A Financial Education Event
     

Back to College – The Kay Way – part two

BGadmin

When people ask me how we are put our kids through college debt free, the answer is multi-fold.

First, we train our children from a young age that going to school, doing your homework and getting good grades is their primary “job.” By teaching them a good work ethic, we are laying the groundwork for scholarships and more.

Secondly, we send them to schools that we can afford or where they get the best scholarship offers to cover the most expenses.

Thirdly, we have saved a modest amount of college money to help them pay their room and board and partial tuition in some cases.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we require that they work part time in the summers or during the school year (through a work/study program or a regular job) in order to do their part in paying for college. By implementing these four disciplines, graduated debt free, with our most recent grad finishing up this past May. The older Kay kids had over ½ million in scholarships and and the last two garnered over a million dollars in scholarships.

Priorities
In any discussion of college costs, it’s important to keep priorities straight:
Parents need to leave yourself some fun money for retirement. How else can you afford that mechanical bull riding lesson and those parasailing flights (been there, done that, LOVE it)?
I really believe that you, as a parent, should try to avoid borrowing on your future in order to pay for your child’s future. Why would you want to take one of your greatest investments and leverage it for college expenses? Yet millions of parents make that devastating financial choice every year. I’m talking about avoiding any college funding plan that includes a home equity loan, a HELOC (home equity line of credit) or refinancing of an existing home mortgage. These options reduce the amount of equity in your home, increasing the risk of possible foreclosure and you incur costs in interest charges that may cost you more if the term on the new mortgage is greater than the remaining term on the existing mortgage.

The College Mantra
When I began a young adult, got married and began having kids (in that order) I was first exposed to the whole idea of “the college my child gets accepted to.” As a mom of many I frequently heard, “What college did they get accepted into?” The part of that question that amazes me is that the answer that is most impressive are also the most expensive (Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc). While an average of 40% of the students who attend these schools either get financial aid, grants or scholarships, they only average out to an assistance of $9600 per year. This leaves a boatload that the student and mom/dad owe for college. Most of this is usually in loans of some kind. So then the average student graduating from some of the most prestigious colleges have student loans upwards to $80,000 or more.
So why is the question: What college did they get accepted into?
The question should be: What college did they get accepted into that they can afford?
Why do you want to leverage your future (through HELOCS or loans) or leverage their future (through massive consumer debt) when it will take many years of earning power, for them to pay back those loans? One of the most common problems in young married Millennials is the burden of dual student loans in a marriage.

Three of our children went to service academies, which each have a value of about 425k that is paid back in a minimum of five years of military service. You can read more about those in my service academy blog, which will come out next week.

I’m doing what I can to help families minimize student loan debt so that both the parents and the graduates can have a better quality of life with more flexibility once they start those new careers. For more practical aspects of very specific ways you can pay for college. Please email assistant@elliekay.com and put “College Crunches” in the subject line. Our offices will send you a wonderful resource file that I wrote to help you fund a quality education for a fraction of the debt.

Ellie Kay

 

Back to College – The Kay Way – part one

BGadmin

Back To College

When Bethany was four years old, she came running in the house sobbing uncontrollably. I smoothed her blond curls and held her, “What’s wrong, Bunny?”
“I don’t want to leave you and go to college!” Her chubby arms held my neck tight.
“Um, well, Bunny, you don’t have to go to college any time soon!” I soothed, while rubbing her back.
She sat up straight, “I don’t?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffed, “Good! Can I go back to Julie’s house and play again?”
I figured out later that all the drama was because Julie’s older brother was leaving for college and her friend’s family was sad to say goodbye. She thought she was going to have to leave us and it made her sad.
Fast forward the better part of two decades and she’s now a rising senior at Moody in Chicago, majoring in media communications. She’s not crying when she goes back to school, although we miss her. The good news is that she, along with all our other kids, are graduating debt-free! We don’t have any student loans and we didn’t have to refinance our house. Here are a few quick tips to pay for college. For more info, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “College Crunch File.”

