A Financial Education Event

Tap Into Financial Freedom in Seven Easy Steps


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)

Tips For Graduates Student Loan Debt


By now, the hats are tossed, tears are wiped away and the celebratory cake is gone for recent graduates, and now they are beginning their new lives in the real world. Like many of their predecessors in previous years, this year’s graduating class faces a wretched job market where there may be as many as five candidates for every job. Consequently, one of the most daunting tasks becomes the challenge of not falling behind on student loans. While challenging times can build moral fiber, you don’t want to build character by getting involved in the debt trap. Here are common questions I am frequently asked, as well as tips on how to keep student loan healthy:

Q. First of all, what are some of the consequences that graduates face by getting behind on student loans?

Ellie: As a mom of kids in college as well as a recent graduate, I know personally, how difficult the job market is and what a challenge these graduates face. First of all there will be interest charged for late payments as well as fees that will inflate the amount they owe—and chances are good that they owe too much as it is! If you default, the government could garnish your wages and withhold your tax refund. Not to mention a huge hit on your FICOscore, when you’re just starting out and trying to build a good score that will help get lower interest rates on a car or a house. It is also becoming more common for employers to check your credit history when considering which candidate to hire.

Q. But you say there is good news and that these dire consequences are avoidable, as least as far as federal student loans are concerned. The key is to understand your options and take action before you fall behind on payments. The first tip you list is to understand your grace period, when do students have to start paying back these loans and how do grace periods vary?

ELLIE: Borrowers typically have a few months after graduation before they are required to start repaying their federal student loans. For most federal student loans, the grace period is only six months. Most loans have up to ten years to repay. It’s important that you contact your loan provider and find out when the statements begin—especially if you haven’t received notification yet.

Q. What if the graduate has trouble finding work or they find an entry level job that typically doesn’t offer much in the way of compensation? Is there recourse for the amount they are required to pay for their loans?

ELLIE: That’s an excellent point and it brings us to our second tip, they need to find out whether they qualify for the income-based repayment program. Under this program, your loan payment could be reduced, based on the amount of discretionary income you have available. In most cases your loan payments won’t exceed 10% of your total income. After 25 years, anything you still owe on the loan will be forgiven.

Q. Is this income based repayment program an automatic enrollment or does the graduate need to apply for it?

ELLIE: You definitely need to apply for it by contacting the company that is servicing your student loan. If you’ve moved a time or two and your loan papers have not been forwarded to you and you are not sure who services your student loan, then you can go to the database of the National Student Loan Data System  National Student Loan Data System.

Q. Is there some paperwork you need to compile before you apply for the income based repayment program?

ELLIE: Yes, it’s important to have this paperwork on hand in order to streamline the process because you do want to get this filed as soon as possible—especially if you’re in danger of being late on loans and you have a genuine financial hardship due to your current income levels. You’ll need to authorize the IRS to provide last year’s tax return to the Department of Education. If you feel that your tax return doesn’t reflect your current situation, there’s a form you can use to show how your situation has changed. Get info on these forms and criteria, as well as links to major student loan servicers at the Project on Student Debt.

Q. We’ve looked at income based repayment, but what about those who need a quick, temporary fix? Maybe they have to take an unpaid internment at first or they may have a job that will become available in six months. Are there options such as deferment or forbearance available to this class of graduates?

ELLIE: If you are unemployed, still in school or experiencing economic hardship, you can apply to have payments on your federal student loans deferred for up to three years. If you have subsidized Stafford loans, which are provided to students who demonstrate financial need, the government will pay the interest on the loans during deferment. Interest on unsubsidized Stafford loans will accrue during deferment. If you don’t qualify for deferment, then you still might be eligible for forbearance, which allows you to put off payments for up to three years. It’s harder to qualify for deferment than it is for forbearance because in forbearance you will still have to pay interest that accrues.

Q. Does it take a long time for the paperwork to go through for these kinds of programs we’ve discussed: income based repayment, deferment and forbearance? Couldn’t a graduate find themselves in default by the time the paperwork is processed?

ELLIE: It’s important that you continue to make full payments until you’re notified otherwise. It takes longer for income based repayments and doesn’t take as long for deferment and forbearance because the latter two are temporary relief from loan payments. Whereas income based repayments could be longer term, depending upon how long you are in that job, making that salary. It’s important to look at forbearance and deferment as short term fixes and not long term—that’s why it’s really important to file for these right away, while you’re looking for a job. But if it looks like your payment problems will last longer than a few months, you definitely need to look at income-based repayment.

