Disney World, Less Than 2 Months Away And Counting!

A few months back I wrote about how we had made the decision to take a family trip to Disney World later this year.  Well, most of the year has passed and we’re now less than two months away from taking our trip.  I’ve been bad with updates (a whirlwind summer with mostly great weather has a way of doing that), but wanted to check in with some updates and observations!

So, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up!

We Splurged

The first thing that I have to admit is that we made a change of plans that increased our budget and is a big splurge.  When we first planned things out, we had decided to stay at a moderate level resort.  Since then, we’ve upgraded to one of the deluxe resorts.

After we did our initial planning, Disney came out with a free dining plan, but you had to stay at one of the deluxe resorts in order to get it.  The increase in the hotel price exceeded the savings in the meal plan, so we ended up paying more.  But, we put a lot of thought into it and we’re OK with it.  Here’s why:

  • This is a rare trip for us – If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, we do go away quite a bit, but 80%-90% of our traveling is local and camping.  A trip to Disney is something we’ve been thinking about for five years, and it’ll probably be another five years or more before we do it again.  My wife knows people that go down there every year, sometimes multiple times!  Since we don’t do that, we felt OK with the extra costs.
  • Our kids LOVE animals – We are staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge, and we have a room type that makes it possible that we’ll see animals right outside of our room.  Many reviews state that you walk out on your balcony and you can see zebras or giraffes or other animals.  Our kids could go to the zoo every day, so we know they will love this element as well as the cool themes within the room.
  • My wife;s  business supported the cost – I mentioned in the original article that my wife had decided to fund the trip with money made from her Etsy shop, and even with the change we were able to do so, as her business did better than she’d projected at the end of the day.  So, while it certainly would have been great to have that extra money, we’re 100% fine with having the same amount of money at the end of the trip as we would have with the original projections, and getting what we hope is an awesome trip.


I’d been following airfares before the trip, and was happy that we got what appeared to be a great deal.  I’m mb-2015-02-disneysomewhat obsessive and have been tracking the fares ever since, and we appear to have booked with the single lowest fare available since we started tracking.  Our flight is the ideal flight for the time of day, and is about twice as expensive as what we paid for it.  The flights on either side of the time are still 20% higher.

We are also looking forward to avoiding having to pay for luggage costs as we paid for it with a Delta American Express card.

One thing of note, they did adjust the schedule a bit so that we’re leaving (and arriving) about one and a half hours earlier than when we’d booked.  We’re cool with that.

Planning Is Nearly Complete

Because we’re on the Disney meal plan, we had to plan out our schedule pretty tightly.  We had to pick what park we wanted to be at on which day, as we made reservations on certain days for different restaurants.  My wife did a lot of research on what restaurants have the best characters present and some of the ‘must see’ places, and we were lucky enough to get things planned almost exactly as she wanted.

We later were able to book many Fast Pass reservations, which also ties into our schedule, and allows you to get on rides with a lot less wait time versus standing in line.  You’re only allowed a certain number per day, so my wife did a lot of reading up on what rides and attractions would be the hardest to get into that our kids would enjoy, and so far, it looks like we have a good plan.

It’s Looking Busy…But That Could Be A Good Thing

We chose our time with one of the reasons that it is typically a less crowded time, as it happens to fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is when things often pick up.  Because of the different promotions (including the meal plan), it appears that the crowds will be pretty heavy.

But, that could actually be a good thing.  Why?

Because one thing that often happens during less crowded weeks is that Disney will offer pretty short hours for many of the parks.  When reservations indicate higher crowd levels, they’ll expand the hours, which they have started doing. This will give us flexibility to either enjoy the parks longer, or take some time in the middle of the day to return to the hotel, rest, and head back out.  With much shorter hours, this wasn’t looking like a possibility, and this worried us, as our kids (and let’s face it, the grown ups) need their rest.

We Told The Kids

We’ve been planning this for a while, and this past weekend we finally told our kids about the trip!  My wife wanted to tell them far enough in advance that we could show them information about the park and start getting them used to the idea of rides, and really increase their excitement level.  We also want to make sure to prepare them for the idea of a plane ride, as my daughter has never been on one, and my son was on one when he a year old, so it’ll be a new adventure for him, as well.

My wife came up with some great ideas:

  • We got some balloons with Mickey on them, and put them into a box that was taped shut.  When the kids opened the box the balloons floated out.
  • Mickey Mouse wrote them a letter telling them that they were coming down, and went through some of the great things that have been lined up for them to do, including the hotel, the parks, and some of the restaurants.
  • There is a ‘How Many More Days’ picture frame that has a piece of glass in front that we change the number each day with a dry erase pen, to show the countdown on how many days left!

