10 Frugal Lessons from Disney Movies

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Disney movies and I go way back. As a little girl, I used to plop myself down twice a day to watch The Little Mermaid swim and twirl her red hair around under the sea. Even much more recently, I was delighted by the fact that The Princess and the Frog would bring back the old Disney animation and musical format. I’ve learned a lot from Disney throughout the course of my life. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Learn from your mistakes. The list goes on and on.

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While pondering what Disney movie to watch the other night, I got to thinking. Could there possibly be any frugal wisdom buried within these gems? The answer, of course, was yes. And surprisingly, these frugal lessons were not too difficult to find. So after much careful consideration, here is my list of the top ten frugal lessons we can learn from Disney movies (in chronological order, of course).

  1. If Something Seems Suspicious, It Probably Is

    Snow White: She was the first animated Disney princess, so I suppose we can’t blame her for falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book. If a witch lady shows up to your home with a shiny red apple, you should probably ask a few questions first. How does this translate to our real life lesson? With innumerable “get rich quick” schemes and scams abound, the frugal person MUST do their research. If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is. I’m referring mostly to those online scams that say something like “Make $30,000 in 30 days!” or emails that says “You’ve won $1,000,000! Click here to claim your prize!” These claims have one very important thing in common with Snow White. They are both fictional.

    Always read the fine print. Don’t just take something or purchase something because it’s easy or right in front of you. Make sure to do your research, whether you are looking for the best deal on something or familiarizing yourself with the details of “free” items or “prizes.” The best deals on things are not just going to show up at your kitchen window. Saving money requires time, study and patience. Snow White settled for convenience, and look at the price she paid.

  2. Dishonesty Doesn’t Pay

    Pinocchio: It is more than okay to be creative in your quest for frugality. However, it is not okay to be dishonest. As a common rule, if something feels wrong, it probably is. Trying to pass a 14-year-old off as a 12-year-old is a dishonest way of getting a discount at the movies. It probably feels wrong to do, and therefore, is. Frugal people should unite under a code of frugal ethics. Don’t lie or be dishonest to save money. Here’s what the Dollar Stretcher has to say on the subject:

    Whenever you’re in doubt about whether something is ethical, ask yourself if it would be OK with you if the situation were reversed and you were the person potentially coming up short. Be honest. We’ve all heard “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you would object to others doing it to you, you better look for a better way to save.

    Being honest is something we have to hold ourselves accountable for. Our noses might not get any bigger, but if you feel guilty about the means you used to acquire something, you’re probably breaking the frugal moral code. Don’t hurt anyone else on your quest to save a buck. Only by remaining honest will you become a real boy, or girl.

  3. It Does Pay, However, to Be Resourceful

    Cinderella: Cinderella’s fairy godmother was an extremely resourceful woman. I mean, come on, the lady turned a pumpkin into a carriage and some rags into a beautiful ball gown. It’s true; we may not have magic wands or the ability to perform that kind of Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo, but we all have the ability to harness the power of creativity. We can take a leaf out of her book and turn something old, used, or dull into something else that will be useful. I see examples of resourcefulness and repurposing everyday on Tip Hero. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to think: before I throw out this item, is there any way I can transform it into something else useful?

    For example, Kimm over at Reinvented has a weekly column called Trash to Treasure Tuesdays where she transforms something that could be tossed away into something wonderful and useful. I think that taking on this task every Tuesday definitely requires some magic.

    A Bonus Tip from Cinderella? Often times, wealth is short-lived. Always have a budget plan and enjoy your money wisely. And always have a backup plan for when the clock strikes midnight.

  4. Make Work a Game

    Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job’s a game!” Wise words from a wise lady. Mary Poppins sure knew how to turn boring jobs into playtime. All she had to do was snap to tidy up a room. While most of us can’t fold clothing by snapping, we can turn dull tasks and chores into fun. About.com offers some great tips for making chores more fun!

    We can use creative means to stay on task with frugality as well. Make sure to budget for fun and rewards in your budgeting plan. Pick a friend or partner to have frugal challenges with, i.e. challenge each other to find fun things to do without spending money. Find ways to spice up any dull task and you’ll be one step closer to being practically perfect in every way.

  5. Sometimes, You Have to Make Sacrifices

    Little Mermaid: Growing up, as I have mentioned, I used to watch the Little Mermaid twice a day without fail, and I say that proudly. So of course I had to find a way to incorporate my favorite finned Disney princess into this article. Ariel was given the chance to make her dreams come true, but she had one huge challenge to overcome. How would she win her prince when she had to sacrifice her beautiful voice to be given the chance to do so? We frugalistas face similar issues in our day to day lives. How are we to live our lives to the fullest (or even achieve our dreams) without spending much money? This is where creativity again comes into play.

    In the end, Ariel does become a part of Eric’s world, but it comes at a price, like most things in life. She has to give up her fins for good and live in a world apart from her family. To live a frugal lifestyle, you may find yourself sacrificing some things in life such as luxury, convenience, etc. But in the end, hopefully what you gain, financial security and freedom among other things, will be more valuable.

  6. Don’t Be Afraid of a Challenge

    Beauty and the Beast: Belle is not quite like everyone else in her town. This admirable beauty doesn’t ever worry about keeping up with the Jones’. She is strong-willed and intelligent and is certainly not afraid of a challenge. She is able to see the best in a bad situation. While many others would be queasy about living in a castle full of animate, speaking objects, Belle does what she can to make a life for herself. She takes on the challenge willingly for a good cause; to save her father’s life.

