A Financial Education Event
     

MAJOR MEDIA – Couples Money Workout

One of the most requested files I have is for my “Couples Money Workout” as it is helping save marriages by giving couples a tool to discuss money matters without throwing food or calling in the SWAT team. I recently recorded a segment with a fabulous couple, Chris and Kathy Hansen, for a major media news show. Once it’s going to air (later this month), I’ll announce the show and the date.

When Bob and I were first married we didn’t like to say that we “argued” about money. Since he was a born spender and I was a born saver it was natural that learning to manage money as a couple would require a certain amount of give and take—but the word “argue” was just kind of negative for newlyweds like ourselves. So we called it “intense fellowship” instead! We learned that there was a right way to approach this dreaded topic and a very, very wrong way.
One of the things I did before I talked about the One Hour Money Workout for Couples, with the Hansens was to play a game—the Newlywed game, in fact! You can do this by getting 12 pieces of paper (or cardstock) and two big markers (like they use on the show) and get ready to learn some things about your mate! Answer each of the following for yourself and your mate and have your partner do the same thing.

1. Complete the sentence, when it comes to money, I wish my partner would stop _______.
How do you think your spouse answered this question? ___________
2. If you won $1000, what would you do with it? ____________________ How would your spouse spend it?____________________________
3. How would you answer this statement (circle one) “I would rather have: money * beauty * brains.
What would your spouse circle?________________
As you answer these questions, I think you’ll find that you and your spouse are different. You may discover that you didn’t know as much about your mate as you thought you knew or vice versa! But part of any healthy relationship is realizing we are different and we can give each other permission to have their own thoughts and feelings about financial matters. The goal, whether you are a newlywed or you’ve been married forever, is to communicate effectively about money, get on the same team and find financial freedom!
As we prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries and do a little bit of preparation work as well. Here are some things to keep in mind as you set up boundaries and prepare:

  • table all financial talks until your couples money workout time
  • no condescension or negativity
  • no interrupting your partner when they are talking
  • no name calling
  • no throwing food
  • start by saying one positive thing to each other
  • end by saying one positive thing to each other
  • create an environment that encourages comfort and success
  • have a timer on hand – for each segment in the workout

Bob and I developed a one hour money workout because we thought that if our “money talks” had a start and a finish they would be a lot less painful. We knew we wouldn’t get all our problems solved in just one hour, but we also knew that if we kept at it, we’d make progress. Email me and ask for the “Couples Money Workout” and you’ll find a miracle happen in your marriage, too!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Nightline Segment – For Richer or Poorer


For Richer or Poorer

Shared via AddThis

Are you having problems in your marriage with money? Then watch this segment on Nightline where the Hansen family found the help they needed. Are you willing for me to read your question on ABC NEWS NOW next week? If so, then post your questions here and if we select your question to read on air, we’ll send you a copy of my new upcoming book, “The Little Book of Big Savings” (Waterbrook, 2009).

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
www.elliekay.com

Ellie Answers Your Questions on ABC News – “Good Money” Show

I was recently in New York on the set of a fun new show called “Good Money” and I solicited questions from this blog to ask on the air. By now you know if the producer chose your question to read on the air and you also have a free copy of my new book, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) on its way to your mailbox! If you didn’t win this time, don’t give up! We’ll post new ways to win a copy of my books in the future.

Here is a link of me answering your questions on ABC News Now – Good Money. Follow this live link to listen to my answers to the following award winning questions:

  • My husband and I want to get out of debt, but we each have a different idea as to how to go about achieving this. Any advice on how to get on the “same page”? Bren Jones – Vienna, WV
  • Deals4moms.org said… After all your experiences with counseling couples, can you say that your financial advice has helped to save marriages?If yes, what are the 3 top things that helped those couples?
  • Audrey asked…Here’s my question-if one spouse makes more than the other, how can the budget be equalized?
  • L A Hughes said… Dear Ellie Kay,I saw your advice to the married couple who found it difficult to communicate about spending on Nightline. My question concerns couples who are dating, engaged, etc : Do you have any suggestions or tips for how couples can learn discover, understand or achieve common ground about attitudes about money–before marriage–without sacrificing romance, or without seeming pushy?
  • How can you have some fun and adventure with your spouse when you really shouldn’t spend money to go out on a date night once a week because you have so many other bills to pay, and it gets boring just sitting home watching a movie and ordering a pizza or worse making your own dinner when it is supposed to be a break from the routine and not work. Kim from Manchester, Maryland.
  • OK, guys, we’ll do this again in the future and please remember I didn’t choose the questions to air, the producer did!

