Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Minute Holiday Deals For $8 or Less (Even Free)!

Hey Guys!

I just wanted to post some last minute deal ideas that will expire soon:

  • $2 Gifts -- Get $25 restaurant gift certificates for only $2! Put your friend or family member's zip code into the site and see which participating restaurants will give you a $25 gift certificate for a mere two bucks!

  • $8 Zhu Zhu Pets -- Walmart is flying in Zhu zhu pets on 747s all around the country THIS WEEK. If you've been waiting, then call your local store to see when their "event" starts and send your teenager to wait in line!

  • FREE Gifts -- In this last minute rush, you've probably already been given new gifts that just aren't "you." Maybe you got a silver chafing dish that fits your best friend's personality and hospitality skills better than your own. The National Retail Federation says that 20% more people are regifting this year than last year. If it looks new, then gift it!

  • FREE Gifts -- Maybe you are at the flat end of your budget and have nothing to give. You always have gifts of service. Create a gift card in your area of expertise. If you're a stylist, offer free hair cuts to your friends. If you love to cook, give a gift card for three dinners for your neighbors. If you are a mechanic, change the oil of your out of work football buddy for free. Your gift of time may be someone's else's essential provision!

Happy Holidays!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do You Know Someone in The Military?

We will be giving free, autographed copies of Heroes at Home to anyone whose question is read on ABC News Now's GOOD MONEY show on Friday, December 11th

The deadline for your questions is: Thursday, noon PST, December 10

Topic: Military Money

  • Do you know someone in the military or are you a military family?
  • Do you have a question about how to manage your money in the military?
  • Maybe you are having trouble budgeting?
  • What are some of your specific money problems?
  • What are some of your financial stresses in the military?
  • Or you might want to help the military and don't know how?

Ask Ellie any military money related question and if your question is read on the air, you could win a copy of Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for Military Families. This is a book that has 100,000 copies in print and is helping servicemembers and their families all around the world!

Remember the ABCs of past prize winning questions:

  • Accuracy- Questions that accurately fit the show's theme for the day are most relevant. This week's theme is "Military Money."
  • Brevity - If it takes two minutes to ask the question, then it won't be selected. A question that can fit into a 10 to 15 second soundbite is ideal.
  • Clarity - The world of TV news revolves around questions asked in a way that is easily understood by viewers. Please email your questions to: assistant@elliekay.com or posted on Ellie's blog right here!

We look forward to hearing from YOU as you join Ellie on ABC News!

Submit all questions right here on Ellie's blog http://www.elliekay.com/ and/or send a copy of the question to: assistant@elliekay.com

Thank you for supporting our military!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kids and Money -- Listen to Ellie on Voice America!

Do you want to know how to teach your kid's about money? Listen to Ellie on VoiceAmerica!

Wed 10 AM PT/11 AM MT/12 PM CT/1 PM ET on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
Real Parents. Real Solutions.
Money Matters: Teach Your Child How to Be Money-Savvy

Teaching your child how to manage money is a big responsibility. In today’s show, Ellie Kay, financial expert, author and mother of seven, will break it down to make the job manageable. Should you give your child an allowance? How much should it be? Should Learn More >> Missed the Live Shows? Past Episodes are available On Demand and Podcast Ready.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Greatest Generation - Proud of our Military

It's past midnight in Germany where I just spoke to the military spouses in Katterbach. They are facing multiple deployments into downrange, sometimes high risk areas and many are so young.

This is YOUR current Army and military, an all volunteer force--they know the risks and take them anyway. You would be proud of what I saw in the spouses...--courage, strength and hope.

Truly, the sacrifices we call upon them to make has got to mean I just spoke to "The Greatest Generation."

I so admire these heroes.

The message I brought them was from YOU, America. I told them that we loved them, we are proud of them, and together we are going to be all right.

Please remember the families of the Katterbach area as well as all military members and their families in your prayers.

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ellie In Germany -- I LOVE the Army!

I'm in Germany to speak to the military and their families stationed around Katterbach. They put me up at Colmberg Castle in a sweet suite that overlooks the village....oh, my, goodness--what a view out of my window.

We toured the village and I snapped this photo of the Kathy Wohlfahrt Christmas Village and I caught the reflection of the beautiful building across the street. Believe it or not, I actually found the small 1/2 price clearance section in that story (even though it was written in German, I can sniff out a bargain anywhere). I bought many small gifts there and will get a tax back break when I take my receipts to the airport. This was true when I traveled in Israel, too. So be sure to see if the country you visit has tax back offers and get the information from the merchants so you'll be equipped at the airport to get your refund.

The last photo is me in the wrong kind of stocks! I prefer the financial ones. We toured the criminal justice museum and saw forms of "justice" throughout the ages including iron maidens and chastity belts. I would have been a criminal during the 1700s when drinking coffee was outlawed in this part of Germany and they had official "coffee sniiffers" to find you out! I also would have been forced to wear the "flute shamer" for musicians who sang or played musical instruments badly.

I talk to the military audience tomorrow night and I'm so honored to be able to give them a good work in due season--they need all the encouragement they can get in the midst of the sacrifices they make for all of us.


Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Answers for Debt Free Holidays- Ellie on ABC NEWS NOW

Yes, you can have the answers to debt free holidays by clicking onto my recent appearance on ABC NEWS NOW - GOOD MONEY SHOW
Plus, three of you won including Bev, from Steinbech, Manitoba, Canada; Linda from Mt. Pleasant, IL and Joe, from Panama City, FL. You will receive a complimentary copy of The Little Book of Big Savings!
Here's the essential steps to save this holiday season!
Be Specific - Set aside a specific “cash” budget--don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.
Simplify – Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, especially during a recession. Think “practical” for friends and family who have been hit by the recession and consider giving gift cards that they can use to purchase essentials like food and clothing. At www.AmericanExpress.com/gift you will find the only 100% gift, 0% fee universal gift card on the market. Write down the card number after you buy it and if you lose it or it's stolen, just call American Express for a replacement.
Strategize – Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with sale ads for Black Friday. or Cyber Monday. Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two ipods per person, etc.). Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.

