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If you grew up in Florida, Disney World probably played an integral role in your childhood.
Riding the monorail from park to park, visiting “the Mountains” of Magic Kingdom, screaming on Tower of Terror and ending the day with fireworks at Cinderella’s Castle still make for an awesome day, even more so as an adult.
But with adulting comes all the expenses that take your Disney budget from hero to zero.
How to Save Money for a Disney World Vacation
The great thing about living in Florida is you’re never too far from Disney, which already saves money on plane tickets, hotel stays and number of times you have to eat out.
Sheena Grosshans owns a dish rental company and her husband James is a teacher. Being central Florida residents, they had annual passes for seven years. When their son turned 3 last year, they couldn’t stomach the additional cost of his pass.
“We let ours expire in January and got water park passes for the family for less than the price of one annual pass,” she said. “We’ve gone almost every weekend but will probably just save for his [Disney] pass and renew ours around the holidays.”
If you’re trying to figure out how to fit annual passes (or just a few dinners at Disney Springs) into your budget, try these tips to lower your monthly expenses. Your wallet — and those neglected Mickey ears — will be glad you did.
1. Refinance Any High-Interest Debt
You should definitely prioritize paying off your debt over Dole Whip — no matter how delicious it is. If you’re finding it hard to make a dent in your principle with all the interest piling up, try refinancing to get a lower rate.
Even Financial is a loan-matching service you can use to refinance credit card debt. Its fixed rates start at 4.99% with terms from 24 to 84 months.
Even’s one-page application will connect you to the best loan for you from one of its partners. This is a great method if you have high-interest debt that you can’t get a balance transfer card for.
2. Transfer to a 0% APR Credit Card
If you have credit card debt, transferring the balance to a 0% interest credit card can save you big while you’re paying it off — which you should totally do before you buy those rose gold Minnie ears.
But for a good APR, you’ll need good credit.
If you want to make a plan to improve your credit, get your TransUnion credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.
Once you’ve taken steps to improve your credit, you can take this couple’s advice for using a balance transfer to pay off debt!
3. Lower Your Car Insurance Premium
Car insurance can eat up a big portion of your budget, and it seems to increase every year. Shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year is kind of your best option.
The Zebra can do that for you.
Unless you’re going to ditch your car — or move to New Hampshire — car insurance is just one of those things you’re going to have to pay for. The Zebra compares quotes from over 200 auto insurance providers in less than 60 seconds to get you the best chance of lowering your rate.
That’ll go a long way toward seeing actual zebras at Animal Kingdom.
4. Cancel (Mostly) Unused Memberships
You won’t need a gym membership with all the walking you’ll be doing at Magic Kingdom. But don’t stop at just the gym; think about other memberships you pay that you’re not getting enough use out of.
Warehouse stores, co-ops and extra cloud storage are great if you need them, but think about what you can do to save money elsewhere, and eliminate that monthly expense.
If you don’t have time to figure out your subscriptions, you can use the AI assistant Trim to discover and eliminate them for you.
Trim can automatically negotiate bills for you too. It works through Facebook Messenger or your text messages and acts like your own personal financial assistant.
5. Get Price Adjustments on Items You Buy Online
If you regularly shop online, you know how frequently prices drop and spike. Ain’t nobody got time to be monitoring all that! Especially if those purchases are on things you buy all the time, such as groceries, clothes or personal necessities.
Paribus is a free service that searches for ways to save on your online purchases at stores like Walmart, Target and Costco. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for purchase receipts.
If it discovers you’ve bought something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund if there’s an eligible price drop or saving opportunity.
6. Quit Cable
It’s easier than ever to cut the cord and still get the media that matters most to you.
If you’re nervous about quitting cold turkey, don’t worry. Netflix has a revolving door of Disney movies. If you still want the Disney Channel you can use Sling TV.
7. Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
For the amount you’re paying for phone service, you could probably afford a table at Be Our Guest. If you’re ready to pull the plug on pricy service, try Twigby.
That’s what Zak Wilson did. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.
Plus, new customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.
8. Meal Plan Consistently
Making a grocery list is a beautiful thing. It can take you from “cart full of things that will go bad before you figure out what to make with them” to “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
But to have a list, you have to devise a plan.
Meal planning can be intimidating, but following some simple meal-planning guidelines can save you hundreds on your grocery bill every month, which can add up to the cost of an annual pass quickly.
9. Downgrade Your Health Insurance
You’re young! Or at least young at heart. If you don’t go to the doctor often, enrolling in a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account can save you big time on premiums.
HSAs are great for long-term savings, too, and you can always switch plans at open enrollment if you anticipate higher health costs.
10. Switch to Term Life Insurance
If you still have that whole life policy your grandma took out on you when you were born, it might be time to cash it out and purchase a term life policy.
Term life insurance is way more affordable, and you can use PolicyGenius to find the lowest rates, based on your health.
And you’ll sleep better in that Port Orleans Resort bed knowing your loved ones are taken care of.
11. Opt for Free Entertainment
Stephanie Parrott was an underemployed single mom who wanted to get Disney World passes for her and her daughter Taryn. Instead of blowing her budget and going into debt, she sacrificed non-necessities.
“I paid monthly for the seasonal weekday pass for both of us,” she says. “This was our entertainment and eating-out budget for that year.”
If you’re saving up for a trip to Disney World but still want to have fun in the meantime, commiting to only doing activities that are free can get you to your goal faster.
12. Drive Less
I’ll put it out there: If you got rid of your car, you wouldn’t have to worry about a car payment, gas, insurance, maintenance or the check-engine light. The cost to take an Uber around town would probably still be lower than your car payment, and biking to work will make you super fit.
If you’re not that committed (I don’t blame you), you can try a carpool to work, go carless on the weekend or drive with Uber or Lyft to offset the cost.
Jen Smith is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder and gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk. She gets a Florida resident three-day Disney ticket every year.
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