Hop on board the Magical Blogorail

I have a new title…Magical Blogorail Junior Pilot!

I even have a fancy new badge and everything…


I’m so excited to be joining this group of wonderful writers to share my knowledge of Disneyland and blog alongside them. Stop over on the Magical Blogorail to get your Disney fix!

Budgeting Steps to Savings – Learning to Live Without

Learning to Live with Less {Saving up for Disney}

Certainly never an easy topic. Learning to live without.

It probably feels better to think, I’ll just “Learn to live with less“. And that’s definitely the place to start!

I’ve used the analogy of dieting in comparison to budgeting before. It’s the same here…work your way into the changes and you’ll be more likely to stick with it long term, maybe even the rest of your life. Live with less and eventually it will be easy to slip into living without.

And before you start thinking about what you are losing when you learn to live without, think about what you’ll gain. More on that in a bit…

Learning to Live with Less {Saving up for Disney}

When I got remarried and my husband and I combined our families, I had a challenging time learning to live with less. I was accustomed to a certain lifestyle that involved eating out several times a week, decorating the house with adorable and useless things and buying cute clothes when they were on sale (regardless of if I needed them). After several rather upsetting talks with my husband about how we couldn’t afford the mindless spending, I did what any other gal in my situation would have done. I bought the stuff and hid the receipts! I tore the tags off new blouses, disposed of the evidence and snuck the new items into our closet.

And I felt lousy about it.

Since I was also the one budgeting for our household, I knew firsthand how our expenses were laid out and decided that I needed to change. We were in the process of saving for a home and anything I’d been spending frivolously before now went directly into our savings account. I felt so much better and a load of relief not hiding the spending anymore. I tell you this to let you know that I have learned to live without. It was hard. It took time. But it is possible.

Learning to Live with Less {Saving up for Disney}

Key note here: Learning to live without in your every day life doesn’t mean a forever sacrifice or complete abandonment of fun. If you have a goal in mind, you are learning to live without in order to advance upon and accomplish that goal. In our case, we forgo cable television and restaurant meals because we’re saving the difference for a trip to Disney World. We scrimp now so we can splurge later!


Game plan for learning to live without – 

Purge what you don’t use, want or need. Be brutal. If you haven’t looked at it or touched it in months and you have no immediate plan for it, then ditch it. Have a garage sale, give it to someone who can use it or donate it. This first step was very hard for me. I come from a background of close family that had a hard time getting rid of anything (yes, bordering on hoarding) and it’s my natural instinct to keep it, “just in case”. But 99% of the time, I’ll never need it. We purge and clean so we can mentally start fresh. Only keep what you love.

Keep what you have in good condition. Now that you’ve narrowed your “stuff” down, you should only be surrounding yourself with things you absolutely love and use frequently or everyday. Maintain what you have by taking the best care of them. Keep your appliances in tip-top shape with regular cleaning (even in-between the buttons on the blender!). Put DVDs back in their case each time to avoid scratches. Clean up that spill from the carpet or sofa immediately before it stains. Fix the loose buttons on your sweater before they fall off. Take care of what you have and you won’t have to replace it as soon.

Take a look at your budget. Do you see any areas in your budget that seem a bit high? Any areas that you feel could be cut back upon? We took a close look at our budget and realized that we watch very little cable television. Why were we paying for 300 channels that we very infrequently watched? So we nixed the extensive cable and got basic (which gives us perhaps 10 channels) and a subscription to Netflix. Not only do we save about $50 a month, we also don’t feel chained down to the television or feel like to we have to watch it because we’re paying for it.

Borrow. If the time comes when you need something short-term, see if a friend or neighbor will allow you to borrow it. This is good advice before you make a large purchase (like a new bike, power tool or 8-foot kayak…speaking from experience here.). Borrow (with a firm return date) and see how often you really use it before buying one yourself.

Learning to Live with Less {Saving up for Disney}

Tweak Your Thinking.

I remember reading in a book something about paying bills that has stuck with me. The writer noted that each time she mailed a bill instead of getting upset about the money she was paying she would send the letter off with positive thoughts and mental thank yous. Thanks to the water company for the fresh clean water in her home. Thanks to the landlord for the safe and cozy home. Thanks to the department store for extending credit. It was her point of view that changed her thinking from a negative to a positive.

Learning to live without isn’t so much about what you lose, it’s in your point of mind and in what you gain when the excess is stripped away. It’s a simplicity that cannot be bought.

Back to what I’d said earlier about what you gain when you learn to live without.

  • Time – Because I don’t have 300 channels to surf through, I’m more likely to have time to work on my hobbies or play with my kids.
  • Appreciation- I am thankful for what I have already been blessed with…and try to remember this before I buy.
  • Organization- Less to keep track of and so much easier to organize and clean.
  • Creativity – If we don’t have tons of new toys, we’re more creative with what we do have.

