A Financial Education Event
     

Valentines Day

Even after 30 years of marriage, Valentines Day is still consider an important day in the Kay house! In our large family, I would also get the boys a card/gift and Bob would get our daughter the same. Today, I send Valentines to my grands and my single sons. That can add up, when you also add in my main Valentine–the old fighter pilot.

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. If you are “zero tv” and have netflix, hulu, or amazon prime member then you have access 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.

Gifts that Give to Non-Profits

By shopping at amazon, you can give the gift that gives! If you haven’t link

ed your amazon account to the amazon smile option, then do that right away. Every purchase you make will benefit Heroes at Home and they’ll make a contribution to our non-profit that helps military members by helping to provide free financial education.

 

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 GrouponLiving Social 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)

The Science of Laughter

Next week, I have the privilege of keynoting at the AFCPE symposium and I’ll present The Science of Laughter. This is a topic near to my heart because it’s the way I’ve lived my life.

When I married my husband, I got a three for one deal: I married the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot and I also inherited two young stepdaughters. Then my groom said, “let’s join the active duty Air Force and we can see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in seven years for a total of seven children. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned, very quickly, that I needed to learn to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.

I chose laughter.

I chose joy.

And my life has been better for it.

It has been said that “Laughter is Good Medicine,” but why is that actually true? There are a number of ways that laughter benefits the health and wealth of the communities we serve. These benefits exist on a number of levels.

 

The Physical Benefits of Laughter – Research from a variety of sources, including UCLA’s famous RxLaughter program explains what happens to someone physically when they laugh.  It has a measurable benefit for an individual’s blood pressure and stress levels, it decreases heart disease, and improves overall physical health. In fact, Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University, asserts that “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite effects of stress.”  The amazing result is that when we laugh more, we stress less.

 

The Social Benefits of Laughter Robert R. Provide, a behavioral neuroscientist from the University of Maryland indicates that laughter is a social behavior. His studies testify that humor is contagious & can spread to an audience, it’s actually a form of communication. Sara Algoe, an associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has said, “We think laughter can draw us closer together to other people and grease the wheels for better social interaction”

There is also a specific science behind jokes, anecdotes and one-liners. When you build these into your work and presentations, everyone receives a quick, mental vacation.

 

The Financial Benefits of Laughter – You may have heard the classic premise of “laughing all the way to the bank,” but it is actually true in some ways.  The quantitative data & my own personal experience proves how incorporating laughter into speaking events, financial education & contract negotiations improve an entrepreneur’s bottom line. Humor also helps teams maximize efficiency, effectiveness and it facilitates employee retention.

I was once working a contract to gain funding for Heroes at Home, my non-profit dedicated to providing free financial education to young military members. I was making very little headway with lead decision maker and it looked like we were going to end in a “no deal” situation. We decided to table the discussion until the end of our lunch together. I took the time to share humorous anecdotes about my biggest gaffes in my work with these service members and also shared some lighthearted stories that made the table begin to laugh. And I shared more and they laughed more. You’ve probably guessed the end of this story—we got our funding and more. I didn’t share the stories to get the contract, I shared them to lighten the environment. In the end, everyone was happier, and my military audiences were the ones who gained the most.

Take Away/Application to the Field

There is a very specific take away to the Science of Laughter and the way it applies to the entrepreneurs, the field of financial education and AFC® practitioners. I’ve seen these results in some of the 2000 financial education presentations that I’ve made to hundreds of thousands of participants and I’ve been gratified by the results. Using laughter helps in many unexpected ways such as information retention, better health and as a way to grow your business.

 

Information Retention – Humor helps the AFC®’s clients learn more in financial education sessions, whether it’s one-on-one or in front of 5,000 people. By including very specific humorous examples & conducting exercises that are effective but are also workplace appropriate, we can help our clients and audiences retain more information. One of my guiding principles is: when in doubt about a joke, always err on the side of propriety. I’m not willing to lose an audience member in the name of humor if it could alienate them in the process. But sharing a lighthearted quote or story can give the mind a break and then allow my audience to reengage in order to learn more.