1. Make the Right Choice – Choose a school not because it’s the best, but because it’s the best value. Change the conversation from “I’ll go to the best college that I can get into” to “I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt.” Our son, Daniel, chose the University of Texas (Arlington) over the scholarship he got to Syracuse and TCU because he would still have 60K in student loan debt after the scholarships ran out. He graduated with honors and a degree in journalism. He’s a working writer in Texas and doesn’t regret his college choice. In fact, when his department downsized and he needed to find another job, many in his section were overwhelmed because of their student loan debt. But his lack of college debt allowed him the freedom to find a job he really enjoys and he didn’t have to take the first job that came along.

2. Save Big on Books by Renting – The average student pays more than $600 for course materials – the largest expense after tuition and room and board.  You may want to look at renting textbooks through Follett’s Rent-A-Text program, students can cut costs by 50 percent or more. Or go to amazon to find used textbooks, making sure that you have an amazon prime account and can filter the options with the prime filter to get free shipping.

Y

3. Make Scholarships a Part-Time Job – Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Have your student go to College Board or Fast Web  to find scholarships that might be a fit for your student.

4. Create a Budget, and Stick to It – As a parent of a college student, your love for your student is unconditional, but your money is conditional. That’s what we’ve always told our kids. To ensure students are making the most of their money, set a budget for spending and manage it by downloading Mint to help track spending. And determine which on-campus retailers accept financial aid to be certain you’re making the most of your college dollars.

Join us next week for part two of our Back To College series and let me hear your tips and idea to make college more affordable!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

Money Making Kids


“I know how I can make some extra money” read the caption on the outside of the card featuring a woman from the 1950’s with a big smile. When you opened the card it read: “I’ll sell one of the kids!” My son, Daniel, gave me that card, knowing how perfect it was for his mama!

Well, I learned how to save money using my kids, but in a slightly different way (rather than putting them up for sale on e-bay.) Jonathan, who prefers to remain anynomous (thus, the mask) wanted to earn money for a new electric guitar. I realized that I could turn over my “coupon job” to him and let him “earn” money by maintaining my coupon box. I’ve been so busy in the last few weeks, that I didn’t have time to keep up with those little critters. I knew I was missing out on these savings in the grocery store.

So Jonathan began cutting, organizing and filing my coupons. The agreement was that he got the money I saved at the store from the manufacturer’s coupons (including double coupons when I shopped at that kind of store) and I kept the savings from the store sales and store coupons. The first week, the total before savings was $189, the amount I paid was only $81 ($44 sale savings, $23 store coupons,and $41 in manufacturer’s coupons). Jonathan bagged the $41 in cash and it was a win/win for both of us.

If you want to make money off your kids, you’d better watch it, especially if you have a really smart child! The next week, we ran to the grocery store to pick up a pharmacy prescription. Jonathan picked up a store coupon featuring sodas “four 24 packs for $7.99” with store coupon. He handed me the coupon and asked, “I know you don’t usually buy us sodas because you don’t think they’re healthy. But do you think you could make an exception this week–especially since we have this coupon? Pleeeeze?” He batted his big brown eyes and gave me a sweet smile.

I bought the sodas, saving $10 with the store coupon.

When we took the stash to the car, Jonathan unloaded the drinks into the trunk, got into the car and turned to me, “Hey mom, do I get my $10 now?” I was incredulous, “What, Jonathan?” He grinned sheepishly, “You know… I gave you the coupon and you saved $10?” I smiled back at him, “Son, do you honestly think that I’m going to PAY you $10 for the privilege of BUYING you some soda? Besides, I used a store coupon, not a manufacturer coupon. ” He was busted, “Well, it was worth a try.”

Email this to your friends with teenagers and let them in on this way to make money from your kids! If you aren’t familiar with ways to incorporate store sales, coupons, double coupons, store coupons, etc, then link onto the “Grocery” label and read the “how to” on my blog!

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

Tax Free Holidays

Consumers across the country are searching for ways to cut their spending and still buy what they need, especially when shopping for back-to-school essentials for kids. Many states offer tax free holidays during the back to school shopping season to help families purchase back to school necessities.

The tax free holidays are just around the corner and if your state offers this, it’s important to take full advantage of this holiday. Here are some tips to help:

FIND OUT THE DEALS – Take advantage of savings opportunities linked by local retailers to the upcoming Tax Free Holiday weekends. Don’t worry, there will be lots of ads in your local paper. Some stores like Sears even offer further discounts like $10 off a $50 apparel purchase just for showing your PTA or PTO card or student id. Be sure you go shopping prepared with these forms of identification to get your discounts.

