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Summer break sometimes means summer vacations if we are lucky enough to get away.  With my ever-expanding brood, it not only takes more time for me to get places, but also more money.  Not so much that the twins want everything they see, but my older two think they need to have it.  It’s way past the wanting phase now.

We planned a trip to Disneyland and I was a little concerned about blowing every last dollar on unnecessary Mouse items to clutter up our house, only to be given away or thrown out within the year.  We had a few holidays and birthdays coming up before hand, and I remembered seeing Disney gift cards at the grocery store.  A while back I had considered buying my kids Starbucks gift cards and telling them every time we go in, that they had X amount of dollars they could choose to spend, as Starbucks is another place my kiddos seem to always want to go wild in.  I decided they were too young at the time to figure it out, and fortunately, we’ve curbed that habit since then.  But, I figured, this may be the Golden Opportunity to teach them a lesson in the value of a dollar as well as keep me from having to feel like a Disney version of Hoarders.

Here is what I did:

  • Prior to the trip, when people asked, I suggested gift cards to Disney for each kid for their birthday or holiday.
  • Before we left, I explained to them that they would each be given “Disney Dollars.”  The Dollars were for their use, they could spend it on anything they wanted in the park…anything, including lollipops, character cups, light up night toys, t-shirts, dolls, etc.
  • When the Disney Dollars were gone, however, that was it.  Mommy wasn’t buying anything else for them.  I explained to them they had to be very mindful as to what they were going to spend their Disney Dollars on.  We were going to be there for three days, so they should take their time and look around, then decide on big things later.  (I also didn’t want to get stuck pushing two newborns, while chasing after two kiddos, bogged down with plastic Disney bags!)

I did not spend Disney Dollars on this shirt. My mom bought it for me years ago!

Here’s what they did:

  • My son is a thinker.  Immediately, I could see the little wheels turning.  Once he got it, he right away started the negotiations.  Would I buy them food? Did that include breakfast, lunch and dinner (not kidding)? What if he wanted an ice cream, who would pay for that?  What if his cousin wanted something, who would buy that for him? What about clothes? Who would pay for that because he certainly wasn’t spending his money on a sweatshirt, that would have to come out of my pocket.  The questions didn’t end until we finally left Disneyland…like two weeks later.
  • My daughter listened to all the questions her brother asked.  When we got there, she did exactly what I suggested, calculating all the responses I gave to his questions earlier.  She knew exactly what she wanted.  She bought herself the Tangled baby doll (which apparently was in high demand), matching toys for her and her BFF, some mints for her daddy to thank him for the trip, two toys for the twins, and some lollipops and jewelry for herself.  She was most definitely a satisfied customer.
What it taught us:
  • It really made the trip more enjoyable because they were not so intent on making sure they had everything they saw.  They were more interested in the rides, the characters, having fun vs. shopping and merchandising.  The reality is that we have been to Disney so many times, they already have it all: the hats, the light sticks, the dolls, the shirts, the suckers, the balloons…what else could they possibly need from Disney??
  • They kept asking how much things were, and what they would have left if they bought it.  This was great because it was teaching them math skills as well as the value of  a dollar.  They didn’t want to spend all of their money, and they didn’t ask me to spend mine either.  They were pretty proud of their Disney Dollars, and I heard them say things like, “Nah, we don’t need that.”  “That’s too much money.” They did take their time with their big purchases, in fact we went back on the third day to shop, and it was fast because they already knew what they wanted from looking around before.
  • I felt more relaxed because I was able to stick within my planned budget.  I paid for all their meals, like I promised, bought them each a sweatshirt, and even got the babies a toy.  (It was their first trip after all.)  I treated everyone (my kids and nephews) to a light up sword for the World of Color show…which ironically, they all refused because they thought they would have to pay for it…and a few small treats in between.
  • We really got to focus on why we were there…to enjoy each other and the magical kingdom like Walt himself intended us to!
I was so proud of my kids, and myself, for sticking to our budget, respecting our money and not over-spending.  I felt great at the end of that trip, not only because we were able to learn some pretty valuable lessons, but I also wasn’t stressing about how I was going to juggle the funds until the next paycheck because we dipped to splurge.  No splurging was needed and we all had a fun time.  Can you believe…my kids are so frugal, they even came home with dollars still left on their Disney Gift Cards!