A Financial Education Event
     

Blockbuster Deals on Blockbuster Movie Tickets!

 

Blockbuster savings

One of the biggest traditions in the Kay family is watching movies. Well, more specifically, watching movies AND quoting movie lines at every opportune moment. For example, if I were to mention that tradition in front of one my boys, they’d likely pipe in with something like, “Really boot? Why don’t you give me 100 right now?” (Bonus points if you know the reference–scroll to the end of the blog for the answer.)

Like many families, our movie watching time increases in the summer. Kids are out of school, air-conditioned indoors suddenly become more appealing and Hollywood starts cranking out its big-time money-makers. But one of the most important reasons is the fact movie theaters start offering some of their best deals and reward programs of the year.

Here are some of the blockbuster deals from some of the biggest companies in the United States:

  1. Cinemark – These guys are probably the best when it comes to the sheer number of discounts and savings they offer. The Values page on their website is full of printable discounts and coupons such as free popcorn and discounted tickets. These coupons can be used in conjunction with their refillable soda and popcorn cups and tubs. They also offer discounts for seniors, groups, the military and students! If you go on the right day (like a Tuesday), you’d like be able to pull off a movie for two with concessions for less than $20, depending on what part of the country you live in. Best of all, Cinemark has a large number of dollar or discounted theaters, where you can get tickets for less than two bucks.
  2. AMC Theatres – If you go to the movies frequently, AMC has one of the best reward programs out there. Their AMC Stubs program not only gives you discounts and rewards, the online portal lets you track every cent you spend on concessions and tickets. Another perk is that the program waives all fees for purchasing tickets online. At $12 per year, the card pays for itself after only a few visits.
  3. Regal Entertainment Group – The best part about the Regal Crown Club? It’s absolutely free. In addition to offering rewards and discounts, members also have the opportunity to enter sweepstakes for vacations and movie-related prizes.
  4. Carmike Cinemas – TBG? TAG? Those are some of the promotion names at Carmike, which offers exclusive discounts on its social network pages. Of course, you’ll only know about them when you like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their Family Pack, for example, offers amazing savings for families.
  5. Daily deals – Sites like Groupon may not be as popular as they were before, but that’s good for deal hunters, as they need to offer better deals to attract new customers. One popular deal is a movie ticket and drink for half price, meaning you only have to pay for popcorn (or simply enjoy a soda and a movie).

Whether you’re a student, senior or simply love movies, you can save big on movies this summer. Save what, you may ask? “Presidential flashcards.” Ok, that’s another movie line from the movie quoted at the top of this blog. Did you guess it? “That Thing You Do!”

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Fun for Less – Saving on Travel and More

Where are you going this summer?

National Tourism Day isn’t a well-known holiday, but today happens to be the day we celebrate it. In honor of that – and since summer is almost upon us – now is a good time to start planning your summer vacation. (You don’t want to start planning it when you’re supposed to be taking it, after all!)

This year is particularly good for people who like to save a penny or two on their vacations, as airfare prices are dropping, the economy is rising and deals on cruises are better than ever. Bob and I were even able to afford a stay at the Wrigley mansion on Catalina Island for our 25th anniversary!

Here are a few great ways to save on getaways this summer.

  • TravelZoo – One my personal favorites because of the sheer percentage of savings they offer, TravelZoo rounds up some of the best deals on the web and sends them to you in a weekly e-mail that is customized for your location. You can also browse through their site, which features vacation packages, airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals and even local deals to restaurants and other places. Today, for example, you can get a 12-night Mediterranean cruise for $799. Another perk for TravelZoo is that the price they list is the price you pay (all fees included). If you’re flexible about when you want to take your vacation, this is one of the best options.
  • Daily deal sites – Sites like Groupon have been particularly good lately thanks to the company’s partnership with Expedia. Simply browse through their “Getaways” section and you’ll vacation packages to places like China, Peru and the Bahamas. The selection has dramatically increased this year and there are even plenty of deals for people who would rather drive somewhere local or don’t have much time off.
  • Cruises – Cruises have gotten a bad rap recently thanks to ships malfunctioning and even leaving vacationers stranded for days on one occasion. That’s good news for those looking to save, however, as companies like Carnival are dropping prices to keep people coming back. You can currently find 3-5 day Caribbean cruises for as low as $229, less than the nightly cost of many higher-end hotels! Those malfunctioning ship incidences were likely anomalies, so it’s a great time to go on that first cruise.
  • Airfare Southwest (subscribe to their Ding! fares) JetBlue, Virgin and other companies are slashing prices due to a variety of reasons, from lower fuel costs to increased seating capacity. Fares are constantly changing, however, so be sure to sign up for price alerts at sites like Kayak or Fly.com. (By phone is the most ideal if you’re looking for a really great deal.) Also be sure to search on Tuesdays, the day most airlines announce their sales. You can also usually get refunds or money back if the airline drops the price within a certain time period. Check Bing Price Predictor to see if prices are going up or down.
  • Travel deal sites – When it comes to sites like Kayak, Hotwire.com, BookingBuddy and others, the best advice is to compare, compare, compare. You can usually find the exact same trip for less if you search enough, which is why you should never just use one site. Hotwire is particularly great if you’re not too picky about where you stay or how you travel, as they occasionally hide the companies for better deals. They’re also currently offering up to 70% off weekend hotel stays.