Learning to Live with Less {Saving up for Disney}

Live with less and eventually you’ll find that you can easily live without. The photos accompanying this article are my own, taken of my family at La Jolla shores in California, about 30 minutes from where we live. It was a beautiful warm day in January when much of the country was covered in snow. It was a day that stuck with me because of its simplicity. A walk along the coast, wading in the water and watching the sunset. I was so happy I’d taken my camera to capture the moment.


Other helpful links about learning to live with less:

Andreabcreative – Learn to Live with Less: My 365 Experiment

Kanelstrand – Learn to Live with Less and Enjoy It

Gaiam – Learn to Live Simply

Tripping – How I Became a Minimalist

Eat at Home and Save – DIY Artisan Bread

Eat at Home and Save - DIY Artisan Bread. Make it fast in just five minutes a day!


Give me a warm crusty loaf and a drizzle of olive oil with cracked pepper and I’m in Heaven! A coworker brought in one of these beautiful artisan loaves and I just had to know how she made it. She lent me her book and after trying out a few recipes I was hooked and bought it for myself.

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking will make you rethink everything you ever thought you knew about baking bread at home.

  • Magic touch required in regards to yeast and warmth? Nope!
  • Time consuming? Not a bit.
  • Endless kneading? Never.
  • Fancy mixing machine with a bread hook? No, a wooden spoon or your bare hands work just fine!

This is how I bake my loaves, with the Dutch oven instructions. The recipes generally call for extremely high temperatures which, during the summer, make your home impossibly hot. So this recipe would be fun to try:  Baking focaccia on the grill!

Eat at Home and Save - DIY Artisan Bread. Make it fast in just five minutes a day!

There are only a few ingredients needed (flour, water, salt and yeast) for a basic loaf. Extremely inexpensive to make (especially if you buy your flour out of the bulk bins). The new methods presented are worth the cost of this book as you can make many different types of breads from the one recipe. And here’s the nifty part…wonder why the book is called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Because once you make the recipe you can store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and only remove the amount you need at a given time. So great when you just want to make a quick loaf to serve with dinner.

Eat at Home and Save - DIY Artisan Bread. Make it fast in just five minutes a day!I’m having a great time with the book, trying out new recipes. And my husband, who is very particular with the food he eats, loves knowing exactly what ingredients are going into the loaves. I promise, even if you’re scared to bake with yeast or you’ve had trouble with getting bread to rise in the past, this recipe is delightfully foolproof. You will love this book!

I took the last bit of dough I had last week, flattened it out and set it on a baking stone covered in cornmeal. Slathered in tomato sauce and covered in mozzarella, it was one of the tastiest pizzas I’ve ever had! And I made it myself at home, perfection!



DIY pizza with Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day {Saving Up for Disney}

This post contains affiliate links 


Disneyland Magical Moments – Princess Hugs and Kisses

Now that my “little guy” is ten, it’s been a while since he’s been interested in meeting Princesses. But Once Upon a Time, we ate at Ariel’s Grotto. This was a trip I took to Disney’s California Adventure with Ian and his older brother back in 2006.

Ariel's Grotto {Saving Up for Disney}

We started off fine, greeting Snow White and Mulan. But once the food arrived, for all it mattered to him those pesky princesses were getting in the way of his meal! Ian was not willing to give up his delicious lunch to pause for more than a few moments when the Princesses came to the table. Nearly every picture has him stuffing his face!

Can't pause for Princesses! Ariel's Grotto for lunch {Saving Up for Disney}

My favorite moment came with Cinderella. She knelt next to him and tried to get him to lay off the carrots and ranch for a bit so they could take a photo. Instead Ian generously offered a ranch-soaked carrot to Cinderella!

Offering Cinderella a carrot at Ariel's Grotton {Saving up for Disney}

She refused, naturally, looking at Ian’s older brother and offered some wry advice about silly little brothers. Cinderella handled the challenge with grace and I love the surprised look on her face when confronted with the carrot! This is one of my most favorite Disney memories.

Oh, little Brothers! Ariel's Grotto 2006 {Saving up for Disney}

“Little brothers sure can be challenge sometimes!”

Ariel's Grotto 2006 {Saving Up for Disney}

The meal closed with a visit from Ariel. Finally food-free, Ariel took her chance!

A kiss from Ariel - Ariel's Grotto 2006 {Saving Up for Disney}

Ian ended the meal with a smooch on the cheek from Ariel and a lipstick memento! What an excellent meal and as Ian proved, the food was as good as the company!



DIY Cheap and Easy Pillow Covers to Brighten Your Home!