 

Greater Health – Incorporating humor into your work life not only helps others, it helps the entrepreneur as well. If you are presenting at a workshop, a keynote or even in your own Toastmasters group, your audiences can experience this real time with some simple, short exercises that they can do during the session you present. One such exercise is to have them imagine what they would look like if they were shocked with an electrical shock, then turn to the person next to them, and without a word–imitate that look. It’s almost impossible NOT to laugh.

Another example of seeing this in action was when I was at FinCon19 and one of the keynote speakers quoted Mayo Angelou’s famous quote, “’I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Bethany Bayless, the wildly funny FinCon emcee, applauded the speaker and then said to the audience, “Now turn to the person sitting next to you, put your hand on their arm and say, ‘I will always remember how you feel.’” It took a moment for them to understand the humorous twist. But it was such an in-the-moment and funny turn on the quote that the audience kept laughing, in waves, for a full 3 minutes.” They needed the mental break from the heavy content they just heard from the keynote and this humorous exercise was just what the doctor ordered.

Grow Your Practice and your Business – Incorporating humor improves audience feedback and can lead to more opportunities for the practitioner. It’s one of the reasons we use liberal doses of humor in our podcast, The Money Millhouse. Whether it is word of mouth amongst individual clients, a greater social following or a demand for these skills in front of larger audiences, anyone can grow a practice or a business by adding the tool of laughter to their toolkit.

New Year Savings Habits

You are what you think! That’s what positive thinking gurus tell us and I believe it to a certain extent. But thinking it without doing something about it isn’t going to help you develop better money habits. In this New Year, I’m challenging you to implement some really easy money savings habits. Let me know which of these that: 1) you already do and 2) you are going to start doing or 3) you ain’t ever gonna do, no way, no how!

PRICE MATCHING—ASK YOUR STORE

If you have a store that will match competitors’ ads, then this helps save time and money. Most Walmart stores offer this benefit to their consumers. This price-matching tip is also good outside of the grocery area because there are dozens of other stores that will honor competitors’ ads, including Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, the military exchanges, and more. Since these policies vary from year to year (and even month to month), it’s important to inquire at the customer service desk before you try to use the price-matching benefit.

To implement this tip, just take in all the local sale ads and have the store match the sale price from the circulars, or pull them up on your phone. There may be some restrictions, so be sure you ask for the details at the customer service desk. For example, Walmart will not honor a “buy one/get one free,” nor will they honor “percentage off” sales. But they will substitute their brand for other store brands that are on sale and it may even end up being a better-quality deal!

 

SEARCH HIGH AND LOW FOR BARGAINS

In today’s grocery stores, many bargains are located on the top and bottom shelves. The expensive items are at eye level. To those in marketing, the reason is obvious—you’ll buy something that’s in front of your nose! Also, avoid the floral, deli, and bakery departments. They’re usually overpriced and can bust your budget.

 

USE A SHOPPING LIST—DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

When shopping, you should never leave home without an organized list. It minimizes time spent in the store and helps you stay on target, thus avoiding impulse buying. It can also serve as a reminder of sale prices and coupons you may have. When I first started saving money with coupons and sales, there were only flyers and paper coupons. Flipp is an app that combines the best of old and new by providing a digital library of all the latest flyers and help you build a shopping list within the app. Just tap on a digitized coupon or product and the app will circle it and add it to your digital grocery list.

 

SAVE ON TRAVEL

My crafty little informant over at Hopper just gave me the 2018 Travel Cheat Sheet telling you when the best time to buy is for those 2018 trips. It gives fantastic insider tips, for example:

  • When to buy airfare for major US holidays
    • President’s Day: Book by Monday, January 29
    • Easter: Book by Sunday, February 18
    • Fourth of July: Book by Wednesday, June 13
  • Top 10 domestic and international destinations to watch in January for the best deals:
    • Los Angeles: Round-trip flight prices currently average $328, but are expected to drop 43% this month.
    • Las Vegas: Round-trip flight prices currently average $178, but are expected to drop 28% this month.
    • Cartagena, Colombia: Round-trip flight prices currently average $354, but are expected to drop 35% this month.
    • Lisbon, Portugal: Round-trip flight prices currently average $622, but are expectedto drop 32% this month.

