Do it when things are good, to protect you when things are not so good…
Admittedly, I heard this quote while watching an episode of Jane the Virgin on Netflix recently, but it really stuck with me! It can apply to so many scenarios, especially if you’re switched on to saving for your future….
It can be relevant to Paying off Debt … For so many years I have been in the fortunate position of being able to pay good chunks of money off my debt every month… But did I? Simple answer is NO. I paid minimum payment, saved when I needed to, but for the most part – wasted money. Wasted money on food, on clothes, on shoes, on “things”. This extra money, money that was not being spent on necessities, was going down the drain. Had I been making a conscious effort to pump this money into debt, I would be much further down my debt-free path. Now I am focused, and I have a solid plan in place to pay off all of my debt – I am tackling the debt while things are good.
It can be relevant to Saving Money… It seems so obvious to say it, but save money when you have it. If you set a budget for something, and come in under budget – save that extra money. It could be going €10 under on your grocery budget, it could be that you budgeted €80 for the Electricity bill and it was only €65. Whatever extra money you find yourself with, just save it. If you’re given a refund on something, given money as a birthday present, a bonus from work – whatever it might be; just save it. I can’t get over how obvious this sounds, but trust me this is not how I used to behave. It was almost a monthly competition to make sure that I spent every last cent every month before payday. As crazy as it sounds now, my future financial stability was so far down my list of priorities, that saving was just never my first choice when it came to money. Now I am focused, and I have multiple savings plans – I am saving money while things are good.
It can be relevant to Pension Plans… Perhaps the most fitting for this quote – pay into your pension while you can/are still working, until you can’t/retire. In the last census in Ireland, the figures showed that only 56% of employed people have a pension, outside of the state provided offering. No matter how small or large an amount you can afford to set aside each month for your future, put it into a pension. If you contribute to your employer’s pension scheme, your employer will likely (in most cases) match what you are putting in, up to a certain amount/percentage. If you are not joined up to this, you are essentially turning down extra pay. Not only that, but you will also get tax relief on what you contribute. This means that if you are on the higher tax bracket and pay €100 into your pension, your salary will actually only reduce by €60, with the other €40 paid by the Government. If in this example, your employer was matching your contribution – €200 would go to your pension, still with only €60 coming from your salary. We’ll talk more about pensions another day, but as I reflect on this quote – pension contributions really are one of those things that we need to do while things are good.
It can be relevant to Budgeting… Tracking your spend is great, but planning your monthly budget before each month begins is going to help you a lot more. By taking some time to sit down and plan all of your bills, expenses, savings, debt payments and upcoming events for the month, you will have a clear picture of where your money will go that month. You will be less likely to overspend, when you have taken the time to allocate your money to each ‘bucket’. So work on your budget when things are good; i.e. when you receive your income, so that you are protected when things are not so good; i.e. the end of the month.
So really, this innocent quote, picked up from watching a tv show, can apply to so many things that I am working on in my life at the moment. I plan to go into more detail on a lot of these topics in future posts, but while that quote was playing in my mind I wanted to share some thoughts.
I know, I know!! The kids are only back to school, the sun is (kind of!) still shining….why did I just mention the “C word”… Well, the truth is that we only have 15 Saturdays between now and Christmas. Now, Christmas does not have to be an excuse to over-spend and over-indulge, but each of us will generally have additional costs over the festive period.
Given that Christmas comes around every year, it’s possible that many of you already have savings plans worked out so that you can avoid the stress of additional debt in the New Year. But if you’re like I once was, and use up your December salary before the turkey’s even carved, along with the credit card funding the post-Christmas sales and the New Year festivities; let’s see if we can work on having a better financial cushion this year!
Let’s see if we can avoid further debt and equally as importantly avoid a January of noodles and water… Let’s see if we can save an additional €450 by Christmas.
What’s the Plan?
