A Financial Education Event
 

Holiday Travel Planning Guide – Hint: Buy Early

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One of my favorite things to do when I have my adult children home is to go to church. We always went as a family when they were growing up and having them join in when they are home brings back great memories. The last time they came home, I stood in our row with Jonathan and Joshua sitting next to me and fought back tears of gratitude. At the end of the service, the music swelled loudly, our cue to leave the sanctuary and make room for the next service in our large church.

Bob and I got separated from the boys in the exiting crowd and when I looked back to see where they were, I was stunned to see the two boys wrestling in the aisles. Jonathan had Joshua in a headlock and Joshua was trying to punch him in the kidneys to break the lock.

Oy vey. Some things never change. “We were just having some fun!” they declared as I grabbed them by the ears and they straightened up.

Family times are the best times.

They Kay family loves to get together for the holidays, but travel can be expensive. Knowing when to buy those airline tickets can mean the difference between paying cash for your holiday travel or going into further credit card debt.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are still weeks away, but October is the month you should look to book flights for both holidays.

In fact, travel app Hopper recently released its Holiday Travel Index which includes data on when to fly and buy for both holidays. Here’s a few findings I found from the study:

  • Although Thanksgiving travel is expensive (even more so this year than last — domestic flight prices are currently averaging about $325 round-trip compared to $288 last year), prices won’t vary much during the month of October. You can put it off for a bit, but make sure you book your Thanksgiving flights before Halloween.
  • If you wait to book your flight until after Halloween, it will cost you about $1 per day, every day that you wait. Prices will then begin spiking closer to $10 per day during the final two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
  • Unlike Thanksgiving prices, holiday flight prices tend to rise more steadily as Christmas approaches, and then spike heavily in the last two weeks.
  • The best time to book Christmas flights this year is the first weeks of October. If you have to wait to buy, make sure you watch prices closely, as they will fluctuate and then start spiking moderately 15-25 days prior to departure. They will spike dramatically (about $7 per day) in the final two weeksleading up to Christmas.
  • If your plans are flexible, you can save the most money by leaving on Tuesday, December 19 and returning Thursday, January 4

Keep in mind that it’s important to budget for holiday travel in conjunction with all the other expenses accrued during the holidays.

In our family, we value experiences over things. This means we will spend money to get kids home and spend less on their gifts once they get here. After all, it would be boring if we didn’t have Jonathan and Joshua fighting in the church aisles during the holidays.

And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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“Mama, can you ask Miss Natalya if I can hold the baby?” my 6’ 4” son asked with hopeful expectation.

Moments later, he was holding the pretty little three-month-old baby girl and smiling proudly, “now take my picture.”

Ever since he was a teenager, he absolutely loved babies. Holding them. Having his picture made with them. Then giving them back when they made the tell-tale popping sounds that let him know the infant was filling up her diaper.

Father and son

Fast forward ten years. Past his years as a midshipman at Annapolis, past his years as a graduate student at Stanford, past combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast forward to the present. Now, this Marine is holding his newborn son, Robert Philip Kay, III.

 

“Why are you picking up the baby when he’s sleeping?” I watch my son cuddle his 4-day-old son, the infant’s tiny features pronounced next to his big father’s duplicate profile.

 

“Because I’m the dad and I can hold him whenever I want.” He holds him. He has his picture made with him. And when the tell-tale popping noises indicate little Robbie is filling his diaper, he’s suddenly changed. He goes from a boy who has never changed a diaper to a man who changes every single one his tiny son fills (and his namesake filled six of those bad boys in only 24 hours.)

I’m proud of my man child who grew up so quickly, met a beautiful mermaid, married her before she got away and made me a “Glam-ma” to a tiny human who has my Hispanic hair, my husband’s name, his mother’s nose and his father’s legacy.

My daughter in law is a precious asset to the Kay family and not surprisingly, she’s great with money. Here are eight new mom tips that come from her recent experience and my background as a mom of many.

