A Financial Education Event

The World is Going to Know Her Name

Bethany Grace. That name means something. It was the name I had for her two older brothers if they had been born a girl. But then I finally got my Bethany Grace. There’s power in a name. There’s power in THAT name. Bethany Grace. It means “graceful one in the house of God.”

She was born unconventionally with a doctor I’d never met. The base hospital was being closed down in phases and if a mom delivered on two particular weekends a month, she had to go downtown. We had to use the ER doctors and they didn’t know me. But that issue was soon rectified. I arrived in the middle of active labor and I fought for my birth plan and won. The prize? The winners got a beautiful baby girl born in grace and joy.

Long before Alexander Hamilton became a play, the world was going to know her name. Bethany Grace.

I told Bob I didn’t know what to do with a girl, I was the mother of boys that kept a cloth diaper near the changing table to stop a sudden fountain. I knew about boys. I knew about overalls and Tonka trucks. But a girl?

My daughter got two baby showers and we had TONS of dresses that she would soon outgrow so I had to make use of them quickly. Every day Bob came home from flying jets, he saw his baby girl in a different dress with ruffles, bows, lace and bonnets. Our friends were very generous. After two straight weeks of new dresses, he came home one day, shrugged his shoulders, and wryly said, “I guess you figured out what to do with a girl.” Bethany Grace, you are a gift.

She grew in grace with a joy that was contagious and quickly spread to all she met. She laughed and giggled and suddenly the old curmudgeons in the restaurant were laughing and giggling. She had the power to exchange storm clouds for sunshine and butterflies. She still has that power.

She’s used her power wisely–to bring grace to others, to selflessly serve a community of children in Europe and military members around the world. She’s used her power to revitalize an indifferent audience into a mosh pit of excitement and anticipation. Whether she’s speaking to 3 people or 3000, she’s engaged, enigmatic and effervescent. She’s Bethany Grace.

Today, she turns 30 and has much to show for her years– she’s visited 30 countries with no debt, she’s spoken to large audiences and worked her magic on them, she’s become a Godly wife and a couple months ago, she became an unconventional mom. I say unconventional because Caden was born during COVID19 and with a “eventful” pregnancy. I say unconventional because motherhood doesn’t normally come so easily to women the way it did to my daughter. Her child doubled his birth weight in 7 weeks under her expert care. You would have thought this was her 5th child instead of her first. Bethany, there’s no shame in having a smooth transition to motherhood and a fierce love & appreciation for your good little baby.

Bethany Grace, you’ve done right by your name. You have walked gracefully in the House of God and outside of those walls as well. You’ve conquered opposition and oppression along the way. The world may not yet know your name, but YOUR world knows it–your mama & papa, your brothers, your faithful friends, your sweet husband and your precious son. It’s a name that brings a smile to our lips and joy to our hearts. It’s a name that will live eternally in a kingdom far away. It’s a name I love.

Happy Birthday, daughter. Happiest of Birthdays, Bethany Grace.


This was written by Ellie Kay as a tribute to her co-host on The Money Millhouse for her birthday. To hear this mother/daughter team in action, go to The Money Millhouse podcast.  

A Closer Look at Father’s Day

Dad. Papa. Old man. World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. We call the fathers in our lives a lot of different things (some more well-received than others), but most of us can agree that we appreciate them. With Father’s Day coming up soon, it’s time to start thinking of ways to show that gratitude to your paternal unit.

To celebrate our 100th podcast episode, we invited the fathers & husbands in our life into The Money Millhouse studio to get their spin on our show. Even we (Bethany Bayless and Ellie Kay) were surprised to hear their inputs and we learned something about these great guys and fathers.

According to digital offers destination, RetailMeNot, a survey found more people buy Mother’s Day gifts for mom than Father’s Day gifts for dad (86%* vs. 77%). Other findings include:

•Nearly half (48%) of consumers surveyed believe that people spend more on Mother’s Day gifts than on Father’s Day gifts

•20% of consumers surveyed admit they are more creative with gifts for their mom on Mother’s Day than for their dad on Father’s Day

•Gift cards (17%) and quality time with the family (17%) top dads’ Father’s Day wish lists this year. 

He might act like he enjoys that tie or bottle of hot sauce you get him every single year, but a unique gift every now and then can go a long way. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are three unique ways to show your father or father figure some love this year, without spending a ton of cash. 

