All Posts By

Brittany Cooper

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Our Family Finance Rescue Story

This family finance post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting Pennies Into Pearls by using my links!

I know how it feels! The weight of all your financial worries makes you feel like you can barely tread water for one more second before your head goes under! You find it mind baffling that for some unknown TO YOU reason you can not stick to a budget even if your life depended on it.

I have totally felt that! Ugh! We lived that life for way too long! Before hubby and I started having kids we were out of control with our spending. We had zero savings. Overdraft fees looked like a recurring charge on our bank statements. We would set “budgets”. Nope! We didn’t stick to them for more than three days max!

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I am talking about how we got our family finance in order and paid off $20k in debt and how there is hope for you too! I’m sharing my secrets and giving you a dose of serious motivation to get started with your family finances in 2019! Continue Reading →

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6 Ways to Get Your 2019 Financial Goals in Order

This setting financial goals post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting Pennies Into Pearls by using my links!

Hey Pearl! 2019 is here and it’s a GREAT time to sit down and really get your goals set for this year. We could set all kinds of personal goals, but I am here today to help you set your money goals for 2019.

Let’s reflect on 2018 first, shall we? What were your financial wins and loses last year? Is there something that you are doing particularly well, and areas that could use improvement?

Write them down! Now, let’s dive into the 6 best tips I have for setting financial goals for 2019!

Make sure you also follow me on Instagram where I often share stories talking about creating a budget, like these. 🙂

 

Related Articles:

Our Budgeting Basics

5 Money Questions for Debt Free Living

When You Suffer from Budget Burnout

 

We will be talking about setting your financial goals to support your overall dreams! If your financial goals support your dreams, you will be much more likely to stick to them. Let’s dive deep and get those dreams realized!

 

The Game Changing Tool That Keeps Our Family On Budget Every Month!

 

Hopeless.

 

$20,000 in debt, one income, overdraft fees every two weeks, and plenty of amazing dreams for our family that felt completely out of reach. Why couldn’t we stick with our budget? What were we doing wrong?

That is where hubby and I found ourselves back in 2011. I wish I could go back in time and give myself a giant hug and tell her that she is about to figure it all out!

Once we got our booties in gear we paid off our debt in less than one year, and immediately started working towards saving to buy our first home. We made that dream a reality almost exactly 12 months later!

Oh! We also celebrated our 10 year anniversary by taking a couples trip to Costa Rica that summer. Fully funded with cash!

What dreams do you have for your family? How are you going to make them actually happen? Do you have a plan? How are you going to stick with it?

The key to sticking to a budget is to use cash! Remember that stuff? Seriously, cash is T-H-E single tool we use that has helped our family cut our food budget from $1,000 to only $400 a month!

It’s a simple idea but using a cash envelope system is exactly what we started using to see immediate results and said goodbye to those overdraft fees!

It is statistically proven that when you use cash you spend less money. It is such a powerful visual reminder that the dollar number you are spending is coming from your pocket and not an imaginary never ending bank account.

Using a cash envelope system is what keeps our family on track with our budget every single day! When using this system every dollar you pull out of your wallet is coming directly from a categorized budget. You visually see money leaving your pocket and that gets you thinking twice about your purchase.

“If I buy this now, I won’t have enough to buy _______ later.” You have to weigh your wants with your priorities.

Want to learn how to start a successful cash envelope system? This week and next week I’ll be doing a free LIVE online training on exactly that! Click here to reserve your spot!

Step by step help on setting up your cash budget. Help you decide how much money you need. How to make it work with your unique pay schedule. How to manage it all between family members. What and what NOT to use cash for because not everything needs a cash budget. I’ll help you and your family switch the mindset from using your cards to using cash!

So, now that we’ve discussed a way to propel your financial goals to success, let’s talk about setting those goals so we have a PLAN! Financial goal setting is so important because if you don’t have a plan in place, you will end up wandering around aimlessly and never end up where you want to go. Valuable time and money wasted! And Pearl, I KNOW you have things to do and places to be, and the last thing you want to do is waste your time and money!