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

  • Amazon Baby Registry – Whether you have three baby showers or none, it’s smart to have a list of items you can use for baby. Even if friends and family don’t buy off the list, they can still mark it as “purchased” to minimize duplicates. Once everyone buys what they want, the new parents are entitled to a 10% off one order (wither 60 days before and up to 180 days after the baby’s arrival) and 15% off if you are an Amazon Prime Member. My DIL used this discount to buy eligible items off her registry that had not yet been purchased and she used Amazon gift cards, to further minimize their OOP expenses. Plus, she had $1000 worth of gifts purchased by friends and family, which scored her $100 worth of free diapers and wipes.
  • Return Duplicates Promptly – Get a store credit or exchange items for something else you can use right away. If you wait until after the baby arrives, you may not have the chance to get around to returning the items in a timely manner and you’ll lose out.
  • Don’t Open Those Diapers! – My first son, Daniel, weighed 11 pounds and was 24” long. He never wore newborn diapers. My last son, Joshua, was 10.5 pounds. He never wore newborn diapers. Even if you don’t give birth to a sumo wrestler, you still need to be careful on your timing in opening new bags/boxes of diapers. Once you open them, they can’t be returned for a larger size. This is especially true when you open a 180 count box from Exchanging a brand name diaper is easy at Walmart or Target, where you don’t need a receipt to get a larger size package. But not if they’re opened.
  • Calling All Freebies – I went out to Annapolis to nest before the baby arrived and it seemed like every day, my DIL was getting freebies delivered to her door—especially baby formula. She also got free toiletries, diapers, books and more from the hospital. Manufacturers of baby products and hospital auxiliary groups provide freebies for new moms. Look inside the baby bassinet cabinet in the hospital and you’ll probably find diapers, swaddling blankets, alcohol swabs, a nasal aspirator, disposable nipples for bottles, a thermometer, and more. These are valued at $30 to $40 and you can always use them.
  • Nurse if Possible – Not only will your baby get colostrum, that helps to fight infections and illnesses, but you’ll get valuable bonding time with your little one. It’s been estimated that nursing moms save $1400 in the first year over those who use formula. My DIL got reimbursed for a pump through Tri Care and other insurance plans cover the cost of a pump as well. Don’t take the one from the hospital because those (usually) aren’t free and nothing can ruin a peaceful day at home with your newborn than the breast pump Po Po at your door, asking why you stole an $800 breast pump.Don’t give away your sample formula either, 85% of nursing moms stop by the time their babies are 6 months old.
  • Free Advice – Many hospitals have a lactation expert who makes the rounds and helps new moms learn how to nurse a baby. When Anne, the lactation consultant came by to see my DIL, I learned a few things as well. Even after nursing 5 babies, I didn’t know that “infants are nocturnal beings.” Um, yeah. I should have figured that out. This service is free and can cost $200 if you pay a lactation advisor. Ask about free hotlines and even volunteer services that may pay for a home visit. Plus, check your insurance provider’s coverages as well.One of the nurses, Leslie, was helping my DIL and when she realized I had raised 5 infants, she pointed at me and said to my son and DIL, “You are blessed to have her in your life. She’s one of the greatest resources of knowledge you have at your disposal.” I loved Leslie, she was my favorite.
  • Double Duty Accessories – When you’re filling out a wish list, try to get items that have more than one function. Like a Graco pack n play that also has a changing table built in as well as a bassinet. We got my oldest son a crib that converted into a toddler bed for his son, Liam, and we bought the conversion kit when we bought the crib. These styles are new every 9 months and if you wait to buy the conversion kit when you need it (2 years or so), then it may no longer be available.
  • You Have Not Because You Ask Not – Be sure you ask the OB/GYN and the pediatrician for product samples. Not only will you discover whether you like the product before you purchase a full size, you may only need a little of it to get you through the crisis (we will not talk about nipple cream now.) Sign up for baby food company newsletters and coupon offers. Go to Gerber, Beechnut, Earthsbest, and Stonyfield to get these offers.

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

Congratulations on your new baby. Whether you are the parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle or just a favorite friend—this is an exciting time for your entire family.

