Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting Started: Saving for Disney

Most of you have probably realized by now that there are three different authors contributing posts. We thought it would be fun to write a couple of joint posts every now and then. While we share a love of Disney, we all budget differently, plan a little differently and tour a little differently. So it’s no surprise that we all even save a little differently. Hopefully this post will give you a few different, maybe even creative, ways to save up for your Disney trip!

When you decide it’s time to go to WDW, what’s the first thing you do to begin saving?

Jenna: First, we look at when we want to go. That has a big impact on the way we save. For example, we planned our first trip in three months, so it was done very inexpensively. Our second trip, which is coming up in November 2014 was planned much further in advance. We make a spreadsheet (because we are total spreadsheet nerds) and list out what money we can put towards a trip. Next, we get a blank envelope and any cash we save goes into that. We also figure out other ways to save (like cutting out restaurant meals and putting that money into our envelope).

Melissa: Our first trip, we took two years+ to save. Not because it was ridiculously expensive, but because we didn’t have a lot of extra we could put toward it, and honestly, we didn’t know when we would be going. We were just saving. Once we decided it was time to get serious about picking a date, we looked at what we had set aside, and how much more we needed to make the trip happen. We chose a value season and dates we expected Free Dining to be offered in order to save on the trip where we could. We mostly used tax refunds, any extra income we had, and some gift money. For our next trip, we have estimated what it will cost and are using a variety of ways to save. I’ve done cost estimates for a “budget” trip, a “moderate” trip, and a “dream” trip. Because we aren’t ready to book yet, we can see how much we think we’re reasonably going to be able to save by the time we book. Basically, any way we can stash some cash for Disney, we’re doing it.

Lindsey: If you didn’t already know this about me, I’m a HUGE budgeter. Do we always stick to our budget exactly? No. But we always have it there as a guideline. When we decide it’s time to start saving for a Disney trip, we sit down, look at our budget and decide how much we can afford to spend. Then we look to see where we can start cutting back. There is usually somewhere that can save us a great amount of money, most of the time that is in our out to eat and grocery budget. The two areas I’m not the most diligent about staying within budget. Let’s say our grocery budget is $400 per month. I know that I can shave some of that cost off by buying in bulk, meal planning, etc. Whatever money we would save from that for the month, would go straight into the Disney vacation fund. Same thing with our budgeted “out to eat” money; we can cut back and stick those savings straight into the fund

Do you use any type of credit card rebates to save money?

Jenna: YES!!! Let me preface by saying that we do not believe in credit card debt. Anything we put on a card is paid off before it’s due, in full. We use it for purchases that are set (groceries, gas, etc)...things we’d do with our debit card normally. We have three credit cards and we only have two of the three because of Disney. First, our main credit card that we’ve had for years: The Citi Thank You Rewards card from MasterCard. This is the best card ever. We can use our points towards almost anything, and if they don’t have it in their rewards guide you can call a concierge and they will try to get it for you. Second, the BarClayArrival card also from MasterCard. We got this for our upcoming Disney trip because there was a 40,000 mile bonus that we could earn. Third, the Disney Visa. We only got this because we each got a $200 Disney gift card for signing up and spending $500. Those gift cards were immediately put onto our vacation package and we saved a quick $400 from our total.

Melissa: Yes. Like many others, we pay our credit card off every month, and use it for fixed expenses and online ordering. We also have the Citi ThankYou Rewards card, and we’ve used the points for all kinds of things in the past. We’re currently saving all of our points to use for our next Disney trip. They don’t offer Disney gift cards, so I order WalMart gift cards, use the WalMart gift cards for groceries, and then put the cash equivalent in our Disney savings. It’s kind of a roundabout way to make it happen, but you get the most for your points when you redeem for gift cards that are available on the site. We also just signed up for a Disney Visa, with the $200 gift card promo. We’ll probably keep it for the cardholder perks.

Another way to save with rewards is to purchase Disney gift cards at Target using your RED debit or credit card. You’ll save 5% by using your RED card, and you can use the gift cards toward your vacation balance, souvenirs, etc. 5% doesn’t sound like much, but every little bit can help. Target only carries Disney gift cards in $50 increments, so applying them to your vacation balance can be a hassle, but to save 5%, it could be totally worth it.

Lindsey: We currently have a Disney Visa card. For every dollar you spend, you earn Disney reward points. Those points convert to gift cards (or Disney Dollars as I sometimes refer to them). The last couple of times we’ve gone to Disney, we’ve used the gift cards that we’ve accumulated to use for extra expenses and souvenirs while we are there. Although, I’ve recently learned from Jenna that you can take those gift cards and use them to make a payment on your Disney balance if you booked your trip, paid your deposit, and are paying the balance! She’ll have a post on that soon, along with using other cards to saving money on your trip. I look forward to using this method on our next trip. Let me end this by saying, like the other girls, we do not believe in credit card debt; only use credit cards if you are able to pay off the balance each month. Remember: you don’t want to go into debt for a vacation.

What are some other ways to save in small increments?

Jenna: This might sound funny because I’m a food blogger on my other site, but we stop eating out. I actually blogged this over there recently, but I make a two week meal plan and for two weeks we don’t go out at quick trips through Chick-fil-a, no Starbucks in the morning and certainly no Red Robin for dinner. We stay home for all meals and that savings goes into the envelope I mentioned. Bonus? I’m also saving on gas because I don’t live super close to anything!

