A Financial Education Event
 

New Year Savings Habits

You are what you think! That’s what positive thinking gurus tell us and I believe it to a certain extent. But thinking it without doing something about it isn’t going to help you develop better money habits. In this New Year, I’m challenging you to implement some really easy money savings habits. Let me know which of these that: 1) you already do and 2) you are going to start doing or 3) you ain’t ever gonna do, no way, no how!

PRICE MATCHING—ASK YOUR STORE

If you have a store that will match competitors’ ads, then this helps save time and money. Most Walmart stores offer this benefit to their consumers. This price-matching tip is also good outside of the grocery area because there are dozens of other stores that will honor competitors’ ads, including Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, the military exchanges, and more. Since these policies vary from year to year (and even month to month), it’s important to inquire at the customer service desk before you try to use the price-matching benefit.

To implement this tip, just take in all the local sale ads and have the store match the sale price from the circulars, or pull them up on your phone. There may be some restrictions, so be sure you ask for the details at the customer service desk. For example, Walmart will not honor a “buy one/get one free,” nor will they honor “percentage off” sales. But they will substitute their brand for other store brands that are on sale and it may even end up being a better-quality deal!

 

SEARCH HIGH AND LOW FOR BARGAINS

In today’s grocery stores, many bargains are located on the top and bottom shelves. The expensive items are at eye level. To those in marketing, the reason is obvious—you’ll buy something that’s in front of your nose! Also, avoid the floral, deli, and bakery departments. They’re usually overpriced and can bust your budget.

 

USE A SHOPPING LIST—DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

When shopping, you should never leave home without an organized list. It minimizes time spent in the store and helps you stay on target, thus avoiding impulse buying. It can also serve as a reminder of sale prices and coupons you may have. When I first started saving money with coupons and sales, there were only flyers and paper coupons. Flipp is an app that combines the best of old and new by providing a digital library of all the latest flyers and help you build a shopping list within the app. Just tap on a digitized coupon or product and the app will circle it and add it to your digital grocery list.

 

SAVE ON TRAVEL

My crafty little informant over at Hopper just gave me the 2018 Travel Cheat Sheet telling you when the best time to buy is for those 2018 trips. It gives fantastic insider tips, for example:

  • When to buy airfare for major US holidays
    • President’s Day: Book by Monday, January 29
    • Easter: Book by Sunday, February 18
    • Fourth of July: Book by Wednesday, June 13
  • Top 10 domestic and international destinations to watch in January for the best deals:
    • Los Angeles: Round-trip flight prices currently average $328, but are expected to drop 43% this month.
    • Las Vegas: Round-trip flight prices currently average $178, but are expected to drop 28% this month.
    • Cartagena, Colombia: Round-trip flight prices currently average $354, but are expected to drop 35% this month.
    • Lisbon, Portugal: Round-trip flight prices currently average $622, but are expectedto drop 32% this month.

If you’re wanting to read more about saving money on travel, check out Wanderlust For Less, an upbeat look at ways to save money on travel AND still pay the light bill.

COUPON APPS AND WEBSITES

My son, Jonathan, gave me his back-

 

to-school-for-the-spring-semester wish list. He had a gorgeous item that was a pair of shoes at the Bostonian website. The first thing I did was look up the online site in RetailMeNot. Instantly, I got a coupon for 25% off the exact shoes Jonathan wanted. That’s something that made both of us happy.

Coupon Sherpa and CouponMom are also user friendly apps to help you find great values at your local store. Download these apps and use them regularly to save 30 percent or more. Both use geographic location or zip codes to target deals at stores near you. You may also want to try the Redlaser app, it can be used to scan the bar code of a product and find out if the item is cheaper elsewhere.

Don’t forget to listen to my quirky, sometimes geeky co-host, Bethany Bayless and myself on our new podcast called The Money Millhouse. We’ve give lots of tips after drinking lots of coffee and have some of the best financial guests in America on our show! 

Remember to let you know what you are already doing, what you’re gonna do and what you ain’t gonna ever do to save money in 2018!

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

Avoiding Last Minute Christmas Panic!

