A Financial Education Event
     

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

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The Kay family loves the 4th of July.  That includes 12 of us who appreciate Independence Day and what this holiday represents. However, there are three of the Kay family members who loathe the holiday.  I know I shouldn’t single them out, but I’m tired of the way that they take the freedom they enjoy for granted. These Kay family members have never thanked our Marine, Airman or Soldier for their service, they don’t send care packages when our sons deploy into harm’s way overseas.

I’ve decided I’m going to call them out. After all, who are they to dampen the enthusiasm of millions of revelers on such an important day in our nation’s history? So here it goes:

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

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

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

 

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

What do I believe freedom means today?

I believe it means a free America.

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

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

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

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

What does freedom mean to YOU today?

Back to College – The Kay Way – part one

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Back To College

When Bethany was four years old, she came running in the house sobbing uncontrollably. I smoothed her blond curls and held her, “What’s wrong, Bunny?”
“I don’t want to leave you and go to college!” Her chubby arms held my neck tight.
“Um, well, Bunny, you don’t have to go to college any time soon!” I soothed, while rubbing her back.
She sat up straight, “I don’t?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffed, “Good! Can I go back to Julie’s house and play again?”
I figured out later that all the drama was because Julie’s older brother was leaving for college and her friend’s family was sad to say goodbye. She thought she was going to have to leave us and it made her sad.
Fast forward the better part of two decades and she’s now a rising senior at Moody in Chicago, majoring in media communications. She’s not crying when she goes back to school, although we miss her. The good news is that she, along with all our other kids, are graduating debt-free! We don’t have any student loans and we didn’t have to refinance our house. Here are a few quick tips to pay for college. For more info, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “College Crunch File.”

1. Make the Right Choice – Choose a school not because it’s the best, but because it’s the best value. Change the conversation from “I’ll go to the best college that I can get into” to “I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt.” Our son, Daniel, chose the University of Texas (Arlington) over the scholarship he got to Syracuse and TCU because he would still have 60K in student loan debt after the scholarships ran out. He graduated with honors and a degree in journalism. He’s a working writer in Texas and doesn’t regret his college choice. In fact, when his department downsized and he needed to find another job, many in his section were overwhelmed because of their student loan debt. But his lack of college debt allowed him the freedom to find a job he really enjoys and he didn’t have to take the first job that came along.

2. Save Big on Books by Renting – The average student pays more than $600 for course materials – the largest expense after tuition and room and board.  You may want to look at renting textbooks through Follett’s Rent-A-Text program, students can cut costs by 50 percent or more. Or go to amazon to find used textbooks, making sure that you have an amazon prime account and can filter the options with the prime filter to get free shipping.

3. Make Scholarships a Part-Time Job – Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Have your student go to College Board or Fast Web  to find scholarships that might be a fit for your student.

4. Create a Budget, and Stick to It – As a parent of a college student, your love for your student is unconditional, but your money is conditional. That’s what we’ve always told our kids. To ensure students are making the most of their money, set a budget for spending and manage it by downloading Mint to help track spending. And determine which on-campus retailers accept financial aid to be certain you’re making the most of your college dollars.

Join us next week for part two of our Back To College series and let me hear your tips and idea to make college more affordable!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

Your Questions about 401(k) Loans & Withdrawals

On ABC News Now and KLOVE this past week, I answered YOUR questions!

Q. It seems like every other friend of mine is taking the loan option on their 401(k). How many people are doing this?

Samantha Jones from Pennsylvania
Submitted via twitter

ELLIE: The second quarter report we talked about earlier also noted an increase in 401(k) loans. If you want to go the loan route, you need to know that workers are required to exhaust all other sources of fund—including a 401(k) loan—before they can take a hardship withdrawal. During the past 12 months 11% of plan participants initiated a loan, which is up from 9% during the previous 12 month period. 22% of plan participants had outstanding loans during the second quarter vs 20% a year earlier.

Q. If you want to take a loan on your 401(k) what kind of a reason do you have to give?

James from Fort Worth, TX
Submitted via facebook

ELLIE: A loan option is not a hardship option. For a hardship, you have to have specific reasons that fall within a certain criteria established by the IRS and/or the company. But for a loan, you don’t have to give a reason. You can take up to $50,000 or 50% of the amount in your plan, as long as it is vested by company rules, whichever of these is less. Since you are required to take a loan before you can apply for a hardship, this means that you will have little to nothing left in that account by the time you are done raiding your 401(k).

