Here’s the thing: I came here on a wing and a wanderlust knowing I would have to have an extreme budget to get by because there are a lot of fancy billionaires out here but there’s also a lot of people who are neither fancy nor billionaires. I am the latter 😎👋
Somebody once told me you pay a kind of paradise tax living in the Caribbean in the form of your pay slip. If you’re a teacher, or working for a small company, this is especially true. Couple this with the high price of food and suddenly you’re living on a tiny budget 💰💳💸❌
Being a writer, this is probably something I will have to deal with all of my life and that’s cool. It’d be easy to get stressed about this, and let it bring me down, but there are several ways I’ve found that can really help when you’re on a budget in the Caribbean.
I find I work best with money when I’m prepared. Sometimes this is as simple as preparing food the night before I need it (obvs) but this week I went the extra length and prepared food for a whole week in advance. I have eight meals ready to go. Yeah, it took over two hours to do this but the money it saves when I get home late and just can’t face cooking is worth it. Apples are $5 a piece out here, and peppers are more. It pays to prepare 🍲🍜🍝🥗
Knowing what you’re going to spend this month is important too. I’m the kind of person who will live in denial not looking at my balance ever but out here being aware of exactly what you have helps. You have to become a realist with money. I have this budget I try to vaguely stick to and when I do better, that’s great, and when I do worse I at least know what I’m going to have to sacrifice. It’s boring, but I also record every single thing I spend. You can’t budget by halves effectively, so you need to go all-in on being aware.
People don’t often talk about money, or when they do it’s in a vague way not really wanting to indicate they have none because let’s be honest it’s embarrassing. Oh, you own a helicopter, several businesses, three hotels, and a small desert island and you’re two years younger than me? Well, yeah, I have none of those things.
Out here, it’s better to just come out with it. When somebody invites you to a spin class that’s going to cost $25 just tell them you’re on a budget. They’ll immediately understand because everyone here is on a budget of some kind. It also re-states it to yourself. You’re telling yourself what is most important to you. And I think that helps.
For me, treating things like an adventure is a good idea. I mean, I’m 4000 miles from home so this is actually an adventure but also treating small tasks like grocery shopping as if they’re a challenge really helps. I’ll challenge myself to spend below my budget, or find new and improved ways of buying healthy food for cheap.
There are lots of small things you pick up on a budget too:
- Here, water is free, so the one thing everyone does at a meal out is ask for lots of water. Actual drinks are more of an optional treat than a definite yes.
- Getting smart with appetisers can save you a lot of money in a restaurant as well.
- Partnering up with a friend and sharing a meal can reduce cost too, and there is always somebody else living on a budget in your close proximity
- Fruit is great and I buy it sometimes but really it’s best sourced from work functions where they splash out or during all you can eat buffets where you really get value
- Doing turnabouts with friends for activities (you pay on time they pay the other) doesn’t necessarily reduce cost but it makes it feel like somebody is treating you every other time and can bring you joy
Ultimately, for me, budgeting means I get to live in paradise and enjoy the beach every day. Totally worth it.