A Financial Education Event
 

Driving Cars for Free

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In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, one of the most popular segments deals with “how to drive a car for free.” The concept is fairly simple, but less than 10% of Americans actually follow the steps to experience debt free living when it comes to transportation. We love our military audiences because even though some military members are “ordered” to attend our show, by the time it is over, they are laughing, they’ve learned something and they realize how much fellow Americans loves them.

So how do you do it? Just follow three steps:

  1. Start with a Debt Free Car – This is usually going to be the car you just paid off. Or, it might be a vehicle a parent or someone else gave you (it might even have seen better days). In our lives, we were “given” one car and we gave away 8 cars. It might be that you agree to be a one-car family for 18 months instead of a two-car family. This is how the Kays did it to start with. If you don’t absolutely have to drive a car (you are a one car family, public transportation, driving someone else’s car, etc.), then you can go to step #2.
  1. Pay Yourself – The monthly payment for your car that you used to pay before it was paid off is a payment you will now pay to yourself instead of to the lienholder. So let’s say your car payment was $300. You will pay yourself $300 every month for 18 months. At the end of that time, you take the $5400 you have saved and then sell your existing vehicle for as much as you can get for it. You will get more money for your vehicle if you detail it, get everything running as well as possible (without a huge investment) and then sell it yourself. Go to KBB for 10 steps on how to sell your car yourself.  Let’s say you sell it for $8000. Now you have $13,400 to work with.
  1. Pay Cash for Your Next Car – Follow my steps from my previous blog on Car Buying Dos and Don’ts – Even if you aren’t a USAA member (for an additional military discount), you can still follow the steps listed to pay the least price possible for your next vehicle. Make a special note: You cannot do this with a new car! It has to be a used car. The average new car depreciates $8000 in 8 seconds (when you drive it off the lot). So you have to buy a car that is slightly used (or real used until you trade up). The example in my blog shows how I traded up consistently until I was driving a modest Mercedes. (Is there such a thing as a modest Mercedes? I believe there is).
  1. Trade Up Until You’re Satisfied – After you’re in a new-to-you “paid for” car, then start with step number two all over again and start paying yourself. Let’s say you bought a car for $13,400 and you got into it low (as I showed you how to do in my previous blog), then in only 18 months a used car won’t depreciate that much (if you take care of it and try to keep low mileage on it) and you can sell it for close to what you paid for it. You sell it after 18 months for $13,000 and add the additional $5400 that you have saved by paying yourself every month. Now you have $18,400 going into step #3 and you can trade up your vehicle.

Does this work? It absolutely does. Not only do I do this in my own family, but I have children who do it as well. When my kids ask for my advice (sometimes it’s nice having a mom who is America’s Family Financial Expert ®), I advise them to not be wasting money on expensive car interest payments or crazy expensive leases. The difference is enough money saved over the course of five years to be able to put money down on a house instead of having to rent. It truly adds up!

Keep trading up until you are satisfied with your car and you can trade up into a car with a substantial manufacturer’s warranty (or negotiate that warranty). I do practice what I preach, and I did this to get my 2014 Mercedes, which is under mfg warranty until 2022. The only perceived downside is that my dream car is red and I thought that red cars get more speeding tickets than other colors. But good news! That’s a myth. Pedal to the metal!

What can you do today to drive your cars for free tomorrow? Let me hear from you!

Ellie Kay

Car Buying Do’s and Don’ts

Financial Readiness equals Military Readiness and whether you are a civilian or a service member, the number one financial mistake has to do with how you buy your vehicles. But if you’re smart, you can avoid this mistake and eventually drive your cars for free.

Our Heroes at Home Financial Event is in the midst of a tour where we are giving 25 presentations at 17 bases in 4 countries. In fact, you can contact us about whether we are coming to YOUR base later this year.

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Event. One of the main topics that is: What is the smart way to buy a vehicle?

Let me start by asking you the question we ask our audiences: How do you lose around $8000 in 8 seconds?

Did you get the answer yet?

The answer is: you drive your brand new car off the lot.

Yes, the average new vehicle will depreciate $8000 in the first year. Since most folks finance that new vehicle, it’s more like losing $10,000 in 8 seconds!

So WHY oh WHY do you continue to buy NEW?

