A Financial Education Event
 

10 Free Apps to Save You Money

BGadmin

Who doesn’t love apps? There are hundreds of apps out there that help simplify your life, but here are a few that are free, but will save you money.

  • Shopular—This app won’t inundate  you with a ton of coupons and offers that you probably aren’t interested in or won’t be able to use, Shopular  offers a more focused presentation. Shopular sorts deals based on the stores closest to you, allowing you to quickly filter by proximity, and the app even brings you the latest deals when you enter a store or mall.
  • Coupon Sherpa—Coupons for stores and services around the country right on your phone. Not only are there real time apps, but you can find the cheapest gas prices at local stations, price comparison shopping tool with the barcode scanner, and you can share coupons through text and email.
  • RetailMeNotThis is one of my favorite websites, and you may have heard me refer to it before, but now they have an app! Save at your favorite stores with these coupons. One of the things I love about this app is that it alerts you of special coupons and deals in your favorite stores when you are out shopping at the mall.
  • Scout —If you are a military ID holder, this app will tell you all the places nearby that offer military discounts. So you don’t even have to ask the cashier or the waiter if they offer the discounts, you only have to show your id to claim the discounts. I love this because when I travel, I try to utilize all the savings that I can!
  • Starbucks—I don’t know how much of a coffee drinker you are, but I know my family consumes gallons daily. Make sure you are getting your rewards such as free refills on brewed coffee for gold members! This app makes it simple to not only track your rewards, but pay with your phone as well. Even if you aren’t much of a Starbucks fan, the app also sends select song downloads to your phone weekly.
  • LivingSocial, Groupon, Google Offers—What is your favorite deal site? Chances are they have an app that goes along with it. You are able to find the deals, and often you can redeem them directly from your phone. Some of these apps even let you discover awesome deals close to wherever you are or alert you when there is a great deal right next to you. I will never forget the time I was able to get a massage and eat at a nice restaurant in the same day, both deals from an alert from one of these apps.
  • Eventsbite—This is a great app for finding awesome events happening near you all year long. This app helps you find upcoming events for the week or weekend, and recommends events happening near you. My daughter, Bethany and her friend, Darbi,(see photo) were able to get VIP tickets to a fun, fashion week event in Chicago using this app. They had a great time and won prizes. You never know what adventures could be in store for you!
  • Google Field Trip–Looking for something to do with the kids this summer? Google is offering free admission to some of the nation’s most popular zoos and museums through its Field Trip app. An offer spanning 23 locations, options include everything from President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington D.C. to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Admission just requires showing a free pass to the attraction, which will appear automatically in the “Nearby” tab when you’re at a participating zoo or museum.
  • RoadNinja—Road trips just got a little bit easier with RoadNinja in your pocket. Billboards become redundant when users can learn the locations of restaurants, gas stations and points of interest near every highway exit. View real-time gas prices and access RoadNinja special offers and coupons.
  • Ebates This is a resource I’ve been recommending for years now and it works with more than 2000 stores and websites to provide a mix of deals, sales and coupons for Ebates users, alerting you to the latest deals and providing you with cash back rebates on purchases.

What are YOUR favorite apps to use to save money?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Lean Body, Fat Wallet – The 3D Habit for Financial Success

BGadmin

In my book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we learn that the habits that lead to health also lead to wealth. Let’s look at one of those habits today.

The 3D Habit: 3 Basic Principles to Overcome Temptation

In ages past, it was much more difficult to satisfy our cravings and urges. There were no fast-food restaurants or all-night minimarts to which we could sneak out at any hour and load ourselves up with junk food galore. There were no shopping malls or endless selection of specialty shops where we could shop to our heart’s content. And there certainly was not television to tempt us with tantalizing commercials or access to the worldwide web where we could exercise our need for retail therapy 24/7. Yes, in simpler times it was much easier to avoid temptation.

The 3D Habit: Determine—Distract—Delay

 

This habit is an excellent temptation deterrent strategy to help you navigate the frequent impulses we all encounter from time to time. This habit is described with three Ds that are easy to remember. Each stands for an important and effective strategy for changing your bad habits into healthy ones: determine—distract—delay.