FIND OUT LIMITATIONS – Each state has its limitations, so ask the cashier at your retailer what the rules are for your state. For example, some states will only allow up to $100 on any single item of clothing and only up to $750 on a computer. So know the rules by googling your state, “tax free holiday” and “2009.”

FIND LAYAWAY – Some stores such as K-mart have reinstituted layaway in direct response to the recession. This option varies from family to family but our family tries to minimize credit card debt and layaway is another option that helps avoid consumer debt.

Upcoming Tax Free Holiday Dates

STATE

Vermont 8/22
Georgia 7/30 to 8/2
Mississippi 7/31 to 8/1
D C 8/1 to 8/9
Alabama 8/7 to 8/9
Iowa 8/7 to 8/8
Louisiana 8/7 to 8/8
Missouri 8/7 to 8/9
New Mexico 8/7 to 8/9
North Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
Oklahoma 8/7 to 8/9
South Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
Tennessee 8/7 to 8/9
Virginia 8/7 to 8/9

Happy Savings!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Back to College – The Kay Way – part one

BGadmin

Back To College

When Bethany was four years old, she came running in the house sobbing uncontrollably. I smoothed her blond curls and held her, “What’s wrong, Bunny?”
“I don’t want to leave you and go to college!” Her chubby arms held my neck tight.
“Um, well, Bunny, you don’t have to go to college any time soon!” I soothed, while rubbing her back.
She sat up straight, “I don’t?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffed, “Good! Can I go back to Julie’s house and play again?”
I figured out later that all the drama was because Julie’s older brother was leaving for college and her friend’s family was sad to say goodbye. She thought she was going to have to leave us and it made her sad.
Fast forward the better part of two decades and she’s now a rising senior at Moody in Chicago, majoring in media communications. She’s not crying when she goes back to school, although we miss her. The good news is that she, along with all our other kids, are graduating debt-free! We don’t have any student loans and we didn’t have to refinance our house. Here are a few quick tips to pay for college. For more info, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “College Crunch File.”

1. Make the Right Choice – Choose a school not because it’s the best, but because it’s the best value. Change the conversation from “I’ll go to the best college that I can get into” to “I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt.” Our son, Daniel, chose the University of Texas (Arlington) over the scholarship he got to Syracuse and TCU because he would still have 60K in student loan debt after the scholarships ran out. He graduated with honors and a degree in journalism. He’s a working writer in Texas and doesn’t regret his college choice. In fact, when his department downsized and he needed to find another job, many in his section were overwhelmed because of their student loan debt. But his lack of college debt allowed him the freedom to find a job he really enjoys and he didn’t have to take the first job that came along.

2. Save Big on Books by Renting – The average student pays more than $600 for course materials – the largest expense after tuition and room and board.  You may want to look at renting textbooks through Follett’s Rent-A-Text program, students can cut costs by 50 percent or more. Or go to amazon to find used textbooks, making sure that you have an amazon prime account and can filter the options with the prime filter to get free shipping.

3. Make Scholarships a Part-Time Job – Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Have your student go to College Board or Fast Web  to find scholarships that might be a fit for your student.

4. Create a Budget, and Stick to It – As a parent of a college student, your love for your student is unconditional, but your money is conditional. That’s what we’ve always told our kids. To ensure students are making the most of their money, set a budget for spending and manage it by downloading Mint to help track spending. And determine which on-campus retailers accept financial aid to be certain you’re making the most of your college dollars.

Join us next week for part two of our Back To College series and let me hear your tips and idea to make college more affordable!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

Kids and Money — Listen to Ellie on Voice America!

Do you want to know how to teach your kid’s about money? Listen to Ellie on VoiceAmerica!


Wed 10 AM PT/11 AM MT/12 PM CT/1 PM ET on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
Real Parents. Real Solutions.
Money Matters: Teach Your Child How to Be Money-Savvy

Teaching your child how to manage money is a big responsibility. In today’s show, Ellie Kay, financial expert, author and mother of seven, will break it down to make the job manageable. Should you give your child an allowance? How much should it be? Should Learn More >> Missed the Live Shows? Past Episodes are available On Demand and Podcast Ready.

