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I charge most of our monthly expenses through our Disney Visa (and pay it off monthly). I usually have enough reward dollars to purchase at least one Annual Pass with reward dollars.
We also don't eat out much. I cook our meals at home - you'd be amazed how much a careful food budget throughout the year saves - more money to go on vacation! My husband and I also don't buy each other gifts throughout the year - we take extra trips instead as our gifts to each other.
We usually only stay once a year at DVC and the other couple of trips are usually at Wyndham Bonnet Creek or Marriott Cypress Harbour (cheap timeshare stays in 2 bedrooms for under $400 a week). It helps that our midwest city has cheap airfares to Orlando via Southwest Airlines or Airtran.
Entertainment at home is free stuff - library movie rentals, free concerts, church picnics, and getting together with friends to play cards.
For us (I will start by we are only a family of 3) we purchase the AP and stager the trips so that we get a minimum of 2 trips per AP (that is a HUGE savings!!!)
We used to always do the DDP (however, now that DD is considered an "adult" we are re-thinking this - as her and I can easily share an adult portion) - and when we did the DDP, we were very disciplined to utilize that to its advantage and not purchase too many "extras" - we kept a plentiful supply of sodas, juices, water bottles, snacks and breakfast items in villa to cut cost (we do usually rent a car - so we can easily get to Wal-Mart to make purchases - as a matter of fact - that is a first stop on way to resort!).
We also limit souvenier shopping - DD is given a specific amount of $ for spending - and she is to use that for what she wants, but she understands that that is all she gets (of course DH spoils her and will usually purchase a thing or 2 and sneak it back without her knowing!) so she "shops" around and really chooses wisely how she will spend her $$.
Also - we always fly Southwest airlines - we find that they have the cheapest flights most of the time - with no baggage fees and such!
Use coupons codes (from Bj's) for rental car.
Lisa Co-Guide to Sharing the Adventure: Disney World Trip Reports
We also try to get Annual Passes and get two trips out of them, as that saves money. We save a lot of money each month that goes into our vacation fund and any spare spending money I have each week, I exchange that for dollars for our holiday fund.
Unfortunately I am a diet coke ADDICT - so that means lots of returnable cans...........so when those cans are returned we use the $$ to purchase Disney Gift Cards.
We usually have a spring yard sale (as DD gets older - there always seems to be stuff that is someone else's treasure!) and that goes into our vacation fund!
We have a "Disney Fund Jar" that we each empty our loose change (and sometimes $1's and 5's) into on a regular basis (we usually end up with $400-500 a year with this!!!).
Family/close friends KNOW our LOVE for Disney - and it is very common that we receive Disney Gift cards for holidays and bdays!
The Easter bunny always fills eggs for DD with: shinny pennys and quarters for the pressed penny machines; pins for trading (found very cheap on ebay!); and disney dollars! As well as the Easter basket will usually hold Disney themed lip balm, new goggles, Disney tees, and such!
And we have recently started utilizing our mastercard rewards and accumulate points for purchases! We will have enough points to pay for our rental car for upcoming trip!
Lisa Co-Guide to Sharing the Adventure: Disney World Trip Reports
We too stagger our trips so that we get 2 and usually 3 trips out of our AP's. The first trip is the most expensive. We stay in Studios so we don't have a full kitchen to do cooking. Plus, I just don't want to cook while at the World.
So, to help mitigate the food cost while we are there we:
1) Drive for the longer trips so we can easily bring sodas/water/snacks/quick breakfast foods.
2) Fly Southwest when we do fly.
3) We've adapted to eating a bit less expensive at WDW than we did in the early days. We limit ourselves to one TS a day with QS/snacks being the meal while touring or doing other activities.
4) Since we are maximizing the AP, we also get a TIW card that works so much better than the Dining Plan for savings.
5) We always share an appetizer/dessert, if we get those.
I've also changed our savings during the year to make sure I have the budgeted amount already available to us so I'm not "shopping on credit" for our trips anymore. When I have that number in hand, it makes a huge difference on my perception on souvenirs. We still buy souvenirs but very different than what we did in the early days of our trips. Usually, souvenir shopping only occurs on the first trip and I set myself a clear budget.
The 2nd or 3rd trip for that AP/TIW set usually has no appeal for me on the souvenir end. But I'm sure that is just a me thing.
You said you only go every other year right now, so the grouping of trips to get max use of AP might not work. But I think it depends on why you are only going every other year. If it's an option, I really think grouping the trips is the best money saver there is.
First of all, when we fly, we always fly Southwest! And we've started to utilize an off-site parking service, which saves us almost $100 on longer trips.
