A Financial Education Event
     

The World is Going to Know Her Name

Bethany Grace. That name means something. It was the name I had for her two older brothers if they had been born a girl. But then I finally got my Bethany Grace. There’s power in a name. There’s power in THAT name. Bethany Grace. It means “graceful one in the house of God.”

She was born unconventionally with a doctor I’d never met. The base hospital was being closed down in phases and if a mom delivered on two particular weekends a month, she had to go downtown. We had to use the ER doctors and they didn’t know me. But that issue was soon rectified. I arrived in the middle of active labor and I fought for my birth plan and won. The prize? The winners got a beautiful baby girl born in grace and joy.

Long before Alexander Hamilton became a play, the world was going to know her name. Bethany Grace.

I told Bob I didn’t know what to do with a girl, I was the mother of boys that kept a cloth diaper near the changing table to stop a sudden fountain. I knew about boys. I knew about overalls and Tonka trucks. But a girl?

My daughter got two baby showers and we had TONS of dresses that she would soon outgrow so I had to make use of them quickly. Every day Bob came home from flying jets, he saw his baby girl in a different dress with ruffles, bows, lace and bonnets. Our friends were very generous. After two straight weeks of new dresses, he came home one day, shrugged his shoulders, and wryly said, “I guess you figured out what to do with a girl.” Bethany Grace, you are a gift.

She grew in grace with a joy that was contagious and quickly spread to all she met. She laughed and giggled and suddenly the old curmudgeons in the restaurant were laughing and giggling. She had the power to exchange storm clouds for sunshine and butterflies. She still has that power.

She’s used her power wisely–to bring grace to others, to selflessly serve a community of children in Europe and military members around the world. She’s used her power to revitalize an indifferent audience into a mosh pit of excitement and anticipation. Whether she’s speaking to 3 people or 3000, she’s engaged, enigmatic and effervescent. She’s Bethany Grace.

Today, she turns 30 and has much to show for her years– she’s visited 30 countries with no debt, she’s spoken to large audiences and worked her magic on them, she’s become a Godly wife and a couple months ago, she became an unconventional mom. I say unconventional because Caden was born during COVID19 and with a “eventful” pregnancy. I say unconventional because motherhood doesn’t normally come so easily to women the way it did to my daughter. Her child doubled his birth weight in 7 weeks under her expert care. You would have thought this was her 5th child instead of her first. Bethany, there’s no shame in having a smooth transition to motherhood and a fierce love & appreciation for your good little baby.

Bethany Grace, you’ve done right by your name. You have walked gracefully in the House of God and outside of those walls as well. You’ve conquered opposition and oppression along the way. The world may not yet know your name, but YOUR world knows it–your mama & papa, your brothers, your faithful friends, your sweet husband and your precious son. It’s a name that brings a smile to our lips and joy to our hearts. It’s a name that will live eternally in a kingdom far away. It’s a name I love.

Happy Birthday, daughter. Happiest of Birthdays, Bethany Grace.

 

This was written by Ellie Kay as a tribute to her co-host on The Money Millhouse for her birthday. To hear this mother/daughter team in action, go to The Money Millhouse podcast.  

A Closer Look at Father’s Day

Dad. Papa. Old man. World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. We call the fathers in our lives a lot of different things (some more well-received than others), but most of us can agree that we appreciate them. With Father’s Day coming up soon, it’s time to start thinking of ways to show that gratitude to your paternal unit.

To celebrate our 100th podcast episode, we invited the fathers & husbands in our life into The Money Millhouse studio to get their spin on our show. Even we (Bethany Bayless and Ellie Kay) were surprised to hear their inputs and we learned something about these great guys and fathers.

According to digital offers destination, RetailMeNot, a survey found more people buy Mother’s Day gifts for mom than Father’s Day gifts for dad (86%* vs. 77%). Other findings include:

•Nearly half (48%) of consumers surveyed believe that people spend more on Mother’s Day gifts than on Father’s Day gifts

•20% of consumers surveyed admit they are more creative with gifts for their mom on Mother’s Day than for their dad on Father’s Day

•Gift cards (17%) and quality time with the family (17%) top dads’ Father’s Day wish lists this year. 