DIY Pillow Covers {Saving Up for Disney}

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to brighten your home is with fabric. Less of a commitment than painting the walls, a simple yard of cotton fabric can make at least one pillow cover (depending on the size of your pillow form) and will only cost you a few dollars.

I found a DIY link on Pinterest for sewing up Envelope Pillows. Super easy and super fast! I had three pillow covers done in baby-nap time (approximately 2 hours). You only need to know how to measure, cut and sew straight lines so it’s perfect for beginners.

For this project I didn’t have to buy a thing. I used pillow forms I already had (from Ikea) and fabric I’d purchased about three years ago and never got around to using. You can also buy cheap pillows at a home decor shop and cover them to match your own decor with fabric of your choosing. Nice quilters cotton will cost about $7-10 per yard.

DIY Pillow Covers {Saving Up for Disney}

Look closely at the dark blue and cocoa brocade print on the right…those are goldfish in the center of the design!

DIY Pillow Covers {Saving Up for Disney}

And the backsides are cute too.

The tutorial recommended using plain fabric on the back but I know that my pillows will never just be sitting pretty on the sofa. They will be tossed all over (in fact they are laying on the floor right now, as my husband was taking a nap with them!) so I wanted them cute from all angles.

Warning…these tend to be addictive and you might find yourself making a set of pillow covers for each season! At Christmas time, I used some winter-themed fabrics with reindeer and snowflakes. My sofa was so bright and whimsical!

Sheri Berry Christmas Sheri Berry Holiday Michael Miller Yule

You could also make a toss pillow for the kid’s bedrooms in a favorite fabric to coordinate with their room (or use an outgrown tee for the front).

Of course, you could also make Disney-themed pillows in anticipation of an impending vacation…I plan on it! I am going to choose one main Disney fabric for one pillow and use coordinating prints to go with it. You want your look to be livable so make sure these are colors and designs that blend with the rest of your decor.


I recommend purchasing quilter’s cotton for any home projects that are going to be getting used and washed frequently. Unfortunately many of the inexpensive cottons sold at the craft stores are going to wear poorly or fade, so invest a few dollars more a yard for nice quilter’s cotton that will be smooth to the touch, wash up nicely, keep color and last for a long time. If you don’t have a quilt shop in your area, you can find plenty online (just pay attention to the scale because you might receive it and realize that the print is larger or smaller than expected!).

Some of my favorite fabric links:

Heather Bailey – I cannot wait to buy Up Parasol, I love every piece in this collection!

Michael Miller fabric – The Sarah Jane line is so sweet and whimsical. Lots of fun chevron prints too.

Kaufman fabric – The Dwell Studio collection is perfectly sophisticated for home decor.

Emmy Grace – Love the subdued colors and intricately detailed art in these designs.

Amy Butler – Bright and bold and perfect for adding pops of color, I use her prints frequently.

Kona Cotton – The best solids around, in tons of gorgeous colors!

After Rides, What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

When you think about Disneyland, the most iconic rides come to mind. And of course there are all those delicious foods and snacks! But once you’ve been on Pirates of the Caribbean and eaten a Little Red Wagon corn dog, what else is there to do at Disneyland? There are so many other memorable things to do at Disneyland besides the popular rides and food. In addition to the basic stuff that is considered an “attraction” on the park map there are also so many other little things that make Disneyland a magical vacation spot.

What’s Not to Miss at Disneyland?

Before your trip, you should make a rough schedule of your day. This way you’ll be certain to get to all of the rides, shows and attractions that are most important to you. If this is your first time at Disneyland, read Must-Do Disneyland- Perfect Itinerary for First Timers. These ideas will give you the best overview of the Park.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?

If you have more than one day, you’ll be able to pad out your days with some of these additional Disneyland activities. These are the perfect in-between activities that can really add joy to your Disneyland trip. I’ve included suggestions for both the Disneyland Park as well as Disney’s California Adventure park.

The Often-Overlooked Attractions

  • Start off your morning riding one of the Main Street Vehicles down the center of the street. So many people walk right past these! There is a fire engine, a car or the horse-drawn trolley. The drivers are so friendly and often offer vacation tips and Disneyland trivia.
  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Walkthrough is a hidden gem…everyone rushes across the drawbridge to Fantasyland, forgetting to walk through the Castle itself! There are miniature scenes brought to life with special effects as you walk through the stairways, I love it.
  • Yes, you can ride on the Rivers of America! Both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia take guests for a gentle spin across the waters.
Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

The Castle walk-through entrance is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.

