A Financial Education Event
     

Jolly Old England–On a Dime (That is Worth a Nickel)

We went from Germany to England and discovered at the airport that British Airways said we were only authorized 1 piece of checked luggage. Now you take two southern girls and put them in Europe for 2.5 weeks and try to put their stuff in one piece of luggage. Neither one of us could travel with less than 5 pairs of shoes (what am I supposed to leave at home–the leopard skin pumps?). After an hour of discussion at the ticket desk, we were authorized a second bag at NO CHARGE (it pays to ask all your options and keep asking politely until you happen upon an alternative that works for you–and for less.)
This saved us over $100. We’re having to be creative in England because the British pound is worth twice the American dollar! This is the first time I don’t want to lose pounds!

We landed at Heathrow and then traveled to Lakenheath and Mildenhall, having dinner with some great friends, the Sierts. Kara Siert is a special friend whose story is published in “1/2 Price Living” and she created all kinds of welcome artwork for our visit as well. I had the privilege of sharing a book table with Kara when I spoke at both bases and she was gracious enough to allow me to tell her story in front of the wonderful military audiences.

The people we meet on this trip is the best part of it all. New friends, old friends and no foes in sight (unless you count the Lamborghini that passed us on the autobahn in Germany going 150 MPH.) The audiences in England were BRILLIANT!

That’s all for now!

Ellie Kay

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

Venice—Not Vienna!

Wow, this has been such a whirlwind trip! We have 12 hour scheduled workdays (that’s the way we like it) and 12 hour fun days (gotta get in all that sightseeing). I kept getting distracted on the way to Italy and kept saying we were going to “Vienna” rather than “Venice.” Poor Wendy had to correct me as I was checking into the flight it Italy or I would have ended up in Vienna!

When we went to Vienna, we were told that the value of the Euro had gone down even more, but we had a budget and believed we could get by on that for this part of the trip as well. The key, I think, to finding values in any touristy area is to “get lost” in the heart of the city and explore the shops that are not as well known. We found as much as 50% off on the same items by doing this.

One of the things we knew we wanted to do was to ride a Gondola and on our first trip around the city we had a large Gondola driver with gray hair and an obvious love for pasta (i.e. a beer belly) shout out to us $12 each! We passed, hoping to find an “appropriate” gondola driver. You know, one who looked like the male lead in “Under a Tuscan Sun.” When we got lost in the center of the city, we were not only rewarded with great values in stores, we were also rewarded with a more than appropriate gondola driver. When we turned a corner and saw the gorgeous gondola and the driver, he said, “80 Euro” (about $120 for both or $96 MORE dollars than the other option.) Well, as smitten as we might have been with the prospect of having “The Top Ten” of Gondola drivers, we were not so taken that we were going to pay too much for the right. We negotiated down to a much more reasonable sum and were off on the adventure. As we passed the beautiful buildings on the main canal, our driver pointed out sights and sang Venetian songs. Toward the end of the ride, we passed another gondola and I heard Wendy say “Look Ellie, there’s the $12 gondola driver.” Yes, there WAS a bit of a difference!

The second day of touring, we went over to the island of Murano, where they are famous for glass. Once again, we got lost in the middle of the island and found the best shops. When we were paying for our purchases, we asked about some items on the shelf by the register. They were slightly “damaged” and we couldn’t even tell what was wrong, but bought them for 75%—so cool!

I’m so glad we got to visit Vienna–um, I mean Venice!

Ciao

Trier, The Oldest City in Germany!

We had a fantastic time in Aviano with the military there and had the chance to do some more AFN radio and television as well. They filmed a segment that will have worldwide distribution on the AFN network and the people there were the best!

We went back to Germany and spoke in Spangdahlem with the tour. We actually gave 7 presentations that day and my kids were not surprised to find out that I did NOT lost my voice (hey! I resemble that remark!). The people we’ve met on this trip have been amazing, we are so proud of our military and their families in Europe.

