The Art of Spending Money at Disney

I know what you’re thinking: spending money at Disney is easier than breathing, and there is no art to it. Where the art comes in is in the technology that has been created to help you part with your cash without even seeing it happen.

I was reading an article this morning (unrelated to Disney) about how customers will soon no longer remember the sounds of cash registers. As quieter forms of payment become king, and cash shifts to being rarer than a Flight of Passage FastPass, it got me thinking about how spending our money in the parks has changed so much in such a short amount of time.

As a child, I remember bringing my Disney Dollars and a few bucks that I had saved over the months beforehand with me to the Disney parks. Back then, a little went a long way, and every transaction was a conscious choice to spend a portion of your budget. These days, it seems to be all tap this or swipe that, missing the responsibility and intention that comes with physically handing over your hard-earned dollars.

Photo by Donovan Reeves on Unsplash

Photo by Donovan Reeves on Unsplash

Thanks to the genius minds at work in the Disney department of getting-you-to-part-with-more-cash, the art of spending money has never been easier. Between tap and pay credit cards, and paying with your cell phone and Magic Bands (in Walt Disney World), a simple swipe of the wrist can be all it takes to say goodbye to hundreds of dollars a day without even keeping track of it. It makes me wonder if you’re better off sticking to good, old-fashioned cash while in the parks. Sure, it might be less convenient as you’ll need to keep track of it and keep it in a safe place, but will perhaps that fixed amount force you to be more mindful of the frivolous purchases and frequent spending?

Could it be that the reason why so many of us are reluctant to shell out the extra cash to tip housekeeping (or any other service) be because of the physical act of removing the money from our wallets? Even those that tip consistently well can appreciate how the additional cost can affect your choices of where to eat and your choice of activities. So why is it so much easier to tap $50 to your MagicBand for an armful of pretzels and water bottles than it is to leave a few dollars on the nightstand?

One of my best tips for saving money in the Disney parks is to take cash as it limits you to only spending within the expected budget for the day. Sure, you need to carry it and look after it, however, there is something about needing to physically part with your money that makes it more valuable, and, in turn, less expendable. So, when you head to the parks with your credit card linked to your MagicBand and tap the day away (some of us doing so using foreign currencies that attract exchange rates and transaction fees), how can you possibly keep a protective eye over your vacation budget?

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Well, even though I know this one will attract an eye roll or two, I’m going to throw it out there anyway: keep your receipts and create a log. Re-purpose a free shopping list app on your smartphone and log any new expenses as they come. Try to use one that keeps a running total at the bottom so you can always see what you are spending at a glance. There is nothing worse than the nasty surprise of arriving home to twice the debt you thought you would, which is particularly easy to do once you start enjoying table service dining. Once you add the tip and the tax, who knows how much you had actually added to your credit card in your own currency.

Cash is also a great way to teach kids the value of their money, a concept that is so lost on a generation of children that will rarely ever lay eyes on their actual money. They see us tapping money away without watching the depletion of it in real-time. Handing them their spending money for the trip and watching them struggle to part with it, and visually recognizing what will be left, is a value that is heart warming when it finally sinks in.

Another positive aspect of keeping your spending under control is that it limits you to really only purchase the things you connect with. Instead of bringing home an array of generally pleasing things, you might have one very special thing that will be cherished forever.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

However you choose to store and spend your money on vacation, keep an eye on your running total. If you aren’t keen on doing the work while you are there, and don’t want to carry the cash, consider creating a new bank account just for that spending money, and keep an eye on what is left at the end of each day. That way you can gauge what is actually being withdrawn in a day’s worth of transactions and make sure you don’t get caught off guard later on.

How do you keep track of your Disney spending?

Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. After her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world. Zoë is the mother of two children and has a lot of experience in traveling long distances with kids and special needs. Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.

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