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Entries in Finances (24)

Thursday
Jun082017

Smart Women and Financial Choices

Known as "America's Family Financial Expert,"® Ellie Kay walks her own financial talk. She knows the power of following clear  financial principles. In this Financial UPGRADE, she suggests wise tips to help women become more money savvy.

Ellie asks, “Would you like to make smarter decisions when it comes to money matters? Think about the woman who ‘considers a field and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard’ (Proverbs 31:16). She’s smart!”

I (Dawn) know the Bible has a wealth of wisdom regarding finances* and Ellie has some great tips to encourage the wisdom process too.

Ellie continues . . .

When I was a young bride, I was overwhelmed in learning how to manage a household. I didn’t even know how to cook and I remember asking my mom how to boil an egg.

She said, “Boil it until it floats.” I had no idea she was joking, and I boiled it for an hour until the water evaporated and the eggs exploded. They never floated.

Today, I have young millennial daughters and daughters-in-law who are learning to manage their own homes, and I developed guidelines that can help them a little more proactively than my mom’s advice helped me.

Here are my top ten tips for women to make better financial choices.

1. Avoid Emotional Spending.

Never shop online or in the store when you are depressed, sad or lonely because you are far more likely to engage in “shopping therapy” and overspend.

2. Show Love through Actions and Not Things.

If you have a love language of gift giving, or if you tend to show love to others by what you buy for them, then you may want to shift your point of view and save your budget in the process.

3. Volunteer Often.

Those people who have the best balance in their financial lives understand how fortunate they are by giving back to their communities.

4. Err On The Side of Generosity.

By following the principle of tithing 10% of your income, you invite God’s blessing upon your money matters and live a more abundant financial life.

If you are going to err, don’t let it be on the side of stinginess, but let it be on the side of generosity.

5. Ask Yourself, "Is This a Need or A Want?"

Most of us do not have unlimited financial resources and for every purchase we make, it’s wise to ask ourselves this question BEFORE we buy.

6. Play the Waiting Game.

In order to avoid impulse buying, when you see something on sale in the mall or online, wait 24 hours to purchase it. This helps you get beyond the impulse to see if it’s something you truly need.

7. Have A Money Buddy.

Accountability is a wonderful thing.

Every woman should have a person who can ask the hard questions about sticking to your budget, paying down consumer debt, or funding a retirement. In community, you are far more likely to keep your financial commitments towards good stewardship.

8. Become a Master Saver.

The Millionaire next door rarely pays full price on anything when they can save money. Read money savings blogs, download apps for coupon codes, and be prepared to compare prices on goods and services.

9. Become Comfortable with Negotiation.

Whether you are negotiating the price of a car or the bid on painting your house, you have to feel it’s the best deal for you.

Tell the other person, "I don’t feel comfortable with that price," and then be quiet. I’ve found that nine out of 10 times, I’ll get a counterbid that is something I feel more comfortable with; and if I don’t, then I feel the freedom to walk away.

10. Pray about Money Matters.

Recent PEW Research indicates that 80% of Americans admit to praying weekly or even daily. Even a financial expert like myself needs to pray to be make wise financial decisions, that people won’t be able to take financial advantage of me and that I’ll be able to find the best provision for my budget.

When in doubt, pray.

Which of these steps do you already practice and which ones can you implement today?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet (with Danna Demetre), and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

* Some Key Scriptures about finances: Matthew 6:24-25, 33; Philippians 4:11-13; Luke 12:15; Psalm 37:21; Mark 8:36; Proverbs 15:27; 22:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19; Philippians 4:19; Malachi 3:10; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Luxstorm at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun062017

You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money

Rhonda Rhea's posts always go deeper than one might think at first. Such is the case in this Stewardship UPGRADE.

"Don’t even try to pretend," Rhonda says. "Don’t pretend you don’t know that the hamburger and the French fries have to come to an end at exactly the same time."

I (Dawn) was intrigued by Rhonda's title until I saw a longer version and scanned the article.

The whole title is: "You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money—And Catch Fools with It Too."

Ah... I see. This is about stewardship!

Rhonda continues . . .

Bite of hamburger. Bite of fry. Burger. Fry.

Once you invest your money in the full meal deal, it feels like bad stewardship if any one bite doesn’t live up to the others.

Burger, fry, burger, fry.

These are the rules, people. Hey, it’s not like I make this stuff up.

