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Wedding Budget: Step Two

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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)

Wedding Budget: Step One

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Wedding Budget: Step One

“They say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life.” That’s a line from a song in one of our favorite musicals, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” It’s also a good reminder that when you prepare for your wedding, you need to think about details beyond the big day. In the Kay family, we have two Kay weddings in a two month time period. Since we’re in wedding season, I’ll use the next couple weeks to cover a few wedding preparation topics. Today’s post is about the budget.

An old proverb says, “A wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower.” One of the main mistakes engaged couples make is not setting a wedding budget, or expecting parents to cover expenses beyond their ability to pay. So how do you figure out who’s paying for what? You have to ask the right questions so you can gather all your financial facts.

What are the financial expectations from the bride’s parents?

The biggest mistake you can make here is assuming the bride’s parents will be covering all the expenses. All parents have some form of financial limitation, so it’s important to talk to them about it ahead of time. Some may give a lump sum; some may pay for specific things like the dress and/or reception. It’s usually best to be direct, polite and flexible when gathering information from the parents who traditionally pay for the majority of the expenses.

What are the financial expectations from the groom’s parents?

Tradition says that the groom’s parents are only expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner, but sometimes they may be able to cover more (or all) of the wedding costs. Talking to them about their financial limitations will both help your budget and encourage them to contribute willingly.

Are there any others who can contribute financially?

Sometimes grandparents or other relatives will offer to pay for part of the honeymoon or something else as their wedding gift. While you probably shouldn’t approach them about contributing, it’s a good idea to keep a list of who has offered to pay for what.

What expenses will the bride and groom cover?

It’s not uncommon for the bride and groom to pay for the entire wedding, especially if they are getting married later in life. But if they aren’t, it’s important to think about things the bride and groom are expected to cover, like the honeymoon, marriage license, flowers and the ceremony officiant’s fee.

It may be hard to ask some of these questions, but it will be harder if you’ve already gotten the financial ball rolling or if you’ve waited until the last minute. Setting an appropriate budget will help you avoid going into debt, which is what I’ll talk about in my next wedding post.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Homestretch – Hearts Apart Stay Connected

I became a Veteran at sending a husband away for stretches of time while keeping the home fires burning. It wasn’t fun when the five youngest kids all had the stomach bug at the same time and Bob was stuck in Hawaii with a broken jet for two weeks. But we made it work.

These days, my military sons and I are apart as they serve at home an abroad. My Marine is overseas and some days, I just miss him something fierce (as they say in Texas). Here are some ways to stay connected whether you are a spouse, a sibling or a parent.

Special Connections – My Army son, Joshua and I will take
a screen shot of our phones when all the numbers are the same, then we send it to each other. We don’t have to add words because that is a unique connection that means “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” I have another friend who bought a watch for her son and her husband that has an audible timer. She set the watches for the same time in her part of the United States and her husband’s location overseas. Every day when the alarm went off, the father/son knew that the other was thinking of them and they felt connected every time.

Your Local Base, Post or Unit – Be sure you stay in touch with a military support group that is sponsored by your local unit. Family support groups will be in the know about the status of your military member’s communication capabilities. Often, you can sign up for free services that are offered to the bases such as pillow cases with a photo of your military member for each of the kids or a Stand Up Daddy project. They will also let you know when the unit allows email or other contact and where to mail packages. We are members of a Marine parents group that keeps us informed and reminds us of OPSEC (Operation Security.)

Skype – Schedule regular and free communication with www.oovoo.com or www.skype.com. Be sure your military member is allowed this kind of access and that it’s not against any regulations. We have a date with our Marine at the same time every week and we prioritize it. Keep the dialog positive while they are deployed and share the negative stuff with a trusted friend or chaplain. Deployed members need us to keep it light, but when they come home, they’ll get diaper duty. 

Apps and More – Viber is a free app that allows for free texting and calls. Text 4 free is also a free app that allows you to text when your phone is connected via Wi-Fi (in case they don’t have cell phone access). Facetime is a great app for users of iPhones, iPads, Macs, or iPods. Words With Friends is also free and lets you play games with free texting through the game.

