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How do the *islanders* do it?

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harlan_5151
(@harlan_5151)
Advanced Member

I was just wondering how some of you guys *make ends meet*. If you live on the islands, I'd like to hear some of your stories. Why you wanted the island life, and how you make it work. Just thought I'd get a perspective from those who live it.

Thanks all,

Wes

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Topic starter Posted : May 8, 2007 11:45 pm
TxSissy
 TxSissy
(@TxSissy)
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Well, working 2 or 3 jobs (if not more) to make ends meet! Rent, car insurance, electric, internet, cable, phone, groceries (very high). Not to mention car registration and the occasional load of water. But hey, the booze it cheap! Mixers are more expensive than the liquor! LOL!

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Posted : May 8, 2007 11:57 pm
STXBob
(@STXBob)
Trusted Member

Work more: Be a reliable worker. Find work by networking.

Spend less: Track your expenses by category. You'll quickly see where all your money is going, and where you can cut back.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 12:12 am
bethburnett70
(@bethburnett70)
Advanced Member

My parnter works about 42 hours a week, doing maintenance and construction, carpentry type things. I work about 30 hours a week at a hotel, front-desking. Not much pay.. or at least, about a third of what I was making in the states doing corporate payroll. We pay 900 a month in rent, we do have one cheap little car that is running great. We feed ourselves, our three cats and two dogs, pay three credit card payments from back in the mainland days and go out to eat occasionally, but not often. We dont drink much, we don't do any drugs, and our idea of a party is to invite a few friends over for steaks on the grill. And we manage to put aside about five hundred a month in savings now. So, for several months (almost a year) we nearly starved and never went anywhere while my partner was building a client base and looking for work, but now things are going really well. We are not rich... I don't see us being able to afford to buy a house for at least ten years the way things are going... but it's still a nice life.

And we do live directly on a beautiful west end beach, which makes things even better, even when times were tight.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 12:20 am
harlan_5151
(@harlan_5151)
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All things seem better with a nice view! Keep em coming!

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Topic starter Posted : May 9, 2007 12:37 am
Anonymous
 Anonymous
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How do statesiders do it, that's the question I have! Seriously, living here isn't much different than living anywhere else. I make more money now then I did in the states, work less and enjoy life more. Living here is more expensive then my midwestern roots, but cheaper than when I was living on the West Coast. It's not hard to make it here at all - I think this message board makes it scary for people at times, when it's not scary at all. I moved down here four years ago with no job lined up and rent due. I now own my own home and make more money then I did in the states. It's not hard to make it here if you have your head on your shoulders.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 2:47 am
Teresa
(@Teresa)
Trusted Member

Wes,

Not really my area of expertise, but your question reminded me of a question similar that I read when I was moving to the V.I. I just wanted to say that some people can really move to the V.I. and make it. Mostly single or young or no kids, but some really do make it. I found that my friends (who still live on island) all stay because they have found their niche. When you live there, you have to find friends and people who help you get around. You can be miserable and alone, if that is what you seek, but to make a life of it - you really need to find your place on the island. I have some friends who hang out at the same place every night, work a good job during the day and the few days they have off, they go diving. I have some friends who live on a boat and go to a few stores when they need too, but their life is on the water. They come and go, but have their life. For the most part, even the wealthy, live their lives around their jobs. If you get a good job, you keep it and work longer hours and for more days than you do stateside. On their days off they go to St. John or the BVI's and it is their tradeoff. I don't know if my point was made, but if you want to move to the V.I. and make it work long term, you have to invest in a search to find your place. If you don't, most likely you will leave and move back stateside. The only reason I can say that is because in the two years I lived there, I saw a lot of coming and going and I have a huge curiosity, so I find out what is going on with people and why they stay and why they leave.