ABC NEWS – I’m Answering YOUR Questions

Here are some of your questions that I answered recently on ABC NEWS “Good Money” regarding the blog I wrote called “The Road to Financial Heckie Fire.”

Q. I’m in my mid thirties and I haven’t had the problem of friends and family asking me to co-sign on a loan before. But in the last year, I’ve had three requests for this. What’s your advice on co-signing a loan?
Jill, from Bradenton, FL via facebook

Ellie: If you have a friend or relative who needs a co-signer, then that means their credit is so risky that no lender will give him money on his own credit history. The question is: why should you? The answer is that you should not! Even though it may come across as “helping a family member out” it’s still a business transaction and when you set the precedence of co-signing on a loan—be prepared to do it again and again. If not for the same person, then for another friend who may say, “well, you did it for Jennifer, why not me?” You have to assume you will be the one repaying the loan & you won’t have the associated asset, so it can’t possibly be a good business move.

Q. We are boomers in our early sixties and we were thinking of getting a reverse mortgage. Is this a good move for people our age?
Allison from Granbury, TX via online contact form

Ellie: Recently, you’ll see older actors on commercials offering these kinds of mortgages to seniors who are house rich and cash poor. They are portrayed as a viable means of getting a steady stream of income that is easy to obtain. But the fees and other costs associated with reverse mortgages can sometimes be considerably higher than on other loans. This is a bad money move unless you have no other income than social security and because of the high cost fees, it should be a last resort not a first resort. The better option would be a home equity loan. You could sell your home and move into a smaller, less expensive house. Or, you could sell the home to your kids and have a multigenerational family under one roof—this is a recent trend I’ve seen emerging. Your kids can use the inheritance to pay down the mortgage.

Q. I have $10,000 in Stafford Student Loans, an $8800 car loan at 9.99% and two consumer loans at $3500 and $3700, both at 12%. All my loans are current and I have $1000 to put toward one of these loans—which one should I choose?
Viviene via Ellie Kay’s blog

Ellie: It’s great that you are current with your payments and even better that you have an extra $1000 to put toward your debts. I recommend that you put the $1000 toward the $3700 loan at 12% in order to retire the loan. Then once you’ve paid off that debt, double up the payments on the $3500 loan. You will feel motivated by the fact that you’re paying off debts and you will also experience the “snowball effect” where you gain momentum in paying these debts and as you pay off one bill, you can put those monies toward the next bill. Before you know it, you’ll have all your debt retired!

Q. Last year, my teenage daughter couldn’t find a summer job and ended up kind of wasting those months. She tried hard, but there just isn’t much work where we live. Do you have some ideas that maybe we haven’t thought of in terms of summers for this age group?
Stephanie Corlew from Branson, Missouri

Ellie: Summer camps are a great place for kids like your daughter to plug into a summer job. My daughter, Bethany, found a job through the American Camping Association by going to www.acacamps.org/jobs (or just google “American Camping Association” and “jobs.”) She’s making enough for her college spending money and gaining the opportunity to impact the lives of young campers as well.
Another way to broaden a resume for this age group is to go to the local, state or federal political representative from your district and offer to intern in the office. My son, Jonathan, did this last summer as a high school sophomore and this summer as a junior as well. He only volunteered a few hours a week at Congressman Buck McKeon’s office (California) and it made such an impression on his resume that it helped him get into an exclusive summer leadership seminar at USAFA (United States Air Force Academy). His summer internship contributed to the community and it also has contributed to his future as he applies for college scholarships.

Q. My grandchildren are teenagers and are coming to live with me for the summer. I wanted to know if you know of some jobs they can do where they could make some extra money, but still have time for fun, too.
Connie Green from Tehachapi, CA

Ellie: Connie, if you email assistant@elliekay.com, we can send you a file that includes 30 different jobs your grandchildren can do locally and make good money as well. Just ask for the “Kids Jobs” file. There’s also a list of safety items you should check out before they work for someone they do not know. For example, there’s job’s like Rent-A-Kid where there may be people in your church or neighborhood who need odd jobs done. There are also jobs like window washing, Garage Cleaning Service, Babysitting Services for summer groups that meet, Mail Checkers (for those who travel out of town), and even Pet Minders.

