Ways to Save for Your Disney Vacation
On this page we’ve compiled some of the most useful ideas for forcing yourself to save on a regular basis.
One of the best and smartest ways to save for a Disney vacation is to open a separate savings account specifically for your vacation fund. If at all possible, jump-start the account with a lump sum, such as a tax refund. Have a certain amount auto-debited from your paychecks and deposited directly into that savings account. That way you never see the money, so there is less temptation to spend it. And of course you’ll be earning interest!
By the way, it is very worthwhile to shop around for the best banking deal. Look for FDIC insured online savings or checking accounts. Some of the online accounts are very easy to set up and use, allowing you to transfer funds from your local bank to savings easily.
- We’ve used Ally, Capital One 360 (formerly ING), Emigrant Direct and Dollar Savings Direct and found them easy to set up and use.
- Bank of Internet and Zions Bank are a pain to set up and use (though they sometimes have very attractive rates), so we don’t recommend them unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Here are some additional, relatively painless tricks people use to get themselves to save. It’s all about setting priorities — and in some cases, tricking yourself into saving. What works for one person, won’t work for another. Try one, or try ’em all. Remember, every penny helps!
Buy US Savings Bonds
You can purchase US Savings Bonds online and spend as little as $25 each time. US Savings Bonds must be held for at least 1 year before you can cash them in. There is a 3-month interest penalty if you cash an EE or I Bond within the first five years from its issue date. There is no penalty for cashing EE or I Bonds that are at least five years old. Bonds pay very good interest compared with a regular savings account and since they are issued by the government, they are an extremely safe investment.
Buy Disney Gift Cards
Personally we would never use this method because it doesn’t earn interest, but some people find it very helpful because you can’t spend Disney Gift Cards anywhere but Disney! You can also give your children Disney Gift Cards for birthdays and holidays, and ask relatives to do the same, so the kids will have their own spending money for the next Disney vacation.
- Disney Gift Cards can be used online at shopDisney.com, Disney Store locations in the US and participating locations at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Line (includes most shopping and dining locations). If you want to be able to use the card at Walt Disney World, be careful that you are purchasing a Disney Gift Card, not a Disney Store Gift Card, which can only be spent at Disney Stores (there are NO Disney Stores at Walt Disney World).
- Disney Gift Cards are sold at Disney Stores, Disney World and Disneyland. They are also sold online at shopDisney.com in denominations from $25-$500 and shipping is FREE.
- Disney Gift Cards are also sold by many chain supermarkets, warehouse clubs and discount stores such as Target. Watch for special promotions on gift card purchases.
- Once you have a Disney Gift Card, if you want to reload money onto it by phone, call Disneyland DelivEARS at 1-800-362-4533 and press “1” to speak with a Merchandise Guest Services representative. Thanks to Linda P for info.
- In the past we had also recommended buying Disney Dollars. However, as of 5/15/16, Disney Dollars are no longer for sale. If you currently have Disney Dollars, they do not expire and can still be used at Disney Store locations in the US and at select locations in Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. Disney Dollars can be exchanged for cash equivalents at Guest Relations, resort concierge, and hotel front desks. But Disney Dollars are now more valuable as souvenirs, so you may want to sell them on eBay. You should be able to get more than face value for them and thus have more to spend on other souvenirs!
The Change Jar
Make a rule that you never spend coins. Save all your pocket change and throw it in a big jar. Label the jar (i.e. “Our Disney Vacation”) to remind your of your goal. Periodically you can roll the coins and see how much you have. (This is a great job for kids.) Once it’s rolled, put it in your vacation savings account.
If you don’t want to roll the change, see if your bank takes unrolled change. Some banks have change-counting machines and they’ll count your coins for free or for a very small fee. There are CoinStar machines in many grocery stores that will allow you to dump in a ton of change and get a slip redeemable for bills at the cashier, but you’ll pay a hefty premium (somewhere around 9%) for the service; if you do this, at least pluck out the quarters and roll those!