 

So….here’s  some of this year’s Kay Christmas photos, that were a part of our annual photo greeting card. This was mailed the day after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday of every year, I get all my shopping done so that we can have a simple holiday–no last minute panic, no stress–just a simple life. But a few Christmases ago, I got talked into having “some work” done in our kitchen that was “a three day job.” I remember stressing to my husband that, with all the college kids coming home for the holidays, I didn’t want my house in a mess. But in accordance with Murphy’s law, most of my kids came home to 6 inches of snow on the ground that completely shut down our desert California town. Plus, I had A MESS OF KITCHEN! Workers couldn’t drive in t
he snow.  With no kitchen, there was no holiday baking, no traditional truffles, nothing but a sense of panic that there was too much to do and not enough time.

Whether you’re still shopping for last minute gifts, prepping your cards, cooking for the big meal or cleaning the house, you can avoid the associated expense and stress that comes with last minute panic by becoming proactive and purposeful in the midst of your panic. Here are some tips to attack the anxiety before it attacks you.

 

  • Simplify – It may have been a tough year economically for your family or you may an uncertain financial future. It’s the ideal time to simplify the holidays by taking a deep breath and thinking about what you do have rather than what you don’t have. I believe that each of us has two kinds of attitudes within us: there is a minimalist as well as a materialist in each of us. It’s time to tap into the minimalist and give the materialist less power in your life. Be sure that you are talking this through with your spouse. Dr. Jennifer Degler has some great ideas to manage these conversations when we interviewed her on The Money Millhouse. The holidays are all about friends and family, they’re really not about spending yourself into oblivion or stressing the small stuff.
  • Strategize – Get the free Christmas Radio app and sit down for a strategy session. At the root of most of our last minute anxiety is a basic lack of control. In order to separate emotional panic from the plan, take charge by implementing a specific strategy for these last few days.
    1. Step One: Take ten minutes to write down what you have left to do (gifts, grocery shopping, cards, baking, cleaning, etc). You could use the Christmas List app for $2.99 or just use the notes on your tablet so that you can share this with appropriate family members that may be impacted. Maybe you don’t really have as much to do as you thought and that, in and of itself, will help eliminate stress.
    2. Step Two: Go back over your list and mark the items as optional or mandatory. Do you really have to paint the bathroom before the guests arrive—optional.  Do you really have to change the sheets in the guest room before your mother-in-law arrives—mandatory.  Do you have to bake those three step chocolate truffles or can you get them at the local bakery–optional.
    3. Step Three: Take the optional items and place them on the bottom of the list. If you get to them—fine, if you don’t fine. This takes off TONS of pressure.
  • Stash the Cash – It’s soooo hard to really stay on budget with only days before Christmas. One tried-and-true way our family has been able to stay on a last minute budget is to get the budget remainder in cash and divide it into specially marked envelopes, for example, “food” and “gifts.” When I’m in the grocery store, I take the food budget envelope and it serves as a visual reminder of what I have left. On one hand, it keeps me from splurging on some treats if I’m running out of cash but on the other hand, it can also allow me to splurge (guilt free) on certain products if I realize that I have money leftover!
  • Split the Efforts – This may come as a news flash but… you don’t have to do everything in order for it to get done right! This is not the time to be Miss Polly Perfectionist. In this step, we need to delegate responsibilities. Assign tasks to different family members and cut your work in half. In fact, you could use this time as an opportunity to teach your teens the value of a dollar. Let them go to the store for you and get the items on your list, asking them to find the best deals. If they are not certain, then they can text you the options (what teen doesn’t love to text?) You can text them back some suggestions and in the process they are learning to evaluate a good deal and a bad deal.
  • Separate – It’s highly likely that you’re going to be charging some last minute expenses on your credit cards. But don’t let those purchases hurt your FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Score) by charging more than 30% on any one card. Check your credit card limits as well as your balances online or by phone and then make certain that you charge on the card that is lowest proportionally. Even if you are able to pay off these credit card bills next month, charges of more than 50% of the available limit on any given card can hurt your FICO. So be strategic by separating those purchases and saving your credit score.
  • SAVE – It used to be that Black Friday was just a day, this year it’s an entire season. It’s truly a buyer’s market amongst retailers and there are last minute deals to be had, especially electronics and clothing. But what if you don’t have time to go and battle the crowds at the store? There’s an easier way to give last minute gifts that simplifies your time, saves you money and keeps you on budget.
    1. Gift certificates (online and physical cards) – If you want to send an online gift certificate to someone, it’s as easy as pointing and clicking. They’ll receive notification in their in-box that you’ve bought them a gift certificate and you can follow up with an e-card alerting them that the notification they will receive from the retailer is not spam. For some great options, go to restaurant.com for discounts on eating out or check out potential deals at amazon.com For a review of codes that can give you a better deal, go to RetailMeNot.
    2. Gifts of Time – Some of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received are gifts of time. One girlfriend gifted me with a certificate good for lunch at my favorite bistro. My kids have given me handmade “coupons” that are good for doing the dishes, cleaning the living room, babysitting a younger sibling or not back talking me for a week (hey, I’m happy for a day). You could write out your own coupon and give the recipient a card that says, “This card entitles you to dinner and a movie” or “This card can be redeemed for a night out on the town while we babysit your teething twins.” This can be FUN!
  • Share – I’m all about multitasking and getting the most out of my efforts as well as my money. Now is the perfect time to give to charity in a way that also benefits you financially with your taxes. This year, given the current economy and the great material needs in communities why not consider giving the “gift” of a donation in someone’s name? Our favorite non profit organization is Heroes at Home which provides free financial education for military members. Currently, 95% of your donations go directly to programs on base.  Look over your list of people and consider making a donation in their name instead of giving them a material gift. You don’t have to tell them the amount of the gift and you can make one donation in the names of several people—thereby giving an amount that allows you stay within your budget. Furthermore, this kind of gift could be tax-deductible and help you (if you itemize) on your taxes as well. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas!
Ellie Kay
www.elliekay.com