    Ellie Kay

    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    www.elliekay.com

    PreMarital Money Talk Winners! – ABC News Now


    TO see the winners of this week’s questions I answered on ABC News just click on the link. The following bloggers will receive a free copy of The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) from our offices: Lauren from Tucson, Trish from Ft. Lauderdale, Misti from Chicago, and J Brooks from Hawaii,

    Here is a review of my Q&As for the show:

    1.) There’s already so many things going on, Ellie, tell us where you can start when it comes to dealing with money before the big day.

    Answer: The most important financial merger of your life requires hard work—but it’s worth it. COMMUNICATION is the key to dealing with money in marriage. According to a 2008 study conducted by California State University, 21% of couples fight over money daily or weekly. 10% fight monthly and 46% put on the gloves every few months.

    2.) But successfully merging your money when you marry isn’t as easy as slipping rings on each others’ finger’s. How much time and effort should couples put into this financial merger?

    Answer: I think it’s critical for couples to get premarital counseling that specifically deals with money matters. Each partner comes to a marriage with different money management styles. For example, I was a born saver (big surprise) and my husband, who had a good work ethic from the time he was a child was a born spender. In fact, his money never say the inside of his pocket! Consequently, I recommend date nights should be set aside monthly (if not weekly) to regularly talk about your financial progress with your mate. Spouses-to-be who discuss their views of money and work together on how to use their financial resources may discover that they actually like the process.

    3.) Also, some experts recommend doing credit checks on their spouse-to-be. Do think this is a good idea? After all ‘till death do us apart is the saying, and that means accepting everything about the other person, including any bad debt.

    Answer: I like to say that my love is unconditional, but my money is conditional. Part of accepting my spouse means that I know what I’m accepting—good bad, and indifferent. I need to know the debt, the problem areas and what kind of future the mingling of money will have as an impact on my own credit score. When you merge all financial resources, it means that in many cases—for mortgages, home improvement debt, car loans and joint accounts—his credit becomes my credit.

    4 ) When one has better track record than the other, does the credit score get better or worse for the couple?

    Answer: Usually, the bad score will more quickly impact the good score when joint credit is secured. However, it depends on how previous debt and accounts are handled. I do not recommend putting the person with good credit onto the debt history of the partner with bad credit—this deteriorates the good payer’s FICO. So if Mr. Debt has a credit card that he wants to add MS. GOOD to, then she just says no. But when it comes to future loans, there is a measure of unavoidable mingling. As a personal example, when my husband and I moved to CA and had to hook up electricity, his FICO score required a $500 deposit and mine allowed us to get it with no deposit—obviously we put the bill in my name and in this case, it didn’t deteriorate my FICO but it saved us $500!

    5.) So, what are some of the most crucial topic couples should cover as they talk about financial matters?

    Long Term Financial Goals (buy a home, have kids, dream travel destinations)
    • Spending Plan
    • Saving Plan
    • Retirement
    • Debt Management
    • Short Term Financial Goals (new furniture, honeymoon trip)


    5.) And when it comes to financial goals, it’s obviously important to make them and reach them , but it is that something that can wait after you’re married?

    Answer: Some goals, such as dream vacation destinations, can be ironed out after marriage. But other goals, such as having kids (and how many) is something that should be agreed upon before you marry. Other critical goals that should be discussed pre-nuptials is home ownership—when and how? One partner may be content to spend money to have a “good life” and doesn’t really care about paying down consumer debt in order to buy a home. While the other partner may think that home ownership is a primary goal and spending should be put on hold in order to achieve that goal. These are the kinds of discussions that are necessary before rather than after the big day.

    6.) And of course saving money is at the top of the list for many people, tell us, should we go the route with joint or individual accounts? And why is this important?

    Answer: Any home based business accounts should be kept separate at all times from a couples joint account. As to other checking accounts, there is no right or wrong answer on this one—it all depends upon what the couple mutually agrees to and what works for them. If there are separate accounts, there needs to be full disclosure and accountability for those accounts. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of counseling many couples where one spouse racked up thousands of dollars in consumer debt and the other partner knew nothing about it until it was too late. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in keeping mad money and surprise money separate. After all, if Bob wants to give me a surprise trip to Paris for our anniversary—whom am I to rob him of that pleasure?