Variations on the change jar: Never spend quarters, or never spend dollar bills. Put those in the jar.
When writing a check, round up your checkbook entry to the nearest dollar. For instance, if you write a check for $57.12, record it in your checkbook as $58. Not only does this help you prevent overdrafts, it also means you’re accumulating a little extra in your account every time you write a check. Another good thing about this method is that you’re earning interest on that extra money, assuming you have an interest-bearing checking account.
Round down your deposit entries to the nearest dollar. For instance, if you deposit $300.91, record it as $300. Again, you’re accumulating a little extra “ghost” money in your account.
A variation on the checkbook rounding method: charge yourself a dollar every time you write a check, plus round up. So if the check was for $47.39, round it up to $48 and add a dollar, making the entry in your checkbook $49.
Another variation on the checkbook rounding method: round up to the nearest five dollars. So if the check was for $52.23, round it up to $55. If it was for $9.51, round it up to $10.
MouseSavers.com reader Todd E from Grand Rapids, MI contributed this great idea:
“At most grocery stores after you check out and look at the receipt, it shows you how much you ‘saved today’ by purchasing sale items, using coupons, or the store discount card. We use this as an incentive to purchase these sale items and use coupons, as whatever the amount is that we ‘saved today’ automatically goes into our travel account. Whatever this amount is, we write a check to our travel account and deposit it immediately via ATM… and we have disabled the withdrawal option on this ATM account.
In addition, if we hit our 50% goal, e.g. if the grocery bill was $150 and the amount we ‘saved today’ was at half of that, we give our 2 small kids $5 to put in their Disney piggy bank. You wouldn’t believe how much this cuts down on impulse buys and the requisite mommy and daddy begging that goes on while shopping. So in addition to a having a great way to save, our 6 and 5 year old kids will have about $100 each of their own money that they are allowed to buy whatever they like, with no interference from mom and dad.”
If a payment ends, keep making it — to yourself! For instance, if you pay off a car or a credit card, keep making that payment, but instead write the check to yourself and deposit it into your vacation savings account.
Make a rule that “found” money goes in the vacation fund. For instance, if you get a rebate, tax refund, gift check or work bonus, deposit it in the vacation account.
Give yourself an allowance for cash expenditures (i.e. groceries, gas, meals out, entertainment, etc.) and make a game of seeing how much of your allowance you can NOT spend. Anything left over at the end of the week (or month) goes into the vacation fund.
Charge everything to a cash-back credit card and pay the card off each month. (Only do this if you can handle the temptation to overspend on plastic, and if you really will pay the balance off every single month. If you won’t pay it off monthly, this is a bad idea.) Use the cash-back bonus toward your vacation.
- MouseSavers.com reader Carey G has this related tip: “We treat our Disney Visa … as a debit card. When we buy something, we write it down in and subtract it from our checkbook register, just as if we’d swiped our bank’s debit card to pay for the purchase rather than a credit card. When the statement arrives, I simply go through each item on the statement and check it off in my checkbook register, just as I would for a cleared check. Then I go to my bank’s online bill pay service and pay the card in full immediately…. An added bonus is that we’re forced to go through every item on the statement each month to compare it to our checkbook register. That means we can see if there’s a place where we might be able to cut back, and if anyone ever used our card without us being aware, we’d find it immediately when the statement arrives.”
Cut out one small daily expense and put the money you’re saving into your vacation fund. The savings can really add up. If you save $1 a day on something you buy at work, and you work 5 days a week x 50 weeks, that’s $250 a year! For example:
- If you drink a latte every morning, buy a travel mug and fill it with strong coffee and hot milk at home instead.
- If you usually eat lunch out or buy lunch at a deli, try bringing lunch from home at least 2 or 3 days a week. If you just can’t get it together to make a lunch, at least try bringing a can of soda from home instead of buying one at the deli or out of a machine.
- Bring a snack from home instead of hitting the vending machines.
