Disney World is a shopper's paradise, with tempting items filling the displays in stores, carts and at ride exits in each theme park. With a little planning, you can help your children navigate the wondrous array of choices and select the right items to bring home from your Disney vacation. Buying souvenirs doesn't just provide your child with a little vacation memento, you can use the process to teach money management skills that will last a lifetime. Kids as young as four can learn to earn and spend wisely and older children will enjoy the freedom of spending their own cash.
- Start at home: Begin about a month before your Disney vacation, and offer your child opportunities to earn extra money. If you already have an allowance in place, come up with some additional opportunities to earn extra cash. Make a Disney themed bank or box, and deposit any money earned into the box. Your child will enjoy watching the savings add up, and having her own money to spend at the theme parks.
The best tasks are age appropriate and out of the normal routine. They should be optional and available when and if your child wants to complete them. Make a list of jobs, along with how much they pay and post it where it is readily available.
- Set a budget: Before you leave home, add up any money your child will have to spend on souvenirs. Include money earned from special chores, any savings they wish to add and any money you want to offer them. You can offer to match the money they have earned — but beware, some kids can be very industrious when this is offered, you may have to cough up more cash than you planned. The total of these funds is what they have to spend.
- Choose a spending method: Handing over cash for a Disney princess wand or pirate sword is a great teaching moment, since parting with cash is more difficult than handing over a piece of plastic. If you choose to use cash, it may be best to have Mom or Dad carry a wallet and hand it over at the point of purchase. You can also purchase a Disney gift card with the cash, and allow your child to use it to buy items — when the card is empty, they can't purchase any additional items. Choose the spending plan that works best for you, but enforce the budget.
- Let your child make choices: As an adult, you know that shelling out money for a light-up necklace that only lasts one evening may not be the best move, but your daughter doesn't... yet. Let kids buy what they want with the money they have saved as long as it is age appropriate, even if you don't think it is a "good" bargain. The only way to learn about spending wisely is to make a few mistakes.
- Point out affordable souvenir choices: Some of the best souvenirs are also the least expensive. Spend some time perusing Disney trading pins, keychains, Vinylmation figures or pens. All are inexpensive enough for a child's budget and come in a huge array of Disney character designs. For really tight budgets, look for pressed penny machines in the parks and at Disney resorts for a fun souvenir for less than a dollar.