Some folks answer, “for the warranty.” But if you bought the vehicle a year old, you could do two things to make up for that 12 months of warranty you lose over buying new:

  • Warranty Purchase – you could purchase an extended warranty, which (depending on the car you drive) is only $800 to $1500 per year. This is WAY LESS than the 8K–10K you are losing by buying new. Plus warranties are negotiable. When I had to renew the warranty on my Mercedes 280SLK, the dealership gave me their best price. Then I called USAA, telling them the best quote I got and they beat the price by $800. Plus, instead of the $200 deductible I had with the other quote, the USAA deductible was $0! I used that warranty at my local Mercedes dealership (world’s best service department) and paid $0 deducible and got the same excellent service that I normally get.
  • CPO or Certified Previously OwnedIf you get a vehicle with a CPO on it, then part of the deal is that the dealership extends the warranty a year and this is a full manufacturer’s warranty. Plus, there are more stringent inspection standards and additional roadside assistance. Once, I had a BAD salesperson who told me the car was CPO, “All our cars are CPO” she said, but she never presented me with CPO paperwork to sign at the deal’s closing. You guessed it, the vehicle was NOT CPO and she lied. Be sure you get CPO paperwork if you are told it is a genuine CPO. It costs the dealership anywhere from $800 to $2500 to CPO your vehicle, depending on the year, make and model. You HAVE TO sign CPO paperwork that is dated from BEFORE the date you buy the car or it’s not valid. Remember that asking a dealer to make a vehicle CPO is part of the negotiating process and this will increase the value of the deal anywhere from $1000 to $2500.

A couple years ago, I was on my way to Disneyland to meet another author friend and a careless driver made an unprotected left hand turn right into my vehicle (about 5 feet off the bumper). I had NO TIME to react or even take my foot off the brake. The fact that Mercedes are so well built and the fact God sent his angels to protect me are the only reasons I walked away from this terrible crash with only a few cuts and bruises.

This accident put me back in the market for a vehicle. So this time I decided to try USAA’s car buying service. Since we had an extra car at home, I could take my time to find the best deal. The car buying service told me the price, the discount, gave me free access to a CarFax report, showed me a chart of similar cars purchased in my area to indicate an average, good, or great deal, and more. I compared the prices I saw on the site to Kelley Blue Book and did all my research. Then I followed the same three steps we teach in our Heroes at Home Financial Events.

Step One: Negotiate Price First

Negotiate the price of the car at a dealership apart from the value of the trade-in. Tell the salesperson you want to determine the price of the car without the trade-in. The reason you want to do this is because salespeople will often give you far more for your trade than you expected—thus hooking you on the deal. However, this higher-value-for-the-trade-in shtick can be part of the technique they use to get you to purchase the car. If a higher value is given to the trade, then they will give a lower discount on the price of the vehicle, because all the discounting went into the value of the trade.

Step Two: Negotiate the Value of the Trade-In

Now that you’ve determined the price of the car, ask what the dealer will give you for your trade-in. Most likely, you will get more for your car if you sell it yourself. A little elbow grease and some top-notch detailing can net you hundreds of dollars more than a dealer can give you, if you can find a buyer. Some people (like military families) don’t always have the time to sell their car because of moving schedules and so forth. So if you are going to try to trade in your car, look up the value of your existing car at Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds, then print the page (or screen shot it), and bring it with you to the car lot to negotiate the price. Bottom line: try your best to gather enough facts beforehand so that you make a wise decision.

Step Three: Secure Your Own Financing

The F&I (finance and insurance office) is where the lion’s share of a dealership’s profit is made. In this office, you will have to navigate interest rates, payments, terms, additional services, and warranties. Unless you put miles on your car for business or you are purchasing a car that will cost a lot to repair (and you intend to keep it longer than the warranty lasts), extended warranties are usually not a good value. When it comes to vehicle financing, you can generally do better on interest by selecting your own creditor unless the manufacturer is offering a lower APR. Keep in mind that the .99% APR offers only go to the top 10% of those who are the FICO score elite, chances are good that you will not qualify. The credit life insurance that dealers offer is more expensive than raising your regular insurance premium by twenty thousand dollars to cover this expense. And don’t forget to research the price of insurance on your new car so you can afford both the payment and the insurance.