It’s also important when they get back home to try and spend time together as well. But you don’t want to go off budget either. It’s important to not give into the temptation for “splurge spending” just because they are back home again.

Staying Connected When You’re Together:

  • RetailMeNot – This isn’t just a great app to look up discount codes inside every store you visit in person or online. It’s also a resource for coupons. I had a Mimi’s “Buy one entrée, get one free” in my email inbox but forgot to bring it to the restaurant. Happily, I found it on the RetailMeNot app and used it from my phone!
  • Google Search and Social Media – Find your favorite restaurant’s web site and check out their values or like them on their Facebook or Twitter to get special deals. Many sites will offer printable coupons as well as weekly specials. Or download Coupon Sherpa or Yowza apps to find deals.
  • Two for One/One for Two! – If your fave place doesn’t offer a “buy one/get one free” special, then why not share a meal? This savvy approach is especially smart at a restaurant that’s notorious for serving larger portions. You may have to pay a small surcharge for an extra plate, but your wallet (and waistlines) will thank you.
  • Entertainment Books – These coupon books cost around $35 (and sometimes run on sale for $10). Go to entertainment.com to find offers near you. Not only do they feature restaurant coupons, but they also offer great values on a variety of local and national services. But be forewarned: they’re not cost effective if you leave them at home!
  • Restaurant.com – At this site, you can get $25 restaurant gift certificates for only $10 and be sure to sign up for their sale notifications when you can get that $25 gift certificate for only $2!

FInancial Pre-Deployment Checklist (part 3)

Do you have your money matters in order for your next deployment?  It’s important to make sure that all aspects of your finances are lined up to be able to give your family and yourself peace of mind while you are deployed. This is the final part of a continuing series. The items on the checklists from last week and from this week will make all the difference in minimizing stress not only for yourself, but for your loved ones as well.

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

In addition to legal protections, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides certain financial protections for active duty members of the regular forces,

A servicemember’s protections under the SCRA are not automatic and require that the servicemember requests the protections such as limitation on interest rates, and payment schedules. You will likely have to prove you’re your military service may make an impact on your ability to pay.

All interest rates can be reduced to 6 percent for accounts established before active duty and can include mortgages, car loans, credit cards and even some student loans. This only applies to loans before you became an active duty servicemember, it does not include loans you received after becoming a servicemember.

The SCRA also protects from foreclosures and repossessions and helps with termination of residential leases and auto leases. These are before military service or if you receive PCS orders from CONUS to OCONUS or a deployment for a minimum of 90 days.   

  • Savings Accounts

It’s important to build a personal savings account of  6 to 12 months worth of income

Calculate how much you’ll need by this formula (BAH + ME) x 6 = Goal Savings

Never use PAYDAY LOANS to supplement your savings because in these you pay 200% to 500%. Instead, go to PentagonFoundation.org for a $500 loan with a $3 service charge and no interest for one month. It’s called the ARK (Asset Recovery Kit) program.

The Savings Deposit Program – SDP – While deployed and after 30 days in a combat zone, service members may be eligible to participate in the Savings Deposit Program (SDP).  The program is available to service members during assignments and deployments to specified locations. The SDP pays back a guaranteed 10 percent annual return on investment (2.5.percent.quarterly) on up to $10,000 contributed from un-allotted current pay and allowances. Upon withdrawal, a service member’s contributions to SDP will not be taxed, but the interest earned will be.  Interest continues 3 months after the servicemember is out of the zone.

  • SBP – Survivors Benefit Plan – This program provides monthly payments to the servicemembers elgible beneficiaries in the event they

Cost – no cost while you are activeduty. But during retirement there’s a monthly deduction which can be no more than 6.5 percent of your gross retired pay.

Beneficiaries – spouse, legal child, former spouse (if court ordered), the child must be under 18, if over 18, then in college (up to 22).

  • SGLI Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

SGLI is a low-cost term life insurance protection policy offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) for servicemembers on active duty. Even though SGLI coverage is automatic, before servicemembers deploy, they should confirm that their beneficiary(ies) designation is up to date.