Q. If you take a loan against your 401(k), then what kind of a percentage point do you have to pay when you pay it back?

ELLIE: Most plans charge 1 to 2 percent above prime, which means currently 401(k) loan rates are as low as 4.25%. Loan payments are deducted from your paycheck. You can still contribute to your 401(k) plan while you’re repaying the loan, so you don’t have the issue of lost opportunity, but you do have to pay that interest.

Q. Since taking out a loan on your 401(k) doesn’t impact your ability to contribute to the fund and since interest rates are so low right now, why shouldn’t we take out a loan for our son’s college education?

Stephanie from El Paso, TX
Submitted via online contact form

ELLIE: There are a number of reasons you should avoid a loan including the fact that it could leave a considerable and even permanent dent in your retirement plan. Most borrowers reduce their contributions or discontinue them so they’ll have enough money to make repayments—it’s just what happens. Also, if you’re laid off or quit your job, the entire balance become due, which could be a double whammy if you suddenly become unemployed. Most employers require repayment within 60 days of leaving a job.

Q. I may be losing my job and I have a loan on my 401(k). I’ve been told I have to pay it back and I don’t see how I can possibly do that. What will happen and what recourse do I have?

Ted Thompson from Denver, CO
Submitted via blog

ELLIE: So sorry to hear about your job situation. If you cannot repay the loan, it becomes a distribution, which means you’ll have to pay taxes on the money, plus a 10% penalty if your under 59 ½. You should go see a free credit counselor at nfcc.org in order to see about paying all your creditors while unemployed.

Q. I’m not real knowledgeable about investing and the stock market. Right now, I’ve been offered two different jobs and part of my consideration includes their respective 401(k) plans. How do I know if a 401(k) plan is any good?

Robert Kavanowsky
New Jersey

ELLIE: Your plan should offer a well diversified mix of low cost investment choices. An employer match is a plus because employees tend to save more when their company kicks in money. So check the amount they are offering on the match. Investment guidance and regular, personalized report cards to show you whether you’re on track are important parts of a great 401(k) plan. Look for a company that is holding the total fees in their plans to well below 1% of assets each year. It’s important for you to choose the managed portfolio in your plan that not only offers low cost index funds, but also suits your retirement plan. If you are a younger worker, under 30, then you might want to go with an aggressive growth fund that is heavily tilted toward stocks, but remember that it also has more risk associated with it. If you are over 55, then you will want to select a fund that is income heavy in order to assume less risk.

Q. How much of my salary should I be putting away each month?

David Johnson, Biloxi, MS

ELLIE: Probably more than you are socking away now! Most employees are saving 7% a year or less and employers that offer matching contributions typically kick in 3$ of pay. That isn’t enough. The old rule of saving 10% of your gross pay was designed in the days when ore people had access to traditional pensions and employer provided retirement savings. In today’s world, you’re pretty much on your own for retirement and should be putting away 15% of your gross salary, including any employer contributions. Workers are permitted to put up to $16,500 in retirement accounts in 2010 and those 50 and older can squirrel away an extra $5500 in catch up contributions. You should have about 11 times your annual salary, on top of Social Security benefits if you want to maintain your current standard of living. So if you make 50K, then you need to save 550K by the time you retire.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Back to College – Debt Free (part 1)

Back To College—Debt-Free (part 1)

When Bethany was four years old, she came running in the house sobbing uncontrollably. I smoothed her blond curls and held her, “What’s wrong, Bunny?”
“I don’t want to leave you and go to college!” Her chubby arms held my neck tight.
“Um, well, Bunny, you don’t have to go to college any time soon!” I soothed, while rubbing her back.
She sat up straight, “I don’t?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffed, “Good! Can I go back to Julie’s house and play again?”
I figured out later that all the drama was because Julie’s older brother was leaving for college and her friend’s family was sad to say goodbye. She thought she was going to have to leave us and it made her sad.
Fast forward the better part of two decades and she’s now a rising senior at Moody in Chicago, majoring in media communications. She’s not crying when she goes back to school, although we miss her. The good news is that she, along with all our other kids, are graduating debt-free! We don’t have any student loans and we didn’t have to refinance our house. Here are a few quick tips to pay for college. For more info, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “College Crunch File.”