By following my own advice, I talked to my sales representative and I was able to:

  • Negotiate the best price on the vehicle.
  • Get the USAA discount added to the deal.
  • Get a car that had less than 3K miles on it.
  • Get CPO added to my vehicle.
  • Drive a vehicle that is now under warranty until 2022.
  • Get a like-new car that had only been in service officially for a mere three months.
  • Save $9K off the brand-new-plus-CPO price.
  • Pay cash for my car (stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to pay cash for cars).
  • Get the year, make, model and color of the car I wanted.
  • Walk away feeling good about the deal and the value I got.

When are you in the market to get a vehicle, which of these tips will you follow to get the best deal?

Ellie Kay

Smart Money Habits for Millennials (and Their Mamas)

The Kay Family had five babies in seven years. That roughly adds up to 3 kids in diapers at once, 10 years of not sleeping through the night, 4 teenage drivers at the same time, 3 kids in college at once and today, we have 5 millennials in their 20’s simultaneously.

Fun .

But the good news is that they eventually slept, pottied, drove, graduated and even mastered money habits in the journey. Here are the habits we helped teach our millennials to make sure they didn’t have to move home, they could remain financially independent, have a great start for their families, and still buy their mama nice birthday gifts.

Habit #1 – Create and Live By a Spending Plan

Many millennials have heard of the value of creating a budget and even have apps that help. But it’s of little use if they don’t know how to stick to it. Here are my favorite apps to help:

  • Mint Budgeting App – I met the founder of Mint, Aaron Patzer, in a green room, years ago, when we were both going to be on ABC News in NYC. At the time, he was building his success with Mint. I just remember him being (as he says in the video) “full of myself.” Ha! But his budgeting app is probably the best out there because it makes it easy to create a budget. You connect the Mint app to your bank and the app uses your details to help create a personalized budget.
  • PocketGuard Budget App – This app also connects to your bank accounts and shows you what you currently have in your pocket. It tracks your money to show what you are spending and automates where you’re going off budget and where you need to cut back.
  • You Need a Budget – This app’s claim to fame is that it creates a budget you can stick to based on the info provided in your bank accounts and spending habits. It even teaches you what to do if you overspend and how to live on last month’s income. This is the only app that cost money in my list and it’s $50 for the year, but there are hoards of devotees that say this app helped them to finally live on a budget.
  • GoodBudget – Back when dinosaurs roamed the financial space, there was an “envelope system” where you put the money you needed in each envelope labeled with expenses such as gas, food and entertainment. It helped Bob and I get out of 40K in consumer debt in only 2.5 years when we were first married. This app is the digital version of that system, making sure that everyone knows how much is left in the “envelope.”

You might need a money buddy to stay on track, too. Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, talks about her journey on our fun podcast The Money Millhouse and how she went from broke to anything-but-broke through techniques that kept her on track.

Habit #2 – Cook Creatively and Consistently

Money evaporates when you order out for lunch or dinner more than one or two meals a week. Bob took leftover dinners (the

re’s a microwave and fridge at work) for our entire marriage and we calculate that he’s saved $20,000 by doing this! Make Pintrist your pal or watch The Food Network to learn easy ways to create nutritious and tasty meals. Ask for an Instant Pot for your next birthday and make more than you need for dinner so you’ll have leftovers for either lunch or dinner later in the week. Or freeze the leftovers. My daughter lived with roommates for a few years and they would assign different nights for each of them to cook to simplify the work. Cook more and your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Habit #3 – Care About Your Retirement

When we take our Heroes At Home Financial Event on the road, we teach young service members the miracle of compounding interest with the mantra: start early, start small and stay committed. Be sure to start with funding a Roth IRA and take advantage of your company’s matching portion of your 401(k). Lacey Langford, an Accredited Financial Counselor gave some great tips on a segment called “I Aint Afraid of No Money.”  She discussed retirement planning from her experience in working with the military (but many tips apply to civilians as well.) If you’re military, be sure to go into your Family Readiness Center to discuss the Blended Retirement System and what your options are for your situation. It’s free and a benefit you can use early and often.

