sure you know the store’s refund policy before you slap down the dough.

  • There are special, “secret” deals online that are not in the circulars.

FACT:   In recent years, on Thanksgiving Day, retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have advertised extra Black Friday deals that were not listed in their circulars. These “secret” deals are only found online or with the store’s app, so the trick is to find them early so you’ll know about them when you arrive at the store on Friday. Get the Dealnews app to find new listings.

Myth: Cyber Monday offers the same caliber deals online as Black Friday in-store sales. For those of you who’d rather fully digest your Thanksgiving meal and not stand in line starting at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, we understand. Shopping for the best deals can be exhausting, but if you wait until Cyber Monday you may be missing out on some of the highest markdowns of the holiday season.

Happy Savings!

Ellie Kay


The Top Twelve “Don’ts” for Deployments

I was a mom to five children who were seven years old and under and it was a wild time in our house when my fighter pilot husband deployed. There were some assignments when he was gone more than he was home and dealing with all those kids was simply chaos. But out of the chaos came creativity and new capabilities that were waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. There were things I learned to do and not to do in order to survive and thrive.

I wasn’t alone. Over the course of a decade, the combination of multiple deployments and limited time at home has weighed heavily on the families of military members who have fought two protracted ground wars. Those family members left at home have a significant role to play while their military loved one is deployed. While there are things they can do to make the separations more bearable, there are also certain activities to avoid. Along those lines, here are the “Top Twelve Don’ts for Deployment”

  1. Don’t have a negative attitude; it will hurt you, your kids, and everyone who is unfortunate enough to be around you! Keep the sour remarks off Facebook and twitter or anyplace your spouse can read them. You don’t want him or her distracted by your “stuff” because distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to loss of life.
  2. Don’t spend time alone with people of the opposite sex; establish boundaries during this particularly vulnerable time.
  3. Don’t listen to your favorite love songs or romantic movies if it makes you nostalgic for your mate. Instead, watch a comedy with a friend.
  4. Don’t buy big-ticket items without your spouse’s approval—no matter how depressed you are. Instead, try to save money. For example, review the amount you are paying for home or auto insurance and try to get it cheaper. Be sure to check out USAA if you qualify to become a member.
  5. Don’t give in to impulse buying on the smaller-ticket items either; they will surely add up to big debts!
  6. Don’t clean out your spouse’s “stuff,” even if he never does listen to those old CDs!
  7. Don’t stay home alone—especially if you have little ones. Plug into your Family Support Group, LINKS, on base or join a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in your area.
  8. Don’t turn down offers for help. Take people up on their offers to take you to lunch, come over for dinner, baby-sit your kids (if you trust them), and even bring you a casserole. Now is the time to accept help!
  9. Don’t overdose on news shows, especially when your spouse is involved in a “hot news” conflict. Don’t let your kids hear much (if any) of the news involving your spouse’s deployment. Even babies and toddlers can pick up on the vibe. Madeline Brazell says, “Andrew, who was only two when Duane went to war, started to exhibit disturbing behavior during the first days Duane’s deployment to the war when we kept the news on almost all day.”
  10. Don’t overdo it on TV in general—too much of it makes your brain turn to mush.
  11. Don’t use TV, DVDs, computers, or game systems as a babysitter. Limit their use to one show or one hour a day and your child will have a better outlook on life.
  12. Don’t list your physical address in the phone book or on any registration information. When a Stealth went down in Kosovo, and they didn’t know who the pilot was, CNN was standing curbside at every pilot’s house listed in the phone book!

How do YOU find you cope when your military member is deployed?

Thank you for being a Hero at Home and be sure to share this with a military family as your way of telling them, “Thanks for your service as a Hero at Home.”

Ellie Kay


Identity Theft and Other Nightmares

My husband brought me the credit card bill and asked “What did you DO on your last trip to New York?” He was hurt and stunned, “This charges are to a tattoo shop, an liquor store and a series of bars. Please tell me this is some mistake!”
It was a classic case of identity theft. I may have been guilty of buying one too many lattes and pastries at Dean and Delucas in New York, but I had no new tattoos! I tried to respond to my hubby but couldn’t speak . . .
And then I woke up. Yes, I know. I’m a strange breed because my “nightmares” consist of dreams about identity theft. Unfortunately, those nightmares are other people’s reality.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it takes 12 months, on average, for a victim of identity theft to notice the crime. So how do you keep yourself safe from the ever growing threat of identity theft? Learn to identify the latest scams:

Phishing Scams – Never give your social security number, account numbers, date of birth or other personal information via email or on the phone unless you initiated the contact. Most major internet sites and financial institutions have been targeted including Citibank, PayPal, eBay, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and America Online (AOL). These scams usually show up in your email inbox with a message from the “System Administrator” telling you to perform some urgent maintenance on your account.

Checks – When you pay your credit card by check, never put your credit card’s full account number on the check, just write the last four digits. This will prevent someone in transit from harvesting your account number.