Split it! Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping on Black Friday by going with a friend or your spouse. If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage. You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings.
Stick to Your Guns- Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list. Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains eye catching places.

Steal it! - Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Holiday sales. You can oftentimes get non-perishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50% to 75% off retail.
Happy Shopping!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Debt Free Holidays -- Can You Do It?

Do you want to have a Debt Free Holiday?

Here is another chance for you to win a copy of Ellie's newest book, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) by having Ellie answer your question on ABC News Now's Good Money Show on November 17.

Despite the recession and rising unemployment, the holidays still insist on arriving! Once again, we are approaching the time of the year when retailers will make or break their profit margins based on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Do you have financial concerns about the upcoming holiday expenses? Do you believe that this year its going to be a buyers market? Are you looking for a strategic holiday spending plan? Do you think it is possible to get through the season debt free?

If you have questions you'd like to have Ellie answer on the air, we would like to hear from you! What question(s) would you like to ask Ellie about the upcoming holiday season? The producers of ABC News Now will select the questions for Ellie to answer on Good Money.

Please e-mail your questions to assistant@elliekay.com by 11/16 or post them here on Ellie's blog.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Family Time in Israel

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

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

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

This whirlwind trip is about at an end and our small group was able to do twice as much in 1/2 the time. But after vising 50 sites, the photo on the left was the highlight of my trip, getting to see a precocious pilot and a pretty princess having fun in a restaurant. Their dad runs a great tour group site that will work with larger groups as well as families to help make this dream trip affordable.
So instead of planning a trip to Disneyland, consider visiting the center of three major world religions. It's a trip that will forever impact your life!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert

Friday, November 6, 2009

Safe in Israel

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

Gotta run,
Ellie Kay

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm in Israel!

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

Friday, October 30, 2009

ABC News Now - When Two Incomes Becomes One

I just love my bloggers, FB friends & eblast recipients! Once again, you guys helped make the latest segments on ABC NEWS NOW really great!

You can view the first segment and then be sure to view the questions and answers, where YOU had your questions answered on the air and WON a copy of Little Book of Big Savings!

Here's part of the transcript
ELLIE: I think these numbers only indicate part of the problem. For every person we have who is unemployed we have others who have taken pay cuts to keep their jobs or they've had to accept a position significantly below what they had before. Even when the recession ends and we are in recovery, I think we're going to see the contagion effect of unemployment and underemployment.

ELLIE: Step one is to "Review and Re-evaluate your Financial Goals." When you go from two paychecks to one, all of the sudden money for your four year old's college fund and/or funding retirement isn't as important as making the house payment. It's time to radically re-evaluate what needs to get paid to survive. Essentially, you will work backwards. Determine what you need for the end of each month to cover the basics (house, car, insurance, credit card bills, food, etc) and then work backward toward that financial goal.

ELLIE: Establish a "One Income Budget." This will, hopefully, be temporary, but you will need to readjust how money is spent until your spouse is employed again. This will include cutting back on expenses where you can. But don't panic. Before you cut the cable or disconnect the internet, look at ways to cut back that are less painful and more productive.

ELLIE: Call the company and let them know you think you are paying too much & that you can get coverage cheaper elsewhere. It's amazing how motivated they'll be to help you reduce costs. You can raise deductibles to cover the big things and then lower those again when your spouse is employed. My literary agent took this tip to heart and discovered he had an old policy that had been grandfathered in, when they updated it, he saved $475!

ELLIE: It costs less to insure a car that is no longer driven to and from work. Go to http://www.progressive.com/ to get comparison quotes on your auto insurance, then call your provider and ask for all the discounts that are available to you. Most clients I've worked with save an average of $350.

ELLIE: Whether you live on one income or two, you still have to buy food. By taking ten minutes to go to http://www.couponmom.com/ before you shop, you can save as much as $4,000 per year. The site does most of the work for you as it tells you what is on sale, what manufacturer's coupons are available, what other store coupons are offered and the final price of what you'll pay. There are dozens of items each week that cost only pennies or are free.

ELLIE: Proactively Plan for Your Financial Future. Just because you're unemployed does not mean you should enter the panic mode-this can lead to poor financial decisions. Go get help at the National Consumer Credit Counseling service (nfcc.org) which is a non-profit that won't make you accrue more debt as the "for profit" counseling services will do. Oftentimes the nfcc knows the programs that you may qualify for in order to keep your house, renegotiate with lenders and help you proactively plan for your financial future.

Congratulations to Kristen Whirrett of Fort Wayne, IN; Ruth Schmidt of Willard, MO; Stephanie Woods of Sheperdsville, KY; Karen Power of Keller, TX; Rachel Morales of Victorville, CA and Kathy Hansen of San Diego! You guys had the questions selected by the producers of ABC NEWS NOW - GOOD MONEY show!

Ellie Kay
Americas Family Financial Expert (R)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Calling All Military Spouses!

We are a proud military family as many of you know! My hubby became a fighter pilot in the 80s and has loved every one of his 5,000 hours in the air. Philip, our second oldest son, is at USNA(Naval Academy) and plans on becoming a Marine Corp aviator. The next two sons (still in high school) want to go to USAFA (Air Force) USMA (Army) or even USNA. By the time we're done, we'll be a joint force (purple) family! But it runs in the family. My dad is a retired Chief from the Air Force and my Grandpa was a bombadier in WWII. In fact, we can trace our roots all the way to the Mayflower (John and Priscilla Alden) and they are peppered with service members.