Q. Some graduates have huge student loans, in some cases, they have more than $30,000 in principal and interest. It is especially difficult for these grads to face this mountain of student loan debt. Can they extend the payment term in order to get through the first few years?

ELLIE: If you are a borrower who owes more than 30K , most lenders will allow you to extend the term beyond the standard 10 years, thus reducing monthly payments. The amount of interest you pay will increase, though, particularly if you extend payment over the maximum term of 25 years. And who wants to spend the next 30 years paying off a student loan? So I would only recommend this option as a last resort. Try to pay it within the standard 10 year term so that you can avoid thousands of more dollars in interest.

Q. Finally, we’ve discussed federal student loans, but a lot of viewers may hold private student loans that they have to repay. What are their options?

ELLIE: Well, the outlook is not as sunny for those who have private loans. They have fewer options. Private education lenders don’t participate in the income-based repayment program and they’re not required to allow you to defer payments, even if you’re out of work. If you’re having trouble with your private loans, read your loan agreement. It may require that the lender grant you forbearance under certain conditions. Even if your contract doesn’t include an economic hardship provision, your lender may be willing to provide relief. Some lenders have become more flexible in this post-great recession environment. You could ask for interest only payments or even to change the terms of the loan. For more information, go to Student Loan Borrower Assistance

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour Update

We’ve visited JBSA, San Antonio, Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB, Laughlin AFB and the last stop was Sheppard AFB. At every base there are things that are the same: 1) we have a lot of fun presenting financial education to our military audiences 2) everyone wants to win the iPad 3) they are surprised that they can learn and have a good time simultaneously and 4) we are always grateful to USAA for providing for so many aspects of this tour. But

Friends and family at every base!

at every base there are also challenges that our military members face that are unique to that base.

At JBSA there are 11 different units from all branches and consequently we have a “purple” audience with Airmen, soldiers, Marines and sailors in attendance. As a mom with sons in each of these branches, I can still relate to my audiences. At Lackland, which is “out in the middle of nowhere” they were so appreciative that we came “all the way out” to Del Rio, TX, (right by the border) to spend time with them. They were a welcoming audience and have a unique mission of training pilots who will go into all parts of the world, flying different kinds of airplanes. We called them “the little base with a big mission,” they also have big hearts.

This past week, we went to Sheppard AFB and saw yet another demographic of Airmen who are in freshly out of boot camp and in military training for their big world mission. Many are mechanics, but there are all kinds of technical professions trained there as well—60,000 per year. There’s also ENJPT (Euro NATO Jet Pilot Training) where future fighter pilots are trained (about 200 per year).

One of the unique challenges of Airmen at Sheppard is that they are vulnerable

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

financially in two areas: family and love. Some of these young military members are pressured by extended family members to send money back home. We stressed that when you are getting a flight briefing from the flight attendant on a commercial airline, she says, “If the cabin depressurizes, air masks will fall from the upper compartment. If you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, put on your own mask first, then assist them.” That’s the same premise we stressed with our young Airmen, “take care of your own finances first and get financially fit and healthy, then teach your family how to do the same.” From the platform, I stressed the old adage, “You can give a man a fish, and feet him for a day. But you can teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Yep! We gave some fishing lessons.

The other thing that slips up Airmen is love. They spend money they don’t have trying to impress a significant other by going out to eat, to movies and even buying them jewelry. Some of the jewelry stores convince these young Airmen to sign on the bottom line and they end up paying for years at 30% interest for a necklace or a ring. At one point, I almost shouted from the stage, “If you don’t remember anything I said today, remember this: NEVER SIGN FOR A LOAN WITHOUT HAVING SOMEONE LOOK IT OVER!” I believe the 1300 trainees in the audience got that point. “There are folks at Airmen and Family Readiness who would be more than happy to review a loan before you sign it.” This tip alone could save them thousands of dollars on auto, jewelry, computer and personal loans.

