A Financial Education Event
     

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

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 I recently spoke at Congresswoman Katie Hill’s (25th Congressional District) Military Academy night.  The audience members were parents and students in high school.   These federal academies are highly competitive and look at the whole person. So it’s not enough to be a brainianc (super smart), they are also looking for students who are exceptional in the area of athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this amazing education valued at $450,000, your student will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation.  If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to a service academy, there are several things to keep in mind.


One of the first places to visit is your service academy’s admissions site:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy
USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA  The Merchant Marine Academy

USCGA    Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

  • Prospect: A student who has filled out the initial response form showing interest. This means they are essentially on an admissions mailing list. You can fill this out as early as middle school by going to the academy’s website.
  • Applicant: The individual has filled out a pre-candidate questionnaire and provided initial info on PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades and extra-curricular activities. This is usually done NO LATER than the spring of their junior year. This is also the time to contact your congressman and senator in regards to a nomination. In addition, if the student’s parent is qualified for a Presidential nomination, (see nominations and appointments below) then the student can contact the academy directly to pursue this nomination as well.
  • Candidate: To move from applicant to candidate indicates that you have cleared your first competitive hurdle. This step is decided by the Academies admissions staff in the early summer of a student’s Senior year. Not all students will get to this point, but this is when they will be interviewed by the Academy Liaison Officer (or the equivalent). It is from this list that appointments will be offered as early as the fall. For example, one of our sons was offered an USNA appointment by October.
  • Appointee: This means that the candidate has been offered an appointment into the Academy. They can choose to accept it or turn it down, but it means they have not only received an official nomination, but they have also been approved by the Academy’s admissions board and offered an actual appointment.

The Essay

It’s never too early to begin to think about what you would like to write in your admissions application essay. These are very important and should be well thought out before submitting. Be sure to have you liaison officer review it before you submit it or ask an academy graduate to help. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a faculty member from your school review it as well. More eyes on the project can mean a broader perspective, but it still needs to be your own voice, so you will have the final word on the essay.

Back to College – The Kay Way – part two

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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

 

Boomerang Babies

 

“My kids will never come back to live with us after they are launched.” 

“I don’t have worry about boomerang children, mine have great jobs.”

“Junior would never get into trouble and need me to bail him out, he’s a good boy.”

Have you ever made a declarative statement that you had to take back and eat, along with a big, fat slice of humble pie?  I have. In fact, I’ve eaten so much humble pie that I’ve put on five pounds just this week!  Let me clarify that I haven’t had to eat any pie about boomerang babies as of date, and I don’t intend to start now. That’s why I’m approaching today’s blog very circumspectly.

“Failure to Launch” is not only a popular Matthew McConaughey movie (would someone puleeze give that man a shirt!). It’s also a syndrome in America among Boomer parents and their babies. There are many reasons for this boomerang barrage. One primary factor has to do with the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds, which was 15.4% last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Furthermore, statistics from the Pew Research Center indicated that 13% of American parents with an adult child had a child move back into the family home. While 40% of recent college graduates still live at home.

Money matters are the number one reason why these kiddies come back home to mommy and daddy as well as the struggling economy, student loan debt, consumer debt and in some cases legal troubles. 

There is good news and bad news for families in this situation. A boomerang incidence is bad when the children have an entitlement mentality, don’t carry their own weight in the home, are not looking for work, and cause their parents to delay retirement in order to get them financially settled. In short, when they are mooching.

The good news of the situation exists when this living arrangement is only temporary and involves a solid exit plan. In fact, it can be a great bonding time between generations, especially if there are grandchildren involved.

But one thing is certain:  boomerang babies introduce more stress into the household for everyone involved. But what to do? What to do?

Here is a suggested motto for a situation like this, just tell those babies:  “My love for you is unconditional, but my money is not.”  Your “money” in this case includes your home, furnishings, food, car, cash, retirement fund, home equity, phones, insurance, and anything else in your monthly budget that is impacted by new peeps living with you! If your resources are going out, then there needs to be requirements attached.