I also have to say that many people I met stay on island, because they don't have anything stateside to go back too. A person may want to get away from family and the familiar, but after a while, they may miss seeing family. The island is remote and we missed our family back home. One of many reasons we left, but just my experience. The islands are like nothing else I have seen. Beautiful and ugly and everything in between, but not just another place. So that is my short two cents. 🙂

Teresa

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Posted : May 9, 2007 2:51 am
New`Comer
 New`Comer
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I have accepted a position with a facility located on St. Thomas. It pays about 65K. My family (wife and two kids: girl 6, and boy 13) are also coming to join me in September. My wife also plans to find work making about 20K, for a total of 85K between us per year.

We would like to rent a 3BR 2BA apartment/condo/house and be able to send the kids to a decent private school on the island. And occasionally take a vacation (or two!) a year. Will this be doable on this income or is this just a pipe dream?

Any comments or advice would be great.

Thanks...

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Posted : May 9, 2007 6:18 am
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

It always seemed like home to me from the first time I stepped off a plane in Jamaica & got hit with that warm sun. I've only worked one job but very hard AT that job. I've said before I realized a long time ago when the frustrations would get to me that I had to adapt. The Caribbean wasn't going to change because in all my infinite wisdom & ability to rule the world, nobody gave a rat's behind about my opinion so I adjusted myself. After all, I couldn't adjust anyone else.

I got active in the community with things I could help with, made lots of friends doing that which was a nice side benefit & created a life. I own my own place & wouldn't exchange the times I've spent down here for anything. It's not for everyone & I've said that over & over but neither is Peoria or NYC or Mexico or anywhere else.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 6:59 am
Teresa
(@Teresa)
Trusted Member

New'comer,

We moved to island about three years ago with three kids. My moving experience is well documented and my moving story is #13. While it is really hard to say exactly how much you need to make to get by, your income is on the lower end of what I think is enough. It all depends on how you live and how you spend. We conserved as much as possible and it still wasn't enough.

If you can, move to island first before your family and kind of get things set up as it will get crazy when the kids move down. My husband moved down three months before we did. Finding a three bedroom for a 'cheaper' rate is really hard. There are some for about $2,000 or $3,000 a month. Our last year there we found a three bedroom/1 bath for $1200/month. It was a great find. A local friend got us the apartment.

I have so much advice for you and can help to make the move smoother, but only if you want my help. This board will be a lifeline for you. It is an easier thing to move if you are single, but with family, well there are a lot more challenges. Another thing is schooling. I have talked it to pieces, but there are some great private schools, however they are expensive. Some are about $200/wk per child down to $100/wk per child. I broke it down by week, but usually you pay monthly or all at once. There are additional school expenses as well. Anyway, if you have any questions, feel free to pm me or post on the board.

Teresa

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Posted : May 9, 2007 12:09 pm
harlan_5151
(@harlan_5151)
Advanced Member

"How do statesiders do it, that's the question I have! Seriously" Thanks Robin, that is a great question. I don't take the scary parts too seriously. I think some might need to hear them, that's it's not all*cocktails and dreams* Loved that movie BTW, even though Tom Cruise is a troll. I adapt very well, and quite easily. I have never gone anywhere else on vacation, i love the Caribbean. I haven't even graduated and I have job offers all over the globe. Belize would be my first choice, but getting a job in any other country can be a hassle. All efforts to find a citizen must be made. Which I agree, it's a good call. So I will go where I can definitely find work in my field without having to cut red tape. Though pricey, i've lived in resort areas in colorado and that's pretty darn pricey.
I wanted to hear some islanders points of view, and I think I got some. This board has been great. Thanks to you all.

Wes

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Topic starter Posted : May 9, 2007 1:57 pm
sunnyd
(@sunnyd)
Advanced Member

Seems the ones who make it have taken it upon themeselves to MAKE it....you can't rely on anyone else but you and your attitude....and the best attitude wins!
Island life is quite different and if you don't take the time ahead of time to realize that and make sure you can adjust than you will NOT make it.
Hard work, determination and a great ATTITUDE will get you where you want to be in any area!

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Posted : May 9, 2007 2:04 pm
Anonymous
 Anonymous
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Trade - "YOU SAID IT ALL"
I agree 100% plus!