     One of my favorite aspects of the Heroes at Home Financial Event is reconnecting with friends and family. In San Antonio, my BFF Brenda Taylor was there in the audience. A friend knows a lot about you, a BFF knows enough to blackmail you. Brenda can blackmail me many times over! At Laughlin AFB, my good friend Beth Runkle was not only instrumental in getting the spouses together the night before the financial event, but she also introduced me as well. I love the heroes in the Runkle family! At Sheppard, our longtime friends, BG Pat “Moon” Doherty and his wife Dee Dee were there to welcome us royally. I’d call him the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot because he did fly me in an F15E Strike Eagle once, but Bob would beg to differ about that designation. These Heroes not only brought me out to Seymour Johnson AFB many “moons” ago, but they were instrumental in bringing this tour to the Air Force!

     But the one audience member on this tour whom I love more than life itself is my son Jonathan, who is a student at ENJPT and was a smiling face that I adore. I removed a slide or two that might prove embarrassing in front of 1300 Airmen and tried really hard to not highlight my son in my presentation or during the tour day. If you want to know if I was successful in this regard, you’ll have to ask Jonathan. Apparently, parents can embarrass their kids without even knowing they are doing that. There was just one time, when I ate a blue mint in the General’s office and then addressed his staff of 55 commanders that might have been a problem. I was told later, my teeth were Air Force Blue.

We may be coming to a base near you, this schedule is constantly changing and we are adding news dates regularly. Contact us at assistant @elliekay.com for more info and continue to Aim High!

Financial Readiness and FICO Scores

On our “Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour” in FY15, one of our most loved segments was given by Gerri Detweiller, who wrote the original book on personal Credit. The Department of Defense realizes that financial readiness impacts military readiness. In fact, credit scores (or Fair Isaac Credit Score) follow you from assignment to assignment and don’t just determine if you qualify for an auto or mortgage loan. Your credit score also can also be an indicator of whether you are allowed to stay in the military or whether you are kindly asked to leave. It’s not so much the score itself, but what the score represents—your credit worthiness. If you have too much debt, then you cannot get the security clearances necessary to do your job and this can follow you into the civilian world as well. Even utility companies check these and decide whether you have to pay a deposit based on the score.

According to recent figures provided by FICO, 25.5% of consumers (nearly 43.4 million) now have a credit score of 599 or less, marking them as bad risks for lenders (see the chart). It makes it is unlikely that this group of people will get credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards that banks now use.

These credit ratings can also make the difference between whether you are accepted or rejected for a new insurance policy or as a renter and much more. That’s why it’s important to know your number. Furthermore, some employers check these scores, which could be the determining factor in whether you get that new job at the next assignment.

Summary: Why do I need a good FICO score?

A good credit score is invaluable to everyone. Here are the benefits of a good score in a nutshell:

  • Security Clearances — If you are having financial problems, as indicated by a FICO score, then you are a security risk and cannot be allowed to work in certain areas requiring a security clearance.
  • LoansA good credit score helps you qualify for loans and get faster loan approval.
  • Interest Rates Your FICO score oftentimes is the determining factor when it comes time to be assigned an interest rate. A better rating can help you get a better mortgage rate and could even make the difference between becoming a homeowner versus a continued renter.
  • 0% APR Have you ever been tempted by the advertisement on a new car, furniture or a new credit card that offers a special “0% APR”? No wonder so many people get in line for these special deals. Few people realize that these kinds of special offers only go to those who have the top levels in the national distribution of FICO scores. If a good credit score holder acquires too many of these kinds of loans, they’ll deteriorate their score. So reserve these for long term loans such as a new automobile.
  • So Close and Yet so Far Sometimes the difference between qualifying for a great deal and not qualifying for it can be as close as twenty points on your FICO score. You may say: “So what? I don’t qualify for it, I can still qualify for a fairly low interest rate.” But it adds up and matters a great deal. The difference on a $20K car loan at a 0% APR versus a 7% to 8% APR is around $1800 over the course of the loan.
  • Job Applications – There are jobs that require high security clearances and government positions that can be impacted by your score as well as employment in the financial sector.
  • Renting – Some people cannot rent a home or an apartment without a good credit score.
  • Utilities – You can often have your security deposit waived if you have a good FICO.
  • Insurance Rates It could also affect what kind of an insurance premium you will pay. Some auto insurers are using credit data to help determine insurance rates. In fact, ninety-two of the 100 largest personal auto insurance companies in the country use credit data in underwriting new business, according to a study by Conning & Co.

