A Financial Education Event
     

Five Top Money Moves for 2013

This month I’ll be on over 25 television and radio stations talking about the Top Five Money Moves for 2013. So look and listen for yours truly in the media. My long time stylist, Ricardo, saw me on a national show and said, “You looked and sounded just like you do when you sit in my chair!”  My daughter, Bethany, was in the salon with me and piped in with, “That’s what happens when you’ve been on television as much as my mom has.” I could have sworn she rolled her eyes when she said it, but she insists she didn’t. I really do loving helping families do money matters smarter and media helps me get the good word out to these people across the country.

According to a recent survey, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Among the top new year’s decisions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and money management or/ debt reduction. While a lot of people who make decisions during the new year do break them, research shows that making a decision to change is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

If one of your resolutions involve getting fiscally fit, then there are five things individuals, couples and families should do every January, year in and year out, to help their financial picture. These five money moves will help you pay down debt, save more in your emergency fund and be prepared for possible financial setbacks in 2013. They include:

 

1) CUT COSTS ON FIXED EXPENSES – there are some expenses that people rarely check, but they could be missing out on hundreds of dollars of savings.

  • For one thing, it’s important to call your homeowners insurance provider and ask about getting a better rate. Oftentimes, you don’t think about this policy because the bank may cover this premium and you put that renewal to the side—wrong answer. The other biggie in fixed expenses is auto insurance.
  • If you drive less, in safer ways, and during safer times of the day you can save money on your car insurance. If you are military or a military legacy (child of someone who served), be sure to compare prices at USAA for car, home and other benefits to members.
  •  One final, quick tip to cut costs by shopping around, is for groceries. Go to couponmom.com where the site will tell you what’s on sale in your neighborhood, which items have coupons, double coupons and store coupons. Using this layered savings approach in the store helped our large family save $160,000 over the course of twenty  year!  (Yes, you read that right, it’s not a typo).

2) COMPLETE TAXES EARLY & FREE– The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund.  Even as this year’s tax laws get settled, you can still get your return started online.  I recommend the online TaxACT Free Edition has everything you need to prepare, print and e-file your federal return free.  TaxACT and I have worked together to help American families and specifically military families, because their tax solution guides you step by step through your return and guarantees your biggest refund. It’s fast, easy and even offers free help. Remember that the fastest way to get your refund is to do your taxes online,  e-file and choose direct deposit .  And once you have that refund, put the money to smart use like paying down consumer debt, bolstering your savings or saving to pay cash for your next car. Or, if you are a Kay kid, then you can use it to buy your Mama a really nice present!

3) CATCH UP ON SAVINGS – In money moves one and two, you freed up extra money by cutting costs and getting your refund back early. I recommend that you take a hard look at your emergency fund. If you are a single income family, you should have twelve to fifteen months of living expenses in this fund. If you are a dual income family, you need six to nine months of living expenses. With uncertain employment situations, it’s important that you save for a rainy day. Use 50% of that tax refund and money saved from cutting fixed expenses to help build up your emergency fund. Then every time you save money on expenses, write a check or transfer those funds into this important account. It will become a habit and you’ll build that account up more quickly.

4) CUT OUT DEBT – If you took 50% of the money you gained from steps one and two and put it in your emergency fund—good job! Now it’s time to use the other 50% to pay down credit card debt and get started on the “snowball effect” of getting rid of consumer debt. This snowball plan works by paying off the credit card with the highest rate first. Then you take the payment you would have made on that first card and put it toward the next card on your list, thus doubling up on that payment. Each time you pay off a card, you keep taking what would have been that minimum payments on paid off cards and put them toward the next credit card balance. You will eventually find yourself making triple, quadruple payments and you can see why we call it the “snowball effect,” thus getting ahead of interest charges and paying your debt down more quickly.

5) CARE AND SHARE MORE – This is a good time of the year to map out a strategy to give more and get more out of your giving so that you can itemize your deductions. Go through closets and donate clothing and furniture to IRS- approved charities, but keep track of your donations. Go to the giving arm of the Better Business Bureau to check out the status of charities before you give. Ask charities for receipts. You usually get more for each item than you would selling it at a yard sale.  Remember, monetary donations and certain expenses for volunteering are also deductible.

Happy 2013
Ellie Kay

Spring Savings – Five Ways to Save $500 or More

When I was a gangly seven year old with braids that were too tight and freckles that looked better on a cheetah, I used to dislike the spring. In my Latino family, spring meant two things: 1) my mom would dress us in flamenco dresses to go to the fair and 2) I would have to participate in spring cleaning.

My Spanish mother and my Abuela would put on their work clothes, tie their hair in a scarf and attack the house with a vengeance that would make the mighty 300 run in sheer panic all the way back to Sparta. Never get between a Latina woman and her spring cleaning. I was conscripted into forced servitude while all my freckleless girlfriends got to go play kick the can in our street circle.

Now that I’m an adult, every spring, I engage in a different type of practice that gets our finances in tip top shape. Instead of a broom, I use a smart phone. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, I have a computer. I like to engage in spring savings. The bonus for this formerly freckled girl is that I usually save more than enough money to hire someone else to do my spring cleaning.  Here are some ways that you can get out of spring cleaning and into spring savings:

Property Tax Challenge – As many as 30% of homeowners may be overtaxed, according to the National Taxpayers Union. First, study your property card for errors in your home’s specs. Next, compare your home’s value and taxes with other nearby homes (go to Valueappeal.com). Third, go to ntu.org/tax-basics to learn how to build your case before the tax assessor. Fourth, challenge the amount and win and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!