My husband and I are and thankful for our children and now our children’s children. We are often asked how we raised so many successful children, with success being measured as kids who are living their purpose and making the world a better place.

We usually answer this question with, “We tried to think of what was best for the child. I didn’t think about what I wanted to do, I thought about what was going to be the best option for my child.”

Gotta go check instastories for the latest baby video—until next time!

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

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The Kay family loves the 4th of July.  That includes 12 of us who appreciate Independence Day and what this holiday represents. However, there are three of the Kay family members who loathe the holiday.  I know I shouldn’t single them out, but I’m tired of the way that they take the freedom they enjoy for granted. These Kay family members have never thanked our Marine, Airman or Soldier for their service, they don’t send care packages when our sons deploy into harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They seem to resent the extra attention given to these sons and the way people celebrate the holiday—in fact, they are very vocal in their displeasure and let everyone around them know it. I know it’s probably bad form to out these unpatriotic, self-centered individuals, but I’ve decided I’m going to call them out. After all, who are they to dampen the enthusiasm of millions of revelers on such an important day in our nation’s history? So here it goes:

Buddy, Anna, and Belle—you are ruining the holidays for all of us.

Yes, our three mini schnauzers would rather bark, whine or run and hide under a bed when they hear fireworks in our neighborhood than appreciate the holiday in all its noisy glory. It’s gotten so bad, that we must get sedatives to get them through the 4th of July each year (to clarify, the sedatives are for them and not us—although I’m tempted.) Poor, unpatriotic puppies are terrified by the Black Cats, M80s and Lady fingers that the neighbor kids fire off every year. But I don’t share their disdain for the holiday.

Today, I like to thank those who serve as well as those who have served in the past and those who love them. It’s because of these heroes we can enjoy these freedoms. As I reflect on the freedom of speech, the press and religion, I’m grateful to live in the land of the free because of the brave.

 

I’m also grateful for the opportunity we have through the non-profit Heroes at Home to educate our Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors in Financial Literacy. Our free show provides our audiences with four, top-level speakers, a live twitter party and over 100+ door prizes to include free financial books and gift cards. This is all made possible by generous donations from USAA, Experian and other companies as well as individuals like you, who believe in helping our military members stay financially healthy so that they can keep their security clearances and do their important life-and-death work. All our speakers are volunteers and Heroes at Home doesn’t pay honorariums—these educators believe in our military members and their families. Currently, less than 1% of our donations go toward fundraising and over 90% goes directly to the support of educational programs for our troops.

What do I believe freedom means today?

I believe it means a free America.

I believe we can enjoy our freedom because of those who serve and those who love them.

I believe our Creator has freely given us gifts, talents and resources to make the lives of others better.

I believe in those who fight for our freedom both at home and abroad.
I believe in the land of the free because of the brave.

And I believe it’s time to go give those pesky puppies their sedatives before the fireworks begin.

What does freedom mean to YOU today?

 

 

 

 

Your Money Buddy

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As we are on our Heroes at Home Financial Event tour (at 17 bases in 5 countries) we often talk about how to follow through on our good intentions when it comes to money matters. The best way to do this is to have a regular money workout with an accountability partner.

A great example of this is these Newlyweds, who just finished their first Sixty Minute Money Workout and they loved it!

They did the “Money Personality” workout and discovered what personality each of them has and how they relate to money.

The number one reason marriages fail is because of arguments about money so if you can learn how to have a good workout, then you can get fiscally fit. You don’t have to be married either, you can have a “money buddy” just as you have a workout partner to help spot you when it comes to lifting weights or kicking it in cross fit.

But it begins with setting proper boundaries, so you can learn to get along and not digress into arguments. This is the same technique I shared on Nightline as I coached a couple on how to fight fair.