 

6 Steps to Financial Goal Setting

 

  1. What do you value?

What is valuable to you in your life right now? It may be spending time with friends, getting outdoors, working out, cooking meals? Once you know what you value, you’ll be better equipped to set your financial goals to help facilitate those values in your life.

  1. Brainstorm Your Dreams

I want you to list out ALL of your dreams, whether they are fiancial or not. Once you know what dreams you have for your future, you can create financial goals that lead you in the right direction! Make a list of 5 dreams you have for the next year, 5 dreams for 5 years from now, and 5 dreams for 10+ years.

  1. Prioritize Those Dreams

Now that you have a big “brain dump” of your dreams, let’s narrow it down. Prioritize and get down to the 3 most important dreams for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. Pick 3 dreams for each time period. From here, we are going to start to make a list of actionable steps to take for each dream you have. Where do your goals and values align? Make sure every goal you choose reflects what you value most.

  1. Top 3 Life Goals

Now we are going to dive in even deeper. Let’s narrow it down to your top 3 goals for your whole life. Don’t focus on anything else but three at a time. I know this is a hard step, but its so important to help drive you towards making financial choices that help you get to your dreams the fastest.

  1. Get specific

For each of these 3 top goals write down:

  • What the goal is
  • Why it’s a priority and why it makes the cut and deserves your attention
  • Write down any potential obstacles that might stand in your way
  • What financial baby steps will help you achieve your goal. Write them down.
  • Give it an ideal due date
  1. Reevaluate Regularly

Now that we have these goals, and steps to reach them, you’re going to reevaluare every 6 months to see where you’re at with achieving them. You’ll be able to readjust at this time. For example, lets say your top goals were getting better at meal planning, saving for a vacation and spending more time outside, but then you had a baby. Now you may shift to saving for college for that child in the future. Our priorities change from time to time so make sure you’re adjusting as you go.

Setting big, lofty goals can be really challenging. I expect this to take you some time to work through. But having these goals laid out is going to give you an excellent starting place for building a goal based budget. Another thing that will help is taking one of my FREE webinars coming up this week and next!

I will be explaining the ins and outs of cash envelopes and how it’s literally saved my family thousands of dollars a year!! Join the FREE webinar now!

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January 2019 Monthly Grocery Haul – Freezer Meal Update

This grocery haul post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting Pennies Into Pearls by using my links!

Welcome to 2019!! Whew, what a whirlwind last year was. We’ve had so much happening with our family, and this Pearl Team keeps growing and growing, which is so exciting! Today, lets talk meal planning and grocery haulin’!

Do you remember last month, when I cooked freezer meals for 2 months?! That was a crazy few days, but now I am so happy I did it, because for January I will not have to cook a thing from scratch! I just need to reheat the meals I have already made. SCORE!

This month, we are going to review how month two of this fun little experiment is going. If you’re interested in snagging a copy of Seriously Good Freezer Meals (the cookbook I used for my freezer meals), click this link!

Don’t know where to start? Pearl! I got you! Make sure you read this article on how to meal plan for beginners. In there you will find all the tips you need to make sure that you plan to the best of your ability and stay on budget!

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I’m also always sharing our daily frugal living tips for summer survival over on my Instagram stories! It’s super fun over there so don’t forget to follow along!

How We Stuck to a $400 Monthly Grocery Budget

If you are new here, hi! You are probably interested to know what we set for our monthly grocery budget. This is how it’s broken down.

When I first started kicking bootie at the grocery budget game we only spend $300 in our monthly grocery haul. That covers all groceries that can last in the fridge, freezer, or pantry for 30 days or longer. We also budgeted $25 each week for fresh produce and milk. All that takes is a quick 15 minute trip once a week! Lastly, we budgeted $160 for all other household needs that are not food.

Things over the past few months things have changed a bit and we are experimenting with bumping up our budgets and honestly, I think we will lower them back down soon. When you are figuring out your grocery budget, it’s all about trial and error.

The key to sticking to monthly meal plan on a budget is to use cash! Remember that stuff? Seriously, cash is T-H-E single tool we use that has helped our family cut our food budget from $1,000 to only $400 a month!

