Disney World on a Budget

 

A Disney trip is at the top of the vacation list for most young families.  However, let’s face it, the happiest place on earth can also be  the most expensive.  Disney,  amongst all the various theme parks,  has marketing and promotions down to an art form and it can be hard to resist the pleas of the little ones as they hop up and down with glee.   But do not despair, saving money in a world designed to make your spend IS possible.  Here are some tips:

  1.  www.mousesavers.com.  The brainchild of Mary Waring,  MouseSavers finds and posts more than 300 pages worth of coupon codes and money-saving ideas on all things Disney whether it be Disney  merchandise or a Disney Cruise.
  2. Disney World DOES give freebies, such as free park tickets or free food during your stay.  http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers.  The only catch is in order to avail of these freebies you may need to stay at least 4 days AND time your trip during the off-peak season.  Be sure that concentrating your stay in Disney World is indeed what you want to do since it may come at the expense of seeing other worthwhile sites such as the Kennedy Space Center and Universal Orlando.
  3. Going as a big group?  Skip the hotels and rent a house.  You can take your pick of dedicated McMansions complete with pools, grills, and big-screen tvs.  Another big plus – you won’t be held hostage by hotel food which can eat a big chunk out of your wallet.  Take your pick of rentals from http://www.allstarvacationhomes.com/ and http://www.ipgflorida.com/.
  4. Can’t get enough of Disney magic?  The main hook of the Disney-run hotels are their extra perks – free parking and  “Extra Magic Hours”.  Be warned however – they cost at least twice as much as comparable hotels in the near vicinity.  You may still be able to get some discounts during off peak season.

With careful planning and budgeting,  your Disney vacation CAN be the best ever!  =)

Planning ahead? Try using a Financial Calendar

I’m sure that we’ve all be in similar situations — plotted out our budget for the next 6-12 months —  only to wonder why it isn’t working.  Well, in my case,  I realized early on that I had forgotten to account for seasonality — big ticket expenses such as yearly insurance premiums and quarterly tuition payments.    I adjusted our budget excel sheet accordingly so we can now heave a sigh of relief ala Joseph during the time of famine.   =)

For those who would like to do the same and take a calendar-based approach to organizing personal finances,  there is a fantastic website called PocketSmith which can help you get started.  If you want to repay your debt faster,  see your savings grow, and track your expenditures against forecasts,  then PocketSmith will do the job for you.   pocketsmithUsers simply input their scheduled salary payouts,  bill payments, etc and have each of these categories repeat weekly,  fortnightly or monthly which is made relatively painless through integration with Google Calendar, iCal (for Apple users) and Outlook.  PocketSmith then calculates all incoming and outgoing transactions to generate a six or twelve month forecast.

What I particularly like about this online tool is that you can pick any given date and receive a predicted bank balance for that day.   If you see yourself being “in the red” right after Christmas,  you can adjust your scheduled ‘financial events’ and immediately see the changes reflected in the projected cashflow.    There are even dynamic, animated graphs which will give you an illustrated breakdown of your coming year’s finances.  It certainly helped us in finding ways to help us achieve our financial goals.

The basic version of PocketSmith is free, and subscribers can sign up for more premium versions at USD 5 and USD 12 per month.

A great idea for parents: Online Group Buying for New Parents

New parents quickly realize that with a new baby brings with it a whole slew of accessories from diapers to baby rails to car seats.   With safety concerns being raised on a fairly regular basis on various items,  we are deterred from sifting through garage sales to get bargains.  Fighting my way through the horde during sale day isn’t my cup of tea either.  I would rather sit in the comfort of my own home and click a buy button.  =)

Thanks to Springwise.com,  I discovered a wonderful site which focuses on new & expecting parents – helping them enjoy the benefits consumers can enjoy when they team up and buy baby & children’s goods as a crowd. 

CrowdSprout lets groups of consumers interested in purchasing the same item band together to get a better price.

purchase_sequence

Product categories on the site include car seats, carriers, diaper bags, furniture, high chairs and strollers; for each product included, the merchant lists a reduced price, the minimum number of buyers needed and a deadline. Consumers then spread the word about their planned purchase, with the goal of increasing that group’s size. Once enough buyers have joined the group, they then make their (reduced) payment through CrowdSprout and receive the item they wanted. If, on the other hand, the minimum number of buyers is not achieved in time, no one pays and the group disbands.  Not bad,  not bad at all!