Improve FICO Scores in Three Easy Steps:

  • Pay credit bills a day early rather than a day late – Set this up online using automatic pay so that you’ll never be late again.
  • Pay attention to proportionality — Keep your charges at 50% or less of the available credit, even if you pay off the card at the end of each month. This means that if you have a $5,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2500.
  • Pay at least $5 more than the minimum each month – It will show up on your report as paying down your debt which will make your credit score go up!

 For a copy of your FICO score, go to Credit.com and for a free copy of your credit report go to Annual Credit Report and for more help go to your local Airman and Family Readiness Center (or the equivalent in your branch of the service). You can improve your FICO, pay down debt and get fiscally healthy so that you can find the financial freedom that is worth fighting for!




Top Ten Failure Factors for Finances

Welcome to Thursday. Did you know there are only 8 days left in February? By now, it seems that most of our New Year’s resolutions are either given up on, pushed to the side for a little while, or lost a little bit of steam along the way.

It is never too late to reevaluate our resolutions and start over. We never need to wait until the next January 1st to get our finances under control. When we fall off the wagon, it is best to get up and keep going.

Many times when we set goals, they are unachievable. These are the top ten failure factors to setting any goal from my latest book Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

Top Ten Failure Factors:

•   Set unrealistic goals

•   Motivated by the wrong motives

•   Believed failure was inevitable

•   Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often

•   Influenced unduly by other people

•   Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white

•   Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility

•   Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating

•   Procrastinated rather than taking action

•   Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Reread the list above and circle any of the “failure factors” which you believe may be significant influences in your life. Failure needs to be seen as a profound learning opportunity. It’s time to stop trying so hard and start training toward a new way of addressing your wealth challenges. Past failures do not need to be repeated.

After you circle the “failure factors” that may apply to your situation, take the time to write three ways you believe you can counter those factors and turn them into successful areas of your life. I believe in the old saying that “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” Having a plan can be over half the battle in discovering ways to be successful in your finances. But implementing that plan is the other half of finding success.

One of the ways that I have found most people can create and stick to a plan is by having a “money buddy.”  If you are married, this might be your partner, and if you are single, it can be a like-minded friend who is good with their own financial resources. Get together with your money buddy and go over this “failure factor” list. Let them help you come up with ways that you can counter the failure to turn it into success. Then, set a date to meet with your financial partner and track your success. It’s kind of like Weight Watchers for money matters and there is great power in unity with other like-minded people who want to overcome their own failure factors.

For great tips for understanding your money better can be found at mint.com—an excellent site for managing finances. Keep checking in week to week for help along the way. You are not alone in this financial journey! There are so many tools to help along the way.

Ellie Kay

Keeping to the “B” Word

Families usually have favorite restaurants, movies, and even special songs that reflect the character and tastes of the family. Your budget will be just as unique as your family. It will be based on variable factors, such as your family’s size, geographical location, debt load, and income.

When Bob and I first set up a budget, we realized that both of us wanted to have healthy finances, even though we approached money differently. As you go through the sometimes-painful process of establishing and sticking to a family budget, it is important to make a real commitment to these important issues. We also realized that we didn’t need to go overboard by pinching our pennies so tightly that it strained our relationship and took all the enjoyment out of life. So we allowed for an occasional indulgence, implemented budget-cutting techniques slowly, and modified our plan as needed. As time went on, we fine-tuned some aspects of our budget and then did an annual check-up to make adjustments that allowed the budget to become a part of our lifestyle.

Buying a New or New-to-You Car This Fall

What is the least expensive car to drive?

The least expensive car for you to drive is probably the vehicle you are currently driving! So consider driving that paid-for car a little longer and take the money you would spend on a car payment and put it into a car fund in order to reach the goal of eventually paying cash for your cars.

People talk themselves into a new car for a variety of reasons such as gas mileage. However, when you calculate gas mileage and the money “saved” when compared to interest payments and depreciation on that new car, you will find that you do not even come close to saving money. The average new car depreciates roughly 30 percent within the first eighteen months, with an average loss of value of five thousand dollars as soon as you drive it off the dealer lot. So if it really is time to replace your car, always consider purchasing a used vehicle first.

However, there are occasions when a new car may make sense. For example, when interest rates are incredibly low or your family needs the warranty (because of high mileage commutes). Try to get and end-of-the-year clearance model or a demonstrator model. If possible, buy the car at the end of September, which is the end of their fiscal year.

