How Grocery Savings Can Take You to Disney World

Turn Savvy Shopping into Family Travel

If your kids are like mine, they beg daily to go to Disney World or to stay at a hotel for the buffet breakfast and awesome pool. I’m pretty sure I know where they get it from; I research travel deals more often than I’d like to admit. With our family’s wanderlust, we set a high budget annually for travel, but we also try to find creative ways to free up some additional cash to pay for spontaneous trips we just can’t pass up. This is part of why I continually seek ways to save as much as possible on our food spending each month.

In 7 EASY Ways to Save on Groceries, I shared how our family of 6 got our grocery budget down from over $1200 per month to closer to $900.On average, we continue to save about 17% – 25% of our total on each trip to the grocery store by using coupons and capitalizing on weekly sales and clearance offers. We also use ibotta to get up to $8 cash back per receipt. Over the last year, with the exception of the months at the start of the pandemic, we saved nearly $3600 on groceries and earned about $112 in cash back from ibotta. That amounts to $3,712 that could be put toward additional investing or travel!

Let’s see how this math plays out for a “typical” American family. The average grocery costs for a family of 4 in America is between $800 and $1,000 per month. If a family can reduce its grocery spending by 25% over the next 12 months, that would give a family an additional $200 – $250 per month to go toward other opportunities. If that money were invested and compounded annually at 8%, those grocery savings would amount to approximately $36,688 – $45,860 in cash at the end of 10 years. That could be a down payment on a house or a trip around the world! It could even allow you to retire an entire year earlier.

However, if you need more short-term motivation, those annual savings of $2,400 to $3,000 could take your family of four to Disney World or any other favorite vacation destination each year. Here’s how:

  1. Use a hotel rewards card for all your grocery shopping. At the time this was published, Hilton Honors offers a 150,000 point sign-up bonus as well as 5x points for grocery spending, meaning that your annual spending of $7,200 would provide you with 186,000 points to use toward hotel stays. (That’s just with grocery spending, not including anything else you’d put on that card.) *Important: Only sign up for a credit card if you are able to make your payments every month on time!*
  2. Transfer the amount you save in groceries each month into a high-yield savings account and give that account a clever name to keep you motivated, such as “Meeting Mickey Mouse”.
  3. Use the calendar function on Disney’s website to find the most affordable days to visit Disney World (or do research for cheapest time to travel to your desired destination/theme park). Mid-week travel in August and September is often when you’ll find the best prices. For a family of four, 4-day passes to Disney World Resort (1 park per day) come out to $1,708.28.
  4. Find the best hotel using your points. Log in to the specific hotel chain associated with the credit card you signed up for (Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt…), and search the dates of travel associated with the lowest-priced theme park tickets. Select the option to “Pay with Points” or “Use Points”. A quick search turned up dozens of hotels priced at 20,000 to 30,000 points per night. With the Hilton Honors example above, you’d have at least 186,000 points available to go toward this stay, which would cover 6 to 9 nights away.
  5. Book your trip and use the remaining $700 to $1300 (or more with added interest and cash back) toward flights, rental cars, or food. Find more ways to save on airfare and rental car!

This method of motivation to save on groceries not only works for you, but it’s a great way to get your kids on board with learning about the benefits of frugality too. If a trip to Disney World is promised, kids may be willing to try more off-brand foods, finish the leftovers in the fridge, and help with meal planning and prep! It’s a win-win for everyone.

AMP UP Your Savings

7 Proven Ways to Increase Your Savings Rate

Savings rate? Who keeps up with that? We have so many expenses, not only the basics but also the high expectations of what a “good life” should look like. Is there anything left to put aside for saving or investing?

There has to be! Every personal finance expert out there will tell you that you need an emergency fund, preferable equal to 3-6 months of monthly expenses, accessible at all times. They also recommend investing for your future at a higher rate than you’d probably think possible. All in all, it seems we should be aiming for a savings rate of at least 25% of our gross monthly income, setting some aside for emergencies, some for retirement investing, and a little extra for living a full life. This requires motivation and dedication. I propose the route of immaturity to get you started. 😉

Do you know that awful song that kids sing about a watery substance that most people don’t like to speak of? The lyrics start like this, “When you’re sliding into first, and you feel your britches burst, ______, _______.”

My older two kids have taken to singing this song more often than I’d like. To prevent my younger two from adding it to their favorite song list, I sing over them and change the lyrics:

“If you really want a jeep when you reach age sixteen, save your money! Save your money! If you really want a scooter that has a fast motor, save your money, save your money!”

This song can work for adulting wants and needs as well…

“If you need a gorgeous beach to escape a tough week, save your money! Save your money! If the truck keeps breaking down every time you’re in town, save your money! Save your money!”

Go ahead, make up your own lyrics. It’s pretty catchy. And then when you’re done, check out some of these more serious ways to motivate you to amp up your savings.

1. Name your accounts.

I read about this idea in one of my favorite mindset books, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Try adding an emotional connection to your accounts by giving each a name, like “Ditch the Clunker” if saving for a new-to-you car, “Oh No, Not Now” if growing your emergency fund, or “Escape Rona” if saving for an epic vacay when we’re free of the Covid. This might motivate you to keep adding to these accounts.

2. Reward yourself … often.

Every time you make a frugal decision over a splurge, such as cooking on a Friday night or driving past the very enticing shaved ice truck, reward yourself with $5 or $10 in one of the above funds.

Reward yourself every time you make a good frugal choice, including skipping that delicious shaved ice.

3. Move from debt-free to saving big.

After you pay off a debt, take the amount of money you were putting toward that debt each month and put it into savings instead of spending any part of it. (You already adjusted to not having that money to spend anyway.)

4. Wait … and wait … and wait.

Wait 24, or even 48, hours before making a “want” purchase. If you decide after that 24 hours not to buy it after all, reward yourself by putting the amount of the purchase in one of your savings accounts to go toward something more meaningful.

Set it and forget it. Saving can be easy and fun.

5. Set it and forget it.

I’m not sure who coined this phrase, but it works! You can create your own catchy phrase to force yourself to transfer a set amount of money from checking to savings each paycheck. Maybe “Automate my savings rate!” or “Conquer the transfer!” However you refer to the practice, repeat it in your mind until you just do it.

6. Shop around.

Find the best APY so that the money you save will work for you. Check out Nerd Wallet’s list of online savings accounts to make an informed decision. If you’re looking to invest the extra savings, JL Collin’s Stock Series has excellent advice about where to put your cash depending on your goals.

7. Keep the change, ya filthy animal

Try out a program such as Acorns or through your local bank that will automatically round up your purchases to the next dollar and deposit the difference (the change) into your savings or investment account.

Increase your savings a little bit at a time.

These tactics tend to work for me so that I am continually finding ways to increase our savings rate. However, we have plenty of setbacks too, and when those happen, it helps to draw on a little bit of humor to get back on track.

What works for your family?