Thanks To The Planner

If you’ve read through all this, by now you may have noticed a theme.  How many times have you read the words ‘ My wife’?  Answer: A lot.  She’s been amazing and has pretty much single handedly planned (and of course paid for) the entire trip.  She’s great at planning things that turn into wonderful memories, and her attention to detail and knowing the details of what will not only make it a wonderful time, but a wonderful time for our family, are huge.

So much love and thanks to her for all the work!

Readers, if you’ve had or have a big trip, tell me about your planning and details and excitement in the comments below.  Any tips or tricks as we get ever closer to the travel date?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

4 Reasons You Should Ignore The Stock Market Doomsday Preachers

The stock market has not been pretty as of late.  All three major US indexes are in or have at some point recently dropped into correction territory, which is noted as a 10% drop.

The bulls that drove the stock market to more than double over the last few years have taken a break, and the bears have been more than happy to step in and finally be right.  However, I think that there are some who are way off the mark.

Is This 2008-2009 All Over Again?

There are many out there who will happily tell you that the stock market is headed for another crash like the one that happened in 2008-2009 when the markets lost over half their value in about an 18 month period.

They claim that the Fed artificially propped up stock prices over the past few years, and that their effect is over, and we will now return to those levels (and some claim lower)!

They claim that the global economy is so dire that the entire world is going to crash and burn any day!

They claim that just about anything and everything is a bubble and they’re all going to burst!

To all of that and any related thesis about an imminent market crash, I am very skeptical. Let me explain why.

Here are four reasons that I don’t think the market is headed for a crash.

There are no signs of a foreclosure crisis on the horizon

Remember the early 2000’s, when prices in just about every neighborhood were skyrocketing?  10% increases in mb-201312billscoinshome values a year?  No problem.  People could buy a home and be comfortable that they’d turn a profit in as little as a couple of months.  However, as we now know this was all built on a house of cards caused by bankers giving out loans that they should never have been doing.

Look around today.  While home prices have largely recovered, the volume isn’t there.  There’s less houses being sold.  This is a good thing.  It means people are actually buying and selling because they need to, which removes most of the speculation that drove the previous rise and fall.  While there are flippers out there, the practice is much less common and you have to actually know what you’re doing to make it work.

In other words, this is a fairly normal housing market that has solid footing, and while values could flatten or even decline, the crash in prices and spike in foreclosures seems very low risk.

Banks aren’t built on a muddy foundation

Remember the images of Lehman Brothers closing?  People walking out carrying boxes.  A giant building suddenly with no purpose.  A company that had handled and been responsible for trillions of dollars and in business for well over a century suddenly….gone?  We all saw the images and they hit home.  The fact is, while Lehman was the only major casualty of the giant banks, it could have gone further.

Luckily it didn’t.

When it all shook out, it turns out that very few banks were in great shape.  Most had gotten so consumed with the housing mess that it could have all come tumbling down.  Lehman wasn’t fortunate enough to get another chance, but many still did.

And the results show today.

Banks now must routinely go through stress tests, where a simulated economic disaster takes place, and banks must show that they have the liquidity and the financial strength to weather the storms.  When these stress tests first rolled out, very few banks passed.  Now, all the major banks have showed strength and routinely passed stress tests.

Is every bank guaranteed to survive some economic event that might happen? Of course not.  But, the industry as a whole is now must stronger and is not at risk of collapsing at any moment.

Unemployment numbers are solid

One argument that the mega-bears use is to point out that economic recovery is slowing.  This is true, but when you compare it to a few years ago, is this really a big surprise? We were just coming out of the biggest economic catstrophe in 80 years, so when things started going in the right direction, it was no surprise that things started picking up quickly.

Unemployment stands at just over 5% today.  That’s the lowest in years, and while employment gains are shrinking, I believe that it’s because of what the numbers show, that many people have jobs.

Many people will counter that argument by stating that the unemployment number is flawed, because many people simply dropped out of the workforce.  I can’t prove that’s wrong, but to me, just by emperical evidence, it’s pretty clear that more people are back to work these days.  I just don’t see the Facebook posts of people sitting at home looking for work.  I have automatic alerts about jobs in my area for my profession, and I see the number of opportunities getting bigger in number.  I just don’t see that unemployment numbers are a reason to predict a crash.