We do a grocery run whether we fly or drive. A case of water costs about $5 (Publix grocery store has a card-less price club card, so you get great prices) so we bring our own water into the parks.
And we eat in! We cook simple things for dinner and eat breakfast in almost everyday. While the breakfasts at WDW are nice, they get to be a bit much in terms of $$$, so having fresh, smiple options (fruit, cereal, muffins) is nice. When we drive, I bring my griddle and we have eggs and pancakes, too.
Souvenirs are another biggie. After many years of spending lots of $$$ on things, we've decided we have enough mugs, shirts, glasses and pins to last a lifetime. Our memories are our photographs which become scrapbooks and our videos.
Another thing is to take a non-park day. Relax at the pool, walk around the boardwalk, resort hop. Go to DD and see a movie, walk the trail between WL and FW. (Very nice.) Take the monorail loops and see the sights. Eat in your villa, bring your own snacks to the pool area, and maybe have dinner off property.
with saving money. This last trip we did cash everything and were very frugal since DH has been unemployed for 16 months. We actually came back with over $300 left in our envelopes, and we both agreed it was one of the best trips ever!
I certainly agree that it is expensive to go. Since you are at the mercy of the airline what tickets cost you can save either on food or park tickets. You could have groceries delivered to your room and then cook your own meals every day. That would save a lot. However, if you are like us that won't work well because when we are on vacation the last thing we want to do is cook. Cutting back on park tickets can save a little. It depends if you need to have water park and more option or PH and can cut them out. If you go for a week and cut out one day at the park it really won't save much on a basic ticket.
We drive but we are only about 7 hours away. We use annual passes. We also use the dining plan since it pre pays are meals and we don't feel like we are nickel and diming ourselves. I bring sode and tea packages and water with us from because it is cheaper. On years that we don't use annual passes I buy 10 day no exp ph from undercover tourist to save a little money and it lasts for 3 trips. It's a big investment up from but worth it.
I'm afraid I won't be much help, we can afford to go to Disney so often because we moved into an apartment that feels like we're stealing from our landlord. We don't have kids and we try and put away as much of that "disposable" income as we can every month.
One of the things I did was start a savings account that has a direct deposit from my weekly paycheck of $50. I don't ever notice its not there and it adds up to $200 a month. I haven't touched it since July.
Another thing you could try doing is eliminating extra expenses. Skip Starbucks--buy a coffee maker and a reusable travel mug . . . put $5 a day in your savings account. Skip lunch out, pack your own, I used to like to make a little extra dinner and pack that for lunch the next day, take it with you, and put $5 more dollars a day in your savings account. Drink water instead of a soft drink and add another $1 or $2 to your savings account. (Wow that's already $12 a day x 365 = $4,380) I could probably go on, but you get the idea right. The important thing is actually putting the money into the savings account.
Honestly, I buy my clothes at Walmart and my apartment kind of looks like a college kid lives in it, but I went to Disney 5 times last year!
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We also have a vacation savings & a coin jar that gets filled up every year.
I have a American Airlines credit card that I use for lots of things I would pay cash for, Then I just pay the cash to the card. We have gotten our airline tickets for free the past 3 trips..
To save for the trip I actually take my kids used clothing to a consignment store and put the money into my Disney Fund. I usually make about $200 a year, this is usually our spending money for the trip.
Also, my DH never pays with change in stores so I have a change jar for him & a couple of times a year I roll the coins and turn them into the bank. This money goes into the Disney Fund as well.
I am a big fan of the Disney visa, especially for large purchases and then pay it off right away. Last year we used it for a new hot water heater, airline tickets, with big purchases it adds up fast.
Then we try to fly SW, the good thing about where we live is that we are just about half way between 2 large airports (Philly & BWI in Baltimore) both have SW so I am able to price both airports for the best deals.
I look forward to reading more tips on this tread! Great topic!
love love love all the tips!!! We also have the coin jar which def pays for park tix ,we stopped buying the ph option but last time added the wp because we went in august. We fly sw and also found that it is considerably cheaper to fly tuesday to tuesday . We no longer do the dp because since the changes it's just not worth it for our family, we do garden grocer and never eat breakfast out. Everyone carries one drink and a couple of snacks with them otherwise we purchase a snack its nice to skip one snack
I look forward to more tips and admittedly we probably could go more often but we are slaves to our home, lol so we like to do a "project" every year it just depends on how big the project is. Plus we live on long island where the prop taxes are HUGE!!!!
Since we hardly ever go out to dinner/ movies just because between work, school and the kids activities we just don't have time, I am def too cheap to buy starbucks but i do have many ways I could look to change .....