Play with Your Favorite Characters

  • Collecting autographs from characters into an Autograph Book is a great way to pass time. It’s also something that kids who are shy enjoy because it gives them a task during the meet n’ greet.
  • If you arrive at the park first thing in the morning there are always lots of characters there for photo ops. You’ll find a variety just inside the gate and then the “Fab 5” meet in the hub of Main Street U.S.A. Some of my favorite photos are of the kids meeting their favorite characters for the first time.
  • Mickey’s House is tucked way in the back of the Park, inside Toontown. The walk-through Mickey’s House is so cute and you get to meet your favorite mouse at the end!
  • Pixie Hollow is located among the tall “leaves” to the right of the Castle. This is where you can meet Tinkerbell and other fairy characters from the series.
  • Meet your favorite Princesses inside the Royal Hall in Fantasy Faire, just to the left of the Castle.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation!

Purchase discount Disneyland and Walt Disney World tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Places Where Kids Can Play

  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is always a hit with the kids! And so many people see the island but don’t realize you can actually go on it! The Island is a wonderful place to burn off mid-day energy. However stay with your kids because if they go into one of the narrow cave tunnels they may come out on the other side of the island without you!
  • Climb up high into Tarzan’s Treehouse. Sometimes Jane & Tarzan are at the bottom, greeting guests.
  • Donald’s BoatChip & Dale’s Treehouse and Goofy’s Playhouse in Toontown are nice places for kids to run around. There’s also plenty of sitting space for grown-ups in the shade!
  • My kids always love running around in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail inside Disney’s California Adventure park. Do a little rock climbing, tire swinging and rope bridge walking. Stay with your kids because it’s an easy place to lose them!
  • If it’s a warm day, a splash through the sprinklers at Princess Dot Puddle Park inside “a bug’s land” is a refreshing way for kids to cool off.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Free Fun in the Disneyland Parks

  • Walk into the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and receive a free chocolate sample.
  • Across the walkway you’ll receive a free sample of sourdough bread at the Bakery Tour.
  • From the moment you walk in the room of the Animation Academy and witness the floor to ceiling movie scenes being shown on the gigantic screens, you will be immersed in all-things animation. Every 30 minutes, guests can take a complimentary drawing class from a Disney artist. You can take home your souvenir drawing.
  • Also inside the Animation Academy you can draw a cartoon in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. It’s really a cool lesson to show kids how basic animation works in this oft-missed location. And you can take the scroll of your cartoon home with you.

More Ways to See Disney Art

  • Watch some of the original Mickey cartoons inside the Main Street Cinema. It’s standing room only but gives a glimpse back at the beginning era of animation.
  • Disney Gallery features original artwork and models that were created as a precursor to many of the attractions in the parks.
  • Pose for your own unique silhouette inside the Silhouette Studio on Main Street U.S.A. My parents purchased one of me when I was three years old and it’s one of my most treasured mementos.
  • There are often featured artists inside the shop Off the Page (California Adventure) or WonderGround Gallery (Downtown Disney)

Where Magical Transformation is Made!

  • Little princesses can get the head-to-toe treatment inside Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There’s even a package for young knights. You must book an advance reservation for these special packages.
  • There are face painting locations all over inside the Parks. Check out the themed designs, including this Marvel version found at Hollywood Land inside California Adventure park.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Catch a Show

Some of these shows are just luck. They aren’t featured on the park schedule so you’ll never know when they’ll pop up where you are.

  • Mary Poppins dances with the band in front of the Castle.
  • Enjoy a fairy tale story at the Royal Theater in Fantasy Faire
  • Clap along with the Dapper Dans on Main Street.
  •  Alice and the Mad Hatter conduct a game of musical chairs near the ice cream parlor.
  • My stepson participated in a “beauty” contest in front of the Golden Horseshoe.

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Souvenir Hunting

Why just go into a shop and buy just anything? These fun activities encourage shy kids and result in some pretty cool souvenir keepsakes as well!

Pin Trading

This is a great activity that also serves as a souvenir. Start off with a Lanyard and a few pins, then start trading with any Cast Member who has pins or with other guests.

Pressed Coin Machines

This is my son’s favorite souvenir (which I love because they are cheap!) I’m not telling him that there are over 150 different commemorative images all over the Resort because I just know he’ll want to collect them all!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Pose for Pictures

  • There is always something new coming in the Disneyland Parks. And with great backdrops to pose with, take the opportunity for a great shot! I took this photo of my family in front of the Cars Land signage before it opened.
  • There are so many gorgeous details in the buildings and in the designs of the gardens. Capture them on camera.
  • Some of the attractions have ride vehicles outside. These are great places to pose for snapshots.
  • Take photos with the statues that encircle the Partners statue in front of the Castle. As you can see my son was having a fun time pretending Pinocchio was biting his finger!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Take a Tour

If you have the time in your vacation schedule and want to learn more about the Disneyland Resort, consider signing up for a tour.