After our tour at Spang, we went just outside of the base (about 30 minutes) on the AUTBAHN (Wendy was cruising at 130) and visited the oldest city in Europe, Trier. It was founded in or before 16BC. The Roman Empire subdued the Treveri in the 1st Century and left their mark in structures like the Porta Nigra (that I’m standing in front of). It was amazing to experience!

We had some German coffee and Pastries and are on our way to the last part of the tour–Bavaria.

Ellie Kay

“America’s Family Financial Expert” (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Castles and Tires in Germany

We finished our tour with a big bang–a tire blow out, that is! NEW TIP: When you rent a car in Europe, purchase the “tire insurance.” They won’t tell you about it, but you really need it. We had a defective tire on the rental and were glad it didn’t blow while going 130 on the Autobahn, but we didn’t realize that you have to purchase tire insurance separately!

That didn’t stop our last two days in Europe, though! After our three hour delay, we headed down to Bavaria and Wendy took us on a great new adventure—driving through the Black Forest at night on winding mountain roads, trying to find our hotel right by Neuschwanstein! She made it through to our wonderful hotel, which was about 200 feet from the castle and was the caretakers “cottage.”

We saved money by buying the “Royal Pass” and seeing both Newschwanstein (the castle that the Disney one is patterned after) as well as Hohenschwangau, his parents castle where he grew up. One of the things we learned about the “dream King” was that he was capable of creating incredible beauty, but not capable of doing it on a budget. By the time he died, he had bankrupted his family’s fortune (but not the nation’s). Ironically, tourist travel to his many castles (the tourist trade) provide the primary income to Bavaria today!
This concludes our European tour and we will be ready for life in the states once again!
Danke for reading,
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Negotiator

There is good news about the current economy: it’s a buyers market in more ways than just housing. Learning to negotiate can be as simple as asking: “Is this your best price?” Here are some ways to become “the negotiator!”

  • Negotiate — It’s a buyer’s market, so feel free to negotiate on just about everything! You can even negotiate spa services (manicures, pedicures, massages, haircuts &color) by asking your service provider if they offer quantity discounts (buy 4, get one free). Service industries are hard hit and you don’t have eliminate these services or pay more to keep yourself pampered in style.
  • Renegotiate – Even if you have secured a particular rate for your vacation destination, don’t be afraid to renegotiate the price. One client of mine, who subscribed to http://www.travelzoo.com/ in order to get the latest sales notices, found that his Bahama resort was advertising a new sale. Even though he and his wife had already booked the trip (and the reservation) for their anniversary, he called the resort, quoted the sale price and got the discount! He saved $1800 with one phone call by renegotiating!
  • Prenegotiate — Two months before your tenant lease is renewed, ask your landlord if your current rent is “the best they can do” as you are concerned with the current economy and really need a lower rent. You’d like to stay where you are, and if they could renegotiate for a lower price on the lease, then you won’t have to look elsewhere. You’ll be surprised at how most landlords would rather renegotiate than lose their tenants!

Happy Negotiating!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

www.elliekay.com

Twelve Summer Savings Tips

School is out for Summer! So it’s time to post my top twelve summer savings tips that can help you get through the summer with your savings and your sanity intact:

1. Use Cash, Save 20% – Use cash for three main problem areas: food, entertainment and gas. Put the budgeted money in three separate envelopes. When you go grocery shopping, go to your cash envelope and do the same when your family wants to go to a movie. The constant visual cash reminder can save as much as 20% in each area. And you avoid going further into debt by not using credit cards.

2. Book It – Entertainment.com offers a coupon book that is available for 150 metro markets and usually costs between $25 and $45 but is on sale for only $10! Preview the coupon booklet for your area (or an area where you will vacation) to see if the coupons are ones you will use. An added benefit: you’ll not only save on eating out, but you can also save on movie theaters, theme parks, dry cleaning, and at local shops. Average advertised total book savings—$17,000. To redeem only 25 percent is an annual savings of $4,250.

