11 October 2012

31 Days:: Budget Planning Worksheet

{Budget Series}
Welcome to today's topic: Planning Worksheet! This is the budget worksheet that I use to plan our Disney trips and just modify to the appropriate number of days for the given year's trip. Below is a blank version that you can download for free! So print it on out, and we can get started on budgeting our trips together!!

I'll quickly explain each of my columns...
  • Title: pretty self explanatory, the various categories for budgeting
  • DP: if you're using the Disney Dining Plan (which I'll explain in a few days!) I use this column to keep track of which meals we'll be using on the DDP, putting a Q for Quick Service Meals and a T for Table Service Meals
  • Paid: how I paid for each purchase, helps to know what credit card I used so I can be sure to pay it off when we arrive home
  • Estimate: estimated price of purchase
  • Actual: actual price of purchase
  • O/U: "over/under" how much I was over cost or under cost for the purchase
  • Notes: again, self explanatory, you could use this for reservation numbers or I use it to keep track of which park we're going to each day
  • Total: at the end of each day, where it says D1, D2, D3, etc. (short for "Day 1," "Day 2," etc.) I figure out how much I'm "over" or "under" budget that day, so I know if we need to cut back on excess spending or if we're staying within budget
  • Meals: I break down the meal section into each day's breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, on the blank printable, I write in the date next to each day. You'll notice I start on "day 0" which I use either for the first day we get down there since it's not a full day to meal plan for... you can ignore it or use it as you see fit :)

Below is my budget from last year's shorter trip to the World. I'll be using this as an example, since I'm still putting together our budget for this year! You'll notice that the sections are in a slightly different order (and we didn't use the DDP that year), but it works just the same as the printable above :) So! Let me walk you through my budget worksheet and process!!

When I "budget," I really do it in two parts. 
Part One:: I fill in all of the costs that I know ahead of time. So, as you can see above, the "estimated" and "actual" costs for our plane tickets, resort, park tickets, they're all the same for both columns. Since those aren't really areas that you can personally adjust (you can't haggle down the price of plane tickets unfortunately!), I go ahead and put those costs in first. 
Part Two:: The areas where I can adjust to meet our overall trip budget are things like extra tickets (ie. miniature golf or La Nouba show), meals (eating out every meal vs. bringing snacks) and also reining in the souvenir purchases. So those Tickets, Meals, and Extras are the headings where I really work the budgeting magic.

Step 0: Setting a Budget Amount
This is going to be different for everyone, of course. If you only have a set amount of money, and that's all you have to work with, then that's what you work with. For us, I figure out how much the trip is going to cost after I finish with all my ticket booking and price estimates, and then I tailor our monthly budget to ensure we have enough in our bank account to pay for the trip in cash without dipping into savings (well, I put it on credit cards during the trip and then pay it off right when we arrive home!).

Step 1: Length of Trip
So when I begin budgeting, I start by setting up my budget worksheet for the appropriate number of days for our trip that year. Some years it's just a few days, some years 10 days, and some years we can swing a wonderful full two weeks. We found that two weeks is a great amount of time for vacation- long enough that you can unpack and settle in, but by the end you're about ready to get home to your own bed :) Granted, it's not always possible of course, so we just make the most of however long we are able to enjoy the World!

Step 2: Transportation and Lodging 
My next step is to go ahead and book those tickets! Figure out where you're gonna stay and how you're gonna get there. Over the next few days I'll talk about perks of staying on Disney property vs. off, as well as talking about transportation options and the various perks and drawbacks of each option. Don't forget to factor in the resort/hotel tax which is 11-12% depending on the geographic location, gas money for rental car, and parking costs for rental cars.

Step 3: Tickets
This is where the budget magic really starts. This is where you really can choose to start splurging, saving, or a mixture of both. We're doing a mixture this year. For park tickets, you can cut down on the number of days you spend in the park, thus saving on ticket costs. You can choose to do some extra activities instead, like mini golf, which would be cheaper than the parks for the day, but still fun. If the budget is really tight, just have a day to hang out at the resort or hotel instead of spending money on activities. This is the first area where you can start to fitting your trip costs into the budget you have set.

Step 4: Extras
There will always be the miscellaneous costs that you can't foresee ahead of time. You forgot to bring deodorant, so you have to pick up some from a gift shop. A rain storm hits and you need to buy a poncho. So I usually do about $10 a day per person. Of course, there's also the souvenir budget! Can't pass up that cute Mickey ornament or that adorable Tigger onesie for the baby :) And again, when estimating these budget areas, keep in mind the Florida state sales tax at 6.5%.

Step 5: Meals
Here is where you have a lot of budgeting options and you can really customize your trip to fit within your budget. Our first year, I made a huge batch of granola and we had that for most of our breakfasts, so all we did was buy some milk and yogurt there at Disney. We also made some trail mix to bring to the parks as snacks. You can eat at all quick service locations, which will cost about the same as an expensive McDonald's meal. You can also choose to splurge and eat some (or all!) meals at the wonderful table service restaurants throughout the parks. We tend to chose one meal a day (or a snack location) to splurge for dessert. This way we're not eating dessert at every meal, which can really add up! We also usually forego appetizers as a general rule, again, to cut down on costs of eating meals at the parks.

Once I figure out where we'll be eating for each meal, I estimate the cost of each meal. For meals in the parks, I go to Disney's website {here} and AllEar's website {here} to find the menus for each restaurant. I guess what DH and I both might have to eat, and budget my estimate based off of that! Yes, I really do pull up menus for each and every restaurant for each and every meal! I find it helps me more accurately budget. I also usually add an extra $5-10 to my estimate, in case DH or I end up wanting an extra coffee or an appetizer with a meal :) This also ensures that my budget "estimates" are a bit more than the "actual" costs in general, so our overall budget is padded a bit. Also, don't forget to budget in tipping waiters at sit-down restaurants and also Florida state sales tax at 6.5%. Also, if you stay at Disney's Coronado Springs resort, they add an extra 10% to their meals. It has something to do with it being a Disney conference center.

I hope I explained our budget process well. If you have any questions, or if you'd like a customized version with additional days, less days, additional sections, an Excel version, etc. feel free to email me or leave a comment! I'd be more than happy to help! Tomorrow I'll explain how to best utilize this budget worksheet during your trip at WDW! Hope to see you then :)

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