Q. Ever since I was a teenager, it’s been a dream of mine to go visit Israel
Is going on a tour with a large group the least expensive way to go to big tourist destinations? How can I save money on this trip?
Pamela from Acton, CA

Ellie: Tour groups with your church or community may not be the cheapest route to go since someone usually gets a free trip or two by booking a large group. In some cases, you actually pay more money to go to Israel with a reknown author or professor than you would if you go on your own. To help save money, go to the website GoIsrael.com and do as much planning as possible. Stay in a hostel, guest house, or a kibbutz, which comes with a free breakfast. Buy a pass for all national parks in order to save as much as 35% on the most popular attractions.

Q: Our company downsized and I laid off work. I’m thinking of launching my own homebased business, but there’s so much out there, I’m not sure what I should do. How do you know it’s a good business to get into and what should I keep in mind as I make my decision?
Nicole, Albany, NY

Ellie: One area of our economy that is thriving is direct sales companies (DSC) as people explore new ways to make money. As you are searching for the best fit for you in your homebased business start with following your passion. Do you love to cook? Then Pampered Chef may be a good option. Do you enjoy wearing the latest styles in jewelry, then try Premier Designs. If you follow your passion you are far more likely to succeed. But all DSCs are not created equal. Before you decide, find out what kind of inventory you have to stock. I know far too many people who went into debt to buy their inventory and then quit the business within a year—but kept the debt! Also find out the percentage you make on sales as well as the hostess plan that the company offers. Does the company take care of filing sales tax for you or do you have that job, too? For more information, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “Homemade Business” file. Have fun pursuing your passion!

Please ask me YOUR questions!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Your Summer Savings Questions: Drive or Fly? What’s SHARE? Kids & Budgets?

I recently appeared on ABC NEW NOW and answered your questions on summer travel, budgeting, SHARE for groceries and more!

Q. A friend of mine is in a part of a food co-op called SHARE and she gets $45 worth of food for $20. How do these co-ops work and do you think that they can save you money on your grocery bill?
Angie from Temple, TX via facebook

Ellie: S.H.A.R.E has been out there for quite a few years and our family even participated with this when we lived in New York. SHARE is an acronym for Self-Help and Resource Exchange – is a program where people get a break on their grocery bills by exchanging volunteer time for the opportunity to buy affordable food. For each package of food purchased, we simply ask for two (2) hours of “good deed” time, whether at SHARE, other institutions in your community, or your own neighborhood. Food packages (worth up to $45) offer meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and grocery items. The price you pay is based on what you select from the menu but you can generally save about 50%. SHARE purchases the food from growers, brokers and packaging plants and is never donated, government surplus, or salvage. Just google “SHARE” and your city to find the program in your area.

Q. We’re driving from Arizona to Louisiana for a family reunion. It’s just me and my wife, how do I tell if it’s going to be cheaper to drive or to fly this summer?
Al from Scottsdale, AZ via online contact form

ELLIE: That’s a good question, Al, because if you were going solo, it would definitely be cheaper to fly. But the way to figure the costs is to first do a mapquest to get the exact number of miles you would cover in a car. Figure your gas mileage and divide it by the total number of gallons by getting the price for gas at gaspricewatch.com. Multiply the number of gallons you’ll use by the average price per gallon and be sure to add the cost of a hotel in case you need an overnight stay. Then go to bing.com to look at the predicted costs of flights or go to bookingbuddy.com to see the average price of flights. You also need to factor in whether you’ll need rental car if you fly. Once you compare air fare versus driving, don’t forget to factor in the time off work it costs you to take the extra two days (or more) to drive.

Q: I read on your blog, Ellie, that you can purchase gift certificates at sites like restaurant.com. You said that when they run on sale, you can get a $25 restaurant certificate for $2. Are there any restrictions or stipulations we should keep in mind when purchasing these?
Steffy, Birmingham, AL submitted via facebook

Ellie: When you go to restaurant.com, you’ll see that the restrictions vary from restaurant to restaurant. But all the stipulations are listed on the website before you. Most will not add in the alcohol to the minimum purchase and almost all will add an 18% gratuity based on the price BEFORE the certificate, just to make sure the server gets their full tip. So be careful not to double tip (adding yet another 15% to 20%) when you get the bill. You usually have to buy $35 in food to use the $25 gift certificate. You have up to twelve months to use the certificate. But if you do the math and if you spend the minimum $35, adding the 18% tip, then you’re paying $42 before the gift certificate and $17 afterward. Add in the $2 you paid for the certificate and you’ve paid around $19 for a $42 tab, which is a savings of over 50%.