Whenever you realize that you are going to be in a situation that may challenge your resolve to stick to your new financial plan, determine beforehand how you are going to handle it. Rather than just respond to situations as they emerge, give some forethought to common and occasional circumstances that may test you. You can practice new strategies to distract yourself from the temptation and to delay gratification until the time you decide is appropriate in light of your desired goal.

WEALTH AND THE 3D HABIT

Samantha was a chronic shopaholic who was a sucker for a bargain even when those bargains threw her off budget. Since she was single and didn’t have the accountability of a husband who shared the debt and frustration of a growing credit card bill, it was easy to live for the moment and worry about the money later. After attending one of Ellie’s financial seminars, she decided to apply the 3D Habit to her spending practices. Here is what her process looked like:

Determine to Be Accountable

Samantha decided that making herself accountable to her best friend, Katherine, would help her stop impulse shopping. Her friend agreed to call her once a week and ask her what bargains she bought online, at the mall, or on her phone. She also began to track her spending on Mint in order to be accountable.

Distract from Impulse Buying

When Samantha encountered an irresistible bargain, red sale tag, or 20-percent-off savings, she took a few seconds to text her friend: “I’m being tempted.” She also chose to focus her mind on her new goal of paying off her debt and thought, If I don’t spend twenty dollars on this bargain, that’s twenty dollars I can put toward my Visa bill. These tactics were effective enough to distract her from the impulse to spend.

Delay before Purchasing

If the item really was a bargain, she truly needed it, and it was within her budget, she took a photo of the item, noted the day the sale ended, and sent herself a calendar alert to reconsider the purchase before that date. She said that nine times out of ten, this final habit of delay was sufficient enough to help her see that even though the item was a bargain and within her budget, she didn’t really need it and could pass on it when she had the benefit of time and space away from the impulse urge.

The Payoff of the 3D Habit

When Samantha first began the 3D Habit, it felt awkward and cumbersome. After all, she felt a little odd making herself accountable and texting her friend when she was tempted to make a purchase. But she was determined to pay off her consumer debt and build a cash reserve. She said, “The temporary discomfort involved in breaking a bad habit was replaced by the permanent joy of reaching my financial goal.” In fact, her accountability friend noticed the transformation in Samantha’s spending habits and decided to apply this effective new habit to her desire to become more physically active. Katherine developed a new habit of walking three times a week in the process. Both friends are happier, healthier, and wealthier due to the mutual accountability they applied to the 3D Habit.

It is easy to apply this habit to all aspects of your financial life, from learning to be content with the money you currently make, to being able to stick to your family budget. By practicing what the late Stephen Covey taught in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleand “beginning with the end in mind,” you can go a long way toward recognizing the value of implementing the 3D Habit into your daily life every time a temptation arises that veers you off course.1

The 3D Habit Applied to Long-Term Financial Goals

One of our family’s traditions was to eat on “happy plates” when something good happened to one of our family members. Financial success helps us follow the three 3D habit as we determine that our overriding goal is more important than an optional item that isn’t going to get you to that debt-free vacation. We choose to distract ourselves  by saying, “It’s not in the budget” and delay the urge by saving for that item instead of charging it on a credit card.

A DELAY A DAY KEEPS POOR DECISIONS AT BAY

Make a life decision to practice the delay step of the 3D Habit as part of your normal way of life. Commit to delaying emotional indulgences even if only for a few minutes in order to ask yourself some defining questions before taking action. For example, “Does this purchase move me closer to my goal?” “Will I feel good about this decision an hour or day from now?”

Practiced over and over, this strategy will become an ingrained habit that protects you from regret and helps you find creative ways of designing a lifestyle that is closely aligned with your core values and interests. It’s wise to remember this simple statement: “When in doubt, don’t . . .” Instead of taking immediate action, delay what you’ve decided (in advance) in a wise time frame. Then, once that time has passed, decide if taking action is a wise choice.

 How can you apply the 3D habit to your life? 

