On our drive home from Disneyland, my husband asked me what my favorite part of the trip was. Upon reflection, I realized that one of my favorite parts of the vacation was our money system that we used. We called it “Disney Dollars”. I loved it because it took away stress and added life lessons.
Here is what we did: We gave each kid X amount of dollars to last for the week. We put the cash in an envelope in a ziploc bag with their name on it along with their quarters. (Tip: Use the ziplocs with the zipper because they are a lot easier for kids to get in and out of.) We told them that we would pay for their park tickets and provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for them. I would also have snacks available like apples, oranges, crackers, and water. But they would be responsible to buy everything else they wanted- toys, books, treats, activities- with their Disney Dollars.
Right as we got off the tram we went into the Disney store so they would have a better understanding of what items cost and they could scout out what they wanted and how much they would need to save. I didn’t want them thinking $5 was going to get them something special the last day.
I loved this money system so much because I wasn’t the bad guy. I could always say yes. “Mom, can I get a churro” “Yes, if that is what you want to spend your money on.” “Mom, can I get my face painted?” “Sure, if you have the money for it.” etc. It wasn’t my call; it was theirs. And they asked less and less as the week went on.
I also loved the Disney Dollars because my kids learned so much about money management. My youngest daughter bought some purple sunglasses before we even left the hotel the first morning. She later regretted her rash choice. My oldest daughter didn’t buy anything until the last day- and then she spent it all. (It kind of reminded me of my eating habits- refrain-refrain- refrain- gorge). My son spent most of his money on treats at the park. Then on the third day he said, “Mom, I am not going to buy anymore snacks because everything I have spent money on is gone. It doesn’t last.” I love life lessons learned indirectly.
I’ll admit I panicked the first day when they all considered getting their faces painted for $17 each. It would have been a long week. I advised them against it, I suggested price checking and waiting to see if the desire was still there and luckily they listened. One daughter went back the last day and still got her face painted, but at least she didn’t blow it all the first day and, unlike the sunglasses, she knew she really wanted it. We didn’t wash her face for 3 days.
It was fun to see the children negotiate with each other over money. They shared snacks much better and they even chipped in all their remaining money together to buy a drawing book on the last day. Elle gets to keep it in her room because she chipped in the most money. Fair enough.
This money management system would work for any family on any budget on any vacation. You would just adjust how much money you give them and what you want them to be responsible to buy. When my kids gets older, I will add on more that they need to pay for- like lunch. Then eating a soggy sandwich might be more appealing than eating at the park.