Boundaries:

First of all, people need to understand that you don’t have to be a couple in order to do the workout. You can do it by yourself, or with a trusted friend, or even a family member who isn’t your spouse if you are single. But whoever you do the workout with, it’s important to set some boundaries to prepare:
• no condescension or negativity
• no interrupting your workout partner when they are talking
• no name calling
• no throwing food –
• start by saying one positive thing to each other
• end by saying one positive thing to each other
• create an environment that encourages comfort and success
• have a timer on hand (the one on your phone works well)

Step 1 – 5 Minutes – Make Up Your Mind Warm-Up
Here is where you set your timer for each section. When the timer goes off, then move on! In this section, you set the topic for the hour and begin with a “can do” attitude. It’s important to begin by saying or doing something positive. If you’re working out with a spouse, then begin by taking your spouses hands, looking into their eyes and saying something affirming.

Step 2 – 10 minutes – Strength Training
While step one was to start with affirming words and decide on your money topic, this next section is a time to write down goals on paper so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. Decide how you would like to see the topic resolved today, in six months and what the outcome of your goals will be in the long run. For example, if your topic is setting up a spend plan, you can also access tools like Mint that will help you in the workout.

Discuss obstacles that have kept you from reaching your goals in the past. If spending too much money on Amazon is slipping you up, then regulate that habit. Or if eating out too often gets you offline, then discuss ways to eliminate that obstacle.

Step 3 – 20 Minutes – Cardio Burn

In this step, you give feet to your goals. If you’re setting up a budget, then you write down the specifics and course of action for your topic of the day. This may not seem like a lot of time on this section, but realize that you may not get it resolved during the first workout. The key is to keep the discussion moving and work on what you can, whatever you missed, you can get the next time around. For example, if you’re looking to pay down debt, then go to Annual Credit Report to order free copies of your credit report. If your topic is improving your credit score, then go to Credit.com to discover where your score is weak and how to improve it. Or listen to a Periscope #CreditChat from@Experian_US. This show is hosted by Rod Griffin, our credit speaker on the Heroes at Home Financial Event tour.
Step 4 – 20 Minutes – Taking Your Heart Rate

If you are making progress on your goal, then continue to do the work. If you have gotten bogged down or you’ve reached a standstill, then use this time to redirect.

For example, if you’re developing a spend plan, and realize you are spending too much in an area, then you could redirect at this time to review this blog and learn quick ways that will help you save money in a variety of categories.
For instance, how to save on groceries.  We’ve saved over $160,000 in the last 20 years by employing a variety of tips I discuss in my books and blog.

Step 5 – 5 Minutes – Congratulations Cool Down
The workout has gone by quickly and now the last 5 minutes are dedicated to the “Congratulations Cool Down.” End your workout and sit back, grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note and you’re going to end positive as well. Take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout in order to end the discussion well.

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff in just one workout, your finances aren’t going to get in shape after the first try either. But after you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half a dozen times you’ll find you are making progress that can revolutionize your finances in only an hour a week!

For a free “Sixty Money Workout” review sheet, just email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for this resource.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

I Do Not Hate You

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Technology–you gotta love it, and hate it, too.

On Jan 1, I published a very fun blog, that my readers loved. Then we transferred over to a new platform and it was forever lost.

So I’ve revived it, now that we are a few months into 2017 to remind us that this is going to be a good year!

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My daughter, Bethany, and I have a close relationship that often baffles the unassuming bystander. While we have been known to have a hearty row every now and then, we prefer to laugh early and often. One of our shticks is performed when we try to call or text each other and the recipient fails to answer. Our ever-mature response is to call and leave voice mail saying,

“Why do you hate me?”

The other party is to respond as soon as possible with assurances that you are not nearly as hated as you think.

We have variations of this hilarity and while it seems unhealthy from the outside looking in, it works for us.

At the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 we hear a lot about how eager some are to release 2016 to the dregs of a year gone sour: a year of political strife, unequalled loss and anguished setbacks. In short, they hated 2016.

But I have to say to 2016—I do not hate you.

In 2015 my Marine son was in a combat zone in Iraq, in 2014 he was in regular firefights in Afghanistan as an infantry platoon commander.  Had I been prone to hate a year, it would have been 2014.

