One of the scariest parts of planning this family vacation is the kids’ spending money. They want that independence to buy things on their own but are still too young to actually understand that money has value. I want to let them buy stupid lollipops or stickers when I refuse to spend my money on it, but I also don’t want them to lose their money in the parks or have it stolen while they aren’t looking. Managing your child’s souvenir budget at Walt Disney World can be a stressful conversation to have, but it’s better done before heading to the parks, than during a total meltdown.
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Kids spending at Disney
How much spending money do you need for Disney?
Before sitting down with the kids and discussing the particulars of their spending at Disney, it is best to have a few of the following questions answer beforehand.
- Will we give the child souvenir money or will she be expected to spend her own funds?
- Will all the children in our group be given the same budget?
- What is the maximum total dollar amount we feel comfortable having the child spend on souvenirs?
- Are there any categories of items that are off-limits for practical reasons?
- Are there any categories of items that are off-limits for personal reasons?
- Will you give the child access to his complete budget at the outset of the trip, or will we ration the money daily?
- Will we allow the child total purchase control within the budget or will the child be required to have particular purchases approved?
Preparing the Kids
It is important to prepare the children for what they are about to experience at Disney. Not just the rides, but shopping as well. It is not physically, or financially possible to buy everything they set their eyes on.
They will need to set clear boundaries for themselves on what they want, vs what they “need”.
- Is there something you’d like to collect?
- Do you have a favorite character?
- Do you want to have items only available at the parks?
- Do you already have enough of something at home so you don’t need to get more at the parks?
Deciding on a Dollar Amount and How to Manage It
Normally, I would suggest to parents on a budget that they shop at Amazon, Walmart and just about anywhere in their town to buy the near-same product that costs twice the price on Disney property.
This is great for t-shirts to wear in the parks, small toys to keep them busy in line or so forth. But from the child’s point of view, this isn’t Christmas. They don’t want to just have toys appear in their room…well, they do, but they don’t.
Half the fun of having a souvenir is knowing where and when it was purchased. And at that young age, knowing that you made the purchase on your own, with your own hard-earned money. Retail therapy is a real thing.
So, parents buy on a budget for the kids, anything that they want the kids to have for the trip; shirts, autograph books, special stuffy, light up toys for the nighttime shows. And the kids have a set limit as to what they are allowed to buy willy-nilly.
How much spending money do you give your kids?
Some parents prefer to give their kids a set dollar amount per day, like $10-$20. That means they can purchase one small item each day at their own discretion.
Others prefer to give their kids a much larger, bulk amount, around $100 per trip.
Growing up, I was the latter. I was given $200 for a 14-day vacation to Florida (back in 1994) and that had to last me the whole 14 days, Disney World and Daytona Beach. My parents bought up shirts and stuffies and whatnot, but I really wanted a Disney bathing suit that was totally overpriced and they refused. Obviously. So I bought it. I didn’t have much left after that but I loved that bathing suit… until next summer when it didn’t fit anymore. Because growth spurts are a real thing too.
How much money and how often you refill their wallets depends on how many items vs the quality of items, you want them to purchase, as well as their maturity level. Can they handle $100 in 1 week or is it best to ration it out for them, until they have a better sense of money management?
Take a look at the various Parks you will be visiting with the kids, the attractions they will want to visit, and see if you can find anything online about their souvenir shops (we are working on this project, don’t you fear) and see what might peak their interest. There are also larger items to be bought, like Lightsabers and Droids that will take a large chunk out of anyone’s budget.
The My Disney Experience app has a great feature for shopping in the parks. You can search through various categories like Art, characters, clothes, and souvenirs. You will also be able to find where in the parks they are, how much and if another store has what you are looking for if your store is out of your size/style/color.
This is a great help when deciding what the kids can and can not buy for themselves, or how much you anticipate them wanting to spend on any given day.
How are you going to physically manage the souvenir money?
Will the child hold his or her own cash? Will you hold cash for the child? Will you pay for the items and the child reimburses at another time? Would giving the child a Disney gift card loaded with the budgeted amount be safer? Should an older child be allowed charging privileges on his room key?
I tried asking the Facebook group what’s the best way to have your kids spend their money at the parks? They have a set budget, and cash in hand but we can’t decide between cash, gift cards or magic bands.
Their answers varied, and each had great points to back up their opinion. But ultimately, this didn’t help me because this is my family and no one knows my family as I do, therefore this was a decision between the 4 of us.
Between my children’s nack for losing things they were just given, and my anxiety that borders on paranoia, we have decided to have a running tab and the kids can reimburse us at the end of the night. If they run out of money, we are able to return anything at the hotels’ gift shop or they can run a deficit on their weekly allowance (to a point).
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