1. Make the Right Choice – Choose a school not because it’s the best, but because it’s the best value. Change the conversation from “I’ll go to the best college that I can get into” to “I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt.” Our son, Daniel, chose the University of Texas (Arlington) over the scholarship he got to Syracuse and TCU because he would still have 60K in student loan debt after the scholarships ran out. He graduated with honors and a degree in journalism. He’s a working writer in Texas and doesn’t regret his college choice.

2. Save Big on Books by Renting – The average student pays more than $600 for course materials – the largest expense after tuition and room and board. I’ve recently partnered with Follett and found that by renting textbooks through their Rent-A-Text program, students can cut costs by 50 percent or more. CafeScribe’s digital textbooks are another great way to save, and both options are available to purchase at more than 800 Follett bookstore locations and online through efollett.com. Students at non-Follett schools can also purchase their digital textbooks on CafeScribe.com. I ordered Joshua’s textbooks this week and saved 52%!!

3. Make Scholarships a Part-Time Job – Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Go to www.collegeboard.com or www.salliemae.com to find scholarships that might be a fit for you.

4. Create a Budget, and Stick to It – As a parent of a college student, your love for your student is unconditional, but your money is conditional. That’s what we’ve always told our kids. To ensure students are making the most of their money, set a budget for spending and manage it by loading funds on a campus card to help track spending. And determine which on-campus retailers accept financial aid to be certain you’re making the most of your college dollars.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

A Grounded Pilot and A Flying Wife

Being married to “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot” has its ups and downs, and one of the things I discovered about my man is: His feet are restless while on the ground.

He flew fighters for a decade before I met him and eventually accumulated 4500 flight hours in seven different jets. There’s one phone call that a pilot’s wife always waits for, but hopes will never happen. I got that call two years ago when I was in NYC on business and at a Broadway show. The five minutes it took to check my voicemail during intermission forever changed our lives:

Bob had been in an accident and broken his back.

He punctured his lung, broke four vertebrae and four ribs on a gas and go in Abilene. He had just flown his last sortie: a fluke accident that happened during a routine delivery of a jet.

Bob did recover his health and is able to maintain a pilot’s license, but his back will not sustain an ejection seat aircraft. While he enjoys “flying” the Global Hawk as a civilian contractor and Cessnas as a pilot, but he always gets a sad look in his eye when a fighter flies by. I didn’t understand the depth of his loss until something amazing happened to me.

I got to fly in a fighter.

After bringing the “Heroes at Home” message to military families in 7 countries, at 100 venues, and traveling 300,000 miles to do this, with 500,000 military families reading my work and 1,000,000 military families having seen my presentations and work…the Air Force rewarded me with an incentive ride.
Bob and Joshua were also invited to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, home of the 4th Fighter Wing and the world’s most lethal tactical fighter: the F-15E Strike Eagle. They flew the simulator, but I was to fly the real deal.

I went to the flight surgeon, egress training and physiology. At the 333rd FS Lancers squadron, we were met by LTC “Rosie” O’Donnell, who took us to briefing that was led by Captain Ryan “Goat” Roper, he told me to think about the mission and how we would fly over Kitty Hawk at 1000 feet and view it from the back seat of an F-15E. His Weapons Systems Officer, Captain Sriram “Fuze” Krishnan, told me to drink a bottle of water after I asked my pilot if I could take off my air mask so I wouldn’t get sick.
Then the big man himself, Colonel Pat “Moon” Doherty, the 4th Fighter Wing Commander, could have been “Cool Hand Luke” because his demeanor was both calming and compelling. He said he knew I’d be fine and I believed him. But when we got ready to step to the jet I noticed something that surprised me about Moon. In fact, I noticed it in all the air crew for our two ship sortie—there was an excited gleam in their eyes. It was as if they were little boys but instead of being excited about playing baseball, their collective countenance said, “we get to go fly jets today!” It was the same look I’d seen on Bob’s face when I watched him launch out into the wild blue yonder.
I put on my g-suit and harness, grabbed my helmet and air mask, tucked in those pesky air sickness bags into my flight suit and we were ready. Excitement overtook me as I realized I was truly going to do this thing—I was going to fly in a no kidding, real world, operational fighter with the second best fighter pilot in the world (Bob always has to be the first).
We signed out the jet, stepped to the hanger, met the amazing maintenance crew, pre-flighted the aircraft, strapped on 30 tons of sheer power, and taxied down the runway. At the end of the runway, while we waited for clearance to takeoff, Bob and Joshua met us in a truck and took a gazillion pictures. There was a wistful look on the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot’s face. He never would have dreamed that his wife would fly in the one fighter he had always wanted to pilot, but never did.
Moon and I were cleared for takeoff and we watched Goat and Fuze roar down the runway and head into a vertical climb. Then it was our turn, no going back now! As we blasted down the runway, the afterburner screaming, we took off on the wildest ride I’ll ever had this side of eternity. We pulled about 5 g’s in a straight vertical climb and then a sharp turn out to sea. The one hour car drive to the coastline took 8 minutes. It gave a whole new meaning to the bumper sticker that says, “If I were in my F-15E, I’d be there by now.”
Fuze snapped photos of us airborne as we rose above the clouds. Moon asked what I wanted to do as he didn’t want to push me. But I was game for low levels, aileron rolls and what I call the loop-de-loop. I battled airsickness by doing every I’d been trained to do to avoid it—and Moon was right, I was fine.
We flew a formation approach (ten feet from the other airplane), then flew back out in the traffic pattern for a couple more approaches. After 1.7 hours of flight time, we could say, “The Eagle has landed.” I was beyond euphoric to have flown in this premier jet with a big time pilot and not get sick. We taxied back to a cheering crowd and when Bob learned that I held down that wonderful breakfast that Dee Dee Doherty made us earlier in the day, he gave me the highest praise that could ever come from a fighter pilot when he declared in all seriousness, “Beloved, I am as proud of you today as I was every day that you gave birth.”

