If there is any piece of advice I can offer you that will make your life more consistent and comfortable here in St. Kitts it is MAKE A BUDGET! As soon as you get your loan refund check from school, before you spend a penny of it, make a budget! I, unfortunately, received a much smaller amount of money in my first refund check, and didn’t keep track of my every penny, purchased a car, and had an unexpected electric deposit and car problems and wound up having a panic attack when I realized I wasn’t even halfway through the semester and had to figure out how to live off of $2500 EC for 7 more weeks.
I wasn’t able to save money before I came to St. Kitts to purchase a car, and pay for deposits and 1st months bills, so my life has been pretty rough here in my first semester. I promise you, having money problems only makes school harder and more stressful. I had about $3000 US in my account which we used to get groceries, pay fees, and setup our apartment (garbage can, pet food, Tupperware, cleaning supplies, etc) and we’ve had family deposit money into that account to help supplement our bills here in St. Kitts. We also took out a cash advance of $2000 US from a credit line I already had, which is the only way we’ve been able to make it by. I budget every single thing per month and add any additional purchases and include any additional income. It helps you keep a good perspective of what kind of cushion you have, and with 3 weeks left of school, I have $380 EC of cushion. It isn’t as easy to see that number and go out to eat with friends or go on a catamaran trip wth friends. Unfortunately, you have to be mindful of your money.
It’s also a good idea to find a pet sitting job over break; it can certainly help supplement in-between semesters. I will be staying at another student’s apartment for two weeks and she will be paying me $450 US, which will certainly help us be able to eat, have a little fun, and save up. It may not be how you want to spend your break, but I have no choice and I can’t live through the 3 week break on $300 EC.
Second word of advice, pay your rent in the beginning of the semester! I am so thankful that I took the largest chunk of money out of the bank because I never had to worry about not being able to pay rent.
Also, I wish I had money set aside for a car before I got here, but my car hadn’t sold back at home, so I had to rely on my refund check to buy a car. Don’t rely on your refund check to buy a car; if you can bring at least $4000 US for a car. I bought a great car for $3100 US.
If you work with a mechanic, you should be able to get a good working vehicle for no more than $5000. And don’t be too picky when buying an island car. No matter what, it will be a money pit and it won’t be cosmetically nice to look at. As long as it has working breaks, good tires, and no major mechanical problems (alternator, engine, leaks, etc) you should jump for joy! My car has no AC, all doors have to be opened from outside the car (via rolled down window or another person outside), only two windows roll down for air circulation, my trunk won’t open, the blinkers are finicky, everything rattles, and the passenger side view mirror just fell off this week. All things considered, she’s in great condition!
Below, I’ve attached a budget for my second semester. I made mine by hand because I don’t like the pre-made templates, so it takes a bit longer, but it’s totally worth it. As I total up all the expenses, I keep a running total, so even if I had to change car maintenance to a higher number or gas to a lower number, the numbers will all update. Take advantage of it! The left over amount is over $10,ooo XCD.