Use Online Coupons: Use RetailMeNot.com, or download the app. Whenever you have an idea of what to get dad, type in that store to get coupons to be used online or in store. You should never have to pay full price when you have coupons so close at hand!

Give dad some time off this year: Use sites like travelzoo.com to find great destination packages for great deals for later this summer or fall. It could even be a weekend getaway close to where he lives–you are able to search by location for the best deals around. 

Customized gift: We’re not talking just coffee mugs or canvas photos here (find these at Walgreens with same day service and coupons on their website or Retail Me Not)… we’re also talking something completely customized and unique. My son Daniel surprised me last Mother’s Day with a framed “Kay Family Rules” listing all the sayings we would tell our kids when they were growing up. It was funny, memorable and something even a father would appreciate.

At other craft sites like Etsy, you’ll find a wide variety of handmade and vintage gifts that can be personalized with a simple note to the seller. They even have a convenient section up right now that lists dad-like items such as guitar pick bracelets, dog tags, robes and phone holders.

Do-it-yourself project: Pinterest is our go to place for ideas. And while it’s another great option for finding a customized gift, it’s an even better starting point for something you can make yourself. For example, if your father has a particularly defined “power stache,” like Papa Kay, there’s a gift on Pinterest for a jar with an outline of a mustache, which can easily be made and personalized yourself. (Plus it makes a pretty good place for him to store his combs, razor and other items.)

The gift of an experience: If you’re lucky enough to live by your dad, one of the most memorable gifts you can give him is simply spending some time with him. You could toss baseballs at the park (while social distancing) cook his favorite meal (barbecue, anyone?) or go to a hike or bike ride. 

When it comes to a Father’s Day gift, a more expensive gift isn’t necessarily a better gift. Put some thought into it and he’ll be happy. Just be sure to call him by one of the names he likes–The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot agrees.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Mother’s Day and Working Mom’s – What Is Your Time Worth?

When I married my husband we had five babies in seven years and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I also had two stepdaughters for a total of 7 children to support. I left a nice job as a broker to have a more rewarding career as a SAHM (stay at home mom). One of the questions that I frequently heard was: “Do you work?”

“What do you mean do I work?” I would think even though I politely answered, “Yes, I work very hard as a stay at home mom.” Sometimes, an unsuspecting troglodyte would go on to say something totally thoughtless such as “Well, I meant do you really work. Do you have a job?”

I would bite my tongue until it bled….

What I wanted to say was, “What do you mean do I really work? I work a heck of a lot harder that you do, mister! I’m an accountant, a contract administrator, a chauffeur, a teacher, a nurse, a soccer mom, a stylist, a wife, and a chef! Plus ten other job specialties! I do all these things as a mom—I’M A CEO MOM, MISTER!”

They usually didn’t ask the same question twice.

These days, as a financial writer & speaker, the Founder of Heroes at Home, podcast co-host at The Money Millhouse, a Admissions Liaison Officer, —and a mom, I’ve talked with scores of spouses who work outside the home because of the status of our economy and by necessity–not choice.

Each year, Salary.com issues a report on what a mom’s time is really worth. According to this site, “Based on a survey of more than 40,000 mothers, Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $112,962 for a stay-at-home mom.  That’s a lot of worth associated with this great job of motherhood!

What is your time worth? You can log into a calculator that tells you what you would be paid on the economy for all the work you do as a SAHM or as a mom who also works outside the home and inside the home!

How effective is the mom’s work outside the home? Does it pay to work in today’s economy with rising prices and a modest hourly wage? Many spouses who move frequently do not often have the luxury of annual pay raises at the same company. For example, let’s look at Jennifer.

Jennifer was an administrative assistant who needed to work outside the home to make ends meet. She made an average wage of $9.50 per hour and felt she contributed greatly to the family’s finances. She only had one child in day care, traveled a short distance to work, and paid no state income taxes. Then Jennifer attended one of my Living Rich for Less seminars and was challenged with the idea of “crunching the numbers.” She completed the “Working Mom’s Compensation Chart” and was shocked.