****************
I learned some things on the hot tarmac on that humid North Carolina day. For one thing, we have the finest group of military professionals in the world. Each team member I met that day was very secure in their place on the team and performed their duties with pride and professionalism.
I learned that big boys still act like little boys when they get to do what they love.
I also learned why Bob loved his work for 30 years and how hard it was for him to have his feet on the ground.

But most importantly, I learned that as much as my man suffered from clipped wings, his love for his wife and excitement over her living out a bucket list dream was greater than any thing else.

Savvy Saver Quiz – part 3 – Entertainment

Here’s part three of our savvy shopper quiz, to see how you measure up in terms of being a smart consumer. Today’s quiz is on entertainment and I want to hear from you about the cool ways you are saving in this category!

Entertainment

 Q.  How many meals do you, and family members eat out each week?        

      (DearReader, please count each meal eaten out separately. For example, a

      family of four eating dinner would count as four meals.)

 a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d) 7 or more

 Q.  How many full price movie tickets do you purchase each week? (Please note that matinee or discounted tickets count as ½ a ticket)

a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d)  7 or more

 Q.  How many new release movies do you rent each week? (Please note that non new releases count as ½ and a monthly movie pass counts as 3 per week).

a)  0-2

b)  3-4

c)  5-6

d)  7 or more

 Q.  How many “treat dates” do you fund for your friends or family each week? (Please note a treat is counted as one per ice cream, coffee drink, smoothie, milkshake, etc.  A family of four going out for frappuccinos would count as four treats.)

a)  0-3

b)  4-6

c)  7-9

d) 10 or more

 Q.  How often do you or your family participate in other “special event” excursions and/or services per week? (Please count as one per paid admission to zoo, amusement park, skating, bowling, paintballing, spa treatments, manicures, pedicures, facials, etc) 

a) 0-1

b) 2-3

c) 4-5

d) 6 or more

 Welcome to the scoring section of the Entertainment category – Give yourself the following points: every “A” answer = 4 points, every “B” answer – 3 points, every “C” answer – 2 points and every “D” answer – 1 point

 16-20 points:  Thrifty Taylor – Well done, you’re a SUPER SMART ENTERTAINER! When it comes to getting the most bang for your entertainment buck. You may have already learned that eating in is the new eating out. Plus, you might be one of those who has made entertainment investments, such as a big screen tv and then take advantage of that at home. Just because you’re the smartest doesn’t mean you do without either—you still get to go out and have fun, you’re just smart about the way you stretch a dollar. 

 11-15 points:  Low Cost Logan – Good Job, you’re a SMART ENTERTAINER! – You are doing a good job at keeping entertainment costs down when eating out and selecting entertainment. You also moderate how you buy treats, extras and spend those dollars. There is slight room to improve, but you are in a nice position to continue to be smart with your entertainment dollars and still have fun with the people you love!