He might act like he enjoys that tie or bottle of hot sauce you get him every single year, but a unique gift every now and then can go a long way. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are three unique ways to show your father or father figure some love this year, without spending a ton of cash. 

Use Online Coupons: Use RetailMeNot.com, or download the app. Whenever you have an idea of what to get dad, type in that store to get coupons to be used online or in store. You should never have to pay full price when you have coupons so close at hand!

Give dad some time off this year: Use sites like travelzoo.com to find great destination packages for great deals for later this summer or fall. It could even be a weekend getaway close to where he lives–you are able to search by location for the best deals around. 

Customized gift: We’re not talking just coffee mugs or canvas photos here (find these at Walgreens with same day service and coupons on their website or Retail Me Not)… we’re also talking something completely customized and unique. My son Daniel surprised me last Mother’s Day with a framed “Kay Family Rules” listing all the sayings we would tell our kids when they were growing up. It was funny, memorable and something even a father would appreciate.

At other craft sites like Etsy, you’ll find a wide variety of handmade and vintage gifts that can be personalized with a simple note to the seller. They even have a convenient section up right now that lists dad-like items such as guitar pick bracelets, dog tags, robes and phone holders.

Do-it-yourself project: Pinterest is our go to place for ideas. And while it’s another great option for finding a customized gift, it’s an even better starting point for something you can make yourself. For example, if your father has a particularly defined “power stache,” like Papa Kay, there’s a gift on Pinterest for a jar with an outline of a mustache, which can easily be made and personalized yourself. (Plus it makes a pretty good place for him to store his combs, razor and other items.)

The gift of an experience: If you’re lucky enough to live by your dad, one of the most memorable gifts you can give him is simply spending some time with him. You could toss baseballs at the park (while social distancing) cook his favorite meal (barbecue, anyone?) or go to a hike or bike ride. 

When it comes to a Father’s Day gift, a more expensive gift isn’t necessarily a better gift. Put some thought into it and he’ll be happy. Just be sure to call him by one of the names he likes–The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot agrees.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Rent-To-Own: Is It Ever A Good Idea?

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You’ve moved into a new place, started a new job and you’re beginning another phase of your life. The only problem is that you don’t have enough furniture for the new place and you realize you’ll also need a washer/dryer.  Then, miraculously, an ad pops up on social media for a place where you can go get name brand appliances and choose from dozens of options on exactly the kind of furniture you need—all for only $21.99 a month! YEA!!!  You’re saved! After all, you have a good job, the monthly payments aren’t going to break you and you deserve to make your new place comfortable, right?

Wait a minute, not so fast.

Is rent-to-own the best option? The answer is:  it depends.

How Does Rent-to-Own Work?

Usually, you’re renting from a well known store, but, in most cases, you’ll have to sign a third party contract. I remember one time when we bought a refrigerator and my husband thought, “Let’s use someone else’s money at 0% interest.”  The only problem was the third party contract indicated that those 0% payments were only for a fixed introductory period, then there were three options. We could buy the item, continue making payments (at 200% APR interest) or return the item to end our lease. We bought it out early, so that we were in the clear and vowed to never buy into this kind of a contract without understanding the fine print first.

 

Rent-to-own also means that if you fall behind on the payments, the leasing company can repossess your leased item and you don’t get any money back. There may be cheaper ways to pay because even if you have bad credit the options of  layaway, sub-prime credit cards or  bad-credit personal loans, which run 36% APR are better than the 200% APR of many rent-to-own programs.

 

When Is Rent-to-Own A Good Idea?