Here are some guidelines to follow if you find yourself in this situation:

  • DTR – “Define The Relationship” by discussing the living arrangement and defining the expectations on both sides. Come to an agreement as to what is expected of one another and delineate the boundaries.
  • Develop An Exit Strategy First – A solid exit strategy will have them back on their own between 3 and 6 months. If they know when they will be expected say “sayonara,” then that gives them a deadline to work toward in becoming financially independent again. It also helps to eliminate resentment when the time doth draw nigh.
  • Do What – Do What? – This is your new song, in that you are going to ask that son or daughter to do their portion for the household. This could mean doing chores and paying rent, or contributing by buying groceries and paying the light bill. The more uncomfortable it becomes in the parent’s home, the more motivation that child has to re-launch.  
  • Define the Rules – Unlike the DTR step, this is the part of the exit strategy that includes the establishment of a budget for the adult child. If they are living in your home, then you have the right to oversee a budget that will help them live on their own again. The idea of this may seem to restrict their freedom but it’s all part of the diabolical plan to give them the gift of financial freedom.
  • Demand the Rent – Once they are employed, then begin to increase the rent over the course of the next months until they are ultimately paying the same rent to you that they would be paying for a place of their own. YES, it’s probably more than what your lovely room and board is worth—BUT THAT’S THE POINT! You want them to see how it’s not worth it to live with mumsey, it’s a better value elsewhere.
  • Do Unto Others –– If you want to be kind (and sneaky), then you can take half the rent they give you (in the previous point) and put it in an account that you can relinquish to them forthe first and last month’s rent on a place of their own. But you don’t “owe” them this act of kindness, your money, after all, is conditional while your love is unconditional and don’t let them trap you into defining your love with how much you pay their way.
  • Do Give Them Wisdom – In some cases, the best assistance you can give them (besides the establishment of a budget) is to get them to a financial counselor such as www.nfcc.org that will help them for free. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can renegotiate loans, restructure debt and provide accountability outside of your direct influence. There’s nothing like a third party to be the bad guy when it comes to letting them know the real deal in the real world and the accountability that the NFCC requires is nothing short of beautiful.   
  • Don’t Bail them Out! – Just remember the idea of precedence:  what you do once, you will have to do again for the same child (or for another one of your children). Keep in mind your needs such as retirement, getting under water in your home, paying your bills, your credit scores and your financial future. We owe our children food, shelter and clothing for 18 years and the training to launch on their own. We owe them unconditional love for a lifetime. But we don’t owe them a bailout when they overextend themselves or fail to plan responsibly.  

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

1000 Kisses — Investing in Our Children

I’m currently missing 4000 kisses every year.

Yep, they just upped and moved away, 1000 at a time.

I try to gain back some of those by kissing my friend Natalya’s four little girls. Her baby is only six months old and likes to suck on pickles. Don’t you know you have to grab up a sweetheart like that and give her 10 kisses on her chubby cheeks, just for being so cute?

As a mom who had her youngest five children in seven years, and homeschooled said children for seven years, I figured I got and gave at least 50 kisses a day. Those of you who have had infants and toddlers know that there are times when you just get overwhelmed with their cuteness and have to get some loving on the spot—a dozen kisses at a time!

Even when my children became teens, they knew they had to kiss me when they woke up, give me kiss when they left and came back home, and then again before they went to bed. Let’s say that averaged out to 3 kisses a day (accounting for the fact that I didn’t see them every day if I was out of town). At 365 days per year, that’s still 1000 kisses a year.

Yes, I’m a numbers person and that is both a blessing and a curse, but bear with me a second because I’m trying to get you to feel just a little bit sorry for me for a moment. Every time one of my children “launches” and goes off to college, I lose 1000 annual kisses. When you multiply that by 4 Kay kids who have launched in the last 6 years, I’m down 4000, and those marks of affection are worth far more than dollars—they are priceless.

There are a number of ways to invest in our kids. One of the most important areas is their education.  My husband, Bob and I sacrificed certain things to invest in their education by sending the youngest three to the best school in our part of the world, Desert Christian Schools.  We are not independently wealthy and it cost us something to have as many as 3 kids in private school at a time. But it was worth it to us. We could have driven newer cars, lived in a bigger house or taken fancier vacations, but we knew that one day, when we’re old, we wouldn’t regret cars, houses or vacations. We are going to be thankful we invested in our kids.

For us, this kind of education allowed for smaller classroom sizes, more safety, excellent academic programs and fantastic athletic teams. There are also teachers and administrators have a heart of compassion for our students and  work with us when one of the Kay kids makes a boneheaded choice that requires correction.  Granted, we couldn’t always afford private school, which is why I homeschooled for a while. We also had two kids graduate from public school and do really well in life. Whether you homeschool, choose a private school or send them to public education, being invested in the educational process is essential. For us, that translated into over a million dollars in college scholarships for our progeny.