- Giving up smoking may save you enough money in a year to fund a family vacation. We’re not kidding! If you’re smoking a pack a day, you’re spending at least $800 a year on cigarettes. In places with high tobacco taxes, you’re spending $1600 or more.
Ask your family to help you save. Often children aren’t very aware of how much small expenses can add up over time. If you point out that every nickel they can save the household will get them closer to seeing Mickey, they may surprise you! Solicit their ideas and suggestions, and then agree to put aside what you’ve saved for your vacation fund. Be sure you have a plan for keeping the saved money separate, so that it doesn’t get spent elsewhere. That might mean writing a check for the amount of money saved and depositing it into your vacation account, or putting that amount of cash into the change jar. Whatever it is, do it consistently.
Here are a few ideas your family might consider:
- Spend less on entertainment. Borrow videos from your public library instead of the video store: most public libraries offer this service for little or no cost. Instead of going to the movies, check the newspaper for free local family entertainment and events, or have a family game night.
- Eat out less. Face it, cooking every night can be tiring and a drag, and that leads to eating out, which is much more expensive. So find a way to avoid this. Think up something you can make in the crockpot one night a week instead of getting takeout. Or turn cooking into a fun project once a week — for instance, make a pizza with the kids instead of ordering one.
- Use grocery store coupons. Particularly if you live in an area like Southern California, where the major supermarkets will double the value of manufacturer’s coupons, you can’t afford NOT to clip coupons out of the Sunday paper or print them out online (try coupons.com and smartsource.com for printable coupons). MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring does this, along with buying sale items and in-season produce, and frequently saves 40% or more on her grocery bill. Seriously, 15 minutes of effort and a $5 coupon organizer can save you an amazing amount of money. Kids who are old enough to use scissors can certainly cut out coupons. Older kids can also sort and file coupons in your coupon organizer.
- Sell your junk. Have a big garage sale. Take still-in-fashion clothes to a consignment shop. Sell unwanted books, CDs, movies and collectibles you no longer want on Craigslist, which charges no fee for your ad. You’d be amazed at what your old stuff may bring. Don’t assume no one wants it. (MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring once sold a ratty bathmat the dog had chewed up, which she was using as a rag, for a quarter. It wasn’t even part of her garage sale — someone just noticed it lying on the ground and offered her money for it!)
- If you are a family of recreational shoppers, start going to garage sales, consignment shops and thrift stores instead of the mall. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, remember? There is often good stuff to be had at these places! Take a certain amount of cash and don’t spend more. You’ll get the thrill of the hunt and the thrill of the bargain, but for much less than a trip to the mall.
- Shop around on your insurance at least once a year. It’s remarkable how much you can save. Rates for an identical auto insurance policy can vary from one company to another by as much as 100%!
- Evaluate your spending on cable television and telephone services. Maybe you don’t really need extended cable or call waiting. Check rates to be sure you’re not paying more than you have to for long distance calls. Take a look at your long distance provider’s website (or call them) and find out if there’s a better deal available for you. If you have a cell phone, see if there’s a better plan for you, that fits your usage patterns at a lower cost.
- Get everyone to turn out the lights when no one is in the room, and turn off TVs and computer equipment when they’re not in use. Fix dripping faucets and leaking toilets. These measures may only save you a buck or two a month on your utility bills, but it all adds up.
- Re-evaluate gift-giving. Do you have a long list of friends and relatives with whom you exchange “duty” gifts that no one really wants? Maybe the time has come to speak up. You might be surprised at how relieved everyone would be to stop the seemingly endless cycle of unwanted gift-giving. Maybe everyone would rather put the money toward a family reunion at Disney! Perhaps you can just start exchanging greeting cards. Or you might prefer to institute a gift exchange (each person draws one name) or switch to “gifts of love” (give each other certificates for back rubs, car washes, and other kind gestures that cost you nothing but your time and effort). Or set a low dollar limit on gifts and see how creative you can get.