If you’re wanting to read more about saving money on travel, check out Wanderlust For Less, an upbeat look at ways to save money on travel AND still pay the light bill.

COUPON APPS AND WEBSITES

My son, Jonathan, gave me his back-

 

to-school-for-the-spring-semester wish list. He had a gorgeous item that was a pair of shoes at the Bostonian website. The first thing I did was look up the online site in RetailMeNot. Instantly, I got a coupon for 25% off the exact shoes Jonathan wanted. That’s something that made both of us happy.

Coupon Sherpa and CouponMom are also user friendly apps to help you find great values at your local store. Download these apps and use them regularly to save 30 percent or more. Both use geographic location or zip codes to target deals at stores near you. You may also want to try the Redlaser app, it can be used to scan the bar code of a product and find out if the item is cheaper elsewhere.

Don’t forget to listen to my quirky, sometimes geeky co-host, Bethany Bayless and myself on our new podcast called The Money Millhouse. We’ve give lots of tips after drinking lots of coffee and have some of the best financial guests in America on our show! 

Remember to let you know what you are already doing, what you’re gonna do and what you ain’t gonna ever do to save money in 2018!

Coffee Is On Us at The Coolest New Financial Podcast on the Planet!

Live, from Ellie’s kitchen table… it’s The Money Millhouse!

WELCOME TO THE FINANCIAL SHOW ANYONE CAN LISTEN TO!

The conversation gets lively and somewhat ridiculous when Ellie and Bethany share a cup of coffee (or four) over Ellie’s kitchen table. They not only have fun at The Money Millhouse, their conversations about saving money, couples communication, spend plans, super heroes and more make you feel like you are drinking coffee right along with them. Coffee, friends, money, sometimes random singing… what could be better?

Each week on this little-over-20-minute podcast, a special guest joins Ellie and Bethany at the table to discuss relevant money-related issues. From saving for retirement and credit chats, to home-based business tips and maybe a thing or two about what Star Wars has to do with coffee, there is always something to talk about.

The Money Millhouse will teach you while entertaining you with offbeat humor, geek-speak and money tips you never knew existed. If you can put up with Ellie’s annoying dogs announcing the next guest to come to Ellie’s door for a cup of Joe and a light hearted but important conversation, then you’ll get the maximum return on your time investment.

Come on in to The Money Millhouse, where we brew up money saving tips and tricks for anyone’s lifestyle. You might even learn a few secrets in the Millhouse closet.

This week, the show kicks off with a bang when Bethany

and Ellie talk about saving money when it comes to eating healthy including menu planning and tips at the grocery store. Start your menu planning by looking into your pantry and avoid wastage. Danna Demetre joins the conversation talking about the fact that the same principles to save money are the same when it comes to your health as well. Learn about which poisons (that go into your body) to cut out, which sweetener is the best for your body and why disease can be expensive. Also learn why having Mental Health Days (can you say a Disney day?) are important and natural days to de-stress.

The Money Millhouse is a production of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that gives financial education to military families around the world. To find out more about Heroes at Home, or to make an end of the year donation, visit heroesathome.org

The Money Millhouse – Podcast Extraordinaire

Live, from Ellie’s kitchen table… it’s The Money Millhouse!

WELCOME TO THE FINANCIAL SHOW ANYONE CAN LISTEN TO!

The conversation gets lively and somewhat ridiculous when Ellie and Bethany share a cup of coffee (or four) over Ellie’s kitchen table. They not only have fun at The Money Millhouse, their conversations about saving money, couples communication, spend plans, super heroes and more make you feel like you are drinking coffee right along with them. Coffee, friends, money, sometimes random singing… what could be better?

Each week on this little-over-20-minute podcast, a special guest joins Ellie and Bethany at the table to discuss relevant money-related issues. From saving for retirement and credit chats, to home-based business tips and maybe a thing or two about what Star Wars has to do with coffee, there is always something to talk about.

The Money Millhouse will teach you while entertaining you with offbeat humor, geek-speak and money tips you never knew existed. If you can put up with Ellie’s annoying dogs announcing the next guest to come to Ellie’s door for a cup of Joe and a light hearted but important conversation, then you’ll get the maximum return on your time investment.