When you think about it, it’s the only cultured way to eat a burger.

Of course, “culture” and “full meal deal” don’t always go together like… well… like burgers and fries.

I was eating my burger, fry, burger, fry the other day and I happened to glance over at the ketchup packet and noticed it said, “FANCY.”

Well, that was just frustrating. I felt underdressed the whole rest of the meal.

And you don’t want to feel underdressed when you have to go back for that extra order of fries. Because when you’re explaining to the kid taking your money that you had too much burger at the end of your fries, you don’t want to look stupid.

When it comes to dealing well with money, there’s always a challenge not to get stupid. Not because money is evil. Because loving it is.

And it’s a trap.

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, HCSB).

Obsession with material things leads to more obsession with material things, and then more—a trap of our own spiraling desires. It’s like always needing one more fry.

How sobering to read verse 9. Our craving for money can lead us away from our faith and right into all kinds of piercing pain. Foolish sinfulness. Certainly nothing sophisticated about that.

Paul tells us to “run from these things” (verse 11). Run away from that temptation to focus on getting rich.

People who already enjoy wealth are not safe from the trap either. It can become all too easy to find security in a big bank account rather than in Christ.

Verse 17 says, “not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.”

When Paul tells us to run from the love of money and all the other evils, he doesn’t just leave us running wildly off without direction.

“But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness" (verse 11).

As we pursue all the right spiritual things, our view toward all things physical comes more clearly into focus.

When we’re not distracted by loving or trusting in money and things, we see what’s real.

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real,” (verse 18).

Investing in Kingdom work. That’s real investing.

Incidentally, anytime you’ve invested the meal deal and you’re feeling a little unsophisticated… ketchup. It’s the fancy condiment.

Anything else just won’t cut the mustard.

Are you pursuing the physical or the spiritual? How is pursuing the spiritual a better "deal"? 

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of eisenmenger at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec152016

Smart Ways to Be Generous

Ellie Kay, America's Family Financial Expert®, is both wise when it comes to finances and compassionate when it comes to generosity. She is the perfect person to share this special Christmas UPGRADE!

"Christmas is the season for giving to others in our family, community, country and world," Ellie says. "What are ways you give to others during the holidays?"

I (Dawn) like the emphasis on giving that stretches us out of our comfort zones and into the compassionate zone, so Ellie's post really speaks to me.

She continues . . .

In the timeless children’s book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree, the story begins, Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy."

In this story, the boy would daily come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk ... and the tree was happy.

But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree kept giving and giving—until she gave her apples, her branches and her trunk in order to provide the boy with wealth, a home and a boat.

But in the end the tree was happy to give.

Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 9:41).

I believe that every person can become a generous and savvy giver by looking for ways to reach out to their world and give more.

I also think this is something we can teach our kids and grandkids, too.

1. Donations to the Local Community    

You may be someone who is plugged into a local church that runs kids programs in the summers, provides food and clothing to orphanages, and sends money to victims of natural disasters.

Just as The Giving Tree happily contributed her apples to others, you could give a chance for people in your community to have employment opportunities.

For example, you may want to donate your outdated suits to DressForSuccess so that women who are struggling financially can have proper clothing to get a job interview.

Or, consider giving clothing to a consignment shop that benefits an organization you believe in helping.

Be sure to save tax receipts for all donations to any non-profit organization.

2. Don’t Fund Overhead or Fund Raising

The Giving Tree gave directly to meet the boy’s needs. You may want to do the same and probably do not want your donated dollars funding fat salaries, fancy overhead, or excessive fundraising expenses.

The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance offers guidance to donors on making informed giving decisions through their charity evaluations, and the quarterly “Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide.”

3. Starting Your Own “Foundation”

If you are fortunate enough to have a large gain from a stock or mutual fund that you have held for over a year, consider using it to become what is essentially your own “foundation.” 

For example, if you own $5,000 worth of stock that you bought years ago for only $1,000, then you can donate the stock by setting up a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund account. By doing this, you get an immediate $5,000 tax deduction and save having to pay taxes on the $4,000 gain.

In the years to come, as that $5,000 grows, you instruct the company that manages your “foundation” where to donate the proceeds.

Our family worked with military members for 20 years and established a Public Charity to help teach service members financial literacy. In 2016, we gave 15 presentations on ten bases across the country, giving away 3000 financial books and other resources. Heroes at Home 501(c)(3) started as an idea and became an amazing reality. In 2017, we will scale 25 events at 17 bases around the world.