The following tips can apply to buying a new or used car, but each sales point should be negotiated separately.


Negotiate the price of the car at a dealership apart from the value of the trade-in. Tell the salesperson you want to determine the price of the car without the trade-in. The reason you want to do this is because salespeople will often give you far more for your trade than you expected—thus hooking you on the deal. However, this higher-value-for-the-trade-in shtick can be part of the technique they use to get you to purchase the car. If a higher value is given to the trade, then they will give a lower discount on the price of the vehicle, because all the discounting went into the value of the trade.


            Now that you’ve determined the price of the car, ask what the dealer will give you for your trade-in. Most likely, you will get more for your car if you sell it yourself. A little elbow grease and some top-notch detailing can net you hundreds of dollars more than a dealer can give you, if you can find a buyer. Some people (like military families) don’t always have the time to sell their car because of mobbing schedules and so forth. So if you are going to try to trade in your car, look up the value of your existing car at http://www.Kbb.com/ or http://www.Edmunds.com/, print the page, and bring it with you to the car lot to negotiate the price. Consider negotiating the price and trading at the same time. Bottom line: try your best to gather enough facts so that you make a wise decision. Unfortunately, we often see the deal inaccurately as the smell of new leather and gleam of fresh paint job cloud our sensibilities.


The finance and insurance office is where the lions share of a dealerships profit is made. In this office, you will have to navigate interest rates, payments, terms, and warranties. Unless you put miles on your car for business or you are purchasing a car that will cost a lot to repair (and you intend to keep it longer than the warranty lasts), extended warranties are usually not a good value. When it comes to vehicle financing, you can generally do better on interest by selecting your own creditor (unless, of course, the manufacturer is offering a lower APR). The credit life insurance that dealers offer is more expensive than raising your regular insurance premium by twenty thousand dollars to cover this expense. And don’t forget to go to USAA to see if you qualify for great insurance at a great price. We’ve been with this company for three decades!

What is your favorite part of buying a car?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Buy a New Car Cheaper Than a Used One!


The Dream Car That Took 30 Years to Get

My first car was a 1974 Datsun B210. I was fifteen years old and forked over the cash from a multilevel babysitting service that I launched three years earlier. My folks firmly believed that I should pay my own way and it developed a “cash only” sensibility when it came to buying cars. Of course, my baby brother, didn’t have to pay for his car, but THAT is another discussion for another day!  Fast forward a few years (ok, a LOTTA years) and I was able to buy a dream car with that same philosophy. Buying used was the smartest way for me to go—but today, buying used could cost you MORE than buying new in some cases!

 This time of the year is a great time for looking into getting a car. Dealers have the 2013 models rolling in and at the end of the month, some salesmen are eager to deal in order to try and win the “salesman of the month” with all the perks associated with that coveted title. But which models should you look for in a new vehicle instead of used?

The gap between a one–year-old car and a new one can range as much as 20%, meaning the car you paid $25,000 for last year is worth $20,000 this year. Unless you purchase a car model that closes that gap such as a Chevrolet Camaro LT, where a one year old car cost only $126 less than the average price paid for a new 2012! Plus, if you finance, you usually pay a higher interest rate for used car than a new one, so if you include these expenses, a used car can cost more overall than a new one. For example, at Edmunds.com we found a $452 payment for a used, one year old Honda Odyssey minivan versus a $445 a month payment for a new one!

  Here’s the list of cars you should consider buying new according to the Kelly Blue Book:

   Vehicle                                     Price Difference                          Percentage

                                                                    Vs. new                             difference

Chevrolet Camaro LT                         $126                                                    0.5%

Toyota 4Runner SR5                          $254                                                    0.8%

Toyota FJ Cruiser                              $244                                                    0.9%

Subaru Impreza 2.0i                            $150                                                    0.9%

Jeep Wrangler Sport                           $281                                                    0.9%

Honda Fit                                            $234                                                    1.3%

VW Gold TDI 4 door                         $438                                                    1.4%

Kia Rio LX                                         $283                                                    2.1%

Mazda2 4 door                                   $306                                                    2.2%

Chevrolet Equinox LT                        $540                                                    2.2%

If the car you want doesn’t fit in this category, and you are going to buy used, then be doubly safe by ordering a car history from Carfax, AutoCheck and the Justice Department’s new database at nmvtis.gov in order to see if the car has been in a wreck or flood. But don’t stop there, take it for a thorough inspection by an independent mechanic because it’s almost impossible, in some cases to determine if that car is one of the 12% that ends up being a “salvage” car and some of these can end up on a dealers lot. If the used car is a CPO (Certified Previously Owned), then you should be safe.