Melissa: We created a “Disney Fun(d)” jar that sat on the kitchen counter. Loose change, a stray $1 here and there, and you’ve saved more than you thought. Before our first trip, we all contributed to it, and in just a few months, we saved quite a bit. We had more than enough for tolls, coin rollers, and a few other fun extras. The jar now resides in our closet, so pocket change and treasures from the washer/dryer can go right into it. We also travel (road trip!) quite a bit because our families don’t live closeby. We budget for each upcoming trip (yes, I’m a super budget nerd). Whatever’s left in our trip budget when we return goes right into Disney savings. It varies - sometimes there will be nothing left, and other times we’ll spend way less than we thought. It encourages us not to overspend on regular trips and even little amounts add up.

Lindsey: I’ve already mentioned using small savings in your everyday budget. Other ways to save are similar. I’m addicted to sites such as and It’s a sickness really. When we have something that we are saving for, Disney or other, I cancel my subscriptions to those emails. I may only be spending $10 or $15 here or there, but those amounts can add up. I also try to stay away from online stores that I know I can’t resist. I also stop visiting stores on my lunch hour. I work outside the home and it’s easy to run here or there on my lunch hour and spend money. So, I just don’t let myself go into stores. At the end of the month, any extra money in the ole’ checking account goes straight to the Disney trip fund. This makes me sound like a serial shopper, I’m not really. I swear.

How can your kids help you save money?

Jenna: They don’t necessarily help me save, but they have their own savings envelopes. When they get birthday/holiday/just because money from relatives it goes in there until there is something they want to spend it on. They have the option of taking a portion of that money to Disney and buying some small souvenirs for themselves.

Melissa: I mentioned our “Disney Fun(d)” jar above. Caedmon helped contribute to that last time. And in my “Budgeting for Souvenirs without Breaking the Bank” post, I explained how we help him save for souvenirs. Basically, we let the kids know up front what we’re willing to buy/do, and if they want anything else, they can purchase it on their own. This keeps our souvenir budget pretty small. Caedmon gets an allowance, and after he takes out his give and save amounts, he can divide his spend money however he likes. Before our first trip, he saved $75 between allowance and birthday/gift money. Honor was too young to save on her own for our last trip (Don’t worry - we still bought her some stuff!), so we will be introducing this idea for our next trip. She will be four and a half, so I’m not sure how well she’ll grasp it, but if Caedmon is saving for Disney, she’ll be happy to do the same.

Lindsey: Anniston receives an allowance. We are teaching her the principal of tithe, save and spend. If we are saving for a Disney trip, she has the option to contribute to the Disney fund or create her own special savings for souvenir purchases. In the past years, it hasn’t really sunk in with her. By the time our next trip rolls around, I think she’ll have grasped the concept.

Any final tips or tricks on saving money for a Disney vacation?

Jenna: I cleaned my house (and attic!) from top to bottom and sold everything we didn’t use, from strollers to old cell phones, baby clothes and even a grill. Everything got listed on craigslist, ebay or sold to local resale shops. It made a BIG dent in what we needed to save for our trip!

Also, don’t be afraid to book two different rooms at Disney while you figure out your budget. You can do this online - just pick out what you want and put a $200 deposit down. It’s fully refundable up to 45 days out from your trip. For our upcoming trip I booked both a value (All Star Sports) and deluxe resort (Animal Kingdom Lodge), which were over $2,000 different (we’re going during free dining so it’s a package that includes our room, tickets and meals). Once we realized that we would be able to save enough to stay in the deluxe resort, I called Disney and got my $200 deposit back, but I had the other hotel to fall back on just in case it didn’t work out.

And lastly, if you're not doing a Disney package that includes hotel, tickets and/or dining, look at buying your tickets elsewhere. Undercover Tourist is an authorized Disney ticket broker and their prices are really great!

Melissa: I don’t know that this is about saving extra money, because Jenna and Lindsey have hit on some great ways to do that. The thing I would say that helped us save the most was being budget conscious before and during our entire trip. We weren’t Scrooge by any means - we had a blast and spent the money we planned to spend. But we didn’t buy every cool thing we saw or upgrade every chance we got. We also bought most of our extra surprises and fun things for the kids before we left home. You’d be surprised what you can find in the Target $1 Spot! A package of $1 glow toys will satisfy your kids during the fireworks (and help you keep track of them) just as well as an overpriced light-up toy from the park. Making sure you’re spending your money wisely and on the most important things will help you save more than you think.

Lindsey: We haven’t done this in the past but I want to in order to save for our next trip. It never fails, each year I get the urge to go through every nook and cranny of our house. And while I absolutely hate garage sales, I’m willing to try to save money for Disney. So we’re going to hold a garage sale or sell a few things on Craigslist. This is also another way to get kids involved. Have them go through their toys. Help them price them to sell and show them how they can help contribute to the fund.

Another thing we might try next time is couponing. I’m kind of at a disadvantage here because we don’t have any chain grocery stores other than Target and Walmart. Our other grocery stores are locally owned and while they have coupons, it’s not like what I’ve read about on couponing blogs. I’m willing to try though and see how much we can save to go towards the vacation fund.

What ways do you save for a Disney vacation?

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Check out our other Saving For Disney posts!
Buying Souvenirs without Breaking the Bank
Ways to Save on Disney Tickets 
Saving Money with Disney Gift Cards
Saving Money with Disney Gift Cards PART 2
Applying a Discount to your Disney Vacation
Setting a Budget for your Disney Trip
Know Before You Go - Paperwork to bring to Disney

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