Monday, April 25, 2011

Mother's Day and Working Mom's - What Is Your Time Worth?

When I married my husband we had five babies in seven years and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I also had two stepdaughters for a total of 7 children to support. I left a nice job as a broker to have a more rewarding career as a SAHM (stay at home mom). One of the questions that I frequently heard was: Do you work?

“What do you mean do I work?” I would think even though I politely answered, “Yes, I work very hard as a stay at home mom.” Sometimes, an unsuspecting troglodyte would go on to say something totally thoughtless such as “Well, I meant do you really work. Do you have a job?”

I would bite my tongue until it bled….

What I wanted to say was, “What do you mean do I really work? I work a heck of a lot harder that you do, mister! I’m an accountant, a contract administrator, a chauffeur, a nurse, a soccer mom, a stylist, a wife, and a chef! Plus ten other job specialties! I do all these things as a mom—I’M A CEO MOM, MISTER!”

They usually didn’t ask the same question twice.

These days, as a financial writer and speaker—and a mom, I’ve talked with scores of spouses who work outside the home because of the status of our economy and by necessity--not choice.

Each year, issues a report on what a mom’s time is really worth. According to this site, “Based on a survey of more than 40,000 mothers, determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $138,095 for a stay-at-home mom. Working moms ‘at-home’ salary is $85,939 in 2010; this is in addition to the salary they earn in the workplace.” That’s a lot of worth associated with this great job of motherhood!

By going to you can log into a calculator that tells you what you would be paid on the economy for all the work you do as a SAHM or as a mom who also works outside the home and inside the home!

How effective is the mom’s work outside the home? Does it pay to work in today’s economy with rising prices and a modest hourly wage? Many military spouses who move frequently do not often have the luxury of annual pay raises at the same company. For example, let’s look at Jennifer.

Jennifer was an administrative assistant who needed to work outside the home to make ends meet. She made an average wage of $8.50 per hour and felt she contributed greatly to the family’s finances. She only had one child in day care, traveled a short distance to work, and paid no state income taxes. Then Jennifer attended one of my Living Rich for Less seminars and was challenged with the idea of “crunching the numbers.” She completed our “Working Mom’s Compensation” form and was shocked. The online version of this is a “one income calculator” is found at

The amazing fact Jennifer discovered was, by working full time--she was making $3 per week! She didn’t realize how those extra pizza nights (because she was too tired to cook), and the trips to the beauty salon (to maintain a professional hairstyle), and all those lunches (away from home) added up! She realized she needed to make some dramatic adjustments. She decided there was a better use of her energy and quit her job outside the home.

But Jennifer didn’t stop there. She implemented some money savings strategies and is making ends meet at home. She has less stress in her life and the freedom to contribute to her family’s financial needs through saving money and by launching her own homebased writing business. In her case, a penny saved was more than a penny earned.

Jennifer’s Salary – The Working Mom’s Compensation Form

Gross Income Per Week Jennifer’s Yours

($40 hrs @8.50/hr) $340 _________


Tithe or donations (10%) $34 _________

Federal Income Tax (18%) $61 _________

Social Security Tax (6.2%) $21 _________

Transportation (10 trips/8mi/@.45/mile) $36 _________

Childcare (1 child) $90 _________

Meals/coffee (@$7/day) $35 _________

Convenience foods at home $29 _________

Extra clothing (includes cleaning) $12 _________

Beauty Shop $14 _________

Other (‘I owe it to me’ items) $5 _________

Total Expenses $333 _________

Net Usable $3

Time Spent:

On the job 40 hours __________

Lunch 5 hours __________

Travel/Commute 5 hours __________

Total hours away from home 50 hours __________

Once you come up with a figure, ask the big question. Is my time, energy and effort worth ______ dollars a week? You’ll be surprised at how painless it is to cut back and save your family a significant amount of money. It’s not magic, it requires work and dedication. After all, not all compensation is measured in dollars and cents.

On the other hand, you might discover that it is worth it and that’s still a great choice—one that works for you and your family!

Whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside the home—you’re work is priceless in terms of all you do for your family and for others. You deserve a Happy Mother's Day! Thanks for your hard work, you’re leaving a legacy through your children that will last for decades to come.

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Family Road Trip

When I was ten years old, I wrote a report on King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein, also known as “The Disneyland Castle.” At that time a dream to see that fabulous site was birthed in my mind. Three decades later, I was able to fulfill those travel dreams, debt free, thanks my work in helping people save money.
Your travel dreams might come true in 2011, thanks to a recovering tourist industry. Here are some trends and tips to keep in mind when planning this year’s travel.