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Setting up an Emergency Account? Automate!

 “E.Q be damned.  I want that _____!  I’ll just double my savings in the next paycheck.”

Does this sound familiar?

Over the past few months,  a few readers have gotten in touch with me, realizing the need to build their 3-6 months emergency fund.  The problem they were facing was how to operationalize this.    We are surrounded by temptation and the increased convenience in which we can get things makes it extremely difficult to exercise restraint.  It is particularly difficult for young families who, come payday, are tempted to head out and treat themselves at the nearest grocery/toy store/restaurant/spa. 

My suggestion is to automate your savings via regular scheduled transfers.  When you make things automatic,  you remove the human element,  making it more difficult for you to mess up.  There are a number of financial institutions such as ING Direct, HSBC Direct and M&T Bank which offer high-yield online savings accounts such as M&T Online Banking with low minimum maintaining balances.  Put you money in the right place.    David Bach,  author of The Automatic Millionaire said it best:  “Not earning interest on your emergency money is almost as bad as burying it in your backyard.”  

What is important is that you do your research now and get your search engine working to find the best high-yielding savings account for you.  Oh, and remember,  in addition to a great interest rate your money should not tied up for a specific length of time, giving you convenient access to your funds.  Otherwise,  it would not be an emergency fund account.  =)

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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A special invitation for guilt free luxe shopping at Gilt.com!

Have you ever pushed and shoved your way through a sample sale?  Endured the crowds at the mall looking for the perfect bargain item?  Waited patiently until your favourite designer or luxe brand has an end-of-season sale? 

Well,  that could all change courtesy of gilt.com.  This wonderful website features fairly current items from your favourite designers and brands at a fraction of its retail cost.   Get that gorgeous Donna Karen Tote you’ve been drooling over at over 60% off.  How about  that Valentino dress at 75% off?   Items range from dresses to shoes to jewelry,  children’s items and even stationary.    The only hitch is that shipping is currently only offered within the U.S.    

How does Gilt.com work?

All sales (women, men, children & home start at Noon ET/9amPT and last 36 hours.  You’ll receive an email  when each day’s sales start.  Additionally, each Monday,  a digest is emailed to all members of that week’s upcoming sales to help you plan ahead.   All items are available at the beginning of all sales and prices don’t change, so log on at the start of the sale to get the best selection.  [I kid you not.. it’s like ebay at its peak]

 

Membership is by invitation only.  Our sister site has been extended a special invitation which we would like to share with all our readers.  Go to this page to sign up.  =)

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Today’s economy and YOUR money – what you should know

The recent (near) meltdown in the world’s financial markets have stirred up feelings of uncertainty and quite a great deal of panic.  It is difficult to connect what is happening at the macro level where the gods play to the micro level where we ants scurry.  What is important is to distill the noise down to the bare minimum:  a job which Ramit Sethi did so well (albeit a bit abruptly):

Key takeaway points:  Worry about the REAL risk.  Worry about not saving enough,  overspending on fluff, and not properly diversifying assets.  Don’t place ALL your bets on one “sure” thing.  If it’s only one,  then it definitely is not “sure”.

Now before you panic and unload all your equity investments because of fears the market will tank further,  ask yourself the ff:

1.  Why do you really want to sell?
2.  When do you need the money?

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Coffee Talk Series: Be Financially Empowered

The current turmoil in the financial markets has more and more people thinking about their financial future.  Suddenly,  what seemed safe ground seems to be quick sand.  The “sure” thing is now uncertain.  Compound this with problems such as paying our regular bills and you realize the increasing importance to making (and keeping) a budget sufficient to satisfy future needs. 

On Sept 20,  attend a wealth management forum with Financial Columnist Karen Galarpe hosted by Mom Exchange and Alveo Verdana Homes.

Date: Saturday, September 20
Time: 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Where: Coffee Bean Tea Leaf Greenbelt 3

Please RSVP to Geisler Maclang at 812-8828 or 812-9919 if you would like to attend. Here is the invitation.

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

Subscribe to my feed or subscribe via email to get notified of my next post.