Come on in to The Money Millhouse, where we brew up money saving tips and tricks for anyone’s lifestyle. You might even learn a few secrets in the Millhouse closet.

The Money Millhouse is a production of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that gives financial education to military families around the world. To find out more about Heroes at Home, visit heroesathome.org.

The Money Millhouse Crew:

Ellie Kay is the wife of the “World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot”, mother of 5 children, 3 fur-babies, and best-selling author of fifteen books and a popular media guest on Fox and ABC News, among others. Ellie is the founder of the non-profit “Heroes at Home” and has taken this financial literacy tour around the country and the world for the last decade. Ellie loves roller coasters, ziplining and all kinds of adventure and once took a ride in an F-15 E Strike Eagle, which she said it was less scary than walking into her youngest son’s dorm room. Find Ellie’s personal blog at EllieKay.com.

Bethany Bayless is the wife of Travis, mother of London (goldendoodle puppy), and Director of Communications for Heroes at Home. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL, and has been a social media coordinator for several organizations including two international groups. She is a self-professed geek, aspiring home-cook, and globe-trotter (not the basketball kind). In her spare time, Bethany draws and handletters, throws tennis balls for her puppy, London, and quotes movie lines with her family near and far. Find her blog at wanderlust4less.com.

Holiday Travel Hacks by Bethany Bayless

Ah, the Holidays—it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Also the most expensive—especially when you don’t live near your loved ones. Holiday travel can be awesome or awful. Here are a few tips that can help when it comes to booking your travel.

  1. Avoid Peak Days: Don’t travel on peak days. Guess what—Everyone is flying those days! They are by far the most expensive days to fly. For Christmas, those days are December 22, 23, and 24. For New Year, it is December 29 and January 2. Look at your schedule to see if you are able to tweak your travel days just a little to get the best price on flights.
  2. Travel Early or Late in the Day: Another thing to keep in mind is that the cheapest flights are generally the first and last flights of the day. Don’t be afraid to adjust your sleeping schedule just a bit by flying super early or super late. These are going to be the cheaper flights.
  3. Do your research: Use apps like Hopper to find the cheapest days to fly. They will even keep you alerted to when it comes time to buy at the cheapest rate. With Holiday travel, buying sooner rather than later is always advised.
  4. Shop Around: When it comes to flying, use those dates you got from Hopper and plug them into a site like skyscanner.com, or go directly to airlines sites. Southwest only posts on their website—so make sure you check Southwest for the prices they have on flights. Keep in mind, also, that though Southwest is not always the cheapest fare, your bags will always fly for free. That can make all the difference!
  5. Send Presents Ahead: If you can get away with it, don’t check a bag. We know the holidays mean lots of presents. Think ahead—use Amazon Prime to ship directly to the people receiving them or the house you will be staying in, or send them ahead of time. It will save you headaches when it comes to sweating your connections or losing your bags. It will save you time, and sometimes it can even save you money!

What are some of your favorite tips and ways to save money when it comes to Holiday Travel?

Bethany Bayless is a popular speaker, blogger and emcee. She worked in Europe for a non-profit organization before becoming the Director of Communications for the non-profit, Heroes at Home. Her work can be found at WanderlustforLess

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything

BGadmin

My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   

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I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

What I Luv About Southwest Airlines – part 3

BGadmin

When my grandson, Liam was born, I had already scheduled a trip to see him. But he would be 8 weeks old and on the verge of no longer being a newborn. I couldn’t stand it, I had to see him sooner than later. I went online, changed my flight home from a business trip in NYC to go to Dallas and I saw that beautiful blue eyed boy! It was so worth it to hold him in my arms and experience the joy of the miracle of life.

All of this was possible because I was flying #Southwest and there were no change fees. I only had to pay the current cost of the fare. But since I was flying business class, with a client paying the bill, I could downgrade it and break even in my out of pocket costs—sweet!

Today is part three of a three-part series on how to get the most bang out of your buck when flying Southwest airlines @SouthwestAir. Parts one and two got a lot of responses!

Companion Pass

If you earn 110,000 points in a calendar year, then you earn a companion pass for the rest of the current year and the following year. You can choose your companion and only change it three times. I have had Companion for a couple years now and Bethany Bayless, our Heroes at Home Director of Communication flies for free, saving our non-profit thousands in air fares.

