Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Saving Money at Disney World

Disney World castle lit up in icicle lights at night. Bluish purple words beneath the image read: "Disney World Savings Tips femmefrugality.com"

The capstone on our Florida trip was Disney World. We had gone not all that long ago, and I had politely put in a complaint about accessibility issues at the park. They offered me free tickets to compensate us for our troubles, so we tried again a few months ago.

Things were mostly better this time. Far from perfect; policies at the park still do not give adequate access to the disabled. But I appreciated that they tried and that we only ran into one gnarly park employee this time around.

Aside from having an overall better experience, I did learn a couple things I wanted to tack on to last year’s Disney savings tips.

Balloons are exchangeable.

 

I spent an embarrassing amount of money on a balloon for one of the littles. I mean, it was pretty awesome. A balloon inside of another balloon–both of which have yet to pop.

The quality might be the reason why the balloon lady let me in on a little secret: you can totally exchange your balloon. If it pops or flies away, just bring your receipt and any balloon remains to the nearest person selling balloons to get a replacement.

Now, let’s say you bought your balloon at Magic Kingdom. The balloon floated away on your way to the car, but you’re not going to Magic Kingdom the next day. You’re going to Disney Hollywood Studios.

Doesn’t matter. Take your receipt to the balloon seller at Hollywood Studios and they’ll get a replacement with no hassle.

Yes, I was tempted to take my receipt to the balloon seller at Hollywood Studios to score a second awesome balloon dishonestly.

No, I did not follow through.

Eat before you go to the park.


Last time we went to Disney World, we tried to wake up early and get there as soon as the parks opened. It was May. It was muggy. Everyone got moody.

So this time, we left a little later in the morning, grabbing a leisurely brunch on the way there. One day we did pancakes in the timeshare (which was once again kindly given to us as a gift by a family member), another we hit up a diner, etc.

In turn, we grabbed one meal, generally at a quick-serve place, while we were at the park and stayed out past bedtime.

If we judge by happiness levels, this was a much better plan. Although another contributing factor may have been the time of year.

I mean, was I happy to pay $60-$70 for quick-serve food? No. But if I’m honest, the quality of food there was higher than what we would have gotten at the fast food joint I would have stopped on the way home out of sheer exhaustion. The price wasn’t ideal, but…

Budget-wise, it was a major win over last year. We ate far fewer meals at the park total, and I cut the character meals altogether. We had already done that once, and the hack I found to meet characters for free for sure at a scheduled time was employed heavily this time around. Calling it a hack might seem like a bit much, but after you’ve spent money on the character meals, it feels like one heck of a hack.

So we didn’t have to stress about meal plans, It also meant we weren’t rushing around to make our reservations because we didn’t have any. So. much. less. stress.

And so much less money.

Ordering professional photos.

Around the different parks, you’ll see opportunities to get your picture taken. Sometimes it’s with mascots, sometimes it’s just at a scenic park. We noticed a bunch of these especially in Animal Kingdom.

I don’t have the best camera on my phone and I’m not the best photographer, so this time I made sure to purposefully take advantage. I tried to bunch together all our professional picture taking at two parks so I could pay to buy the photos from the Disney app for each day. By only doing two days, I was able to save money over paying the “whole trip” price.

Unfortunately I did that last time. There were just too many great memories and pictures. But I did learn the bunching method from that experience.

Do you have Disney World savings tips?

What are your favorite Disney savings hacks? Leave them in the comments!

 

Valentine’s DNA

Modern woman split-screened with a photograph of her ancestory featured on a field of red hearts. "What will you discover?" "Start here" "ancestrydna" "femmefrugality.com"

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’ve been wanting to do a new, holiday-centric piece. I wasn’t exactly sure where to take it this year, though. I wasn’t feeling incredibly sappy, so I instead went incredibly nerdy.

I started thinking of all the DNA we all carry in each one of our cells. How that DNA contains a history of countless couples mating in some way. And how the end result of all of that history and all of those lives is you.

And that in and of itself is pretty amazing, whether you have another set of DNA cuddling next to you on the couch or not.

If you don’t feel like waiting until the end to see how this pertains to money, Ancestry is having a super sale on AncestryDNA for Valentine’s Day. I usually only write  about the sales on this product for Black Friday as that’s the biggest one they have all year, but this one is dramatic enough that it’s worth shouting from the rooftops.

You have a lot of ancestors. And they might not have been human.

If you trace back just 30 generations, or about 1,000 years back, you have over 1 trillion direct ancestors. Homo sapiens are 200k-300k years old. I don’t know how to pronounce the number of ancestors you could potentially have, friend.