Q. We are newlyweds and we’re trying to pay cash or debit for groceries, gas and entertainment, but still seem to go over budget. Do you have a secret for tracking how much we’re really spending? There are two of us and we don’t always know what the other is buying and before we know it, we’re over budget.
Joshua & Emmy from Fort Bragg

Ellie: My husband, Bob and I had this same problem when we were first married as well. It can get complicated when one partner is buying groceries and the other also stops in to get some essentials on the way home from work. Even though you may not be duplicating purchases (getting two gallons of milk instead of one), you may be overspending at the store, unaware of what your partner is spending. The easy solution is to get the cash you’ve budgeted for the week and put it in an envelope marked food, gas, entertainment. When you know you’re going to need gas on the way home from work, get money from the appropriate envelope. With both partners taking cash from the same source, you’ll soon see how quickly you’re getting to your stopping point and you’ll be able to more easily track your spending.

Q. We have three children ages 6 to 10 and when we go out to eat, they want to order the most expensive thing on the menu. Sometimes our eight year old has a more expensive meal than his father, and he never finishes it! How do we keep our kids on a budget so that we can afford to eat out more often?
Samantha Evans from San Diego

Ellie: I think that it’s important to get the kids in on the process of economizing and you can do it in a fun way. First, call a family meeting and discuss the fact that when you go out to eat (or to a movie, the zoo or a theme park) that you’re going to give each child a fun budget. You’ll pay for the outing, but they have an amount they need to stick to. If they come in under budget, they get to keep the extra money. That’s what makes it fun. When we did this with our kids, it was amazing how they suddenly wanted to order water instead of soda and eat ice cream at home instead of in the restaurant.

Happy Savings!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Family Road Trip

This week on ABC NEWS NOW, I talked about how to take a Family Road trip that won’t traumatize your children! I remember my dad stuffing us kids in the back of a VW bug and traveling from TX to IN, making about 600 miles per day. Need I say more?

Here are some ideas that will make your family trip a lot more fun and affordable.

Q. First of all, let’s look at a question that many families are asking: is it cheaper to take that long family road trip, or is it more cost effective to fly?

ELLIE: It’s all in the numbers including how far you have to travel, how many family members and how many nights on the road. It’s going to be pretty easy for you to calculate the bottom line for flying versus driving. Just go to costToDrive.com to calculate the mileage, gas, travel time and carbon footprint of anywhere in the US. You’ll also need to go to hotels.com to add that expense to your total. Then, go to bookingbuddy.com to find the best price on airfare. This site will compare the prices from other travel sites such as expedia, orbitz, Travelocity, cheaptickets and more. Don’t forget the rental car if you’re flying, you can research that on hotwire.com .

Q. One of the greatest expenses while traveling down the highway is for snacks, lunch and dinner. It can not only get pricey, but these purchases can also take a toll on health as there seems to be an emphasis on eating fast food while on the road. Do you have any ideas on other options?

ELLIE: If your children are little, the stops you make on the road are essential for them to be able to get out and stretch their legs—adults need that, too. When our kids were little, we packed a lunch for the first day on the road and stopped at roadside parks. It’s easy to plan these stops with the assistance of your GPS or your smartphone, just locate a parks along the way and plan accordingly. To save money on snacks, pack some healthy options in individual bags for each family member and include options such as carrots, grapes, cherries, pretzels or trail mix.

Q. One of the tips you share is to set realistic expectations. So how long can you realistically expect to travel in a car with a three year old?

ELLIE: I think that you shouldn’t try to conquer more than 300 miles a day with a preschooler, because they’ll arrive tired and cranky at your destination AND SO WILL YOU! You need to know your child(ren) and adjust your expectations accordingly. Are you one of those blessed families whose kids sleep as soon as you get in the car? Then you can probably handle a few more miles a day. Does any of your family members have health issues that require frequent stops, then add some extra time to your trip so you aren’t stressed. Setting realistic expectations will help you and your family have a better trip.