Tap Into Financial Freedom in Seven Easy Steps

BGadmin

A Full house at Sheppard AFB. Photobombing my fellow speakers Ingrid Bruns from #USAA and Bethany Grace our high energy emcee!

Today, many families long for financial freedom and yet they are facing the same issues that Bob and I faced when we were first married—paying bills, stretching paychecks, and still trying to maintain a reasonable quality of life.  In our work with military members during the Heroes at Home Financial Event, we find that their problems are the same as most Americans. But there are answers for those who are willing to do something about it. Here are seven basic tips to help you beware and prepare:
1. Be Diligent: FICOS (Fair Isaac Credit Scores) – Now is the time to improve your FICO as these scores can determine your auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (employers are checking FICOS these days), and whether you pay a security deposit for utilities. If you are a USAA member, you can link through your USAAaccount and get free credit monitoring service with Experian. If you downsize a home or a vehicle, you’re also going to need to have an excellent FICO to get the best APR rates. Rod Griffin educates our Heroes at Home audiences and among other advice, he gives very specific ways to improve your credit score in three easy steps:
· Pay your bills a day early (rather than a day late) by setting up payments online
· Pay $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance on your credit cards, which means you are paying down debt
· Proportionality: make sure that you don’t have more than 30% of the available credit charged on any one card (for example, $2000 charged on a card with a $6,000 limit).
2. Be Smart: Save Money– I get loads of emails every week from families who are cutting hundreds from their household budget by following simple savings tips such as using RetailMeNot or going to TravelZoo to save on travel and entertainment. From insurance to groceries, there are savvy ways to save at your fingertips. (See the money savings tips on this blog). Start to implement these savings and it will create good discipline that will prepare you for the inevitable highs and lows of the economy. Use the money you save to pay down debt and build short term savings. This prepares you and solidifies your financial picture.
3. Beware: Debt Consolidation Companies: With rumors of economic challenge comes an influx of those who want to “help” prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, many of the for profit debt counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load. Instead of going through a for profit company, consider going to the nonprofit, National Consumer Credit Counseling Service. 
4. Be Aware: Refinancing to Pay Debt – As things begin to get tight, you might be tempted to get a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) or refinance in order to pay your consumer debt. This isn’t a good idea if you’re using it to pay consumer debt and you haven’t learned the discipline of living on a budget. This kind of borrowing will only deteriorate the equity in your home and chances are really good you’ll be right back in that HUGE boat load of debt by this time next year. The better option is to cut costs, budget, and only use a HELOC for home improvements.
5. Be a “B” Word Person – If you don’t have the “B” word as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start budgeting. Set one up with online budgeting tools, or a helpful app found at mint. Make sure your budget has “fun” figured into it and isn’t so restrictive that it is impossible to follow.
6. Be Careful: Recalculate Your GPS (Gross Personal Savings):  In this tip, you are building savings and paying down debt with the previous tips. But you are also recalculating your budget to accommodate the act of actually writing a check or transferring money from your checking to pay debt or to fund your savings account. Otherwise, all the money you save is just flying out the door.
7. Be A Planner With A Purpose – Whenever a “theory” is tested, it must stand up to a “proof” in order to be established as true. You can have all this good stuff on paper, but if you slap down the credit card to pay for a “40% off” killer Marc Jacobs suit, or buy a new boat during summer vacation–and you have consumer debt–then your plan is only a theory. For it to become REAL, you need to make it part of your daily life. This means your family starts to live with the plan and they don’t incur more debt. Your purpose is to live a life with more financial freedom in order to benefit your family and your kids future in the long run.
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Wedding Budget: Step Two

BGadmin

Wedding Budget: Step Two

In my first post about preparing your wedding budget, I talked about figuring out who is paying for what. This time I’ll talk about how both the couple and any contributing parents can avoid going into debt.

Going into debt for your wedding or honeymoon (or allowing those who love you to do so) is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. For starters, it means you’re spending too much money for a one-day event. Secondly, it sets a poor precedence for your marriage. It also means you’re borrowing from your future or the future of your family.