So most Saturdays between now and December 21stput €25 into a Savings Account or if you deal with cash, put it an envelope at the back of a drawer. Then on the last Saturday of every month, double it to €50.
so…12 weekly lodgements of €25 gives us €300
and…3 monthly lodgements of €50 gives us €150
That will give us a nice saving of €450 by the last Saturday before the Big Day!
How can we do it?
I know it’s easy to make these plans, but when we’re already paying our bills and already saving, where can we find the money for these extra savings for the next 15 weeks… Well, here’s some ideas below…
Could you shave €25 off your weekly grocery budget?
Work on Weekly Meal Planning – work in leftovers at least once a week
Try have 1 or 2 non-meat days each week
Switch to store brand items where possible
Research the weekly offers in all of the supermarkets nearby
Raid the freezer, fridge and pantry – use up what you have
Have you any monthly subscriptions that you could (at least temporarily) stop paying? Maybe you’d be able to do without Netflix/Spotify/Amazon Prime for a few months? Have a look at your account and see where the recurring debits are – see if they are all a necessity
If you’re not already doing so, make your lunches for work/college every day and stop buying takeaway coffees – these two could easily give you the €25 extra
Can you switch nights out/restaurant meals to nights in? Have friends around for a casual meal, have date nights in, find free/cheap activities rather than expensive nights in the pub
Could you supplement your income?
Look around the house – have you anything that you could sell on Adverts/DoneDeal/Facebook Marketplace?
Have you checked out my ‘Our Survey Says’ blog post – by doing online surveys you could add some gift cards to your extra Christmas cash
Could you be making savings by switching providers for mobile/gas/electricity/tv etc? Check out my Making Moves blog post to see the possibilities
If you fancy some extra cash for Christmas or the New Year, to avoid getting into debt, give it a try. I’m going to do it and will keep you all posted on how I get on. Let me know if you’re going to start!
“Happiness is the richest thing we will ever own” – wise words from the one and only Mr Donald Duck! As I really and truly do believe this, though I am on a path to saving more money and paying off debt, I will not be cutting out holidays. It’s all about sticking to budget and getting the best value for money to ensure that we can still afford breaks away. We both work hard and it’s nice to be able to treat ourselves and make memories. What better way to find happiness on a holiday than at Disneyland!
Disney is somewhere that we both really enjoy, and though it’s easy to spend a small fortune on a trip to Disneyland, it’s possible to visit on a budget and still have the same magical experience! This time around we didn’t need to spend any money on park tickets or flight expenses, and stuck to a small spending budget; all of which made this a really affordable holiday for us. Keep reading to see how you can visit Disneyland Paris without breaking the bank…
📆Choosing when to Visit
Start planning your trip as early as you can, and think about when you are able to go. Obviously school holidays and weekends are the busiest, and most expensive times to visit. If you are travelling with children, and want to spend less money and less time in queues, then visiting during term-time is the most affordable option. The quietest times to visit would be mid-week (Tuesday to Thursday), from Mid-January to Mid-March, and then again from Mid-April to Mid-May.
💻How to Book your Visit
Research, research, research! There are plenty of travel agencies where you can book package trips to Disneyland Paris. This is typically the easiest way to book, but generally not always the cheapest option. With a little bit of planning, you can save yourself a lot of money by booking your flights, hotel and tickets separately yourself. I checked out a sample itinerary for a family of 2 Adults and 2 Children and was able to make a saving of just over €900 for a 3 night stay in December, by booking individually rather than a package. That’s not to say this will always be the case – but check for your own trip. Get a price from multiple agencies and compare those with booking your flights, hotel and tickets independently.
🛫Choosing your Flights
When working out if it’s cheaper to book everything separately, then you will be trying to find the best price for your flights. There are 3 airports in Paris that you can fly directly from Dublin or Cork – Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais. The closest airport for Disneyland Paris is Charles de Gaulle, but it is possible to get transfers from the others also. Check the days and times for direct flights, see what is the best and cheapest option. Aer Lingus and Air France will fly to Charles de Gaulle, Ryanair will fly to Beauvais and Transavia France will fly to Orly. When comparing flight costs, the main things to keep in mind are ease, cost and time of transfers to Disneyland. The cheapest flight might not end up being the best value if it turns out that you need to pay double the money on shuttle transfers.