4. Kid Philanthropists

It’s also important to teach our kids the value of philanthropy.

When our kids were growing up, they helped us gather and deliver food items for a local food pantry. They helped purchase modest toys and they dropped the gifts into the box at the “Toys for Tots” program.

Another option is to allow your children to manage a donation in a predetermined amount that you set aside for the purpose of teaching them to give. They get to research a variety of non-profit organizations and decide which one will receive their donation. Then donate the amount in your child’s name.

You get the tax benefit, your child gets the thank you note—you BOTH become Giving Trees.

Ten Priceless Gifts You Can Give for Free!

  • Fix broken fences by mending a quarrel.
  • Seek out friend you haven’t seen in a while or who has been forgotten.
  • Hug someone and whisper, “I love you so.”
  • Be patient with an angry person.
  • Express gratitude to someone in your world.
  • Make a child smile.
  • Find the time to keep a promise.
  • Make or bake something for someone else—anonymously.
  • Take a walk with a friend.
  • Smile.  Laugh a little.  Laugh a lot.

How will you give during this holiday season?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

Monday
Jul042016

Heroes at Home - Fighting for Financial Freedom

Today, we have a special guest blogger, Ellie Kay, who is the founder of Heroes at Home, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping military families and all Americans find financial freedom. 

"How would you like to live debt free?" Ellie asks. "Even as we celebrate Independence Day and the men and women who keep our nation stay free, we also can become financially free."

I (Dawn) believe there are many kinds of freedom we can experience as members of the family of God. Financial freedom is one kind of freedom that can affect your family, career and even how you give to ministy! God wants you to be a wise, intentional and cheerful giver (Proverbs 21:20a; 2 Corinthians 9:7), and one way to do that is to operate out of financial freedom!

Ellie continues . . .

In my work helping service members with financial readiness, there are tips that apply to everyone.

1. Credit Credibility

No matter what your financial picture is, it’s critical for every person to improve her own FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Scores). These scores determine not only the APR you pay on a home or car loan, but they also impact auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (many employers check FICOS), whether you pay a security deposit for utilities, and much more.

You can go to Credit.com to check your score and they’ll even give you specific ways to improve each area of your credit score.

You can improve your FICO in three easy steps:

  • Pay early – Set up automatic payments online so you will never be late.
  • Pay More - Add $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance that is due; this indicates you are paying down debt.
  • Pay Proportionally – Also known as credit utilization—make sure you don’t have more than 30% of the available credit charged on any one card at any time. For example, a card with a $5000 limit should never have more than $1500 charged.

2. Savings Savvy

It only takes 15 minutes to save hundreds of dollars! Once you save money in one area, use those funds to pay down consumer debt or to build up a savings account.

  • Auto Insurance – Once a year, compare policies by getting a variety of quotes. Take the cheaper price back to your existing provider and tell them you will switch companies unless they can match the price. (Be sure to check out quotes from USAA.com if you are military and qualify to be a member.)
  • RetailMeNot – If you have a smart phone, download the RetailMeNot app or bookmark it on your computer. This is a code site that offers 400,000 coupon codes at any given time. Just enter the store’s name and you’ll see all the codes to get the better prices. Use this on entertainment, travel, electronics and any kind of online shopping or in the mall.
  • CouponMom.com – I was one of the original extreme couponers and it’s served me well all these years. If you go to this site, she’s done all the work for you and will tell you what is on sale in your neighborhood, what codes are available, what coupons are out for the item and which stores double coupons. I calculated that over the course of twenty years, I saved our family over 160K!  

3. Debt Deal Dilemma

With a slow economy comes an influx of those who want to "help" prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, most “for profit” debt-counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load.

Instead, go to the National Consumer Credit Counseling Service at www.nfcc.org and use their free services.

4. Budget Baby

If you don't have a budget—as part of your lifestyle—then yesterday was the day to start! Set one up with online budgeting tools, found at mint.

The problem for a lot of families is not having a budget, it’s sticking to a budget.

Set up a “budget date” once a month with your spouse to revisit how the plan is working.

This kind of regular accountability works as well in finances as it does in Weight Watchers. When you know there will be someone asking you why you bought that purple mohair sweater for $198, you’re less likely to give into the impulse to go off budget.