Keep in mind that you cannot use purchased or transferred points toward
this tier. If you purchase a trip on points, then your companion can still come along!

 

Purchasing Points or Fares?

I’ve shown you all kinds of ways to earn points, but what about purchasing points? If you subscribe to the email alerts and you get a Southwest Chase card, you will be notified when points go on sale. These sales vary tremendously such as earning 30%, 40% or even 50% in bonus points when you purchase these. But remember that they don’t count toward tiers and when you fly on points, that flight won’t help you earn your next tier level (other than the dollar amount spent on your Chase Southwest card to purchase them) because you will only earn points on flights purchased with dollars. You can also gift or transfer points from one Rapid Rewards member to another or donate points to charity. You can normally get 10,000 p
oints for $275. Right now, they are on sale for 25% off their normal amount when you purchase 5,000 points or more by August 1st.

When it comes to purchasing fares, you have the advantage of earning points on your flights but you also won’t get your money back unless you purchase the pricey fully refundable fares. The good news is that you can use your unused fares for up to a year toward another flight in your name. But you cannot use them for someone else. So, if you’re flying your college student home for spring break and they want to go to the Bahamas instead, you won’t get the money back and you’ll have to bring that same child for Christmas or another flight within a year from the date of original purchase. Instead, we usually fly our kids around on points because if/when they are cancelled, they go back into my account and I can use them on anyone.

My Happy Seat

By flying the way that I’ve outlined, I’d say that I get exit row about 90% of the time. I will get the exit row with the double seats (and an empty space next to one of the seats.) I also like the biggest exit row that is across from the double seats. I get the exit and Bethany gets the window seat. Then we hope no one sits in the middle (I’m tempted to get an emergency bag and pretend I’m sick to my stomach to discourage people from sitting there, but I don’t!). There’s more room in these rows and I like the extra space. On the 800 series, there are double the exit rows. You can look at the plane from the boarding area and if there are two doors in the center of the plane, then it’s your lucky day to double your chances of getting an exit row.

 

Higher Math – Frequent Fliers Only

Sometimes, at the end of the year (see Early Bird), Bethany gets a much lower boarding number than I do and we look at whether we want to upgrade her boarding position to priority boarding along with the Business Select passengers (A-1 through A-15). We will ask the gate attendant how many “through passengers” there are on the flight before we decide to buy. These are the passengers that stay on the plane from the previous leg and they can move about the cabin to get the good seats. If there are many “throughs,” then it’s a waste of money to upgrade. But if there aren’t that many, then it could be worth it so that we can try to get those coveted exit rows. Interested side note, most of the passengers who get on the plane first, want to sit at the front of the plane so they can be the first off. That can leave the exit rows open for those who board later.

Wild Rides, New Friends, Free Drinks and Quick Exits

I remember the first time that I flew out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County. I was already a frequent traveler, but usually flew into Burbank or LAX. So, when I took off from John Wayne and the airplane put us back in our seat like the California Screamin’ rollercoaster at Disney’s California Adventure park, I was unprepared. It kind of freaked me out a bit because it wasn’t “normal.” The flight attendant told me that there are very strict noise ordinances and they must climb out that way to stay within regulations.

Another tip is something I do almost by mistake. When my Apple Watch tells me I need to get my stand goal, I go to the back of the plane at 5 minutes before the top of the hour and stay there until after the hour, moving around a bit to get my stand goals (please tell me I’m not a little compulsive on my daily Apple Watch goals.) In the process, I talk to the flight attendants and make new friends. Sometimes we laugh a lot and it’s great. In fact, I’ve been offered free drinks dozens of times from my new flight attendant friends, but I don’t drink, so I usually decline. But if you DO drink, you could save money this way, too!

One last hack, when you fly into or out of my favorite airport in the whole world, Burbank, be aware that you embark and debark both at the front and back of the plane. If you sit at the back, you’ll also be one of the first people off the plane when you land in Burbank.

 

 

What Do I Do With My Southwest Points?