🚈Choosing your Transfers
Paris has great transport links, and with a train and bus station located right beside Disneyland, using public transport can be relatively easy. If flying into Charles De Gaulle, the TGV train to Disneyland takes approx 10 minutes and prices are from €15 per Adult and from €7.50 per Child. It’s also possible to use the RER (metro) and get the RER B to Paris, then switch to take the RER A to Disneyland. This will cost €7.60 per Adult and €3.80 per Child. There are similar train options from both Orly and Beauvais, but do bear in mind that these will take longer. The Magical Shuttle is also a great option from either Charkes de Gaulle or Orly and costs €23 per Adult and €10 per child. This Disney specific shuttle will drop you to the parks or to many of the hotels located near the parks. There are also many private transfer options from all 3 airports and I’ve included some in my Handy Disney Links section below. These transfers can make life a little easier, will be waiting for you in Arrivals and drop you exactly where you need to go, but can work out a little more expensive depending on the amount of people travelling.
🎢Booking your Disney Tickets
Disney is magical – there is so much to do and see there, but it does come at a price. Personally, I think it’s money well spent once you make the most of it. But there is no harm in trying to save some money when booking your tickets. For example, the reason we didn’t have to pay anything for our tickets this time, is because we purchased Annual Tickets last December and were thankfully able to use them again. The reason we bought the Annual Tickets is because it worked out cheaper to buy them at the time. I’ve included a graph below of the current ticket prices when buying direct from Disney:
1 Day, both Parks
2 Days, both Parks
3 Days, both Parks
4 Days, both Parks
€76 – €107*
€71 – €100*
*Depending on the time of year, Disney have Mini, Magic and Super Magic prices for 1 day tickets
Annual Pass Tickets are a great way to save money when buying your Disney tickets and give access to both parks, for a specified number of days. These are only available to purchase on the French Disneyland site, so if you didn’t pay attention in 1st Year French, then use alongside Google Translate! The available dates for each pass are published on the Disneyland Paris site, and are really worth checking to see if your travel dates are included in the lowest level Annual Pass. From our 2 trips using the Annual Pass, we have saved over €600!
No of Days
*Yep, it’s the park that never sleeps!!
There are also ticket agents such as Attraction Tickets Direct that buy in bulk from Disney and can afford to pass on some small savings. It’s worth checking these out depending on when you are visiting and how long you will be staying for. These can sometimes offer discounts for some of the restaurants in Disney Village also.
🛌Choosing your Hotel
For me, the main event of a Disneyland visit is the park itself, and the hotel is just somewhere to flop down on the bed and catch some zzzz’s after a long day having fun! There are many Disney owned hotels on site, but due to the 15 million annual visitors (yikes!), there are many other hotel options available nearby. Using sites like booking.com, you can easily search for the best value hotel for your stay. Along with choosing the best value for money, my recommendations when choosing your Disneyland Paris hotel would be as follows:
Proximity to the Parks: You don’t want to spend too much time travelling to and from the Park each day. It can be a long day for kids and having a nearby hotel for an afternoon nap or a freshen up before the night time shows, can be so beneficial.
Transfer to the Parks: The best options are either a hotel within walking distance of the park, or a free, regular shuttle to and from the park. There are also many hotels that are just a short train journey to Disneyland, which can be an inexpensive option. Be careful to ensure that you’re not adding additional expenses by choosing a hotel that requires daily taxis or even car hire.
Good Breakfast Included: It’s important to start the day off with a breakfast that fuels you for the day, but more to come on this topic!
