Living Above Your Means: Thoughts from the High Seas

Over the weekend, we returned from a very enjoyable vacation. We spent the week aboard the Disney Magic* and we had a great time touring the Western Caribbean. While this is undoubtedly a rather extravagant vacation, a big part of our enjoyment came from the fact that we planned for this expenditure, and paid for it completely out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone…

One evening early on in the cruise, my wife and I sat down at the bar to have a drink and unwind. Shortly thereafter, a fellow passenger sat down beside us and struck up a conversation. As it turns out, he and his wife and daughter are regular cruisers. So regular, in fact, that the bartender seemed to know him quite well.

During the course of our conversation, he talked at length about things like the high-end staterooms that they always stay in, how much he had spent at the Disney art auction on their last cruise, and the “great deal” he had gotten on his watch while shopping in one of the ports – he paid “just” $1, 600, which was apparently about $600 off retail.

He went on like this for a few minutes before he eventually trailed off. At that point, the bartender ribbed him a bit about his spending habits, which prompted him to say something that spoke volumes about their lifestyle:

“Man, it took forever to pay off that last cruise.”

He went on to joke that he better not drink too much before the art auction, or it might be even worse this time around. While he tried to laugh it off with a devil-may-care attitude, it was actually kind of sad. How relaxing can it be to go on a vacation knowing full well that you’re spending money that you don’t have, and that you’ll return to the “real world” even deeper in debt?

I’ve argued previously that it’s okay to spend money — and not just on needs, but on wants, as well. That’s the whole point of having your finances in order, isn’t it? But… No good can come of spending money that you don’t have.

*Note: This was actually our second time onboard the Disney Magic. In case you’re curious, I wrote up a Disney cruise review following our first trip.

14 Responses to “Living Above Your Means: Thoughts from the High Seas”

  1. Anonymous

    Just returned from a Royal Caribbean cruise that took a weekly tour of the southern Caribbean. We were amazed at how many in our group of 25 were hitting the ship casino daily (losing $$), spending large amounts on jewelry at the ports AND on ship, spending $60+/person for the island tours, running large bar bills, etc. It was an eye-opener!

    We took it easy and paid for only one tour ($50/person) on Curacao – which was well worth the money. But buyer beware…the ships are marketing at you 24-7. As a jeweler said, if quality gems were that cheap on the islands, wouldn’t we be buying them there?

  2. Anonymous

    Good grief! I’m with you Nickel, spending money is ok even on wants…when your finances are in order. But this guy is taking it to the extreme. If you need to finance a vacation, and you do it every year, it’s a pretty good indication they don’t have their finances in order, are struggling with other debts, and/or have a major instant gratification complex. I guess it’s possible this guy has no other debt and he’s only borrowing for the vacation so that he can get away immediately, but I doubt that’s simply the case. $1600 on a watch, though. Sounds like he’s got a major case of keeping up with the Joneses.

  3. Anonymous

    DH and I took our first-ever cruise last year (all paid for up front, BTW). But we were uncomfortable with the constant emphasis on shopping — both on and off the boat. (Then I learned that many cruise lines own those jewelry stores in the ports of call.)
    I wonder how long it was going to take some of those folks to pay off those shopping sprees — or their bar tabs 😉

  4. Anonymous

    Saving up for a vacation is a really good suggestion than having to spend the money that you don’t have and running out funds to pay for the expenses of the trip.Nice post!Keep it up!

  5. Anonymous

    We are taking our first cruise this summer – on Disney. We’ve paid for everything – the cruise, airfare, etc already. We saved for a LONG time for this.

    On our regular vacations, we save for about $200 per day to spend on top of our accomodations. That way when we come home we don’t owe ANYTHING and usually have some money left over for next year or some other item we want to buy.

  6. Anonymous

    The story is SAD!

    But what is even sadder (if that’s a word) is there are more of those guys than there are of us. He is an example of the new “American Way”.

    This “spending party” has been going on for years, and will soon resume in full blast after everyone is over their hangover from the last party– this guy is a real winner . . .

  7. Anonymous

    My Girlfriend and I are in the process of getting our vacation finalized. We are headed to California and driving up the coast. We have everything saved up except a couple hundred dollars. It feels so good to have everything saved up so like you said so we can enjoy ourselves!

    Glad to have you back and to hear yall had a great time!

  8. Williams: We have four kids and no family nearby. Thus, a Disney Cruise offers us a unique opportunity in that we can go on vacation as a family, but also get ample time to ourselves away from the kids (they have tons of kids activities on board that allow them to enjoy a good bit of time on their own). They also wait on you hand and foot, which means that we don’t have to hustle food for four kids, etc.

    We’ve been to both Disney World and Las Vegas. The problem is that we arrive home more tired and stressed out than when we left. That wasn’t the case with the Disney Cruise.

  9. Anonymous

    …well, apparently lots of folks enjoy cruises — but I don’t want to be trapped on a boat with 3,000 people.

    IMO you get much better value per dollar ashore (DisneyWorld or Las Vegas for example). Most cruise reviews rave about the ‘shore-excursions’ (Duh!)

    Cruise ships are the essence of high-density living… big boxes crammed with people. Sanitation is a constant struggle. Passengers are stuffed with food to distract them from their tiny, noisy accommodations.

    I like the ocean… but not under those conditions.

  10. Anonymous

    I was talking to a coworker the other day, who had just spent a fair amount on a vacation. They did have the money to pay for it up front; however that left them with basically no emergency fund. It seemed like a similar situation, in that he was excited about the vacation, but a little stressed about the lack of emergency fund. I like being able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing things are paid for, and I have a good emergency fund.

    @ Danielle, it did take us 10 years before my wife and I had a major vacation; however, when we did, we went to Cancun and were able to pay for it all no problem. From my experience, I’d say it’s worth waiting the 10 years, versus going for two weeks now and paying it off for two years.

  11. Anonymous

    It’s funny that the guy would boast about a 1,600 dollar watch and talk about how long it’s going to take him to pay off a vacation in the same breath. He obviously didn’t have his finances in order.

    A new car is my next big purchase I’m saving for…

  12. Anonymous

    I think it is going to take a decade or so to be able to fully fund a major out of state vacation for me. I have started making the effort to save up as much as I can before the vacation, but with a baby on the way, a basement to finish and assorted other financial goals… if I waited to have 100% saved up we would never get to go anywhere!!

    Then again, I’m not going to buy Disney art or $1600 watches while I am on vacation either…

  13. Anonymous

    My boyfriend and I have been slowly saving up both for our move from CA to Austin, TX, and for a vacation to Jamaice we want to take in August. I’m still paying at least $1,000 a month on my student loans, but it’s so great to be able to also save for these big expenses. When summer comes around, we won’t be fretting about how we’re going to pay for everything.

    I remember when I was a senior in high school, my mom paid for one last huge family vacation (by huge I mean her, me, my brother, grandparents, 3 aunts, 1 uncle, and 3 cousins). She saved for YEARS to be able to pay for everyone’s stay and tickets for 5 days at Disney World. That always stuck with me that even vacations need to be saved up for, and they’re always so much more amazing because you really get to enjoy your time with your loved ones instead of worrying about paying off all that debt later.

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