Setting and Keeping Your Vacation Budget

Setting A Budget

We are on to Step 2 which is the most important step…. Setting your family vacation budget! Now that you have set your where and when, we get to look at how much this whole trip is going to cost. I am using our budget for Disney World to walk you through my thought process for budget setting.

Our plan for our Disney World  trip is set for July 1-July 7, 2018. Being an animal lover, we want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge so that is our resort of choice. In the past, I have stayed at the Polynesian on the  concierge level which was a great benefit because they have a buffet of food and snacks all day long plus we had a better view from our room. Personally, it was worth the extra money. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, concierge level gives you the view of the Savannah with the animals which would put Danyella on cloud nine. This put us at $5525 for the week-long stay with access to food all day.

I did toy with the option of staying at the Polynesian again because of the access to the monorail which makes traveling between parks a lot easier with a baby.  At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we will be utilizing the busses to get around. (Thank goodness for strollers and baby carriers!)

The next thing I added to our package was upgrading our Park Tickets to the Park Hopper with the water park option. It added more money to our overall cost but it is worth it because we will be going to different parks through the day so we have time to bring the baby back for naps and breaks. This put us at $5812 to add the Park Hopper option.

Something that was suggested to me from a yearly Disney World traveler, was to get the Memory Maker package because they will take better pictures then we will take. Her pictures proved it! So we added the $169 Memory Maker to the package which put us at $5981.

When I was at Disney, 15 years ago, there was no Dining Add-On Option for our vacation package so I consulted others that have been there and they all say that the Dining Plan was a must especially when you want to do the character meals. I got lots of tips on how to use this plan to get the best benefit out of it. Now add $1359 to our package price to make it $7340.

Onto our travel plans…. With an infant we are flying a direct flight from Philly to Orlando and using the free transport that Disney offers from the airport to the resort. This added $934 to our package. Plus I opted for the $155 travelers insurance just to be on the safe side. This put our Package total at $8429! Holy Cow!!

One of the nice thing about booking your trip through Disney, you can start with a deposit instead of paying for the whole trip up front. The deposit price includes the flights so that they are booked immediately. Our deposit for the trip is $1288 which is due immediately in order to book the trip and the balance is due on January 1st, 2018

For us, this will be our starting off point because we don’t have the $1288 just laying around the house but we will be finding ways to save this money. Yes, this will change our flights and possibly our price but we are not ones to use credit cards to charge things for entertainment purposes. Overall, with spending money our budget for this trip will end up being $10,000! Wowzers but this includes our travel, lodging and food which is the bulk of any trip. The rest will be just what we want to buy or spend money on!

Now it is your turn to get the budget in place for the major expenses: travel, lodging and food. If you destination doesn’t offer a package like Disney then you will need to make the package yourself. There are a ton of apps that can help if you choose to travel by car that will help with gas mileage and prices so you can add this to your budget. Then you can look and compare prices for the lodging to add that to your budget. The last big cost to include is your food. If you are renting a house in your destination, you can bring your own food and save a ton of money! There are so many ways to save on food if you look at what restaurants are in the area of your trip.

I hope this breakdown helps in your budget setting! Next week we will look into the savings jar and breaking your budget down to small goals. disney

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Setting Your Family Vacation Place and Dates

 

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This week we are going to start breaking down my 5 steps that I highlighted in last week’s savings vacation post. So we are starting with Picking your place and dates to start your budget planning!

First and Foremost, get yourself a notebook designated just for your Family Vacation Planning. This is essential because you can take notes, write down your budget and keep your family on track for some vacation fun!

Time for a family vacation meeting! Grab your notebook and a calendar to get you started. If your kids are older, then gather everyone together to begin to discuss where you want to go and when everyone can go. This is the fun part of the planning!

