A Financial Education Event
 

Families Stay Connected While Apart

 

When Bob was active duty, he sometimes traveled more than he was home and I developed quite a few tips to help the family stay connected to him. Little did I know that one day, the roles would be reversed and I would be the one traveling. Although I traveled a lot less than he did, we still applied the rules of connectivity to our family.

  • Regular Schedules – It’s important for kids to have normal bedtime and meal routines.  This helps them to feel secure even when a parent is gone.
  • Decaf Schedules – The children’s schedules can be a tremendous burden to those at home. Try to minimize the addition of extra events or projects tothe spouse’s workload.  Learn to say “no” or “later” at those times.
  • Scheduled Splurges –  While it’s important to keep a schedule, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional splurge.  Scheduling the fun of an ice cream cone, pizza night, or a matinee gives the kids something to anticipate.
  • Art From Hearts Apart – Any elementary school parent knows that kids bring home a gazillion papers each week.  Save the best artwork and grades and tuck them in an envelope.  Then sneak the envelope into the traveler’s bag. They’ll savor the thought—and the surprise.
  • Keep the Home Fires Burning –  To kindle those home fires, Bob and I substitute something else for artwork and sneak them into bags.  Once on an airliner I got my briefcase and removed my laptop only to have Bob’s smiley face boxer shorts drop on the floor!
  • Remember me? – Take along a framed family photo and place it on the television in the hotel room.  This provides a measure of accountability and serves as a reminder what’s waiting at home.
  • Phone Home – Sometimes emails are not enough—we want to hear their voice.  If possible, hard schedule regular phone calls.  Bob and I talk at 10:00 p.m. one night (for couple time) and 8:00 p.m. another night (so the kids can talk.)
  • Family Budget – Frequent travel can add financial stress if we’re not careful.  Make use of coupon apps like Coupon Sherpa or Yowza to find inexpensive ways to have entertainment.  Scan the Internet and newspapers for restaurant/pizza/entertainment coupons.  My web site has links to values that can keep your finances on target.
  • It’s PAPA!!!– If the military member travels frequently, there can be a tendency to have the traveler do the airport gig alone.  As often as possible, make the homecoming special by meeting them at the airport.  There’s nothing quite like walking down that ramp and hearing a chorus of “PAPA!” followed by hugs and kisses.
  • There’s No Place Like Home – A big part of healthy separations lie in healthy reunions.  Celebrating the time at home doesn’t mean we walk on eggshells.  But it does mean we maximize our time by prioritizing schedules to enjoy family times.
Thank you, Military Families for Your Service,
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Win a Book From Guest Blogger Jill Savage

 

Today’s guest blogger is a friend of mine, Jill Savage, founder of Hearts at Home. Some of the best audiences I’ve ever had were gathered for Jill’s events. There’s nothing like thousands of women, laughing together in a common venue, for a common purpose.

If you leave a comment, “like” this blog on Facebook or retweet it before Aug 1st,  you will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Jill’s book, Living With Less So Your Family Has More.

Adult Peer Pressure
By Jill Savage
www.jillsavage.org

Copyright Jill Savage 2012

The words “peer pressure” usually refer to the pressure to conform that teenagers experience in social settings. But if we’re honest, peer pressure doesn’t stop after the teen years…it continues right on into adulthood.

After spending a year writing my newest book Living With Less So Your Family Has More, I really starting thinking about the reality of adult peer pressure. If we’re not aware of the demand to conform, we’ll likely find ourselves pressured into a lifestyle that either takes us into debt or requires us to work more to give our family what we perceive as “more.”

At the end of our life, though, what we give our family materially isn’t nearly as important as what we give our family relationally. It’s our Creator, God, who gives us value, not the created things of this world. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Less really can be more.

We can’t resist peer pressure if we don’t recognize it’s there. In order to not get snagged by cultural expectations, watch out for these types of adult peer pressure:

Pressure to have debt—Our culture seeks immediate gratification. We want what we want when we want it…even if we have to pay double the price in interest to have it. Believe it or not, there are people who have an average income that pay cash for a car, refuse the concept of 12 months same as cash, and other than having a mortgage for a home would never take out a loan for anything.

Pressure to give our kids every possible opportunity—In our activity-centered life too many of us forget that the best opportunity we can give our kids is simply the opportunity to be a kid. In the preschool years, our kids need to play in the backyard sandbox rather than on an organized sports team. Once our kids are older, they need to be able to balance opportunities with boundaries. Standing up to the peer pressure to do everything can later help a young adult to stand up to the peer pressure to buy everything.