In the end, the more you search for a good deal online, the more you’ll likely save. Be sure to visit all the deal sites you can, and once you find a deal for you, go to the hotel/car/airfare company site or call them to see if they’ll match or beat the deal.

Bon voyage!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Spring Savings – Five Ways to Save $500 or More

When I was a gangly seven year old with braids that were too tight and freckles that looked better on a cheetah, I used to dislike the spring. In my Latino family, spring meant two things: 1) my mom would dress us in flamenco dresses to go to the fair and 2) I would have to participate in spring cleaning.

My Spanish mother and my Abuela would put on their work clothes, tie their hair in a scarf and attack the house with a vengeance that would make the mighty 300 run in sheer panic all the way back to Sparta. Never get between a Latina woman and her spring cleaning. I was conscripted into forced servitude while all my freckleless girlfriends got to go play kick the can in our street circle.

Now that I’m an adult, every spring, I engage in a different type of practice that gets our finances in tip top shape. Instead of a broom, I use a smart phone. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, I have a computer. I like to engage in spring savings. The bonus for this formerly freckled girl is that I usually save more than enough money to hire someone else to do my spring cleaning.  Here are some ways that you can get out of spring cleaning and into spring savings:

Property Tax Challenge – As many as 30% of homeowners may be overtaxed, according to the National Taxpayers Union. First, study your property card for errors in your home’s specs. Next, compare your home’s value and taxes with other nearby homes (go to Valueappeal.com). Third, go to ntu.org/tax-basics to learn how to build your case before the tax assessor. Fourth, challenge the amount and win and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!

Prepare for Warm Weather – Invest in a thermal leak detector to find and fix drafts around windows, outlets and walls to save as much as 20% on cooling bills. Also invest in a programmable thermostat to adjust your home about 10 degrees while you’re at work and at night to save another 15%.


Pull the Plug on Entertainment
– There’s no need to pay for pricey cable or satellite when you have less expensive options. Before we had Apple TV, we invested in a streaming player called Roku that cost about $100 and connected the internet to our TV. We currently use Netflix ($8/month) for movies and TV shows and then Hulu Plus ($8/month) for new TV episodes that we can watch right after they’ve aired. Plus, I’m a Prime member on Amazon, so I get to watch scores of shows for free on Amazon Instant Video. I’ve discovered all kinds of Downton-like British TV shows that are delightful (I’m currently hooked on Lark Rise to Candleford).  These options save $750 a year over cable.

Put off the Oil Change – My girlfriend Audrey has a fairly new Lincoln and the dealership told her to only go 3000 miles between oil changes. But her car light comes on at 7800 miles, so she listens to the car instead. Actually, the newest studies indicate that my girlfriend is right! The quality of oil has improved dramatically over the last 25 years. Follow the owners manual and the car’s oil-life-monitoring system instead of the dealer who wants that extra service fee. I change the oil in my car once a year!

Put it on Ice – To save on food and spoilage, freeze hard cheeses, most fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, bread and other baked goods. You can use ice trays to freeze baby food, sauce or stock, and chopped fresh herbs in water. Not only will you never have to dig a moldy hunk of something you don’t recognize out of the back of the fridge, you’ll also find dinner prep is quicker and easier by using these kinds of frozen items.

Once you’ve finished your spring savings, then sit back, pour a cool glass of tea (with mint infused ice cubes) and watch Lark Rise to Candleford—you deserve the rest!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

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)

Phantom of the Opera and Young Frankenstein

“Put zee candle BACK!”
“That’s Fraanken-steen”

“Werewolf”
“There wolf. There Castle.”

Frau Blueker!”

New York, New York, it’s a beautiful place to a week! On one of my recent trips, I had to take a cab to Jersey for work and it was suppose to take 25 minutes but the driver (who could not speak or read English) took 1 hour 45 minutes to get us there. If it weren’t for the “take charge to help” personality of a colleague, we’d be in Maine by now. To the cab driver’s credit, he did stop to ask directions–from a man who could barely speak English.

