Personal Finance Bloggers Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition

PF Bloggers Gone WildHello my friends! I’m writing this post from an undisclosed mountaintop location in the U.S. Virgin Islands, whence I have decamped for four days of Not Being in the Midwest. It’s currently raining, which is why I’m inside blogging rather than outside drinking yet another coconut thing (full disclosure, I have a cup of coffee with coconut milk in it next to me though) but I don’t care — it sounds great, hammering on the roof, and it’s confirming my sense that it was a good choice to only book a boat tour for half a day today since we had a beautiful morning out on the water and snorkeling, and got back before the storm started up.

I gotta say, money is flying out the door like there’s no tomorrow — basically because we’re eating out a lot — but it’s ok. I’m having fun! And the food’s really good. I don’t like seafood, but I do like fish, and I’ve eaten some terrific fish dishes.

That said, even though I’m kind of wincing in advance at the final total, there are definitely ways to make this, if not as cost-effective as a weekend on the couch at home, at least not prohibitive. Here are some of the things I’ve tried to do:

1) Know people who know people, and keep the rent low. This is a lot of the secret of my normal monthly budget actually — once you cut that big ticket item, housing, down by hundreds of dollars, things look better. Similarly, by traveling with my friend and staying with her brother (who lives and works down here) I cut hundreds of dollars off the cost of lodging, making the trip plausible on my tight budget.

1A) Plus, he’s driving us most places and taking us to really cool free places we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to go (like a more or less private beach that his boss got us on the list for yesterday.) He’s also taking us to places to eat that are less touristy and therefore cheaper, although food in general is *really* expensive here. A full deli sandwich was $14 yesterday (I split one with my friend) and when we went to the grocery store I happened to see that the kind of oats I usually buy for $3.20 were $6.50. Whew.

2) Fold cool activities into each other — like the boat tour, which we paid for (this is the biggest thing I’ll spend money on during this trip, aside from food; it was just the three of us and a captain, and we paid $120 each) but included two snorkeling stops, so I’m inclined to call those free 🙂

3) Get into nature, and window-shopping. I like to walk/hike, and it’s totally free.

4) Attend religious services. We went to one this weekend in one of the island’s oldest and definitely coolest buildings, which I don’t think we could have seen otherwise.

5) Don’t buy souvenirs. I mean, I get it — not everyone is going to be cool with this. Maybe you’d rather eat/drink less, and buy jewelry or whatever. I’m pretty happy coming home with exactly zero new things (OK, maybe a few pounds gained back) and some pictures on my camera.

5A) But do bring supplies. I didn’t want to check a bag, so I only brought the sunblock I have that comes in a 3-oz container — I probably should have brought more, and avoided having to buy some here. I definitely should have brought anti-itch cream, face soap, and a few other things…it didn’t occur to me how expensive everything was going to be here.

6) Don’t worry too much about stuff. Have dessert. Have the coconut whatever. I’m on vacation in the Caribbean! I’ve never done this before and I probably won’t do it again for years, if ever, so I might as well enjoy it!

39 thoughts on “Personal Finance Bloggers Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition

  1. Agreed, you are on vacation…enjoy it!

    Just curious though, did you save for it ahead of time or set up some kind of budget?

    Cutting the housing out of the equation saved you big time, don’t feel bad about spending on the food. Vacations are usually few and far between, I can’t even remember the last vacation I took…so good on you. Have a blast and make some good memories to look back on while you trudge through work when you get back.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I haven’t been properly on vacation (not visiting friends/family or for a work trip) in, uh. Hmm. Uh. Eight years? So this is fun 🙂 And yes, I do have a travel budget; I put $250 in an earmarked savings account every month. So I’m drawing on that to pay for this trip.

      1. Well in that case, it may be time to find a coconut martini

  2. What a sweet hookup for accommodation! That helps the budget! I agree with all your money saving tips, especially the supplies part. Thankfully we didn’t need to buy anything at our tiny honeymoon resort, but goggles you could buy for $3 in the US were $100 and a $4 bottle of sunscreen was $40. Holy price gouging!

    Glad to hear you having great time!! More coconut drinks!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      $100 goggles!!!!!!!!! wow. Sunscreen here is about $15 for a biggish bottle — probably half again as much as I could get in Indiana, but not completely outrageous.

  3. Jenna says:

    Wow! That sounds like so much fun! Hopefully you can have every yummy cocktail under the rainbow before you come back.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It is super fun 🙂 We’re going to another island today, so I plan to try out their coconut-related offerings as well 🙂

  4. DebtFreeJD says:

    ALWAYS have the coconut whatever.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Seems like a good rule in life, doesn’t it?