My profession revolves around money matters but my passion revolves around military families. Heroes at Home, is now in the hands of over 100,000 military members and their families, making a huge difference in lives. I've spoken directly to the troops as well as to their spouses everywhere from California to China and from Germantown to Germany. Ellie Kay bylines are in Military Money (Kiplinger), Operation Homefront, CincHouse.com, and Military Spouse. All of this is because I believe in and support our military members. I want to bring that message directly to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In these travels, I have found listening ears as the presentation seeks to encourage and inspire those who put service before self. I know that the WWII generation has been called "The Greatest Generation" but when I look at the young private, stationed in Germany who has to leave his pregnant wife to go to Afghanistan--and he does so willingly and with honor. When I see the airman who volunteers for his third tour in Iraq, knowing it has the possibility of being his last. When I look into the eyes of a 21 year old woman, who proudly tells me what company she's with and when she'll go remote to Korea. When I see this generation making the sacrifices that would have made their great grandparents proud. It's then that I have to say that we're looking at America's Greatest Generation. It's important that we support them. The men and women who serve in our military today--and their spouses are the greatest. I salute them. I thank them every chance I get--whether it's on tv, in person at a Heroes at Home event or in the airport. I encourage you to do the same.

I just got back from TRADOC (a major Army command in Ft. Leavenworth) and once again, I saw the greatest generation in action. The Heroes at Home speech I presented is the same one I've given to over 100,000 military members and their spouses--one event at a time. I don't do it for the standing ovations. In fact, I'm convinced that those standing O's aren't for me at all. I think that my verbal affirmation of the fact that "America loves you, we're proud of you and together we'll be all right" is the reason they stand. Not to single out a keynote speaker, but to applaud the fact that the sacrifices they make have value and meaning--it's worth it. They stand as a team and as a family.

While at TRADOC, I met a team of people also interested in improving the quality of life among military personnel and their families. In an effort to better serve the military, a research group at the University of Kansas is calling for military spouses to complete a survey. Your anonymous response to this research project will help in the implementation of the Army's new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program.

If you just want to leave a post and thank someone for serving, you can do that here on my blog. With Veteran's Day coming up next month, I think saying "thanks" to a military member or their family is a perfect way to celebrate!

May God Bless America,

Ellie Kay

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Two Incomes Become One - WIN A BOOK!

Here is another chance for you to win a copy of Ellie's newest book, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) by having Ellie answer your question on ABC News Now.

Do You Fear Unemployment?
Are you a two income family, that is suddenly down to one income?
Are you afraid your company's cutbacks might include your job as well?

If so, then we want to hear from you! What question(s) would you like to ask Ellie about your situation?

The producer(s) of ABC News Now will select the questions for Ellie to answer on the "Good Money" show to air on October 27, 2009.

Please email your questions to: assistant@elliekay.com or posted it on today's blog (below).

The deadline for your questions is: Monday, noon PST, October 26, 2009

Remember the ABCs of past prize winning questions:

  • Accuracy- Questions that accurately fit the show's theme for the day are most relevant. This week's theme is "When Two Incomes Become One."
  • Brevity - If it takes two minutes to ask the question, then it won't be selected. A question that can fit into a 10 to 15 second soundbite is ideal.
  • Clarity - The world of TV news revolves around questions asked in a way that is easily understood by viewers.

We look forward to hearing from YOU as you join Ellie on ABC News!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is the Recovery for Real?

One of my favorite musicals is The Phantom of the Opera. I've seen it on Broadway, in Spokane and in Los Angeles and it's always a powerful reminder of the phantoms we struggle with in life. This recession has been a formidable foe for many Americans as they wonder when (and how) it will end.
Recently, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernake, announced that he believes the recession is over. How do we know if this is the real deal or just a phantom? Here are some signs that the recession is really over:

  • Retail Sales - With the holidays right around the corner, retailers are forever watching to overall gains and losses. Any signs that retail sales are on a sustainable upward trend (3 or more quarters of growth) are good signs for a recovery.
  • Corporate Profits -- We will need to see genuine revenue growth from US Companies in order for us to say this area is picking up. We can't just look at profits that result from cost and job cuts or stimulus incentives. Real growth means real revenue.
  • The Market - When investors move away from safe havens such as low yielding CDs and money market funds and they instead go back to investing in stocks--then we can be sure that confidence in the stock market has been restored.
  • Jobs -- Just try to tell the guy who is unemployed, "hey good news! The recession is over!" He's still without a job--it doesn't feel like it's over for him. We've lost almost 7 million jobs since the beginning of 2008. Signs that companies are creating jobs, done firing and even looking to hire mean that their cash flow is improving and so is our economy. When there's a drop in the number of jobless claims (getting below 500,000), then we can believe we're in recovery.

Whether the recovery is real or we're still in a recession, it's important to practice the basics of good financial management: get on a budget, live a more frugal lifestyle, pay down debt, and follow the seven steps to thrive and survive during a recession. If you allow this recession to be a wake up call as to how you manage your money, then your personal recovery will last a lifetime!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

PreMarital Money Talk Winners! - ABC News Now

TO see the winners of this week's questions I answered on ABC News just click on the link. The following bloggers will receive a free copy of The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) from our offices: Lauren from Tucson, Trish from Ft. Lauderdale, Misti from Chicago, and J Brooks from Hawaii,

Here is a review of my Q&As for the show:

1.) There’s already so many things going on, Ellie, tell us where you can start when it comes to dealing with money before the big day.

Answer: The most important financial merger of your life requires hard work—but it’s worth it. COMMUNICATION is the key to dealing with money in marriage. According to a 2008 study conducted by California State University, 21% of couples fight over money daily or weekly. 10% fight monthly and 46% put on the gloves every few months.

2.) But successfully merging your money when you marry isn’t as easy as slipping rings on each others’ finger’s. How much time and effort should couples put into this financial merger?

Answer: I think it’s critical for couples to get premarital counseling that specifically deals with money matters. Each partner comes to a marriage with different money management styles. For example, I was a born saver (big surprise) and my husband, who had a good work ethic from the time he was a child was a born spender. In fact, his money never say the inside of his pocket! Consequently, I recommend date nights should be set aside monthly (if not weekly) to regularly talk about your financial progress with your mate. Spouses-to-be who discuss their views of money and work together on how to use their financial resources may discover that they actually like the process.