Another way to invest in our children is in areas where they are having trouble, for example, investing in a tutor. Our son, Jonathan, had trouble in Geometry and we got him a tutor. He got over the learning curve hump, gained mastery and confidence in the material and even became a gainfully employed tutor with Mathemagicians in our community. Math helped our oldest son, Philip, get offers from Cornell and Stanford because he got a 760 out of 800 on his MSATs in Math (he only got a 560 in verbal, but I guess Math geeks don’t have to know how to spell).

Some parents invest in music lessons that can help children gain math skills (something about reading music that makes you more proficient in math), gain confidence, and even earn a partial scholarship in that area. Or you may be a mom that invested in your child by taking them to endless soccer, baseball, basketball, football, or Tae Kwon Do teams. All those hours as chauffer were not in vain because your little one learned self-discipline, the value of exercise, and how to be a part of a team.  Other parents spend time with their kids by taking them out to fun events or out to eat. We like to subscribe to Local Living to find out when there’s a new restaurant or cool event we can take them to for as little as half of the regular price.

I could write 10 more pages on legitimate ways we “invest” in our children, but I’ll end with the one that I started with in this blog.  Invest your affection in your child. Hug them. Spend time with them. Tell them you believe in them. Speak about the bright future they have ahead of them. One day, sooner than you think, that child will launch and you’ll also be down 1000 kisses.  So be sure to kiss ‘em while you can!

Let me know, how do YOU invest in your kids?

 Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

Leaving Home 101

Our five-year-old son, Philip, was very mad and having a horrible, no good, very bad day. His two-year-old brother, Jonathan, had taken all his favorite GI Joes and threw them in the toilet—again.

“I haffa tell ya’ mama,” He announced when he came into the kitchen where I was mixing a batch of brownies, “I’m gonna’ run away.”

I leaned down and met his eyes, “Well, we’re going to miss you around here, son. Let me at least pack you a lunch before you go.”

As a veteran mom of many, I knew Philip’s terrible, no good, very bad day would pass and that he was probably just going to his friend’s house to play. I asked his older brother, Daniel, to get on his bike and follow his younger brother to make sure he would only go as far as the Maerten’s house.

Juggling the phone with the brownie bowl, I dialed Leanne Maertens number, “Hey is Philip there yet?”

I heard her doorbell ring in the background, “Yes, I think he’s at the door now.”

“Well, he’s run away from home and I figure he’ll hang out until dinner. Let me know when he leaves.”

Philip spent the entire afternoon playing with Christopher and Edward and then Leanne called to say that our little runaway was coming home. He returned a few minutes later and announced, “Well, I’m back from running away, Mama! What’s for dinner?”

Fast forward a few years and Philip’s left home again—for good. He’s in graduate school at Stanford and has to cook all his own dinners. He learned that there’s a good way to leave home and a not-so-good way to leave. Here are the things parents do to help their kids leave home well.

Budget Babies

     Before your child leaves make sure that you help them establish a workable budget. The categories should include housing, transportation, clothing, food, entertainment, and (if necessary) tuition and books.  Go to Ellie Kay’s tool page and for an online budget. Decide, up front, what they will pay for from their own work money and what you will cover. Ask them to send you a monthly budget report and review it with them. Look at this as an opportunity to coach them in right choices but beware of funding their failures by bailing them out on a regular basis. This is the time for them to learn to live on their own in a healthy way.

Banking and Credit Cards

      Your college bound student will need banking accounts for checking and savings. Research banks (or savings and loans) that offer student banking programs. Or go to CheckingFinder . Now is also the time to educate your child on the dangers of easy credit. They will have access to thousands of dollars worth of credit through a variety of offers that may show up in their student mailbox—if they can find a co-signer or prove they have an adequate income. Teach them to shred these credit card offers in order to help protect their identity and also direct them to order their free annual report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at AnnualCreditReport (& warn them to bypass any offers that require money, only get the FREE report.)

Help your children set up their own credit card by getting an additional card that you control on your own credit card account (we use American Express) and make sure that initially, they only have a $300 credit limit. As they charge and pay off the balance each month, they’ll build their own credit score as well. Our son, Daniel, when he was a senior in college built enough good credit to prequalify for a townhouse! It all started with our involved effort to help him establish and build credit wisely—without getting into debt.

