Frugality Only Goes So Far- How I Saved For The Princess Half Marathon Vacation Without Losing My Mind

February 5, 2013

paying for a disney vacation


I’ve gotten a few reader questions about how I was able to afford my trip to Walt Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon.  I will have more tips on how I cut expenses really soon, but how I was able to fund this expensive trip, even after cutting costs is an article within itself!


As a frugal girl, I had total sticker shock when I began saving for the Princess Half Marathon.  While I cut costs wherever I could by planning on packing my own meals, looking for deals on airfare and splitting hotel costs with my running buddy- there’s no doubt about it, planning a trip to Walt Disney World to run a half marathon can be really expensive!



Here’s My “As Frugal As Possible” runDisney Walt Disney World Vacation Budget:

Races:        $170.00

Airfare:       $471.60

Hotel:         $362.20

Gear:           $50.00

Shopping:  $100.00

Food:           $150.00

Total:         $1,303.00  <– YIKES.

That’s even after I used as many discounts as possible & decided to pack my own food, DIY a costume & split costs with my boyfriend, it was still darn expensive!


I truly feel that frugal people can afford anything with the right planning, and planning is twofold:  plan to find deals as often as you can, but also plan to start saving money to pay for your travel far in advance.   Back in August, when I purchased my ticket for the Princess Half Marathon and booked my airline ticket (which I had to buy right away),  I knew it was going to take a serious savings plan to make sure I could pay off my runDisney vacation without relying on credit card debt to handle it and fund the rest of the trip in full.


The key to saving for any large expenditure, runDisney vacation or otherwise is to plan for a series of small, weekly saves and larger, impulse saves to boost your goals & sock away extra money to hit them faster.


I’ve been using ImpulseSave for awhile now to sock away extra money for a rainy day, but it was critical in helping me simplify my savings goals during the last six months to pay for my trip to Walt Disney World.  When I used the site to propel a goal I was passionate about, it was exciting to put money away instead instead of spending it!



So, how’d I do it?

Each week, I would put away around $20- the ImpulseSave interface instantly updates my weekly savings to approximate when I hit my savings goal.  Since I had already paid for my race ticket & booked my airline ticket far in advance to take advantage of earlybird deals (paid off), I still had about $650 of expenses unaccounted for.  My goal was to save at least $750 to pay for the rest of my trip and have it in the bank before I boarded the plane.  Looking at ImpulseSave’s timeline- I knew by putting away an automatic $20 a week, I’d have $480 of that saved automatically without much effort.

The other $270 would have to come from my “impulse saves,” of when I resisted temptation to buy something I didn’t need or was gifted some extra cash for Christmas.   Every time I earned extra money or decided to save money by not buying something I didn’t need- that money was quickly added to my ImpulseSave goal for my runDisney vacation.   I picked up some extra freelance work and sold some old books on Amazon to add money to my fund- Impulse Saving gets addicting when you see how quickly a few bucks shaves down your timeline!


impulse save review


*Notice that dip? That was when I had an emergency funding issue, had to withdraw, and was so annoyed by my lack of progress I doubled my efforts to save that money back and will hit my $750 goal in time!


Honestly, I loved my experience with ImpulseSave because it helps you do two things:

1. It makes saving quick, easy and best of all- automatic. The money is transferred weekly before you miss it.

2. If you struggle with impulse shopping, the ImpulseSave interface makes it easy to reframe that behavior by saving instead of spending.


In all honesty, though I write a lot about finances, I am only human and previous to using ImpulseSave, I often faced big purchases unprepared since I didn’t transfer money to set aside for the future.  There are times when I know I need to save money for a major goal, to put cash away for an emergency fund or for travel expenses, but I simply don’t do it.  I couldn’t believe that I hit my $750 savings goal without the pain and frustration it normally takes to save.  Truly, if I see the money in my main checking account, I spend it- and when it comes time to pay for a major purchase I didn’t budget for, I’m caught off guard.


Using this system, I not only saved the $750 for my trip before I actually go on the trip (because darnit, it is fun to hit that goal), I’ve also set up new goals for my move to Chicago, an emergency fund and started a fund for a wedding (since I have more than enough time to save!).  Each account gets anywhere from $5-30 a week and I know exactly what date I’ll hit my goal and how much money I’d need to chip in to hit the goal ahead of schedule- so simple!


What money saving tips have you used to save for a big goal?



Disclosure: I have been a loyal ImpulseSave user for the past year and used their site to save for my trip to attend the Princess Half Marathon.  I recently had the opportunity to partner with ImpulseSave as a sponsor to talk about my user experience to save for this trip, but opinions and the data provided are entirely my own.