  • There are guided tours for purchase, like “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Guided Tour.
  • Both the Disneyland Hotel and Disney ‘s Grand Californian Resort offer complimentary tours

Watch the Candy Making

This is seriously one of my favorite things to do inside the Disneyland Parks! There’s always someone making something delicious in the candy shops. See how fudge is poured or how taffy is pulled. View the bakers decorating the treats. And my favorite, you can watch step-by-step how each elaborate candied apple is created.

Look for Hidden Mickeys

There are some wonderful books about finding Hidden Mickeys (try Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best Kept Secrets). Or just see for your how many you can spot while walking through the park. My son randomly found this Hidden Mickey in a vent just under the stage inside The Golden Horseshoe!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Do YOU see the hidden Mickey?

Plan Visits During Special Events

Disneyland schedules some fantastic special events year-round. The events mentioned here are included in your regular Park ticket. There are often special entertainment option, interesting dining options and bonus Disney fun! And many of the events offer free kid’s activities.

Outside the Park Entertainment

  • There is free live music every day throughout the Downtown Disney District
  • You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar. Grab a drink inside or sit on the patio with your cocktails. There is live, acoustic music nightly under the tiki torches. Or just sit and chat around the outdoor fireplace nearby.

Read this post for more ideas on what to do without a Park ticket (many of them free!)

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Wander and Explore

  • Instead of walking straight across the drawbridge and into Fantasyland through the Castle, try taking the path on the side. This path on the right will take you to Snow White’s Grotto with statues of the characters and her magical wishing well (where donations are given to children’s charities).
  • Put your change in the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition and use an infrared rifle to shoot at the interactive targets. My dad always made it a point to spend a few quarters here on every trip!
  • Look at the character “turning” the popcorn maker on each cart. Every Land has a different one!
  • Walk by Rancho Del Zocalo’s restaurant at night and admire the gorgeous hanging glass lamps.
  • Jump on the dance floor in Tomorrowland when the live bands play at night (I have so many fun memories of my eldest son at 4 years old, doing “the robot”).
  • Find the “secret” entrance to Club 33 in New Orleans Square.
  • Touch the apple in front of the Snow White ride and hear the witch cackle. You can also see the evil Queen peek out and close the curtains above the ride from one of the windows.
  • Try to pull the “sword from the stone” in front of the carrousel.
Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

This family station wagon in Grizzly Peak is a great place for a photo op!

Sit Down and People-Watch!

There are so many great people-watching locations throughout the park. Sit on a bench or in the ice cream parlor along Main Street and watch the families rush by. Aladdin’s Oasis (a patio area in between the Tiki Room & the Jungle Cruise) is where we’ve stopped to eat a snack in the shade. Sit in the shade of trees in front of the New Orleans train station or sip a mint julep in New Orlean’s Square. I have more quiet restful spots in my post about avoiding the Disneyland meltdown.

There are a wild amount of little details that set Disneyland apart from all other amusement parks. It’s what makes Disneyland so special to so many people around the world!


What Are the Things to Do in Anaheim (Other Than Disneyland)?

For other ideas of things to do in the Anaheim, Orange County and Buena Park area near Disneyland, see my post with ideas for Southern California. Lots of fun vacation planning tips for families!

Wondering what there is to do at the Disneyland parks are you've done all the rides and big shows? Check out this list of fantastic ideas that will add lots of magic to your California Disney experience! (many of them are totally free!) #Disneyland

Budgeting Steps to Savings – Realistic Ways of Cutting Back in Your Budget

Realistic Ways of Cutting Back in Your Budget

It’s not always fun to cut back, but if you have a set goal in mind, then cutting back in your budget can be a game and less of a bummer. If it’s time for you to figure out where you can shave off in your expenses, here are some realistic ways of cutting your budget.

Be realistic.

Anyone who has ever been on a diet, knows the rule that “Slow and steady wins the race”. You aren’t going to be able to stick with anything long term if you do drastic things with your budget. If you immediately cut out everything fun or stop buying toothpaste and start making your kids brush with baking soda then you are going to have some very disgruntled family members! Budget changes should feel natural and not too much like a sacrifice or you won’t be able to keep it up. It’s definitely a balancing act.

Cutting your budget doesn't have to be a scream! {Saving Up for Disney}

Cutting your budget doesn’t have to be a scream!

Plan Your Frivolous Purchases

You really want something. However it’s something you don’t need. Planning these kinds of frivolous purchases instead of just buying on the whim will give you the time to rethink and reevaluate whether you want to spend money on it or move on. I love to shop online because it gives me time to put things into my virtual cart, walk away and do something else. Then after thinking it over, I can either click submit or close the window.