One of the first things you can do to avoid going into debt is setting up a budget. You can do one with papers and a folder if that’s your preference, or you can use one online. Here are a few websites with great budgeting tools:

Next, you (not mom and dad) need to prioritize the most important things about your wedding and honeymoon. Make a list of internal and external categories, then both of you order them by importance. Here are a couple short examples (10 or so is ideal), starting with internal priorities:

Internal He said She said
Positive Honeymoon Experience 2 3
Memories of Ceremony 3 1
Spiritual Significance 1 2
Pleasing Extended Family 4 5
Feelings of Romance 5 4

 

And external priorities:

External He said She said
Wedding Dress 3 2
Flowers 5 4
Photos 1 1
Reception 2 3
Rehearsal Dinner 4 5

Combine the lists by adding the numbers and you’ll get a good idea for your collective budget priorities. Make a commitment to go as far as you can down the list, but no further. After all, you need to plan around the idea that marriage is not just a day. I’ll talk more about that in my next wedding post.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

5 Ways to Stick to That Summer Budget!

BGadmin

I love summer. It means a lot of fun things for the Kay Family. We have two weddings this year with one on Memorial day weekend and another in July! It means a lot of travel and budgeting to make sure we don’t go into debt!

Summer is a tough time for anyone to control spending, much less stay on a budget.  With the kids out of school and summer vacation around the corner, it’s a time when people fall victim to the thought, “I’ll go on vacation now and deal with the bills later.”

But there are ways to cut back on spending to stay on budget before summer hits. The three areas that require consumers to spend money on a regular basis, that do not go away with difficult economic times: groceries, gas and family essentials (such as clothing, birthday gifts, etc). You can plan for summer and still stay on budget for these “little” areas that add up to big expenses. Here are some questions I got when I went on ABC NEWS that you might find helpful.

Q. Ellie, we often think of the holidays as a difficult time to stay on a personal finance budget, but this time of the year is really is a difficult time to stay as well. There are end of the school year gifts to buy, vacations to plan and a summer clothes to get for the kids. We have to start somewhere, and you say the first step is to start with a plan?

ELLIE: Yes, it’s amazing how kids keep growing every year and the summer clothes they wore last season are two sizes too small this year. But having a plan is a good place to start and while the basic a plan is a budget,  now is the time to break down the household budget into a plan for the more manageable subsections. This time of year, stores and websites are cleverly designed to get you to spend more than you intended. So it’s important to know what you are going to get and spend before you go to the mall or online. This plan will take into consideration past spending behavior and any impulse buys that tend to kick in while you’re in spending mode. Write down what you are going to spend in the little areas and be specific. If your two preschoolers need clothing, then conduct an inventory of what each of them has—including any hand-me-downs and the vacation gear they may need for the entire season. If you’re planning a vacation and find that you will eat fewer meals at home because you’re going to be away, then don’t budget the same amount for the grocery store. Otherwise, you’re adding spending upon spending when you should be cutting in one area and adding in another.

Q. So we have a plan, the next step is to not fall for questionable “deals.” What do you mean by this?

ELLIE: This time of year, you’ll see sales on summer clothing, electronics and even summer foods—all the things that people are thinking about as the school year winds down and vacation time starts to gear up. But not all sales are created equal and you may see a lot of $90 digital cameras and $100 GPS sales but there can be a huge difference in the models. So before you pick up a steal of a deal, do a general price search on the specific model at Shopping.com or amazon.com before you get too excited. Plus, if you go into the store and they do not have it in stock, ask for a substitute that is an upgrade from the model that is on sale. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save by just asking. It’s also important to read the fine print in a sale advertisement. If there is a “limited quantity” or “no substitutions” then that could impact your spending plan. Finally, look at the whole world of “price comps” this is where a store offers to match the price of competitors in any sale advertisement that you bring into the store. While one store may not have that GPS in stock and may not offer rainchecks, another store might match the sale and have plenty in stock. We’ve taken advantage of this kind of offer quite a few times, so much so that price comping has become a habit in our family. This can also save quite a bit of money and help to keep you on track in the “little” areas that can tend to torpedo the budget.