When I’m on tour with Heroes at Home, we can be on as much as 70% travel and it’s not all glamour and glitz. It’s long and sometimes exhausting days that takes us away from family and our puppy dogs. But providing free financial education to military members is worth it. Currently, I have 200,000+ points. I use them for creating forever memories with friends and families. I’ve flown friends to weddings, military members home for the holidays and children to graduations. In fact, my next trip on points is to go see a new grandson who is due next month.

Southwest, thank you for helping me spread the love!

What I Luv About Southwest Airlines – Favorite Hacks Part 1

BGadmin

If you’ve never flown Southwest Airlines before, then you may not be aware that they board by groups and by number. When you get on the airplane, it’s open seating—first come, first served. I was boarding with an A-18 number which lined up adjacent to the higher numbers. An outgoing Millennial lady came up to another a Boomer woman standing on my left and asked, “what number are you?” Because she wanted to line up in order.

The well dressed and friendly Boomer answered, “I’m 50.”

I leaned over and whispered, “You don’t look a day over 35.”

At first she was surprised, but then smiled, “Actually, I’m 55 years old.” She whispered, “And I like 55.”

Cool. Gotta Luv a woman comfortable in her own skin!

This is not a sponsored post for this airline. I’m writing about this simply because it’s a big part of my life and a lot of my followers use this discount airline. I fly Southwest in order to save our Heroes at Home organization money on travel when we provide free financial education for our military members.

Here are my favorite hacks to fly high with less stress and more money in your pocket:

Shop the Sales

If you know you are traveling in a few months, then don’t buy right away. Keep an eye on the sales in order to get the “Wanna Get Away” fares, which are the cheapest. Subscribe to Click N Save in order to get an alert when fares go on sale. Keep in mind that you can look for fares in either dollars or points and when fares go on sale in dollars, they also go on sale in points.

Shortcut to Savings

If you have any latitude in when you fly, then you may want to check out the Low Fare Calendar

This resource gives the lowest fare on the calendar date for the month. It will only list the lowest fare for the day, so you’ll have to pick and choose the schedule you want and it may not be the lowest of the day. Sometimes, I just use the calendar to avoid buyer’s remorse in realizing there wasn’t a cheaper fare on a different day.

Rapid Rewards

Sign up for the frequent flyer card at the Rapid Rewards center on Southwest.com. This isn’t the credit card, it’s a number you get when you enroll that you will also enter when you book travel. These points don’t expire as long as you show some kind of points generating activity once every 24 months with either flights or partners. See below for partner opportunities as well as part two in next week’s blog.


Southwest Credit Card

Be sure you check out the Chase Southwest Chase credit card if you really want to generate points to earn more flights. Right now, brand new cardholders can earn 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. I recommend that you pay off your card each month to avoid paying interest. The annual fee is $69 and if you have a friend who already has this card, then let them sign you up on a referral. That way, you can earn the same benefit of 40,000 points, but your friend can earn 10,000 points as well. These benefits change regularly, so be sure you know the current terms before you sign up. You earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, then you earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. If you have a business, then you can rack up even more points by using it early and often. Just make sure you pay attention to utilization and if you charge more than 30% of the available credit, then pay off the balance before the billing cycle ends. This will help you keep a good credit score.

Partner Points

If you book a rental car on the Southwest.com portal, then you can earn 2 points per $1 or more, depending on the provider. You can also book hotels for points and can earn as much as 10,000 per night (I’ve never found a provider that actually gives me that many for one night because they are for hotels in other cities that I’m not visiting.) They disclose how many Rapid Rewards points they will give you when you are booking.

Rapid Rewards Dining

celebrating our sweet points!

If you sign up for rapid rewards dining, then you can earn points in partner restaurants by registering every card you may use in a restaurant (not just your Chase SWA card). I’ve registered all of my own cards and my husband’s debit and credit cards, too. I keep it simple by just going to the restaurants we want to eat at and if I end up getting a bonus, it’s icing on the cake. If you want to be more proactive, you can look at the list of partner restaurants and visit one of those for more points. Be sure you read the rules associated with the dining points, so you know what to expect.

These hacks are too good for just one post, so join us next week to see how you can earn even more points by shopping in order to earn tier benefits and whether you should invest in Early Bird or not.

What’s your favorite @SouthwestAir city to visit?