Borrowing and Student Loans

     Parents often ask, “How do we pay for college, should we get a HELOC, refinance our house, or get a second mortgage?” I do not believe you should leverage the equity in your home (which is part of your future retirement) in order to pay for your child’s future. HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit) are also a poor choice. Instead, look at a variety of scholarships, work study programs, and other options available through the financial aid office at the school. Another financially healthy option is to have your child attend a college you can afford. Our mantra for our college bound kids is: I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt. Email assistant@elliekay.com and request “College Crunch File” to see ways to minimize college debt or even put kids through school with NO student loan debt, as we have done with five of our seven children.

Bagels and Broccoli

My daughter, Bethany, started to do some of our grocery shopping when she was still in high school in order to teach her how to shop wisely when she was on her own at college. When she got the the bakery department, she exclaimed: “Wow! I can get this bag of eight bagels for less than this other bag with only six!” She was so proud (and so was I!)   Be sure your kids know how to price compare and how to read the store labels as well. Show them the “price per ounce” on the shelf so that they can recognize value. Walk them through the frozen foods section to compare the difference between buying fresh broccoli versus frozen and let them see the savings in frozen convenience foods versus fast food pizza.  Introduce them to the website CouponMom for ways to save hundreds on groceries and have them read my grocery shopping blogs.

Boomer Helicopter Parents

    One of the characteristics of Millenials (i.e. your college student) is that their parents tend to “hover” too much, not allowing the child to fail or pay the consequences of failure when they stumble. Most student loans cannot be granted beyond a certain threshold unless you (or someone else) co-signs. The same applies to credit cards for those under 21. There is a balance, it’s important to hold the line on student loan debt and other forms of credit for your Millennial. Remember another one of our mantras (that you can borrow) “Our love is unconditional, but our money is conditional.” If you’re paying for college, and investing in your student, then you automatically have a right to expect that they’ll do certain things in return, like pass their own classes, maintain a budget and earn part of their college through work/study programs, scholarships and/or part time jobs.

Launching a child can be costly and stressful unless you are strategic and purposeful in your planning. With the right moves, you can help your student finish well at home and start their new life with a healthy financial perspective.  But the part about missing them and crying those secret tears when no one is looking is something I can’t help you with right now because I’m too busy missing my own college kid (love you Jonathan)!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

 

The Trifecta Effect – One Family, Three Services Academies


This month, our son, Joshua received an appointment to West Point, thus creating a Trifecta amongst our military sons. They are following in their father’s footsteps (Bob, USAFA class of 1978). We have a Naval Academy grad (Robert Philip, class of 2011) who is a Marine; an Air Force Academy cadet (Jonathan, class of 2015) and now the baby at the United States Military Academy (class of 2017). We are proud but confused because we never know who to cheer for at service academy football games!

Let me stop and issue a disclaimer to the other Kay kids (since there are a lot of them) and say that we are proud of all of our kids and their life achievements! Daniel (University of Texas at Arlington), Bethany (Moody Bible Institute), and Missy (Columbia).

But this particular blog is about the Trifecta boys, the ones who now qualify for USAA membership by virtue of their own service. Who would have thought that all those busy boy days playing army, pilot and sharpshooter would have produced such a burly crowd? You should see these testosterone filled, type “A” guys when I put a plate of hot biscuits on the table during Easter dinner. The frenzy that ensues looks like a Koi pond at feeding time. Each one of them has to outdo the other and our “quiet little dinner” is anything but!

When they came home for the holidays, I loved it when they attend church with Bob and me. But as we were exiting the service, I looked back to see Mr. West Point and Mr. Air Force engaged in a wrestling hold in the middle of the pews! Neither would release their grip. It took a certain mama, tugging tightly on each of their ears to separate them. Oy Vey!

I outlined in Chapter 16 of the updated “Heroes at Home” book how we helped each of our kids achieve their dreams. We started out by stressing the following from elementary school age:

  • Homework first, then you’ve earned the right to play (preferably outside)
  • If you are capable of getting A’s, then we expect you to live up to your potential
  • You can be involved in one sport at a time (so there was no hurried child syndrome and they would have time to be kids)
  • You can be involved in one extracurricular activity (ballet, cello, violin, etc) at a time (with five kids in seven years, I was driving hours every day just to do one thing for each of them!)
  • Someone has to succeed in the field you desire to pursue, so it might as well be you. (Someone has to go to USNA, USMA and USAFA, so why not you? Someone has to have a Trifecta Family, so why not the Kays if that is what the kids want to pursue?)

The result is “The Trifecta Effect” each son pursuing his own dream into a different area of service for a greater good and our nation’s freedom. They are now part of the 2% of our population in our military service who protect the freedoms of the other 98% of us.

Academies are looking for students who are exceptional in the area of academics, athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this education valued at $450,000, these students will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation.