On one of my previous trips, when I was here on business, my son Philip joined me while on break from the Naval Academy and we wanted some entertainment! We called the New York USO at 212-695-6160 or www.usonyc.org , hoping to get surplus Broadway tickets for a $3 donation (to all military id card holders–and their dependants) and much to our delight, we got to go see Young Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera. They didn’t have the “free” tickets, but we got a code for the tix we bought and saved 50% without having to stand in the 1/2 Price Ticket booth line! Plus, we actually sat on the FRONT ROW of Young Frankenstein. “Why, sank you doc-tor!”

Other places to score great prices on entertainment tickets: www.broadwaybox.com, www.goldstar.com, www.travelzoo.com, and www.fillaseat.com .

Entertainment on the cheap can still make for front row fun–just so long as you don’t have to cab it to Jersey!

Ellie Kay
“America’s Family Financial Expert” (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

1000 Kisses — Investing in Our Children

I’m currently missing 4000 kisses every year.

Yep, they just upped and moved away, 1000 at a time.

I try to gain back some of those by kissing my friend Natalya’s four little girls. Her baby is only six months old and likes to suck on pickles. Don’t you know you have to grab up a sweetheart like that and give her 10 kisses on her chubby cheeks, just for being so cute?

As a mom who had her youngest five children in seven years, and homeschooled said children for seven years, I figured I got and gave at least 50 kisses a day. Those of you who have had infants and toddlers know that there are times when you just get overwhelmed with their cuteness and have to get some loving on the spot—a dozen kisses at a time!

Even when my children became teens, they knew they had to kiss me when they woke up, give me kiss when they left and came back home, and then again before they went to bed. Let’s say that averaged out to 3 kisses a day (accounting for the fact that I didn’t see them every day if I was out of town). At 365 days per year, that’s still 1000 kisses a year.

Yes, I’m a numbers person and that is both a blessing and a curse, but bear with me a second because I’m trying to get you to feel just a little bit sorry for me for a moment. Every time one of my children “launches” and goes off to college, I lose 1000 annual kisses. When you multiply that by 4 Kay kids who have launched in the last 6 years, I’m down 4000, and those marks of affection are worth far more than dollars—they are priceless.

There are a number of ways to invest in our kids. One of the most important areas is their education.  My husband, Bob and I sacrificed certain things to invest in their education by sending the youngest three to the best school in our part of the world, Desert Christian Schools.  We are not independently wealthy and it cost us something to have as many as 3 kids in private school at a time. But it was worth it to us. We could have driven newer cars, lived in a bigger house or taken fancier vacations, but we knew that one day, when we’re old, we wouldn’t regret cars, houses or vacations. We are going to be thankful we invested in our kids.

For us, this kind of education allowed for smaller classroom sizes, more safety, excellent academic programs and fantastic athletic teams. There are also teachers and administrators have a heart of compassion for our students and  work with us when one of the Kay kids makes a boneheaded choice that requires correction.  Granted, we couldn’t always afford private school, which is why I homeschooled for a while. We also had two kids graduate from public school and do really well in life. Whether you homeschool, choose a private school or send them to public education, being invested in the educational process is essential. For us, that translated into over a million dollars in college scholarships for our progeny.

Another way to invest in our children is in areas where they are having trouble, for example, investing in a tutor. Our son, Jonathan, had trouble in Geometry and we got him a tutor. He got over the learning curve hump, gained mastery and confidence in the material and even became a gainfully employed tutor with Mathemagicians in our community. Math helped our oldest son, Philip, get offers from Cornell and Stanford because he got a 760 out of 800 on his MSATs in Math (he only got a 560 in verbal, but I guess Math geeks don’t have to know how to spell).

Some parents invest in music lessons that can help children gain math skills (something about reading music that makes you more proficient in math), gain confidence, and even earn a partial scholarship in that area. Or you may be a mom that invested in your child by taking them to endless soccer, baseball, basketball, football, or Tae Kwon Do teams. All those hours as chauffer were not in vain because your little one learned self-discipline, the value of exercise, and how to be a part of a team.  Other parents spend time with their kids by taking them out to fun events or out to eat. We like to subscribe to Local Living to find out when there’s a new restaurant or cool event we can take them to for as little as half of the regular price.

