vacation money, or the lack thereof

Here’s this week’s column. I’m guess we’ve all been here at one time or another.

“I have one more thing to say about last week’s “vacation”. Other words to describe those eternal seven days of my life might include “mobile prison” and “meltdown time bomb”. We will never, ever, take a toddler to Disneyland ever again.

But the thing that really made my week irritating was the money issue. Some of you might remember that a few years back Mr. Frugal and I converted to the Dave Ramsey way of thinking. It’s a financial debt reduction program that brings peace and happiness to your credit score. It’s been a few years, and the pinch has really paid off. We are now responsible, mostly debt-free adults who know how to be money healthy.

We’re also no fun anymore.

See, Dave’s financial debt reduction method includes mantras like, “Never have fun if it involves money”, and “Hi, I’m Annie’s husband. You might know Scrooge, my generous older brother.” My husband is now very good with money. Darn it.

Here’s the thing about a vacation to Disneyland. You save and save and save for the tickets, and you think it’s going to be the best reward in the world . And yes, getting into the park is a treat. Standing in line for Peter Pan is a treat. Doing the Buzz Lightyear ride seven times in a row is a treat.

But frankly, that just doesn’t cut it. We have four small children who do things like, oh, I don’t know, eat.

Our big problem this vacation was colossal miscommunication. I thought we were buying our food in the park, and he thought we’d live on one meal a day, supplemented by following the mouse around and nibbling on his leftover churro crumbs. We were there from open to close, with one meal to hold us over. Seriously.

Have you ever seen what happens to four children when they’re tired and hungry? Even worse, have you seen what happens to their mother? I don’t know about you, but splitting an ice cream six ways is no fun.

Day two, I got a little smarter and stopped ahead of time to get cheese and crackers and strawberries. And while this was a good idea, I couldn’t help feeling irritated that there wasn’t a single penny alloted for Park Fun. We didn’t even let our kids get within ten feet of the souvenir shop doors. It was smart, but they were sad. I was sad.

My poor husband, really the man had the best intentions. Unfortunately for both of us, we didn’t talk about this elephant until the last day of our vacation. I was really fed up and really underfed by that point, so I kind of growled all over him. Of course, it was all too late to rectify the issue, so we kissed and made up.

And next time, we will budget accordingly. It will include sufficient money for food.”


  1. Ah, yes. After a year of unemployment, a move across country, being forced to sell our house at a loss, we too are eating cheese and crackers (in our apartment). But, maybe someday, if we get lucky, we can eat cheese and crackers at Disney Land! Or maybe just the crackers:).

  2. Hmmm, very wise words to share. We have the whole food thing too, although Hubby will let us go to the souvenir stand. Of course the kids can only look but still… I totally call my husband “Scrooge”. In fact, all of our friends when we were first married called him Scrooge.

  3. No painting a giant unicorn onto one side of their face? You might as well have locked them in a cage, forcing them to watch Mario Lopez on Extra.

  4. I kind of can’t believe no one called the authorities and had your kids taken away. No Mickey Mouse ears? No frozen lemonade? No fifty dollar pizza? Wow.

    Haha I’m kidding of course. But you’re right. You definitely should’ve had that convo before you starved yourself and your kids. Did any of them complain that Georgia got to eat but they didn’t? I’d have been bellying up to that bar!!

  5. Mostly I’m wondering why you don’t get to just buy lunch if you and your children are hungry. Would your husband have the power to make that executive decision on the spot when faced with a clan of underfed, overworked kids? None of my beeswax of course, but that would be the convo I’d advise you to have with him if you were my daughter.

  6. OH boy! I thought WE knew how to do vacations cheap. Disneyland for us was breakfast at McDonalds . . . . lunch from the cooler in the car, which was peanut butter and jelly, and then the one meal in the park! My husband knows that when my blood sugar gets low, my temper skyrockets! And ONE, count them ONE souvenier (spelling?) for each of the kids. They were very careful about which one they picked! We did Disneyworld and stayed at a KOA! It was fun though!!!!!

    GREAT Article Annie. . . . . and thanks for visiting my blog . . . . . I can say I knew you when you weren’t famous!!!!

  7. I have so had vacations like that!! And we are just starting on the Dave Ramsey path. I am hoping it helps.

    • annie valentine says:

      Seriously Pattyann, you are going to love it. It’s like a really good diet, one that isn’t too painful.