It is statistically proven that when you use cash you spend less money. It is such a powerful visual reminder that the dollar number you are spending is coming from your pocket and not an imaginary never ending bank account.

Using a cash envelope system is exactly what keeps our family on track with our budget every single day! When using this system every dollar you pull out of your wallet is coming directly from a categorized budget. You visually see money leaving your pocket and that gets you thinking twice about your purchase.

“If I buy this now, I won’t have enough to buy _______ later.” You have to weigh your wants with your priorities.

Want to learn how to start a successful cash envelope system? Next week I’ll be doing a free LIVE online training on exactly that! Click here to register!

Step by step help on setting up your cash budget. Help you decide how much money you need. How to make it work with your unique pay schedule. How to manage it all between family members. What and what NOT to use cash for because not everything needs a cash budget. I’ll help you and your family switch the mindset from using your cards to using cash!

My Favorite App for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

No mom has the time to spend continuously scanning apps over the holidays looking for the best rebate offers and sales. Which is why I have minimized my rebate strategy to help maximize my savings in the smallest amount of time.

This month’s grocery haul is very different from normal! Because I made and shopped for all meals last month, I don’t have any meal prep groceries to buy this month (other than fresh). You won’t believe how much money we saved by prepping our freezer meals this way!

My very favorite app to us is Ibotta! I have done an entire tutorial on how to use the app to maximize your savings. But in a nutshell this is how I do it, I do my normal grocery shopping first.

Then once I get all my groceries home, I will quickly open the app and search the two stores that I just went shopping at to see if there are any rebates that apply to my groceries. There are usually 3-4 that I can claim. This saves me around $5 each time I use the app.

If that doesn’t sound like much, trust me! The three minutes that it takes me to save $5 is 100% worth it! These small savings add up quick and once you hit $20 you can cash out in PayPal or Venmo, or choose from a bunch of really awesome gift cards! I usually choose Target and treat myself to a well deserved “mom’s only” snack!

If you are new to Ibotta, sign up using this link or the code: qybjrj and you will automatically get $10 after you claim your first rebate! So easy!

January 2019 Family Meal Plan on a Budget & Grocery Haul

Made double freezer meals last month so I don’t have to cook at all this month!

Used this cookbook to make this all possible.

You can download this month’s budget friendly meal plan here.

In this monthly grocery haul on a budget I’m shopping to feed our family of five for TWO MONTHS! I’m talking freezer meals this month! Crazy schedules and small budgets are in need of some freezer meal ideas.Take a look at our Costco grocery haul on a budget and learn tips to save money on groceries.

January 2019 Grocery Haul

This month’s grocery haul is very different from normal! Because I made and shopped for all meals last month, I don’t have any meal prep groceries to buy this month (other than fresh).

You won’t believe how much money we saved by prepping our freezer meals this way! You have to watch the video to find out! What should we do with the savings? I’m thinking about using it towards stocking up on meats next time I see a good sale!

So really all that is left for this month’s grocery haul is to replenish any needed kitchen staples, snack foods, breakfast, and lunch supplies. That’s about it. Take a look at the video to see what we bought this month plus the number breakdown!

 

I’d love to hear any questions you have! Leave them down in the comments below!

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Where to Start When Budgeting Feels Like a Hopeless Cause

Our Pearls write me about it ALL the time and I know exactly how it feels. The complete hopelessness that comes when trying to figure out the first steps to starting a budget.

There are so many factors that play into the giant web that builds your family finances. The never ending expenses, your family income, emergency costs, and bills to name a few. Just thinking about it all quickly gets your head spinning!

Where in the world do you start? What numbers do you look at first? Right now it might feel overwhelming trying to decipher where to begin, but by the end of this article you will have a clear picture on what needs to happen first when it comes to starting a budget for the LAST TIME!

Figuring out how to start a budget as a beginner can be overwhelming. What about starting a budget when you are behind on the bills? Or starting a budget when you are deep in debt? There are so many challenges that can make budgeting for beginners feel impossible. Good news! That is not reality! Starting a budget is actually a life saver and can help you get rid of stress! This article is going to hold your hand through the entire process!