      Also, whether you are buying new or used, be sure to come to the dealership armed with a printout version of the car’s evaluation/price according to Edmunds.com and/or KBB.com.

Finally, be prepared to negotiate the price of the car in THREE separate steps:

1)    PRICE – Negotiate the price of the car without a trade. Tell them you are thinking of selling your existing car yourself, and get the rock bottom price on the car you want to purchase without the bait and switch tactic of a dealer offering you a padded price on your trade to get you to go for the deal.

2)    TRADE – Once you’re satisfied you’ve negotiated the best price WITHOUT a trade, then negotiate the value of your trade-in vehicle SEPARATE from the price of the car you want to buy.

3)    FINANCING – Check out your own financing through a credit union or other resources before you look at what the dealership has to offer. If you walk in as a “payment buyer” meaning you have to secure a certain monthly payment, then they will work with you to get that monthly payment, even if you end up paying a lot more for the car.

Let me know your tips on how you get a good deal on a vehicle, I’d love to hear from you!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®


Coupon Blessings – Diary of a Coupon Queen

I had five children seven and under, a fighter pilot husband who was gone more than he was home, and we had just made our eleventh military move in thirteen years. Because we moved so much, we homeschooled the kids to give the poor little dears the continuity they needed.  In the midst of keeping a clean home, volunteering at our local base, couponing, grinding our wheat and making our bread, I decided to do something totally unreasonable:  I wrote my first book, Shop, Save and Share. This photo is what we looked like when I penned the “Coupon Queen’s” book, just after coming back from my first book signing.

Besides having a high energy level at that time, the main reason I wrote a book was to help other families get out of the debt the same way we were able dig out from $40,000 in consumer debt. It seemed that writing a book was the best way to get the word out to a lot of people at once.  Fast forward twelve years, and my kids are almost all grown and gone and I now have 14 books under this expanding belt of mine. As I reflect on whether Shop, Save and Share achieved it’s intended purpose, I introduce a guest blogger, Andrea Wiener, who will give us her story. (This is a shortened version, for the full version go to Coupon Blessings.)

Andrea’s Story:

So glad to have this opportunity to tell my story – how God used Ellie Kay and her ministry to help eliminate my $30,000 credit card debt.

 At the age of 17, I was $30,000 in debt from almost a dozen credit cards.  [In 1999] I’m prayin “Lord, I’m still up to my ears in debt and now I gotta stock up on stuff”[for Y2K].

 God quickly started answering that prayer – a few days later, Ellie Kay appeared as a guest on “Life Today” with James and Betty Robison. Ellie had just come out with Shop, Save, and Share – I was excited to read it cos’ here was somebody that made sense – and I wanted to know how to share blessings with others when I didn’t have too much myself – and a whole bunch of debt besides which.

 Ellie’s book was SO simple – I think I ended up dog-earing a few of them – her explanation of couponing and blessings were easy. Simplest concepts were new to me – like using a store coupon with a manufacturers’ coupon!

 As I mastered each concept, I immediately started using it – and moved on to the next one. I used to keep her book in my bag – that’s why it was getting so dog-eared, and I ended up having to buy a few of them.

 What I like about the book is that Ellie’s Christian worldview and integrity come out from the VERY first chapter. I remember this quote from the Shop Save and Share audio/video series – “everything we do must be done with integrity and honor” – so whenever the shelf-clearing tendencies try to take over as I shop, I go back to that.

 In 2000, all my debt was paid off. 12 years later, I have a couponing website (www.couponblessingsnow.com) and a corresponding Facebook page (CouponBlessingsNow) – but if it wasn’t for God putting Ellie Kay and Shop Save and Share into my life, I don’t think I would have any of this.

 My advice to you guys? If you haven’t already, check out Ellie Kay on her website (which is www.elliekay.com) and on her “Ellie Kay” Facebook page – you will be blessed, for she will teach you a LOT.


Thanks, Andrea, for sharing your story today and everyone be sure to check out her blog.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)