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behindthe photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Papa is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for two weddings this year, healthy grandchildren, and the chance to be together during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

 

Holiday Travel Hacks by Bethany Bayless

Ah, the Holidays—it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Also the most expensive—especially when you don’t live near your loved ones. Holiday travel can be awesome or awful. Here are a few tips that can help when it comes to booking your travel.

  1. Avoid Peak Days: Don’t travel on peak days. Guess what—Everyone is flying those days! They are by far the most expensive days to fly. For Christmas, those days are December 22, 23, and 24. For New Year, it is December 29 and January 2. Look at your schedule to see if you are able to tweak your travel days just a little to get the best price on flights.
  2. Travel Early or Late in the Day: Another thing to keep in mind is that the cheapest flights are generally the first and last flights of the day. Don’t be afraid to adjust your sleeping schedule just a bit by flying super early or super late. These are going to be the cheaper flights.
  3. Do your research: Use apps like Hopper to find the cheapest days to fly. They will even keep you alerted to when it comes time to buy at the cheapest rate. With Holiday travel, buying sooner rather than later is always advised.
  4. Shop Around: When it comes to flying, use those dates you got from Hopper and plug them into a site like skyscanner.com, or go directly to airlines sites. Southwest only posts on their website—so make sure you check Southwest for the prices they have on flights. Keep in mind, also, that though Southwest is not always the cheapest fare, your bags will always fly for free. That can make all the difference!
  5. Send Presents Ahead: If you can get away with it, don’t check a bag. We know the holidays mean lots of presents. Think ahead—use Amazon Prime to ship directly to the people receiving them or the house you will be staying in, or send them ahead of time. It will save you headaches when it comes to sweating your connections or losing your bags. It will save you time, and sometimes it can even save you money!

What are some of your favorite tips and ways to save money when it comes to Holiday Travel?

Bethany Bayless is a popular speaker, blogger and emcee. She worked in Europe for a non-profit organization before becoming the Director of Communications for the non-profit, Heroes at Home. Her work can be found at WanderlustforLess

And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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“Mama, can you ask Miss Natalya if I can hold the baby?” my 6’ 4” son asked with hopeful expectation.

