Saving Up for Disney

Budgeting Tips for Your Entire Life!


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Resolution Series – “I Want to Save More Money” – 5 Basic Questions to Ask Yourself

Resolution Series - Kick Start the Year Towards a Healthier, Wealthier and More Organized You!

It’s not simply enough to say that you want to “save money”. The first thing you need to do is set your goal!

When my husband and I were working with a broker/Realtor to purchase our first house, he told us the minimum we’d need in cash for a down payment/closing costs. We set our monetary goal, figured out the timeline and made a savings plan. Within four months, we had more than enough set aside in our savings account. We’ve continued putting money aside in our savings account, though not as aggressively as when we had that particular goal. What a great feeling to have cash in the bank to fall back on when brakes on the car need repair, your husband is laid off for six weeks or your ceiling has a leak (all things that happened to us last year!)


Get out your note pad and make it real by answering these 5 basic money saving questions —

1. What is your monetary goal? 

Write down a number. Best to overshoot and make the number higher than you think you’ll need.

2. What are you saving for?

Keep your savings on track by pinpointing what the money is earmarked for. Whether it be you’re saving up for something grand like a home down payment or you just want to buy that gorgeous Dooney & Bourke handbag, make the goal real by writing it down. Maybe even print a photo that you put in a prominent place to keep you on track!

3. How long will it take you to reach your goal?

Set a deadline for yourself that’s within the foreseeable future. If your ultimate goal number is really big, break it up into quarters and set a date that is close at hand to help keep your savings spirits up!

4. What are you willing to give up to make saving possible?

Make sure you know your True Budget first and see where the extra savings money is going to come from to make your goal savings a reality. Try using this helpful worksheet. What’s in your budget that you’re willing to sacrifice to meet that goal? I’ve covered this topic in my articles Learning to Live Without and Realistic Ways of Cutting Back in Your Budget.

5. Is your savings plan reasonable?

The last thing you want to do is crash and burn on your goal because it’s too stressful or unrealistic. Make sure your budget has flexibility to continue to allow for fun things or emergencies.


Once you’ve answered all these questions, figure out exactly how much you’ll be setting aside each month to meet your goal.  Simple formula: Total amount you want to save divided by the months that it will take you to reach the goal = How much you need to save each month


There is still time to get those resolutions in for the year. It’s never too late as you know, to make meaningful changes! Please read up on the other topics in my Resolution Series –

I Want to Start an Exercise Routine

I Want to Look More Put Together Head to Toe

I Want to Eat Healthier

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Budgeting Steps to Savings -Buying the Best You Can Afford…Without Going Broke

Cheap stuff is cheap for a reason.

For me, I’d much rather buy a higher quality item than something made cheaply. I use the word “cheap” as something that is inexpensive and also of lesser quality. I know there are many out there who would prefer to buy the same cheap items each year so they can have something “new”. They buy a brand new coat each winter, new bedding for everyone in the family, and new backpacks for back-to-school. But I like to have the quality item up-front and not waste money, time and energy replacing it every year. Not to mention the waste of throwing out a broken item that can’t be repaired because it wasn’t made well in the first place.

How to buy the best that you can afford...without going broke!

In the long run, it’s more savvy (and more economical) to put your money into something that will last you longer than just the year and will need to be replaced. Yes, high-quality items usually do come with a higher price tag as well. Naturally when better materials are being used the price is going to be higher. But high-end items do go on sale. Pay attention to trends and know when to buy. Get on the mailing list of your favorite stores that sell high-quality products and shop smart – Take advantage of sales, use coupons and the store credit card if they offer one to get the best price.

Heed this…just because something is expensive does not mean that it’s high-quality! Do your research on what brands are actually high-quality. Read reviews online. Go to the store and physically examine them.  Is the plastic on that toy too flimsy to hold up to multiple play sessions? Are the seams on that sweater sewn sturdily and finished off or will they unravel upon the first wearing? Are the online reviews on that dishwasher bad enough to make you consider handwashing instead?

Know your product before plunking down your hard-earned money. This is all about buying the best of what you can afford. It is not about living outside your means or going into debt. If you can’t afford the item that you really want to get, consider waiting and saving up for it and not just settling for the cheap alternative. You can afford the best if you are willing to wait for it.