The amazing fact Jennifer discovered was, by working full time–she was making $3 per week! She didn’t realize how those extra pizza nights (because she was too tired to cook), and the trips to the beauty salon (to maintain a professional hairstyle), and all those lunches (away from home) added up! She realized she needed to make some dramatic adjustments. She decided there was a better use of her energy and quit her job outside the home.

But Jennifer didn’t stop there. She implemented some money savings strategies found on this blog and is making ends meet at home. She has less stress in her life and the freedom to contribute to her family’s financial needs through saving money and by launching her own homebased writing business. In her case, a penny saved was more than a penny earned.

For more info on how to  plan for  a new baby,

listen to The Money Millhouse  episode with Tonya Rapley  

Once you come up with a figure, ask the big question. Is my time, energy and effort worth ______ dollars a week? It may be worth it and that’s great for you if it’s your choice.

Whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside the home—you’re work is priceless in terms of all you do for your family and for others. You deserve a Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for your hard work, you’re leaving a legacy through your children that will last for decades to come.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Smart Money Habits for Millennials (and Their Mamas)

The Kay Family had five babies in seven years. That roughly adds up to 3 kids in diapers at once, 10 years of not sleeping through the night, 4 teenage drivers at the same time, 3 kids in college at once and today, we have 5 millennials in their 20’s simultaneously.

Fun .

But the good news is that they eventually slept, pottied, drove, graduated and even mastered money habits in the journey. Here are the habits we helped teach our millennials to make sure they didn’t have to move home, they could remain financially independent, have a great start for their families, and still buy their mama nice birthday gifts.

Habit #1 – Create and Live By a Spending Plan

Many millennials have heard of the value of creating a budget and even have apps that help. But it’s of little use if they don’t know how to stick to it. Here are my favorite apps to help:

  • Mint Budgeting App – I met the founder of Mint, Aaron Patzer, in a green room, years ago, when we were both going to be on ABC News in NYC. At the time, he was building his success with Mint. I just remember him being (as he says in the video) “full of myself.” Ha! But his budgeting app is probably the best out there because it makes it easy to create a budget. You connect the Mint app to your bank and the app uses your details to help create a personalized budget.
  • PocketGuard Budget App – This app also connects to your bank accounts and shows you what you currently have in your pocket. It tracks your money to show what you are spending and automates where you’re going off budget and where you need to cut back.
  • You Need a Budget – This app’s claim to fame is that it creates a budget you can stick to based on the info provided in your bank accounts and spending habits. It even teaches you what to do if you overspend and how to live on last month’s income. This is the only app that cost money in my list and it’s $50 for the year, but there are hoards of devotees that say this app helped them to finally live on a budget.
  • GoodBudget – Back when dinosaurs roamed the financial space, there was an “envelope system” where you put the money you needed in each envelope labeled with expenses such as gas, food and entertainment. It helped Bob and I get out of 40K in consumer debt in only 2.5 years when we were first married. This app is the digital version of that system, making sure that everyone knows how much is left in the “envelope.”

You might need a money buddy to stay on track, too. Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, talks about her journey on our fun podcast The Money Millhouse and how she went from broke to anything-but-broke through techniques that kept her on track.

Habit #2 – Cook Creatively and Consistently

Money evaporates when you order out for lunch or dinner more than one or two meals a week. Bob took leftover dinners (the

re’s a microwave and fridge at work) for our entire marriage and we calculate that he’s saved $20,000 by doing this! Make Pintrist your pal or watch The Food Network to learn easy ways to create nutritious and tasty meals. Ask for an Instant Pot for your next birthday and make more than you need for dinner so you’ll have leftovers for either lunch or dinner later in the week. Or freeze the leftovers. My daughter lived with roommates for a few years and they would assign different nights for each of them to cook to simplify the work. Cook more and your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Habit #3 – Care About Your Retirement

When we take our Heroes At Home Financial Event on the road, we teach young service members the miracle of compounding interest with the mantra: start early, start small and stay committed. Be sure to start with funding a Roth IRA and take advantage of your company’s matching portion of your 401(k). Lacey Langford, an Accredited Financial Counselor gave some great tips on a segment called “I Aint Afraid of No Money.”  She discussed retirement planning from her experience in working with the military (but many tips apply to civilians as well.) If you’re military, be sure to go into your Family Readiness Center to discuss the Blended Retirement System and what your options are for your situation. It’s free and a benefit you can use early and often.