Where do you want to go? The beach, a specific city, a historic site, Disney World, or another exciting place that your family is going to enjoy and cherish! The possibilities are endless! For my family, our first choice is Disney World. Having a 10-year-old little  big girl, this one is a No Brainer because she wants to experience to Happiest Place on Earth with all the Princesses she has fallen in love with over the years.

Next step is planning how long the trip would be. 5 day vacation, a week-long, 2 weeks or just a long weekend? The length of the trip should be considered with the budget because the longer the trip, the more money you will need for lodging, food and spending on the extras. We are looking at a week long vacation for our family.

Here comes the most difficult step for today’s post…. When is the vacation going to fit into your family’s schedule? Ok so this is the hardest part for my family between school, work and now dance schedules to try to figure out when we can all go to have a family vacation. Oh and don’t forget, we are awaiting for our baby girl’s arrival! This pretty much narrowed down our open months to July and August or Christmas Vacation. For my family, it is way out of our budget to plan a Christmas Vacation at Disney World so we are opting for July or August.

Once you have the destination and dates down, it is time to start pricing out your vacation. It is best to look as many different options when you are planning this part. I like to research different travel sites, hotels and other options before solidifying my plan. Another factor to consider is transportation, are you driving, flying or taking a train? This will go into your planning as well because flights need to be paid up front and booked as far in advance as you possibly can. After you research and have a set plan of whom you are booking your vacation through consider if you need a deposit or need to pay for the whole trip up front. All of this needs to be planned into your budget. I know when you book through Disney’s website, you need a deposit if the vacation is booked so many months in advance which is our best budget option.

These are factors to consider in your budget planning for your family vacation. Next week will get into the nitty gritty of budget planning for your family vacation so make sure to check back next Sunday!

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5 Steps to Save for A Family Vacation

5 Steps to Save for a Family Vacation

One thing that I haven’t gotten to do but have wanted to do for so long is take Danyella on a family vacation. We have done fun day trips or trips where we went away for a couple of days but never an actual vacation. At 10 years old, she has been dying to go away and learn more about the world and see other places. Top of both of our list is…. Disney World!

Yes I know so cliché to want to go to Disney World but as an artist and artist in the making, Disney World is filled with so much art and entertainment and just fun that why would a kid of any age want to go. I have been there once and that was 14 years ago when both the older kids were just little ones. It was fun but in that time there has been so many changes to Disney World that it is time to go back. So now it is time to find the money to go down….

We are a credit card free family which means we save our cash for our bills and entertainment. If you are looking for ways to save for your Family Vacation without running to your credit card then this is where these tips will help us save for Disney World and you save for your family Vacation!

  1. Pick your Family Vacation and Dates! This is the most exciting part, besides going on the actual vacation, is picking where and when you want to go on vacation. Get your family involved in the process to see where everyone would like to go and make sure you have your calendar ready to see what dates you need to black out. I know in my family we have the dance recital the same week every June so that is a black out for us. Then there is arranging around when school starts and ends and other life events. Once you pick your destination and dates mark them down on your calender.   Orange Circle Studio 2018 Do It All Magnetic Wall Calendar, Aug. 2017 – Dec. 2018, Mom’s Do It All
  2. Set a Budget! This is the research phase of your trip planning. You will need to find out how much your trip is going to cost and how much you need to budget for the lodgings, transportation, food and spending money. Some places (like Disney) will offer packages that include the hotel, transportation (flights), and food. It is best to get this down on paper so you can see what you need and want to spend your money on. Another thing is to find out if the package or lodging wants a deposit or pay full at the time of your booking. Home Budget Workbook                                                                                                               
  3. Start a Savings Jar! This is something that I started for my girls Las Vegas trip about 6 months before our trip for my spending money. As a waitress, I lived off of my tips so I always had cash on me but I didn’t want to have to go to the bank every time I wanted to deposit the money for the trip. I am a visual person so I created a jar, got fun Las Vegas scrapbook stickers and decorated away. Everyday that I worked, I would take the couple of ones that I had left over and stuffed them into the jar. By the time I left for Las Vegas I had saved over $1000 and watching the jar fill up was making the countdown to the trip just as fun as the trip itself.My Las Vegas Trip Jar
  4. Break Down your Budget to Small Goals! How much do you want to save each month or week? Do you need to save for the deposit first? This is where a great notebook dedicated to your family vacation will help with setting and keeping your goals. Keep an eye on those goals so you know when you need to pay for specific things and where you need to increase your savings.Mead Spiral Notebook, 1 Subject, 70 College Ruled Sheets, Assorted Colors, 6 PACK (73065)                                                                                                     
  5. Find Small ways to Save Money! This is going to be the most important part of your saving for you trip is where you can save the money to go on vacation. I plan on highlighting different ways to find the extra money the rest of Sundays in October but here is just a few to think about… Grocery Shopping savings: Set your budget then when you use your coupons, take the left over money from your shopping and place it in your savings jar! Cut out your Dunkin or Starbucks coffee for a month and place that money in your savings jar! Use the savings apps to purchase gift cards or deposit in your Paypal account so you use it towards your trip!