Q. So we have a plan, we’re not falling for questionable “deals” and now you say that the next step is “don’t miss any discounts.” How can this help keep us on track and what if there aren’t any discounts—especially for things like gas and other essentials?

ELLIE: Just because a store or website doesn’t mention a discount on merchandise or shipping on its site or in the ads doesn’t mean its not offering any. There is often a number out there in cyberspace that can be retried into either the promotional code box online or even a coupon code into the register at the mall. To find out if what you are buying has an additional discount, go to RetailMeNot.com on your computer or smartphone and enter the store’s name. Or you can go to CouponCabin.comBradsDeals.com and you may find digital coupons that you can download from the store’s websites.
The same principle applies in the grocery store or when filling up your tank with gas. Go to couponmom.com to save in the grocery store and Go to gaspricewatch.com to find the best values on gas. Don’t forget to check and see if the gas station may offer an unadvertised free car wash, cup of coffee or soda. I just found out that I could have been a lot more caffeinated, for free, at my neighborhood gas station when the attendant asked me, “are you going to get your free cup of coffee?” Once again, if you just do your research you’ll find all kinds of freebies and these “little” things, when multiplied and combined will add up to big savings if you create this awareness level.

Q. The final step you recommend in order to stay on budget in the little things is to use cash or debit cards. There are pros and cons to using debit instead of credit, what are your thoughts on this?

ELLIE: Yes, there is a time to use a credit card instead of debit when it comes to charges that you may dispute on your credit card or when you want an extended warranty or the added protection that comes from using a credit card. However, for these little areas, we tend to track the spending better by using cash or debit and consumers are far less likely to go into debt because people simply spend less when they are using cash according to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Applied. Store clerks have long found that it is easier to persuade people who are using credit cards to spend more than they were intending. And when it comes to shopping online, you dn’t necessarily need a credit card to have more protection than using your debit card online. One other option that won’t get you into debt is to research the layaway plan at your local retailer by going to eLayaway.com

Happy Summer!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

Quick and Easy Steps to Healthy Finances in the New Year

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays at a close, I remember what it was like to play with the new toys from Christmas long after ringing in the New Year. It was the time of marbles, pick up sticks, and hot wheels racers sets. My favorite toy was a set of Klackers. These came on the market in the late 60s and lasted into the early 70s. They looked like glass, but were actually acrylic balls attached to a string with a ring or small handle attaching the two strings. The object was to get the two balls going up and down and have them “klick” and “klack” against each other. You would build up momentum until they were hitting on the top and bottom in an arc. It was very hard to do at first and when they hit your fingers instead of each other, it was incredibly painful, too. Without fail, every time I played with my Klackers I ended up with bruised and banged fingers. But I kept playing, day after day.
I’m reminded of my Klackers when I look at today’s economy. Consumers have been playing with debt for years and it’s been hurting them—but they just kept playing. In fact, between 1989 and 2001 credit debt nearly tripled from $238 billion to $692 billion and last year it was up to $937 billion. The average debt-laden American especially feels the pinch when the economy is lagging, gas prices are rising, home values are imploding and inflation is rising. But there is hope and a way to not only survive a possible recession—but thrive in the midst of it.

Here are seven basic tips to help you beware and prepare in the new year:

1. Credit Credibility ––The first step, no matter what your financial picture is to improve your FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Scores) as these scores can determine a variety of financial issues including auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (many employers check FICOS), and whether you pay a security deposit for utilities. You can get a free copy of your credit report at credit.com . If you downsize a home or a vehicle, you’ll also need to have an excellent FICO to get the best APR rates. You can improve your FICO in three easy steps:

  • Pay your bills a day early (rather than a day late) by setting up payments online
  • Pay $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance which indicates paying down debt
  • Proportionality: make sure that you don’t have more than 50% of the available credit charged on any one card.

2. Savings Savvy– I get loads of emails every week from people who are cutting hundreds from their household budget by following simple savings tips. From insurance to groceries, there are savvy ways to save at your fingertips. I have a lot of these savings tips on my blog. Start to implement these tips and it will create good discipline that will prepare you for a recession. Use the money saved from these tips to pay down debt and build short term savings.

