Just two weeks ago my family returned from a 7 day trip to Walt Disney World. I wrote previously about our Disney vacation budget and was open and honest about just how much it cost. When it was all said and done, the bill came to $3,000 for my family’s share of the expenses (my in-laws traveled with us, so our actual total was higher but they paid their share of the costs).
For some folks, a $3,000 vacation is no big deal at all, and it might even be standard once or twice a year. For us, though, it was a BIG DEAL and a lot of money. Like most other Americans, we have debts (thankfully no credit card debt or car payments, but we have a mortgage and we have student loans). We don’t like being in debt (who does?) so we try to be aggressive about paying those down.
Being aggressive about debt reduction does not seem to pair well with saving for a dream vacation. But I would argue that they are not at all mutually exclusive. I do think that if you want to get out from under the choking death-grip of debt that you have to make some hard choices. For us, that means that we live in a small house to save on housing costs. It also means that I look for opportunities to bring in additional income to increase available funds. For me that means LOTS of very early mornings so that I can work while my kids are still sleeping. What those hard choices might look like for you and your family will likely be at least somewhat different.
But with that said, I refuse to deny my family the opportunity to make magical memories. Is going on an expensive vacation the only way to make such memories? Of course not. For me, though, being able to take my children to Disney World to live and breathe a week full of magic while they still fully believe in the magic was important. And so I started saving for Disney World the month after my oldest child was born, 5 years ago.
It was so important to me to save for this experience that I actually started a Disney fund before I started a college savings fund (that came along about 3 months later!). My #1 piece of advice for those of you who have a dream vacation that seems unattainable is to start a savings account and name it after the trip you want to take. So for us, we set up a savings account called “Disney World.” In the beginning, we set aside $50/month that was automatically transferred in from our checking account on the same day as many of our other bills were paid. Because the money was automatically removed very shortly after it was deposited from our paychecks, we really and truly never missed it. I think the automatic draft piece here is very important. You don’t have to rely on yourself to be disciplined; your account will be disciplined for you!
When we experienced job changes and our income was reduced by almost half while we were paying a mortgage AND rent for 5 months, we had to take a really hard look at all of our non-essential expenses. Our Disney World fund took a hit. We didn’t touch the money, but we reduced the monthly transfer amount to $10. I didn’t want to stop altogether, so we changed the amount to something very minimal, but we didn’t stop saving. I think that was important for me, mentally, to not give up on the dream, even though it would have taken us 25 years to save for the trip at that rate. Even if what you are able to save now isn’t “enough,” do it anyway. The day will come when you can save more, and you’ll have some momentum built up.
As my blog grew, I was able to make larger contributions to the fund over the past 2 years. When we connected with the Disney travel rep and got a price quote, then I knew how much more I needed to earn to take care of the entire bill. So I put my nose to the grindstone over the summer and did some extra work and had the entire bill covered by the end of September. If I had decided just this year that I wanted to take my family to Disney World ASAP, I would have had to go into debt to make it happen. Some people make that choice, but for my family, that really would have just meant that we wouldn’t have gone. Even though I have had a decent year with my income, and was able to provide for about 1/3 of the costs in just a handful of months, I still needed all that money that had been saved over the last 5 years to make the dream possible. I am so thankful to our past selves who never quit saving, even when all we had to give was $10/month. Every single penny saved helped us out, and we turned a dream into a reality without going into debt.
The process of setting aside money every month for a long period of time is not all that fun, and it can be hard to see the benefit when you are not that far along in your savings goal. For example, we had only saved up $600 when we had to drop our monthly contributions down to $10/month. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t feel a little hopeless and like we should just stop saving altogether and use the money for needed expenses (because things were certainly tight for that period of time!). Looking back, though, continuing to work toward our goal during that time was absolutely critical. The dream stayed alive through the lean times, so it got very special attention when our finances were better and we could save more. Basically, we believed in our dream and we refused to give up, even though we had to save at a snail’s pace.
When I hear people tell me that they could never afford a trip to Disney World, I have to raise an eyebrow. Obviously everyone deals with their own set of financial circumstances and I do not want to suggest that I know and understand yours. But this I do know to be true: what’s important will get taken care of. Period. If a dream vacation is important to you, really and truly, then you CAN make it happen. Start with a special savings account, and automate your monthly contributions. You can even set up transfers to happen twice a month, or even weekly! Whatever you need to do, do it. Don’t worry about the final bill and how you’ll ever get there. Just focus on contributing what you can now, and never give up on your dream.
Capital One 360 Black Friday Sale
There’s never been a better time to get started on achieving financial peace of mind, and setting a goal for a dream you have, be it to Disney World, the Caribbean, or anywhere else in the world you want to go. Definitely check out Capital One 360’s Black Friday Sale, because there are some GREAT opportunities to save money, and even to earn some money! Capital One 360 products are actually intended to help you save time and money. They are perfect for people who like to bank online or even on their mobile (yes, there’s an app for that!). If you are interested in a savings account, they are fee-free and they do earn interest. You can even take advantage of remote deposit capture with the CheckMate tool (I LOVE being able to deposit checks by snapping a photo of them…you’ll love it, too!). It’s a REALLY great way to take advantage of unexpected windfalls that might be headed your way (perhaps a year-end bonus or a Christmas gift in the form of a check? Send them straight to your savings account, friends!).
Here’s a complete list of the offerings happening right now with Capital One 360. Be sure to note the referral bonuses, because if you encourage your friends and family to also start pursuing their dreams and working toward financial peace of mind with Capital One 360, you can earn some extra money for YOUR dreams!
|ShareBuilder||Up to $1,250 bonus (tiered offer)||
|Home Loans||$1,250 off closing costs||
|360 Checking||$100 bonus||
|360 Savings||$100 bonus||
|Refer a Friend||$40 bonus per successful referral||
I’d love to hear if there is a special vacation you have on your heart and your mind. Have you started saving, yet? If not, what might be holding you back?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.