3.) Also, some experts recommend doing credit checks on their spouse-to-be. Do think this is a good idea? After all ‘till death do us apart is the saying, and that means accepting everything about the other person, including any bad debt.

Answer: I like to say that my love is unconditional, but my money is conditional. Part of accepting my spouse means that I know what I’m accepting—good bad, and indifferent. I need to know the debt, the problem areas and what kind of future the mingling of money will have as an impact on my own credit score. When you merge all financial resources, it means that in many cases---for mortgages, home improvement debt, car loans and joint accounts—his credit becomes my credit.

4 ) When one has better track record than the other, does the credit score get better or worse for the couple?

Answer: Usually, the bad score will more quickly impact the good score when joint credit is secured. However, it depends on how previous debt and accounts are handled. I do not recommend putting the person with good credit onto the debt history of the partner with bad credit—this deteriorates the good payer’s FICO. So if Mr. Debt has a credit card that he wants to add MS. GOOD to, then she just says no. But when it comes to future loans, there is a measure of unavoidable mingling. As a personal example, when my husband and I moved to CA and had to hook up electricity, his FICO score required a $500 deposit and mine allowed us to get it with no deposit—obviously we put the bill in my name and in this case, it didn’t deteriorate my FICO but it saved us $500!

5.) So, what are some of the most crucial topic couples should cover as they talk about financial matters?

Long Term Financial Goals (buy a home, have kids, dream travel destinations)
• Spending Plan
• Saving Plan
• Retirement
• Debt Management
• Short Term Financial Goals (new furniture, honeymoon trip)

5.) And when it comes to financial goals, it’s obviously important to make them and reach them , but it is that something that can wait after you’re married?

Answer: Some goals, such as dream vacation destinations, can be ironed out after marriage. But other goals, such as having kids (and how many) is something that should be agreed upon before you marry. Other critical goals that should be discussed pre-nuptials is home ownership—when and how? One partner may be content to spend money to have a “good life” and doesn’t really care about paying down consumer debt in order to buy a home. While the other partner may think that home ownership is a primary goal and spending should be put on hold in order to achieve that goal. These are the kinds of discussions that are necessary before rather than after the big day.

6.) And of course saving money is at the top of the list for many people, tell us, should we go the route with joint or individual accounts? And why is this important?

Answer: Any home based business accounts should be kept separate at all times from a couples joint account. As to other checking accounts, there is no right or wrong answer on this one—it all depends upon what the couple mutually agrees to and what works for them. If there are separate accounts, there needs to be full disclosure and accountability for those accounts. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of counseling many couples where one spouse racked up thousands of dollars in consumer debt and the other partner knew nothing about it until it was too late. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in keeping mad money and surprise money separate. After all, if Bob wants to give me a surprise trip to Paris for our anniversary—whom am I to rob him of that pleasure?

7.) And finally tell us how newlyweds can prep for the future. Say, purchasing a home or having new additions to the family like babies. This is something that obviously needs to be discussed before walking down the aisle?

Answer: In the picture above, you'll see the newlyweds in our family, our 22 year old son just married his bride. I’ll give our viewers the advice I gave them: plan for what you can, try to prepare for the unexpected and roll together when life throws you a curveball. Our newlyweds have no consumer debt, student loan debt or automobile debt. One partner is still in college and they both have modest jobs. So they are living within their means, spending less than what they make, and saving for future kids (my grandbabies, mind you!) and a future home of their own. They are on their way to a wonderful life!

Thanks for your questions and be sure to tune in next time to see how you can win a copy of one of my books!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Money Matters Before You Marry - ABC News!

It's time, once again, for you to win a copy of my book, "The Little Book of Big Savings." If your question is selected by the producers when I'm on ABC News Now this coming Friday, October 9th, then we'll send you a free autographed copy!

The topic is: Money Matters Before you Marry

Deadline for questions: Noon on Thursday, Oct 8th

If you are married, what question do you wish you could have asked Ellie about money matters before you got hitched? If you are not yet married, what are your questions for Ellie? Maybe you have a son or daughter who is engaged, what questions would you like to ask on their behalf?

Submit all questions to ellie's blog at www.elliekay.com and/or send a copy of the question to: assistant@elliekay.com

See you on TV!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ABC News Now - Frugal Holiday Tips Starting NOW

Here’s the link to my major media appearance on ABC News Now “Good Money” where we talked about frugal holidays. View the winning tips entries from Summer who lives in Springfield, OR; Sasha Payne and from Ann in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each of these frugal tipsters got a complimentary copy of my book, The Little Book of Big Savings, just for sharing their tips.

It’s no surprise that everyone racks up massive debt during the holidays, but I say the time to start saving and preparing is now! Buying early is the key to holiday savings. Set a holiday spending plan, make your list, scour the sales and mark off items purchased. By the time the holidays get here, you could have most of your gifts already bought and consequently have minimal credit card charges.

There are 2 areas we can save the most money: gift giving and the food. First, shopping for clothes: I think they are going to be a common gift item as families need practical gifts to recover from the recession year. The next time you’re shopping clearance racks at your favorite clothing store in the mall, don’t let the wrong size on the rack become a deterrent to saving. First, ask the sales associate to check the back for your size. Many stories do not put all their clearance items out front. Secondly, if they do not have your size, ask them to check another store, give you the sale price and ship it free. More and more stores are starting to offer this service in order to compete with online retailers.

The second area is food and it’s important to look out for how much you spend on groceries for the holidays. Don’t settle for just one kind of savings at the grocery store. Instead learn to add “layers” of savings such as store sales, coupons, double coupons, cash off your next shopping trip, store coupons and more. One place to go is http://www.couponmom.com/ to see what items are on sale with a coupon in your neighborhood. According to the USDA cost of food at home in 2008, the average family of 4 spends $7,968/year on food and by following these tips can spend in the thrifty category of only $4,068/year.