I hope this encourages you to start your family vacation planning today! I will be highlighting ways to save for your trip every Sunday in October so keep an eye out. What ways have you and your family saved for your family vacation? 

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Craft and Art Store Coupons #savingsunday

Using Craft Store Coupons for Supplies#SavingSunday

As a Fine Arts Major, Artisan, Crafter, Mom to budding artists and craft supply hoarder, I have learned the art of using coupons to get what I need for as little money as possible. Recently, my Painting Professor emailed us the list of what we needed to purchase for her class with the links to Amazon to purchase all of items. When I put them all in my cart, they were over $300… not in my budget at all!

That is when I turned to my local craft/art supply stores! In my local area, I have Michaels and Hobby Lobby which we frequent both because each something different to offer plus their coupon structures are very different. If I need to look elsewhere, I can travel about 45 minutes or so to Joanns or AC Moore but I prefer to stick to the 2 stores that are only 10 minutes away from me.

At one point in my life, I worked for Michaels because the discount was great and I loved being surrounded by arts and crafts all day long but sadly I needed money for then fun so I went back to waiteressing. Still, when I walk into Michaels, I know at least one person so I can get the scoop of what is new in the store which is awesome! Michaels offers more of a broad range of art and craft supply items so that you have a little bit of everything to choose from but I can’t always find that exact thing I need or idea that is stuck in my head.

Now back to the subject Michaels coupons…. They offer a rewards app that includes all their coupons for the week. Most weeks, you will find a 40% off one non sale item. On certain days or weeks they will offer special coupons like 20% off your entire purchase or 30% off yarn. Some of these coupons can be great, especially if it includes sale items! Another plus for Michaels is that they will accept competitor coupons, so if Joanns is offering a 60% off coupon, they will allow you to use it at Michaels (score so savings there!). My one gripe is that there is a HUGE exclusions list which includes books! They have cool coloring books for adults, craft sets for kids that have books plus pattern books. If it has a book then it is excluded which just frankly makes a crafter very angry! Before I go into Michaels or while I am walking around, I will look at the other craft stores to see if they have a better coupon offer to max out my savings.

On to Hobby Lobby…. they offer fabric which Michaels does not which is a plus in my book! They have added to their soap making supplies (though they still make that damn melt and pour soap a big thing like you are really making soap but that is a post for another time) which I like being able to go there to buy some of my butters and oils when I need to make a small batch of something. Everything else is pretty comparable to Michaels with having a little bit of every type of supplies.

As for Hobby Lobby coupons, they only ever offer one coupon… 40% off one regular priced item. They do not accept competitor’s coupons so you can only ever use that one coupon. On the plus side they have very little exclusions and they allow coupons on their books! This has been huge for me because sometimes I get a request from someone to make a specific item and if I find it in a pattern book at Hobby Lobby then I get a bunch of patterns for a much lower cost!