    7.) And finally tell us how newlyweds can prep for the future. Say, purchasing a home or having new additions to the family like babies. This is something that obviously needs to be discussed before walking down the aisle?

    Answer: In the picture above, you’ll see the newlyweds in our family, our 22 year old son just married his bride. I’ll give our viewers the advice I gave them: plan for what you can, try to prepare for the unexpected and roll together when life throws you a curveball. Our newlyweds have no consumer debt, student loan debt or automobile debt. One partner is still in college and they both have modest jobs. So they are living within their means, spending less than what they make, and saving for future kids (my grandbabies, mind you!) and a future home of their own. They are on their way to a wonderful life!

    Thanks for your questions and be sure to tune in next time to see how you can win a copy of one of my books!

    Ellie Kay
    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    The Financial Case for Marriage


    Two of the seven Kay kids are married and loving it. We’ve always believed that marriage is the best option from a spiritual perspective and I’m often asked about how it stacks up from a financial perspective. Recently, on ABC news I addressed this issue from the viewpoint of a financial expert.

    According to the Census Bureau, the number of opposite sex couples living together jumped 13% this year to 7.5 million. Demographers attribute the increased number to a post recession economy and increased unemployment which has forced many young adults to share living quarters. Older adults who have previously been married may view living together as a way to avoid the issues often associated with the end of a marriage. But if you and your partner share property, a breakup could be even messier than a divorce.

    Q. Ellie, while there are economic reasons that account for the increase in the number of couples living together, there is also a broader societal issue involved as well. What are some other reasons for these new statistics?

    ELLIE: While the downturn in our economy is certainly the top reason that more people are choosing to postpone or forgo marriage, there are other factors as well. Researchers estimate that more than half of married couples live together before they get married. Only 38% of Americans believe that unmarried couples living together is bad for society; half said it doesn’t make much difference, according to a Pew Research Center survey.


    Q. What would you say is the biggest financial issue that unmarried couples face?

    ELLIE: Without a doubt, I would say it’s the issue of “yours, mine and ours.” A legally binding marriage is a system that organizes the landscape for you. If you had it before, it’s yours. If you earned it while you were together, it’s ours. But when there is no marriage contract, there’s nothing in place that legally defines this landscape and it’s all up in the air.

    Q. The first area you say is a drawback for unmarried couples is when buying a home. Isn’t it enough to assume that your partner wants to put both parties names on the title and that will take care of it?

    ELlIE: Unlike married couples the courts won’t assume you have equal ownership of the houe in the event of a breakup. The house will go to whoever is on the title, even if one partner puts 75% of the money into the home and the other only antes up 25%, it will be an equal divide. So if you break up two years later, and you’ve put in more, you’ll take a significant loss on your investment. Furthermore, I know relationships are all about trust, but you can’t assume your partner will put your name on the title unless you see it first in writing.

    Q. What issues do couples who are living together face in regards to estate planning and why is it especially important if you are not married?

    ELLIE:
    Personally, I believe that everyone should have an estate plan but for unmarried couples, it’s essential. If you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to state law, which usually doesn’t recognize domestic partners or common law spouses. Family members that you don’t even like could end up inheriting everything you own. But even if you have a will, your partner could still be forced to sell the home to pay federal and state estate taxes. Whereas a surviving spouse can inherit an unlimited amount of assets, tax free. This makes a strong case for marriage, especially for those couples who are planning to stay together a lifetime.

    Q. The final area we want to consider is health care. Most large companies let their employees add domestic partners to their health insurance so why is this a financial matter differ for those who are living together?

    ELLIE: The main reason is that while benefits to spouses are tax free, the IRS doesn’t recognize domestic partners. Consequently, the benefits provided to your partner are treated as taxable income. This is a huge tax hit which makes extending group coverage to your partner more expensive than just buying an individual policy. If you’re both employed, then keep your separate plans, unless you get married. If your partner is a legal dependant, then that would be the other exception. However, getting legal dependency declared is very difficult. You should draw up a durable power of attorney for health care and make sure you’ve drawn up advanced health care directives. Without one of these, hospitals and doctors don’t have to give you information about your mate.

