A Financial Education Event
     

Lean Bodies and Fat Wallets in 2010 – Question Contest

We will be giving copies of “Living Rich for Less” to anyone whose question Ellie reads on ABC News Now’s “GOOD MONEY” show on Friday, January 15th.
The deadline for your questions is: Wednesday, noon PST, January 13, 2009
Topic: Healthy and Wealthy in the New Year
In today’s economy can you still get healthy and stay on a budget? When is buying exercise equipment a good investment? What about plans like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig–how much do they cost you (per pound) to lose weight? Is it a wise choice to invest in special treatments for youthful looking skin or is there an inexpensive way to keep your skin looking great?
Good health doesn’t have to cost your wealth and Ellie will answer these questions and more on ABC’s GOOD MONEY show. Find out the least expensive way to get fit, lose weight, live longer and feel great as Ellie looks at the latest trends in health management.
Do you have a health/wealth related question? Maybe you want to know the best way to manage your budget in relationship to health clubs, vitamins, or free ways to exercise. Send us your questions as they relate to the New Year’s resolution to get a lean body and a fat wallet. If the producers select your question, we’ll send you a free copy of Ellie’s popular hard cover book, Living Rich for Less (Waterbrook, 2009).

Remember the ABCs of past prize winning questions:

Accuracy- Questions that accurately fit the show’s theme for the day are most relevant. This week’s theme: “Lean Bodies and Fat Wallets in 2010 with Ellie Kay.”

Brevity
– If it takes two minutes to ask the question, then it won’t be selected. A question that can fit into a 10 to 15 second soundbite is ideal.
Clarity – The world of TV news revolves around questions asked in a way that is easily understood by viewers.

Please email your questions to: assistant@elliekay.com or posted on Ellie’s blog at http://halfpriceliving.blogspot.com/

Or, post them on her facebook wall!

We look forward to hearing from YOU as you join Ellie on ABC News!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!


With our son well into football season, I’m thinking about his health a lot more and the cost of health insurance as well.

According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy
The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. My friend, Danna Demetre, has a is a fabulous health program for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates accountability, balanced eating, and exercise plans, this approach to health provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy
There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance. Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com . It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.
You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise
Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.” If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Of course, I think it’s friends and family that truly make you wealthy and those who are happier generally have better health. So kiss your kids and take your girlfriend to lunch and enjoy!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Our son, Jonathan, is a senior this year and we’re glad he made it this far! Last year, he had a concussion on the soccer field that could have ended quite badly. The total hospital bill for that little trip was over $18,000! According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy

The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. So get involved in a healthy workout program or plug into a support group to regain control of your health such as www.weightwatcher.com.Another great program is First Place 4 Health (www.firstplace4health.com) for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates prayer, balanced eating and exercise plans, this non-profit group provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy

There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance.Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com. It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.

You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise

Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.”

If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Counterfeit Products — Deals or Dangerous Duds?

 

I was given a designer purse as a birthday gift and was so thrilled until one of my other friends pointed out that the nameplate should say “Prada” not “Proda.”  So my Prada was a Nada, which was embarrassing, but it wasn’t life threatening as other counterfeit products are. For example, the third most commonly copied product is drugs. The U. S. Customs department said that agents seized 24% more shipments of counterfeit goods last year (2011) than the previous year. In fact, fake purses didn’t even make the top ten list of these kinds of bogus products.

Top 10 Counterfeit Products

 

  1. Electronics
  2. Shoes
  3. Drugs
  4. CDs and DVDs
  5. Clothing
  6. Perfume
  7. Watches
  8. Cigarettes
  9. Computer Hardware
  10. Toys and Games

 

The Food and Drug Administration found fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin that made their way into doctors offices and in two cases, consumers received counterfeit versions of the attention deficit disorder drug Adderall. A mom noticed the misspelled label and alerted authorities. Way to go, mom, I guess a secondary clue was that junior was bouncing off the walls instead of calmly reading a book.

 

The Electrical Safety Foundation International says that there have been more than 1 million counterfeit electrical products recalled in recent years to include extension cords, batteries and power strips. These fake versions can cause fires and destroy devices.

 

The most popular knock off is electronics where the Gallup Consulting group found that 64% of counterfeit electrical products are purchased from legitimate shops and retailers! This includes iPhones, iPads and iPods. Phony apple stores abound in China and Hong Kong—the country that accounts for 80% of the value of counterfeit goods.  There was one industrious crook in America who set up a fake Apple storefront online and sold thousands of products before he was caught.

 

Don’t think that buying fake shampoo, toothpaste, or perfume constitutes getting a good deal either. These phony versions of branded personal care products can contact caustic chemicals that can harm the unsuspecting public.

 

Spotting the Deal that’s Really a Dud

 

There are ways to know whether you are getting the real deal or not.