 

Despite the typical APR rates north of 200% for this kind of contract, there may be some anomalies when this option is not a bad thing for your bottom line. In fact, there are some instances, when using a rent-to-own option make sense:

 

  • If the interest rate stays relatively low (less than 3%) during the entire leasing term, and the term is 24 months or less, then you aren’t losing much. But read the fine print.
  • If you believe you’ll have the money to buy the item outright at the end of the low, fixed rate introductory period, then it could be a good way to keep some money in a rainy day account while you save up for the buy out.
  • If you need to diversify your loans to improve your credit score, and you qualify for low interest, then this kind of financial contract could help your credit score. But since diversification of loans only represents 10% of your credit score, it’s not worth paying higher interest rates to diversify.
  • If you are only in a location for a short amount of time (our sons have military training at bases for anywhere from 3 months to 10 months), and your interest rate is low, you could rent and turn the item back in when you move. But make sure the contract allows you to do so. If you must move yourself and your company doesn’t pay for a move, then renting a truck and moving that furniture cross country could cost more than it’s worth.
  • If you have the good credit score amongst your roommates and you all need to get furniture for the main living areas, then you could work a deal where they use your credit (your contribution) and they pay their part of the monthly payments (their contribution). But make sure the interest rates are low for the entire contract and that you trust your roommates enough to make the payments to you (on time) so that you can make the payment. At the end of the lease, you keep the furniture. This option may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. But if you are cash strapped, it might be just what you need.

 

Before You Sign

Let’s say that you’ve decided that Rent-to-own is the route that will work best for your budget and lifestyle. Here is your checklist before you ink that contract, if any of these are not clear are it’s revealed that they are not to your advantage, then think twice about this option. Here’s the list:

  • What are the monthly payments (including all fees)?
  • When are the payments due?
  • What is the total cost to own this item (all payments, interest and fees)?
  • Who insures damaged or theft?
  • If you miss a payment, will it be automatically repossessed?
  • Is the item new or used?

After You Sign

 

Let’s say you already signed a contract before you read this blog. Or, you’ve followed all the advice shared and decide that the contract will be a good option for you. Take these steps to protect yourself:

 

  • Follow the money. Make sure you are keeping your payment records because some rental companies have had problems with giving their customers credit for payments made.
  • Pay on time. Since 35% of your credit score is your credit history, it’s crucial that you make your payments on time or even before they are due. If possible, set up the payments to transfer from your bank account so that you never miss a payment.
  • There’s a chance your debt might be sold to a debt collector Know your rights in this situation as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires debt collectors from harassing customers, calling them excessively and using abusive or deceptive practices to collect on the debt. 

In the Kay family, we like to live a debt free life and will usually save up to buy furniture or appliances before we would go into debt. This isn’t always possible for American consumers, in which case it’s good to know the nuances of Rent-to-Own for you or those you care about.

What has been YOUR experience with Rent-to-Own?

Give Courage to our Heroes and Heroes at Home on #Giving Tuesday

Courage is one of the main characteristics of the service members that we serve in our free Heroes at Home Financial Event and in our Money Millhouse podcast.

Those who are currently serving volunteered to serve during a time of war and that requires courage. But their families, the Heroes at Home need courage as well. I’ve sent a fighter pilot spouse into harm’s way and now we have three sons who currently serve. Two are infantry officers in the Marines and Army, and the third is a fighter pilot in the Air Force. It was ok when they were at their respective service academies or in training. But it’s a different story when they are deployable.

While it’s hard to send off a spouse, I have to admit that it’s even harder to send a child. I stop breathing for the months they are deployed. Because I know my infantry sons will be involved in air assault missions and facing firefights. They are all home now, but even writing this brings tears to my eyes as I know they will deploy again. I spend a lot of time in prayer for their courage and their safety.

We’ve taken our tour all the way around the world and when we were in Alaska several years ago, I spoke to the spouses of the Army Stryker Brigade, who were deployed. Their military members had suddenly been extended from a year to 15 months. It became a debacle because 1/2 of the troops came home and were immediately redeployed, while the other half stayed in harm’s way.

I was called, on an emergency basis, to talk to these spouses and as a veteran spouse and mom of family who has deployed into harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq, I spoke from experience. The President sent the Secretary of State to speak to these spouses and he spoke in the afternoon while I spoke in the morning.

I didn’t mix words as I told them that when their military member is deployed into the theater, they have one role and that is to tell their spouse , “I love you, I’m proud of you and I will be all right.’” This is NOT the time to vent on them, tell them about troubles, or say negative things. Spouses can vent with a trusted friend, a chaplain or even their puppy dog—but it’s important to NOT vent on the military member when they are deployed. The reason is because they are there to do a job. They took an oath to serve our country and do their duty.