Moments later, he was holding the pretty little three-month-old baby girl and smiling proudly, “now take my picture.”

Ever since he was a teenager, he absolutely loved babies. Holding them. Having his picture made with them. Then giving them back when they made the tell-tale popping sounds that let him know the infant was filling up her diaper.

Father and son

Fast forward ten years. Past his years as a midshipman at Annapolis, past his years as a graduate student at Stanford, past combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast forward to the present. Now, this Marine is holding his newborn son, Robert Philip Kay, III.

 

“Why are you picking up the baby when he’s sleeping?” I watch my son cuddle his 4-day-old son, the infant’s tiny features pronounced next to his big father’s duplicate profile.

 

“Because I’m the dad and I can hold him whenever I want.” He holds him. He has his picture made with him. And when the tell-tale popping noises indicate little Robbie is filling his diaper, he’s suddenly changed. He goes from a boy who has never changed a diaper to a man who changes every single one his tiny son fills (and his namesake filled six of those bad boys in only 24 hours.)

I’m proud of my man child who grew up so quickly, met a beautiful mermaid, married her before she got away and made me a “Glam-ma” to a tiny human who has my Hispanic hair, my husband’s name, his mother’s nose and his father’s legacy.

My daughter in law is a precious asset to the Kay family and not surprisingly, she’s great with money. Here are eight new mom tips that come from her recent experience and my background as a mom of many.

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

  • Amazon Baby Registry – Whether you have three baby showers or none, it’s smart to have a list of items you can use for baby. Even if friends and family don’t buy off the list, they can still mark it as “purchased” to minimize duplicates. Once everyone buys what they want, the new parents are entitled to a 10% off one order (wither 60 days before and up to 180 days after the baby’s arrival) and 15% off if you are an Amazon Prime Member. My DIL used this discount to buy eligible items off her registry that had not yet been purchased and she used Amazon gift cards, to further minimize their OOP expenses. Plus, she had $1000 worth of gifts purchased by friends and family, which scored her $100 worth of free diapers and wipes.
  • Return Duplicates Promptly – Get a store credit or exchange items for something else you can use right away. If you wait until after the baby arrives, you may not have the chance to get around to returning the items in a timely manner and you’ll lose out.
  • Don’t Open Those Diapers! – My first son, Daniel, weighed 11 pounds and was 24” long. He never wore newborn diapers. My last son, Joshua, was 10.5 pounds. He never wore newborn diapers. Even if you don’t give birth to a sumo wrestler, you still need to be careful on your timing in opening new bags/boxes of diapers. Once you open them, they can’t be returned for a larger size. This is especially true when you open a 180 count box from Exchanging a brand name diaper is easy at Walmart or Target, where you don’t need a receipt to get a larger size package. But not if they’re opened.
  • Calling All Freebies – I went out to Annapolis to nest before the baby arrived and it seemed like every day, my DIL was getting freebies delivered to her door—especially baby formula. She also got free toiletries, diapers, books and more from the hospital. Manufacturers of baby products and hospital auxiliary groups provide freebies for new moms. Look inside the baby bassinet cabinet in the hospital and you’ll probably find diapers, swaddling blankets, alcohol swabs, a nasal aspirator, disposable nipples for bottles, a thermometer, and more. These are valued at $30 to $40 and you can always use them.
  • Nurse if Possible – Not only will your baby get colostrum, that helps to fight infections and illnesses, but you’ll get valuable bonding time with your little one. It’s been estimated that nursing moms save $1400 in the first year over those who use formula. My DIL got reimbursed for a pump through Tri Care and other insurance plans cover the cost of a pump as well. Don’t take the one from the hospital because those (usually) aren’t free and nothing can ruin a peaceful day at home with your newborn than the breast pump Po Po at your door, asking why you stole an $800 breast pump.Don’t give away your sample formula either, 85% of nursing moms stop by the time their babies are 6 months old.
  • Free Advice – Many hospitals have a lactation expert who makes the rounds and helps new moms learn how to nurse a baby. When Anne, the lactation consultant came by to see my DIL, I learned a few things as well. Even after nursing 5 babies, I didn’t know that “infants are nocturnal beings.” Um, yeah. I should have figured that out. This service is free and can cost $200 if you pay a lactation advisor. Ask about free hotlines and even volunteer services that may pay for a home visit. Plus, check your insurance provider’s coverages as well.One of the nurses, Leslie, was helping my DIL and when she realized I had raised 5 infants, she pointed at me and said to my son and DIL, “You are blessed to have her in your life. She’s one of the greatest resources of knowledge you have at your disposal.” I loved Leslie, she was my favorite.
  • Double Duty Accessories – When you’re filling out a wish list, try to get items that have more than one function. Like a Graco pack n play that also has a changing table built in as well as a bassinet. We got my oldest son a crib that converted into a toddler bed for his son, Liam, and we bought the conversion kit when we bought the crib. These styles are new every 9 months and if you wait to buy the conversion kit when you need it (2 years or so), then it may no longer be available.
  • You Have Not Because You Ask Not – Be sure you ask the OB/GYN and the pediatrician for product samples. Not only will you discover whether you like the product before you purchase a full size, you may only need a little of it to get you through the crisis (we will not talk about nipple cream now.) Sign up for baby food company newsletters and coupon offers. Go to Gerber, Beechnut, Earthsbest, and Stonyfield to get these offers.