Pressure to move up the corporate ladder–We have to weigh carefully how much time and energy we want to pour into our career, especially if it will take away from our family. There are those who resist this pressure and choose to step off the corporate ladder. Yes, it limits their earning power, but it increases their availability to their family.

Pressure to shop at certain stores or buy certain brands—When I was growing up, Jordache jeans were the thing to buy. Today there are other names on the labels that you pay big bucks for. Today’s name brands are tomorrow’s second hand store best buys. Be careful about feeling pressured to buy certain brands for yourself or your kids. Your identity needs to be based upon the name of Jesus, not the name on your jeans.

Pressure to live in the right neighborhood or drive the right car—Too often we allow ourselves to be defined by things we could lose in the blink of an eye. Those who resist status spending peer pressure may drive older cars and choose to live in a house and neighborhood they can more easily afford. Not only that, but those who live within their means are far less stressed than those who live beyond their means.

Adult peer pressure is real, it’s controlling, and it will influence us far more than we realize. Take a minute and think about the impact cultural expectations have on your thinking. Talk it over with your spouse.  And then stand firm on what’s right for your family…regardless of what others think!

Jill Savage is an author and speaker who is passionate about encouraging families. The author of seven books including Living With Less So Your Family Has More, she is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization for moms. You can find her online at www.jillsavage.org and www.HeartsAtHome.org.

Ellie Kay, America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

 

Doggie Insurance and More

 

When we bought our mini schnauzer, Buddy, we got a good deal for a pure bred. Then we added Anna, another of the same breed and only paid a little more.  Then Los Angeles County cracked down on pet breeders and the price for mini schnauzers tripled! We got the last dog, Belle, from Colorado and our friend, a Delta pilot, flew her in for us.

     Then Anna scared us to death by eating poisonous mushrooms that popped up overnight in the back yard & became comatose (and cost $2000 in vet bills). Buddy got viciously attacked by a dog while we were on a walk (and cost $1800 in stitches and surgery). You hate to put a price on that doggie in the window, but we now have enough invested in our poopy puppies to pay cash for a Prius! We are not alone, in 2011 Americans spent almost $54 billion on their pets and 14 billion of that was on vet bills.

   Pets give us a lot in return—security (unless you believe Allstate’s Mayhem commercial), psychological wellness, companionship, someone to talk to, someone who loves you unconditionally, the opportunity to walk them (and walk ourselves). Our dogs helped my husband get over a career ending broken back when he had to spend 8 weeks in his lazy boy chair.  The pet therapy of having those puppies sleep with him through the pain was priceless.

    So we beg to ask the question:  is it worth it to get pet insurance? It depends on the coverage and your budget. First of all if you don’t have people insurance, then don’t get pet insurance! Secondly, consider the different levels and pick a plan that fits your wallet. They range from $15 for a basic plan to almost $75 for the most comprehensive coverage. They reimburse about 80% to 90% of a claim and dogs tend to be insured four times more than cats. Just keep in mind these policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions or certain kinds of genetic disorders.

    Another way to take care of your pet is to subscribe to Doggyloot.com, a group buying site for—you guessed it dog lovers. You can save as much as 70% on everything from Freezy Pups organic frozen treats, to a designer life jacket to a doggie car seat!

   And if you REALLY love your pooch and want to save money on all natural dog food, then make your own! Here’s my recipe for:

Buddy’s Favorite Brunch:

  • 2 Cups Rice (brown)
  • 6 Cups Barley
  • 8 cups Oats (slow cooking, not instant)
  • 2 lbs. Grated Carrots
  • 3-4 bunches of Broccoli – Grate Stems, Chop Flowerets
  • 6 Grated Zucchini (or, you can substitute 1 lb. Chopped Green Beans)
  • 1/2 Bunch Parsley (Chopped)
  • 4-5 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced

Directions:

Use 8 quart stock pots.  Cook oats. In another pot, cook brown rice and barley. Cool (to save time, cook in evening and cool overnight). Next day: Cut vegetables – use food processor. Using rubber gloves, combine all ingredients in a 25 quart stock pot. Shape into balls about 1/4 lb. each. Wrap and freeze. This recipe can be easily scaled down for smaller batches.

One last thought:  how do YOU splurge on your pet and how to YOU save money on him?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

Boomerang Babies

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

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)

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)

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 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)

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.

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

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