And another thought for online shopping, if you do decide to buy always do a quick search for a promo code. Ebates is a great site to find a coupon and also earn back a percentage on your purchases (affiliate link).

Assess the Need

Before you buy it, assess the need of it in your life. Are you okay without it or do you just really want it? Before buying new clothes take a good look in the closet, clear out stuff you don’t wear and then assess what it is you really need. I realized a few years ago that I needed to do that when I assessed my closet and saw that I had six nearly-identical black tees…oops!

Before grocery shopping go through cupboards, fridge and freezer. Toss out old stuff and make note of what isn’t getting eaten (don’t buy that again!). Take a quick inventory before you buy, make a list and stick to it.

One of my pet peeves is back-to-school shopping! There is a big push in the stores to buy everything new for the first day of school. Assess the need for new clothes, a new backpack, fresh pencils and markers and only buy what is absolutely necessary. I bought a great backpack for my son three years ago from L.L. Bean and it’s still looking good and going strong…no need to buy a new one each year if you buy a quality item that lasts longer than one season. Read also my post, Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School.


Cut it Out

There was a time that whenever I went to Target, I literally strolled down every single aisle. I would go in to buy lunch supplies and end up buying really cute (but totally unnecessary) home decor items, seasonal stuff, Dollar Spot goodies, DVDs for the kids, t-shirts, etc. I was spending $50 more than I needed to each time I stepped in the door.

I know you…you do the same thing, don’t you? *wink*

So I did something drastic. Because I had such a hard time keeping myself in check at Target, I stopped shopping there for a while. If I needed to buy lunch stuff, I only bought it at Costco or the grocery store. I didn’t die from not have those adorable (but totally unnecessary) items and I had a lot more money in my account.

If you can’t make it through Target without picking up cute (but totally unnecessary) home decor like me, maybe you need to resist the Target urge and shop somewhere else for a little bit. I have done the same thing with other stores, simply cutting them out of my routine. I recycle my unused Kohl’s 30% coupons, delete my Gymboree emails about a sale before I start adding things to my online cart and absolutely, never-ever go to the mall!

Buy it Used

Someone else’s family outgrew it and now you can own it for pennies on the dollar. We have a large family and tend to trade clothes, books and toys between the cousins. Most of my kids clothes come from ThredUp (affiliate link) and I’ve started buying clothes for myself here too. Clothes from ThredUp are all in like-new condition so I know I’m getting clothes that are only gently worn (some still have the tags on them). I just bought some gorgeous dresses for less than $13 each and they would have easily been around the $100 mark at full-price!

Keep it at Home

Eating out costs more than cooking at home. Taking the entire family to the movie theater is way pricier than pulling out a favorite DVD and having movie night in your living room. When you’re watching your budget, try to minimize those “out on the town” times and enjoy a fun evening at home…where it’s free and you can hang out in your pajamas! Instead of going to the ice cream shop and getting scoops all around, hit the store, buy a few fun toppings and a big tub of vanilla bean and make sundaes at home. Put the money you would have spent on a night out in your Vacation Bank!

Do it at Home

If you can make it at home instead of buying it at the store, you should! Some things are easy and more cost effective to make at home, like popsicles, smoothies, salad dressing and birthday cards. Need your morning coffee fix? Make it at home and take it to-go in a thermos. Handy with a sewing machine? You can quickly whip up your own pillowcases, shorts or skirts and of course, Halloween costumes. Need a car wash? Get a bucket and sponge and do it in your own driveway. We minimize water use with a pressure washer. Why pay a premium price for having someone else do something that you can easily do yourself at home.


Bring it from Home

Planning a day out? Don’t forget to bring stuff from home so you’ll resist spending money while you’re out. Maybe that means packing lunch in a cooler for a mid-day picnic between errands, filling bottles of water so you aren’t stopping for drinks on the go or toting a few snacks in your purse to appease kids when they see treats in the check-out line. If it’s sunny don’t forget the sunglasses, hat and sunscreen. A first aid kit in the trunk, stocked with bandages and pain reliever can be a life saver. And I always keep a bag in my car with a clean shirt for everyone in case someone has a run-in with a bottle of ketchup (hey, that happens!). If you already have it all with you in the car, there’s no need to buy it when you’re out.

Big Bills

Take a look at your larger expenses or rotating bills and see if there is any way of cutting back. As much as I enjoy going to the gym, I can get just as good of a work out walking around the block and lifting my kettle bell at home, so I cancelled my $10 a month gym membership. We hardly ever watch TV outside of the local news, so bye-bye pricey cable bill. Check with your utility departments and see if the rate that you have is the best they can offer. Sometimes just threatening to leave will be enough for them to offer you a better rate.