Except you don’t have as many ancestors as basic math would imply. Humans have inbred over their history, and not everyone has had kids. There are significant bottlenecks in the DNA story of each one of us.

Our ancestors were mostly human. Some but not all people will have some Neanderthals and Denisovans in their direct line, too, though.

Eve is real. Kind of.

Mitochodrial DNA is passed on from your mother’s side. Always. What that means is if we all trace back far enough in our mitochondrial DNA, we should be able to find our initial mothers.

Except that we all have one mitochondrial mother, aptly named Eve. Eve wasn’t the only female around at her time, but her mitochondrial DNA was the only one to survive. That doesn’t mean you’re not related to another contemporary of Eve’s on your father’s side, say, or even your mother’s side through her father.

But it does mean that the mother-to-child mitochondrial DNA chain was broken for all of her contemporary females, but not Eve. We all call the same common anscestor, “Mom,” though she was not necessarily the very first human mother.

Valentine’s Day isn’t the biggest DNA fest.

When we look at birth months in the US, there is a significant drop in October and November, right when you’d expect Valentine’s Day babies to be born. Instead, the most popular times to exchange DNA appear to be November and December, according to the CDC’s birth numbers. This assumes all babies will be born on their due date, which is a noteworthy asterisk.

I love this nurse midwife’s insight into the whole thing. Like she talks about Polar Vortex babies: Because when no one can or wants to leave the house, they apparently get together more. Then nine months later, she’s crazy busy at work.

Cold weather = Less crime and more babies.

There’s a sale. Learn more about your DNA for less.

This year for Valentine’s Day, Ancestry is lowering the price of their AncestryDNA kit from $99 to $59–that’s 40% off! It’s not too often that they have sales this big, but when they do, AncestryDNA is a reader favorite.

 

 

How to Make Sign Language Valentines

Pinning so I can help my kids make these sign language Valentines in February!

Studying other languages shows us the similarities and differences between the ways we all communicate as human beings, opening up such great beauty.

For example, German and Welsh among other languages seem to have an endless supply of compound words for complex concepts. As I study Japanese, I’m recognizing loan words not just from English, but also Russian. My previous studies also help in the noun declension–a practice that is foreign to American English grammar.

As you get the kids ready for Valentines Day, I wanted to share a project I worked on some years back that brought together the beauty of love and foreign language. It was way more frugal than buying boxed Valentines. I used American Sign Language’s visual modality to create cards in the language’s one, singular sign that takes three English words to express:

“I love you.”

Materials

When I made these, I completely lucked out.  I found these foam heart cut-outs at the store that just happened to be the exact right size to fit into the palm of a hand. They also came with a little stand.

The teachers loved this because they could stick them on top of their computers, desks, you name it.  You were supposed to put a photo in them, but I just used the hole to address mine. They were $1 and I think I got 25.

No need to fear, though.  You can simply use hearts cut out of construction paper.  That’s what I had the students I worked with do the next year when we made these.

You’ll need:

  • skin tone colored construction paper or cardstock (you can gets packs of this at somewhere like Staples or Office Max for a ton cheaper than  at crafting or scrapbook stores.)
  • pink/red construction paper or card stock (or purple.  Or really whatever colors you want to make your hearts.)
  • scissors
  • a pen or pencil for tracing
  • a pen or sharpie for addressing

How to Make Your Valentines

  1. Trace your or your child’s hand onto one of the pieces of paper.  Do it as many times as you can fit without overlapping.  When I did this, I traced my hand every….single….time.  In a day of 3-in-1 printers, that probably isn’t necessary.  Just do one, and use the copy feature on your printer to copy the hands onto the skin toned paper.
  2. Cut out the hands.
  3. Cut out hearts. Mess around with the first one  until you get it the right size to fit in the hands. Then use it as a pattern to cut out all the rest of them.
  4. Glue the hearts onto the palms of the hands.
  5. Bend the ring and the middle fingers down so they are holding the heart, but not covering it. Glue the two fingers down.
  6. Write your “To/From” info in the middle of your heart and you’re done!

Get Cash Money for Not Giving Up on Your Resolutions

This is awesome. $60 for saving in my savings account like I'm already doing, and an additional potential $1,500 in prizes? Yes, please!

Dedicated readers with elephant memories will remember last year when we talked about SaverLife, nonprofit EARN’s program that pays you to stash money in your savings account.

If you don’t have an elephant memory, check out the post. It’s one of the easiest ways to make $60 you’ll ever come across.

The reason I’m bringing this up–aside from getting you an easy sixty bucs–is that EARN is currently running two stellar contests that will help you keep your financial resolve this year, and possibly earn a cash prize.