You see, this “free” education isn’t really free, it’s paid back in service. And this mama hopes that “military service” is the full extent of their sacrifice. No proud academy parent desires to have their child pay the fullest measure of service. But we know that is a risk they choose to take.

If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to an academy, I recommend that you start out by exploring the desired service academy’s admissions website:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy:

USNA – The United States Naval Academy

USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA – The United States Merchant Marine Academy

Coast Guard Academy  (does not require a congressional nomination)

 Just remember to tell that child of yours with the big dreams:  Someone has to do it, why not you?

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

 

(Un)Common Interview Questions

 

With graduations upon us, it’s a natural time to start preparing for job interviews.  At 7.5%, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 2008, so opportunities are out there. In the Kay household, our kids were naturally prepared for grilling questions thanks to our habit of asking them about their day every evening at dinner.

“What was something good about your day?”

“What did you do at school?”

“What was the best part of your day?”

They were obviously more forthcoming some days than others, but the habit made it more natural for them to talk about their experiences. This easily translates to job interviews, where prospective employers ask both conventional and unconventional questions.

You have probably already heard about the most common questions, such as ones pertaining to your history, why you’re interested and your strengths and weaknesses. But every now and then, you’ll get a common question disguised as an uncommon one. Here are five of them:

1. “What was your best MacGyver moment?”

When an interviewer asks a question similar to this, they’re really looking for examples of your adaptability and resourcefulness. Have you ever had any unconventional homework assignments or projects where you didn’t have common resources? This is a good time to talk about them.

2. “How many employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

This is a unique way to see where you stand on being a team player and if you have problem-solving skills. Most careers have a fair amount of group projects, so interviewers want to see if you’re a lone wolf (“Just one. Me.”) or if you can work with others (“As many as it takes to do it efficiently.”)

3. “What is our receptionist’s name?”

This could also be a question about something or someone else in the building. The interviewer is looking to see if you’re observant, paying attention and have a good memory. Just be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be prepared for this question.

4. “If you were in the NBA, what position would you play?”

Believe it or not, you don’t have to follow sports to answer this question correctly. The interviewer simply wants to know if you’re a leader or team player and ready to contribute immediately. Focus on answers that show off your willingness to do anything for the team/company.

5. “If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?”

This is a good opportunity to talk about a variety of things, from your hobbies to who you value. It can be a current or past figure, but should be someone you truly admire. This is a great way for you to relate to the interviewer and ease any tension or awkwardness.

Again, these specific questions are rare, but if you’re prepared to talk about things like your resourcefulness, leadership abilities and interests, you’ll be ready to answer them. A good starting point would be to look at lists of the most common questions and rephrasing them in a unique way. It can be fun and a great way to prepare for your first job interview.

What are some of YOUR favorite interview questions? Be sure to send this blog to your favorite college grad who might be looking for that dream job (or any job).

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

8 Free Apps to Save You Money

Earlier this week, we talked about how you can save money on your smart phone. But what about saving money with your smart phone? There are hundreds of apps out there that help simplify your life, but here are a few that are free, but will save you money.

  • The Coupon App—Coupons for stores and services around the country right on your phone. Not only are there real time apps, but you can find the cheapest gas prices at local stations, price comparison shopping tool with the barcode scanner, and you can share coupons through text and email.
  • The Coupon App—Coupons for stores and services around the country right on your phone. Not only are there real time apps, but you can find the cheapest gas prices at local stations, price comparison shopping tool with the barcode scanner, and you can share coupons through text and email.
  • RetailMeNot—This is one of my favorite websites, and you may have heard me refer to it before, but now they have an app! Save at your favorite stores with these coupons. One of the things I love about this app is that it alerts you of special coupons and deals in your favorite stores when you are out shopping at the mall.
  • Belly—This one-of-a-kind loyalty app allows you to get unique free rewards for the things you buy most. You simply scan your app at participating stores and let the points rack up. In the app store, look for a blue icon with a dog. Unfortunately, it is only available in select cities nation-wide, but it is spreading fast. To see if your city utilizes Belly, go to http://bellycard.com/locations/. If you don’t see it in your location, check out Spot On as well. It is another great rewards app to save you money.
  • Starbucks—I don’t know how much of a coffee drinker you are, but I know my family consumes gallons daily. Make sure you are getting your rewards! This app makes it simple to not only track your rewards, but pay with your phone as well. Even if you aren’t much of a Starbucks fan, the app also sends select song downloads to your phone weekly.
  • LivingSocial, Groupon, Google Offers—What is your favorite deal site? Chances are they have an app that goes along with it. You are able to find the deals, and often you can redeem them directly from your phone. Some of these apps even let you discover awesome deals close to wherever you are or alert you when there is a great deal right next to you. I will never forget the time I was able to get a massage and eat at a nice restaurant in the same day, both deals from an alert from one of these apps.
  • Eventsbite—This is a great app for finding awesome events happening near you all year long. This app helps you find upcoming events for the week or weekend, and recommends events happening near you. My daughter, Bethany and her friend, Darbi,(see photo) were able to get VIP tickets to a fun, fashion week event in Chicago using this app. They had a great time and won prizes. You never know what adventures could be in store for you!
  • Google Field Trip–Looking for something to do with the kids this summer? Google is offering free admission to some of the nation’s most popular zoos and museums through its Field Trip app. An offer spanning 23 locations, options include everything from President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington D.C. to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Admission just requires showing a free pass to the attraction, which will appear automatically in the “Nearby” tab when you’re at a participating zoo or museum.
  • RoadNinja—Road trips just got a little bit easier with RoadNinja in your pocket. Billboards become redundant when users can learn the locations of restaurants, gas stations and points of interest near every highway exit. View real-time gas prices and access RoadNinja special offers and coupons.