On our most recent trip, we stayed in the Radisson Blu which was good value for money, is less than 10 minutes to the parks, has a free shuttle every half hour and has a great buffet breakfast. On our trip in December we stayed at the Newport Bay hotel, which is one of the Disney owned hotels and is a short walk to the parks. I used airline miles to wholly pay for that stay, so worth checking if you have anything similar like miles, hotel points or gift vouchers that could be used to help out with your expenses! My other tip for hotels would be to use Booking.com, but access through Super Valu Real Rewards – I made over €30 in vouchers by booking this way.
🍭Preparing your Snacks
Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Any trip to Disney will involve a lot of walking and a lot of queuing and having snacks to hand will help keep away any “I’m bored/I’m hungry” moments. Bringing snacks with you from home is the cheapest option, as not only will you lose time by queuing in the parks, you will save a lot of money. Make up snack packs for each day before you travel and then you can simply grab one before you head off each morning. Ideas for snack packs are jellies, raisins, peanuts and breakfast biscuits. I’d also suggest a packet of biscuits for each day (something that can’t melt), for handing out in the queues and/or waiting around for shows to begin. In the days/weeks before you head away keep an eye out for any Disney themed sweets or biscuits which can earn you extra brownie points with the kids!!
Drinks are also expensive in the park, especially if it’s a few drinks for a few people for a few days. You could easily be looking at €150 on soft drinks/water alone. The cheapest (free!) and most eco-friendly option is to bring your own bottles and fill them from any one of the various drinking water fountains that are dotted throughout the park. Bring a small squeezy cordial to make it more appealing.
🍟Choosing where to Eat
Paris, and France in general are renowned for their great food. Disney are not. That’s not to say the food is bad, but it’s just regular food, made in great quantities and very overpriced. On top of all that, if you do not have a booking for somewhere you will likely have to waste time by queueing for the food. Look, if money is no object then dine at all the Disney restaurants inside the park, but this is a money saving blog so I’m obviously not going to be offering that advice!
So we’ve taken care of snacks and I mentioned filling up on a big breakfast – this leaves us lunch and dinner. So this is what I am advising – bring a lunchbox or two and make your lunch at the hotel breakfast buffet. Nobody will bat an eyelid and you can make lovely lunches like ham and cheese croissants and turkey sandwiches. It will save you a lot of money and time if you can do this, and you can find some really nice spots in the park to have your little picnic. Don’t forget to grab a piece or two of fruit before leaving the breakfast buffet also.
Then we are only left with dinner – it is possible to feed a family of four for €150+, but it’s also possible to do it for €20. In Disney Village there are fast food places like McDonalds, Five Guys and Earl of Sandwich which all offer great value for dinner when compared with the prices in the park. A time saving tip for busy times would be to download the McDonalds app (McDo) once you arrive in France and this allows you to order from your phone and avoid the queues when it’s busier. Another option is to ask your hotel reception (or google it) for a local takeaway menu that will deliver to the hotel – you can get pizza, chips, burgers etc delivered to your hotel door when you are back from the parks.
🎁Bringing your Souvenirs/Outfits
There is no shortage of Disney clothes, toys and souvenirs to buy in Disney – but you will pay for it. When travelling to Disneyland, it will save you a small fortune if you shop around beforehand for Mouse ears, outfits and souvenirs and bring them with you. If your child would like to dress up as Cinderella or Buzz Lightyear, have a look in Penneys/Primark, Dunnes Stores, Amazon, AliExpress or eBay and you can find the outfits for far less than you will pay at Disney. Keep an eye out in the post Halloween sales. The same goes for souvenirs, autograph books, jewellery, keyrings etc – you can pick these up online for a fraction of the price than at the Disney Store. Bring them along, keep them a surprise and ration them out during your holiday.