  8. My husband’s great plan (when we went to Disneyland) was to pack sandwiches for lunch and dinner – because kids NEVER get sick of soggy, warm, smashed pb&j sandwiches multiple times a day. YUM! Finally we had to give in and fork over some money for corndogs and those things were $7 a piece. (Which really made the sandwiches look good the next day….not for the kids though, just for our bank account.)

  9. You should be beaten with a wet noodle for even taking your kids to Disneyland.

    This is why we decided before we even thought about kids that we would never take anyone under 5 to an amusement park. They still need naps, they don’t walk for very long on their own, some aren’t potty-trained and can’t ride on most of the rides. That’s no fun — for anyone.

    On the plus side – Maybe Dave has a Communication for Couples class that he’s trying to get ready to sell you…..

    • annie valentine says:

      Yes, yes and yes. We won’t take anyone who doesn’t qualify for kindergarten.

  10. You’re a brave soul. Disneyland is the LAST PLACE ON EARTH I ever want to go. Ever

  11. My parents took us to Disneyland 3 or 4 times during our childhood. I wouldn’t say we were poor growing up, but my parents were really frugal. They made it clear to us why we didn’t buy overpriced Disney food and why we didn’t stay at a Disney hotel. I knew growing up that money was to be saved and spent wisely, and that you were to get your money’s worth out of everything. So our Disney vacations went as follows: My dad traveled for work and saved all his airline miles to help buy our plane tickets. We stayed at my uncles trailer park about 45 minutes outside of Orlando. The trailers were not glamorous and had bugs and frogs in them. Outside was a swap with alligators and snakes. My sisters and I both hated and loved the adventure of what we considered primitive accommodations. We would buy groceries and eat breakfast and dinner at the trailers. Lunch was packed and carried in our pockets, both to save money on food and to maximize the rides during the lunch hour when the lines were shorter. Souvenirs, well we already knew what our parents thought of the overpriced goods, so we would never even ask. One year my sister used her allowance money to buy a Disney piggy bank, seriously. We stayed as late as we could to maximize the number of rides per day and per dollor.
    What I want to share with other parents is that this story probably holds more positive memories for me and my sister than almost any other experience of our childhood. We all love to tell the story of the snake on the road one day on the way back at the trailers, and how are parents made us stay until we begged to go home. My parents knew that the overpriced food and the expensive souvenirs aren’t what make kids happy.
    I am grateful for the lessons my parents taught me about money. I know how to have a good time with my family and not spend a lot of money. I know how to shop smart, use coupons and buy things on sale. I know how to maximize the value I get from something by not buying poor quality things that will just break quickly. I want to teach my own daughter these same lessons, because we can’t all be rich, but we can all be happy.

  12. Kathleen Hansen says:

    Just a few thoughts on making the experience easier and less expensive. My daughter knows where the Walmart is by Disneyland. They have 5 children. We go to Walmart the night before we enter the Park. They have Disney Sweat shirts for half the price and other items. We have even gone to the Disney Store at the Mall and bought our shirts to wear on the first day of our adventure. Many times those are on sale. ( You can even go online to buy.) Also, there are always fun Disney stuffed animals or dolls etc that you can buy online or at the store that is usually cheaper than buying the same thing at the Park which is double or triple the price. Do you know where the Disney Outlet is in Vegas? Stop there on you way to Disneyland and you can find good deals there also.
    Take a back pack full of snacks to last all day for munching while waiting in line or just needing a boost. We would also make our lunch for that day, then take a break and go to the car and eat our lunch there. These are just a few ideas for having a better experience and less expensive one while at Disneyland.:)
    Just a side note: use those fast-passes so the lines aren’t long. Also, My son-in-law had an app on his phone that would let you know which lines weren’t too long and we would hit those at that time. Thank goodness for modern technology, and outlets!

  13. We too are frugal and soon hope to be “the millionaire next door.” My husband is the saver and I am a converted saver who tends to lose sight on what our ultimate goal is because I am blinded by the here and now and my wants. Conversely, I am always happy to pack a lunch because typically food at amusement parks isn’t that good and it is terribly over priced {sorry to be siding with Mr. Frugal} and I am always the first one hungry! Think on the bright side and don’t feel bad about not getting souvenirs because they would just be one more thing to clutter your house!

    • Tiffani, we are too similar (minus the expensive park food). I’m converted 95% of the time.