If a military member is distracted because of issues at home, then distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to loss of life. So the best thing a Hero at Home can do is be supportive when their military member is deployed.

As these young spouses left the event, they said, “Now I know what I need to do.” We gave them hope that day as well as a plan of action.

Three days after our team left Alaska, I received a phone call from the Alaska event organizer. One of the young moms who was in the audience was given notification that her husband would not be coming home, not for Christmas or forever. As she was notified, she said, “I’m so glad that I went to the Heroes at Home event because the last time I spoke to my husband on the phone, I was going to vent on him. I was so mad that the Army had extended them during the holidays. My husband is my best friend, I tell him everything. But instead of venting, I can live with the fact that the last words I ever spoke to him were, “I love you, I am proud you and I’m going to be all right.”

Yes, a Hero at Home is courageous and that is what you are if you are a military family member reading this blog. Thank you for your courage.

For the rest of us, how can you help bring courage to a Hero at Home?

One way is to donate to what we are doing, so that we can continue to give these brave men and women in uniform this very important message from America,

We love you, we are so proud of you and together, we will be all right.” 

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

Wedding Budgets – Step 3

 

Ask my son Daniel about what he remembers from his wedding and he’ll likely give you a blank stare. “Uh… it was a blur. Everything happened so fast.” Ask our lovely daughter-in-law Jenn, and she’ll give you a slightly more informative response.  “ I remember the flowers and the pretty chapel and the look on Daniel’s face when I walked down the aisle…” Seriously, though, the wedding day goes by extremely fast for most brides and grooms, so it’s important to plan for the rest of your married lives, not just for one day.

To maximize your wedding without borrowing from your future, you’ll need a budget you can stick to, as I talked about in my last post. This will both minimize the financial stress of planning the wedding and help minimize the overall stress in your marriage by not having to incur more debt. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn your reception into a potluck dinner. You can have your wedding cake, and eat it too!

Here are a few ways to better prepare for life beyond the big day:

  • Plan ahead: The sooner you sit down and plan your budget, the better off you’ll be financially. I already mentioned online budget tools, but there are also a number of sites that let you figure out your schedule and other planning necessities. With a little organization, you can easily be your own wedding planner, which is an immediate savings in itself. Make sure you check out TheKnot and Wedding Wire and of course Pintrist!
  • Find the right ring/dress for you: You know that saying where rings should cost at least a two months’ salary? It’s basically an ad created by salespeople. Diamonds are forever, but you don’t want to be paying off your ring forever. Find one that speaks to you, but only if you can afford it. The same goes for the dress/tux you’ll be wearing exactly one day out of your life, as well as other expensive items. Some sites to help review the kind of dress you want are: Style Me Pretty  , Brides.com,  or The Stylish Dresser
  • Don’t go overboard on the venue: Daniel and Jenn got married in The Rose Chapel near downtown Fort Worth. It was gorgeous, but ended up being one of the most affordable options they found. The cost for venue arrangements can range anywhere from $0 to $10,000, so it’s important to research the best spot for you and your fiancé, whether it’s a hotel, club, restaurant, church, university or rental hall.
  • Invite a safe number of guests: For budgeting purposes, you can safely assume that about 60 to 70 percent of your invited guests will attend the wedding and reception. A good way to manage your invitations is by creating a “must-have” A-list of guests and a “would-like-to-include” B-list. Choose carefully, because there are always a few add-on costs.
  • Save on the reception: The reception is one of the easiest places to cut wedding costs. Fancy finger foods or hor’doeuvres are great (depending on the time of the day). But you can also cut costs in little areas , such as using an iPod instead of a DJ, buying half the napkins inscribed, half plain and using affordable yet attractive decorations like rose petals.  You might try carats and cake   or Lover.ly to find the extras in your neighborhood that others liked.