  • Look for misspelled words and incorrect grammar on products, packaging and websites.  It might be a good idea to invite your 7th grade English teach to go shopping with you.
  • Beware of packaging, websites and products that don’t include company names, toll free numbers or other contact info. In fact, you can whip out your legitimate iPhone and call the toll free numbers on the product to see if they work or not.
  • If an item doesn’t come with a product manual that contains safety warnings and instructions for use and maintenance, then it’s probably a dud.
  • Don’t ever buy toys, anything electrical or items for children from flea markets or dollar stores that don’t allow returns.
  • Watch out for fake UL marks. The legitimate one includes “UL” in a circle, the word “LISTED” in all caps, the control or issue number and what the product is.

When in doubt, go to the Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org  or the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov to see if there’s been an alert listed for the product you are purchasing

 

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Creative Cooking

 

 

When I first got married I didn’t know how to boil an egg. So I called my college girlfriend, Donna, and asked her. “Oh my,” she said, “I think you just boil it until it floats!”

Well, two hours later, the egg floated all right—by exploding in a billion bits.

As the years went by, I finally managed to boil an egg without having an accident. In fact, I enjoyed learning how to cook healthy and tasty foods for my growing brood of lean, mean, eating machines. Our four boys seemed to have a bottomless pit in the place of their stomachs. I developed some ways to save money in the kitchen without compromising health.

Tips to Stretch the Food Dollar

  • Kid Power – When my kids were little, I always let them help me in the kitchen because they wanted to be there. Plus, kids are more likely to eat food they help prepare, thus eliminating those picky eaters and the need to lecture them about hungry children in third world countries who would love to eat their dinner.
  • Teen Power As the kids grew into young teenagers they loved watching cooking shows and became adept at putting together a meal. When I’m too tired to cook and before I spend $35 + on fast food, I just gather the ingredients and ask one of my teens to cook something simple. I pay them $5 for the effort and that usually saves about $20 over the cost of buying fast food. Teach them to use apps like Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot to save even more.
  • Cook Once, Eat Twice – To save time, energy and use leftovers, try to cook foods that will give double the mileage on a single effort. For example, cook my recipe for spaghetti sauce and use the leftovers for spaghetti pie. Or boil extra chicken breasts to make chicken enchiladas one night and use leftover chicken to make tasty chicken salad over the weekend. Another one of our favorites is to make a large pot roast for one dinner, then save the leftover meat, combine it with bar-b-que sauce and make hearty sandwiches for Sunday lunch!
  • Weigh Your Produce – Not all ten pound bags of grapefruit or potatoes are created equal. Weigh your prepackaged produce to make sure you get the most for your money.
  • Follow the Food Mile – Today’s it’s all about sustainability and the environment. Part of that has to do with how far food travels to get to your local store—the longer the food mile, the more expensive the product. Try to buy local food  or shop at farmers markets because these products have a shorter food mile to save dollars and the environment!
  • Soup and Muffin Night – To cut back on meat, try substituting a soup and muffin for dinner one day a week. This lighter fare will not only help cut back on your food budget, but it will also save calories. If you’re feeding teen boys or a hungrier husband, you might want to substitute sandwiches to go with the soup instead of muffins.

  How do YOU save money when cooking?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters!

Summer, Squash and Squeamish Eaters

If you have kids, you probably know what it’s like to have picky eaters in the house. One loves pickles, another one hates them. Someone doesn’t like mushrooms, another hates the taste of celery and one has aspirations of a completely carnivorous diet.

Fortunately, there are ways to hide nutritional ingredients in your meals. One of my staple recipes for our children is squash casserole. It’s ooey, gooey and packed with healthy nutrients like Vitamin C. It’s also affordable, considering summer is squash season. Best of all, it’s easy-to-make, filling and just as good when eaten for leftovers.

Hungry yet? Here’s a version of my squash casserole recipe if you’d like to try it out this summer:

Ingredients:

–       3 pounds of yellow squash (or zucchini, depending on what’s on sale)

–       1 large onion

–       2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese

–       30 crushed round buttery crackers (Ritz or something similar)

–       ½ cup of cream, milk, cream cheese or unflavored Greek yogurt

–       4 tablespoons of butter/margarine

–       salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Dice onion and sauté with butter in a large skillet on medium.
  3. Chop squash and immediately place in skillet with the onions.
  4. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until squash is tender (easily breaks apart with a fork).
  5. Add cream/milk, 1 cup cheese and half the crushed crackers and cook until cheese is melted (about two minutes).
  6. Pour mixture into a greased casserole pan and top with rest of crackers and cheese.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Let it set for a minute or two (it’s hot!) and enjoy.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s super-versatile. Like a little spice? Dice up a jalapeno or add some cayenne pepper. You can also make it cheesier or healthier by adjusting the amount of cheese.

Play around with it and create your own family squash casserole recipe!