Flyer’s Market A recent poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup Poll indicated that only 16% of respondents plan to fly more or stay more often in hotels this year than they did last year. In fact, 30% indicate they will travel less often. This means there will be better travel deals for those who do their research and take advantage of the bargains that become available.
To take advantage, start by subscribing to the top travel email alert sites and check them daily in order to begin your research. Some of the best alerts are found at,, and . Be flexible with your destinations and get even more savings. If a cruise to the Mexican Riveria ends up costing ½ of what a trip to Disneyland costs, then readjust your expectations and save the mouse ears for another year. Also check out the info from last week's blog.
Then compare the alert prices with values found at the one-stop shopping site called . At this site, you’ll find deals from 140 travel sites including Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline. When in doubt as to whether “now” is the best time to buy your flight or package, go to’s Price Predictor to see if prices are likely to rise or fall in the next week. But before you click “buy” be sure that you’ve also gone to a coupon code site called to enter additional codes that might get you an even better deal.

Fun Eats and Tech Savvy Treats Since you’ve already signed up for the email alerts on the best deals, be on the lookout for specials in your destination’s area. For example, on, I received notification that was running a special where $25 gift certificates were on sale for only $2. Since they are good for twelve months, I entered zip codes for our vacation areas and bought five different $25 restaurant certificates for a total of only $10! You can also go to, enter the zip code of your destination and look at the coupons and values for attractions, hotels, restaurants and more. These coupon books cost around $35. There are also money smart social media sites, such as, that list great bargains across the country. Other savers post their experiences on the “deals” so that you know whether it’s worth your time and effort or not. I recently found a post for a free coupon for grande lattes at Barnes and Noble where there wasn’t a limit, so I printed four coupons. Three of my kids and I enjoyed free drinks—all courtesy of the FatWallet bloggers.

Fab Phonesdeals If you have a smart phone, then you know that the online world of travel deals make instant savings more gratifying than ever. If you haven’t signed up for a social networking site such as facebook or twitter, then you could be losing money! From these sites you can discover “flash sales” for everything from air travel, theater tickets, restaurant deals and hotel sales. It’s also a great way to get insider information. Another way to use your phone is to find out which TSA gate to go through with the new On the Spot System’s iPhone app that lets users rate TSA screening checkpoints.
“Check in” to your flight at Foursqure, a free app for iPhones, BlackBerrys, Palms and Android phones. There are also apps to order room service before you arrive at the hotel (apps for Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites). These apps will save you time and we all know that time is money. To get the best value in a travel or vacation related app and to find out which ones might be free, go to the review site

Faith Tourism In the midst of a struggling global economy, one bright spot for the travel industry is the upswing in faith tourism. If you’re stationed overseas, you may be one of the more than 300 million people are traveling this year for religious and pilgrimage reasons. So if you always wanted to go to see the Western Wall in Israel, then this could be your year. Go to and click onto their specials to plan your journey. There, you’ll also find tips, such as: 1) staying at a kibbutz or guest house is cheaper than a hotel, and 2) buying a pass to all the country’s national parks save a lot over buying them individually.
So whether you’re going to Germany to see the original Disneyland castle or driving to Anaheim to see the replica—you can have the vacation of your dreams and your dream can remain debt free as well!

Savings Site Favorites – Find best prices on hotels internationally and earn bonus stays – terminal maps, estimates on how long security lines are, where to eat. – track flights by airline and flight number within 5 minutes of real time. – worldwide educational travel adventures with 300 learning vacations designed for grandparents and grandkids – national park service website offering $10 park passes to seniors 62+ - family camp programs that provide affordable camping and hiking - Association of Science Technology Center with seasons passes to all participating science museums.– buy a reciprocal pass to multiple art museums. – vacation house rental deals – detailed info on hotels and specific room info – photos of lobbies, rooms and neighborhoods – pros and cons of different hotels – checks best sales, promotions and package deals from departure city – guide to the best and worst airline seats – gives real price of airline tickets with all fees including charges for blankets, sodas, luggage and seats with more legroom.
Tripadvistor –traveler reviews on hotels, package deals, airlines and destinations – dealhounds post latest and best deals all day long. – see traveler videos of hotels, restaurants and activities

Happy Trails to you!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Til Debt Do Us Part -- Money Matters Before You Marry

This week is our anniversary and we are celebrating

by going away to the OC, riding segways on the beach & watching a concert called "Rain" (a Beatles Tribute). Hotel is free, segways are 1/2 price and Rain was 45% off!

When I married my husband, Bob, he was a young fighter pilot in the Air Force and I was a insurance/financial broker from Texas. We merged two different professions and two very different philosophies about money. Bob has a lassie faire style, a free spender who lives in the present. I am a structured person, a compulsive saver and always plan for the future. Even though it may seem that this marriage was made in any place but heaven, it has turned out quite the opposite. We’ve been happily merged and married for 24 years with seven children to show for it!