Continue Reading →

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December 2018 Meal Plan & Grocery Haul – Freezer Cooking for Two Months

This Freezer Cooking for Two Months post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting Pennies Into Pearls by using my links!

We are deep into holiday territory with Christmas right around the corner!! Planning, cooking, and staying in budget at this time of year can get really tricky! Adding meal planning on top of all the craziness can be overwhelming.

You know I got you Pearl! I have come to your rescue with the meal plan my family and I are following. I have created allowances for events, having family over and more. As long as you plan ahead and anticipate, your meal plan can be smooth sailing into the new year! Check out how I am going to be Freezer Cooking for Two months on my Instagram Stories

This month, I am committed to sharing with you how my family deals with all of these  “unforeseen” events and plans for them as much as possible.

 

In this monthly grocery haul on a budget I’m shopping to feed our family of five for TWO MONTHS! I’m talking freezer meals this month! Crazy schedules and small budgets are in need of some freezer meal ideas.Take a look at our Costco grocery haul on a budget and learn tips to save money on groceries.

Continue Reading →

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Guys Gift Guide 2018

This Gift Guide for Guys contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Pennies Into Pearls by using my links at no additional cost to you.

I need you to know that a lot of thought has gone into this gift guide. I have been keeping a running list of gift ideas in my phone over the past 365 days!

Last year I was frantically searching the internet 72 hours before Christmas (thank goodness for Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping!!), trying to find something worthwhile and within budget for hubby. Only to end up buying something he courteously acted excited to recieve. But we both knew it was a flop…

I made it my mission to give him a gift this year that had thought behind it and I could be sure it was something he would actually be stocked to get!

You’re not going to find “Ties” or “Socks” on this gift guide for guys!

What’s more is that I LOVE that I got input from our Pearls for these gift ideas! I put it out there on Instagram last week asking for your best gifts ever given to the men in your life. Dads, hubbies, brothers, uncles, or whoever. If it was a win, I wanted to hear about it!

You guys had some brilliant ideas and I’m excited to have included them in this roundup to share with everyone! So thank you so much!

 Let me help you figure out gift ideas for your guy! This gift guide for guys is full of unique and thoughtful gift ideas that the guys in your life aren’t going to have to pretend they like. They will sincerely be stoked once they open it up! Not to mention, these are all very affordable gift ideas with nothing costing over $50! Need some gift ideas for this Christmas? You’re gonna want to watch this! Continue Reading →

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November 2018 Family Budget Update

It’s time for another Family Budget update! In these updates is where I share the nitty gritty details of our real life family finances. All the details of what has happened in our bank account over the last few weeks.

I have been doing these budget update videos for over TWO YEARS! It’s crazy to see how far we have come! 

When we started we were in over $20,000 in debt and living off one income. We figured out how to start and maintain a budget that was based off our goals. This way KEY in keeping motivated to keep going!

If you don’t know where you want your money to take you, then you most definitely will end up walking in circles. Or in other words, living that paycheck-to-paycheck life. The life that we are all trying to escape!

Intentional goal based family budgeting is a major topic that I cover in depth in my online course, 30 Day Family Finance Rescue! I want you to get excited every time you work on your budget. You’re going to get pumped because you know that your budget is helping you reach your goals!

Enrollment is currently not open yet, Coming January 2019, but you can sign up for my free email newsletter to be the first to find out more info when it’s ready for ya! I’ll leave a link for in the description box.

 

 

Related Articles:

In this month’s family budget update, I am going to walk you through all the numbers that went in and out of our family’s bank account. We share all the numbers in hopes of turning on some light bulbs to help you manage your family's finances and set financial goals based off what you guys value most in life! Continue Reading →

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Pesto Asparagus Tortellini Pasta Salad

Comin at ya with another super easy and crazy fast dinner idea! Plus, you can feel great about feeding this pesto tortellini dinner to your family because it is fresh and full of veggies (if you want!)

Tonight its a 5 ingredient dinner that will be on the table in under 20 minutes!

Tonight its a 5 ingredient dinner that will be on the table in under 20 minutes! You can count this as a healthy dinner idea because it is full of fresh yummy veggies! This cheap dinner idea will help you stay on budget and still keep all the flavor in the meal!