Thanks for your tip entries and keep posted for our next contest where you can win a book and have your tip or question featured on national television, too!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Win Ellie's New Book - Submit Your Ideas for Frugal Holidays

It's time for you to have another chance to win a copy of Ellie Kay's new book, "The Little Book of Big Savings" (Waterbrook/Random House, 2009).

According to a new study, the new frugality is here to stay. The report indicates that post-recession spending is predicted to be at 86% of what it was pre-recession. So that means, Americans will be spending 14% less than we did before our economy tanked.

Along those lines, how you are going to be frugal during the holidays this year? What are you frugal tips to save?

Enter your frugal ideas at Ellie's blog at: http://halfpriceliving.blogspot.com/ and/or send a copy of your tips to assistant@elliekay.com .

If the producer selects your questions to air on ABC NEWS "Good Money" on Sept 15, 2009, we will send you a free copy of Ellie's book! Please be sure to send us your email address, so we can contact you if you win.
The deadline for submissions is September 14, 2009 at 6:00 PM PST .

Happy Savings!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is the New Frugality Here to Stay? -- Ellie on FOX NEWS - Neil Cavuto

A new study by research firm AlixPartners indicates that when a new normal sets in after this recession is over, Americans will spend at about 86 percent of their pre-downturn level. Today, I was on Neil Cavuto to discuss with guest host, Stuart Varney, whether this new frugality is lasting or just a passing fancy.

I believe it's here to stay for several reasons. I think that the hard-earned, hard-learned lessons of the recession are not likely to fade as soon as our economy shows its first two quarters of growth. Some of those lessons came through job loss, foreclosures and underemployment and if you weren't directly impacted--you know someone who was.

Secondly, I think that we're not going back to those pre-recession spending levels because there will be what I call a forced frugality. While there will always be spenders out there, it’s going to be harder to spend because:

· NO MORE EASY CREDIT the days of easy credit won’t be so easy as lenders continue to scale back on available lines of credit. One of the reasons Americans could spend beyond their means was because of the ready availability of easy credit.
· NO EQUITY - there’s not going to be the equity in your home to leverage in order to pay for consumables. The people who used home equity to pay for vacations, get out of consumer debt or add a new kitchen are now wishing they had the equity instead. Some of these people are even upsidedown in their homes because of leveraged equity.
· EMPLOYMENT ISSUES – Because spending is down, more job sectors are going to continue to be impacted. As people spend less, more folks lose jobs and unemployment may continue to rise even after the recession if officially over. It’s going to take a while for the job market to bounce back—unemployment and underemployment are going to be continued problems.

Thus, the need to adopt the new frugality as a classic style rather than a passing fad. People like me, who have been preaching the gospel of living within your means, paying cash, paying down consumer debt and letting your kids go to a college you can afford---are now in high fashion.

I hope this kind of fiscal sensibility never goes out of style!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, August 31, 2009

College Credit Card Debt -- Ellie answers on ABC NEWS NOW

As a mom of many (with three in college in 2009) and as "America's Family Financial Expert," I know a bit about college kids and credit card debt. Recent studies indicate that the average college student will graduate with $3,000 in consumer debt (in addition to $20K in student loans). This translates into BIG trouble for those starting out in life.

For example, our son, Daniel, recently graduated from college and then got married right away. Because he did things right and worked very hard, he has no car loans, no consumer debt, no student loan debt and a GREAT degree from the University of Texas. But then he lost his part time job--the one he was hoping would turn into full time work even as he was applying elsewhere (hint: it's not a great time to be a print journalist looking for work). But because he was debt free, he and his new wifey weathered the storm. Within three days, he had in 16 applications and within three weeks he was employed again--this time full time. If he had consumer debt, he would be in trouble.

So how do you navigate your kids toward financial literacy while in college? And how does the new Credit Card ACT impact your student? Click onto the link to hear the answers I gave on ABC NEWS NOW, "Good Money" to these questions and YOUR questions:

My question is why would you want to pay off a credit card while you're in college, making very little if any income? Why not pay the small minimum payment due each month, and pay off the balance after graduation? You would have a much higher paying job with a new college degree, and could pay off the balance (hopefully) within the first six months to a year of employment.
Teresa, Boise, ID

Our oldest daughter is entering her junior year of college, and has so far avoided any credit card debt by very purposefully not having a credit card. She has said that she knows the temptation for impulsive spending would be too great, so she would rather not open that door. While I admire her self-awareness, I am concerned that she is not establishing a "good credit" rating for herself. Is my concern valid? If so, do you have any advice for helping her manage a credit card responsibly?
Debra Devens, MA

Our daughter is a freshman this year. She is carrying 19 units so having a job is very difficult. She is on the waiting list for a job on campus and no one seems interested in hiring only for the weekends. It’s hard for her to get and pay off a credit card with no job. Do you have any suggestions?
Crystal Rough - Lancaster, CA

Is it a good idea to set up a debit card for college students so they can only spend what’s in the check acct? Wouldn’t that limit the % on a regular charge card if over extended?
Mitchell, West Bend, WI

Should parents help their student get a card, give them a set dollar amount, then let the student use the card to buy things, with the parents paying the bill, to build up the student's credit rating? Cherie Cheramie from Norton, OH
When you are a college student and keeping a budget, trying to pay credit card debt, what should you do if you don't have a stable income? Kelly, St. Louis Park, MN
All these readers got FREE copies of "The Little Book of Big Savings" and "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees." CONGRATULATIONS!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Win My New Book - Questions on College Credit Cards

Once again, it's time to give you a chance to win a copy of my new book, The Little Book of Big Savings . In case you missed the discussion about paying for college, then take a peek at ABC News Now for last week's media appearance. It answers questions as to how we are putting all of our kids through school debt free.
You'll see from previous blogs that others have already won their free book and this week, I'm throwing in one of my other titles as well: Money Doesn't Grow on Trees.

I'll be guesting on a national show on August 28th talking about: Credit card debt for college students: How to avoid getting buried in debt and finding ways to consistently pay if off even though they don’t have a steady income.

