Life Lessons with a Disney Twist: Mastering the Art of Window Shopping

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Best thing for kids at Disney World
One of those terms that seems to be lost on the younger crowd these days is “window shopping.” This terms is so old, they now have an entry for it on Urban They define it as “When one visits a store or mall to admire goods rather than to purchase them. The ‘shopper’ seems to be looking so intently at the glass in storefront windows that he appears to want to buy the window itself, hence ‘window shopping.'” So to window shop, you simply look around stores without serious intentions of making any purchases.  

So long-gone is the act of window shopping, (which is how I spent the majority of my childhood, jobless & broke, with my forehead leaning against storefront glass) that has an entire slide show dedicated to teaching you how to window shop. Picture me shaking my head. I imagine millennials flipping through the slides, confusedly saying to each other, “They don’t even take their credit cards into the stores? Do they leave their phones in their cars too because of Apple Pay?” Wikihow suggests that window shopping is mostly an unexplored art in our materialistic society, and I certainly tend to agree.
The purpose of window shopping is not to spend money or acquire new clothes, but rather it’s an activity where you learn more about yourself and your personal tastes.

teach kids to window shop on vacation reports, using some nerdy finance terms I couldn’t quite decipher, that the average household in the United States owes between $7,000 and $15,000 in credit card debt. But to give you an update, the average U.S. household owes $16,061 in credit card debt in 2018, up from 10% from $14,546 from 2006, according to an analysis released by personal finance company NerdWallet. That means Americans may soon have as much credit card debt as they did during the Great Recession.
Clearly, we all could stand to do more window shopping and less actual shopping.  
Because Disney vacations are expensive, most people feel the need to maximize their time in Orlando. You get up early, ride roller coasters all day, stay up late, and do this as many days as you can make it without collapsing from exhaustion. Time is money at Disney World; you only have a certain amount of time on vacation, and that time is costing you money.
One area that many people do not budget a lot of time for is shopping. Your children will want time to shop at Disney, and unless you brought a suitcase full of cash, the majority of that shopping will need to be the not-spending kind. 

Read: Sparkling Disney World Jewelry by Arribas Brothers

Dooney & Bourke kids purse

There are lots of children “shopping” at Disney World, and by that I mean, nearly every ride drops you off into a beautiful gift shop. So kids wind up in stores all over everywhere touching everything in sight, usually until an adult escorts them out and off to the next ride. Parents don’t typically give their children a lot of time to shop, which makes rational sense. Since time equals money, then time spent shopping often seems like a waste of both to adults. But have you stopped lately to ask your kids what they want to do on vacation?

Many, many of them want to look at all the Disney merchandise surrounding them, and window shopping is a skill that will come in really handy here. It’s also a life skill they need to master to become a successful adult.

We’ve all taken our children to stores and let them look at toys. But Disney gift shops are on a completely different level. This is not your average TOYS R US store or the back corner of Target. This is Disney World, and the merchandise is colorful, character-familiar, and completely enticing. Kids love to look at toys; it’s a kid thing. Your child really will have a great time shopping and will want everything he or she sees.

Big tip here- so do adults, by the way. The Disney-wants is not just exclusive to kiddies.

Read: What Are the Top Three Character Meals at Walt Disney World?

Kids want to shop at Walt Disney World

I have watched children literally get dragged out of Disney gift shops kicking and screaming. I’m talking about screaming at the top of their lungs and crying hysterically. Now these tantrums could be because they wanted a toy and couldn’t get it, but there’s also a good possibility they just wanted more time to look around. Perhaps they weren’t ready to leave. You can’t buy them every toy they ask for, but you can give them more time.

A great reason to let them shop, or window shop, is that realizing you can’t buy everything that you want is a life skill. I wish I had the money to buy everything I like at Disney.  If I bought everything I saw that I liked, we couldn’t pay our mortgage this month, and maybe next month too if jewelry is included. I cannot think of a time when I bought every item I wanted on a shopping trip. Can you?

Let those kids spend some time looking around in the shops. Build it into your schedule if you have to, because shopping is a lot of fun at Disney World.

12 Totally Cool Ideas to Replace Your Usual Disney Character Autograph Books

why kids need to know how to window shop

Teach Kids the Skill

How do you teach kids to window shop, where you go shopping and yet buy nothing?

This one is pretty simple in theory but harder in actual practice. Because that’s it…you have to practice.

Practice window shopping ahead of your trip, because trying this for the first time in front of a display of Mickey Mouse hats is a terrible idea.

Go to Target. Go shop at Wal-Mart. Stop in Walgreens. Explain to your child that this trip is not for purchases, but you are giving them time to explore what items they like and to see how much things cost. Let them walk up and down the idles and touch things. Go when you are not in a hurry, and after sufficient touching and pricing time, now announce it’s time to go without buying anything.

Chances are in your favor that leaving empty-handed will be met with a big messy tantrum, and that’s OK. You may have to try this for weeks or months until your child understands that you will not have enough money to buy a toy every time he or she sees one they want.

Explain that on your upcoming trip to Disney World, you will do a lot of this style of shopping, drop the old-fashioned term”window shopping” here, because no one can buy everything they want all the time. Point out you won’t be buying everything you want either. I do this a lot. “See that watch? I really want to purchase that, but I’ve decided I don’t really need it. Even I can’t buy everything I want, because if I did, they would repossess your braces.”

Make sure you have a lot of conversations about what type of behavior you expect before you get to the store. Little ears will hear very little new information when standing in the toy isle. Once you have practiced shopping without buying, and you can leave tear and tantrum free, you are ready to give it a go at WDW.

Read: Should You Give Your Kids Money for Souvenirs at Walt Disney World?

Disney Moms go shopping

Make a Child’s Souvenir Budget Before You Vacation

Several months before your trip, decide how much money your child/children have to spend on vacation, and most importantly, determine where is this money coming from.

  • Are you giving them a loan?
  • Are you giving them a vacation allowance?
  • Are they spending birthday money?
  • Are they using Christmas money they saved for just this occasion?
  • Can they work to earn spending money by washing cars, raking leaves, or doing household chores?

Kids need to understand as early as possible in their young lives that no one can buy everything they want. When adults do this, we wind up with massive credit card bills and wreck our credit scores. Adults that can walk into stores and not feel the urgent need to make a purchase at every location know the difference between want and need. Kids will want a lot of things at Disney, and that’s just fine as long as they have the cash to pay for things they want. And if the cash is not there, you set it down and walk away.

We asked our  Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans if they gave their kids spending money on vacation; check out their answers.

Should You Give Your Kids Money for Souvenirs at Walt Disney World?

why take small kids to Disney World

It’s very important to explain there will be no tantrums or begging when they money runs out. At least, that’s what my husband explained to me the last time I was crying and begging for that $4,000 gold Mickey Mouse necklace I spotted.

Window shopping – a life skill indeed.

Need more Disney parenting ideas? Try this great article with advice from Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans, a great set of Disney parents who have been there with kids and lived through it.

Read: Over 20 Disney World Tips for Parents With Younger Children

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with your head bent over the Disney Resort gift shop jewelry counter. Please wipe the condensation off the glass, because there is undoubtedly a cheapskate waiting for their turn to peek in the glass.

Disney moms take kids shopping

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Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


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