I could write 10 more pages on legitimate ways we “invest” in our children, but I’ll end with the one that I started with in this blog.  Invest your affection in your child. Hug them. Spend time with them. Tell them you believe in them. Speak about the bright future they have ahead of them. One day, sooner than you think, that child will launch and you’ll also be down 1000 kisses.  So be sure to kiss ‘em while you can!

Let me know, how do YOU invest in your kids?

 Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

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 ®

Savvy Saver Quiz – part 3 – Entertainment

Here’s part three of our savvy shopper quiz, to see how you measure up in terms of being a smart consumer. Today’s quiz is on entertainment and I want to hear from you about the cool ways you are saving in this category!

Entertainment

 Q.  How many meals do you, and family members eat out each week?        

      (DearReader, please count each meal eaten out separately. For example, a

      family of four eating dinner would count as four meals.)

 a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d) 7 or more

 Q.  How many full price movie tickets do you purchase each week? (Please note that matinee or discounted tickets count as ½ a ticket)

a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d)  7 or more

 Q.  How many new release movies do you rent each week? (Please note that non new releases count as ½ and a monthly movie pass counts as 3 per week).

a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d)  7 or more

 Q.  How many “treat dates” do you fund for your friends or family each week? (Please note a treat is counted as one per ice cream, coffee drink, smoothie, milkshake, etc.  A family of four going out for frappuccinos would count as four treats.)

a)  0-3

b)  4-6

c)  7-9

d) 10 or more

 Q.  How often do you or your family participate in other “special event” excursions and/or services per week? (Please count as one per paid admission to zoo, amusement park, skating, bowling, paintballing, spa treatments, manicures, pedicures, facials, etc) 

a) 0-1

b) 2-3

c) 4-5

d) 6 or more

 Welcome to the scoring section of the Entertainment 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 ENTERTAINER! When it comes to getting the most bang for your entertainment buck. You may have already learned that eating in is the new eating out. Plus, you might be one of those who has made entertainment investments, such as a big screen tv and then take advantage of that at home. Just because you’re the smartest doesn’t mean you do without either—you still get to go out and have fun, you’re just smart about the way you stretch a dollar. 

 11-15 points:  Low Cost Logan – Good Job, you’re a SMART ENTERTAINER! – You are doing a good job at keeping entertainment costs down when eating out and selecting entertainment. You also moderate how you buy treats, extras and spend those dollars. There is slight room to improve, but you are in a nice position to continue to be smart with your entertainment dollars and still have fun with the people you love!

 6-10 points:  Moderate Morgan – Nice Work, you are an ENTERTAINER! – There are some areas where you have learned to stretch your entertainment dollar but you may still be eating out more than your budget likes, hitting the store for lattes and going to movies frequently. Or, you might just have a large family and that impacts your entertainment budget. By looking at the Free Standing Inserts in your Sunday paper, you can find certificates for local restaurants in order to stretch your eating out dollar. Or, you may consider buying a monthly movie pass if you are prone to renting new releases quite frequently. There are ways to bring your entertainment savings to new level and you are just the one to do it!

 5 points:  Extravagant Emerson – You are a one who ENJOYS ENTERTAINMENT! – You might have a big family or be someone who has to eat out a lot due to hectic work schedules and a busy life. You love to go to movies or the theater with friends and family and may also like to get regular manis/pedis or spa treatments, too. If you want to do it—you usually do! The only problem is that these extra dollars may catch up with you as the economy becomes more challenging. Why not try to eat out less? Or, when you do eat out—do lunch instead of dinner because lunch is less expensive. Try a matinee instead of prime time and go right after eating a meal so you won’t overspend at the concession counter. You may find that as you learn to be a savvy saver, you’re enjoying yourself a whole lot more!

 Let me know how you save on entertainment!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Tailgating at its Best: A Safe and Successful Game Day

Tickets to the big game are an essential element to the tailgate experience. For most, NFL or similar season tickets are hard to come by and even harder to afford. While multiple tickets and prime seats may be difficult to acquire, companies like Stub Hub and Ticketmaster often sell tickets for less than the going rate. If you’re just looking for the tailgate experience, many professional teams offer tailgate tickets alone for a fraction of the game admission price.

Three of the Kay men and I at the Army Navy game.

No matter where you buy the tickets or how much you pay for them, you always want to make the best of the experience. With that in mind, I’d like to offer some things to consider to keep your focus on the game and not on the circumstances, because nothing can ruin the big game like lost friends and family, wet socks, and food poisoning.

Dress for Success: Temperatures can change from tailgate time to game time, so be sure to bring layers of clothing for each family member. For cold weather, dress in layers and don’t forget hats, gloves, and appropriate footwear—leave those adorable stilettos at home.