    Viewer Questions

    Q. My girlfriend and I are getting real serious and thinking of living together or getting married. With so many things going on, Ellie, tell us where you can start when it comes to dealing with money before you live together. Submitted via online – Ted from Thomasville

    ELLIE: The most important financial merger of your life requires hard work—but it’s worth it. COMMUNICATION is the key to dealing with money in marriage. According to a 2009 study conducted by California State University, 21% of couples fight over money daily or weekly. 10% fight monthly and 46% put on the gloves every few months. So start talking about money matters to include: expectations, budgets, long term planning, goals.

    Q. My boyfriend and I decided not to live together before we get married. We’re engaged and have set a date for next spring. What steps should we take to make sure we start off on the right foot when it comes to our finances?

    ELLIE: I think it’s critical for couples to get premarital counseling that specifically deals with money matters. Each partner comes to a marriage with different money management styles. For example, I was a born saver (big surprise) and my husband, who had a good work ethic from the time he was a child was a born spender. In fact, his money never say the inside of his pocket! Consequently, I recommend date nights should be set aside monthly (if not weekly) to regularly talk about your financial progress with your mate. Spouses-to-be who discuss their views of money and work together on how to use their financial resources may discover that they actually like the process.

    Q. My parents argued about money so much it led to their divorce. What are some specific topics I should learn to talk about with my girlfriend before we make any kind of long term commitment? Greg submitted via facebook

    ELLIE: There are some basic topics that all couples should cover as they talk about financial matters
    • Long Term Financial Goals (buy a car, home, have kids, vacations)
    • Spending Plan
    • Saving Plan
    • Retirement
    • Debt Management
    • Short Term Financial Goals (new furniture, trip to Europe)

    Ellie Kay
    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    Valentines Dates- Part II – Taking Your Questions!

    QUESTION: My boyfriend is a tech junkie, and while he never forgets to get the latest upgrade, he does sometimes forget special days like my birthday or our anniversary. Is there a way to help my high tech love realize that Valentine’s Day is around the corner?
    Simmering Cindy in Cincinnati

    ELLIE: There’s some good news for you, Cindy, there are quite a few apps you can buy for your romantically challenged love. The first one is only $.99 and is called CREATIVE ROMANTIC IDEAS: $.99, IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD This app will give him ideas that are ranked by price and difficulty, from personalized M&Ms to more elaborate ideas that go beyond the usual candy and flowers. OPEN TABLE: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD, ANDROID, BLACKBERRY This app will help him from being caught without a restaurant reservation. This popular app lets him find restaurants that are nearby, check to see availability and make a reservation. Get info you need from restaurant profiles to menus, including for the budget-minded $$ ratings so you can stay in your price range. Finally, there’s a free app called CINEPLEX MOBILE: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD, BLACKBERRY, ANDROID. Useful for dates or any other occasion when he wants to find out what’s playing at a theatre near you. Read entertainment news and reviews, see trailers and buy tickets online. Cindy, by speaking his high tech language, you’ll find better results.

    QUESTION: My husband has been off work for 18 months and works odd jobs here and there just to help pay the bills until he can find regular work as a full time welder. Do you have any ideas for Valentines gifts for people with NO money to spend?
    Jessie Johnson from Detroit, MI

    ELLIE: Trade chores for the day. Surprise your loved one by completing all of his/her chores. Clean the house for your wife or take out the trash for your hubby. Add a special touch by leaving heart shaped cookies in the home or a meaningful note in their car. No matter how small the chore, having someone else complete it will be sure to leave a smile on your loved one’s face.
    Make a book of coupons. The coupons could include a massage, free pass for a girls or guys night out, cooking a favorite meal, or even promising a day of sports TV without any interruptions! Recognizing things that are important to your significant other will go a long way in showing how much you care. My husband just presented me with a 12 year old coupon that says, “good for a new corvette when I sell 100,000 copies of my book. I passed that mark several years ago and he just found the coupon when cleaning out a drawyer!

    QUESTION:
    My fiancée is in the military and is overseas. Do you have any extra special ideas that I can send him via email. I already mailed a package, but I wanted to do something. Jason Sampson, submitted via facebook


    ELLIE:
    There’s an app that costs $1.99 and is called VOICE VALENTINES: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD. You can impress your Valentine with a customized ecard that you can send by email, Twitter or Facebook. Design your card, add a photo and message and your Valentine’s Day love delivered in your own voice. Or you could get an app for $1.99 or under that is called BUILD-A-CARD, CUPID ADDITION: IPHONE, IPOD, $.99 AND $1.99 FOR IPAD. With this app you can create customized ecards to email, Facebook or Twitter. You can take photos from your camera, your album or your Facebook account to build a one-of-a-kind card.