In 2016 that Marine married his true love and I gained a daughter. I know it’s a cliché, most mother-in-laws have to say that, right? But in my case, I really expanded the tent pegs of my heart to let another inside. This young lady read my books before she met me, she knows my son better than I, and she works kindly and lovingly behind the scenes to foster our family’s unity. She calls me “mama” and she calls me regularly.  She gives me gifts (my love language is gift giving) and she makes me laugh. Yeah, I hear you “Ellie, you are painting this girl in shades of YOU—what she does for YOUR son, how she makes YOU feel, and the value she brings to YOUR family.” You are right. I am.

In 2013 my daughter Bethany, a recent college graduate, left the good old US of A and moved to England to serve at a non-profit that benefitted children. She mended hearts of kids who needed to hear about hope. She got to see a number of countries and experience other cultures and that was good. But the non-profit organization broke her heart. Amidst poor leadership, false accusation and territorial dogmas my daughter lost her joy. The “bouncing Bunny” came back shattered and in need of healing. If I could have hated a year, it could have been 2013.

In 2016 that daughter married her true love and I gained a son. Yes, here we go with the cliché’s again. But if you’ve never enlarged your heart to let someone who is not your own child in, then you don’t know what I’m talking about, so don’t judge me. This young man is guileless. Truly, he knows no guile. I don’t know if he’s a good poker player because he just doesn’t lie very well. My daughter had mended from her terrible-no-good-very-bad-year and was able to present him with a whole, healthy heart to have and to hold forevermore.  He calls me “mama” even though he has a great family of his own and they are part of the assets he brings to our lives. He adores my daughter. He gets her. She chose well and they gained a “happily ever after.”  Of course they’ll have challenges, loss and heartache. But they’ll have each other and that does a mama’s heart good.

In 2016, our family saw other great gains—my grandson’s 2nd birthday party with doting parents, Army beat Navy after 14 years, a son started pilot training, another son began his senior year at West Point, my children gathered from far away places for the weddings & holidays, and we welcomed our first grandfurbaby named Schmidt (yep, from New Girl, but the dog is better behaved.) My conference team successfully completed 15 events at 10 bases with Heroes at Home, providing financial literacy education to service members thanks to USAA.  I have a passion for these people and I got to live out that in my work this past year. The last part of 2016 had us planning 2017 with 25 events at 17 different bases in five countries—a success by any standard.

In 2016 had my focus been on politics, social justice or mortality, I would have hated this past year. Had I chosen to look at the family drama, broken friendships, missing family & friends associated with the two Kay family weddings—I would have hated 2016. There was plenty of negativity to focus on this past year both in our family and in our world, but I chose to focus on what went right, not what went wrong. I chose (not based on feeling, but based on a decision of the will) to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have. I tried to choose wisely.

No, 2016, I do not hate you.

As I’m writing this blog on January 1st, I turned off my phone to concentrate on the task at hand. I missed a few texts, a call goes to voice mail. I proof and edit my work, choose the photos to accompany the blog and populate it for the appropriate day.  Then I listen to my voice mail. I have a “Happy New Year” message from my daughter that begins with,

“Why do you hate me?”

I smile to myself. Hello, 2017, I think we’re going to have a good year.

LEAD is Not A Four Letter Word! (part 1 of 2)

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One of my passions is leading teams—our Heroes at Home financial event team, our Shop Talk Toastmasters club, and a number of teams that help future leaders attend one of our service academies. Developing leaders, both young and old, is a skill set that you are never too young to learn or too old to implement.  

I believe that every motivated person can become an effective leader by learning the steps involved in how to L-E-A-D!

As fellow leaders, we sometimes have to face the brutal truth about the state of our team and make modifications whether we are leading in our military units, at work, in our volunteer work, or in our homes. Even if you are in the role of a follower, you can still lead informally.

Formal leaders may have the title, the paycheck, the status or the responsibility. But informal leaders can have a position of influence and that can make a huge difference as well. Can you imagine how much your team could accomplish if both the formal and informal leaders did their part for the betterment of the organization?