Get creative and ask me your questions on this blog or by emailing them to assistant@elliekay.com . If the producer selects your question to have me answer on the air, I'll send you both of my books as a way of saying "thank you." We need to have your questions posted or submitted no later than Tues, Aug 25th at 6:00 PM (PST).

Happy Savings,

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ellie Answers Your Questions on ABC News - "Good Money" Show

I was recently in New York on the set of a fun new show called "Good Money" and I solicited questions from this blog to ask on the air. By now you know if the producer chose your question to read on the air and you also have a free copy of my new book, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009) on its way to your mailbox! If you didn't win this time, don't give up! We'll post new ways to win a copy of my books in the future.

Here is a link of me answering your questions on ABC News Now - Good Money. Follow this live link to listen to my answers to the following award winning questions:

  • My husband and I want to get out of debt, but we each have a different idea as to how to go about achieving this. Any advice on how to get on the "same page"? Bren Jones - Vienna, WV
  • Deals4moms.org said... After all your experiences with counseling couples, can you say that your financial advice has helped to save marriages?If yes, what are the 3 top things that helped those couples?
  • Audrey asked...Here's my question-if one spouse makes more than the other, how can the budget be equalized?
  • L A Hughes said... Dear Ellie Kay,I saw your advice to the married couple who found it difficult to communicate about spending on Nightline. My question concerns couples who are dating, engaged, etc : Do you have any suggestions or tips for how couples can learn discover, understand or achieve common ground about attitudes about money--before marriage--without sacrificing romance, or without seeming pushy?
  • How can you have some fun and adventure with your spouse when you really shouldn't spend money to go out on a date night once a week because you have so many other bills to pay, and it gets boring just sitting home watching a movie and ordering a pizza or worse making your own dinner when it is supposed to be a break from the routine and not work. Kim from Manchester, Maryland.
  • OK, guys, we'll do this again in the future and please remember I didn't choose the questions to air, the producer did!

    Ellie Kay

    America's Family Financial Expert (R)


    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    Tax Free Holidays

    Consumers across the country are searching for ways to cut their spending and still buy what they need, especially when shopping for back-to-school essentials for kids. Many states offer tax free holidays during the back to school shopping season to help families purchase back to school necessities.

    The tax free holidays are just around the corner and if your state offers this, it's important to take full advantage of this holiday. Here are some tips to help:

    FIND OUT THE DEALS - Take advantage of savings opportunities linked by local retailers to the upcoming Tax Free Holiday weekends. Don't worry, there will be lots of ads in your local paper. Some stores like Sears even offer further discounts like $10 off a $50 apparel purchase just for showing your PTA or PTO card or student id. Be sure you go shopping prepared with these forms of identification to get your discounts.

    FIND OUT LIMITATIONS - Each state has its limitations, so ask the cashier at your retailer what the rules are for your state. For example, some states will only allow up to $100 on any single item of clothing and only up to $750 on a computer. So know the rules by googling your state, "tax free holiday" and "2009."

    FIND LAYAWAY - Some stores such as K-mart have reinstituted layaway in direct response to the recession. This option varies from family to family but our family tries to minimize credit card debt and layaway is another option that helps avoid consumer debt.

    Upcoming Tax Free Holiday Dates


    Vermont 8/22
    Georgia 7/30 to 8/2
    Mississippi 7/31 to 8/1
    D C 8/1 to 8/9
    Alabama 8/7 to 8/9
    Iowa 8/7 to 8/8
    Louisiana 8/7 to 8/8
    Missouri 8/7 to 8/9
    New Mexico 8/7 to 8/9
    North Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
    Oklahoma 8/7 to 8/9
    South Carolina 8/7 to 8/9
    Tennessee 8/7 to 8/9
    Virginia 8/7 to 8/9

    Happy Savings!

    Ellie Kay

    America's Family Financial Expert (R)


    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Nightline Segment - For Richer or Poorer

    For Richer or Poorer

    Shared via AddThis

    Are you having problems in your marriage with money? Then watch this segment on Nightline where the Hansen family found the help they needed. Are you willing for me to read your question on ABC NEWS NOW next week? If so, then post your questions here and if we select your question to read on air, we'll send you a copy of my new upcoming book, "The Little Book of Big Savings" (Waterbrook, 2009).

    Ellie Kay
    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    Back To School, Baby! - ABC News "Good Money" Show

    It's the most wonderful time of the year! Summers are great and kids run free, but by the end of the break, a lot of parents are more than ready to start that back-to-school shopping. Truth be told, I think my "babies" are as ready to get back in the academic groove as I am ready to send them back! (BTW, I still call my 6'5" sons baby and get away with it). But getting ready can be hard on the old bank account if you are not strategic in how you shop. Here are some ideas that I shared on a new ABC News Now show called "Good Money"
    1. Layer the Savings –When shopping online, look for sale items where you can also use a coupon or code to save even more on the price, shipping, or by getting free products. With the economy forcing parents to make hard decisions about what's really a necessity, putting a little research into finding extra discounts can add up to big savings.

    2. “Double Dipping” – To maximize limited back-to-school shopping dollars, look for items that have good value, but also look to shop at locations where you can have a percentage of that purchase deposited into your child’s college savings account. Sign up for www.upromise.com so that a percentage of your purchases will go into your child's 529 plan.

    3. Logistical Savings – If your college-bound baby is attending a school out of state, shop at online retailers that also have physical stores in the town where she/he is going to school. Often times, these retailers have online-to-store options where they will send the products to one of their local stores without charging a shipping fee. This option will allow parents and students to shop at their leisure online, take advantage of all the savings options, and have the convenience of going to a local store to pick up the items they ordered.

    4. Link-in Friends and Family – Oftentimes, family and friends want to help contribute to a child’s education, but they don’t know how to help – especially in a recession. Grandparents or others can sign up for Upromise as well, for free to have a percentage of their purchases from hundreds of participating merchants deposited in a college savings account.