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Posted : May 9, 2007 3:01 pm
promoguy
(@promoguy)
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"Hard work, determination and a great ATTITUDE will get you where you want to be in any area!"

You really think so!!!! I mean really, that's all it takes?????

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Posted : May 9, 2007 3:20 pm
SuzanneB
(@SuzanneB)
Advanced Member

sunnyd,

I agree 100%, attitude really does make a world of difference.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 3:25 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

I agree attitude does make a difference. But you have to have an income adequate for your needs. Otherwise you are not going to have a good attitude.

For us, that income (2 people, 2 cars, simple lifestyle, a couple of trips back to the states a year, eating out 2 or so times a week) is right around $60,000 a year. But that sum would not be sufficlent if we had kids -- no way no how..

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Posted : May 9, 2007 3:59 pm
mell
 mell
(@mell)
Advanced Member

I am loving this thread as so many positive experiences are coming out and people who are successfully living here and enjoying it are getting a chance to share why this place works for them.

IMHO the right attitude is absolutely the most important thing to bring with you and if you will notice, most of the people who are living here successfully have a very positive and adaptable attitude.

Not having preconceived notions about the way things should or should not be will also help you immensely. Leave all judgmental, moralistic and authoritarian, attitudes behind -- they don't work here. The best thing to do is to just sit back and let this crazy and colorful theater unfold before you, and rest assured, you will be highly entertained, if nothing else.

Of course, there are never any guarantees in life and sometimes things don't work out for reasons completely beyond our control. When that happens we learn from our mistakes and move on -- temporarily disappointed, but permanently enriched from our experience nonetheless.

That said, if you come here with a sense of adventure, a willingness to work hard, an open mind, and a true interest in learning about other cultures, you stand an excellent chance of "making" it here for as little or as long as you like.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 4:23 pm
SuzanneB
(@SuzanneB)
Advanced Member

You'd be surprised. I only make a public school teacher's salary (well under $40,000), but I'm able to afford $950 in rent for a lovely 2 bedroom apt. (everything included) and I have 2 children. One child is in private school but my ex is paying for half of that. The bills aren't terrible, we had a similar cost of living in CT. We don't eat out very often or travel too much so we are able to manage just fine. I think that the absence of big box stores and strip malls has def. curbed the spending. My kids don't beg and cry for 'stuff' , because a lot of those things aren't available here or people don't ship to the VI.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 4:28 pm
harlan_5151
(@harlan_5151)
Advanced Member

Good responses! I am a big believer in attitude, you are the one who decides every morning you get up what kind of day you'll be having. Someone cutting you off in traffic, being rude at the checkout, will not affect you if you go around with the right attitude. I feel sorry for people in bad moods, life's too short to be pissed off. I just don't let them piss on me. Ewww.

Choose the right attitude everyday, you'll be happy you did.

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Topic starter Posted : May 9, 2007 4:39 pm
Anonymous
 Anonymous
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With 2 kids in a 'good' private school, your standard of living will probably not be a luxurious one by any means. The one (or two ) vacations a year may well not be a reality.
it is hard to answer a question like this without being 'noooosy'. What standard of living do you enjoy now? What are you prepared to compromise on?
You will be 'working middle class' on that salary (in my humble opinion), but that is completely subjective.
I do know that I gave up a 40,000 a year job when we moved up to the Olympic Peninsula (a sought after and not cheap area) and we now have more disposable income despite having a modest mortgage for the first time ever.
The incidentals with a decent private school - the trips to Europe, the sports gear, books etc etc - are significant.
What is very likely to happen on the island is one or more 'budget busters'.
Emergency flights home to US for family illness or personal illness. Replacing large electronic items etc.