Everyone one is a leader, whether formally or informally and the difference lies in how we choose to incorporate four key steps to effectively LEAD for the sake of our teams.

 

L is for Loyalty

A leader must be loyal to the organization and leave no question that he or she is committed to its success. Loyalty is the distinguishing quality of winners. That goes for everyone on the team. A leader models loyalty so that it works top down, bottom up and side to side at all times.

In our organizations, it means we care about the success of the group more than we care about taking the “safe” path. When we take the responsibility of leadership in Toastmasters, for example, we take a membership oath where we commit to the club and they commit to the new member, this oath expresses our mutual loyalty.

We build loyalty by being part of the solution rather than the problem. In our social media world, it’s easy to become a troll and pile on the complaints, but loyalty means we look for better solutions. We build loyalty in leading by example, and building street cred. In my speaking profession, I continue to grow and work hard to achieve the highest Accreditation offered—the Accredited Speaker, which is awarded to less than 1% of all speakers, worldwide. This kind of hard work builds that credibility. You can’t encourage people to continue to work toward a goal if you’ve stopped.

We build loyalty by realizing our positions of leadership are a sacred trust – as an Accredited Speaker or a team lead, I have to really watch what I say and how I say it when I’m interacting with my team. I use praise freely and reproof sparingly.

What are ways YOU build loyalty?

E is for Enthusiasm

Leaders know that enthusiasm is contagious and they help spread it around. If you are excited about hitting the pavement every day it will show. And that generates enthusiasm among your team. There is only one thing more contagious than enthusiasm and that is the lack of enthusiasm.

We are passionate about who we lead and what we can accomplish and it’s hard to hide that enthusiasm. I remember when I was speaking at a dinner to honor all the students in the Antelope Valley who were graduating with a 4.0. There were about 1000 people there and I decided to tailor a speech toward financial literacy for young adults. I got so excited and passionate about ways they could graduate from college with minimal debt, get more bang for their buck and manage whatever budgets they had at their disposal.

The principal of one of the schools who had students there was so impacted by my passion, that he quit his job at the end of the year, and pursued his passion for a non-profit organization that would help troubled youth learn to live their dreams. He said that attending that banquet changed his life as he realized he didn’t want to live without passion in his work.

As a support system I think it’s important to retain our enthusiasm even when things get tough. I believe that 10% of life is our circumstances and 90% of life is our attitude toward our circumstances.

What are YOU Enthusiastic about?

Join us next week for the second part of this blog for the “A” and “D” of LEAD so that

You can become the leader your team needs you to be in order to change the world in a positive way.

Ellie Kay

Teaching Children Generosity During the Holidays

Parents want their kids to learn how to give back to others, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to do that effectively.

When my kids were growing up, from the time they were toddlers, they worked alongside us to gather groceries for the local food pantry, they were with us as a family when we collected used coats from the neighborhood for the homeless shelter and they helped us buy toys for the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program, handing them off to a handsome Marine in the store. The result is that they grew up thinking of others during the holidays and today, they give back in proactive ways to communities both home and abroad.

 

The first Tuesday of December is “Giving Tuesday” when there is an effort across the nation to give back to our communities. This year, my family and I participated in Walmart’s Holiday Sing to Salute Military Families campaign by singing classic holiday songs! Who would have thought that teaching your kids to give through song could be so much fun? This is a nationwide campaign that encourages the public to sing a portion of a classic holiday song while capturing it on video, and then post the video on social media channels to show support for members of the military and their families. Through these actions, Walmart will donate up to $1 million to Fisher House Foundation, which for the past 25 years has provided a home-away-from-home for military and veterans’ families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veterans hospital. In my visits to Fisher House and my work with them, I’ve seen how important this is to military families.

The goal of the donation is to help Fisher House Foundation fund a full year of lodging for military families staying at Fisher Houses on U.S. military bases. Additionally, Walmart launched the campaign with a $500,000 donation to Fisher House Foundation.