    QUESTION: I’ve been married three years and my husband and I have a very good relationship. The only thing that bothers me is that he doesn’t have any photos of me at work, he says he has them on his iPhone and shows people that way. We are on a budget and for Valentines Day, I wanted to give him a photo for his desk. Any ideas to make this gift not seem too cheap? Amanda from San Antonio, TX

    ELLIE: By all means, Amanda, frame up all kinds of his favorites—not just photos. In the digital age, chances are good that your mate doesn’t have a hard copy of some of your favorite memories. If your man has a treasured baseball card or an old family photo, have it framed so he can hang in a special place. Then add a second gift of your best photos as a couple. You can get a customized collage for less than $5 at Costco.com or Walgreens and request same day or next day service. If you want to be less obvious, you could do the same in a mousepad or coffee mug for

    QUESTION: My wife and I have been married for 25 years and we raised 3 outstanding children together. I love her very much. For Valentines Day, I like to give her chocolate because she likes it. The problem is that she’s been on a diet off and on for months now and if I don’t give her chocolate then she may think I’m saying she’s overweight and doesn’t need it. But if I do give her candy, she might go off her diet and blame me. What do you suggest? Anonymous but still in love in Destin, FL

    ELLIE: This has the potential to be one of those no win situations, so you need to approach this carefully. If you buy your woman a 5 lb. box of chocolate in the shape of a heart, she’s either going to eat a few pieces and waste the rest or eat a bunch of it and feel guilty or sick.
    I recommend that you find out what kind of candy she likes and get a small portion of that kind of candy. Since you’ve been married for so long, you could also include a mix “tape.” Burn a CD of your favorite songs or those that are special to your relationship. Create a personalized cover with photographs of the two of you and place it in a plastic CD case for presentation. You can also load a special mix onto your significant other’s MP3 player so you can share it together in the car or at home. The thot you put into the CD should outweigh any potential conflict from the candy and you should emerge unscathed. 

    Ellie Kay
    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    Til Debt Do Us Part — Money Matters Before You Marry

    This week is our anniversary and we are celebrating

    by going away to the OC, riding segways on the beach & watching a concert called “Rain” (a Beatles Tribute). Hotel is free, segways are 1/2 price and Rain was 45% off!

    When I married my husband, Bob, he was a young fighter pilot in the Air Force and I was a insurance/financial broker from Texas. We merged two different professions and two very different philosophies about money. Bob has a lassie faire style, a free spender who lives in the present. I am a structured person, a compulsive saver and always plan for the future. Even though it may seem that this marriage was made in any place but heaven, it has turned out quite the opposite. We’ve been happily merged and married for 24 years with seven children to show for it!

    There were, however, a few things we learned after marriage that we wish we knew before the big date.

    Talk, Talk, Talk,Communication is the key to dealing with money in marriage. According to a 2008 study conducted by California State University, 21% of couples fight over money daily or weekly. 10% fight monthly and 46% put on the gloves every few months. It’s no wonder that “money arguments” are cited as the number one cause for divorce in America. [[https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/advice_merging_money]]

    If couples spent as much time discussing this critical merger as they do in planning the honeymoon, they would have a great start in their new lives together. That is why it is critical for couples to get premarital counseling that specifically deals with money matters. Each partner comes to a marriage with different money management styles. Consequently, I recommend couples set aside date nights weekly to regularly talk about financial progress. Partners who discuss their views of money and work together to use their financial resources effectively may discover that they actually like the process.

    Check, Check, Check, Some experts recommend running credit checks on their spouse-to-be. After all, “‘till death do us part” is the saying, and that means accepting everything about the other person, including any bad debt. On the other hand, if you don’t know how much money your fiancée owes, then the saying could be rephrased to: “‘til debt do us part.” Credit histories should be voluntarily shared among fiancées, preferably in front of a counselor. But you should never run a credit check on your future mate without their permission.