I do not believe the hyperbole that 'all it takes is a positive attitude etc'. That is not all it takes. It helps, but it is not a completely realistic view. The come on down and see if it works out...etc...is not really applicable (in my humble opinion) when children, work upheaval with the responsibilities of a dependent family etc. are involved.
The people that have the easiest transition do seem to have no kids, disposable income if older, or a high tolerance for discomfort if younger LOL.
All this does not mean that I do not think that you should move to the VI, it just means that I think that you should be absolutely sure of the situation that you are bringing your family to.
A pre decision visit is essential. Check out the available resources, entertainment etc for the kids. Look at airfares - health insurance - medevac costs etc.
We lasted 5 years and have fond memories and still have ties to the VI. Would I cosider moving back full time - no.
Would I do it all again - no.
Am I flexible, positive, adaptable -yes. I moved to Puerto Rico from Colorado. Moved there with no Spanish, a total newbie - had a ball!!!

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Posted : May 9, 2007 4:49 pm
bethburnett70
(@bethburnett70)
Advanced Member

There are some awfully nice people who leave the island and some awfully awful ones. Same with the ones who stay. A lot of people came and went in Phoenix while I was there. Come to think of it, some people left Ohio to move to other places while I lived there. Nobody thought that it meant that they *failed* at living in Ohio. They just moved. The island is the perfect place for some people, it is not a perfect place for others, and for some, it may be a great place for a while, but not forever.
I love this island, I do love living here, but I do not see it lasting forever. Tabra and I are pretty young (ish) now, but medical care will become a big factor in our lives pretty soon, especially with her having RA. Eventually I may get tired of not having a whole lot of money. (Maybe not, because I had a lot back in the states, but I had to work long, stressful hours for it)
I like having the opposing views... we have some who are strongly anti-island, some who are strongly pro-island, and some who are somewhere in the middle. It helps people to see that there are so many different aspects of this place. I truly don't think you can know if this place is for you until you move here. And if you are childless, adventurous and willing to move back if it doesn't work out, why not try it?

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Posted : May 9, 2007 6:09 pm
harlan_5151
(@harlan_5151)
Advanced Member

"I do not believe the hyperbole that 'all it takes is a positive attitude etc'. That is not all it takes." This is true, I was speaking about my situation, no kids, hard worker, and a positive attitude. Can't imagine how much harder it would be with kids down there. I looked at the costs of those private schools, it's really high. Like 8 or 10k a year! That's not cheap folks. As with any new move, it just doesn't work out for some. Should you consider it more carefully? Absolutly, we're not talking about moving to Jersey and back. This is a big financial decision, not to be taken lightly.

Wes

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Topic starter Posted : May 9, 2007 7:22 pm
Betty
(@Betty)
Trusted Member

Newcomer with 85k a year and a family of four you will struggle. You will need to find a bargain of a place like what suzanne says she has, try to keep you rent around 1200 to 1500 (which is not at all easy to find for a family of 4). Your utilities will be at least another $500 a month. Groceries are going to be about $150 to $200 a week at least. If you have alot of debt, clean it up before you come because you will need those resources in case of a emergency. Don't come if you're not going to have insurance with your job. What ever you spend on entertainment now cut it in half, maybe more. Restaurants, entertainment are more here. If you wife can qualify as a teacher at a private school they often will give your kids free tutition. Otherwise affording a good private school on your salaries is going to make your budget much tighter.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 8:48 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

It also helps to not be a drunk.

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Posted : May 9, 2007 11:43 pm
Anonymous
 Anonymous
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Thank You everyone...

This has been one of the most positive exchanges I have seen on this forum in a while. It is easy for us to get frustrated and give flippant answers. However this time everyone had their say, made their point, but didn't put anyone down. I liked Jane's succinct comment about the "The people who have the easiest transition.........etc."

Everyone's comments about living on $80K (for a family of 4)were good. We know that you can live here for less, because many of you are doing it. My wife and I lived on St Croix on less than $50,000 a year in retirement pay. We even played golf regularly, but did not spend much on a social life and our housing was only $15,000 a year.

I liked the comment that moving does not mean you failed. It just means that you moved. (I know it is a difficult and expensive move). Our reasons for moving were mostly medical.

And finally, it sure helps to have a positive attitude, but that alone won't do.

Have warm and wonderful Island day.

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Posted : May 10, 2007 12:53 am
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