Related Articles:

 

Fast Pesto Asparagus Tortellini

(video)

 

This easy dinner idea is a family pleaser for sure! Leave the veggies cut into large pieces making it easy for your picky eaters to scavenge around.

This quick dinner idea is going to take you under 20 minutes to whip together and less than $5 to feed your family!

Tonight its a 5 ingredient dinner that will be on the table in under 20 minutes! You can count this as a healthy dinner idea because it is full of fresh yummy veggies! This cheap dinner idea will help you stay on budget and still keep all the flavor in the meal!

 

Tonight its a 5 ingredient dinner that will be on the table in under 20 minutes! You can count this as a healthy dinner idea because it is full of fresh yummy veggies! This cheap dinner idea will help you stay on budget and still keep all the flavor in the meal!

 

Pesto tortellini is perfect for busy nights where you feel like there is no time to cook but the drive thru is not on the meal plan!

Tonight its a 5 ingredient dinner that will be on the table in under 20 minutes! You can count this as a healthy dinner idea because it is full of fresh yummy veggies! This cheap dinner idea will help you stay on budget and still keep all the flavor in the meal!

The hardest thing you will be doing for dinner tonight is boing a pot of water! You can do it!

Oooh! This would also make a super good on-the-go meal idea!

 

My Favorite Cooking Tools

  • Bamboo Mixing Spoons that my brother got me for Christmas over five years ago and I still use them every day!
  • I use a Rubber Spatula in almost every recipe I am making.
  • We are still using the same Non-Stick Pot that my grandma got us for our wedding almost 12 years ago and we love it!
  • Insulated Carrier for On-The-Go Meals.

This quick dinner idea is going to take you under 20 minutes to whip together and under $5 to feed your family! There is no excuse tonight to mess up your meal plan! This cheap dinner idea will help you stay on budget and still keep all the flavor in the meal!

Share Your Dinner on Instagram!

I would love to see how your family likes your dinner! Share a picture of how your easy cesar pasta salad recipe turns out and tag me on Instagram @PenniesIntoPearls.

 

Thanks so much for stopping in and I will talk to ya soon! Xoxo

Pesto Asparagus Tortellini
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Ingredients
  1. 4 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
  2. 2 lbs. Asparagus (chopped into 2 inch pieces)
  3. 2 cups Chopped Grilled Chicken
  4. 1 lb. Frozen Tortellini Pasta
  5. ½ cup Pesto (Costco is the best place to buy!)
  6. Optional toppings: chopped parsley, grated parmesan, bacon crumbs
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water.
  2. Cook tortellini as package directs.
  3. Once tortellini is cooked and water is drained, in a large bowl combine all ingredients.
  4. Immediately serve and top with your favorite italian toppings.
  5. Enjoy!
Pennies into Pearls http://www.penniesintopearls.com/
 

 

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8 Disneyland Tips for Saving Money on Hotels That Will Slash HUNDREDS off Your Family Vacation Budget

There is a lot of costs to consider when planning your family Disneyland vacation. The good news is there is always a way to save on every single part of the trip! Today let’s dive into 8 Disneyland tips for saving money on your hotel!

Figuring out where and how to get the best deal on your hotel can be more complicated than you think. It’s not as simple as pulling up a price comparison website because they don’t take into account all the “small” things that can actually save you major cash!

To make sure you are absolutely saving the most money possible on your Disneyland vacation, follow these 8 easy tips!

Related Articles:

 

Planning your family Disneyland vacation on a budget you have to be sure and get the lowest price possible on your hotel! Use these 8 Disneyland tips for saving money on your hotel to make sure you save big on these 8 hidden costs!

 

8 Disneyland Tips for Saving Money on Your Hotel

There are always new hotels popping up around Disneyland and the prices are always changing. So instead of telling you exactly where to stay I want to equip you with the Pearl tools necessary to find the best prices on somewhere to stay during your Disneyland vacation!

1. Visit in the off season.

This is probably going to be a major factor into many expenses of your Disneyland vacation but has the highest impact on the cost of you hotel.