There were, however, a few things we learned after marriage that we wish we knew before the big date.

Talk, Talk, Talk,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. It’s no wonder that “money arguments” are cited as the number one cause for divorce in America. [[]]

If couples spent as much time discussing this critical merger as they do in planning the honeymoon, they would have a great start in their new lives together. That is why it is critical for couples to get premarital counseling that specifically deals with money matters. Each partner comes to a marriage with different money management styles. Consequently, I recommend couples set aside date nights weekly to regularly talk about financial progress. Partners who discuss their views of money and work together to use their financial resources effectively may discover that they actually like the process.

Check, Check, Check, Some experts recommend running credit checks on their spouse-to-be. After all, “‘till death do us part” is the saying, and that means accepting everything about the other person, including any bad debt. On the other hand, if you don’t know how much money your fiancée owes, then the saying could be rephrased to: “‘til debt do us part.” Credit histories should be voluntarily shared among fiancées, preferably in front of a counselor. But you should never run a credit check on your future mate without their permission.

I like to say that “my love is unconditional, but my money is conditional.” It’s important to know about debt before the big date as the mingling of money could have an impact on your credit score. Initially, each score will be different, but if you are added to a spouse’s credit card or vice-versa, then that will have an impact for good or for bad. The merging of all financial resources means that in many cases---for mortgages, home improvement debt, car loans and joint accounts—his credit becomes your credit.

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 into the debt history of the partner with bad credit by adding her name to his accounts—this deteriorates the good payer’s FICO. But when it comes to future loans, there is a measure of unavoidable mingling. As a personal example, when we moved to CA and had to hook up electricity, with his FICO score the electric company required a $500 deposit. But by using my score we were allowed to establish service with no deposit. We put the bill in my name and in this particular case, it didn’t deteriorate my FICO and it saved us $500!

Yours, Mine and OursWhen two people merge finances, they will need to set up savings, checking and even retirement accounts. It’s important to decide if you will have joint or individual 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. But it is something that should be decided ahead of time. 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.

However, 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—who am I to rob him of that pleasure?

A primary exception to joint accounts is any home based business account or trust funds that were established for children from a previous marriage. Those should definitely be kept separate at all times from a couple’s joint account.

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cell Phone Savings So Simple, Even A Child Can Do It!

According to statistics provided by “Pews Study of the State of the Media”, 80% of Americans have a cell phone and 2/3 use it for something other than making calls. Nearly half of all American adults report that they get at least some local news and information on their cellphone or tablet computer. More and more families have more than one cell phone and they not longer have a home land line, opting to use their cells instead. And all of these trends are rapidly accelerating. How can you get the most value for your cell phone plan? Here are ways to save that your cell phone sales rep will not tell you.

Just Say "No" - We have to resist temptation when it comes to cell phone plans,especially when your contract obligation expires. If you do nothing for a few weeks, you'll begin to get all kinds of incentives and good deals that might be better than if you ugraded right away.

Timing is Everything There is a better time of the month to buy a plan or upgrade one and that is at the end of their accounting period when sales teams are trying to meet quotas or reach incentives. This usually occurs at the end of the month.

Don't Pay for Information -- There’s also a way to save on 411 calls, instead of getting gouged with ridiculously high fees for an information call. Just enter this free phone number in your address book: 800-FREE411 or 800-CALL411.

Rebates or FreeBates - I'm often asked if I think that phone rebates are they a deal or a dud? They are only a deal if you apply for them. Cell phone providers make money on rebates because many customers won't go through the hassle. Be sure you get all the info and apply online the same day you get the phone. That way, it won't get lost on your "to do" list.

Don't be All Wet! -- Protect your phone by securing it when you're around water (doing laundry, bathing the kids, etc) and don't even put it in the bathroom when you're taking a shower. Don't have it close to your skin when you're working out either! The results of a steamy shower or workout can be as bad as dropping it in the toilet. If you get your phone wet, then immediately dry off what you can, separate the battery and the phone, then submerge both in an air tight container of rice for 24 hours. This should absorb most of the moisture and may save your phone!

Kids Will Be Kids - So let's say, hypothetically, that you have a child who goes way over their minutes or text messages one month. You could end up paying outrageous fees for extra minutes. If the billing cycle hasn't closed yet, then call your company and upgrade to the next plan. It could save you 35 to 45 cents extra (per minute or text) for all the extra activity.

Little Known Discounts - When one of our teens, Jonathan, went in to see how much a new phone would cost, he decided to ask them if there were any extra discounts we could qualify for. We found out that my hubby's corporation, Northrup,offered a 28% discount for employees. Be sure to ask if your large company, government agency or credit union association can get you an additional discount on your already exisiting plan. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)