Habit #4 – Count the Cost of Debt

The average millennial college grad owes 37K in student loan debt and the average household owes $8500 in credit card debt. Work on minimizing the debt you accrue and pay off the debt you have so that you’ll have the flexibility to move or wait on the right job. One of my sons worked for JC Penney, and they eliminated his entire department. Most employees were freaking out because they had student loan debt, consumer debt and car debt—but not our son. He made a practice of living on less so he wouldn’t accrue debt and he was able to have less worry in the process of finding a new job.

Be sure you also pay attention to your credit score. Rod Griffin, from Experian, came over for a discussion on coffee and credit. He works with us on our tours and he teaches that if you have bad credit, you’ll pay an average of 360K more (over your lifetime) for the use of basic credit, than the person who has a good score. Improve your score by paying on time, paying more than the minimum balance due and make sure you never use more than 30% of your available credit.

Habit #5 – Choose Contentment

This is a tricky habit because it’s a mindset that you choose. There will always be something to spend money on to make you go off budget or get into financial trouble. There’s the new phone, tablet, car, vacay, boyfriend/girlfriend, baby, or a plethora of other reasons to want to spend more and have more. This is where your friends, family and even faith come into play. Coveting what others have or do is a lesson in futility and discontentment. Your friends either contribute to this mindset or they keep you focused on what matters most. If keeping up with their lifestyle is an important platform in your friendship, then you may want to find new friends. Remember that this financial journey is a marathon not a sprint. I’ve always said, “you can have it all—just not at the same time.”

What is one habit you are good at? What is one habit you want to improve upon? Share it with us, a friend or even a money buddy, so that you can be fiscally healthy in 2018 and for a lifetime.


And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies



“Mama, can you ask Miss Natalya if I can hold the baby?” my 6’ 4” son asked with hopeful expectation.

Moments later, he was holding the pretty little three-month-old baby girl and smiling proudly, “now take my picture.”

Ever since he was a teenager, he absolutely loved babies. Holding them. Having his picture made with them. Then giving them back when they made the tell-tale popping sounds that let him know the infant was filling up her diaper.

Father and son

Fast forward ten years. Past his years as a midshipman at Annapolis, past his years as a graduate student at Stanford, past combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast forward to the present. Now, this Marine is holding his newborn son, Robert Philip Kay, III.


“Why are you picking up the baby when he’s sleeping?” I watch my son cuddle his 4-day-old son, the infant’s tiny features pronounced next to his big father’s duplicate profile.


“Because I’m the dad and I can hold him whenever I want.” He holds him. He has his picture made with him. And when the tell-tale popping noises indicate little Robbie is filling his diaper, he’s suddenly changed. He goes from a boy who has never changed a diaper to a man who changes every single one his tiny son fills (and his namesake filled six of those bad boys in only 24 hours.)

I’m proud of my man child who grew up so quickly, met a beautiful mermaid, married her before she got away and made me a “Glam-ma” to a tiny human who has my Hispanic hair, my husband’s name, his mother’s nose and his father’s legacy.

My daughter in law is a precious asset to the Kay family and not surprisingly, she’s great with money. Here are eight new mom tips that come from her recent experience and my background as a mom of many.