3. For Movie Fanatics – Check with your local theater for special discount days or about reward programs for frequent visitors, some of which may also offer discounts on food and even free future tickets. Some theaters offer “Summer Movies” that are designed for kids and can cost as little as $1. Be aware that you can often purchase the matinee ticket at discounted prices. Sometimes the difference in a full price and matinee price is only ten minutes (the 5:55 PM showing is cheaper than the 6:05 showing). Some theater chains have special purchases of multiple tickets (usually packages of 50) that can be redeemed over a specific period of time—but make sure you will actually use these in time in order to maximize the value of your investment. Your employer, credit union, credit card provider, alumni association or even your union may also offer movie discount values.

4. New and Improved Staycations – Replicate a “taking a vacation” feeling without going far by exploring your town or region like you never have before. Check out the “newcomers package” at your local chamber of commerce or visit your regional parks and recreation website to discover programs available for families. At www.FactoryToursUSA.com, search your area for fun tours for seeing how things are made. Many historic homes and governmental buildings, such as state capital buildings, also offer free tours. You might be surprised at all the fun things to do right in your backyard. And speaking of your backyard, why not stage a family campout? Your family gets to sleep in tents, tell scary stories and make s’mores (over a propane grill).

5. Eat New for Less – If you want to try a new restaurant but not pay full price, go to Restaurant.com, a site that issues coupons and gift certificates for over 6,000 eateries around the country. Our family picks a spot and pays $10 for a $25 gift certificate—we save over 50 percent in the process. The average restaurant bill for a family of four is $86. Our family saves $43 x 52 weeks = $2,236. Also watch for summer sales on this site, we recently bought $25 gift certificates for only $2 for a couple of local eateries.

6. Plant a Vegetable Garden or Try Community Gardening – Stake out a piece of the backyard or fill window boxes, barrels and tubs, urns or even pots and hanging basket with seedlings and starter plants for a vegetable and/or herb garden. Aside from the food bill savings, harvesting the bounty with your children will provide months of good taste and good cheer. Some neighborhoods offer community gardening where you pay $5 for your plot and get to know your neighbors while gardening. If you don’t have access to community gardening, but know a friend or colleague that loves to garden, offer to help with the cost of plants and seeds and care products in exchange for going shopping in their garden.

7. Big to Little Bag – Whether you’re wheeling around town or on a 300 mile road trip, avoid fast food joints and pricey convenience store traps by buying healthy snacks in larger quantities and then packing them in reusable containers and keeping them in your car. Any time you divide menu items from a larger quantity to a lunch bag size, you save BIG! For example, buying a two pound bag of mini-carrots and dividing them into snack size plastic bags, I’ve saved 40% over the prepackaged, smaller baggies of carrots. Do this for chips, cookies, nuts, fruit snacks, raisins, grapes, sweet snap peas, celery, cherries, and anything else your family enjoys!

8. Get Everyone Their Own Bottle – The same advice above applies to drinks. Instead of pulling over to buy expensive bottles of water, soda or juice, everyone in your family should have their own colorful, reusable plastic bottle filled with their favorite refreshment. Toss them in a cooler and take them along wherever you go and lap up the savings while being good to the environment.

9. Breakfast for Dinner – Being creative is the key to cost savings and along that line you can have a “breakfast for dinner” night. My kids love it when my husband makes waffles on Sunday and we freeze the extras for a breakfast night–it saves time AND money.

10. Don’t Get Zapped – Electricity is a big expense in the summer, and some states are offering a special discount for those who are willing to restrict their use during certain times of the day. It can be as simple as raising an air conditioning setting during the day and running your swimming pool pump at night. Our family has a band on our air conditioning unit that saves us $150 per month, & we’ve stayed cool with temps as high as 115 outside! Check with your power company for details.

11. Flush Wisely – With bathrooms in use more with the kids home 24/7, save money with water displacement. Don’t put bricks, however, in your toilet tank to do so. They can break apart, clog pipes and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Instead, use a one quart plastic container that will not interfere with the toilet flapper valve and put this in the tank. It will save $150 per year per bathroom. In our house that is $450 per year!