Basically, just try to remember that “happily ever after” is the reason you got married – not so you could blow your life savings on a one-day extravaganza. Or one big trip like the honeymoon, which is what I’ll talk about in my next (and final) wedding preparation.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Wedding Budgets – Step 1

Wedding Budget: Step One

“They say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life.” That’s a line from a song in one of our favorite musicals, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” It’s also a good reminder that when you prepare for your wedding, you need to think about details beyond the big day. Since we’re coming up on June, I’ll use the next couple weeks to cover a few wedding preparation topics. Today’s post is about the budget.

An old proverb says, “A wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower.” One of the main mistakes engaged couples make is not setting a wedding budget, or expecting parents to cover expenses beyond their ability to pay. So how do you figure out who’s paying for what? You have to ask the right questions so you can gather all your financial facts.

What are the financial expectations from the bride’s parents?

The biggest mistake you can make here is assuming the bride’s parents will be covering all the expenses. All parents have some form of financial limitation, so it’s important to talk to them about it ahead of time. Some may give a lump sum; some may pay for specific things like the dress and/or reception. It’s usually best to be direct, polite and flexible when gathering information from the parents who traditionally pay for the majority of the expenses.

What are the financial expectations from the groom’s parents?

Tradition says that the groom’s parents are only expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner, but sometimes they may be able to cover more (or all) of the wedding costs. Talking to them about their financial limitations will both help your budget and encourage them to contribute willingly.

Are there any others who can contribute financially?

Sometimes grandparents or other relatives will offer to pay for part of the honeymoon or something else as their wedding gift. While you probably shouldn’t approach them about contributing, it’s a good idea to keep a list of who has offered to pay for what.

What expenses will the bride and groom cover?

It’s not uncommon for the bride and groom to pay for the entire wedding, especially if they are getting married later in life. But if they aren’t, it’s important to think about things the bride and groom are expected to cover, like the honeymoon, marriage license, flowers and the ceremony officiant’s fee.

It may be hard to ask some of these questions, but it will be harder if you’ve already gotten the financial ball rolling or if you’ve waited until the last minute. Setting an appropriate budget will help you avoid going into debt, which is what I’ll talk about in my next wedding post.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

 

 

Making Father’s Day More Personal



Dad. Papa. Old man. World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. We call the fathers in our lives a lot of different things (some more well-received than others), but most of us can agree that we appreciate them. With Father’s Day less than a month away, it’s time to start thinking of ways to show that gratitude to your paternal unit.
He might act like he enjoys that tie or bottle of hot sauce you get him every single year, but a unique gift every now and then can go a long way. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are three unique ways to show your father or father figure some love this year, without spending a ton of cash.
Customized gift
We’re not talking coffee mugs or bumper stickers here… we’re talking something completely customized and unique. My son Daniel surprised me this Mother’s Day with a framed “Kay Family Rules” listing all the sayings we would tell our kids when they were growing up. It was funny, memorable and something even a father would appreciate.
At lesser-known sites like Etsy, you’ll find a wide variety of handmade and vintage gifts that can be personalized with a simple note to the seller. They even have a convenient section up right now that lists manly items like guitar pick bracelets, dog tags, robes and cufflinks.
Do-it-yourself project
Pinterest is all the rage these days. And while it’s another great option for finding a customized gift, it’s an even better starting point for something you can make yourself. For example, if your father has a particularly defined “power stache,” there’s a gift on Pinterest for a jar with an outline of a mustache, which can easily be made and personalized yourself. (Plus it makes a pretty good place for him to store his combs, razor and other items.)
Pinterest also has an app, so you can go to your favorite crafts or home store and keep track of the items you’ll need on your phone.


Ball game or other experience
If you’re lucky enough to live by your dad, one of the most memorable gifts you can give him is simply spending some time with him. You could toss baseballs at the park, cook his favorite meal (barbecue, anyone?) or go to an event. Now is especially an affordable time to catch a baseball game by using sites such as Stubhub or Groupon, as teams are in the middle of their season and looking to fill seats for games against less-popular teams. There are also often free or cheap summer concerts, as well as deals on movies.
Basically, when it comes to a Father’s Day gift, a more expensive gift isn’t necessarily a better gift. Put some thought into it and he’ll be happy (just don’t call him one of the names he doesn’t like).

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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