Habit #4 – Count the Cost of Debt

The average millennial college grad owes 37K in student loan debt and the average household owes $8500 in credit card debt. Work on minimizing the debt you accrue and pay off the debt you have so that you’ll have the flexibility to move or wait on the right job. One of my sons worked for JC Penney, and they eliminated his entire department. Most employees were freaking out because they had student loan debt, consumer debt and car debt—but not our son. He made a practice of living on less so he wouldn’t accrue debt and he was able to have less worry in the process of finding a new job.

Be sure you also pay attention to your credit score. Rod Griffin, from Experian, came over for a discussion on coffee and credit. He works with us on our tours and he teaches that if you have bad credit, you’ll pay an average of 360K more (over your lifetime) for the use of basic credit, than the person who has a good score. Improve your score by paying on time, paying more than the minimum balance due and make sure you never use more than 30% of your available credit.

Habit #5 – Choose Contentment

This is a tricky habit because it’s a mindset that you choose. There will always be something to spend money on to make you go off budget or get into financial trouble. There’s the new phone, tablet, car, vacay, boyfriend/girlfriend, baby, or a plethora of other reasons to want to spend more and have more. This is where your friends, family and even faith come into play. Coveting what others have or do is a lesson in futility and discontentment. Your friends either contribute to this mindset or they keep you focused on what matters most. If keeping up with their lifestyle is an important platform in your friendship, then you may want to find new friends. Remember that this financial journey is a marathon not a sprint. I’ve always said, “you can have it all—just not at the same time.”

What is one habit you are good at? What is one habit you want to improve upon? Share it with us, a friend or even a money buddy, so that you can be fiscally healthy in 2018 and for a lifetime.

 

Coffee Is On Us at The Coolest New Financial Podcast on the Planet!

Live, from Ellie’s kitchen table… it’s The Money Millhouse!

WELCOME TO THE FINANCIAL SHOW ANYONE CAN LISTEN TO!

The conversation gets lively and somewhat ridiculous when Ellie and Bethany share a cup of coffee (or four) over Ellie’s kitchen table. They not only have fun at The Money Millhouse, their conversations about saving money, couples communication, spend plans, super heroes and more make you feel like you are drinking coffee right along with them. Coffee, friends, money, sometimes random singing… what could be better?

Each week on this little-over-20-minute podcast, a special guest joins Ellie and Bethany at the table to discuss relevant money-related issues. From saving for retirement and credit chats, to home-based business tips and maybe a thing or two about what Star Wars has to do with coffee, there is always something to talk about.

The Money Millhouse will teach you while entertaining you with offbeat humor, geek-speak and money tips you never knew existed. If you can put up with Ellie’s annoying dogs announcing the next guest to come to Ellie’s door for a cup of Joe and a light hearted but important conversation, then you’ll get the maximum return on your time investment.

Come on in to The Money Millhouse, where we brew up money saving tips and tricks for anyone’s lifestyle. You might even learn a few secrets in the Millhouse closet.

This week, the show kicks off with a bang when Bethany

and Ellie talk about saving money when it comes to eating healthy including menu planning and tips at the grocery store. Start your menu planning by looking into your pantry and avoid wastage. Danna Demetre joins the conversation talking about the fact that the same principles to save money are the same when it comes to your health as well. Learn about which poisons (that go into your body) to cut out, which sweetener is the best for your body and why disease can be expensive. Also learn why having Mental Health Days (can you say a Disney day?) are important and natural days to de-stress.

The Money Millhouse is a production of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that gives financial education to military families around the world. To find out more about Heroes at Home, or to make an end of the year donation, visit heroesathome.org

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

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

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As far a military families go, I’m brat, a grandbrat, a wifebrat and a mombrat. Yes, military service runs deep in the Kay family. My Grampa died as an aircrew member in WWII; my dad retired as a Chief Master SGT in the US Air Force; my hubby flew fighter aircraft in the Air Force for 30 years; one of my sons graduated from the Naval Academy and is an active duty Marine; another son graduated this year from the United States Air Force Academy and is at pilot training; and my youngest son is a junior at WestPoint. So when it comes to thanking our troops for their service, I really appreciate those of you who take the time to say thanks.  Here are some more easy ways to express your appreciation:

1.       Say “Thanks” – The fact that you are reading this blog, indicates that you probably already thank those in uniform when you see them. When people say “Thank you for your service” to my Marine son, he responds with, “Proud to serve.”  Be sure to also thank family members, including parents of service members, for the way they serve by supporting their military members. You can also say thanks by donating to Heroes at Home, which provides financial readiness for military readiness. In our Heroes at Home events I explain that when people say thanks to them, it’s their way of being patriotic.