12. Stop Doing Dishes! – Every now and then I give some advice that I really like! If you stop washing your dishes by hand and only run the dishwasher to clean your dirty dishes, you could save $1.50 per load. The reason is that it costs money to heat the water and pipes in your home, which is something that happens every time you wash a few dishes by hand.

Here’s the most valuable tip of all: hug, love, kiss and squeeze those munchkins as much as you can because they grow and go too quickly!

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

Dead, Near Dead, and Drop Dead Gorgeous

I just got back from the Thelma Wells “Ready to Win” cruise for women where I was a featured speaker. My girlfriends, Brenda and Allison were drop dead gorgeous in their formal night clothing. But don’t let this photo deceive you, we survived some strange adventures before we ended up smiling in a photo!

Brenda and I had to come in the day before the cruise and stayed at a Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. TIP: I used an “best available rate” room special where you prepay, but save over $200 by getting the room cheaper than the local Hampton Inn. Plus, I get frequent stayer points & a free breakfast with my Hilton Honors gold card. When we checked into the room, it smelled like smoke. TIP: We knew you should always let management know and that by asking, we could possibly get a room upgrade. The hotel manager was great! He met us at our room with keys to the PRESIDENTIAL SUITE! The nicest room in the 8 story hotel! When he took us in, it was gynormous, featuring a table for twelve, a full kitchen, a private balcony and several sitting areas. The bedroom suite was off the main room. There was just one insey weensy problem.

He showed us around the suite, highlighting the amenities. When he got to the bathroom, he pointed at some stains on the tile, “Don’t worry about those stains, they are going to replace the tiles later this week. It’s just that a woman died here last night and there was a lot of blood. But they cleaned up all the blood and it’s really no problem.”

Then he left.

I looked at Brenda, “Did he just say what I thought he said and was he kidding?” Looking pale, she nodded her head and whispered, “He said there was a dead body in this room last night.”

We bolted off the main suite and barricaded ourselves in the bedroom area while dreaming of the Sixth Sense and “I see dead people.”
The adventure continued when we got on the cruise and reached our first port–Grand Caymans. We signed up for the kayaking and snorkel excursion. When we arrived it was sprinkling and they announced they only had 6 power scooters for 8 people, so if someone wanted to get 1/2 a refund on their excursion, they could forgo the scooter. TIP: It’s really easy to share a power scooter when snorkeling with a friend. In fact, it’s relaxing to just snorkel on your own, then take a turn with the scooter. We saved 50% in the process.

By the time we paddled out, it was a steady drizzle, but it didn’t keep us from enjoying the snorkel experience around the reef with beautiful tropical fish and bright blue waters! When everyone got back on their kayaks to go over to the shipwreck area, it was raining harder. Then–all of the sudden, the heavens opened up and we found ourselves in the middle of a STORM at sea! The guides were too far ahead of us and couldn’t see us. Visibility was limited and the rain felt like sharp pepples pelting down on our faces and legs. The kayak was taking on water and the waves were swelling bigger and bigger. We positioned the kayak to meet the ways head on to avoid capsizing. That’s when the lightening started. We looked down at our metal paddles and just kept paddling in tandem for shore. It was one of those surreal experiences when you find yourself wondering what your family would do if you were swept out to sea, struck by lightening or put in a psych ward because you freaked out over the trauma.

It took us only fifteen minutes to paddle out but almost an hour to paddle back to the shore. The guides finally got a clue and came back for the other two kayaks that were still in the storm and attached a line to them to get them back safely.

The final day was our big parasailing excursion in Cozumel. We prayed for it to be singularly UNEVENTFUL. We wanted NO more dead bodies or “near death” experiences. Just the intrinsic thrill of flying tandam 600 feet above the water in a parachute. As you’ll see from the photo–we succeeded in our goal, putting the “death” theme to rest in peace!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

I’m in Israel!

