Friday, April 25, 2008

Bush Announces Rebates Checks Go Out Early--The Check is In The Mail!

Apparently, the check is in the mail! We've all heard that before. I remember a magazine publisher who took a bunch of the writers to a conference in Fort Worth, TX. Somehow we ended up at Billy Bob's and I found myself riding a mechanical bull--while wearing a suit and heels! Yee haw! I stayed on the bull longer than anyone and it was a wild ride. However, much to my dismay, the bull ride didn't end at Billy Bob's. Several months later, that magazine publisher got behind in their cash dispursements for their writers. They owed me $2500 and kept saying that "the check was in the mail"--right before they announced bankruptcy! What a buncha bull!

But this time, we have the President of the United States telling us that the checks are in the mail.

According to the AP news release, Bush said tax rebates will start going out Monday, earlier than expected, and should help Americans cope with rising food prices and gasoline costs, as well as aid a slumping economy. "Starting Monday, the effects of the stimulus will begin to reach millions of households across our country," Bush said Friday in remarks on the South Lawn of the White House.

But these checks won't help most Americans unless they follow three steps found in my 10/10/80 Rule (TM) :
  1. 10% - Give Generously - This may seem like a radical way to start dividing your tax rebate check, but it's a way to help everyone--including yourself. Giving is the new cool. Look no further than Oprah's new hit reality show, "The Big Give" or Bill Clinton's new bestseller, "Giving." But don't leave the giving to Oprah and Bill. Here's your chance to live like a millionaire and give 10% to your community, region or even the world. Buy groceries and give them to the homeless shelter, buy some new socks and underwear for the kids up the street whose dad got laid off work. By giving away the first 10%, you're helping the economy, helping your neighbors and helping yourself feel good in the fact you can give.
  2. 10% - Save Safely -- One of the safest things you can do with this part of your check is to put it in your savings account. Let's face it, baby, the economy isn't too stable and you need as big a buffer between you and creditors as possible--this is found by putting away some dough to bake future bread. So save at least 10%, if not more!
  3. 80% - Spend Smartly -- Is smartly a word? If it is, then now is the time to behave smartly. This means that you spend it in a way that will s-t-r-e-t-c-h your dollars as far as possible. Buying a big screen TV and paying full price for it, just because you have the money is s-t-u-p-i-d. But buying that big screen TV at a store that offers "low price guarantees" such as Wal-mart, means that you're paying the least price possible and will have money left over to put toward credit card debt. Just because you have it, doesn't mean you should fritter it away. Save money and live well at the same time.

So enjoy the rebates, but make that enjoyment last as long as possible by giving it away, putting it away and spending it away--all in a smart way!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, April 14, 2008

4.2 Million Predicted to Lose Health Insurance Benefits

Thinking of having another baby? Why not? We had five in seven years and they are all winners! I love babies--especially when they're this cute!
But you may want to make sure your health insurance is squared away before you follow up on those family expansion plans. Marketplace Watch released news today that 4.2 milllion people are expected to lose their health insurance this year due to the economy's impact on businesses. That's not good news for baby lovers!
However, there are some things you can do to recession proof your insurance needs and make sure your family has the coverage you need:
  • Individual Plans -- If you are currently covered under your employer plan and have family members covered under that group policy, then consider moving your spouse (and kids) into an individual health insurance plan instead. This will save loads of money and set up a policy where you could add yourself if the group plan benefits are taken away. The only time you would not want to do this is if family member have a pre-existing condition (like asthma, diabetes, etc) and you do not want it excluded from the policy. Otherwise, you can save hundreds each month by utilizing the benefits of an individual policy.
  • Divide and Conquer -- Remember that there is no need for an "all or nothing" approach to health insurance. If you have a family member with a pre-existing condition (see above), then put them on your employer's group policy and let the other family members go with an individual policy. By dividing your coverage among a couple of different plans, you are paying the least price possible for the most coverage.
  • Only Buy What You Need -- Be sure to comparison shop by going to a site such as , or . I like this site because you can compare many plans and get a price quote right away (without a sales person calling back.) You can also choose plans that fit your insurance needs. Don't buy coverage you won't use. If you're not going to have babies any time soon, then exclude the maternity coverage. By buying only what you need, you'll save.
  • Term Life -- If you're healthy, then consider purchasing term life insurance. It is fully portable and you control the premiums by the amount of coverage you buy and the provider you choose. The time to buy life insurance is when you're healthy and then if the company limits those benefits, you already have a policy in place.
  • Budget for Cobra -- If the rumor mill at work is buzzing that health insurance benefits will be cut, start setting aside money for COBRA. This benefit will allow you to keep the current group policy, even if you lose your benefits or your job--but it's pricey. I recommend that you set up an allotment from your paycheck and start putting a little extra each month into a savings account especially set up for this purpose. This method of recession proofing your insurance needs will help tide you over between insurance providers in the event these benefits go away.