Back to my painting class supply search, I learned that Micheals and Hobby Lobby had a majority of what I needed on this list so I was going to use my coupons as much as I possibly could to save as much money as possible. Hobby Lobby had the wood panels so I have been going there nearly everyday (except Sunday because they are closed) to purchase the panels. The rest has come from Michaels and they have had a 50% off coupon this past week which has been a huge help! So the list that would have been $300 or more has cost me about $150 with just a few things left to get.

If you are a parent, these coupons come in handy for kids projects for school and home. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to utilize these places and coupons for book reports and science projects that needed to done for school. In my opinion art and craft supplies are so overpriced to enjoy the stimulation of the artistic side of our brains so use these coupons and save some money to enjoy more art projects in the future!

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Ordering Your Groceries #savingsunday

Order YourGroceries

One of the best decisions that I have ever made was to order my groceries from our local grocery store. This is a service that Shoprite has offered for a few years but I thought I was better then paying the fee to have someone else do my shopping for me. Boy was I WRONG!

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Shoprite offers either a pick up or home delivery service. After hearing my coworker talk so much love on the pick up service, I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did because all I had to do was create my order, pick my time slot, pull into a designated parking spot, open my trunk for them to load my car (blue bags are your cold items) and drive home! Super simple and easy.

Over the past year of using this service, Shoprite has made many changes to make it easier on the customer to use this service which I love because I can order right from my phone when I have spare time. Another great upgrade is that they save your prior list so you can shop from products you have already purchased without searching for them.

When you begin your order, you have the option of adding items from a previous purchase list, a saved list, the interactive weekly flyer (this my preference), browsing departments or searching for the item.  There have been times where I have had to input a specific item and then they call me to verify the item for my order but this has been rare. Keep adding all the items you need and want on your order.

One great thing about shopping online is that you are not being sucked into those impulse purchases. I know that even a “quick trip” to Target can add an easy $100 to my bill because you see other things that you might “need” and just throw them into your cart. This helps curve those extra items that in the end you really don’t want or need in your home.

Next, let’s talk about additional ways you can save with Shoprite from Home. You can use coupons, whether they are the digital ones that you can upload from Shoprite’s site/app or paper coupons or both! This is the best way to help save money because you can get those sale items plus coupons and get them for just a fraction of what the cost would have been. For example, about a month ago Arm and Hammer laundry detergent was on sale for $1.99 (small bottle but still a great deal) plus I had $1 coupons from coupons.com which means I got 4 bottles for just $4. We have only gone through one of those bottles and I do alot of laundry in my house.

Once you sign up with Shoprite from Home, you will begin to receive emails from them with different incentives including codes to get a discount when you purchase so much in groceries (before your coupons). Most times it is $20 off an order of $200 or more which we easily hit with our monthly order. Yes, we only put in one big order a month and then purchase the small stuff like milk and veggies on a weekly basis because they go bad or are eaten faster then a month. I see that savings code as helping to pay the Shop from Home fee so to me it is win/win.

When you select your payment method, pay cash because then you will get the money back from the coupons immediatly instead of it being applied to your Shoprite account and then you actually have to go into the store to purchase items in order to use that money. Now I have talked about the fee and here it is… $10 for the service. That is so small compared to what I am gaining and saving out of it. Last month’s bill should have been about $250 and with the coupons and code, I was able to bring it down to $202 which could have been lower but I didn’t have all my coupons organized (another post for another day).

All in All, I love the shop from home service because it saves me so much time, hassle from dealing with other people and most importantly, money! I know that Walmart has started the pick up service but I have yet to try it…. now I am motivated to research and try their service soon.