2.      Say “Welcome Home” – As we all know, the Vietnam War was not a popular conflict, and those who served were greeted with jeers, taunts or just plain apathy. There are also those who returned from the Korean War who were never properly welcomed back. So when you see an older vet, ask them what war they served in and if it’s one of those two, then ask one more question, “Were you ever welcomed home?” If they say, “no” then simply say, “Well you have been now, welcome home soldier, thank you for your service.” I’ve done this many times and all were deeply thankful for the sentiments, and some were so deeply moved, they even had tears in their eyes. In our Heroes at Home Events, I encourage our young service members to welcome home these Veterans and just how much it means for someone currently serving to thank those who have served.

3.      Pick Up Dinner – Every year, restaurants give free meals and discounts for Veterans and those who are serving now and at The Military Wallet, you can get this year’s update. But why not keep it going year round? Once a year, or more, depending on your budget, pay for a military member’s meal. You may see a service member with his or her family or a group of military dudes and dudettes in a small group at a restaurant. Don’t go up to the soldier, sailor or airman to ask if you can pay for their meal. Instead, go to the manager or the waitress and ask for their bill, then pay it as you leave and tell the waitress to give them a simple message: “Thank you for your service.”

4.       Operation Gratitude – During Veterans day week, our USAFA parents club volunteered to help put together care packages for the troops. Lots of volunteers put together over 7,000 care packages in one day! Each time I went through the assembly line with my boxes, it took all my self control not to slip that package of Rocky Mountain Factory fudge into my pocket. You can also donate DVDs, Girl Scout cookies, trial-sized toiletries, candy, scarves, gloves, small stuffed animals, books and more to the effort.

5.      Mow A Yard – Or rake leaves, or plant rosebushes, or paint an outhouse, or… you get the idea, for the military family of a deployed service member in your neighborhood, church or community.  When Bob was gone and I was left home alone with a house full of kids, I really appreciated that help. The best help comes from people you know, where that military family is comfortable knowing you are not a creeper!

6.      Donate Your Old Cell – If you are like most of the Kay family members, you get a new phone about once every 18 months or so (it seems to be an inalienable right in our clan). Instead of trading in when you trade up, give it to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

7.      Calling All Coupon Queens – I started out in the financial area as a Coupon Queen and eventually evolved to “America’s Family Financial Expert” ®. Along the way, I’ve encouraged families to donate their expired coupons to military units overseas. They can use your castoffs for up to six months past the expiration date. For more information, email us at assistant@elliekay.com and put “Expired Coupons” in the subject line.


8.     
Care for Critters – If you are like my hubby, you are a critter person. He sits in his easy chair each evening and instantly—voila!—three mini schnauzers appear in his lap. They were his constant pet therapy when he broke his back a couple years ago, thereby ending his career as a fighter pilot. If you love critters, then you can offer to provide foster care by taking in a dog or cat of a wounded or deployed military member while he or she is receiving medical treatment or on duty.  For more on this, go to Guardian Angels for Soldiers.

Thank you to all our Veterans and their families, and a special thanks to my husband, LTC Bob Kay, the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot for his 30 years of service, to my Marine, Airman and Soldier. I’m so proud of all of you!

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

Credit Card Choices — Big Benefits With Right Choices

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Southwest Airlines is running a credit card offer for qualifying applicants where they will get a companion pass for the rest of this year and all of 2018, plus 40,000 points. My daughter uses credit cards sparingly and her score is in the 800s (on a FICO scale up to 850). She decided to get the card and is thrilled to add her husband a companion to her recent round

trip purchase from Burbank to San Francisco for only $59. Pretty good deal for her. Since I already have a companion pass on a #SWA card, it wouldn’t be a good deal for me.

But not all deals are that good. How do you know which choice is best for your needs?

On my recent trip to #USAA, I learned a lot about the latest offerings in credit cards.

In fact, Yasmin Ghahremani, a writer with USAA, contributes the following information on how to navigate your first rewards card in three easy steps.