Your Questions about Organics, Vacations & Broadway Tickets!

I was on ABC NEWS Good Money again this week, answering your questions!

Q. We are trying to feed my family a healthier, organic menu, especially when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. But it’s making us go broke because organic costs so much. Are there ways to save in this area?

Samantha and Ted from Riverside, CA via facebook

Ellie: Yes, according to the USDA organic can cost as much as 50% to 100% more than non-organic. When it comes to fresh produce, spend your “organic” dollars on those products you have higher levels of pesticide residue, even after washing—such as any kind of berries, apples, potatoes, cherries and grapes. Then you could go with non-organic for pineapples, bananas, mangos, broccoli, onions, cauliflower and corn. Or, try to buy from Farmers Markets and local farms, for a list of organic farms, go to localharvest.org . When it comes to other products, look for store brand organics, buy in bulk or go to couponmom.com to find deals in your area on organic products.

Q. My husband says it’s going to be cheaper to drive from New York to our timeshare in Florida because there are fewer flights and the price of airline tickets is going up this summer. Once we get to Florida, we don’t need a rental car as everything is within walking distance and we’re mainly spending our time at the beach. By the time we pay for one night’s hotel each way on the drive down, I think it’s going to be much cheaper to fly. My husband said he’d go with your opinion.

Al and Sharon from Oxford, NY via online contact form

ELLIE: Wow, no pressure here! It’s going to be pretty easy for you to calculate who is right. Just go to costToDrive.com to calculate the mileage, gas, travel time and carbon footprint of anywhere in the US. You’ll also need to go to hotels.com to add that expense to your total. Then, go to bookingbuddy.com to find the best price on airfare. This site will compare the prices from other travel sites such as expedia, orbitz, Travelocity, cheaptickets and more. Do the math and the winner has to buy the loser an iced tea once you get there!

Q: We’re taking a big vacation to New York city later this summer and I’m really looking forward to it. We want to see some broadway shows while we are there. On one hand, I want to make sure we get tix for the nights we’re there at the shows we want to see, but on the other hand, I don’t want to pay full price. Should I buy the tix beforehand or should I take a chance and go to the Times Square half price ticket booth once I get there?

Audrey Dixson submitted via Online Contact Form

Ellie: Congrats, Audrey on an upcoming cool trip. I LOVE New York and try to go to the theater every time I’m there! If you go to the half price ticket booth, you’re going to save 50% but chances are good you’re going to “invest” about 3 hours of your time (or more) traveling to Times Square earlier in the day and waiting in line. Then, there aren’t any guarantees the show you want to see will be listed. You also have to pay cash. On the other hand, you can save 40 to 50% by buying your tickets online at broadwaybox.com or goldstar.com, which is where I always buy my tix. Most of the time I’m saving at least 40% (instead of the 50% I’d save at the half price tix booth). This translates into me paying $10 more per ticket. I also save three hours of my time in NYC. I figure my time is worth more than $3.33 per hour! So buy online and enjoy the show!

Q. What do you think of prepaid hotel rooms—the kind that are non-refundable? Is it worth it to “invest” in one of these ahead of time to save money? Or should I just wait until I get there and look around for the best deal?

Moriah Stephens from Allentown, PA

Ellie: I’ve purchased the prepaid rooms and it’s a good deal when: 1) rooms are going to be scarce or at a premium—such as a convention, sporting event or graduation and 2) the savings is at least 30%. To comparison shop, you can go to hotels.com, priceline.com and travelzoo.com .

Q. For the last few years, we’ve always bought the entertainment book that has coupons for restaurants, sporting events, oil changes, dry cleaning and more. We pay $35 for the book and I’m not sure it’s worth it because I don’t think we’re really using it that much. Do you buy these books?

Mike from Mechanicsville, VA via Ellie Kay’s blog

Ellie: Right now, Mike, you can get the 2010 book (which expires at the end of this year) for free when you reserve a 2011 book. If you use just one of the buy one/get one free coupons for dinner at an upscale restaurant, then it has paid for itself. Most offer $12,000+ in values and if you only use 1% of that, you’ve saved $120—less the $35 price of the book for a total savings of $85. Keep the book in your car, check it religiously and save righteously!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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