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

Congratulations on your new baby. Whether you are the parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle or just a favorite friend—this is an exciting time for your entire family.

My husband and I are and thankful for our children and now our children’s children. We are often asked how we raised so many successful children, with success being measured as kids who are living their purpose and making the world a better place.

We usually answer this question with, “We tried to think of what was best for the child. I didn’t think about what I wanted to do, I thought about what was going to be the best option for my child.”

Gotta go check instastories for the latest baby video—until next time!

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything

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My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   

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I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

10 Free Apps to Save You Money

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Who doesn’t love apps? 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.

  • Shopular—This app won’t inundate  you with a ton of coupons and offers that you probably aren’t interested in or won’t be able to use, Shopular  offers a more focused presentation. Shopular sorts deals based on the stores closest to you, allowing you to quickly filter by proximity, and the app even brings you the latest deals when you enter a store or mall.
  • Coupon Sherpa—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.
  • RetailMeNotThis 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.
  • Scout —If you are a military ID holder, this app will tell you all the places nearby that offer military discounts. So you don’t even have to ask the cashier or the waiter if they offer the discounts, you only have to show your id to claim the discounts. I love this because when I travel, I try to utilize all the savings that I can!
  • 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 such as free refills on brewed coffee for gold members! 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.
  • Ebates This is a resource I’ve been recommending for years now and it works with more than 2000 stores and websites to provide a mix of deals, sales and coupons for Ebates users, alerting you to the latest deals and providing you with cash back rebates on purchases.

What are YOUR favorite apps to use to save money?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

5 Ways to Stick to That Summer Budget!

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I love summer. It means a lot of fun things for the Kay Family. We have two weddings this year with one on Memorial day weekend and another in July! It means a lot of travel and budgeting to make sure we don’t go into debt!

Summer is a tough time for anyone to control spending, much less stay on a budget.  With the kids out of school and summer vacation around the corner, it’s a time when people fall victim to the thought, “I’ll go on vacation now and deal with the bills later.”

But there are ways to cut back on spending to stay on budget before summer hits. The three areas that require consumers to spend money on a regular basis, that do not go away with difficult economic times: groceries, gas and family essentials (such as clothing, birthday gifts, etc). You can plan for summer and still stay on budget for these “little” areas that add up to big expenses. Here are some questions I got when I went on ABC NEWS that you might find helpful.

Q. Ellie, we often think of the holidays as a difficult time to stay on a personal finance budget, but this time of the year is really is a difficult time to stay as well. There are end of the school year gifts to buy, vacations to plan and a summer clothes to get for the kids. We have to start somewhere, and you say the first step is to start with a plan?