The Early Bird Gets the Location: If you can handle a few hours of downtime, you are hereby appointed to stake the claim 3 to 4 hours ahead of time. Look at it as some extra time to do whatever you enjoy, and the tradeoff is that the early bird doesn’t have to participate in cleanup duty.

If you’re tailgating in a parking lot, select the end of a row at the innermost area for the most space and least traffic. Search for grassy areas or bring your own turf (rollout grass) to mark your spot. Be sure to mark it with a team banner as well, so everyone knows you’re the real deal and so other tailgaters can find you when they arrive much later.

Safety and Such: Timing is everything on food safety. Make sure your potato salad isn’t sitting out too long and that your hot foods stay hot and the cold stuff stays cold. My rule when it comes to such questions: when in doubt, throw it out. Try to avoid high traffic tailgating locations if you have smaller children or teens who have earbuds permanently attached. Lastly, be sure to douse those flames and properly dispose of smoking briquettes or hot coals—never dump them in a trash can or on the grass.

Tailgating at local sporting events can be even more fun with a personal connection, especially with special guests. Philip came home to support his younger brother Joshua on the field.

 

BYOC and No Worries: When you’re hosting the tailgate, be sure to delegate as well; it will allow you to have more fun. Most party people are more than happy to BYOC—bring your own chairs and loads of other things, too. Assign food items to attendees or let them volunteer to bring their favorite dishes. It will help relieve stress, save some money, and feel more a part of the team party.

One last thing:  GO AIR FORCE, BEAT ARMY!

Go Big, Don’t Go For Broke: Tailgating at its Best

My husband and our son Jonathan with the Drum and Bugle Corps at an Air Force game.

When my husband was assigned to his alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy, we knew we were in for an adventure. We lived on the Academy grounds and found deer in our front yard, wild turkeys in our back yard, and an occasional brown bear by the community dumpsters. But nothing prepared me for the ultimate adventure—tailgating before a football game at over 7,000 feet. The games in September and early October were filled with crisp, cool weather and lots of pregame fun. But by the time Air Force played Army in November, I knew we were in for trouble. The freezing rain started halfway through our tailgate party and was in full force by the time we were guzzling hot chocolate and apple pie. At the start of the game, I had become one of the frozen chosen in the stands, wearing layers of clothing but still chilled to the feet. Our efforts were ultimately vindicated; we whipped Army and brought home the Commander-in-Chief trophy.

In the midst of game-time seasons, I learned the fine art of tailgating with some guiding principles to boot. Here are some tips to make your tailgates more complete—come rain, snow or sleet.

Make a List—Check it Twice

Getting organized will help avoid the frustration of forgetting an essential tailgaiting tool. Make a checklist at home for everything you want to bring to your party and be sure to include everything, even if you think you won’t forget it (We once left the game tickets at home).  Here is a fairly comprehensive list:

Cookout Essentials. Whether you’re going for the all-out barbecue or a simple picnic, it’s important to remember every detail. One slip of the memory can turn baked beans into finger food (not recommended) or leave warm water in place of an ice-cold soda.

  • Food (list it each item individually), beverages (don’t forget a bottle opener or cork screw), condiments, coolers and ice, charcoal and lighter fluid, lighter or matches, cooking and eating utensils, cooker or grill, water (for drinking and for cooling charcoal), serving trays, trash bags, paper products (plates, cups, towels, napkins), plastic products (storage baggies, leftover containers, utensils), pots and pans, and grilling gear (apron, oven mitts, and chef hat).

The Perfect Setup. Tried and true tailgaters know that the right setup can be the difference between the best party and an awkward get-together. If you have the means to take some amenities along, these extras can turn your tailgate into the ultimate tailgate.

  • Canopy or tent, chairs and table (a table cloth makes it better), generator (a portable power source for hard-core tailgaters), flag and holders (GO TEAM!), rope or bungee cords (to tie things down in the wind), decorations, music (radio, iPod, speakers, karaoke machine), and fun stuff (football, Frisbee, games, etc.).

Emergencies and More. Fair-weather fans and tailgating novices may be deterred by a slight chance of rain, but a few preparatory measures will make the difference between worst-case scenarios and slight hiccups in the plan.

  • Blankets and protective rain gear, binoculars, camera, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sun block, and umbrellas.

Each tailgate is a different experience, so plan ahead and think of every possibility. When in doubt, consider the Boy Scout motto: “be prepared.” And whatever you do, don’t forget the tickets!

Beyond the things to bring, there are a few more considerations to make game day an experience to remember. Check back next week for more tips on game-day preparation and for resources to get more affordable tickets to sporting events.

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