3. Debt Deal Dilemma: With a slowing economy comes an influx of those who want to “help” prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, most “for profit” debt counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services which is usually tacked onto your debt load. Instead, go to the National Consumer Credit Counseling Service and use their free services.

4. Don’t Do Dumb Debt– As things begin to get tight, you might be tempted to get a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) or refinance your home in order to pay consumer debt. Bad idea. This will only deteriorate the equity in your home and chances are really good you’ll be right back in that HUGE boat load of debt by this time next year. The better option is to cut costs, budget, and go to the NFCC.

5. Budget Baby and Learn – If you don’t have a budget, as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start. Set one up with online budgeting tools, found at www.elliekay.com. It’s also important to learn how to budget, a great new program that helps military families with their money matters is supported by the Military Family Advisory Network called MilCents and it begins a new (free) course in February.

6. Repurpose Funds: My daughter loves to take antiques and even junk and repurpose it to give it more life (and save money in the process). As you save money in one area, it’s important to redirect it to another area through proactive actions such as writing a check to pay debt or to fund your savings account.

7. Plan With A Purpose – Whenever a “theory” is tested, it must stand up to a “proof” in order to be established as true. You can have all this good stuff on paper, but if you slap down the credit card to pay for a “40% off” killer Marc Jacobs suit, or use debt to fund a vacation–then your plan is only a theory. For it to become REAL, you need to make it part of your daily life. This means you start living with your plan and don’t incur more debt.

Happy Savings and Happy New Year!

Ellie Kay

 

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behindthe photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Uncle Steve is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for a new baby in the family, a newly commissioned LT, a son on the USMA Color guard, a Marine who safely came back from Iraq and for a daughter who just got engaged.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

 

Fantastic Free Financial Help for Military Families

As “America’s Family Financial Expert”® I love to help families learn how to live in financial freedom. As “America’s Military Family Expert” ™ I enjoy traveling to bases around the world assisting our military members in ways they can improve their quality of life. Every now and then, those two worlds come together and I get to talk about Military Finance. In fact, our Heroes at Home Financial Event is geared toward helping military readiness through financial readiness. Recently, I’ve been able to continue that quest by becoming a part of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) advisory board, a like-minded 501(c)(3) that is on a mission to connect military families with the resources they need to thrive.

I’m pleased to announce a new resource that will be coming to military families in October 2015 called MilCents. It is a one-of-a-kind financial literacy program that combines information, online events, social media conversations and free resources into a 10 –week program designed to empower all military families to get their money in gear. As the Heroes at Home tour travels to various bases around the world, we’ve seen wonderful military members who have been asked to leave the service because their finances prevent them from holding a top-secret security clearance. In some cases, the Department of Defense has a million dollars invested in these members in terms of education and military training costs, so saving these valuable human resources is beneficial to the DoD and to the military family at the same time.

While MilCents is not a part of the Heroes at Home Financial Event, it is definitely a program I can get behind because this resource will help you learn skills such as:

  • How to read a Leave and Earnings Statement
  • How to pay down debt
  • How to protect your money and avoid predatory lenders
  • How to get your credit score and learn to improve it
  • How to categorize your spending and saving

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Event

This fantastic, free financial resource has been provided by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) with support from the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Military and Veterans Initiative, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

If you forward this blog to EVERY military family member you know, then you would have done your part to help protect military readiness through financial readiness as a Hero at Home!

Sign up for MilCents at MFAN today!

FInancial Pre-Deployment Checklist (part 2)

 

Are your finances ready for your next deployment?  If you have all your business affairs in order, then you will have less stress on your next deployment because you won’t be worried about the things you didn’t get done. The items on the checklists from our last blog and from this week will make all the difference in minimizing stress not only for yourself, but for your loved ones as well.