    I like to say that “my love is unconditional, but my money is conditional.” It’s important to know about debt before the big date as the mingling of money could have an impact on your credit score. Initially, each score will be different, but if you are added to a spouse’s credit card or vice-versa, then that will have an impact for good or for bad. The merging of all financial resources means that in many cases—for mortgages, home improvement debt, car loans and joint accounts—his credit becomes your credit.

    Usually, the bad score will more quickly impact the good score when joint credit is secured. However, it depends on how previous debt and accounts are handled. I do not recommend putting the person with good credit into the debt history of the partner with bad credit by adding her name to his accounts—this deteriorates the good payer’s FICO. But when it comes to future loans, there is a measure of unavoidable mingling. As a personal example, when we moved to CA and had to hook up electricity, with his FICO score the electric company required a $500 deposit. But by using my score we were allowed to establish service with no deposit. We put the bill in my name and in this particular case, it didn’t deteriorate my FICO and it saved us $500!

    Yours, Mine and OursWhen two people merge finances, they will need to set up savings, checking and even retirement accounts. It’s important to decide if you will have joint or individual accounts.

    There is no right or wrong answer on this one—it all depends upon what the couple mutually agrees to and what works for them. But it is something that should be decided ahead of time. If there are separate accounts, there needs to be full disclosure and accountability for those accounts. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of counseling many couples where one spouse racked up thousands of dollars in consumer debt and the other partner knew nothing about it until it was too late.

    However, I’m a firm believer in keeping “mad money” and “surprise money” separate. After all, if Bob wants to give me a surprise trip to Paris for our anniversary—who am I to rob him of that pleasure?

    A primary exception to joint accounts is any home based business account or trust funds that were established for children from a previous marriage. Those should definitely be kept separate at all times from a couple’s joint account.

    Ellie Kay

    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    Savvy Saver Quiz – part 5 – Budgeting

    This is the final quiz in our savvy saver series! It’s the “B” word and it can be a volatile word to use in many households. My hubby was a born spender and I’m a born saver, so we had plenty of “discussions” about this topic. Eventually, we got on the same sheet of music and we’ve been able to reach most of our financial goals as a result. This is coming from a place in our early marriage where we had $40,000 in credit card debt and wondered where our next bag of groceries was coming from! A little budgeting goes a long way when it comes to meeting your goals. What kind of a budgeter are you?

     

    Budgeting

     Q.  How often do you stick to or live by a household budget?

    a)  every day, baby!

    b)  frequently, but not every single day

    c)  occasionally, I have a hard time with the “b” word!

    d)  never, I just don’t do budgets!

     Q.  How often do you review and/or adjust your budget to keep up with your current financial situation?

    a) twice a year or more

    b) once a year

    c) once every 2 to 3 years

    d) are we still on the budget thing? (rarely)

     Q.  When you have a set amount, weekly, to spend on groceries, how well do you stick to that amount?

    a) I come in under my set amount fairly regularly

    b) I spend my set amount

    c) I seem to spend $10 to $40 (or more) over my set amount each time

    d) I don’t have a set amount, I just spend whatever

     Q.  How much of your family income are you able to put into some kind of savings account (regular savings, allotment, IRA, Mutual Funds, 401 (k)s, etc.)

    a) we save or invest at least 10% of our income

    b) we save or invest 5% to 9% of our income

    c) we save or invest 1% to 4% of our income

    d) we never seem to save or invest anything

    Welcome to the scoring section of the Budgeting category – Give yourself the following points: every “A” answer = 4 points, every “B” answer – 3 points, every “C” answer – 2 points and every “D” answer – 1 point

     16 – 20 points:  Thrifty Taylor – Well done, you’re a SUPER SMART BUDGET BUDDY! When it comes to budgeting, you get the prize for being a smartest person on the block! You are well prepared for financial issues that arise in today’s economy and are in a great position to pay down debt, make ends meet and stretch your dollar in a crisis because you have a plan—and it’s called a budget! You may want to use also my free budgeting tool at www.elliekay.com  You’re doing GREAT!

     11-15 points:  Low Cost Logan – Good Job, you’re a SMART BUDGET BUDDY! – You are doing a good job at working on a budget and making good use of your efforts in this area. You may not stick to budget every single day, so there is room for improvement. It’s obvious that you have the basic skills to continue to be smart with budgeting concepts and you can even help your children learn to have fun kid budgets as well.