Divide to conquer

Divide the cost of the item by how many times you expect to use it. My littlest son alternates between two pairs of shoes. Rather than purchase him 10 pairs of cheap shoes that wear out quickly or are made so poorly that they hurt his feet, I choose to buy him only two pairs of high-quality shoes. Yes, these shoes (I buy Pedipeds) may cost $35-50 each but I know that I’m getting my money’s worth because he wears them every other day. After six months my son has probably outgrown his shoes but they are so nicely made that I’ve been able to hand them down to another child because they are still in great condition!

Pediped shoes


Construction

My friend and I were just discussing the paper-thin tees that are now sold in every store; The fabric is so bad these shirts develop holes after just a few wearings! Cheap construction also often means loose seams and poor shaping. These are clothes that are so cheaply made they are literally falling apart as you wear them!  Did you know that clothing is often starched to hold the shape on the store hangers? Once the piece is washed at home, the collars go wonky and the seams pucker.

Buy well-made and high-quality classics that will last more than just a year. Take a look at your closet and see what pieces you wear the most each season and replace the cheap items with a higher quality item one at a time as you can afford it. Think about classic pieces that don’t go out of style like black slacks, coat, boots, denim skirt, wrap dress in a solid color, cardigan sweaters, etc.


Take care

If you owned a high-quality handbag, would you even think of setting it down on the floor in a public place or would you make sure it was kept clean and off the ground? What about a brand new BMW? You probably wouldn’t be eating drive-through fast food tacos inside your fancy car! Make a point of taking proper care of what you have and eliminate the necessity of having to replace it. If you buy something high-quality, even if it gets dirty or needs fixing, the parts and fabric are going to be able to hold up to repair and cleaning so much better than inferior items.

Clean items regularly and do proper maintenance. Resole boots instead of purchasing new. Have winter items dry cleaned before storing away for the next season. Keep your jewelry and watches in the original boxes or in a divided jewelry organizer so they don’t get tangled or broken. Take care of your stuff and it will be there for you when you need it.

Armitron watch


Buy Less often

Assess your need before you buy. Having new things is fun but not always necessary. I’ve addressed this before in my post Learning to Live Without.  If you don’t need anything specific then simply avoid the stores (and ultimately, any binge buying). If you have two pairs of winter pajamas and rotate them when you launder, why would you need to buy another pair? And who really needs 30 pairs of white socks when you can probably get away with less than ten pairs if you do your laundry at least once a week. Keep it simple, pare things down and only buy when the need is great.


Spend more for every day use items

I knew someone who used to redecorate her bathroom twice a year: a new shower curtain, new rug, new towels, etc. Was it because she just wanted to freshen things up? No, it was because the items that she’d purchased six months earlier were already falling apart! The cheap plastic shower curtain was torn from the hooks, the edge of the rug lost its seam after one wash and the thin towels were faded and developing holes. If the cost of that “cheap” bathroom redo is $75 every year and the cost of higher quality bathroom accessories would be around $150, wouldn’t it make sense in the long run to buy higher quality items that will last at least 5 years instead of only six months? Look for items that will hold up to frequent cleaning (like a fabric shower curtain instead of plastic) or glass pieces instead of plastic.

Organized bathroom


It’s a guarantee

I’ve mentioned this before in my post Tips for Making Returns but it’s always better to purchase a higher priced item if you know it has a full replacement guarantee. Also check the warranty before you buy and this may sway you to a particular item knowing that it could be replaced if it breaks within a certain time frame.


Keep it around for a while

Think about the items that you plan to have for the next 10-20 years (your car, furniture, bedding, mattress and some large appliances). These should be considered investment items.

In the case of appliances, this is one area that I find that buying a high-quality item is going to pay off for you in the long-run. We burned out the motors of three cheap blenders in three years. We finally wised-up, did our research and bought a Ninja. Yes, it was $150 but we use it nearly every day and have never had an issue. Same goes for the vacuum. I bought my Kirby 15 years ago and have never even had to get it serviced while other family members have gone through several cheap vacuums along the same timeline.

For furniture, try to shop vintage or antique. These items were made to a higher quality standard back-in-the-day and feature real wood instead of laminate and dovetailed drawers instead of staples. Ask what the return policies are before you purchase large ticket items in case it doesn’t work out as you’d intended.