    In order to live a frugal lifestyle, we are presented with challenges every day. Questions such as these arise all the time: How do I cook without an oven when the summer heat is unbearable? or, How do I get rid of a headache without pills? are just some of the challenges that we’ve featured on Tip Hero. Don’t give up your quest just because it seems difficult at first. Meet those challenges head on. You never know if there’s some magic hiding within them (not to mention a good tip)!

  7. Don’t Let Money Change You

    Aladdin: Even though Aladdin did have to resort to stealing sometimes (which I certainly do not condone), he was a pretty positive guy considering his living conditions. Even before he stumbled upon a genie in a bottle, he kept an upbeat attitude and knew what life was all about, hence making him a diamond in the rough. Sure, he made a few mistakes with his first two wishes, but who wouldn’t make grand wishes if they were offered anything in the wide world. But in the end, he makes a wish that we can all learn from.

    Instead of making himself a prince so that he can marry the beautiful princess Jasmine, he sets the genie, who has been enslaved for thousands of years, free. He makes a completely unselfish decision, and lo and behold, karma comes around and makes his dreams come true anyway. If you suddenly won the lottery or came into a lot of money, would you change your frugal practices? Would you buy extravagant things and spend frivolously? Aladdin would certainly urge you not to.

    I was truly moved by many of the responses to last week’s Great Depression Question of the Week. Even when people were dirt poor and had nothing at all, they were still willing to open their homes and kitchens up to others in need. If the poor can do it, then certainly the rich should be able to. Remember, karma is a very powerful thing. Be generous if you have the ability to be. Don’t forget who you are. Stick to your practices, save your money and continue to analyze and research before you make rash decisions.

  8. Take Responsibility for Your Actions

    The Lion King: Simba, the cutest little lion cub you’ve ever seen, believes that he is responsible for his father’s death and runs away from everything: his responsibilities, his problems, his family, etc. He starts a new “carefree” life and stops worrying. Meanwhile, Scar has taken over his rightful kingdom and has made it a terrible, gloomy place where it always rains for some reason. All of Simba’s problems and much more are waiting for him when he finally does return.

    Sometimes, when we get into a bit of trouble financially, all we want to do is run away or hide under a rock. Debt can be intimidating, but it will not go away if you run. In fact, it will probably just get worse. Check out this article on EzineArticles about what can happen if you ignore credit card debt. Scary stuff. That’s why it is always best to:

    1. Prepare for the worst. Always have backup plans and emergency funds.
    2. Have a budgeting plan and stay on track so that you can efficiently avoid/eliminate debt.
    3. Manage your debt in a timely fashion so that it doesn’t continue to grow heads like the Lernean Hydra from Hercules. Set up payment plans. Set up automatic payments to avoid late fees. Do what you have to do to take responsibility, both for your actions and your money.

    So learn from Simba’s problems. Don’t run away in the first place and you’ll avoid having to clean up a huge mess upon your return to reality.

  9. Respect the Earth as a Living Resource

    Pocahontas: Pocahontas and her people sure knew how to cultivate the earth. They didn’t have grocery stores back in those days. Everything they ate, they had to grow or catch. In modern times, it’s a bit more convenient to enjoy a meal, but we can definitely take a leaf out of Pocahontas’ book. Those with a green thumb can use the earth to grow their own food to save money. We need to treat the earth as a living, breathing entity that offers us so many gifts. We should never treat it as “a dead thing you can claim.”

    Pocahontas’ tribe had to make everything they needed from what they could find. Tools, shelter, clothing, you name it. It may take more time and energy, but it is definitely cheaper in most cases to do exactly that. Find ways to make your own/DIY/ grow it yourself. Sometimes, you don’t have to look any further than your own backyard for inspiration. Don’t forget, often times going green goes hand in hand with frugality. Love the earth. Respect the earth. Paint with all the colors of the wind (or, at least, all of the colors in your frugal toolbox).

  10. Dream Big, but Keep Goals Within Your Reach

    The Princess and the Frog: Now to the most recent movie on the list. We’ve heard this common Disney theme many times before: if you follow your dreams, with enough persistence, your dreams will come true and you’ll live happily ever after. I agree with about half of this, in theory. Following your dreams is always great. Persistence is wonderful. But sorry, kids, some dreams are not ever going to come true. (I hope I haven’t crushed anyone’s wildest dreams about becoming a princess or finding your own personal fairy godmother.)

    What I admire so much about The Princess and the Frog is that we actually see a girl with realistic dreams. Tiana wants to open her own restaurant someday in honor of her late father with whom she shared a passion for cooking. Tiana works overtime every week to raise enough money to realize her dream. She doesn’t expect anyone to swoop in and save her. She is a strong and independent woman with a fierce talent and extreme determination. She sets goals that she is perfectly capable of achieving.

    Now, I’m not saying to give up your wildest dreams. If you still want a pony, keep on dreaming. But if you want something badly enough, you need to set achievable goals so that there is an end prize in sight. For example, if you want to take that dream trip to Italy, set up a savings account now and start working on a plan. Get that second job and work, work, work until you’ve saved enough. With enough hard work and determination (and somewhat realistic goals), you too have the potential to make your dreams come true.

    An added bonus lesson from Tiana? She invests her money into a restaurant – something that will continue to make her more money in the future and allow her to continue pursuing her dreams.

Do you have a favorite Disney movie that teaches valuable money lessons? I’d love to hear your ideas! Thank you for humoring me, and as always, thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Photo credit: Paul Mannix

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