Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PAYING FOR YOUR MAGICAL TRIP

January 31, 2012

So now you’ve got a rough idea of how much this trip will cost you and maybe a little bit of panic is setting in. Maybe the total was more than you thought it would be, but you REALLY want to take this trip, or a trip to anywhere, or maybe you just want to get debt free (just had to slip in a plug for that, because once you live debt free then you can travel all you want) but you don’t want to take out a loan or use charge cards for the dream trip (especially not if you want to live debt free). HOW in the world are you going to pay for this trip, because boy would it be fun to go!

The answer is simple. Two ways, cut the costs and save for it and pay cash for the entire trip. This post is about paying for it. The ideas here will work not only work for playing for a vacation, but for getting debt free, or buying any number of things. My next post(s) will be about ways to cut costs. There are hundreds of ways to do both ways, both on the trip and at home. First the cash, because the sooner you start on it the faster you will reach your goal.

You can start right now. Find a solid heavy jar, or that cutesy bank you picked up somewhere, a tin can whatever and put it where you can easily get to it. Maybe you would want to decorate it, or let the kids if you are letting them help you plan right now, Do something to remind you that any money that goes in this is for the trip (or debt reduction).

Now go to your purse, shake your pants pocket, dig in the sofa cushions, dump the coins out of the car ash tray, frisk the washing machine, look in your coat pockets, look everywhere you know you usually deposit pocket change and put it in the container. The clinking of those coins hitting the once empty container is Tinkerbell’s twinkle sound, do you hear Walt Disney World calling you?

While that doesn’t look like much right now it will grow and grow and you will soon be off on your trip of a lifetime. But just like those of us that are on the Dave Ramsey plan talk about feeding the gazelles, you need to feed Tinkerbell too.

You’ve done the first step, now start paying for everything you can in cash, dollar bills to be exact. No coins, because every coin is going to go into your vacation fund. I’ll call it Tink’s fund for now. Each night, drop all your coins into that bank and listen for Tink telling you thank you. You will be surprised how fast that fund is going to grow as time goes on.

Our first trip to Walt Disney World we paid cash for the trip for four of us, so have a few of the trips between then and the one we are currently saving for now using the methods I’ll be telling you. It took us exactly 9 months to save for the trip just out of pocket change and coupon money for the four of us. The more you do to feed Tink the faster you can get there.

So where are you going to get the cash to feed Tink? Let’s start with a simple one. Coupons. Don’t go running screaming into the woods at the sound of that. I’m not telling you to become an extreme couponer , although that wouldn’t hurt, I’m saying just incorporate a few coupons and discounts into your life. It doesn’t have to be a major production like you see on tv, it can be just one or two here or there. The volume you do is up to you.

Think outside the box, need an oil change, check the yellow pages of your phone book, often there is a coupon there for oil changes. Do you eat out often (we’ll discuss this more later)? Check to see if your favorite places you eat at have a free online club or a loyalty card. Because if they do you should sign up for them, and net the benefits from them.

If you read my Week #1 post on menus you will see we went to Ghengis Mongolian Grill for my birthday meal. I belong to both their online club and have a loyalty card. As a result the three of us ate for 1/3 of what the bill would have been normally. I got a free meal because it was my birthday, and we’d eaten there enough that we’d earned another free meal. So our nearly $50 meal cost us $16 including the tip (we paid our server a tip based on the $50 because we had extremely good service). The difference went into the trip bank that night.

Every way you can save with a coupon OR a discount of any type, use the money you saved to “feed Tink”. Save $.10 with a grocery coupon, put it in that bank. Get a discount because of a loyalty card, a student or senior citizen discount, put it in that bank. You will be amazed at how fast that money will add up.