Handcrafted patio furniture


To last a lifetime

There are items that are intended to last a lifetime and you’ll probably only have to buy it one time ever. Would you replace your wedding ring after a year of wearing it because you simply wanted something new? No, because it’s a classic piece, something you bought intending to keep forever and not something to get bored with and replace on a whim. Same should go for many of your daily use kitchen items, including your silverware, dishes, stemware, knives and cookware. Apply this to your occasional use items like luggage as well.

Choose classic designs that won’t look dated in a few years. Look for brand names with high quality and don’t be afraid to spend more in this area since you’ll hopefully own them forever. It’s not boring to keep the same items especially if you purchase classic pieces in the first place. I don’t think I could ever tire of my beautiful Lenox Chirp design dinnerware! These items will become sentimental to you so choose something you really love and enjoy using every day.

Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Do you have an example of something that you will only buy high-quality? Please share in the comments below!

Please read my other Steps to Savings articles to get your budget on the right track!

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Budgeting Steps to Savings – Why Do We Pay Everything With Credit Cards?

Why do we pay for everything with credit cards? {Saving up for Disney}

One of the things that you’ll read in many of the budgeting advice articles is that you should be paying cash for items and not to use credit cards. And that is totally true when you are first adjusting to your budget. I agree, you should use whatever cash system works best for you until you get a rein on your spending and a feel for what your True Budget is.

Once you’ve been practicing with a solid budget for a few months and have a better feel for spending patterns (and you have a savings plan going), it’s time to venture into using credit cards. Responsible credit card use can be good for your credit score as well as reward you in points/dollars back just for spending as you normally do!

Did you catch that part…”spending as you normally do”? More on that in a bit…


8 years ago I was deeply in debt after my first marriage. I went through a credit counseling service program, paid off all debt and slowly built myself back up. I started with a department store credit card, probably one of the easier cards to apply and get approved for. I used the card and paid off the balance each month to avoid interest (because why bother using 30% coupons for shopping only to have it all erased with a monthly interest charge?!).

After a year or so, I applied for a Disney Chase Premier Visa. At first, I only used it sparingly on purchases here and there. Once I remarried and looked more closely at our spending patterns, I decided to try paying our monthly bills with this credit card. I have our monthly bills (cell phones, trash, cable, water) set up on this card automatically, so I know upfront approximately how much will be going on to the card each month. This way I can adjust my budget appropriately and make sure I pay the full balance to avoid interest charges.

We earn Disney Dream Rewards Dollars that we can redeem at the parks or Disney store (read more about the rewards program here). Last year, we’d earned and saved over $225 dollars that paid for all our food and souvenirs for a Disneyland weekend. From this point on we’re saving up towards our future Walt Disney World vacation. Every little bit helps and we aren’t spending more or doing anything special to earn these rewards dollars, just spending as we usually do.

After using the Disney Chase Visa for a few years, we were approved for an American Express TrueEarnings card from Costco. We do probably 90% of our grocery shopping from Costco and only buy our gasoline here as well so it only made sense that we have an Amex to use at Costco (Costco doesn’t accept any other credit card). We earn points here that come back to us once a year in the form of a Costco rebate check.


Advantages to using a credit card for spending:

  • I find that using a credit card is easier for me to keep track of our spending. I am able to check (daily, if I want) to see expenses on our online statements. Keeping track of cash payments can be a challenge unless you save and account for every receipt.
  • Earning points or rewards back, depending on the card you choose. I absolutely recommend only using a credit card that gives you something in return.
  • When used properly (no late payments), using credit cards can improve your credit score.

Disadvantages

  • Using credit cards for all purchases requires discipline. Just because you can’t see the dollars coming out of your wallet, you still have to be accountable for what you spend on credit cards. Sticking with the budget requires you to be accountable for your spending. Knowing in advance what you can spend for the month and checking your online statements regularly help you stay on track. If you don’t know your “True Budget” yet, start here.
  • A late or missed payment could mean you are paying high interest rates if the balance isn’t paid in full each month. I tend to make payments on my credit card every week to keep up with what we are spending.

Handy Links:

Daily Budgeting – How Credit Cards can Make Your Household Budget Work Better

Get Rich Slowly – 5 Habits of Highly-Effective Credit Card Users

Budgets are Sexy – Credit Card Budget

Our Freaking Budget – Why We Use Credit Cards