I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost two years now, and I’ve never been on a vacation with her. Since we’re long distance, we usually use up our vacation time visiting one another. But this year, I wanted to do something different and spoil her with a cruise. She had never been on one before, and I hadn’t been on one since I was a kid. The idea of spending our days lounging by the pool, watching the waves, and eating delicious food seemed like a dream. So, I wanted to make that dream a reality.
Problem is, cruises are often hundreds of dollars per person per night. But when I set a goal, I don’t give up, and so, taking my girlfriend on a beautiful 7-day cruise was something I desperately wanted to accomplish in 2019. We embark in a few days, so let me tell you how I made it happen.
1. I shopped around and used “incognito mode.”
I looked at almost a dozen vacation planning websites to find the best deal. Last Minute Travel, Cruise Critic, Costco, and the cruise line’s websites themselves all had different prices listed for the same cruises! It was ridiculous how different the prices could be. On one website, you could get an Interior Room for $1,039, and on another, you could get that same room for$649! I browsed these websites in “incognito mode” on my Chrome browser so that the websites wouldn’t become wise to my interest in the product and up the prices on me. They couldn’t store cookies on my browsing history, so the prices didn’t change the more times I viewed them.
2. I side-hustled like crazy.
Now, I would say I’m a pretty regular side hustler. I do photo shoots with a photographer a few times a month for $50 an hour. I am an art model in a live drawing classroom every other week for $45 a class. And I often find paid theater gigs (although, they very rarely pay a fair rate). But I knew I needed to save more money than usual for the cruise, so I upped my side-hustle game quite a bit. I asked my photographer if we could shoot once a week, and he said yes, so that was an extra $50 a week. I asked if I could be the model for art class more frequently and although he said he couldn’t do that regularly, he could give me one extra “shift,” which was another $45 in my pocket. I also worked a theater gig that filled my weekends for a month but that made me $450. I was well on my way to affording the cruise.
3. I picked up extra shifts.
I’m a hard worker, but I think anyone who has stripped (as I do) can tell you how exhausting it can be. It’s physically and emotionally tiring, and being in character/”on” can get exhausting in its own way. Because of those reasons, I usually only work at the club four days a week. But during these last few months, I tried to find more time in my schedule to get to the club. Even if I got tired and left after $100, that’s still another $100 toward the cruise. I just kept telling myself how much fun my girlfriend and I would have, and that pushed me through some long shifts.
4. I put myself on a spending ban.
From February 15th to March 15th, I put myself on a ban from spending any money on my personal appearance. That meant no makeup, no manicures, no new clothes; absolutely nothing from the beauty, clothing, or personal care categories of my budget. In the 45 days this year before that spending ban, I spent $136 on my appearance, so I could gauge that I’m saving almost $100 by abstaining for 30 days. That money went straight to the cruise fund.
5. I put an unexpected windfall towards the vacation.
My mother always taught me that any unexpected cash goes right into my savings account. And I listen to her almost all the time. Almost. But this time, instead of putting a $600 windfall into my retirement fund, I used it to fill out my vacation fund, which pushed me over the edge and finally allowed me to buy the tickets. I wouldn’t say I recommend this option at all, but come on, who doesn’t want to spend unexpected cash on a nice vacation? I’m human, I’m imperfect, and I just wanted to treat my girlfriend to some fun!
The cruise embarks in just a few days, and I look forward to taking dance classes, working out together, eating at unique restaurants, watching live performances, relaxing by the pools, and checking out the library. I hope it’ll be worth every dollar. I’ll be keeping track, so we’ll see! Catch me back here with a “What My Cruise Really Cost Me” follow-up article in the not-too-distant future.
Mandy Pura is a 22-year-old who holds two Bachelors in the Arts and has no idea what to do with them. She’s a health-conscious coffee-drinker by day, and a stripper by night. She likes to spend her time doing circus acrobatics, practicing mindfulness, and eating delicious vegan foods.
Image via Unsplash