Then once a month, or when you mystery shop your personal bank (I’ll explain this in a minute) deposit all but a few coins from your Tink fund into a regular bank into an interest bearing account. Even if it’s just $10 put it in the real bank. Because the sooner you do the more you will earn in interest and every penny interest is that much closer to your dream trip. The reason I say leave a few coins in the Tink fund bank is because I consider it “seed money” If it’s empty it’s too easy to leave it empty, but if you see coins in there it’s a lot easier to add a few. It’s a mental thing.

Now let’s look at cutting expenses. You saw how much we saved on that birthday meal, but what if we’d all drank water with lemon, which is free, instead of three $2 each drinks? At that one meal it would have been a savings of $6 plus tax for the three of us. That’s roughly $6.50 more to feed Tink with. Or if we hadn’t eaten out at all that night…you get the idea.

Do you REALLY need that double low fat whatever latte on the way to/from work? Could you make it yourself at home, or skip it one day a week even?

Of course coupons are a big saver on groceries too. So is the menu planning I write about in other posts. Don’t forget to mail in your rebates. All that cash goes into the fund. As the fund grows you will find more and more ways to save because you WANT that trip!

Around here when we are saving for a big trip we often equate what we are saving by either not buying something, using a coupon or getting a discount with what it will buy at WDW. One of us will often say “that’s a coke at Disney World.” Or if it’s a bigger savings “That’s a burger, a one day ticket, a night’s stay etc at Disney World.” And it all adds up.

My granny always said “mind your pennies and your dollars will mind themselves.” You see a penny in a parking lot, pick it up and feed it to Tink, it only takes 10 pennies to make a dime and 10 dimes to make a dollar. So don’t pass up that penny.

While we no longer use charge cards due to our personal decision to follow Dave Ramsey’s path to Financial Freedom, when we did we had one that paid a cash back bonus. We paid this card off pretty religiously so using it was another way we earned cash for our trips. We paid for everything with that card and then as soon as we had enough “cash back” built up we could withdraw it that money went into the Tink fund as well.

When it came time to take the trip we made certain we had enough money in the savings account to pay off the charge card when the bills from the trip started rolling in and then used that card exclusively for the trip-so we earned cash back for those expenses as well, for the next trip. The Tink’s fund stayed in the bank earning interest until the bill hit, but the minute the bill hit we withdrew from the bank enough to cover the bill in full and paid it off.

This plan works well as long as you don’t get a Murphy hit and can’t pay off the charge card. Then the interest will eat your lunch and you will have the stress of an additional bill. We made the conscious decision to do without the charge card at all. Because we learned the hard way that Murphy is just one knock at the door away at all times. But if you choose to use charge cards that is your personal decision and you can use it to your advantage to pay for the trip IF you pay the bill off in full each month.

A note about using a charge or debit card while at WDW or any out of town trip. Notify the company the card is issued from ahead of time when you are traveling, because if you don’t you might find your purchases denied, even when you have the cash there to cover it.

In this day and age of identity theft many companies will shut a card down if they see it being used outside its normal travel area. We had that happen once while at WDW and it was VERY embarrassing. A simple phone call straightened it out, but that was time away from our vacation and a bit of embarrassment we could do without.

Also, one of my bank debit cards will not let purchases from certain states go through on the debit card because of identity theft period. It’s a small local bank and there is no discussing it with them. Certain states are on their no go list. Another debit card has a daily limit of $1,000 they will let go through, unless you make prior arrangements before your trip or large purchase. So it’s better to find out BEFORE you go if you have a similar situation rather than get several states away and find you don’t have access to your cash. Be sure and check on that daily limit because when staying at the WDW resorts you will be issued a “room key” that will be used like a credit/debit card in the park and resort area and they will run a large total through on your account at once. You can tell them ahead of time how much you to allow at a time and then they will need to notify you of when they are running the amount through.

Due to the problems of identity theft and theft in general we actually have an electronic use only free checking account with a Visa debit at a bank other than our main bank set up. We use this account strictly for our online purchases and travel. Only the exact amount of money we need for the purchase/trip is put in this account prior to the purchase/trip. That way if theft does happened our main accounts are safe and our liability is limited. We keep the account open with just a required small amount in there at other times.

