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By Michelle Leifur
It’s decided. You must go to Disney. You’ve been a member of The Mouse for Less Yahoogroup. You own no fewer than 4 travel guides to the Happiest Place on Earth. You’ve read all the reviews submitted at the website. You’re a charter subscriber to Magically Speaking. There has just been one thing stopping you from your dream vacation. Money. Yes, that pesky little thing called money. So how are you going to do this? Hopefully, this article will help with that a little (and no, I cannot send you any extra cash I have collecting dust around the house – my house doesn’t have any dust. Bwahahahahaha!)
The first step of budgeting for a Disney vacation is to know how to break down your expenses. There will be number of different categories requiring your attention and your funds. And don’t plan for discounts. Some things to consider when planning your budget:
- Number of days for your entire vacation. Sometimes this depends on your work or school schedule. Sometimes this is determined by the other factors below. Don’t forget to factor in travel time.
- At which resort do you wish to stay? Do you want to spend as little time in your room as possible or is the resort and its amenities important to you? Do you want a “home away from home” where you can cook meals? Plan what it will cost you to go rack rate. Any savings will be a bonus later.
- What is your dining plan? Are you going to get the full dining package or would you do better just “winging it?” What are you going to do about snacks and meals that aren’t covered by the dining package?
- What are your transportation costs? Are you driving or flying? Will you use the free Magical Express to and from the airport, or a towncar service? What about a taxi or rental car to get to other non-Disney parks and attractions?
- Vacation clothes. This is something that many people overlook when budgeting their vacations. Do you have the appropriate clothes in your wardrobe for your vacation for the time of year you are going? Do they fit? What about shoes that will withstand all the walking and standing?
- Souvenirs. Yes, you need to have a budget for your purchased mementos. Photos, snow globes, t-shirts, that odd little knick-knack that you just have to have all cost money. Make a plan in your budget for your purchases.
- Cost of extras. What tours, side trips, or special events (such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Fantasmic Dinner Package) do you want to include in your trip?
- Lost wages due to non-paid vacation. This is something important to figure in if you have to take any unpaid leave.
Once you have answered all those questions, then you get to figure out where this money is going to come from. Here are some practical ways to fund that vacation:
- Set aside a certain amount every payday specifically for your trip. Pay it to yourself like your utility bill each month. Write a check and deduct it from your checking account.
- Save all those pennies (and nickels, dimes and quarters) that you come across on the street or receive as change. You will be surprised how quickly those little pieces of metal add up if you don’t use them for purchases.
- Dedicate a portion of your tax return to your vacation.
- Deposit your coupon and shopping savings into your “Disney Fund” each week. If you save 50¢ on a box of cereal, put that 50¢ towards your vacation. Save 40% on a pair of shoes? Why not put that extra savings into your vacation fund?
- Stop eating out. It costs more and is usually less healthy. Our family rewards itself by depositing $20 each time we opt to not eat out. We figure the fewer times we eat out each month, the nicer the restaurants we can eat at on vacation. Why stop at McD’s for a boring hamburger when you can have a nice dinner at the Rose and Crown?
- Put all “extra money” into your vacation. What is “extra money?” It’s those $5 checks you get for doing surveys, or the extra $20 that your sister gave you for watching her kids. Maybe it’s that surprise bonus you got at work or the $5 that your granny snuck into your hand when you visited her last time. It might even be that $10 that you found in your coat pocket from last winter!
- Reward your New Year Resolutions. Did you resolve to stop smoking? Put the money you would have spent on cigarettes towards your vacation. Maybe you vowed to stop swearing. Put a quarter or 50¢ in a “cuss jar” each time you let one slip. What about rewarding pounds lost? Instead of rewarding yourself with a milk shake on your way home from the gym, put $3 in a jar for every pound you lost or $5 in your account every time you remember to go do your workout! Better yet, let one of your kids be in charge of collecting it. They’re ruthless!
- Have a garage sale. You can get rid of all your clutter while putting a little aside for your vacation. Maybe call it your “shopping money” and replace what you get rid of with things that you want from your vacation. Imagine “trading in” a painting of Elvis on black velvet for a hand drawn 8×10 of Tinkerbell! There are countless ways to scrape a little extra each month for your vacation.
- Be creative. Turn a craft into a side job. Take on a student to tutor. Consider watching a neighbor’s kids after school. Maybe even take on a part time home based business just for your vacation fund. Or maybe start an eBay business with all your earnings earmarked for your trip. A few hours a week could add a nice chunk to your vacation spending.
OK, now you have the money. But one of the most frequently asked questions we see on The Mouse For Less by “newbies” is, “How do I save this money and not spend it before my vacation?” There are many ways to do that. A few that you may want to consider include:
- Open a special checking or savings account at your bank. Hide your checks and put the debit cards in your safe deposit box (or somewhere safe at home). This way you still have access to this money if an emergency comes up, but it isn’t as easily accessible as your primary checking account.
- Turn your savings into traveler’s checks or put them on a “Visa debit” gift card. Be careful with both of these, though, as they may have expiration dates that you need to be aware of. This also affords you access to your money, although not quite as easily as a bank account.
- Put it in a jar. Seriously. Although it isn’t the safest way to keep your money, many people still sock away their savings in a jar. They like to see it grow physically.
- Turn your money into Disney Dollars. This is the least accessible suggestion. The good thing about this form of savings is that your money is locked into your Disney vacation. The bad thing is that it is locked into your Disney vacation. You can’t fix your car, fly to see your dying great aunt, or pay for emergency dental work. Some people like doing this as it does force them to save.
- Open up an interest bearing account. Check with your banking institution about this. It may have restrictions such as limited withdrawals per month, minimum balance, and penalties for early withdrawals. And most interest bearing accounts these days pay poorly. Is a 3% earnings really going to help that much?
Whatever course you choose to take, make a plan and stick to it. If you do end up with an emergency that requires you to dip into your Disney fund, don’t think that your vacation is all washed up. Reevaluate your situation and see if you can get yourself back on track. Perhaps the “damage” isn’t as great as you thought. Or perhaps you need to review your overall plan. Instead of staying at the Polynesian, perhaps you stay at a moderate or value resort instead. Maybe you can shorten your stay by a day or two and still keep your resort plans. My teenager suggested that eating was always optional. However, this is Disney and you will be surrounded by food, so I don’t really suggest this. Replacing one or two full service meals for counter service or taking your own meals instead of eating out while on the road if you happen to be driving down might be a way to reduce your meal costs, though. There may be other things you could cut such as the choice of transportation you use to get to your resort or opting to not go off property (who needs Shamu anyway?)
Hopefully this article has helped get the gears turning in your head for ways in which you can afford your Disney trip. And as always, if you have an idea that wasn’t covered, drop us a line. We love to hear from our readers. It sparks our creativity and lets us know that you really are reading us!