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

  • Amazon Baby Registry – Whether you have three baby showers or none, it’s smart to have a list of items you can use for baby. Even if friends and family don’t buy off the list, they can still mark it as “purchased” to minimize duplicates. Once everyone buys what they want, the new parents are entitled to a 10% off one order (wither 60 days before and up to 180 days after the baby’s arrival) and 15% off if you are an Amazon Prime Member. My DIL used this discount to buy eligible items off her registry that had not yet been purchased and she used Amazon gift cards, to further minimize their OOP expenses. Plus, she had $1000 worth of gifts purchased by friends and family, which scored her $100 worth of free diapers and wipes.
  • Return Duplicates Promptly – Get a store credit or exchange items for something else you can use right away. If you wait until after the baby arrives, you may not have the chance to get around to returning the items in a timely manner and you’ll lose out.
  • Don’t Open Those Diapers! – My first son, Daniel, weighed 11 pounds and was 24” long. He never wore newborn diapers. My last son, Joshua, was 10.5 pounds. He never wore newborn diapers. Even if you don’t give birth to a sumo wrestler, you still need to be careful on your timing in opening new bags/boxes of diapers. Once you open them, they can’t be returned for a larger size. This is especially true when you open a 180 count box from Exchanging a brand name diaper is easy at Walmart or Target, where you don’t need a receipt to get a larger size package. But not if they’re opened.
  • Calling All Freebies – I went out to Annapolis to nest before the baby arrived and it seemed like every day, my DIL was getting freebies delivered to her door—especially baby formula. She also got free toiletries, diapers, books and more from the hospital. Manufacturers of baby products and hospital auxiliary groups provide freebies for new moms. Look inside the baby bassinet cabinet in the hospital and you’ll probably find diapers, swaddling blankets, alcohol swabs, a nasal aspirator, disposable nipples for bottles, a thermometer, and more. These are valued at $30 to $40 and you can always use them.
  • Nurse if Possible – Not only will your baby get colostrum, that helps to fight infections and illnesses, but you’ll get valuable bonding time with your little one. It’s been estimated that nursing moms save $1400 in the first year over those who use formula. My DIL got reimbursed for a pump through Tri Care and other insurance plans cover the cost of a pump as well. Don’t take the one from the hospital because those (usually) aren’t free and nothing can ruin a peaceful day at home with your newborn than the breast pump Po Po at your door, asking why you stole an $800 breast pump.Don’t give away your sample formula either, 85% of nursing moms stop by the time their babies are 6 months old.
  • Free Advice – Many hospitals have a lactation expert who makes the rounds and helps new moms learn how to nurse a baby. When Anne, the lactation consultant came by to see my DIL, I learned a few things as well. Even after nursing 5 babies, I didn’t know that “infants are nocturnal beings.” Um, yeah. I should have figured that out. This service is free and can cost $200 if you pay a lactation advisor. Ask about free hotlines and even volunteer services that may pay for a home visit. Plus, check your insurance provider’s coverages as well.One of the nurses, Leslie, was helping my DIL and when she realized I had raised 5 infants, she pointed at me and said to my son and DIL, “You are blessed to have her in your life. She’s one of the greatest resources of knowledge you have at your disposal.” I loved Leslie, she was my favorite.
  • Double Duty Accessories – When you’re filling out a wish list, try to get items that have more than one function. Like a Graco pack n play that also has a changing table built in as well as a bassinet. We got my oldest son a crib that converted into a toddler bed for his son, Liam, and we bought the conversion kit when we bought the crib. These styles are new every 9 months and if you wait to buy the conversion kit when you need it (2 years or so), then it may no longer be available.
  • You Have Not Because You Ask Not – Be sure you ask the OB/GYN and the pediatrician for product samples. Not only will you discover whether you like the product before you purchase a full size, you may only need a little of it to get you through the crisis (we will not talk about nipple cream now.) Sign up for baby food company newsletters and coupon offers. Go to Gerber, Beechnut, Earthsbest, and Stonyfield to get these offers.

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

Congratulations on your new baby. Whether you are the parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle or just a favorite friend—this is an exciting time for your entire family.

My husband and I are and thankful for our children and now our children’s children. We are often asked how we raised so many successful children, with success being measured as kids who are living their purpose and making the world a better place.

We usually answer this question with, “We tried to think of what was best for the child. I didn’t think about what I wanted to do, I thought about what was going to be the best option for my child.”

Gotta go check instastories for the latest baby video—until next time!

Benefits of an Allowance

Benefits of an Allowance

When our son Joshua was four years old, he began to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we were proud of our youngest child. About this time, he started bringing home snacks for Mama and Papa that he save from his kids group at church. He would bring us watermelon, animal crackers, and even butterscotch candy with the endearing explanation, “You can have dis cuz I dun’t like it much anyway!”

The next week, he came home very excited about sharing his special snack with his “wunnerful” mama and papa. We found ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of bedtime for five children, poor Joshua went to bed still jabbering about the cookies he’d brought home. I hadn’t had the chance to get them from him, so he gave them to Papa with the instructions, “You can made sum coffee and hab it affer we all git to bed!”

After the kids were tucked in and all the kisses had been equally dispensed, I asked Bob about Joshua’s treat. He gave me a wry grin, got up from the couch, and went to the kitchen. He came back with the “treat” wrapped very neatly in a tissue. “Here’s our special surprise—for us to share.”