What are YOUR favorite apps to use to save money?

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?

 

Benefits of an Allowance

Benefits of an Allowance

When our son Joshua was four years old, he began to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we were proud of our youngest child. About this time, he started bringing home snacks for Mama and Papa that he save from his kids group at church. He would bring us watermelon, animal crackers, and even butterscotch candy with the endearing explanation, “You can have dis cuz I dun’t like it much anyway!”

The next week, he came home very excited about sharing his special snack with his “wunnerful” mama and papa. We found ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of bedtime for five children, poor Joshua went to bed still jabbering about the cookies he’d brought home. I hadn’t had the chance to get them from him, so he gave them to Papa with the instructions, “You can made sum coffee and hab it affer we all git to bed!”

After the kids were tucked in and all the kisses had been equally dispensed, I asked Bob about Joshua’s treat. He gave me a wry grin, got up from the couch, and went to the kitchen. He came back with the “treat” wrapped very neatly in a tissue. “Here’s our special surprise—for us to share.”

He unwrapped the two black parts of an Oreo cookie—all that was left of the white filling were two little teeth marks.

Teaching our kids to share, give, save, and work are all part of preparing them for a healthy future when it comes to their financial lives. This is like the cookie part of an Oreo. This training not only helps in the long run, it can help us in the short run—with more money in our pockets! That is the filling! One way to best teach kids is by giving them an allowance and allow them to learn how to budget money, to shop smart, to not ask for stuff, and more stuff, then we spend less and save more!

  • Money Matters – The most obvious benefit of an allowance is that it gives the child an opportunity to learn to manage money.
  • Safe Haven – When kids learn to manage their money while they’re under our care, they have the freedom to fail in a relatively safe haven. This doesn’t mean that we bail them out, but it does mean that we’re here to help walk them through the steps that will lead the back to the road of financial stability.
  • Self Worth – An allowance can make a kid feel good about himself.  How do you feel when you’re at the beginning of a paycheck? Your child will learn to feel good over the fact that they have some money of their very own to manage. They’ll feel even better when they learn to give freely, save diligently and spend wisely.
  • Consistency – It’s important to pay a child their allowance on the same day of the week or month. This gives them something to look forward to and allows them to budget their needs and wants accordingly.
  • Budget – An allowance should be budgeted into your family’s budget, and your children need to know this. It shows them that teaching them about money, through the use of their own allowance, is so important that it ranks in the family budget. It also sends a message to kids about the importance of a budget, thereby priming the pump for the day you will help them develop a personal budget of their own.
  • Theirs Alone – The money they receive is something that is theirs; they own it and we help them learn to spend it wisely, according to biblical principles of good stewardship. If we give them their “own” money and then turn around and refuse to let them spend it as they see fit, then it’s just an exercise in futility. We have to create the climate where our children have the freedom to test their limitations, discover how money works and learn in the process. Some of these lessons will be hard, but they won’t learn them if we continue to make all the decisions for them.
  • Responsibility and Accountability – These are the main benefits of an allowance as this exercise gives the parents an opportunity to tie in these two elements so that our kids can learn both of these invaluable life skills.

What do you do that is unique in your kids’ allowance?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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