On top of that, I also think that the fact that unemployment has grown slowly and steadily over the last few years is a reason for strength right now.  Many past recoveries saw job numbers grow very quickly after a recession, only to see the large gains get undone at the first sign of trouble.  I believe in our current economy, employers have added jobs as they are truly needed, and the risk of them quickly unwinding the hires of the past few years is low.

Other countries do not drive us (though they can ride shotgun)

But….but…..China….and….Greece……yeah….they go down, we go down.

Isn’t that what many fear mongers have been preaching over the last year?  Every time China slows or Greece slows, the market goes into panic mode and the perma-bears pat themselves on the back in satisfaction.


The fact is that while we now have a global economy where things in other countries will impact us from a financial perspective, we still drive our own economy.

Let’s think about this?  The last time the situation in Greece came about, the stock market lost more value than the entire annual GDP of Greece!  Again, I understand the situation was no laughing matter, but perspective sometimes gets lost, and those who want to see doom and gloom will latch onto any little bit of news and make it seem like the entire country was going to basically fall into the ocean and all economic activity would cease.

Greece, China, and other countries will all have issues.  Will they impact us?  Sure.  But are they going to blow our economy out of the water?

Not likely.

So what does it all mean?

Am I here to tell you that the stock market shouldn’t have fallen?  No.  Am I hear to tell you that it won’t fall more?  No.  In fact, I could be completely wrong about everything I’ve said.  Maybe the market will tank.

But, I don’t think it will.  I’m keeping my portfolio aligned with that opinion (and that’s all it is).

I don’t see the perma-bulls getting hold anytime soon.  Will the Dow hit 20,000 this year?  Probably not (though wouldn’t that be nice!).  But will it go under 10,000 like many seem to love to call for?  I just don’t see it happening.

I think that there will be a lot of volatility.  I think right now this is caused more by the market sensing fear and trying to shake out the weak hands.  Unfortunately, if this is true, a lot of people will get shaken out, suffering losses, and then they’ll miss out on the upside again.

That’s what the fat cats on Wall Street loves to do to the retail investor.

So before you make a big move in the market, whatever it is, make sure you look past whoever it is that’s telling you that things are going to go way down (or way up) and make sure you understand for yourself the things that are going on and that you have your own belief in what’s next.

You might be right and you might be wrong, but at least you won’t be trusting someone else.  Because let’s face it, all those ‘someone elses’ don’t have the best interests in mind for your money despite what they say.

Readers, what do you think? Is the market headed for a crash or a rise or somewhere in between?  I’d love to hear your predictions and thoughts on what’s driving the market these days.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

5 Simplistic Ways Small Businesses Can Save Money

Working with a small budget? Need ways to cut back on operational costs in an effort to increase profit? Small business owners don’t have the same financial luxuries of a large organization and as such must make economic decisions that will allow them to save money while still providing the same quality of products and/or services. There are essentially hundreds of ways in which you can cut back on your overhead costs, however, some of them may require a large initial investment or an array of resources you may not have at the moment.

The good news is, however, modern technology has made some money saving options a lot easier for small business owners to accomplish. Here are five considerations.

1.  Outsource Instead of Hiring

There’s more to hiring an employee than just paying for their salaries. As a business owner you would also be required to pay employee taxes, insurance costs, and more which can add up on a small budget. Not to mention the costs of office space, furniture, and training for a new employee to start. However, if you were to hire a freelance contractor or outsource certain aspects of your business, you will come off a lot cheaper.

By hiring an individual or company on an as needed basis you’re essentially only paying for the time they actually spend completing work. There is no need to pay for taxes or insurance, and since they have their own location to work from, there is no need to invest in things like office space or equipment. Look at areas of your business that doesn’t require someone to physically be on location on the daily basis. This might mean hiring a virtual assistant to handle clerical tasks, or even a freelance accountant to handle the bookkeeping on a monthly basis. Ultimately it will save you big time.

2.  Consider Switching Phone Systems

If you’re using traditional land lines for your organization, you may want to reconsider this option. There are more innovative phone systems that you can invest in that will essentially cost you next to nothing. Not only that but many of these new phone systems allow users to access the company phone system remotely. There are several options for you to choose from including VoIP phone services or a hosted PBX system. Each has its own pros and cons that should be evaluated, but in the right organization can work well while also saving money each month.

3.  Go Paperless

Going paperless is not only great for the environment, but it can save your company a bunch of money. Gone are the days where forms have to be printed out and correspondence has to be sent by mail. With modern technology you can essentially run all of your business operations online. Here are a few options you might consider when going paperless:

·  Send emails – instead of mailing correspondence out to clients or customers why not send an email? Emails are a lot faster to send and track, and you can also send them out in large batches saving you time and money as there is no need for envelopes or postage stamps.