  5. I hope you’re having fun! It’s hard not to overspend when you are in paradise.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I am having a lot of fun! Probably also overspending, but not too too too bad 🙂

  6. Chonce says:

    Sounds like you are having an amazing time! I like how you cut a few costs but you’re not letting money dictate your vacation, it’s your time to enjoy yourself. I’m also straying away from getting a ton of souvenirs when I go somewhere. Unless something really stands out to me, taking pictures of my experience is just as memorable and they last a pretty long time.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I did end up buying a pair of earrings today, but they’re really pretty and I think I’ll wear them a lot — not, like, a shot glass that will sit in the back of my cupboard 🙂 Taking pictures is great — I got a lot of beautiful ones today, very exciting. I’ll have to do a followup post and put some up on the blog.

  7. Cindy says:

    Food and drinks are definitely one of the best parts of vacation (weight gain, not so much)! Hope you’re living it up in the warm weather! The snow might actually be gone when you return to Indiana!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I can’t quite imagine the snow being gone…on the other hand when I look out my window here, it’s hard to imagine being back in 20-degree weather 🙂

  8. Jason says:

    I hope you have an excellent time. Remember, you paid off a ton of debt in a short-period of time. You have increased your net worth. You are living on less than you make. Rewarding yourself and having some fun is not above the pale! While you will be having fun, some of us will be grading papers, writing, and trying to catch-up over Spring Break! Have a wonderful time (and i mean that).

    1. thesingledollar says:


  9. Jason says:

    One final thing…you know that coconut water and milk can be considered a natural laxative right? You might want to go with the pineapple umbrella drink instead :).

  10. “I don’t like seafood, but I do like fish” huh? lol!!! I’m jealous! Sounds awesome. I’ve never been to the Virgin Islands. Yes, sometimes when you are in “Rome” you need to let go of the ultra tight budget so you can have experiences. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I don’t like shrimp, oysters, calamari, stuff like that 🙂 I think of that as “seafood” as opposed to fish. I’ve never been either — probably wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had this opportunity via my friend — but it’s pretty cool, I have to say.

  11. I’m jealous of your fun in the sun! While the weather has been great in Seattle, there’s just nothing like a day (or three) of relaxing on the beach, reading a good book, and sipping on a tropical cocktail. It’s great you have a place to stay and a local to show you around – that makes a huge difference!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      actually, my friend works in Seattle sometimes and our host used to live there, so we’ve been talking about Seattle a lot! I think we are all glad to be here and not there, though 🙂

  12. Amy says:

    Sounds like a great attitude for a vacation: have lots of fun, do things frugally when possible, and don’t worry a ton about money.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I’m certainly enjoying myself 🙂

  13. I’m lucky because most souvenirs don’t appeal to me. The only exception was our honeymoon, since we went to theme parks. At FinCon in New Orleans, I got a small picture for $10 at a flea market and some alligator sausage for my husband. It was a painful $7, but he was really bummed that he couldn’t go. So I splurged.

    I agree that spending for vacation food is one of the best expenses. Each region has its unique offerings, so think of that as a (brief) souvenir.

    Don’t forget that people should just google “cheap” plus their destination. I found some cheap eateries in Vegas that way, plus suggestions of free activities to enjoy.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Flea market shopping is my favorite vacation shopping! I agree, I’m usually not into the stuff in souvenir shops.

  14. ARBM says:

    Oh fun! I agree with you and most of the comments here that say that you should allow yourself the luxury of enjoying your vacation. You more than deserve it with all the hard work that you have done in paying off debt and still do in staying on budget. Have an awesome vacation!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      thanks — it’s great! I’m getting pretty tired though, all this sun and sand and salt water 🙂

  15. I definitely prefer to eat/drink/experience rather than buy tchotchkes, so your advice rings true to me.

    Also, do they have mountains in the Virgin Islands?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      They do! Well, I mean, it’s not the Himalayas or anything. But they’re volcanic, and very, very steep. The roads are pretty terrifying 🙂

  16. You never have to justify spending money on traveling to me! I have an entirely separate savings account for the sole purpose of funding my adventures. I spent 9 days in LA and Hawaii last week and majorly indulged on a day trip to Disneyland, expensive dinners out and even a touristy purchase of a kick-ass tank top from the area in Hawaii. No regrets because I’d budgeted for it all and that’s how I get the most out of spending my money. Enjoy your vacation!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I really really really want to go to Hawaii now — I’m a little addicted to snorkeling as of this week and I hear it’s amazing there.

  17. Enjoy every minute! Let them be guilt-free minutes too. You’re being very wise : )

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I enjoyed the heck out of it! 🙂

  18. I love those tips! It really is difficult to know just how expensive things are going to be on a vacation like that. Have a great time! 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, it ended up being a *lot* more expensive than I’d planned, but I can cover it, so it’s ok. 🙂 I had a great time, too, so I don’t regret the $$ too much.

  19. Ahhh, sounds divine! Hope you had a wonderful, fabulous time! I’m a big fan of small hacks to make vacation cheaper–not buying souvenirs is a good one. And, sounds like you’ve got it made with your own personal, local, free tour guide–nice!! Enjoy!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It was really great! I can’t say it was cheap, overall, but I had a very good time and I did save up in advance — and probably got twice as much for my $$ due to the tour guide. 🙂

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