     6-10 points:  Moderate Morgan – Nice Work, you are a BUDGET BUDDY! – There are some areas where you’re doing better than others and budgeting just may not be your primary forte. However, at least you know what a budget is and there’s always room to improve. By going to a budgeting tool online at reputable money sites such as moneymagazine.com or msnmoney.com, you’ll find the resources to set up a practical budget that your family can live with and modify as needed. By putting a little more effort into this area, you can learn to become a smart budget buddy!

     5 points:  Extravagant Emerson – You are a one who NEEDS A BUDGET BUDDY! – You may have scored smarter in every other category but this one—not everyone has the desire to budget. You need someone to come alongside you and help set up a budget you can tolerate. If you’ve tried the online tools we mentioned previously for budgeting and they don’t work, then you may want to speak to a live person. Get free help by going to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org . Once you have a plan, which is basically what a budget is, then you can pay down debt, make ends meet and have a new level of financial freedom!   

     Let me know how you are stretching your budget!

    Ellie Kay

    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

    Great Dates With Your Mate

    Here a happy snap of the first time I went to a military ball with the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. You have to love that 80’s hair, don’t you?

    Valentine’s Day is a few days away, and according to the National Retail Federation, the average consumer will spend more than $115 for Valentine’s Day this year – up more than 11 percent from last year. Coupled with the money spent during the holidays, many will carry extra expenses over the coming months – particularly if a credit card is the chosen method of payment.
    On Valentine’s Day, we all like to do things for our significant other to make them feel loved But while buying a beautiful piece of jewelry or spending a fortune on dinner may make them feel special, creating a mound of debt in the process is not very loving. Today, let’s look at creative ways to keep that date cheap without being a cheap date.

    For Valentine’s Day, you might feel the need to pull out all the stops, but it’s not necessary. Sure, some people want to celebrate the holiday in a lavish way, but others prefer to go the low-key route. Whether you fit into these descriptions or fall somewhere in the middle, there are a romantic date ideas for Valentine’s Day or the weekend before that suit every budget.

    FLOWERS When it comes to flowers, you usually get what you pay for and one way to cut costs is to hand deliver, this can save anywhere from $8 to $20. You could look at localliving.com or other group buying sites in your area which has been offering great deals on flowers. Another option is to get a potted bowl of blooms that she will see everyday. Treat them right and they will survive all year or longer for the price of cut flowers.

    THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS – One kind of fun option reminds me of one of my favorite romantic comedies, “Kate and Leopold” and that is to give flowers with specific meanings. Go to TheFlowerExpert to find out the meaning of different flowers. For example, red roses mean romantic love while a bouquet of mixed roses means “I don’t know my feelings about you yet, but I’m sending you roses anyway.” Carnations are a less expensive option and a red carnation conveys love pride, beauty and admiration.  Daisys are also inexpensive and convey “loyal love.” A sunflower symbolizes pure thoughts and it’s one that my 16 year son is getting his special friend-who-is-a-girl. So you can select a cheaper flower if, and only if, you write a note explaining the meaning of the flower and why you chose it for your true love.

    DINNER – Eating out for Valentines is really important and there are quite a few ways to save a lot in this area and still have a nice time together.  Lunch or brunch can be half the price of dinner and you could go on the Sunday before the big day. In fact, some restaurants are offering prix fix menus for the weekend or entire Valentine week. Go to your favorite restaurant’s twitter or facebook page and see what specials they are offering to get the best value. Some of these values are only offered to social media friends. You can also go to www.restaurant.com where gift certificates have gone on sale this week. You can  get a $25 gift certificate for your favorite restaurant for as little as $2. Check community billboards at your local chamber of commerce website. For example, in our area, a local Greek center is offering a romantic, candlelight dinner for two with champagne, flowers, dinner and dancing for $50 a person. While this may not seem like a bargain at first, when you add up the cost of the individual items like the food, flowers, bottle of bubbly and a cover charge you would have to pay to dance, it’s an all inclusive deal that is sure to please. Plus, you can learn how to dance the Kalamatianos, a traditional Greek dance.

    A SHOW – If you have a little more to spend, and want to take in a show, then go to broadwaybox.com or goldstar.com to find great prices on tickets.  Remember that you don’t have to attend on Valentines week for it to count, you only have to have purchase the tickets and presente them as a gift! We saw Phantom on Broadway for 50% off and got great orchestra seating. Or, if you want to give a gift that will cost less each time you use it, buy a season’s pass to a museum at www.museumca.org  and not only can you visit your local museum whenever you want for the year, but you also have reciprocal privileges at 400 other museums. The same applies to zoos and aquariums, go to www.aza.org (association of zoos and aquariums.)