Whether you are one of the millions who lose coverage or not, it's wise to re-evaluate your insurance needs on a regular basis. There's nothing worse than paying more than you need to for that baby!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Stimulus Check--How Long Will You Wait?

The good news: I made some money in 2007.

The bad news: I made some money in 2007.

The good news: I gotta pay.

The bad news: I gotta pay. Lots.

A stimulus check? I hope you enjoy yours! But wait a minute, YOU might be waiting a while, too.

On May 2 the IRS expects to make 34 million payments within the first three weeks. Taxpayers who choose direct deposit will get theirs between May 2 and May 16 if everything is in order and they were turned in by April 15th. If you filed via snail mail, then your checks will be mailed starting May 15 and finished by July 11

Direct Deposit Payments:
If the last two digits of your SS# is: It should be sent to bank by:
00 – 20 May 2
21 – 75 May 9
76 – 99 May 16

Paper Check
If the last two digits of your SS # is: Your check should be in the mail by:
00 – 09 May 16
10 – 18 May 23
19 – 25 May 30
26 – 38 June 6
39 – 51 June 13
52 – 63 June 20
64 – 75 June 27
76 – 87 July 4
88 – 99 July 11

My advice for this check?

  • Pay Down Debt
  • Build Up Savings
  • Budget a "splurge" factor while still doing all the above!
  • Spend Wisely (see the tips in this blog for ideas)
Hope at least YOU have a good tax day!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Can We Save Money at the Pump and Impact Prices?

A man with a knife in his hand shouted, "The flux capacitor is..." His adoring followers responded: "Fluxing!" Cheers went up from the crowd.

He took the knife and began to sharpen the end of a stick into a fine point, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, be prepared to..."

"Die" They shout in hearty reply.

Finally the man put a marshmellow on the stick, put it over the campfire and said, "But we still have a hit record.."
He hears the response, "Yes, you do--the one hit wonders!"

He purposefully picks up a graham cracker, "You're killing me Smalls. First you take the graham. You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the mallow. When the mallow's flaming, you stick it on the chocolate and cover it with the other end. Then...."

The kids yell, "YOU SCARF!"

No, this is not a secret meeting of the deranged and demented, it's our family sitting around the campfire shouting lines from our favorite movies (the above quotes are from Back to the Future, Princess Bride, That Thing You Do and The Sandlot.) It's one of those family traditions that make forever memories. But many families' camping days may be coming to an end this summer because of crazy gas prices and the cost of hauling a trailer to the mountains.

There are emails floating around that tell us 1) buying gas from only certain pro American stations (in order to boycott Middle Eastern oil prices) will bring down the price of gas and 2) ways to save money at the pump by only pumping gas in the morning, don't buy if there's a truck delivering gas there, buy the top half of the tank and pump the gas very s-l-o-w-ly.

You're killing me Smalls!

I checked out these emails at and guess what? They are a bunch of horsefeathers! Buying at certain stations will only cost you more money and they do not reduce the price of middle eastern oil--nada, zilch. Following all the rituals for buying your gas can not be proven, either. There are much easier (and painless) options for pruning back prices at the pump:
  • Prices - Go to sites such as and find the cheapest price for gas both at home and enroute.
  • Pace Your Driving - Jackrabbit starts and constant speeding up and slowing down cost precious gas mileage miles. Instead, pace yourself.
  • Pushing It Up! -- Will only speed up your fuel consumption. According to the Department of Energy (DOA) it takes a lot of energy for your vehicle to push the air out of the way as you speed down the road. Driving the speed limit of 65 versus 75 can save as much as 15% on fuel consumption because of the energy needed for higher speeds.
  • Puhleeze Give Me Some Air -- At speeds of 40 mph or greater, it costs more to leave the windows open (due to drag) than it does to run the air. In a place like Palmdale, CA where the summer temps reach 110 degrees that's good news!
  • Pitch the Junk! -- Take your golf clubs, soccer chairs, Salvation Army book donations and all the other JUNK out of your TRUNK. Otherwise, you're paying more to haul it.
  • Pressure and Maintain - Make sure you have the correct air pressure and maintain your vehicle with regular tuneups to save another 5%
  • Premium, Schmium -- According to AAA, only 5% of vehicles in the US require the premium gas--it does not help your vehicle for you to pay more for it. Buy the regular stuff and have no worries.

By following these tips, you'll be back on the road as Happy Campers!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)