    5. Family Spending Plan – Distinguish between “needs” and “wants” by making financial savings a family affair. Give children a spending plan that shows them how much money they can spend on back-to-school items. Inform children that what they do not spend, they can keep. This added motivation of learning ways to spend less and save more not only saves the family money, but trains children in money matters, making them more adept as young adults.

    Wonderfully Yours!
    Ellie Kay
    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Seven Steps to Thrive and Survive a Recession

    Today, many families are facing the same issues that Bob and I faced when we were first married—paying bills, stretching paychecks, and still trying to maintain a reasonable quality of life. We read in the news that homes are being foreclosed upon in unprecedented numbers across the country. Consumer confidence isn’t very high these days, sub prime rates are fluctuating and wages are remaining relatively constant—which usually means more inflation. Let’s face it, the headlines aren’t all that cheerful in the midst of a recession. If most families aren't concerned about losing their homes in uncertain times, they're certainly concerned about rising food and fuel costs, keeping their kids in clothes, or the freedom to go on vacation. But there are answers for those who are willing to do something about it. Here are seven basic tips to help you beware and prepare:

    1. Be Diligent: FICOS (Fair Isaac Credit Scores) – Now is the time to improve your FICO as these scores can determine your auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (employers are checking FICOS these days), and whether you pay a security deposit for utilities. If you downsize a home or a vehicle, you’re also going to need to have an excellent FICO to get the best APR rates. To improve your FICO in three easy steps:
    · Pay your bills a day early (rather than a day late) by setting up payments online
    · Pay $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance on your credit cards, which means you are paying down debt
    · Proportionality: make sure that you don’t have more than 50% of the available credit charged on any one card (for example, $3000 charged on a card with a $6,000 limit).

    2. Be Smart: Save Money- I get loads of emails every week from families who are cutting hundreds from their household budget by following simple savings tips. From insurance to groceries, there are savvy ways to save at your fingertips. (See the money savings tips on blog). Start to implement these savings and it will create good discipline that will prepare you for the inevitable highs and lows of the economy. Use the money you save to pay down debt and build short term savings. This prepares you and solidifies your financial picture.

    3. Beware: Debt Consolidation Companies: With rumors of economic challenge comes an influx of those who want to "help" prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, many of the for profit debt counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load. Instead of going through a for profit company, consider going to the nonprofit, National Consumer Credit Counseling Service found at http://www.nfcc.org/.

    4. Be Aware: Refinancing to Pay Debt - As things begin to get tight, you might be tempted to get a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) or refinance in order to pay your consumer debt. This isn’t a good idea if you’re using it to pay consumer debt and you haven’t learned the discipline of living on a budget. This kind of borrowing will only deteriorate the equity in your home and chances are really good you'll be right back in that HUGE boat load of debt by this time next year. The better option is to cut costs, budget, and only use a HELOC for home improvements.

    5. Be a "B" Word Person - If you don't have the "B" word as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start budgeting. Set one up with online budgeting tools, found at my web site . Make sure your budget has “fun” figured into it and isn’t so restrictive that it is impossible to follow.

    6. Be Careful: Recalculate Your GPS (Gross Personal Savings): When my husband takes a wrong turn, our GPS (who we've named Bitty) says "Recalcuating. Recalculating." In this tip, you are building savings and paying down debt with the previous tips. But you are also recalculating your budget to accommodate the act of actually writing a check to pay debt or to fund your savings account. Otherwise, all the money you save is just flying out the door.

    7. Be A Planner With A Purpose - Whenever a "theory" is tested, it must stand up to a "proof" in order to be established as true. You can have all this good stuff on paper, but if you slap down the credit card to pay for a "40% off" killer Marc Jacobs suit, or buy a new boat during summer vacation--and you have consumer debt--then your plan is only a theory. For it to become REAL, you need to make it part of your daily life. This means your family starts to live with the plan and they don’t incur more debt. Your purpose is to live a life with more financial freedom in order to benefit your family and your kids future in the long run.
    Ellie Kay
    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    The Honeymooners - How to Have a Debt Free Wedding

    One of the most invisible women at a wedding is the mother of the groom. I found that being invisible was actually a lot of fun because my son was marrying the right little lady at the right time and in the right way! All eyes should be on the bride--and groom.

    The bride wore white and the groom was in black--in the black, to be precise. Our oldest son, Daniel, graduated from college debt free last month with a great FICO score and no consumer debt. This past week he got married and once again, there was no debt associated with the ceremony, reception or honeymoon! In fact the only "red" that this new couple got into was their (paid for) red convertible. And it wasn't because mommy and daddy took care of all the boy's bills, it was because he learned about financial freedom and living within your means. Starting out well in life by paying cash may mean you wait on the things you want to get, but it also means that there's twice the likelihood Daniel and his bride will not divorce since one in two couples cite "money issues" as the reason they separated.

    I gave them The New Bride Guide when they got engaged over a year ago and they used it as their wedding planner. Thousands of other couples have done the same and here are just a few of the key tips to have the wedding of your dreams in the reality of today's economy.

    • Live Your Plan - It's important to evaluate how much you can spend by having careful and honest discussions with parents, grandparents or others who will contribute to the wedding. Don't work your plan until you know how much you have to spend. I have a chapter that gives you the step by step guidelines for these discussions. Too many couples make their plans first then struggle with a way to pay for it later which usually means debt.
    • Bargaining - By incorporating five words (is this your best price?) you can save thousands of dollars on everything from invitations, dresses, flowers, photography, the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon! Learn the fine art of bargaining.
    • Honeymoon Savings - Daniel followed the tips on vacations and got a rock bottom price on an incredible honeymoon trip to Ireland. They layered the savings online for other items they needed for the trip and saved as much as 50%.

    You don't have to be the son of a financial expert to learn how to have a tasteful debt free wedding. As I told Daniel, it's not about planning a wedding, it's about planning a marriage and starting a marriage debt free is the best gift you can give your bride.