Servicemembers are automatically covered for the maximum amount of $400,000 unless coverage is declined or elected at a lower amount and this costs $26/month plus $1/month for traumatic for a total of $27.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) automatically provides life insurance coverage to spouses and dependent children when the service member is covered by SGLI up to $100,000 for the spouse and $10,000 per child unless the servicemember declined the coverage in writing. Coverage amounts for FSGLI cannot exceed the coverage amount selected for the servicemember under SGLI. The cost is very affordable for the spouse such as $5/month for a female 35 or under and it is free for children under 18.

Whether you are single or married, it’s important to check off the above items to make sure you and your family are financially ready for deployment. Thank you for your service please know that America appreciates both you and your family.

Ellie Kay

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

 

 

Financial Pre-Deployment Check List – Part 1

What are the most important financial details to take care of before a deployment?

As a long time wife of a fighter pilot, we lived through a lot of separations and I’m glad we had our financial house in order before he left. Today, we have a Marine who recently deployed and since he is single, there were aspects of this checklist that involve us as well. Whether you are married or single, it’s important to take care of business before you leave the states. This is part one of a three part series and it can make all the difference for family members back at home.

Here’s a checklist to help you get through.

  • Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) Make sure that this info is up-to-date for all family members since this impacts everything from being able to get Tri-Care to keeping a current military ID.  If you do not live in the same household with all your dependants, be sure that you have all the current information (i.e. children who do not live with you or children in college).
  • Military IDs – Make sure they are up-to-date and won’t expire during deployment. This is, once again, true for all your dependants and sometimes the expiration dates are different on the cards than they are on your own military ID, so double check this so that your dependants can have access to everything from the commissary to discounted Disneyland tickets through MWR.
  • Passports –Make sure family members have current valid passports.  If a military member is severely wounded, then parents or spouses would need current passports to come and see them. If you are single, and your parents would be the ones to come see you, then contact them and make sure they have current passports.
  • Record of Emergency Data – If your family needs to be notified of a severe illness or injury, they will be contacted based on the information you have in your emergency data. Are you newly married and your name has changed? What about other changes to your information? We recently decided to go from having a house phone line to only having cell phones. The house phone line was the one in the emergency data information for our single,  Marine son, so we had to make sure that he updated that very important info. Check with your parents and children who are dependants but do not live with you and make sure you make note of any info that has changed.
  • Family Care Plan  – If you are dual military spouse, a single parent or have another family member dependent on you for care, you need to update your family care plan. Your family services center can help you walk through the updates necessary to make sure all your family members are taken care of if you are the sole source of their provision.
  •  Power of Attorney- The person designated in the power of attorney document should be the service member’s spouse, a parent or trusted friend, since it give that person the expressed written permission to act on the service member’s behalf. There are three different kinds of POAs.

A General power of attorney allows for the person to buy, sell, trade or sign for almost any legal act on their behalf. If you and your spouse are having marital issues that may lead to a separation, then it might be better to have the spouse on a specific/limited POA rather than a general POA.

A Specific/limited allows only specific powers for a specific period of time. For example, they can sign your tax documents to file taxes or sell a specific car. This kind of POA is good when you are single and having a parent or trusted friend handle your business affairs.

A Durable POA is the most comprehensive of the three kinds of powers of attorney.  It remains valid even if the servicemember is incapacitated. If you don’t specifically select this while drafting a general POA, then it will automatically end if they are incapacitated. Therefore, if you want a family member to have the POA even if you are incapacitated, this has to be indicated by securing a durable POA before deployment.

Set aside an hour a week before your deployment to start chipping away at this list and be sure to check back next time for part two of this series.

What is your favorite pre-deployment tip? 

Ellie Kay

Sharing and Saving on Hotels

Spring break is here, and summer will be upon us before we know it. If you want to get away from the day-to-day, it can be difficult to work it into your budget. Since the recession, the idea of a “Staycation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard, or does something special to make their time at home feel more like 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. Here are some ways to get away for less:

Volunteer Your Way to a Cheaper Vacation: Steve and Debby Trigg first discovered their favorite family vacation spot when they had an ample budget for family fun. They went to a Christian campground in Colorado and fell in love with the staff, landscape, and activities. They also caught the vision of how combining ministry with vacation can help teach their kids the concept of servant missions.