Wow! I’m having a great time in Israel. I’m finding that it is really a good value as well. Once you get here, the attractions usually charge only $3 to $4 and the Spa at the Dead Sea was only $7 to get a tram ride to float in the sea, have access to the mud baths, swimming pool and sulfer pool. I indulged in a sea salt scrub, aromatherapy and swedish massage for an hour and it was only $58. More on how to get here economically later but in this picture on the right, I’m holding a smooth stone in the river bank of the valley where David met Goliath.

We started our tour in the wilderness (En Avdat, Nahal Zin) visiting En Gedi, the gravesite of Ben Gurion and hiking up to the place where Moses struck the rock and you actually see water flowing from that rock. In the photo on the left, I climbed these stairs that were cleft into the rock. We’ve also seen ancient roman civilization excavations, the Jordan river (where it’s so muddy, it’s only brown), and the sea of Galilee.

The food is amazing, the people are warm and friendly and we still have several days to go. Plus, I get to see some of our family who live here later this week–I can’t wait.

If you haven’t been to Israel, it’s time you plan this life changing experience. Three faiths were born here (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and there’s evidence of all three. The food is completely amazing here. The hummus is heavenly, the cottage cheese is cheesier and even the salt tastes saltier–plus, they serve cheesecake for breakfast! Gotta run, we’re about to go to dinner and then take a night tour in a boat on the sea of Galilee.

Ellie Kay

Safe in Israel


This is an amazing photo. One of the notable things about Israel that you have to get used to is all the soldiers walking around with M-16s hanging off their shoulders. Some of my friends were concerned about my safety with the reports they read in the news but the crime rate for violent crime is lower, per capita, in Israel than it is in Palmdale,CA (where I live). I feel safer here than I do in America, especially after today’s sad headlines about major shooting sprees in FL and TX.
The photo you see is after basic training graduation, the graduates are presented with a rifle and a Bible. That was just incredulous to me!
We visited Masada and heard the story of the tragic end of the Jewish zealots versus the roman army. History tends to repeat itself in terms of violence. We also saw Capernuem, ancient Dan, ancient Beer Sheba, the sea of Galille’s shores where a 2000 year old boat was discovered and much, much more!

Gotta run,
Ellie Kay
www.elliekay.com

Family Time in Israel

Israel is a great place to raise families? The American mom of the two children on the left made this statement to me. It may sound surprising, but I can see why she says it. As I blogged earlier, statistically, it’s safer here than living in California. But here’s the proof: children as young as five years old walk themselves home from school. They are from good families and have responsible parents–but there’s no need to fear for their safety the way I would as a mom in the US. That was one of the strangest sights in downtown Jerusalem and other parts of the country. I love America and have no plans to move to Jerusalem, but I do have to acknowledge the startling contrast in other cultures.

The photo on the right is me at Mt. Carmel, where Elijah battled the prophets of Ba’al and God allowed him to win the victory. The guide reminded us that according to the story, Queen Jezebel got so angry that she swore she’d take his life. Then he ran and got so discouraged that he sat by a Juniper tree and wanted to die. This is a good lesson to remember that when we battle our own “Jezebels” we don’t have to live a defeated life.

We’ve also seen the western wall, garden of Gethsemane, Via Delarosa, the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, Golgotha, the (empty) tomb, and dozens of other sites. The tour was put on for us by the Ministry of Tourism and they kept us (a group of journalists) busy 10 to 14 hours a day–we got the most out of our time away from home.

This whirlwind trip is about at an end and our small group was able to do twice as much in 1/2 the time. But after vising 50 sites, the photo on the left was the highlight of my trip, getting to see a precocious pilot and a pretty princess having fun in a restaurant. Their dad runs a great tour group site that will work with larger groups as well as families to help make this dream trip affordable.

So instead of planning a trip to Disneyland, consider visiting the center of three major world religions. It’s a trip that will forever impact your life!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert
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