Credit cards that offer rewards like airline miles or a percent of cash back on everyday purchases can be a pretty great deal. But with so many different rewards credit cards available, choosing one that’s right for your lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Not only that, are you sure a rewards credit card is a smart financial move?

First off:  rewards credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’ve never owned a credit card before or have a not-so-great credit score, you may not even qualify for a rewards card in the first place. And because interest rates for rewards cards tend to be higher than most credit cards, if you are the type to miss payments, make minimum payments only, or carry a hefty balance, your best bet is to look for a credit card with a low interest rate.

Once your cash flow and spending habits are more favorable, you can give rewards cards another look–otherwise, the interest you’ll pay on a carried balance will easily outstrip the value of any rewards you’ll receive. “Rewards cards are really best for transactors: those who pay off their balance every month,” says Mikel Van Cleve, Advice Director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with USAA

That said, if your credit card hygiene is superb and you make a habit of paying off the balance in full each month, then you’re probably ready for your first rewards card!

1. First, consider the kind of rewards you’d like to earn. If you’re a jet-setter and love to take frequent vacations, travel rewards cards that can earn airline miles, waive luggage fees, grant access to posh airline lounges and more might be right up your alley.

Not the globe-trotting type? Then a cash-back rewards card might be more your style. These essentially give you a small percentage discount (anywhere from 1–5%) on the stuff you’re already buying with your credit card, like groceries, gas, online purchases and more.

Once you’ve identified the type of rewards you’d like to earn…

2. Match your spending habits to your overall rewards card management. Take a look at how much you actually spend in certain categories on an annual basis to pinpoint where you could earn the most rewards. If you’re single and eat out a lot, a card that offers extra cash back for grocery spending might not be the best fit.

Plus, not all rewards cards work the same way: some offer more complex variations, like extra cash-back percentage points for spending in certain categories, such as 3% at supermarkets and 1% on all other kinds of purchases.

Other kinds of rewards cards offer additional percentage points on a rotating calendar for certain types of purchases, with bonus categories changing every quarter. For example: you might earn 5% on groceries one quarter, 5% on gas the next quarter, 5% at restaurants for another quarter, etc.

Complex earning structures may ultimately earn you more, but only if you’re really familiar with your own spending habits and the amount of time you care to spend tracking expenses and managing rewards redemption. Depending on the card you choose, you’ll need to keep up with rotating categories that may require an opt-in action (like visiting a website or filling out a form) every quarter, or you miss out on the perks.

If you don’t want to hassle with that, consider choosing a card with a flat base earning rate. Many credit cards now offer 1.5% or even 2% on every purchase you make. For instance, if the card offers 1% cash back for every dollar you spend on the card and you’ve spent a total of $2,500, you can earn $25 cash back. Even better, you often have a choice on how to spend those rewards, usually via a check, a credit to your statement, or points good towards purchases with other retailers. (Beware the latter as it may encourage you to spend needlessly!) 

3. Examine the fine print of any offers you see. Does the card charge an annual fee that costs as much or more than you will likely earn back via rewards? If you feel pressured to spend more just to get enough rewards to justify the annual fee, that card might be causing you to spend more than you normally might.

Does the card place limits, or “cap” how many rewards you can earn in bonus categories? Some cards allow you to earn 3% on only the first $3,000 a year you spend on groceries, and after that rewards may diminish or disappear entirely. You’ll want to factor those considerations into your decision.

“Make sure you know how the cards you’re considering work, and figure out which one works best for your habits,” advises Van Cleve. “If you do that the rewards can really help you save some money and work toward other goals that you have.”

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

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

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

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

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

 

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

What do I believe freedom means today?

I believe it means a free America.

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

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

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

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

What does freedom mean to YOU today?

 

 

 

 

Heroes at Home Tours Europe

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  1. As part of the “Heroes at Home Financial Event” 2017 world tour, we will visit military members and their families around the world, giving advice and practical tools on how to cope with the military lifestyle and advice on how to manage their money. Heroes at Home is visiting USAFE in Europe as well as AWAG in the next three weeks, thanks to our presenting sponsor, USAA and with help from educational partners such as Experian. You can find our schedule here. Our stops include Ramstein Air Base, Spangdahlem Air Base, Aviano Air Base, Royal Air Base Mildenhall , and Royal Air Base Alconbury

One of the ways we help military families save money overseas is to give them tips to “layer the savings.” Here are the steps to save big online:

1. The first step is to go to MySimon or bing which are shopping robots that will search the internet for your item to find the best deal possible. Then, there’s always amazon as well.