Q. Another challenge for families is keeping the kids occupied. Older children can use their Ipods to stay busy and everyone enjoys movies on the way. But even these options can lead to the inevitable boredom as kids start to get restless. You’re a mother of many, what do you suggest?

ELLIE: I think this is where creativity comes into play. When our kids were all school aged and we had a long trip (or a military move), I shop ahead of time for small games, books, activity puzzles, little toys and other trinkets I knew they would like. Then I’d wrap these “surprises” in gift paper and put each child’s name on it. At the top of every hour, if they were good on the road, we would give them their individual present. Sometimes, a grouchy child wouldn’t get his because he wasn’t co-operating. He’d watch his siblings playing with their gifts and it would motivate him to behave. I also think that an adult should be in charge of not only disbursing the surprises, but also handing out the individual snacks at certain times as well. You can give them out at certain mile markers that the kids can look for and it becomes an effective way of passing the time.
This is also the time to develop your own traditions. My older kids liked creating Mad Libs and played slug bug or I Spy. But our younger kids developed a game called, “Name that movie line” which became a tradition in our family. We still play it when we get together and find it creates family bonding moments and is a unique Kay Family Tradition.

Q. How do you feel about souvenirs? Do you think that saving money means you just say “no” to the t-shirts, coffee mugs, statues and commemorative books?

ELLIE: I think that souvenirs are an important part of any vacation time but it’s also important to not overspend on these category. We give our kids a budget for souvenirs and let them choose. We also encourage them to pick things that are of a better quality and yet inexpensive such as spoons, shot glasses, or magnets.

Q. What if you haven’t taken a vacation yet and don’t know if you can afford it. Do you have any creative ways to save money on a place to stay on the family road trip?

ELLIE: If you have friends that you like a lot and think your friendship can survive the test of a family road trip and vacation, then double up with that family and cut your bills in half. For example, the normal price of a week-long mountain cabin rental with three bedrooms in Manitou Springs, CO was $900. If each family pays $450 instead of the full price, they may be able to afford a vacation that might not have been available to them otherwise. You can go to vrbo.com or www.findrental.com. Suite hotels that offer extra rooms are also an option such as the ones found at orbitz.com or cheaphotels.com. For those who love the great outdoors, sharing campsite fees or RV rentals can split the price of a camping adventure. At RVRental.com we found rentals across the country that ranged from $117/day to $385 per day. Depending on the owner of the RV, other charges to consider are hospitality kits, kitchen kits, and/or emergency road kits. Cleaning fees will apply if the RV is not returned in the condition in which it was rented.

Q. What about saving money on food and entertainment once you get to your destination?

ELLIE: I recommend you go to entertaimnent.com and enter the zip code of where you’ll be traveling in order to preview their entertainment books for that destination. These are currently on sale and you can find discounts on food, movie tickets, amusement parks, hotels and much more. Also go to restaurant.com and enter the zip code to get gift certificates for half price and while you’re there, see if they have any sales. I recently bought $25 gift certificates at that site for only $2. Plus, use your smartphone by entering the attraction’s name to see if there are any coupons or codes you can download on your phone and use on the spot.

Enjoy your Family Road Trip!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
www.elliekay.com

Back to School Savings Tips

Back to School Savings Tips



I’ve been on KLOVE lately sharing these tips

Loving The “Two For One” – (Financial Literacy and Back to School Budgets) – Why not teach your teen two things at once such as financial literacy by using a back to school budget? Set a spending amount on a prepaid card or their own supplemental card (I added cards on my American Express account) and coach them on what their limits are for the shopping season. Whether the budget is $50 for your teen to buy school supplies or $500 for your college student to buy dorm room essentials, you can monitor how they are spending and coach them on the best ways to use their budgeted money.

Layer the Savings – In today’s economy it is no longer enough to just save by buying something on sale—today, you have to layer the savings. For the store, this means buying items on sale when you also have a coupon. Go to couponmom.com to see what is on sale in your neighborhood and the matching coupon.