Can you celebrate your "Financial Freedom" today? If not, which of Ellie's tips might help you claim your independence?

A special JULY 4th note:

During this time of the year, be sure to thank those heroes at Heroes at Home ... thank them for their service. [For more information on where Ellie Kay’s Heroes at Home is visiting next, explore their website at HeroesAtHome.org.]

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Thursday
May122016

Upgrade Your Finances: The Family Road Trip

Ellie Kay is known as “America’s Family Financial Expert” ® and in this Financial UPGRADE gives us some timely information on taking the family on a road trip this year.

"I remember my dad stuffing all of us kids in the back of a VW bug and traveling from Texas to Indiana, making about 600 miles per day," Ellie says. "It was a daring adventure!"

I (Dawn) traveled a lot too, in a military family; and I can attest that Ellie's financial tips are all helpful and wise!

Ellie continues . . .

That traveling tradition continued with my own military family as we took time in the summer to carve our own road trip.

Here are some ideas that will make your family trip a lot more fun and affordable.

1. Begin With Prayer

My husband, Bob, and I liked to begin our family vacation planning process with prayer.

James 1:5 says that if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask God. Well, we asked Him early and often and He answered! We feel that He gave us additional insight as to what would be best for our family and our budget.

Then, before each day’s drive, Bob had the whole Suburban full of kids bow their heads and he prayed for safety, for unity and for a spirit of fun.

2. Healthy Eats and Treats

One of the greatest expenses while traveling is for food on the road. Not only does it get pricey, but these purchases can also take a toll on health by eating fast food on the road.

When we traveled, we packed a lunch for the first day on the road and stopped at roadside parks. It’s easy to plan these stops by locating parks through the Roadtrippers app.

To save money on snacks, pack some healthy options in individual bags for each family member – such as carrots, grapes, cherries, pretzels or trail mix. Bring along extra snack-size baggies so you can split other treats you buy on the road – such as fresh popcorn, fruit or beef jerky from a roadside store.

3. Busy Hands and Happy Hearts

One of our main challenges as a family was keeping the kids occupied, and this is the number one concern I hear from parents.

Older children can use a tablet or game to stay busy, and everyone enjoys movies on the way. But even these options can lead to inevitable boredom as kids start to get restless. I think this is where creativity comes into play.

When we had a long trip (or a military move), I shopped ahead of time for small games, books, activity puzzles, little toys and other trinkets I knew they would like. Then I’d wrap these “surprises” in gift paper and put each child’s name on it. At the top of every hour, we would give them their individual present. You can also go to Travelforkids to find other alternatives.

4. A Place to Stay 

There are creative ways to save money on a place to stay on the family road trip. You can go to vrbo.com to find vacation rentals by owners.

Suite hotels that offer extra rooms are also an option such as the ones found at hotels.com, orbitz.com or cheaphotels.com.

Another option is to try a family camp. Google “YMCA family camps” to find one that meets your needs. You can enjoy a cabin, horseback riding, canoeing, and other great family activities for 40% off the cost of a conventional resort area. 

5. Food and Entertainment

Be sure you make use of Yelp to find the best restaurant at the best prices and bonuses such as free appetizers or desserts.

I also recommend entertainment.com where you enter the zip code of where you will be traveling in order to preview their entertainment books for that destination. Be sure you download the app RetailMeNot to find codes on everything you’ll need on your vacation, whether you are shopping for souvenirs in a store or eating at a restaurant.

At restaurant.com you enter the zip code to get gift certificates for half price and while you’re there, see if they have any sales. I recently bought $25 gift certificates at that site for only $4 when I applied a coupon code.

6. Save on Gas

AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator helps plot the most efficient route. Just enter the year, make and model of your car and it will compute what you’ll spend on gas.

Get the GasBuddy app and find the cheapest price for gas along the way.

We also use the Waze app to find real time road conditions, the most efficient route, and the best gas prices along the way. On more than one occasion, it has saved us 30-45 minutes by avoiding a crash or slow down.

7. Prayer of Thanks

Begin and end your family road trip with prayer, thanking God for his protection, wisdom and safety.

Some of the best family memories you may ever have can be found on the road if you purpose in your hearts to make them with the ones you love.

What kind of a family road trip will you have this year?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

Graphic of picnic table, courtesy of Morguefile.