When Steve had his hours cut back at work, they found their vacation budget reduced during those belt-tightening years. They opted to go back to the campground as staff for a week. While their workload was increased, they still had plenty of family time with a ministry emphasis. Steve said, “We decided to volunteer to teach our children the benefits of servant missions and NOT for the benefit of a low-cost vacation—that is a serendipitous blessing.”

Instead of paying $1000 for the week (which is still a bargain for those who are paid guests) they had a working vacation for free. Not all campgrounds offer this kind of a trade-off, but if your family enjoys this kind of environment, it would be worth your time to contact a local retreat center or campground. Go to Acacamps.org for the American Camping Association or try www.google.com and enter your state and “Christian Campground” to find a location near you.

Not all vacation packages are faith-based; some are education-based as well. At Family Hostel, HostelWorld.com, there are trips offered that match families with learning vacations around the world. There are even Elder Hostels, which offer those 55 and older up to 10,000 options starting at as little as $556 for a six day photography workshop in Massachusetts.

WildernessVolunteers.org is a nonprofit organization created in 1997, which offers people of any age a chance to help and maintain national parks, forests, and wilderness areas across the United States. Everything from trail maintenance to vegetation projects may be on the agenda. Participants provide their own camping gear and share campsite chores. Most Wilderness Volunteer trips last about a week and cost around $219.

Great Deals on Hotels: If you have a certain destination in mind, sometimes all you need is a hotel. Check out these sites that can help your vacation be just that much sweeter:

TravelZoo: If you are thinking of visiting a certain place, look under the Hotels tab on TravelZoo.com and pick your destination. It will show you the current deals. It will also give you the option to search prices on several sites. Just make sure you have your check in and out dates.

priceline.com: I love this site. I have used it to get amazing deals at unimaginable prices. The “Name Your Price” tool is a wonder. Start off low and work your way up! This also has International options.

hotels.com: Another great site for finding hotel deals and steals. A unique feature for hotels.com is their rewards program that can help you build up stays and earn a free night. It is never too late to save big with their “Last Minute Deals” tab for all the quick getaway trips.

kayak.com: This is another great site for hotels, as well as flights. It will search hundreds of travel sites to find you the best deals on the web. Through Kayak, you are able to save at least 25%, sometimes even more. You can even scan the popular cities on the home page in order to see what hotels are going for in the area.

No matter what your vacation budget is, it’s important to take time off from the real world to create and develop a meaningful time to foster friendship, marriage and family. In years to come, you may not recall the price of the condominium or quality of the room service, but you will remember those forever memories with the people you love—because they are priceless.

De-Stress for Less (part 2)

In order to fully embrace the value of free time, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of recreation and relaxation in our overall quality of life and productivity. Our families, marriages, and friendships all need time to regenerate and celebrate so we can be refreshed and ready to face the next round of daily demands of modern living. Unfortunately, if we are not mindful, those rewarding activities can become costly and negatively impact our budgets—which puts us right back into stress mode!

If entertainment and eating out is scheduled into your spending plan, then there’s no stress of going off budget. But what if you could go out twice as often and still stay on budget? Here are some ways to have twice the fun at the same price:

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) 

Find the Health and Wealth Connection

We are so excited to announce that my latest book co-authored with Danna Demetre, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, releases today!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes? Discover the powerful connection to help you lose weight, dump debt, and save money.

What’s good for the wallet is good for the body—an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.
Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:What would you do if you finally lost all your excess weight or had energy to burn? Howdifferent would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just a few simple and sustainable lifestyle changes? Danna Demetre  and I are life experts in two seemingly different fields—finance and fitness. Working together, we have made a remarkable discovery—the principles and habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work in your life and create a sustainable and satisfying lifestyle.

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

The book also offers a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join us on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet! We are looking forward to the discoveries you will find!

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