12 comments so far.

12 responses to “Frugality Only Goes So Far- How I Saved For The Princess Half Marathon Vacation Without Losing My Mind”

  1. This is great advice. Setting aside a little bit of money each month is the best way to save for purchases. I’ve never heard of ImpulseSave…will have to give a look. Thanks for sharing your system.

    • Shannyn says:

      Thanks Brian! I have used my ‘regular’ bank before to set up separate savings accounts for goals- but often didn’t have the grit to not tap into them for shopping or a night out… with ImpulseSave, seeing my medal hanging there next to the growth chart and the estimated date I’d hit my goal was a huge motivator!

      It’s easy to “steal from yourself” when it’s just a raw number, but when you see that dip in your chart, you get angry with yourself! I kept on my goal so much easier this time!

  2. Ooh…I haven’t heard of ImpulseSave! We are trying to plan a family Disney trip for fall break since my husband and the little people couldn’t come with me for Princess. We have DVC points for the room. and will be driving instead of flying for this trip. So we are going on the cheap but still need to save money for park tickets, spending money, etc.

    This will be so handy to use and concrete enough for my husband to see results!

    • Shannyn says:

      Suzanne- ya, I feel you! I cut costs as much as possible but it still took a LOT of money to make it happen. I had a few people gift me cash or Disney gift cards instead of Xmas gifts to help cover the costs and hit my goal, but it took some planning!

      The boyfriend and I are going to bring some Nuun tabs for hydration, some bread, trail mix and bars for snacks- but even with the saved money, there’s a lot you can’t put in the suitcase (like ice cream, yum!!)

      I hope you get to bring the family along soon! I can’t wait to see you at the Princess!

      • We are going to be saving a bunch by not flying. But I’m questioning my sanity on a close to 24 hour drive with by that time an almost six year old and an almost eight year old. haha

        We just had the have to stay on budget conversation, so most likely October will be happening just will mean curbing impulsive spending a bit. And watching how much I spend of my bonus when I’m at Princess (more specifically the expo).

        Ice cream might be hard to travel with 😉

        • Shannyn says:

          Oh that expo..I had to exercise extreme amounts of control not to buy a ton of new gear at the Tink expo. I know this time with more time in the parks my spending won’t be as easy to control!

  3. Laural says:

    This is awesome!
    My best friend’s advice to me was “just don’t spend money.” It sounds insane, but she had a point. Every time I want to spend money I re-think.
    I completely cut out Starbucks at work (I went from 2 grandes a day to instant coffee – $5 per day to $2 per week).
    I also stopped buying lunch out. I switched jobs 3 months ago, and I’ve spent about $50 in the last 3 months buying lunches. That compares to $50/week minimum.
    I still buy some stuff, obviously, but way less.

    • Shannyn says:

      HAHAH, I know right? Sometimes that advice isn’t helpful, but other times, if used properly, it can be great.

      ImpulseSave has a phone app that will help you reward yourself with savings as soon as you do something good for yourself- like brew your own coffee or pack your own lunch, you can add that $5 to your goal and leave a note explaining what you did to save that cash to your friends, and they can see it on your Impulse Save wall..very cool!

  4. Audra O. says:

    My best tip for saving money on a trip to Disney? Find an authorized Disney travel agent that you trust. They can find you the best deals on Disney hotels, dining, and tickets. We have used ours for three trips now, and I love her. She knows when Disney is running specials – like free dining, a free night when you book a certain number of nights, etc. She handles our hotel reservations, dining reservations, and transportation. AND if a better price comes up after we’ve reserved our trip, she can still get it for us. The best part is that the service is free! Disney pays her. If anyone needs a recommendation, I’ll share her info. 🙂

    • Shannyn says:

      Hey Audra!
      Wow, I didn’t even know that existed! I had seen a lot of “services” out there but didn’t know what to make of it or who to trust, ya know? I hope I get to go back to WDW next year for the Wine N Dine or WDW Marathon… I will need help to make it happen and find the best deals I couldn’t snag on my own, thanks!

  5. Kat says:

    Awesome, see you soon!! 🙂

  6. Stephanie says:

    I love this post. I’ve decided to sign up for my second tough mudder race next year but it’s expensive. $150 registration, $200 hotel, $100 for gas and $100 for food. Not as expensive as your trip but I was stressing about finding the money to do all of it.

    Seriously, great ideas on here. I adore your blog and read it all the time but somehow forgot about this post! Keep up the amazing work!


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