Another big fund raiser is sell stuff. Run a garage sale, list on ebay, sell media items on half.com or amazon.com, Craig’s list, upillar.com, your local cheap cycle the list goes on and on of places to sell things. Someone recently said they “only got $.75” for a book they had purchased years ago. I responded “that’s $.75 more than you would have had otherwise and now your bookshelf is cleaner and you aren’t paying to heat/cool that book. “ If I’d been talking to a family member I would have said “That’s almost half of a Mickey Ears ice cream bar at WDW.” I always have things listed on half. com http://shops.half.ebay.com/ladydressmaker_W0QQ_trksidZp2919QQmZbooks as an ongoing fund raiser for whatever our current goal is.

Older kids often can earn their own vacation souvenir/spending money by babysitting, doing yard work and similar jobs for others. Whatever you do the more you do the more you can save.

Consider mystery shopping and saving all of the income from that, above your expenses of doing so, for your trip. For more on mystery shopping check out my previously posted articles on the subject.




 
. Remember me saying that I put the Tink Fund money in a bank I mystery shop at. Well I make that deposit when I do a teller shop and use their coin counting machine to count the Tink Fund then make the deposit, as required by the mystery shop. File my paperwork and I make anywhere from $5 to $25 depending on the bank and the time of the month for making that deposit. Then the money I make from that shop goes directly into the bank via direct deposit when I get paid for the shop.

Because I schedule my mystery shops to coincide with my errands I’m not out any extra expenses for fuel to do the shop so the whole amount goes into the Tink Fund. If it was a mystery shop that I had to make a reimbursable purchase, like a nice meal out, for I deduct how much I spent for that meal from the check and only the profit goes into the Tink fund.

Make gift giving time part of preparing for the trip time. It might be the perfect way to tell family members about the trip. Disney or other gift cards, Disney cash, tickets for the parks (you can buy them ahead of time because the time on them doesn’t start until you actually use them). Special clothing for the trip, stuffed animals, Disney movies (often have rebates on them) reservations etc all make good gifts. Plus they are part of your trip budget so you kill two birds with one stone.

Speaking of gift cards it’s time to speak about mypoints and similar programs. These are programs where you click on emails or ads and you get points. These points are saved until you have enough to redeem them. While mypoints does not have Disney gift cards that you can redeem for they do have Wal-Mart cards, fuel cards, restaurant gift cards and various other gift cards that you could use while vacationing OR to use at home and put the cash you saved by using them in your Tink Fund. They are basically free money you can earn in just a few clicks. I personally use the mypoints tool bar and get bonus points every month by using it to do the numerous google searches I do each month anyway. No extra effort on my part once I installed the tool bar (which I got bonus points for doing) and it’s free money. Oh if you shop online you can also get bonus points from the various places by doing the shopping through the mypoints (or similar websites). Not a member of mypoints? I’d love to refer you, I get points for referrals too. Just e me privately and I’ll refer you.

Another bit of info on gift cards is to purchase ones from Sam's Club or Costco.  Their cards are sold at a discount.  Often $5 off of every $50 purchased.  I purchase gift cards there not only as gifts, placing the saved money in the Tink Fund, but to purchase Disney Gift cards and Southwest Airlines gift cards when flying.  These cards are used to pay for air fare, meals and accommodations at WDW.

WARNING #1:  Southwest airlines will only let you use a certain number of payment divisions to pay for each ticket.  They count each gift card as a division.  We did not know this when we made our first flight using gift cards for the flight.  Our cards were in $50 denominations, the limit was four forms of payment.  So we could only use 3 cards and a debit/credit card for the ticket.  In order to use all the gift cards we had we had to book each direction of the flight for each person separately.