From now until Dec. 22, the public can participate by taking the following steps:

  1. Create a holiday greeting or video of one or more individuals singing a portion of a classic holiday song.
  2. Post the greeting or video on a public Instagram, Twitter or YouTube account with the hashtag #Sing2Salute. If you’re posting on YouTube, make sure the hashtag is in your video’s title and post description.
  1. In the post, tag a friend and call on them to participate.

As always, your posted content should comply with the guidelines of the social media platform you choose. For each public post on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube using the hashtag #Sing2Salute during the campaign, Walmart will donate $100, up to $1 million, to Fisher House Foundation. To learn more about Walmart’s Holiday Sing to Salute Military Families campaign, review rules for participation and see featured videos, visit www.walmart.com/sing2salute. To see my family’s salute, take a look here or follow me @elliekay .

Another way my kids and I are giving back is through the Greenlight A Vet campaign to help create visible support for veterans nationwide. We can show support for veterans this season by changing one light bulb in our home to green, raising awareness on social media, volunteering and serving with veteran groups in their community, or starting a mentor/mentee relationship with a veteran.

Additionally, parents and their kids can celebrate the Red Kettle Campaign’s 125th anniversary this year. Participating stores, like Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations nationwide, will host red kettles and bell ringers throughout December. Have your kids put in their coins and explain to them that this act of giving will provide food, clothing, shelter, financial assistance and other services to those in need.

Ellie Kay

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behindthe photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Uncle Steve is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for a new baby in the family, a newly commissioned LT, a son on the USMA Color guard, a Marine who safely came back from Iraq and for a daughter who just got engaged.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

 

The Homestretch – Hearts Apart Stay Connected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Connected When You’re Together:

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

Heroes at Home Goes International

What happens in Vegas, never stays in Vegas—it gets populated on Facebook! If you follow us on our Facebook page, you’ll see that “Heroes at Home” made a big splash in that city.

In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, I present a segment called “Heroes at Home” where we talk about the amazing way that our military members and their families not only survive the challenging lifestyle, but they thrive by demonstrating key characteristics. Every time we present this, we find our audience laughing and eventually crying, but they leave feeling inspired and they know that the sacrifices they make are worth it.

As “America’s Family Financial Expert” I’m often in the media giving advice and as a corporate spokesperson, I help Fortune 500 companies launch new products and services. In all these venues, I talk about our Heroes and our Heroes at Home, informing a civilian population about the unique characteristics that comprise a heroic group of Americans. While my profession is finances, my passion is military families.

This past weekend, the Heroes at Home message went international when I presented this keynote to a Toastmasters International audience of over 1000 Toastmasters and more as it was streamed live, internationally, as well. WHAT AN AUDIENCE! They not only caught the vision of what it means to serve our country, they got behind the message 100%. In the process, I received the very rare designation of “Accredited Speaker” which is awarded to less than 1% of all Toastmasters globally.

A quick recap of the characteristics of successful military families:

  • A Sense of Humor – this lightens the load and brings joy to the journey.
  • Patriotism – Even if you are riding a mechanical bull in Billy Bob’s you can still be a patriot and proclaim that you are proud to serve America.
  • Courage – Admiral Chester Nimitz said of the Marines in Iwo Jima – “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” I believe those who serve today show that same kind of courage.
  • Faith – There’s a chapel at every base and a chaplain assigned to every unit in our armed forces. Whether you are an atheist or an Anglican, you have an equal place at the table.
  • Legacy – Even though 1% of the American population protects the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us, we are still a part of a long line of military service. In this audience and all our audiences, we see 80%+ of the hands going up saying that someone in their family has served.

My husband, daughter and friends were in the audience, and others who can be called Heroes and Heroes at Home. The exciting part of the message was that this audience gave our Heroes at standing ovation when I encouraged them to tell our Heroes:

We love you.

We are proud of you.

And together, we will be all right.

We are building this tour for Fy16 and will be going to Europe and wherever else we are invited, spreading the word of hope, help and humor to our military members and their families.

Thank YOU for your service and thank you for your time.

 

 

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