·  Go in the cloud – when it comes to storing files and other documents, the cloud is the new way to go. All of your company’s data can be stored in one virtual destination allowing as many permitted users to access it from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. Worried about your company information being compromised? Software security software and features have come a long way and will certainly keep your information safe from hackers.

·  Paperless Fax – Need to fax something to a client? There are now paperless fax options available. You receive a legitimate fax number and can send a fax virtually to anyone with a telephone number or email address instantly. You’ll receive instant notifications when faxes have been transmitted and received.

4.  Shift Your Marketing to Online

Marketing is certainly an important aspect of any business type. Without effective and continual marketing efforts, your company’s brand essentially falls by the wayside. However, if you’ve been doing a great deal of traditional marketing (i.e. flyers, postcards, mass mailings, etc.) you may want to consider more affordable (and sometimes free) options such as online marketing. Creating an effective website, company social media page, and compelling content allows you to build a strong online presence while still getting the word out about your products and services.

5.  Utilize Free Online Software

Last but certainly not least is the option to utilize free online software for some of your business practices. Investing hundreds of dollars into expensive software can put you over budget. Many times, there are free software options that are just as effective as the expensive ones. For instance there are free online templates, cloud storage accounts, and even email mailing (marketing) accounts that allow you to get the job done effectively without spending the unnecessary cash.

Saving money in your small business is all about making informed economical decisions. Take the time to evaluate your company expenses and look into the areas in which can be cut such as those described above. By incorporating different ideas such as outsourcing, going paperless, or utilizing online marketing, you will see that cost of operational costs start to plummet allowing you to put the excess money to use in other areas of your business.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Business Skills Matter in Golf

Many people don’t make an immediate connection between business and golf. However, many of the owners of the top golfing properties have business experience that makes their golf courses some of the top in the business. Their expertise translates to better golf properties that have a lot to offer beyond the usual perks that come with a good golfing experience.
What Experience Do Many Top Golf Course Owners Have?
In a recent Warren Stephens interview, many golf enthusiasts saw just how much of a difference the right experience makes. The Arkansas business person has a lot of experience in finance and reputation management that help him manage his golf property. Knowledge of networking makes a difference because people in business must constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities. Because golf tournaments play so heavily in fundraising efforts, knowledge of charity also plays a major role.
A Welcoming Atmosphere Matters
Regardless of whether a course attracts primarily golfers or an equal mix of other visitors, guests and visitors benefit from true hospitality. Many courses feature clubhouse architecture that is elegant, yet inviting at the same time. One thing that many designers do is make sure that the buildings have large windows, with stunning views of the surroundings.
What Are Some Landscapes That Matter in Golf Courses?
Many don’t realize that scenery plays a major role in the overall appearance of a golf course. Although the turf and the open spaces are important, people who come on golfing vacations are looking for a bit of tranquility. This peace that people are looking for is one reason that golf courses are popular in mountainous or coastal areas. Much of the surrounding landscape is fully intact for people to enjoy, and golfers may even have the opportunity to see local wildlife.
Benefits for Students
Many students excel on the golf course from an early age and want to continue playing once they go to college. Scholarships for college students help make this dream a reality for many young people. These scholarships have earned a lot of respect because the students not only have to have great golfing abilities but must also have good character and excel in academic subjects.
Greater Opportunities
Getting a scholarship or working as a caddie on a top golf course is a great way for younger people to have better opportunities. Many of the most successful people in the golfing business have had humble beginnings as caddies. Some have the good fortune to become professional golfers or course architects. A growing number of women have started to take advantage of these options.
Reaching Out to Kids
Playing golf well is something that increases confidence for many kids who may not feel as adept at other sports. Many children who grew up with a love for the sport have fond memories of playing with their parents. Courses that try to appeal to all age groups may offer classes or clinics geared towards kids and teens. These kids are more likely to have a lasting love for the sport in these circumstances.
Charitable Efforts
The world of golf is excellent for people involved with charities who want to make a difference. Tournaments and their related entry fees can easily provide a lot of funding for non-profits in need of cash. It’s not uncommon for some of the best tournaments to become annual events that are very well-publicized.
Successful business owners who do well in running a golf course will have a lasting legacy for years to come. There is always a need for courses that offer an excellent experience for golfers of all experience levels. These courses and the people who run them will continue to encourage players to reach new heights.
Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.