If you shop at a grocery store that doubles coupons, this can be a great savings…however, it’s only practical if these are items you already buy! Don’t buy unnecessary items just because you have a coupon! I recall when I was coupon shopping and decided to stop. I was driving all over town to shop at several stores and had enough shampoo in my closet to soap up a small army! I very rarely coupon shop anymore because most of my purchases are in bulk from Costco.

Get Everyone on Board

Families need to be united with the same goal in mind if you want to be successful in your budget trimming. That goes for the kids too. Our kids know that if it’s not their birthday and it’s not Christmas, that they can look but not ask for toys when we go to the store. When they really want something they have the option of using their own money (which we have to approve) or doing without. Generally they make the choice to do without. Our kids know that we’re saving up for a Disney trip so it’s easier to tell them that is where our money is going. And they are saving along too in their own bank accounts.

Save now and splurge later, on your dream vacation!

Save now and splurge later, on your dream vacation!

It Gets Easier

I know, even small changes can be an adjustment if you’re used to doing things a certain way. Before I remarried, my son and I had Disneyland Annual Passes along with the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and Legoland!  We were eating out a lot, shopping whenever we wanted to and sadly, spending money I didn’t have. I was in debt and though we were “having fun”, I was stressed out about money. When I remarried, my cutback was drastic and it was very hard at first. However now that we’ve been doing this for a few years, it’s very easy for me to see where we can continually improve on our budget. I’m having a lot more fun now, knowing I have minimal debt (one car and our home mortgage) and I’m much less stressed now that we have money in a savings account!

Having your set goals (ex. being debt-free, developing a savings account, saving up for a dream vacation) will help keep the spotlight focused. Don’t look at your neighbors and what they are buying. Buy what you can afford and make do without. Keep your eyes on the prize and make saving lighthearted. Take your focus off what you aren’t doing (ie: spending) and look at what you are doing instead, like spending more time at home with your family and saving up for that big vacation, of course!


Magical Halloween Tricks and Treats at Disneyland in Fall

Have you ever been to Disneyland during the fall season? I think it’s my favorite time to visit (but of course, it’s always a good time to go to Disneyland!) With Halloween events, amazing decor and special tricks and treats, Disneyland in fall is a special time. Here’s what to do when visiting Disneyland in fall.

Tricks and Treats – Disneyland in Fall

There are so many magical reasons to visit Disneyland in fall. And so many wonderful things to experience. This year will prove to be the best ever, with the addition of many new treats! Disney California Adventure park will be getting into the Halloween spirit for 2017. Keep reading for the new attractions, decorations and fun coming to Disneyland in fall.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and purchasing helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

Mickey’s Halloween Party

On designated days from Sept 20th – Oct 31st (Halloween night!) Disneyland sells party tickets to an exclusive Halloween party event called Mickey’s Halloween Party. The cost is slightly less than a regular day ticket and the party lasts five hours but you can get into the park three hours earlier, so that’s eight hours of Disneyland fun. My family has never been to this special event but I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to make it this year!

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

Adults and kids can dress in costume and trick or treat throughout the park. There are also dance parties and lots of character photo ops. There’s a special “Halloween Screams” fireworks show and”Frightfully Fun Parade” in addition to enjoying almost all the regular attractions.

This event sells out pretty quickly so get your tickets and start planning out your costumes. Need costume help? Check out my post on how to make budget-friendly costumes!

NEW for 2017

  • Souvenir Disney PhotoPass photos taken during the event, with unlimited PhotoPass downloads to enjoy later
  • Starting this year, guests can visit both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park with special event ticket during Mickey’s Halloween Party. Disney California Adventure will be featured for the first time as part of the pre-party mix-in for Mickey’s Halloween Party. Guests will be able to visit Disney California Adventure as well as Disneyland during the three hours prior to the beginning of the party in Disneyland.

Disneyland Weather in Fall

The weather is almost always still very warm in SoCal during the fall months. It doesn’t give you much of the “autumn” feel but it’s great for enjoying the park and you can swim in the resort pools without the summer crowds.

The temperature usually drops in the evenings, so definitely bring a light sweater or jacket just in case.

Check out my post about what to do at Disneyland when it’s hot.

Halloween Time at Disneyland {www.savingupfordisney}

Fall Crowds

The crowds are usually a little bit smaller in fall than in the summer. This trend isn’t always true however because fall weekends can be jam-packed. Annual pass holders that were blocked out all summer will be returning to the Parks and this brings in plenty of crowds.

You may experience lighter crowds on the days of Mickey’s Halloween Party. But take note that the operating hours are often shorter to compensate. So while you won’t wait in astronomical lines for the most part, you also won’t be spending as much time in the park as you might in the summer. There also may be some ride closures so check the Disney Parks schedule before you go.