He unwrapped the two black parts of an Oreo cookie—all that was left of the white filling were two little teeth marks.

Teaching our kids to share, give, save, and work are all part of preparing them for a healthy future when it comes to their financial lives. This is like the cookie part of an Oreo. This training not only helps in the long run, it can help us in the short run—with more money in our pockets! That is the filling! One way to best teach kids is by giving them an allowance and allow them to learn how to budget money, to shop smart, to not ask for stuff, and more stuff, then we spend less and save more!

  • Money Matters – The most obvious benefit of an allowance is that it gives the child an opportunity to learn to manage money.
  • Safe Haven – When kids learn to manage their money while they’re under our care, they have the freedom to fail in a relatively safe haven. This doesn’t mean that we bail them out, but it does mean that we’re here to help walk them through the steps that will lead the back to the road of financial stability.
  • Self Worth – An allowance can make a kid feel good about himself.  How do you feel when you’re at the beginning of a paycheck? Your child will learn to feel good over the fact that they have some money of their very own to manage. They’ll feel even better when they learn to give freely, save diligently and spend wisely.
  • Consistency – It’s important to pay a child their allowance on the same day of the week or month. This gives them something to look forward to and allows them to budget their needs and wants accordingly.
  • Budget – An allowance should be budgeted into your family’s budget, and your children need to know this. It shows them that teaching them about money, through the use of their own allowance, is so important that it ranks in the family budget. It also sends a message to kids about the importance of a budget, thereby priming the pump for the day you will help them develop a personal budget of their own.
  • Theirs Alone – The money they receive is something that is theirs; they own it and we help them learn to spend it wisely, according to biblical principles of good stewardship. If we give them their “own” money and then turn around and refuse to let them spend it as they see fit, then it’s just an exercise in futility. We have to create the climate where our children have the freedom to test their limitations, discover how money works and learn in the process. Some of these lessons will be hard, but they won’t learn them if we continue to make all the decisions for them.
  • Responsibility and Accountability – These are the main benefits of an allowance as this exercise gives the parents an opportunity to tie in these two elements so that our kids can learn both of these invaluable life skills.

What do you do that is unique in your kids’ allowance?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters!

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters

If you have kids, you probably know what it’s like to have picky eaters in the house. One loves pickles, another one hates them. Someone doesn’t like mushrooms, another hates the taste of celery and one has aspirations of a completely carnivorous diet.

Fortunately, there are ways to hide nutritional ingredients in your meals. One of my staple recipes for our children is squash casserole. It’s ooey, gooey and packed with healthy nutrients like Vitamin C. It’s also affordable, considering summer is squash season. Best of all, it’s easy-to-make, filling and just as good when eaten for leftovers.

Hungry yet? Here’s a version of my squash casserole recipe if you’d like to try it out this summer:


–       3 pounds of yellow squash (or zucchini, depending on what’s on sale)

–       1 large onion

–       2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese

–       30 crushed round buttery crackers (Ritz or something similar)

–       ½ cup of cream, milk, cream cheese or unflavored Greek yogurt

–       4 tablespoons of butter/margarine

–       salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Dice onion and sauté with butter in a large skillet on medium.
  3. Chop squash and immediately place in skillet with the onions.
  4. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until squash is tender (easily breaks apart with a fork).
  5. Add cream/milk, 1 cup cheese and half the crushed crackers and cook until cheese is melted (about two minutes).
  6. Pour mixture into a greased casserole pan and top with rest of crackers and cheese.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Let it set for a minute or two (it’s hot!) and enjoy.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s super-versatile. Like a little spice? Dice up a jalapeno or add some cayenne pepper. You can also make it cheesier or healthier by adjusting the amount of cheese.

Play around with it and create your own family squash casserole recipe!

What is YOUR favorite summer recipe?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Spring Savings – Five Ways to Save $500 or More

When I was a gangly seven year old with braids that were too tight and freckles that looked better on a cheetah, I used to dislike the spring. In my Latino family, spring meant two things: 1) my mom would dress us in flamenco dresses to go to the fair and 2) I would have to participate in spring cleaning.

My Spanish mother and my Abuela would put on their work clothes, tie their hair in a scarf and attack the house with a vengeance that would make the mighty 300 run in sheer panic all the way back to Sparta. Never get between a Latina woman and her spring cleaning. I was conscripted into forced servitude while all my freckleless girlfriends got to go play kick the can in our street circle.