This post was not commissioned and is just my opinion on their service. If you would like to check out their service or see if there is a Shoprite in your area click this LINK

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Make Extra Money on Facebook

Since I run a handmade business and love to SHOP, my house has a tendency to have a lot of stuff or as my boyfriend sees it… clutter! To me, I know where everything (ok almost everything) is and everything has a place (are you singing Mary Poppins yet?) but to him, he just sees stuff everywhere. Now that we prepare to move, it is time to declutter my house and this has been my easiest solution for the past couple of years…. Facebook.

Before Facebook had a marketplace to sell your items, local people created yard sale groups for their area. I belong to 10, maybe more, of these yardsale groups for either my area in general or kids exclusive groups. I live on the border of 2 states so I have an added benefit for these groups to travel 5 minutes to the dark side (which is what I like to  Pennsylvania lol).

Since I know that I won’t stop shopping because either someone in the family needs something (kids, dancing, school, etc), my business needs something (new ideas pop in my head all the time), or my tastes in home decor changes, I came up with a plan a few years ago to find 10 (sometimes more) things each month to list and sell on these groups. After I saw some success with selling, months where I needed a little more for bills or another expense, I would declutter and purge more items to cover the money for it.

Now that Facebook has added a Marketplace, the ease of selling your “clutter” has become even easier because you can list it in one general area and add it to your yard sale groups. I tend to get more sales from the yardsale groups then the Marketplace but the more places you have them listed, the more exposure which can find the one person that wants it in their life. The best-selling items have been home decor, baby/kids items and women’s clothing/shoes and handbags but people will list everything and anything. At the holidays, I will list my handmade items and make even more money plus I have helped build my customer base this way.

So how does this selling your clutter on Facebook work? These are my tips to be successful in selling your clutter on Facebook.

  1. Find a notebook to keep track of what you list on Facebook to sell, how much you list/sell it for and when it is sold. It helps to make life easier so you know what is for sale and what isn’t plus I love to see how much I make.
  2. Besides the Facebook Marketplace, join Facebook yard sale groups. If you search your town or area and add yardsale, you will find groups to join and if you have kids add kids yardsale in your search.
  3. ALWAYS take pictures in daylight to give people a true sense of the colors. I hate when I see a listing and people don’t have a picture or the picture is so dark, you can’t even make out what it is.
  4. Be as descriptive as you can with your details. If it is something for the home or bag, give them measurements. With clothing, give them sizes plus long/short sleeve etc. The more detail the better the interest.
  5. When writing out your description, give them a location (I tell them my town since I live near another state) you are willing to meet them and write cross posted. Don’t ask me why but if someone sees an item on multiple groups and it doesn’t say Cross Posted, they tend to lose their shit and start going off in the comment section before you can even respond. (Like they are not human and make mistakes).
  6. When you set up a meetup, do this in public. I know some police stations have designated areas just for this now. Since where I live, I give 2 options for either side of my town… Walmart or Big Lots. By the end of the conversation (this will happen over messenger), you will want to agree on a location (make them come as close to you as possible since you are trying to make money not spend it on gas meeting them) and make/model/color of the car they will be in. I have made the mistake of not getting car info from them and then they either don’t show or I go through anxiety wondering who it is parking next to me and is it my meetup person.

Since being on bed rest and out of work the past month, we need make up the difference in money plus I needed to get rid of stuff for the move. I went through the house and placed items on our dining room table (which is now a cluttered mess) and began to list about 100 different things. Out of the 100 different things that I listed, I sold most of them and made over $500. I am not saying I can do this every month but, even when I make $100 a month it has helped with groceries (you know all those little items you need like milk, eggs and bread). If you saved the $100 a month you made decluttering your house, that is $1200 for Christmas (which brings in more stuff into the house) or a vacation! What would spend the extra money on?