Pledge to Save Part of Your Tax Refund

Ahhh, I remember the days when I got a tax refund. Back in the days before my business was my primary means of income and my W-2 employer withheld money from each paycheck.

Getting a tax refund is a great feeling. It’s an instantaneously injection of cash into your life, which can help you get caught up on bills, actually be able to afford that family vacation or pay down some debt. One year I even used the majority of my tax refund to get a much needed mattress after years of horrific sleep.

It’s really tempting to spend your tax refund all at once. For a lot of people, the lump sum is more money than you’ll see deposited into your bank account all year. I know it was for me.

But when you get that much cash at once, spending it all in one place isn’t a great idea. That money can offer you some much needed financial security, and one of the best ways to assure that financial security is by saving it.

That’s why SaverLife is asking you to pledge to save at least a portion of your tax return this year. It’s an initiative I can totally get behind. To top it all off, the nonprofit is giving away $15,000 in prizes to people who pledge. Each individual can potentially win $500.

In the unlikely event I do get a refund (I’m not sure how my health insurance subsidies are going to work out this year,) I’ve taken the pledge. And I invite you to do the same here.

#SavingsResolution Photo Contest

It’s the end of January, which is a time when a lot of people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions.

But not you. You know that even if you haven’t reached your January goals, giving up in February is a sure recipe for failure. You know that you’ll get much further if you don’t give up and keep putting effort in for the remaining eleven months of the year.

SaveLife is supporting people in the pursuit of their savings goals with a separate contest. The #SavingsResolution contest is easy to enter. You just snap a picture or video representing something meaningful that you’re saving for. Then you upload it for your chance to win $1,000 to apply towards your savings goals.

How are you handling savings this year?

What are you saving for? Are you saving a portion of your tax refund? Are you pushing through in February even if you didn’t hit your goals in January?

I want to hear all about it in the comments, along with if you took the pledge or entered the photo contest!

 

Easy Tricks to Save Money on Wedding Gowns

This post, which is contributed by an outside writer, is brought to you by JJs House.

Great tips! My BFF just got engaged--pinning for when she goes wedding dress shopping!

Every bride wants to make her wedding day extremely special. She tries to manage everything within her wedding budget. But there’s one thing most brides don’t like to compromise on: wedding dresses.

Fortunately, you can find beautiful wedding dresses at an affordable price. You will need to strategize ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to plan out all the small details. To make your search easy, get an idea of a budget for your wedding gown. Then sit down with these ideas that can help you in the selection of a beautiful dress within your budget.

A Beautiful Trunk Show

If you are crushing on a particular wedding dress, choose a trunk show. In trunk shows, designers highlight their new or current collection at bridal boutiques. These boutiques list their shows in advance, so you can easily shop dresses for your wedding.

While scheduling your appointment, you have to ask the greeter about purchase incentives. In this way, you can get bonus items for free while you buy a beautiful dress. Incentives can be a veil or a unique wedding accessory. You have to do your research before going shopping to make this process easy.

Try Rented Dresses

If you can’t buy an expensive wedding dress because of your tight budget, you can consider renting this dress. There are tons of sites out there that allow you to rent a dress, searching within your budget.

You can rent a wedding dress for almost eight days for $525 or even less. Many times you’ll find high-profile designers for rent on these sites. People wear the dress once and then try to recoup some of their expenses by renting out or reselling the dress.

Make sure to read the terms, conditions, and policies before you borrow a dress. Confirm any payment plans so you don’t accidentally miss a payment.

Pre-loved Wedding Gowns

If you love a designer wedding gown and it is out of your budget, you can consider alternative options. Used bridal dresses are readily available, especially with sites specialized in re-selling designer gowns. You can wear a wedding gown for only once and only for a short time–at least in a way that’s socially acceptable. Reselling is a more practical choice than paying a bunch of money to store it in your attic for some hypothetical grandchild who won’t want to wear it someday.

With you purchase a used wedding dress, you can wear a wedding gown from your favorite designer at a good discount. Or, if you purchase the dress new, you can resell the gown on the market after your wedding to recoup upwards of 70 to 75 percent of the purchase price.

Select Must-Have Items

Start shopping based on the elements on your wish list and eliminate pricey or less critical items. Select a must-have or focal point item for your wedding dress to control your budget while widening your choices. Shop your wedding dress with an open mind. Consider a sequined bodice with a beautiful skirt instead of intricate lace gowns. You can up the glitz by instead accenting with unique jewelery and shoes. You can even browse bridesmaid dresses to find a white gown for your wedding. These options can be affordable for anyone.