    Send me your questions or your ideas and I’ll answer them in my next blog!

    Ellie Kay

    America’s Family Financial Expert ®

    Valentines Day 2013

     

    Even after 25 years of marriage, Valentines Day is still consider a “high holy day” in the Kay house! If Bob ever lived in a world where he thought he could skip over the day in an effort to “save money” he would end up spending Valentines with Buddy, our mini schnauzer in his dog house! But you don’t have to spend a lot for your gift to mean a lot, here are some ideas that may help.

    Is it OK to Scrimp on Valentine’s Day?

    For Valentine’s Day, you might feel the need to pull out all the stops, but it’s not necessary. Sure, some people want to celebrate the holiday in a lavish way, but others prefer to go the low-key route. Whether you fit into these descriptions or fall somewhere in the middle, there are a romantic date ideas for Valentine’s Day or the weekend before that suit every budget.

    The Least Expensive Way to Spend Feb 14th

    After a home-cooked meal, snuggle up with your honey and enjoy a movie night on the cheap. Look for specials at Redbox and get a romantic dramedy plus an action movie to keep both of you happy. Or get both action and romance by renting a flick like “Knight and Day” with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. If you are an amazon prime member then you have access through your computer or TV to free movies that are not available for free to non-members. You may not even be aware of the freebies offered, so be sure to check them out. If you want to rent the latest episode of Downton Abbey, then it’s available at amazon for only $1.99 per episode (and you don’t even have to return the flick afterwards).

    Flower Power

    When it comes to flowers, you usually get what you pay for and one way to cut costs is to hand deliver, this can save anywhere from $8 to $20. You could look at grouponLocal Living, Living Social or SeizeTheDeal for offers such as $20 for $40 worth of flowers with FTD.

    One kind of fun option reminds me of one of my favorite romantic comedies, “Kate and Leopold” and that is to give flowers with specific meanings. Go to TheFlowerExpert.com to find out the meaning of different flowers. For example, red roses mean romantic love while a bouquet of mixed roses means “I don’t know my feelings about you yet, but I’m sending you roses anyway.” Carnations are a less expensive option and a red carnation conveys love pride, beauty and admiration. Daisys are also inexpensive and convey “loyal love.” A sunflower symbolizes pure thoughts. So you can select a cheaper flower if, and only if, you write a note explaining the meaning of the flower and why you chose it for your true love.

    Dinner and a Show

    Going out for dinner seems to be a Valentine’s Day mainstay and dinner for two can range anywhere from $20 to $200 or more. How to you have a nice meal without sending a signal to your mate that you want to spend as little as possible? After all, aren’t they worth a splurge on Valentine’s Day?

    There are quite a few ways to save a lot in this area and still have a nice time together. Lunch or brunch can be half the price of dinner and you could go on the Sunday before the big day. In fact, some restaurants are offering prix fix menus for the weekend or entire Valentine week. Go to your favorite restaurant’s twitter or facebook page and see what specials they are offering to get the best value. Some of these values are only offered to social media friends.

    You can also go to restaurant.com where gift certificates have gone on sale this week. You can get a $25 gift certificate for your favorite restaurant for as little as $6 by entering the coupon code found at RetailMeNot. Check community billboards at your local chamber of commerce website. For example, in our area, a local Greek center is offering a romantic, candlelight dinner for two with champagne, flowers, dinner and dancing for $50 a person. While this may not seem like a bargain at first, when you add up the cost of the individual items like the food, flowers, bottle of bubbly and a cover charge you would have to pay to dance, it’s an all inclusive deal that is sure to please. Plus, you can learn how to dance the Kalamatianos, a traditional Greek dance. Can you say, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding!”?

    Great Dates that Double As A Great Gift

    Right now, there are some great deals to be had at Travelzoo such as a quick, 2 night getaway on a $299 cruise, with an oceanview room. Bob and I took a cruise this way and really loved it. This week, there are also really nice hotels from Orlando to Seattle that range from $49 to $99 a night. Or, if you want to get up, up and away, there’s a $125 two hour helicopter ride featured.

    Ellie Kay

    America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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