• Auction Fraud – This was the second most reported consumer fraud complaint to the FTC, totaling 51,000 auction complaints. The fraud is simple – put up a fake ad on eBay, let someone “win” the bid and send in their money, but never send out the merchandise. Make sure the seller has an established history before you click “buy.”

• Identity Theft or Credit Repair Scams — The Federal Trade Commission has warned that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention companies are scam artists trying to get your driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number and credit and bank account numbers. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org .

Prize Scams – If someone calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a major prize but insists on gathering personal data first, ask them to send a written application in the mail. If they refuse, then hang up.

Credit Card Applications – Consider getting a secure mailbox (key access) as many identity thieves like to take your mail directly from the box (or from the trash), fill out your credit card applications and put their address in the information box. Always shred all credit card applications and contact your credit card companies to never release this information to other companies.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)


Wrapping Up Summer: Savings at Theme Parks

Before school starts is a great time to go to a local amusement park and have a last bit of family fun. If you are like my girlfriends and I, you might even want to go AFTER the kids are in school, so you can enjoy all the big girl rides without taking turns while your spouse watches the kids. But be careful, my besties ended up in jail when we went to California Adventure!  Here are my best tips to get the most out of your theme park experience and they will also keep you above the law: 

  1. Start with the Tickets: Full price should always be the last option, even when shopping for tickets to Theme parks. Always keep an eye out on little things like Coke cans, deals at local grocery stores, and online specials for discounted tickets to your favorite theme parks. Purchasing more days or “Park hopper” tickets will save you money if you choose to go for more than one day. AAA and AARP also have discounts on tickets. If you or a family member is in the military, check out the deals they have for military families. Disneyland has a 3-day park hopper pass for only $125, and military members can get up to 6 tickets per ID.
  2. Eat Breakfast in Your Room – Unless you’ve got a character meal or some other exciting option for breakfast, eat in your room! Some hotels offer free breakfast, so take advantage before you head out to the park. Leaving a free breakfast at the hotel is like leaving money on the table. You may even choose to bring a new box of cereal and disposable bowls and silverware. Buy milk (store it in the room if there is a mini-fridge) and have cereal in the room.
  3. Give each child a budget: Set a budget for the day and give a set amount to each child. This will account for food, treats, and souvenirs. Help them with the math along the way, and remind them that when the money is gone, there is no more but they may keep what is left over. It will save you (and them) from spending mindlessly, and it teaches children to spend money wisely, as well!
  4. Share – Sharing is one of the smartest ways to save money. Many portions are large enough for two, and you definitely don’t want o carry around left-overs around the park for the rest of the day! If the meal wasn’t enough, have snacks in your bag or order more food, but I think you will find that fruits you bring with you are satisfying and healthy, which brings us to our next tip.
  5. Bring Snacks – While this is not necessarily the time forgo little treats once in a while (can you say cream cheese filled pretzels at Disneyland?), curb the hunger before the next meal by carrying snacks with you. A granola bar, almonds or fruit that you carry around in your bag without it getting smashed or melting are good options. Depending on the park’s food policy, you may need to leave it in a locker outside the park or in your car (or room if it’s nearby) and eat it in the picnic area outside the park.
  6. Bring out the Kid in You – If there is not an even number to share a meal, or you would like another inexpensive option, adults can order Kid’s Meals at restaurants, and sometimes that’s all you need. There are some table service restaurants that prohibit it, but others will let an adult order a plus-size kid’s meal for a reasonable price (normally a few dollars more than the standard kid’s meal). Just ask at the restaurant when you arrive. Counter service restaurants will almost always let anyone order a kid’s meal.
  7. Eat Offsite – It’s very easy to eat offsite at Disneyland. At any point during the day, you can walk across the street and have several less expensive options within walking distance. McDonald’s, IHOP, Mimi’s Cafe, the list goes on. They’re convenient and can save you money, especially if you check RetailMeNot.com for discount coupons and codes (see more on point 9).
  8. DVC, AP, Disney Visa, D23 Discounts – When you eat on the property, ask about any discounts you may be eligible for. There are almost always Annual Passholder discounts, and there are others for Disney Vacation Club Members, D23 Members, or Disney Visa cardholders.
  9.  Several Downtown Disney Restaurants Have Coupons – There are lots of restaurant coupons out there, you just have to look! The Landry’s Select Club, which includes the Rainforest Café, typically gives $25 bonuses both for signing up and birthdays. By registering on the Simply Patina Group website, you can get a $30 birthday gift card. The Simply Patina Group includes Tortilla Jo’s, Catal, UVA Bar & Café, Taqueria, and Naples. Woo hoo! Food discounts!

10.  Entertainment Book Coupons – Order an Entertainment Book for Orange County, or another entertainment book for the area where your theme park is located. The Entertainment Books are chock full of possibilities. There are usually discounts for the Rainforest Café, Wetzel’s Pretzels and other area eateries. There are also deals for other great places in the area if you would like to see something else while you are there.

Whether it’s just you and your spouse, a group of girlfriends or your entire family, be sure to have guilt free fun by spending the least amount possible.

I’d love to hear YOUR ideas of how you save at theme parks!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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