Now that I’m an adult, every spring, I engage in a different type of practice that gets our finances in tip top shape. Instead of a broom, I use a smart phone. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, I have a computer. I like to engage in spring savings. The bonus for this formerly freckled girl is that I usually save more than enough money to hire someone else to do my spring cleaning.  Here are some ways that you can get out of spring cleaning and into spring savings:

Property Tax Challenge – As many as 30% of homeowners may be overtaxed, according to the National Taxpayers Union. First, study your property card for errors in your home’s specs. Next, compare your home’s value and taxes with other nearby homes (go to Valueappeal.com). Third, go to ntu.org/tax-basics to learn how to build your case before the tax assessor. Fourth, challenge the amount and win and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!

Prepare for Warm Weather – Invest in a thermal leak detector to find and fix drafts around windows, outlets and walls to save as much as 20% on cooling bills. Also invest in a programmable thermostat to adjust your home about 10 degrees while you’re at work and at night to save another 15%.

Pull the Plug on Entertainment
– There’s no need to pay for pricey cable or satellite when you have less expensive options. Before we had Apple TV, we invested in a streaming player called Roku that cost about $100 and connected the internet to our TV. We currently use Netflix ($8/month) for movies and TV shows and then Hulu Plus ($8/month) for new TV episodes that we can watch right after they’ve aired. Plus, I’m a Prime member on Amazon, so I get to watch scores of shows for free on Amazon Instant Video. I’ve discovered all kinds of Downton-like British TV shows that are delightful (I’m currently hooked on Lark Rise to Candleford).  These options save $750 a year over cable.

Put off the Oil Change – My girlfriend Audrey has a fairly new Lincoln and the dealership told her to only go 3000 miles between oil changes. But her car light comes on at 7800 miles, so she listens to the car instead. Actually, the newest studies indicate that my girlfriend is right! The quality of oil has improved dramatically over the last 25 years. Follow the owners manual and the car’s oil-life-monitoring system instead of the dealer who wants that extra service fee. I change the oil in my car once a year!

Put it on Ice – To save on food and spoilage, freeze hard cheeses, most fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, bread and other baked goods. You can use ice trays to freeze baby food, sauce or stock, and chopped fresh herbs in water. Not only will you never have to dig a moldy hunk of something you don’t recognize out of the back of the fridge, you’ll also find dinner prep is quicker and easier by using these kinds of frozen items.

Once you’ve finished your spring savings, then sit back, pour a cool glass of tea (with mint infused ice cubes) and watch Lark Rise to Candleford—you deserve the rest!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Fun Kid’s Budgets — Teaching the Value of a Buck

“But I waaant it, “ four year old Joshua whined for the umpteenth time.  Bob was TDY and I was completely out of patience with our youngest son.  After taking care of five kids under the age of 11 by myself for months, my fun meter was pegged. I braced myself for a complete kiddie meltdown in the middle of the department store, and I knew what I must do to prevent it from happening.  I turned to my son, “Is it in your budget?”  He immediately stopped the whining, “Um…let me see.” Distracted by the question and the task of looking in his little wallet, we successfully navigated the possibility of daytime drama and I breathed a sigh of relief.

That incident happened a number of years ago and now Joshua has received an appointment to West Point and will be getting a $425,000 education in the process. Part of this is because we took the time to teach him about budgets, a work ethic and financial literacy from a young age. I believe there is a way to teach kids about money matters and help them become financially literate by developing child-friendly exercises such as “Fun Kid Budgets.”

Oftentimes, children can get family finances off track with their kiddie demands for instant gratification, but you can teach your kids about money by putting them on a budget for anything from clothing to school supplies to entertainment. And it doesn’t have to be dull, dry and boring—it can be fun! Here is where the fun part comes in, whatever he doesn’t spend, he gets to keep. Just make sure the budgets are age appropriate and be prepared to help them learn. Here are some examples of how to create your own Fun Kid Budgets:

  • Restaurants — tell your child how much you will give him to spend on his meal at the restaurant. Remember, he gets to keep what he doesn’t spend. This becomes a great motivator for him to spend less than he “makes” while learning the value of a dollar!  But be careful with the born savers, they might just say, “I don’t think I’ll eat a meal here at all, I’ll save the $8 and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.”