🕥Making the most of your Time
Time really does fly when you’re at Disneyland so it’s important to maximise your time to get the best value from your visit. Download the Disneyland Paris app, choose the rides you want to go on and the shows you want to see and add those to your favourites list. While there, you can use the app to see the waiting times for each ride and the handy map to guide you in the right direction. If you are planning on doing meet n greets with the characters, also download the Lineberty app. Also take advantage of Fast Pass for the most popular rides. For those yet to visit, standard Fast Pass is free and allows you to skip the queue for a ride and works by assigning you a time slot for that ride after scanning your park ticket or annual pass. The other option is the Single Rider lines on some rides. If your group is happy to split up on the ride, choosing the Single Rider queue can save you hours – very often there is only a 5-10 minute wait for this choice.
🌝Checking the Weather
Paris can get the best of weather, but also the worst. I have been there when it’s been so cold I couldn’t feel my toes and I have been there when it’s so hot I needed a fan for standing in the queues. So check the forecast for when you are going to be there – the most accurate for me is always yr.no. Yes, I know this is not a weather blog! But if you aren’t checking the forecast, and need to buy a scarf and gloves at Disney, you could be ending up with an unnecessary expense. If it’s going to be cold, bring thermals. If it’s going to rain bring a raincoat. If there will be showers, bring ponchos. If it’s due to be warm, bring small fans and spf.
💰Be Mindful of Ad-hoc Expenses
Though Disneyland Paris is the only Disney Park where you can freely purchase and drink alcohol, it really isn’t befitting with the Disney magic and is expensive. If you fancy a few beers or glass of wine in your hotel after a long day while the kids are asleep, pick it up in the small shop at the train station on your way back to the shuttle bus/hotel. A (very) small beer in our hotel was over €8, but a large can in the shop was €2. This shop also sells a selection of snacks, food and toiletries.
If you need (or think you might need) any over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol or Calpol, remember to bring this with you. These are not sold at Disney and there is no pharmacy on site – it will be an expensive trip to source them.
Bring a Power Bank to charge your phone. You will likely be using your phone a lot – using the Disney app, taking pictures, giving screentime to the kids while in long queues – make sure you are prepared to have extra power to charge your phone so you don’t have to waste money on buying a charger whilst there.
🌟Number One Rule
Enjoy every minute! If you’re choosing to save up your hard earned money and spend it on a trip to Disneyland, then make the most of your time there. By planning ahead, preparing snacks and lunches, keeping up to date with the app; you will be able to maximise your time there and get the best bang for your buck. Make sure your family are prepared in advance for the queues and waiting times, bring snacks, bring strollers if applicable, load tv shows/movies on your phone or tablet, think of games you can play (eye spy etc), be patient and have fun!
I hope this can help any of you that may have been considering planning a trip to Disneyland Paris. I am more than happy to help with any specific queries, or if you need any help with booking/planning – so let me know!
I discovered that I had €7.50 worth of Super Valu Real Rewards vouchers to use so I set myself a challenge. I only recently downloaded the Real Rewards App to my phone and discovered that I had three money off vouchers totalling €7.50. I don’t currently do my big shop in Super Valu so was pleasantly surprised to see them. I decided to put that money to use by challenging myself to getting Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert – all from the €7.50!!
I was very successful in my challenge and was even able to sort breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for the next day by using the leftovers! I did my prep work – checked what was on offer using their app and made a list. So these are the items I purchased, and the price for each. *Note that I purchased these items on September 7th.
Whole Chicken: €3.00
Bag of Baby Potatoes: 99c
Bag of Carrots: 99c
Brown Soda Bread: €1.25
My total bill came to €7.60, so I only needed to contribute 10c! I’ll take that any day 😊
€7.50 for 2 days worth of meals – definitely helping my budget this week! Try it yourself!!
Saving money and watching it grow is such a great feeling. Whether it’s saving towards paying off debts or saving for your next holiday – there is something so satisfying about seeing the amounts add up. There is no better feeling than being able to pay for large items or expenditure with money you have saved. Compare that with the feeling of adding more debt to the credit card, or taking out another loan.