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My Favorite Savings App

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With the hundreds of money saving apps out there it is hard to decide which one is worth your time to download and use. When I was introduced to the FREE IBOTTA app, I was clueless about how it worked but I was intrigued because my friend Erin raved about it. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose just to download it and try it…

One thing I had to learn was the Ibotta uses rebates which collect in your account and you can redeem for money or gift cards. (I will get into that later) Now please now that rebates are different from coupons because with coupons you get the money discounted at the register so pay less. With rebates, you get the money back AFTER you purchase the item.

I was right and super happy that I followed my instinct to try this app out. They have rebates for major stores and websites like Walmart, Amazon, Target plus other local stores which for me the big one is Shoprite. You can search for the type of rebate you want or browse through the stores they offer rebates.

Now please now that rebates are different from coupons because with coupons you get the money discounted at the register so pay less. With rebates, you get the money back AFTER you purchase the items.

Normally, I use Ibotta for my grocery shopping at either Walmart, Target and Shoprite. They seem to be the ones I get the most rebates for plus bonus rebates. (Yes I said bonus rebates…. just wait because it is cool) Honestly, I prefer Walmart because when you go to redeem your rebates all you do is scan the QR code at the bottom of the receipt instead of taking a picture of the ENTIRE receipt. With the other stores, at least so far, you have to take a picture of the entire receipt and if it is to dark or blurry then they reject it and you have to start all over. I just get to frustrated to deal with that sometimes.

After all of that information I am sure you are a little lost, so let me walk you through the process. You must begin this process BEFORE you go shopping because the rebates only count if they are selected before you purchase something! Select the store or rebate you want to look at, click the specific rebate you are interested in, click to get the rebate, complete either the survey or watch the video (its a pain but worth the rebates) and then you can check whether the item you are looking at in the store is qualified for the rebate (sometimes specific flavors or types of items are excluded), purchase your qualifying items, redeem your rebates then watch the money grow in your account.

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Let’s talk about the cool bonuses they offer! If you connect your account through Facebook then everytime one of your friends joins Ibotta they become part of your “team”. When you have a team of friends, you and your friends earn towards different levels of bonuses everytime you redeem a rebate. These rebates start at $1 when you personally redeem 8 rebates and your team redeems $10 in rebates. Then you have different bonuses from manufacturers, stores/sites or Ibotta boosts (the company will give you an added bonus for redeeming so many rebates in a specific time period). These bonuses are how I have really made some extra money.

The last bonus is the invite your friends bonus where you can make $5 for each friend that joins under your referral code. The bonuses escalate with each friend you have join under your code which can add up really fast. I have yet to have someone join under my code because I am not pushy at getting my friends to do the things I am doing. I will share it on my Facebook or Twitter once in a while but that is about it.

 

Last but not least the awesome ways you can redeem your rebates! First you can withdrawl the rebates for cash into your Paypal or venmo accounts with a $20 minimum. Or you can redeem your rebates for cool gift cards like Itunes, Uber, Walmart, Amazon, tons of restuarants and other stores. Each of these gift cards has a minimum that needs to be in your account before you can redeem them. Personally, I use my bonuses to redeem Regal Movies Gift Cards  because Danyella and I love to go to the movies. One $25 gift card is enough for us to buy movie tickets and then I just need the money for snacks. Photo Aug 20, 11 38 13 AM

So far, I have redeemed $271 in rebates over the past year and a few months! That is alot of movies we have seen just for buying things we use. Another nice thing about this app has been finding new foods or brands that I wouldn’t have normally tried but saw a good rebate so I tried it anyway and now have a new favorite. There is money to be made and fun you can have with this app so I highly recommend it. For the little time it takes to find the rebates, you can earn FREE money for the purchases you would be making anyways.

 

If you are interested in the Ibotta App here is the link to the website or you can find it for your smartphone in your itunes or android/google store. 85b1e55bab94bd80c698b64c678125f7

*For those of you that do not want to use the app there is a website version that you can add the rebates to your account but you need the app in order to redeem the rebates.

**Please note that is not a paid endorsement from Ibotta but a review with my own opinions and love for the app and company.