    Ellie Kay

    America's Family Financial Expert (R)


    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Dead, Near Dead, and Drop Dead Gorgeous

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

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

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

    Then he left.

    I looked at Brenda, "Did he just say what I thought he said and was he kidding?" Looking pale, she nodded her head and whispered, "He said there was a dead body in this room last night."
    We bolted off the main suite and barricaded ourselves in the bedroom area while dreaming of the Sixth Sense and "I see dead people."

    The adventure continued when we got on the cruise and reached our first port--Grand Caymans. We signed up for the kayaking and snorkel excursion. When we arrived it was sprinkling and they announced they only had 6 power scooters for 8 people, so if someone wanted to get 1/2 a refund on their excursion, they could forgo the scooter. TIP: It's really easy to share a power scooter when snorkeling with a friend. In fact, it's relaxing to just snorkel on your own, then take a turn with the scooter. We saved 50% in the process.

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

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

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

    Ellie Kay
    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    MAJOR MEDIA - Couples Money Workout

    One of the most requested files I have is for my "Couples Money Workout" as it is helping save marriages by giving couples a tool to discuss money matters without throwing food or calling in the SWAT team. I recently recorded a segment with a fabulous couple, Chris and Kathy Hansen, for a major media news show. Once it's going to air (later this month), I'll announce the show and the date.

    When Bob and I were first married we didn’t like to say that we “argued” about money. Since he was a born spender and I was a born saver it was natural that learning to manage money as a couple would require a certain amount of give and take—but the word “argue” was just kind of negative for newlyweds like ourselves. So we called it “intense fellowship” instead! We learned that there was a right way to approach this dreaded topic and a very, very wrong way.
    One of the things I did before I talked about the One Hour Money Workout for Couples, with the Hansens was to play a game—the Newlywed game, in fact! You can do this by getting 12 pieces of paper (or cardstock) and two big markers (like they use on the show) and get ready to learn some things about your mate! Answer each of the following for yourself and your mate and have your partner do the same thing.

    1. Complete the sentence, when it comes to money, I wish my partner would stop _______.
    How do you think your spouse answered this question? ___________
    2. If you won $1000, what would you do with it? ____________________ How would your spouse spend it?____________________________
    3. How would you answer this statement (circle one) “I would rather have: money * beauty * brains.
    What would your spouse circle?________________
    As you answer these questions, I think you’ll find that you and your spouse are different. You may discover that you didn’t know as much about your mate as you thought you knew or vice versa! But part of any healthy relationship is realizing we are different and we can give each other permission to have their own thoughts and feelings about financial matters. The goal, whether you are a newlywed or you’ve been married forever, is to communicate effectively about money, get on the same team and find financial freedom!
    As we prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries and do a little bit of preparation work as well. Here are some things to keep in mind as you set up boundaries and prepare:

    • table all financial talks until your couples money workout time

    • no condescension or negativity

    • no interrupting your partner when they are talking

    • no name calling

    • no throwing food

    • start by saying one positive thing to each other

    • end by saying one positive thing to each other

    • create an environment that encourages comfort and success

    • have a timer on hand - for each segment in the workout

    Bob and I developed a one hour money workout because we thought that if our “money talks” had a start and a finish they would be a lot less painful. We knew we wouldn’t get all our problems solved in just one hour, but we also knew that if we kept at it, we’d make progress. Email me and ask for the "Couples Money Workout" and you'll find a miracle happen in your marriage, too!

    Ellie Kay

    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    Twelve Summer Savings Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ellie Kay
    America's Family Financial Expert (R)

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Credit Card Reform - Ellie on Neil Cavuto Today

    The Senate passed a bill for credit card reform and this populist idea may end up costing the good credit managers more as they shoulder the burden of those with poor credit problems. In the next two years, government stress tests indicate that companies will chargeoff 82 billion in bad debts and that money is coming from somewhere. Today on Neil Cavuto, here is what I suggested:

    What Consumers can expect:
    • Annual Fees - 50 million of you are paying no fees but I believe you'll be charged in the future while existing annual fees are likely to rise
    • Higher APRS - beware that in many cases, using your card after the APR has been raised is the same thing as accepting the higher APR
    • Reduced limits - if your limit hasn't changed yet, it probably will and if you are not aware of the limit change, this could result in an over-the-limit fee
    • Altered Grace Period - your new due date could be sooner than you thought and the result is a hefty late fee
    • Hidden Fees - When it comes to recovering 82 billion in chargeoffs and 20 billion in lost revenue from fees, credit card companies will get creative in what they'll charge you for!

    What Consumers can do about it:

    • Call in -- When you receive notification of higher APRs, lowered limits or annual fees be prepared to call the credit card company and do what you can to try to get back what they have taken away from you. Read my blog on what to say and what not to say in my tagged consumer debt label.
    • Caution - Do NOT cancel your major bank card just because they've added an annual fee--this could hurt your credit score in a significant way! If you've had the card for 5 or more years and cancel it, then your longevity is affected in your credit scoring. So be strategic in what you cancel and when.
    • Control - Make sure you are in control, in terms of knowledge, of your card's changes. If you receive any kind of notification about grace periods, credit limits or higher APRS, then read the fine print in order to understand what limitations are being placed on your card. If you don't understand the fine print, then call the company and ask them when your new due date is, what your credit limit is, what your new APR will be and if using your card constitutes acceptance of the new APR. Also ask them if there have been any other changes to your credit card agreement (this is where you may discover some hidden fees.)
    • Creativity - With the reduction of reward perks and cash back savings, it may be time to look outside your own credit card for rewards on the items you purchase. For example, at the site Upromise.com you sign up free and get anywhere from 1% to 25% deposited into a 529 savings plan for items purchased. Also be sure to check bankrate.com in the future ( a few months from now) in order to compare what other credit card companies are offering in terms of rewards and perks. There may yet be something left for those of us with good credit!

    Ellie Kay

    America's Family Financial Expert (R)