2. Once you’ve found the best deal, the second step is to go to a code site such asRetailMeNot or  coupon cabin  to find the codes you need to save even more. Sometimes these codes are for free shipping, gifts, or discounts.

3. The final step is to get a rebate for your shopping, by going to eBates or SlickDeals. On some of these sites, for example, if you have an account and get your friends to sign up under your account, you can earn $5 per referral. There are hundreds of participating online sites that will give you a rebate off of your purchases and you get a check at the end of each month.

CAUTION: To avoid spam: Be sure you deselect any “offers” you don’t want while signing up for a site. I also recommend that you use unroll.me to manage your subscriptions. They roll all of your emails into one larger email and you can easily deselect or unsubscribe. Bethany Bayless, our emcee has been unsubscribed from 700+ email lists in the last two years using this site. That’s a huge time savings!

Here’s an email from one of our audience members in Europe from one of our previous tours.

Dear Ellie Kay,

I would like to tell you how wonderful it was to have you speak at our meeting at Spangdahlem AB this past week. Your tips were great –I bought a bunch of clothes and with your tips and a $25 gift card I earned from mypoints.com I spent only $14!– and they really do work and are easy to do. Your military topics touched my heart and made me proud of what I am doing here for my husband as well as other military members . Thank you for telling our story to the world and for being an inspiration.Thank you so much!

Sincerely,Christina Aiken

 

Check out our schedule to see if we are coming to a base near you! Or, if you want to support our efforts, you can contribute to the financial education of our military members and their families at our Heroes at Home website.

Characteristics of a Hero at Home

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Are you a Hero at Home? There are all kinds of heroes and I remember when my Marine came home from Afghanistan. We waited for hours in anticipation 100 degree weather in dusty 29 Palms, listening for the announcement their company was on its way. What a thrill it was to see his platoon marching up the road after 7 months of praying, worrying, emailing, skyping, waiting, and hoping he and his men came back unscathed. As we sat there amongst various, mostly young families, I couldn’t help but notice the strong heroes around me. There were women who held down the fort while their husbands were away, there were babies who had not met their fathers yet, and there were Moms, like me, who were waiting for the hero they raised to return home. All of these people are heroes at home–those who fight behind the scenes to keep our heroes in uniform safe on the field.

Characteristics of a Hero at Home

I’ve heard it said that if you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, my passion is military families because we are one! I’ve given over 500 presentations of my “Heroes at Home” Financial Event in six countries and dozens of states including Hawaii (what a hardship tour that was!). In each and every venue I get to meet military members, spouses, kids and parents who love America and know what it means to serve.

I’ve been asked to please post the Top Ten Characteristics of a Hero at Home as a written version of what I speak about in these military venues. So today’s blog is dedicated to you, the hero at home. You may have your servicemember with you, they may be deployed, or they may be due back home any day.

The Top Ten Qualities of a Hidden Hero

1. Sense of Humor: An ability to laugh at oneself and with each other.

2. Flexibility: What it’s called when you create an elaborate candlelight dinner and farm out the kids for the night, and your husband calls to say he’s not coming home because they have an inspection coming up.

3. Courageous: The ability to wave good-bye for the two-hundredth time, fight back the tears, smile, and say, “I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’ll be all right.”

4. Extraordinary: An ability to move fifteen thousand pounds of household goods in twenty-four hours.

5. Strong: Nerves of steel (for all those close calls and near misses).

6. Patriotic: Unashamed to shed a tear during the presentation of the colors or the singing of the national anthem.

7. Faith-Full: Brimming over with faith in God and true to your country.

8. Independent: Confident during solo parenting gigs, but ready to move to interdependence when the spouse comes back home.

9. Acronym Reader: The ability to decode three-letter acronyms (TDY, PCS, UOD, MRE, OIC, SOF, BDU, SOL, etc.).

10. Superhero: The capability to conquer new lands, stay in touch with old friends, keep the home fires burning, jump buildings in a single bound, and stay out of the funny farm.

Which characteristic is your favorite and which one do you need to work on today?

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