A variety of currencies will get you through the island chain. US, Euro and EC money.
So lets talk money!
The tough topic that few people are willing to give you the straight up goods on. Even though this is part two of this blog series I think it might actually be the number one question asked by soon to be cruisers. Despite being the number one question, it seems like it is the hardest one to get an answer for. Sure you get a lot of feedback but its often quite vague with answers like “it depends on how much you eat out and how often you stay at marinas” etc. While all these responses are good points its the dollar figures that we are after. How much DOES is cost to eat out and how much DO marinas charge?
In an effort to help answer this elusive question I am going to give you the goods on what we’ve been spending on some specifics so keep reading! Before I do, I will first fill you in on what kind of spending habits we have so you can either relate to how we spend money or at least know how you would spend differently. We aren’t rich and we don’t have an income coming in while we cruise, (although we are working hard on our Youtube Vlog and website Blog to try and change that) for now we are living off of our savings, so we try to be budget minded when we travel. In the end we want to stretch our money as far as we can, so we can continue for as long as we want.
Here is a list of categories that we keep track of to help us budget. I record what we spend everyday to see where our money goes, to help us stay within reason.
1. Groceries including alcohol (that’s a food group isn’t it ? lol)
2. Fuel (gas for the dinghy and diesel for Saltair 3)
3. Clearance Fees (Customs & Immigrations fees for 16 countries & 3 people)
4. Internet (sim cards and wifi access)
5. Eating out (dinners, lunches, snacks and the odd happy hour ashore)
6. Marina & Moorings (sometimes you have to )
7. Excursions & Entertainment (tours, bus trips, car rentals, museum fees etc.)
8. Clothes & Shopping (shoes and clothes for our growing boy, souvenirs)
9. Health & Medical (prescriptions & Dr & Dentist visits)
10.Miscellaneous ('this and that', things that don’t fit into any of the categories above)
Are you still with me? Keep reading, we will get to the dollars and cents soon, but this stuff is important.
So what does being budget minded mean to us? We try to eat on the boat for the most part and when we do eat out we will try our best to eat where the locals eat instead of where the tourists eat. This is a double bonus since its usually way cheaper. You also get a real feel for the culture and almost always meet some interesting characters. We also have potluck dinners and happy hours with friends on each others boats. With eating on the boat we also try to shop where the locals shop keeping our cost of groceries as low as we can. You may have to adapt your grocery list if you want to stay in budget because you don’t always find the things you are used to and if you do, most likely you will pay extra for them. As you travel you will find some great deals on your favourites and that is when you stock up! Don’t feel weird that you just bought 40 bags of potato chips or 10 flats of beer in one place because the next stop will almost always be double if you don’t. Cruisers are great for sharing info on where the deals are so talk with other cruisers once you get out here to find the best places to buy stuff.
Shopping where the locals shop in Union Island.
Beach bars are great but happy hour can get pricey if you are indulging on shore, so stock up your boat with your favourite libations and enjoy a sundowner in your cockpit with your spouse or with friends. This will definitely help stretch your budget and the view is usually better! This isn’t to say that we never eat out or go to happy hour we just try to limit it.
A fellow cruiser once said that they only go to town 3 times a week so they dont over spend.
Happy hour aboard Saltair 3 without the happy hour prices!
Touring and site seeing are definately a category to factor into your budget. Everytime you go to a new island or anchorage there is always something to do and see. We try to avoid the expensive organised tours and instead split a rental car with some friends or hop on the local bus and tour the island. You will be amazed at what you see. Many of our activities include checking out town by just walking around. You will often find great hikes, old forts and snorkelling spots to check out. We do most of the things and sites that we want because after all isn’t that part of why we are out here, to see it all?
Many of the sites to see on the islands are free and amazing! This is the ruins of a church in St. Pierre, Martinique.
Another category is fuel. This is what it is for us and we don’t pay too much attention to it. We sail when we can but are by no means die hard sailors. We would prefer to arrive in the anchorage by mid afternoon rather than sail way off course just to be able to sail the whole way instead of turning on the motors. We also don’t worry too much about zipping around in the dinghy when ever we want. After all, it's the family car and we spend way less on fuel for it than we ever did back on land so I imagine you will feel like you are saving a ton on this category.
Many people talk about Marina Fees driving up your budget and that is entirely true. We try to anchor as much as possible and avoid using mooring balls unless it is mandatory inside a protected area. We trust our Mantas anchor far more than any mooring. The only time you will find us in a marina is to have boat work done and we try to minimise the amount of time on a dock.
Internet! Ah yes the elusive internet! This is something that is important to us, we need it to not only keep in touch with our families and friends back home but we also need it to upload our videos for our YouTube channel and blog posts on our website. We hope to make a few bucks with both of those overtime so we must keep at it. So thanks for reading this now! : ) That said we pay for internet to have it at our disposal and we don’t rely on free wifi, although we never complain when we get it.
Another category we keep is for medical and health related expenses. This isn’t really an area that we can cut back on as we do not carry ongoing insurance but rather just pay as we need it along the way. We do not carry any extra health coverage.
One of the last areas to talk about is clothes and shopping. This is a broad category that can include necessities like new shoes to trinkets, the odd souvenir, birthday gifts or new fins for snorkelling. We don’t really spend a lot in this area since there are only so many souvenirs you can bring on a boat and unless it is really unusual we don’t bother.
We also have a category for Miscellaneous and that is just the stuff that doesn’t fit into any other spot.
The one category that we do keep track of that I will not be reporting on in this post is boat repairs and maintenance. Not only is that a whole other blog post in itself but it will really depend on your boat and how big it is, how old etc. It is safe to say that it is wise to give yourself a good buffer for this because there is always something to spend money on on a boat no matter how new.
So here we go with the actual numbers for each of the categories that we covered above. It wouldn’t mean as much if I just gave you the figures without any information. These are monthly averages over the last 11 months. I must admit that we were shooting to be under the $2000/month and I suppose the longer you are out here the better the chance of bringing your average down so we will shoot for that for the next 11 months!
1. Groceries including alcohol —————— $ 723 / month avg.
2. Fuel —————— $ 176 / month avg.
3. Clearance Fees —————— $ 65 / month avg.
4. Internet —————— $ 70 / month avg.
5. Eating out —————— $ 325 / month avg.
6. Marina & Moorings —————— $ 132 / month avg.
7. Excursions & Entertainment —————— $ 156 / month avg.
8. Clothes & Shopping —————— $ 198 / month avg.
9. Health & Medical —————— $ 42 / month avg.
10.Miscellaneous —————— $ 152 / month avg.
For a Grand Total of $2081/ month for a family of 3. Not bad really considering what the cost of living on land is. For us this is a fairly comfortable budget, sure it might be nice to eat out more often or be more carefree with how we spend, but we really don’t feel that we are depriving ourselves of anything that we want to do.
So there you have it! The straight up nitty gritty on what it cost us to cruise over the last 11 months. I hope that helps fill in some of the blanks for your planning. Please let us know if this was helpful. Its a strange feeling to put it out there to the universe as to what we are spending but we know it is an important question.
Life is for Livin'