To take advantage of the lower hotel prices, shoot to schedule your family vacation sometime between January and Mid March or end of August through September. I know! That’s doesn’t leave many options but it can make a huge difference in the cost of your hotel!

It’s a great idea to always like to look at a Disneyland Crowd Forecaster like IsItPacked.com.

 

2. Make sure breakfast is included

It is really easy to find a hotel that includes breakfast. If you look at the cost of eating out for breakfast, having it included in your stay could save $10-$20 PER PERSON per day! That could save you around $50-$100 per day for a family of five!

There is always the option of packing your own hotel friendly breakfast food like milk, cereal, and fruit. That’s always a pretty cheap option!

 

3. You need a refrigerator and a microwave

Speaking of bringing your own food from home. Make sure that wherever you stay has a fridge or mini fridge! Especially if you are traveling with kids, you will want to keep some essentials on hand that you bring from home or grab at a nearby grocery store.

Buying items like milk, juices, string cheese, fruit, or applesauce pouches before you go into the park can save you over 50%!

 

4. Parking included

Another one of my key Disneyland tips for saving money is to make sure that your hotel stay includes the cost of parking. Sometimes if you book your hotel through a travel agency like Get Away Today you parking will be included but it might not be if you book directly through the hotel.

Hotel parking and even street parking in Anaheim can cost you upwards of $20 a night. If you’re staying an entire week, that’s another $100 that you are saving!

 

5. Free nights stay

Another great way to stack the savings is to find an offer to get a free nights stay. I see this all the time with Get Away Today! There is always several options of hotels that offer a third or fourth nights stay for free!

Planning your family Disneyland vacation on a budget you have to be sure and get the lowest price possible on your hotel! Use these 8 Disneyland tips for saving money on your hotel to make sure you save big on these 8 hidden costs!

6. Book early

The closer you get to your travel dates, the more likely it will be that the cost of each night’s stay will go up. So book your trip as soon as you have the cash!

 

7. Share a house airbnb

Yes, technically it’s not a hotel but it’s a lot easier to say “save money on hotels” rather than “save money on your place of lodging”. So… ya get me!

If you are able to share a vacation rental and split the cost with another family, this has to be one of the best Disneyland tips for saving money! Or if you have a large family and would need to rent two or more hotel rooms, this might be an excellent option as well. We are talking savings in the hundreds!!!

When considering vacation rental there are a few things you need to consider when comparing the price.

  • The cost of breakfast that would have otherwise been included in your hotel stay
  • Cleaning fee (Usually $150-$300)
  • Service Fee (Usually $150-$180)
  • Distance to Disneyland (Disneyland parking is currently $20 per car per day)

 

8. Distance to park to save on shuttle and/or parking

The entire reason you are looking for a place to stay is so you can go enjoy your time at the happiest place on earth! So a another one of my Disneyland tips to save money is to take into consideration for your vacation budget is the cost of parking, shuttle, uber, or however you plan to get there.

The very best option is to find a hotel that is close enough to the park that you can walk. This could save you the cost of parking at the park or taking a shuttle from the hotel.

If a close hotel isn’t a budget friendly option, look into the cost per person of using the hotel shuttle versus ordering an Uber. (I have to give credit to my hubby for this idea!)

If there are just a couple of you in your party then the shuttle is probably the way to go since the cost is usually around $5-$8 per person each day. BUT if you have a party of three or more an Uber might work out to be cheaper since a ride from a hotel within 2 miles of the park will cost you about $8 each way and that cost can cover several people!

If you haven’t used Uber before, you can use my Uber CODE: brittanyc16157ue and you can get your first ride for FREE! (value amounts vary by location)

 

BONUS! Mock Scenario – Hotel Cost Breakdown vs. Vacation Rental Cost Breakdown

To help give you a better visual of what the cost break down of hotel costs versus AirBnB costs, I created this worksheet for you to take a look at.

Make sure to watch the video to get a better explanation of how I got the numbers for the cost comparison.

 

Planning your family Disneyland vacation on a budget you have to be sure and get the lowest price possible on your hotel! Use these 8 Disneyland tips for saving money on your hotel to make sure you save big on these 8 hidden costs!