This means for our party of two I had to book four separate tickets.  The cost was still the same, but it meant on SWA our boarding groups were sometimes different.  How we handled this was the person with the first boarding group took both our carry-ons, boarded and saved a seat for the second person.

WARNING #2: This one is not that big of deal, but it is something you should be aware of.  Disney will not let you pay ahead or use the gift cards for automatic payment of charging to your room key.  You can charge to your room and then pay on your bill with the gift card, but if you are set up for an auto payment via your debit/credit card when you reach a certain limit before you go pay on your bill with the gift cards the amount will go to your debit/credit card.

We handled this by keeping track of our charges and going to the front desk to pay on the bill with the gift cards before we hit the automatic debit/credit card charge.

This required a little extra time on our part, but because we had so many of the gift cards it was well worth the effort.

Blogging is another way to earn bits of cash here and there. See the ads in and around my blogs? Every time you or anyone else clicks on one I get a penny. (all clicks appreciated) and that goes into my Tink Fund.

The whole idea is to save for the trip, so every penny you save or earn it goes into your Tink Fund. Our first trip cost right at $3,000 and that was when there were four of us going, now I only pay for two as my son always pays for his own expenses if he joins us. We still pay right around $3,000 thirty years later for our first trip of the year from OK when we purchase our annual pass, and then far less for the remaining 1-3 trips for the year.

That first trip there was one park, the Magic Kingdom, there are now 4 parks, 2 water parks and a large shopping complex. Plus to us the campground, called Ft. Wilderness, is an adventure in itself. There is a lot to do at each of the resorts as well. You can spend a whole day easily just going from resort to resort to see the differences and enjoy the ambiance of each resort. While pool hopping is frowned upon there is a lot to see as each resort is done in a different theme. We particularly like doing this during the various holiday seasons to enjoy the decorations on a “crash and burn” day.

One other thing to consider is what we did one trip we went down. A dear friend had moved from Oklahoma to Mississippi and had left a lot of their stuff in storage here. They paid for our fuel and the trailer rental for us to bring a trailer load of their items from OK to Gulfport, MS. This gave us not only fuel for those first several miles, but a place to stay one night and a nice home cooked meal. This was of course a big savings for all involved. So if you have a similar situation, or you do animal rescue transports on a regular basis you might try to schedule one for part of your journey to help cover the transportation costs. Or plan your trip when a family member has to travel that direction for business and just journey on from their first destination to WDW at a discounted rate.

We did this last one a few years ago when my husband was sent to AutoCad University in Las Vegas, NV in December. We combined the travel time with vacation time and used his travel expense account for paying for the part to and from Las Vegas, as well as lodging and meals while we were there. That left the rest of our nearly four week trip to travel parts of the western US on our private money. Since Vegas was our furthest point west on that trip it covered a good deal of our fuel consumption. If we’d had the time we would have gone on over to Disneyland from there, but alas we didn’t have the time.

Other ideas for saving money, or earning additional income can be found in the Tightwad Gazette books (I, II &; III) by Amy Dacyzn, The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey, various yahoogroups, and various frugal websites. For legit work at home jobs consider checking out ratracerebellion.com and volition.com websites as well.  You might also considering linking over to my other blogs.  Each one has a frugal theme.  Mind Your Pennies, is how to save money in day to day living without feeling deprived. Patterson's Princess Plan is how to go about decluttering all aspects of your life, including financial matters. At Patterson's Pantry I am planning out a year's worth of basic home cooking menus with the recipes for those menus at Patterson's Pantry Recipes.  At the last one you will find a lot of recipes for making your own conveniences mixes.

Whatever you do save your profits and you will have a vacation that you can be proud of without going into debt. Speaking of debt, consider all these ideas and more for becoming debt free because then as Dave Ramsey says if you “Live like no one else now, later you can LIVE like no one else.”

Jan who is using all these ideas and more to not only become debt free, but to take a celebration vacation trip to Walt Disney World when she is debt free in OK

1 comment:

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