For online shopping, look for sale items where you can also use a coupon or coupon code to save on the price, shipping and more. Go to RetailMeNot.com or CouponCabin.com to find the right code. It requires a little research, but it can also translate into hundreds of dollars of savings for your back to school season.

Loss Leaders – When shopping for back to school, take advantage of the loss leaders that retailers are offering. You may get that name brand shoe for 50% off and they are hoping you’ll do the rest of your shopping at their store as well. If you take advantage of all the different stores’ loss leaders by shopping at places that honor competitor’s ads, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll save gas and time.

Little from Big – When planning for kids school lunches this coming fall, buy lunch staples in larger sizes to save by buying in bulk, then repackage them into smaller sizes. For example, take that 5 pound bag of mini carrots and put them in snack sized plastic bags for a healthy and affordable option for lunch at a 30% savings over buying the smaller pre-packaged sizes

Logistical Savings – When our kids went out of state to college and we had to buy items for their dorm rooms, we chose online retailers who also had physical stores in the town where they went to school. These vendors had site to store options where they would send the products to one of their local stores and not charge a shipping fee. This option allowed us to shop at our leisure online, incorporate all the savings factors we could, and have the convenience of our kids going to their local store to pick up the items we ordered. For example, Walmart’s site to store program offers free shipping to the local store for pickup.

Limited Spending Plan – One technique we’ve used for all our children, whether they are in elementary school or college is to make saving money a family affair. We give the kids a spending plan, telling them how much money we will give them for their back to school budget. The fun comes in when we tell them that they get to keep what they do not spend. So if we’ve budgeted $75 for tennis shoes and they find them on sale for $35, then they get to pocket the extra $40. It’s amazing how our kids can distinguish between “needs” and “wants” when it comes to this added motivation of learning ways to spend less and save more. This fresh idea not only saves our family money, but it has trained all our children in money matters, making them more adept as young adults.

Lengthen The Shopping Season – One of the reasons families overspend for back to school items is because they are locked into the idea that they need all the school supplies, clothes and gadgets the first week of school. In reality, the majority of these items will be on sales or clearance, especially clothing, within the first month after school starts. So consider letting your child start the year with just enough clothing to get a good start and f inish out their wardrobe as key items go on clearance. The same can apply to backpacks, lunch boxes and sporting equipment. As long as they have a prepaid card or a supplemental card with their limit, you’ll find yourself right on track and get more for less.

Leverage High Tech Savings – One thing that I’ve learned as a mother of seven is that I only have a limited amount of time to teach my kids the things that matter most in life. By making back to school shopping a family effort, I’ve been able to train our kids in money matters in fun ways that incorporate their strengths. For example, I let our teenagers shop in a different part of the mall, encouraging them to do their online research by comparing store prices with other deals on their smart phones. For example, they see a scientific calculator in the electronics store for their algebra class, they can search mysimon.com to see if it’s the best price. Then they text me the numbers and I give them approval to buy it, which empowers them to contribute to our family’s economic well being while allowing them to learn financial literacy as well.

Long run Lessons – Every year, I’ve used back to school shopping as a key opportunity for my kids to learn financial literacy lessons. By setting them up with a budget through the use of a PASS or SUPP card, I’ve been able to teach them how to spend wisely and then helped them start to develop a good credit score when they are 18. They key is that I get tomonitor and track their spending so they can’t fail. The result is that my children have great scores at young ages. In fact, my 22 year old son, had a 750 credit score when he graduated, good enough to prequalify for a townhouse mortgage!

Look for Scholarships — Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free-lunch money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Salliemae.com has over 1.9 million scholarships to research valued at 16 billion dollars! You child, for example, could write a 500 word essay on skateboarding or other areas of interest—there are thousands of scholarships that go unused every year because kids don’t apply for them. Don’t forget to have students apply to local civic organizations and community scholarships as well—the high school counselor should have a list of these scholarships.

: Locate Discount Books – Buying your books from a used bookstore can save money, but buying them online can save even more. My son, a journalism major, bought had a book that was $150 new, $30 at a used book store and he found it for $1.50 at amazon.com. You can also try Campus Books or Abe Books to compare prices across the internet to find the best values. Just be sure to buy them two weeks before classes start. As soon as you get your book list, begin your search because the early bird gets the best value on books!

Happy Back to School Savings!


Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)






1 2 3 6