  • The Zoo – When you take a child to the zoo, give her enough for the ticket, treats and a modest souvenir. She may even pass on the sweets and pocket the change.
  • Theme Parks – If you have a big family vacation planned to a theme park, give your child enough for the day. We did this with our five children at Knotts Berry Farm, designating $100 per child.  You should have seen how big their eyes got when they had to fork over $55 just to get into the park!
  • Movies – Budget the ticket and a nice snack, kids will soon learn that theater food is very overpriced.
  • Clothing – Set aside an amount you’ll pay for the article of clothing. You pay for the item, they pay for the brand. For example, the budget for tennis shoes is $40, if our teen wants the “Air Jordans” for $120, he pays the extra $80 from his allowance or savings for the brand name.

Remember that grandmas, aunties and big sisters can also teach the kids they love how to manage money with a fun budget. For more information on what your kids should know (at what age) about money matters, email a request for “Fiscal Fitness for Kids” to assistant@elliekay.com . Please mention that you read about this resource in my blog and we’ll send it to you free!
How do YOU teach your kids about money?

Ellie Kay

Three, Four or More – Help for Families With Lots of Kiddies!

What do parents do to get by in our economy when they have 3, 4 or more kids? As a mom of seven, I’ve been asked how I handled buying clothing on one military man’s income. Here are some tips for you to share with your friends who are raising a gaggle of great kids! 

Top Tips To Buy Clothing For 3, 4, or More

  • Budget – This is fairly basic, but if you don’t already have a household budget with a clothing budget allocated, then you’re setting your large family up for failure.  The clothing allowance for most family budgets is 5% to 8% of your total budget.  Determine what this amount is and purpose to stay within that budget. For an online budget, go to my tools at Ellie Kay.com  This will cut down on debt and in the long run, help to de-stress your financial situation.
  •  Investment Purchases – For parents of larger families, buying clothing should be a carefully considered investment. Cheaper is not better for three, four, or more children.  For example, if you spend $25 on jeans for Billie (because they are better quality) rather than $12 for cheaper brand, they’re going to also last for Billie’s younger brother, too.  In the long run, higher quality clothing can be passed down the line and will save you from having to spend an additional $12 on another pair of cheap jeans for the next sibling.  Consider the quality, durability and wear of the clothing you buy and consider it an investment.
  • Unisex Clothing – If your children are different sexes then it’s impossible to pass along clothing, right? Wrong.  When you buy jeans for older children, try to get ones that are not gender specific. Do the same thing for coats, plain shirts, t-shirts, belts—even hoodies.  Some great low cost online clothing sites are NoMoreRack Overstock and even eBay .  If you are getting ANYTHING on line, before you select “purchase” check for coupons codes first at RetailMeNot . Or, another alternative is to go to  Save1.com, a family owned coupon and loyalty site representing more than 5,000 of the top online merchants. What makes us different this site different is that when someone shops from Save1 to save money, they provide a healthy meal to a malnourished child through one of thier non-profit feeding partners.
  • New to You Wardrobe – A very creative approach to clothing your child is to trade out all the clothing you cannot pass to your other children with another more than four family.  Look for people in your moms group, gym, workplace, neighborhood, or church who have quality clothing and a child who is a year or two older than the child you need to outfit.  Then, see if they have a different child that you can outfit from your child’s outgrown clothing.  Swap your quality clothing for theirs and your child will have a new wardrobe.  It’s still important to get a few brand-new things for each child, like shoes, so that they will feel special and won’t have to wear hand-me-downs all the time. But the swapped clothing can be especially great for two categories of clothing:  1) play clothes, which are going to be soiled and stained frequently.  And 2) church clothing, which are usually in better shape to begin with because they’re not worn as often. You can also find free items at Freecycle.
  • Don’t Whine—Consign! – For an easy credit at your local, quality consignment store, gather all your children’s outgrown clothing and take it in. Be sure it is clean, buttons are sewn on tightly (and all there) and that it is pressed if necessary—this extra care and effort will garner you a better credit.  Then use that credit to purchase your child’s clothing for the current season. To see if a consignment store is worth your time and effort, read their reviews on Yelp.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)


1 2