Of course saving money is not without its hardship. Believe me, I know – that’s why I’m on this journey! I’ve been managing to ensure all my bills are paid, managing to over spend in the supermarket, managing to treat myself (a lot!); but not quite managing to save and invest worthwhile amounts on a regular basis. However, that’s all in the past and it’s time to move on, make changes and start saving and investing in my future.
The one major thing I realised when I analysed my spending is that there are quick and easy ways to save a lot of money. I’ve talked about cancelling subscription services, switching providers and meal planning. Now I’m here to tackle the small things – the small things that become big money. What seem like small purchases at the time, do add up – and simply by taking a few of those and being more conscious about what I buy, I am able to save a lot more towards my future.
Buying your lunch at work or school can add up to at least €1680 a year. This is spend that can be easily saved with a little planning. Make your lunches the night before, make something that will last the week, bring leftovers – endless possibilities here to save money. I’m not at all suggesting that you have to deprive yourself, sometimes going out for lunch on a Friday can be a treat you look forward to. If that’s the case, then keep it as a weekly treat. You’ll still save at least €1344 by cutting back from lunch out 5 times a week to once a week.
I have switched to so many store brand grocery items to make significant savings on my grocery bills. I know which ones are good, the ones that are worth the savings, the ones where there is no difference and indeed the items to avoid and stick with the branded version. These changes are quick and simple, make little or no difference to your breakfast/lunch/dinner, yet make a big difference to your weekly shopping bill. Here I’m suggesting to switch to only 5 store brand items to make a saving of at least €624 a year, this is only 5 items. It’s easy to make 20 or 30 switches, saving at least €3500 a year! Examples of items where I have switched to store-brand are Rice, Pasta, Tinned Tomatoes, Cereals, Milk, Butter, Herbs & Spices, Crisps and Frozen Veg. If you don’t already, introduce some store-brand products into your trolley and notice the savings.
There’s no need to go into too much detail on this one – the inevitable ‘stop getting takeaway coffees’ advice on a money saving post! But I really was guilty of spending way too much on coffee – on the way to, during and home from the office, going on a long drive, grabbing one after a lunch out. It is simply this and nothing more: a waste of money and an environmental disaster. Find a coffee you like that you can make at home, get a good travel mug and stop paying extortionate amounts of money for hot water and beans. Even if your most favourite thing in the world is a takeaway coffee, limit it to once a week; and for extra eco brownie points, please bring your travel mug and don’t take a cup that will end up in the bin. Even if you change to one coffee a week (from five) you’ll save €576 a year.
We all have busy lives and we have to enjoy ourselves from time to time. We work hard enough and there is no better feeling than having your meal handed to you – you don’t have to plan the menu, spend the time cooking, and perhaps more importantly, somebody else does the washing up! But personally I am very often less than enthused with the actual food. I love cooking and trying different dishes, and I suppose now that I’m switched on to my saving journey, I just find it harder to hand over money for mediocre food. When you’re not making conscious efforts to save money and spend less, it’s extremely easy to spend €400 a month eating out. But with careful planning, it’s easy to decrease this to €100 a month. You don’t have to completely cut it out, you can still have at least 1 or 2 meals out a month, but you can save yourself at least €3600 every year.
Provided you are logistically able to do this, paying for car washes needs to become a thing of the past if you’re on a journey to cut back on unnecessary spending. I can’t remember the amount of times I have brought my car to get washed, and been completely unimpressed with the service provided. As long as you have the space and access to wash your own car, you can save over €100 a year. For those living in areas with hard water, it’s a good idea to collect rain water for washing the car. It’s also a bit of exercise, a chance for some fresh air, even something the kids can do or help with; and gives you a good feeling when you can look out at your shiny car!
So these are just a few areas where we can make small changes, that can actually grow into huge savings. Even trying one of the above, if only for a limited amount of time, will help you to have more money to save or invest. Try it!