 6-10 points:  Moderate Morgan – Nice Work, you are an ENTERTAINER! – There are some areas where you have learned to stretch your entertainment dollar but you may still be eating out more than your budget likes, hitting the store for lattes and going to movies frequently. Or, you might just have a large family and that impacts your entertainment budget. By looking at the Free Standing Inserts in your Sunday paper, you can find certificates for local restaurants in order to stretch your eating out dollar. Or, you may consider buying a monthly movie pass if you are prone to renting new releases quite frequently. There are ways to bring your entertainment savings to new level and you are just the one to do it!

 5 points:  Extravagant Emerson – You are a one who ENJOYS ENTERTAINMENT! – You might have a big family or be someone who has to eat out a lot due to hectic work schedules and a busy life. You love to go to movies or the theater with friends and family and may also like to get regular manis/pedis or spa treatments, too. If you want to do it—you usually do! The only problem is that these extra dollars may catch up with you as the economy becomes more challenging. Why not try to eat out less? Or, when you do eat out—do lunch instead of dinner because lunch is less expensive. Try a matinee instead of prime time and go right after eating a meal so you won’t overspend at the concession counter. You may find that as you learn to be a savvy saver, you’re enjoying yourself a whole lot more!

 Let me know how you save on entertainment!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Savvy Saver Quiz – part 4 – Transportation

 

Transportation

 When I was a teen, I always wanted a little roadster. It only took 30 years of clipping coupons, but I (finally) got mine after years of driving mini vans and suburbans. But  even though my “baby” is small, it loves to guzzle the gas, so I have to be careful. How well do do when it comes to saving on transportation?

Q.  How many individual trips do you make to the grocery store, department store, discount store, electronic store, the mall, or other shopping venues each week? (Count each individual trip as one and count combined trips as one.)

a) 0-3

b) 4-6

c) 7-9

d) 10 or more

 Q.  If the speed limit is 65 mph, how fast do you normally drive?

a) 60 mph to 65 mph – I’m a cautious driver

b) 66 mph to 70 mph – I push it just a little

c) 71 mph to 75 mph – I like to keep up with traffic

d) 75 mph or more – I like to live in the fast lane, baby!

 Q.  How often do you have the air pressure checked in your tires?

a) at least every other week

b) once a month or once every two months

c) once every three to six months

d) Am I suppose to check the air?

 Q.  How often, per week, do you carpool to work, to the kids school or to other events with friends (meetings, out of town trips, shopping, etc.)?

a)  5 or more – I regularly carpool

b)  3 to 4 – I try to make the driving count

c)  1 to 2 – I’m a taxi mom

d)  never – I like to drive!

 

Q.  How often do you shop around for the best price on gas (using an app like TripTik or gasbuddy or going to www.gaspricewatch.com)  before you fill up?

a) every time – Gas is too expensive to pay top price!

b) frequently – I pay attention to who has the best prices

c) occasionally – When I can remember

d) never – Who has the time?

Welcome to the scoring section of the Transportation category – Give yourself the following points: every “A” answer = 4 points, every “B” answer – 3 points, every “C” answer – 2 points and every “D” answer – 1 point

 16-20 points  Thrifty Taylor – Well done, you’re a SUPER SMART DRIVER! When it comes to making sure you get the most bang for your driving buck, you are routinely aware of gas prices, make sure your tire pressure is accurate, carpool to work or school and check out sites like www.gaspricewatch.com or www.gasbuddy.com to get the best prices! You’re not only saving on fuel costs, you’re saving our environment with your conscientious ways—well done! 

 11-15 points:  Low Cost Logan – Good Job, you’re a SMART DRIVER! – You are doing a good job at keeping driving costs down by combining trips on errands. You probably have also figured out that you don’t have to go to five different stores when you can come to your local Walmart Superstore and get everything you need in one place, this saves time and money. There is slight room to improve, but you are in a nice place when it comes to wisely using transportation dollars.

 6-10 points:  Moderate Morgan – Nice Work, you are a DRIVER! – You might be good at combining errands to save on time and expense and you might shop around for the best gas prices when you have the time. However, there’s always room to improve. By minimizing your trips to a lot of different stores, trying to carpool when you can, making sure your vehicle is well maintained and driving the speed limit, you can save more and become a smart driver!

 5 points:  Extravagant Emerson – You must love to DRIVE! – If you don’t drive for a living, you might just live to drive! Transportation may be an expensive area because you may be a “taxi mom” whether you like it or not! By slowing down your speed, becoming more strategic in trip planning and checking the air pressure in your tires, you could cut fuel costs by 25% or more!  Since gas prices may be on the rise again, now is a good time to make some modifications to your transportation habits to set yourself up to be a one who drives and saves! 