Prepare for Warm Weather – Invest in a thermal leak detector to find and fix drafts around windows, outlets and walls to save as much as 20% on cooling bills. Also invest in a programmable thermostat to adjust your home about 10 degrees while you’re at work and at night to save another 15%.


Pull the Plug on Entertainment
– There’s no need to pay for pricey cable or satellite when you have less expensive options. Before we had Apple TV, we invested in a streaming player called Roku that cost about $100 and connected the internet to our TV. We currently use Netflix ($8/month) for movies and TV shows and then Hulu Plus ($8/month) for new TV episodes that we can watch right after they’ve aired. Plus, I’m a Prime member on Amazon, so I get to watch scores of shows for free on Amazon Instant Video. I’ve discovered all kinds of Downton-like British TV shows that are delightful (I’m currently hooked on Lark Rise to Candleford).  These options save $750 a year over cable.

Put off the Oil Change – My girlfriend Audrey has a fairly new Lincoln and the dealership told her to only go 3000 miles between oil changes. But her car light comes on at 7800 miles, so she listens to the car instead. Actually, the newest studies indicate that my girlfriend is right! The quality of oil has improved dramatically over the last 25 years. Follow the owners manual and the car’s oil-life-monitoring system instead of the dealer who wants that extra service fee. I change the oil in my car once a year!

Put it on Ice – To save on food and spoilage, freeze hard cheeses, most fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, bread and other baked goods. You can use ice trays to freeze baby food, sauce or stock, and chopped fresh herbs in water. Not only will you never have to dig a moldy hunk of something you don’t recognize out of the back of the fridge, you’ll also find dinner prep is quicker and easier by using these kinds of frozen items.

Once you’ve finished your spring savings, then sit back, pour a cool glass of tea (with mint infused ice cubes) and watch Lark Rise to Candleford—you deserve the rest!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Your Money Buddy

BGadmin

As we are on our Heroes at Home Financial Event tour (at 17 bases in 5 countries) we often talk about how to follow through on our good intentions when it comes to money matters. The best way to do this is to have a regular money workout with an accountability partner.

A great example of this is these Newlyweds, who just finished their first Sixty Minute Money Workout and they loved it!

They did the “Money Personality” workout and discovered what personality each of them has and how they relate to money.

The number one reason marriages fail is because of arguments about money so if you can learn how to have a good workout, then you can get fiscally fit. You don’t have to be married either, you can have a “money buddy” just as you have a workout partner to help spot you when it comes to lifting weights or kicking it in cross fit.

But it begins with setting proper boundaries, so you can learn to get along and not digress into arguments. This is the same technique I shared on Nightline as I coached a couple on how to fight fair.

Boundaries:

First of all, people need to understand that you don’t have to be a couple in order to do the workout. You can do it by yourself, or with a trusted friend, or even a family member who isn’t your spouse if you are single. But whoever you do the workout with, it’s important to set some boundaries to prepare:
• no condescension or negativity
• no interrupting your workout partner when they are talking
• no name calling
• no throwing food – 🙂
• start by saying one positive thing to each other
• end by saying one positive thing to each other
• create an environment that encourages comfort and success
• have a timer on hand (the one on your phone works well)

Step 1 – 5 Minutes – Make Up Your Mind Warm-Up
Here is where you set your timer for each section. When the timer goes off, then move on! In this section, you set the topic for the hour and begin with a “can do” attitude. It’s important to begin by saying or doing something positive. If you’re working out with a spouse, then begin by taking your spouses hands, looking into their eyes and saying something affirming.

Step 2 – 10 minutes – Strength Training
While step one was to start with affirming words and decide on your money topic, this next section is a time to write down goals on paper so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. Decide how you would like to see the topic resolved today, in six months and what the outcome of your goals will be in the long run. For example, if your topic is setting up a spend plan, you can also access tools like Mint that will help you in the workout.

Discuss obstacles that have kept you from reaching your goals in the past. If spending too much money on Amazon is slipping you up, then regulate that habit. Or if eating out too often gets you offline, then discuss ways to eliminate that obstacle.

Step 3 – 20 Minutes – Cardio Burn

In this step, you give feet to your goals. If you’re setting up a budget, then you write down the specifics and course of action for your topic of the day. This may not seem like a lot of time on this section, but realize that you may not get it resolved during the first workout. The key is to keep the discussion moving and work on what you can, whatever you missed, you can get the next time around. For example, if you’re looking to pay down debt, then go to Annual Credit Report to order free copies of your credit report. If your topic is improving your credit score, then go to Credit.com to discover where your score is weak and how to improve it. Or listen to a Periscope #CreditChat from@Experian_US. This show is hosted by Rod Griffin, our credit speaker on the Heroes at Home Financial Event tour.
Step 4 – 20 Minutes – Taking Your Heart Rate

If you are making progress on your goal, then continue to do the work. If you have gotten bogged down or you’ve reached a standstill, then use this time to redirect.

For example, if you’re developing a spend plan, and realize you are spending too much in an area, then you could redirect at this time to review this blog and learn quick ways that will help you save money in a variety of categories.
For instance, how to save on groceries.  We’ve saved over $160,000 in the last 20 years by employing a variety of tips I discuss in my books and blog.

Step 5 – 5 Minutes – Congratulations Cool Down
The workout has gone by quickly and now the last 5 minutes are dedicated to the “Congratulations Cool Down.” End your workout and sit back, grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note and you’re going to end positive as well. Take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout in order to end the discussion well.

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff in just one workout, your finances aren’t going to get in shape after the first try either. But after you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half a dozen times you’ll find you are making progress that can revolutionize your finances in only an hour a week!

For a free “Sixty Money Workout” review sheet, just email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for this resource.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

1 2