ELLIE: Yes, it’s amazing how kids keep growing every year and the summer clothes they wore last season are two sizes too small this year. But having a plan is a good place to start and while the basic a plan is a budget,  now is the time to break down the household budget into a plan for the more manageable subsections. This time of year, stores and websites are cleverly designed to get you to spend more than you intended. So it’s important to know what you are going to get and spend before you go to the mall or online. This plan will take into consideration past spending behavior and any impulse buys that tend to kick in while you’re in spending mode. Write down what you are going to spend in the little areas and be specific. If your two preschoolers need clothing, then conduct an inventory of what each of them has—including any hand-me-downs and the vacation gear they may need for the entire season. If you’re planning a vacation and find that you will eat fewer meals at home because you’re going to be away, then don’t budget the same amount for the grocery store. Otherwise, you’re adding spending upon spending when you should be cutting in one area and adding in another.

Q. So we have a plan, the next step is to not fall for questionable “deals.” What do you mean by this?

ELLIE: This time of year, you’ll see sales on summer clothing, electronics and even summer foods—all the things that people are thinking about as the school year winds down and vacation time starts to gear up. But not all sales are created equal and you may see a lot of $90 digital cameras and $100 GPS sales but there can be a huge difference in the models. So before you pick up a steal of a deal, do a general price search on the specific model at Shopping.com or amazon.com before you get too excited. Plus, if you go into the store and they do not have it in stock, ask for a substitute that is an upgrade from the model that is on sale. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save by just asking. It’s also important to read the fine print in a sale advertisement. If there is a “limited quantity” or “no substitutions” then that could impact your spending plan. Finally, look at the whole world of “price comps” this is where a store offers to match the price of competitors in any sale advertisement that you bring into the store. While one store may not have that GPS in stock and may not offer rainchecks, another store might match the sale and have plenty in stock. We’ve taken advantage of this kind of offer quite a few times, so much so that price comping has become a habit in our family. This can also save quite a bit of money and help to keep you on track in the “little” areas that can tend to torpedo the budget.

Q. So we have a plan, we’re not falling for questionable “deals” and now you say that the next step is “don’t miss any discounts.” How can this help keep us on track and what if there aren’t any discounts—especially for things like gas and other essentials?

ELLIE: Just because a store or website doesn’t mention a discount on merchandise or shipping on its site or in the ads doesn’t mean its not offering any. There is often a number out there in cyberspace that can be retried into either the promotional code box online or even a coupon code into the register at the mall. To find out if what you are buying has an additional discount, go to RetailMeNot.com on your computer or smartphone and enter the store’s name. Or you can go to CouponCabin.comBradsDeals.com and you may find digital coupons that you can download from the store’s websites.
The same principle applies in the grocery store or when filling up your tank with gas. Go to couponmom.com to save in the grocery store and Go to gaspricewatch.com to find the best values on gas. Don’t forget to check and see if the gas station may offer an unadvertised free car wash, cup of coffee or soda. I just found out that I could have been a lot more caffeinated, for free, at my neighborhood gas station when the attendant asked me, “are you going to get your free cup of coffee?” Once again, if you just do your research you’ll find all kinds of freebies and these “little” things, when multiplied and combined will add up to big savings if you create this awareness level.

Q. The final step you recommend in order to stay on budget in the little things is to use cash or debit cards. There are pros and cons to using debit instead of credit, what are your thoughts on this?

ELLIE: Yes, there is a time to use a credit card instead of debit when it comes to charges that you may dispute on your credit card or when you want an extended warranty or the added protection that comes from using a credit card. However, for these little areas, we tend to track the spending better by using cash or debit and consumers are far less likely to go into debt because people simply spend less when they are using cash according to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Applied. Store clerks have long found that it is easier to persuade people who are using credit cards to spend more than they were intending. And when it comes to shopping online, you dn’t necessarily need a credit card to have more protection than using your debit card online. One other option that won’t get you into debt is to research the layaway plan at your local retailer by going to eLayaway.com

Happy Summer!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behindthe photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Uncle Steve is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for a new baby in the family, a newly commissioned LT, a son on the USMA Color guard, a Marine who safely came back from Iraq and for a daughter who just got engaged.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

 

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