Let me know how you save on transportation!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Savvy Saver Quiz – part 5 – Budgeting

This is the final quiz in our savvy saver series! It’s the “B” word and it can be a volatile word to use in many households. My hubby was a born spender and I’m a born saver, so we had plenty of “discussions” about this topic. Eventually, we got on the same sheet of music and we’ve been able to reach most of our financial goals as a result. This is coming from a place in our early marriage where we had $40,000 in credit card debt and wondered where our next bag of groceries was coming from! A little budgeting goes a long way when it comes to meeting your goals. What kind of a budgeter are you?

 

Budgeting

 Q.  How often do you stick to or live by a household budget?

a)  every day, baby!

b)  frequently, but not every single day

c)  occasionally, I have a hard time with the “b” word!

d)  never, I just don’t do budgets!

 Q.  How often do you review and/or adjust your budget to keep up with your current financial situation?

a) twice a year or more

b) once a year

c) once every 2 to 3 years

d) are we still on the budget thing? (rarely)

 Q.  When you have a set amount, weekly, to spend on groceries, how well do you stick to that amount?

a) I come in under my set amount fairly regularly

b) I spend my set amount

c) I seem to spend $10 to $40 (or more) over my set amount each time

d) I don’t have a set amount, I just spend whatever

 Q.  How much of your family income are you able to put into some kind of savings account (regular savings, allotment, IRA, Mutual Funds, 401 (k)s, etc.)

a) we save or invest at least 10% of our income

b) we save or invest 5% to 9% of our income

c) we save or invest 1% to 4% of our income

d) we never seem to save or invest anything

Welcome to the scoring section of the Budgeting category – Give yourself the following points: every “A” answer = 4 points, every “B” answer – 3 points, every “C” answer – 2 points and every “D” answer – 1 point

 16 – 20 points:  Thrifty Taylor – Well done, you’re a SUPER SMART BUDGET BUDDY! When it comes to budgeting, you get the prize for being a smartest person on the block! You are well prepared for financial issues that arise in today’s economy and are in a great position to pay down debt, make ends meet and stretch your dollar in a crisis because you have a plan—and it’s called a budget! You may want to use also my free budgeting tool at www.elliekay.com  You’re doing GREAT!

 11-15 points:  Low Cost Logan – Good Job, you’re a SMART BUDGET BUDDY! – You are doing a good job at working on a budget and making good use of your efforts in this area. You may not stick to budget every single day, so there is room for improvement. It’s obvious that you have the basic skills to continue to be smart with budgeting concepts and you can even help your children learn to have fun kid budgets as well.

 6-10 points:  Moderate Morgan – Nice Work, you are a BUDGET BUDDY! – There are some areas where you’re doing better than others and budgeting just may not be your primary forte. However, at least you know what a budget is and there’s always room to improve. By going to a budgeting tool online at reputable money sites such as moneymagazine.com or msnmoney.com, you’ll find the resources to set up a practical budget that your family can live with and modify as needed. By putting a little more effort into this area, you can learn to become a smart budget buddy!

 5 points:  Extravagant Emerson – You are a one who NEEDS A BUDGET BUDDY! – You may have scored smarter in every other category but this one—not everyone has the desire to budget. You need someone to come alongside you and help set up a budget you can tolerate. If you’ve tried the online tools we mentioned previously for budgeting and they don’t work, then you may want to speak to a live person. Get free help by going to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org . Once you have a plan, which is basically what a budget is, then you can pay down debt, make ends meet and have a new level of financial freedom!   

 Let me know how you are stretching your budget!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Great Dates With Your Mate–Q&A With Ellie Kay

My honey and I took a trolley ride with friends on the beach and had a blast! What do you have planned for a great cheap date? Here are some of your questions that have arisen during this month of love.