  • Budget – If you are married, then set up a budget with your spouse that can be used throughout your deployment. Make sure they know when bills are due and how much is owed for regular payments. If you email me at assistant@elliekay.com and request the “Sixty Minute Money Workout” we will send you a free guide that can help you set up your budget with your spouse or a “money buddy” so that you can establish a budget and discuss financial matters with your mate without arguing. Mint.com has an excellent budgeting app and there’s an interactive, free budgeting tool at elliekay.com as well.

 

  • Will including a Living Will or advanced medical directive. Don’t get so busy that you rely on the laws of the state for which you have residence to administer your estate. Instead, make sure you have a will that not only includes who will have control over your financial assets, but also include where you would like to be buried and if you want cremation or not. We once lost a pilot in a routine training accident in our squadron. His wife was left with a six week old baby girl and she had to face his parents who insisted he be buried in their hometown while she had other ideas of what he wanted. The more specific you are, then less headache your family will have when they are already dealing with tremendous loss.

 

  •  Accounts and Auto Pay Bills – List all accounts (credit card, car, utilities) and any passwords or acct numbers for the person taking care of your bills. If possible, set up these accounts to pay automatically so that you are not late on them and won’t get a hit on your FICO (credit score).
  • Legal Documents – Gather all legal documents such as birth and marriage certificates, deeds, mortgages and automobile titles and put them in one central location so that they are easily accessed by your spouse.
  • Meet with Personal Financial Manager (PFM) from the installation family centers or through MFLC (Military Family Life Counselors) or Military OneSource.com to go over any other financial issues that need to be settled before you deploy.
  • Emergency Financial Assistance   In the event the family may need assistance while the servicemember is deployed, it saves time and headache to take care of this ahead of time. You can pre-Authorize assistance by going to:  http://www.nmcrs.org  (Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society).

Whether you are single or married, it’s important to check off the above items to make sure you are financially ready for deployment. Thank you for your service and a special thanks to those family members who support you as well!

 Ellie Kay

 

 

De-Stress for Less (Part 1)

De-stress for Less Part 1: On the Run

You can get the stress out of your life without breaking your budget if you follow a few steps to de-stress for less. Here are some creative ways to relax and be entertained while paying attention to your bottom line. I encourage you to pursue a sustainable lifestyle of balance, because the price we pay for living under constant stress is much too high. In fact, a CNN poll reveals that the number-one reason for stress in most countries is money.

The countries most stressed out by money are Malaysia, China, Singapore, and the United States. The countries least stressed out about money are Russia, France, and Italy. It would be self-defeating to ask you to be less stressed about money and then suggest ways to de-stress that cost a lot of money.

As a mom of many children, I was often a mom on the run. I’ve seen the price that people pay for never slowing down, and the cost can include frequent headaches, arthritis, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks. I determined when my children were young that I would learn to do things that relieved me of the pressures of a large and busy family. I also learned that some of the simplest activities could bring the most enjoyment. Here are some simple and free options I’ve used many times over the years to de-stress my life:

  • Take a power nap.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Listen to an audiobook.
  • People-watch on a bench.
  • Talk to God. Write out prayers for friends and family.
  • Light a candle.
  • Eat a sack lunch at a park or somewhere outside.
  • Take a stroll and stop to smell some roses.
  • Write in a journal in your backyard or in a garden.
  • Draw a picture of your house. Or backyard. Or somewhere that makes you happy.
  • Write out favorite quotes or passages of literature and put it somewhere you will see it.
  • Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while.

I know you are aware of these simple pleasures, but do you practice them? Intentional breaks from your usual routine can make a huge difference not only in your stress, but in your overall productivity later in the day.

Bonus De-Stress Tip:

Since the recession, the idea of a “stay-cation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard or does something special to make their time at home feel more like a time away. While these are great ideas to save money for people on a budget, I believe there are other ways to get away from home and have an affordable vacation away. For one thing, you can check your local deals at httpe://www.groupon.com/, http:/travelzoo.com/, or http://livingsocial.com/ to get some really fun values. I went indoor skydiving for only $35 (a $110 value) and it changed my entire perspective! And don’t forget to check out Pinterest to see great ideas of fun activities

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

1 2 3 5