Autumn Decor

The Disneyland decorations for fall are fantastic! Disney is known for their detail, of course. All over the park you will find decor to put you in the seasonal mood (even if the warm weather tells you otherwise!). There will be lots of places for photo ops, including a Pumpkin Festival on Main Street.

Don’t miss taking your photo in front of the enormous Mickey jack o’ lantern. And take time to admire the hundreds of one-of-a-kind hand carved pumpkins lining the street.

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

There is a traditional Dia de los Muertos skelton display in Frontierland. Sugar-skull inspired face painting is offered here and there are Mexican treats for sale

New for 2017:

  • Oogie Boogie’s oversized silhouette beckons guests through the main entrance of the Disney California Adventure park.
  • Headless Horseman statue offers a menacing presence on Buena Vista Street that’s simply spine-chilling.
  • Hold onto your hats as swarms of black bats coil ‘round Carthay Circle’s Bell Tower
Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

Photo Credit: Disney Parks

  • Haul-O-Ween hits Cars Land and turns Radiator Springs into Radiator Screams! Scary the Scarecar will stand guard over the entrance to Route 66, a preview to the Haul-O-Ween transformation awaiting guests in Cars Land. With Fillmore’s Jack-Oil Lanterns, the web spun over Flo’s by a Spider-Car, and the Cozy Cone dressed up in car-stumes, the townsfolk turn Radiator Springs into Radiator Screams.

Slightly Spooky Rides & Attractions

The “Nightmare Before Christmas” themed Haunted Mansion Holiday is a can’t miss! It gets more elaborate year after year. Haunted Mansion Holiday is also a completely different experience from the usual Haunted Mansion attraction.

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy takes over Space Mountain at Disneyland in fall. My kids have said it’s quite scary!

There is also a tour (additional cost) that celebrates the spooky, Disney’s Happiest Haunts Tour.

New for 2017:

  • The annual Haunted Mansion Holiday gingerbread house, presents a new design each year. This year it’s Oogie Boogie! He’s appearing as a 7-foot-tall cookie on the table in the Mansion ballroom.
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree with both be decorated for Halloween with themed music and décor! These attractions will transform with Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree turning spooky as the Graveyard JamBOOree, and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters to become Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween.

Characters in Costume

One of the best things about Disneyland in fall is how the characters dress in Halloween costume! It really makes that meet & greet extra special when the characters are wearing extra special fun outfits.

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

New for 2017:

  • For the first time, Cars Land in Disney California Adventure will be decorated for Halloween, err Haul-O-Ween. Citizens of Radiator Springs will wear their Halloween costumes and decorate their respective homes for the season. Lightning McQueen, Mater, Cruz, Red and DJ will be all dressed up–as a super hero, a “van-pire,” a pirate, a clown and a punk rocker, ready to go “trunk-or-treating.”

Halloween Time at Disneyland in Fall is full of tricks and treats for the entire family!

For more Disney Halloween fun,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Eat at Home and Save – DIY Recipe- Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Occasionally we like to take the family to a local all-you-care-to-eat salad and soup buffet. However if we don’t have a coupon, that kind of meal could end up costing us over $30 just for food (no beverages). Even with a coupon it’s still around $20. This homemade pasta meal probably only costs me around $5 to make…and we have leftovers!

Years ago, I tossed together this summery pasta salad for my family. At little of this, a little of that…They loved it! I recreated it for a potluck and it was a hit at the party too. So I took my chance at the County Fair and entered my recipe…and won a second place ribbon!

I’m pretty sure this easy recipe will be a success for your family too. This recipe makes a very large bowl of pasta salad, which is enough for dinner and lunch the next day. And most of these ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard. I buy the feta in bulk at Costco (it has a long expiration date) and the Parmesan cheese can be frozen until you’re ready to use. I didn’t have any bow tie (farfalle) pasta this time so I used whole wheat penne which was just as tasty.

I like serving this pasta alongside grilled chicken or kabobs, usually cold leftovers. It goes together quickly so it’s a perfect light meal for warm weather when it’s too hot to cook. I like to make it in the evening and then chill overnight for dinner the following day. Pair it with a hunk of crusty buttered bread and well, that’s just a little bit of heaven right there!

Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Summer Pasta Salad

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Sugar
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
  • ¼ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 can (2.2 oz) sliced olives, drained
  • 16 oz. Bow tie pasta, cooked to directions on box
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Whisk first section of ingredients.
  2. Add second section of ingredients, blending well.
  3. Toss in pasta, mixing well to coat.
  4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley and stir.
  5. Can be eaten right away but I like to chill overnight to blend flavors.