QUESTION: My boyfriend is a tech junkie, and while he never forgets to get the latest upgrade, he does sometimes forget special days like my birthday or our anniversary. Is there a way to help my high tech love realize that Valentine’s Day is around the corner?   Simmering Cindy in Cincinnati

 ELLIE:  There’s some good news for you, Cindy, there are quite a few apps you can buy for your romantically challenged love. The first one is only $.99 and is called CREATIVE ROMANTIC IDEAS: $.99, IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD  This app will give him  ideas that are ranked by price and difficulty, from personalized M&Ms to more elaborate ideas that go beyond the usual candy and flowers.  OPEN TABLE: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD, ANDROID, BLACKBERRY This app will help him from being caught without a restaurant reservation. This popular app lets him find restaurants that are nearby, check to see availability and make a reservation. Get info you need from restaurant profiles to menus, including for the budget-minded $$ ratings so you can stay in your price range. Finally, there’s a free app called CINEPLEX MOBILE: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD, BLACKBERRY, ANDROID. Useful for dates or any other occasion when he wants to find out what’s playing at a theatre near you. Read entertainment news and reviews, see trailers and buy tickets online. Cindy, by speaking his high tech language, you’ll find better results.

QUESTION:  My husband has been off work for 18 months and works odd jobs here and there just to help pay the bills until he can find regular work as a full time welder. Do you have any ideas for Valentines gifts for people with NO money to spend?                               Jessie Johnson from Detroit, MI

 ELLIE:  Trade chores for the day. Surprise your loved one by completing all of his/her chores. Clean the house for your wife or take out the trash for your hubby. Add a special touch by leaving heart shaped cookies in the home or a meaningful note in their car. No matter how small the chore, having someone else complete it will be sure to leave a smile on your loved one’s face.

Make a book of coupons. The coupons could include a massage, free pass for a girls or guys night out, cooking a favorite meal, or even promising a day of sports TV without any interruptions! Recognizing things that are important to your significant other will go a long way in showing how much you care. My husband just presented me with a 12 year old coupon that says, “good for a new corvette when I sell 100,000 copies of my book.  I passed that mark several years ago and he just found the coupon when cleaning out a drawer!

QUESTION:  My fiancée is in the military and is overseas. Do you have any extra special ideas that I can send him via email. I already mailed a package, but I wanted to do something more.         Sampson,  submitted via Facebook

ELLIE:  There’s an app that costs $1.99 and is called VOICE VALENTINES: IPHONE, IPOD TOUCH, IPAD. You can impress your Valentine with a customized ecard that you can send by email, Twitter or Facebook. Design your card, add a photo and message and your Valentine’s Day love delivered in your own voice. Or you could get an app for $1.99 or under that is called BUILD-A-CARD, CUPID ADDITION: IPHONE, IPOD, $.99 AND $1.99 FOR IPAD. With this app you can create customized ecards to email, Facebook or Twitter. You can take photos from your camera, your album or your Facebook account to build a one-of-a-kind card.

QUESTION:  I’ve been married three years and my husband and I have a very good relationship. The only thing that bothers me is that he doesn’t have any photos of me at work, he says he has them on his iPhone and shows people that way. We are on a budget and for Valentines Day, I wanted to give him a photo for his desk. Any ideas to make this gift not seem too cheap?                                                         Amanda from San Antonio, TX

ELLIE: By all means, Amanda, frame up all kinds of his favorites—not just photos. In the digital age, chances are good that your mate doesn’t have a hard copy of some of your favorite memories.  If your man has a treasured baseball card or an old family photo, have it framed so he can hang in a special place.  Then add a second gift of your best photos as a couple. You can get a customized collage for less than $5 at Costco.com or Walgreens and request same day or next day service. If you want to be less obvious, you could do the same in a mousepad or coffee mug.

 QUESTION:  My wife and I have been married for 25 years and we raised 3 outstanding children together. I love her very much. For Valentines Day, I like to give her chocolate because she likes it. The problem is that she’s been on a diet off and on for months now and if I don’t give her chocolate then she may think I’m saying she’s overweight and doesn’t need it. But if I do give her candy, she might go off her diet and blame me. What do you suggest?                                           Anonymous but still in love in Destin, FL

 ELLIE:  This has the potential to be one of those no win situations, so you need to approach this carefully.  If you buy your woman a 5 lb. box of chocolate in the shape of a heart, she’s either going to eat a few pieces and waste the rest or eat a bunch of it and feel guilty or sick.
I recommend that you find out what kind of candy she likes and get a small portion of that kind of candy.  Since you’ve been married for so long, you could also include a mix “tape.” Burn a CD of your favorite songs or those that are special to your relationship. Create a personalized cover with photographs of the two of you and place it in a plastic CD case for presentation. You can also load a special mix onto your significant other’s MP3 player so you can share it together in the car or at home. The thot you put into the CD should outweigh any potential conflict from the candy and you should emerge unscathed. J

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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