What is YOUR favorite summer recipe?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Lean Body, Fat Wallet: The Health and Wealth Connection

I’m announcing, in this blog, my new upcoming release with friend Danna Demetre!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes?

Those were some of the questions we wanted to answer when I wrote this book with Danna Demetre. In the interest of full disclosure, there were other reasons I wanted to pen this work as well. One of them was because it was a good excuse to spend time in Danna’s lovely San Diego home doing the writing (and drinking beverages from Italy)! Plus my hubby likes her hubby, Lew (except when the West Point grad takes on the Air Force Academy grad and they engage in a death-match-war-of-the-words to see whose academy is superior.) It also meant that I only had to write ½ of a book instead of a whole book.  Don’t laugh, this is a very important reason I engaged in this project.  In fact, my literary agent, Steve Laube, says, “Ellie you are the kind of author who likes to have written books.”  So what’s your point, Steve?

Even though Danna and I are experts from two seemingly different fields – finance and fitness,  in our new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we let readers in on a remarkable discovery – the habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The principles that help you stick to a budget are the same ones that help you eat better, lose weight and keep it off.

The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work using an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.  Lean Body, Fat Wallet, includes real life stories of failure and success readers will identify with and draw inspiration from. It also links common issues of health and money, such as balancing a budget along with a diet and how overspending relates to overeating.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

We also offer a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Here’s a list of reasons people fail to develop that Lean Body, Fat Wallet we will give you ways to overcome these:

Top Ten Failure Factors

  1. Set unrealistic goals ­
  2. Motivated by the wrong motives
  3. Believed failure was inevitable
  4. Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often
  5. Influenced unduly by other people
  6. Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white
  7. Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility
  8. Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating
  9. Procrastinated rather than taking action
  10. Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join Danna and I on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet!

Pre-order the book and we’ll send you a special surprise!

What would YOU rather have, a Lean Body or a Fat Wallet?

 

Top Ten Failure Factors for Finances

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

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

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

Top Ten Failure Factors:

•   Set unrealistic goals

•   Motivated by the wrong motives

•   Believed failure was inevitable

•   Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often

•   Influenced unduly by other people

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

•   Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility

•   Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating

•   Procrastinated rather than taking action

•   Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

De-Stress for Less (Part 1)

De-stress for Less Part 1: On the Run

You can get the stress out of your life without breaking your budget if you follow a few steps to de-stress for less. Here are some creative ways to relax and be entertained while paying attention to your bottom line. I encourage you to pursue a sustainable lifestyle of balance, because the price we pay for living under constant stress is much too high. In fact, a CNN poll reveals that the number-one reason for stress in most countries is money.

The countries most stressed out by money are Malaysia, China, Singapore, and the United States. The countries least stressed out about money are Russia, France, and Italy. It would be self-defeating to ask you to be less stressed about money and then suggest ways to de-stress that cost a lot of money.

As a mom of many children, I was often a mom on the run. I’ve seen the price that people pay for never slowing down, and the cost can include frequent headaches, arthritis, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks. I determined when my children were young that I would learn to do things that relieved me of the pressures of a large and busy family. I also learned that some of the simplest activities could bring the most enjoyment. Here are some simple and free options I’ve used many times over the years to de-stress my life:

  • Take a power nap.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Listen to an audiobook.
  • People-watch on a bench.
  • Talk to God. Write out prayers for friends and family.
  • Light a candle.
  • Eat a sack lunch at a park or somewhere outside.
  • Take a stroll and stop to smell some roses.
  • Write in a journal in your backyard or in a garden.
  • Draw a picture of your house. Or backyard. Or somewhere that makes you happy.
  • Write out favorite quotes or passages of literature and put it somewhere you will see it.
  • Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while.

I know you are aware of these simple pleasures, but do you practice them? Intentional breaks from your usual routine can make a huge difference not only in your stress, but in your overall productivity later in the day.

Bonus De-Stress Tip:

Since the recession, the idea of a “stay-cation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard or does something special to make their time at home feel more like a time away. While these are great ideas to save money for people on a budget, I believe there are other ways to get away from home and have an affordable vacation away. For one thing, you can check your local deals at httpe://www.groupon.com/, http:/travelzoo.com/, or http://livingsocial.com/ to get some really fun values. I went indoor skydiving for only $35 (a $110 value) and it changed my entire perspective! And don’t forget to check out Pinterest to see great ideas of fun activities

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

De-Stress for Less (part 2)

In order to fully embrace the value of free time, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of recreation and relaxation in our overall quality of life and productivity. Our families, marriages, and friendships all need time to regenerate and celebrate so we can be refreshed and ready to face the next round of daily demands of modern living. Unfortunately, if we are not mindful, those rewarding activities can become costly and negatively impact our budgets—which puts us right back into stress mode!

If entertainment and eating out is scheduled into your spending plan, then there’s no stress of going off budget. But what if you could go out twice as often and still stay on budget? Here are some ways to have twice the fun at the same price:

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