A few words on finances

November 28, 2010

I finally got around to posting my photos on facebook of my trip to the Hermitage for dinner the other weekend, and it got me to thinking about finances and what would be a good recreational budget for the island.  First and foremost, it really depends on your habits.  Me, for example, I’m from North Carolina–not a lot there in the prospects of nightlife.  I don’t go clubbin’, not much fine dining, went shopping and to the movies, but mostly, my money was spent on gas and grabbing food either on my way home from work or going there–probably spending…$100/week on average.  Now, how does that translate to Nevis?

Well, we have no fast food places here, there is no mall to go shopping at, and the movie theater is all the way over on St. Kitts, a ferry-ride away.  What people usually spend most of their money on over here is booze.  I don’t mind having [literally] a couple drinks, getting a bit tipsy after block, but I refuse to get completed wasted here–it’s just not safe.  Our first major block party out, a friend of mine had something put in her drink and passed out–so after that I went to one of the grocery stores here (they all sell liquor) and picked up a couple of bottles that would last me for quite some time.  I sit at home with my friends, “pre-game” with as much liquor as I would like, and then we call an H-bus to take us out to party.  No druggings, no car crashes, it’s a pretty sweet deal–but back to money.  Since I made a 1-time investment of ~$100 ECD/$37 USD, I don’t spend money out on drinks.  So here, my entertainment money goes towards gas and eating out.

Gas–I consider gas a recreational expenditure because you can exist just fine on Nevis without a car.  It might take you a while to get things done, but if you plan ahead, a car is not a must.  So–gas varies in price across the island.  Most of the gas stations are either Sun or Delta Petroleum and consist of 2 or 3 little pumps with a person who comes outside and pumps your gas for you.  With my car, a Mitsubishi Lancer, to fill her up cost me about $80 EC and I’d say with regular trips to the store and to town to run errands, we filled her up about every 2 weeks.  When I went to fill up the other day, I stopped by the new gas station by campus that is self-service (like back home) and it was $10.9 ECD/gal–don’t go there–it’s considerably more expensive than the other gas stations.

Eating out–it really depends on what you order.  Keep in mind that you pay for drinks (non-alcoholic) here–there are no fountain machines; at most places you get a 20 oz bottle of Coke, Sprite, etc.  for about $5 ECD average.  You can ask for water but not everyone’s water tastes good so some places will bring you a bottle of water and charge you for it (often just as much as if you had ordered soda!).  (Oh–while I’m on soda–if you’re like me and you exist on diet Coke back home or you like Pepsi products–start converting yourself over to Coke Zero and coke products.  They have diet coke here but only in cans and they’re just as expensive as the bottles of coke zero (the diet coke has to be imported from Puerto Rico, hence the extra charge).)  But, back to cost of eating out–most meals at the types of restaurants students frequent, relatively close to the school, will run you between $20 and $30 ECD.  The favorite place to go is Flavours where you can get a burger and fries for $22 ECD, chicken fingers and garlic bread for $12 ECD, a salad for $20 ECD, or pasta for $24 ECD (I’m guestimating on the prices–I don’t have a menu in front of me but they’re approx.).  So you add the cost of your drink to that and then VAT tax, and you’re up closer to the $30 ECD/meal price. I would also put the Water Company BBQ in this category, but they’re only open on Fridays, FYI.

Then there are the slightly more expensive places.  I would put Young’s restaurant (the Chinese place) into this category, Pizza Beach, Gallipot, and the new Indian restaurant, Nisbet Plantation, Indian Summer.  These places run about $30-40 ECD/entree without tax taken into consideration.  Still–that’s less than $20 USD–but more expensive than places like Flavours or the sandwich shop inside the Gingerland Best Buy grocery store deli.  They’re nicer sit-down restaurants where you can expect to spend 1.5-2 hours eating if you don’t do takeout.

Lastly, there are the really expensive places that you go a couple of times a semester–these are the resort-type places that are designed for tourists visiting Nevis.  It’s basically like eating at a nice hotel.  I would group the Hermitage, anything at the Four Seasons, the Montpelier, Bananas, all those places into this category.  Most of these places list their prices in USD.  The Hermitage was running a special where you could get 4 courses for $35 USD but there was no substitution and I liked other things on the menu, so my 4 courses ended up costing $65 USD but I got what I wanted. They’re elegant, romantic, the service is excellent, and you really feel like you’re rewarding yourself for your hard work and studying. It’s a more mature way to celebrate block being over than going out and drinking.

Frequency–how often you eat out at these places depends on how much food you ship down, how much grocery shopping you do, and how much free time you have to cook.  Keep in mind that during Med 1, you leave for school at 7:30 and sit through class until you get out either at 3:30 or 5:00.  Some days, I’m exhausted and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking, so I’ll grab Jo and we’ll run down to Flavours to get a burger out of pure laziness.  I try to go out at least once a weekend, to feel human, and I’d say I do takeout maybe 2 or 3 times a month.  One of my favorite things to do is to order a giant pizza from Pizza Beach (~$70 ECD) or $150 ECD worth of takeout from the Indian place, then put it in my fridge and just have easy, microwave-able meals for a week.  So, I’d say that I probably spent $300 ECD/month or a little more than $100 USD/month on food.  Couple that with the $160 EC/month on gas (although I usually split gas money with Jo since we owned the car together) and you’re looking at around $500 EC/month or $185 USD entertainment budget.

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