I had a moment. The "why can't I" moment. The moment of envy from seeing someone's charmed Facebook life.
A coworker from my old department posted photos of their room during their Disney resort vacation. They're staying at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa on the Disney property, happily lounging in the $2,200/night suite. They were upgraded for free, after booking the $400/night rooms.
Why can't we do that? Our checking account says we can't... “but when I started in Michigan, I made $40k and was told I'd probably have to take a pay cut to move down if I wanted to stick with the same department. Therefore, they likely started at $40k or less, and are probably at $45-50k now, although it could be way more since they’re an awesome high performer.”
“How can they afford this?” I longingly asked my partner.
"They probably aren't saving much for retirement..." Oh gosh, right. We tuck $18,500 into our two 401ks and max out our HSAs, plus I max out my Roth IRA. When you automate, you forget it's even there. That's almost $50k per year put right into savings accounts for the future, or about 120 nights in the hotel. When it's dollars we don't see, it's easy to forget they exist. We could spend those on Disney if we wanted to, but we are prioritizing future us instead.
"... and they live 30 miles north of work." Right again, wonderful partner. We choose to live in an expensive house in a premier neighborhood right by the downtown area and only 11 miles from work, and we have a 20-minute commute one way, while they likely drive an hour each way. Our house requires $35k/year cash outflow to own and run. They own a home that's probably a third of the price due to location, and probably has significantly lower taxes and insurance. That price difference of likely $15k-20k means another 40 more of these $400 nights at the hotel. I know they love their home, and they don’t mind the commute to work. However, I wake up daily and appreciate my home and my commute. I don’t want to give those up.
“Also, what if they’re going into debt to do it?” That is so true. While I don’t believe that’s the case for this family, we certainly know people who wouldn’t hesitate to throw things like this on a credit card and pay for it later. What if they were going into debt to do it? Would I really be jealous of them then? Nope, not a chance. I definitely don’t want that experience that badly.
“But we can if you really want to.” That’s right, we can. We probably have about 40 hotel nights’ worth of cash squirreled away between three checking accounts, three slush-fund savings accounts, and our tax and insurance savings account. We don’t even have to move or change our savings rates, although selling the house would easily cover two years of hotel living and liquidating everything else would probably cover another two years. If we didn’t want to tap any savings at all, it would just mean a spending adjustment: less going out during the month, being more mindful of groceries, and curbing any and all impulse purchases. We could definitely afford a fancy Disney hotel room for random weekend in September.
We love to visit the parks, but it can get expensive if you aren’t mindful. We try to keep spending low at Disney. We bring water bottles to fill at the water fountains. We bring snacks to eat in the car after we leave, and we eat beforehand. We do like to splurge on ice cream in the shop on Main Street. We also enjoy the Epcot Food and Wine festival and like to buy a dish to share. It’s about $5 per small plate, so we usually end up spending about $30-40 on 4 small plates and a couple drinks that we share, which means lots of new foods to taste. That’s about the cost of a date night out, but a lot more fun.
Our favorite hack to alleviate the shopping temptations? Pin trading! We both have a lanyard full of pins, and we trade away. We aren’t worrying about trading away pins we like, because we are too busy having fun and enjoying the new pins. Every shop we go into, we find cast members who are happy to trade. It’s an easy and inexpensive dopamine shopping fix, because we started with a 25-pack from Amazon rather than the $8.99/pin packs from the Disney store.
So do I really want to go stay in a fancy hotel room for a random weekend in September? No. Staying in the fancy Disney resorts regularly does not align with our priorities. It’s not worth the trade-off. We are going to stay at one of the hotels in May to celebrate the Wanderer’s birthday and our anniversary, but it’s a special treat! When you don’t do it all the time, it feels more luxurious. We will likely go for the $100/night rooms instead, though. Maybe they would upgrade us for free to the $400/night rooms... when you wish upon a star, after all!