We Paid Cash! :: Cruise to Mexico

We paid cash!

A testimony from DeAnna

My husband and I only take one vacation a year and usually try to plan it around October 4th in order to celebrate our wedding anniversary as well.

He is a truck driver and I am a nanny and full-time student (recent graduate, actually!), so money and vacation time are both pretty tight. However, we managed to save up enough money to not only go on a five day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico but to also take his mother and my grandmother along for the ride — all expenses paid! They’ve never been on a “real” vacation before, and his father died just six months ago, so we felt that it’d be a lovely gift to share with them. Both women live on disability/social security, so we knew that we’d be covering the whole bill.

How we saved for our trip over three months :

  • We used $1500 from our tax returns to pay all but $150 of the cruise. This included two staterooms, tips and insurances. The additional $150 was taken from my savings account.
  • I worked extra hours at work and dropped our grocery budget down to $25 a week (from $40ish) to come up with the $300 it would take to board our four dogs for a week.
  • My husband made an additional $3000 by staying on the road for six-week stretches instead of coming home every four weeks.

Saving for more than just the cruise

We used the $3000 to pay for gasoline from Kentucky to Miami, Florida (roughly $200 roundtrip; my car gets 40mpg, thankfully!), two hotel rooms for two nights, food for the trips down and up, spending money for everyone on the ship and ports of call and $250 for the overpriced but beautiful on-ship photos.

My husband also set aside $400 of that money to cover bills for that week, since he does not get paid vacation. We did not end up spending all of the money set aside (had $800 left!) so when we returned and learned that one of our dogs caused $66 dollars of damage, we were able to pay without blinking an eye.

Already thinking about another cruise for next year

We Paid Cash CruiseA cruise worked well for our family because it was an all-inclusive vacation and provided many activities for everyone to do at all hours of the day.

Additionally, by booking and paying ahead, we saved a great deal of money. We saved $200 per stateroom just by booking three months in advance!

I think that my husband’s favorite part of the whole vacation would have to be the amazing food and 24-hour room service, since he never gets waited on at home and we’re too busy to cook elaborate meals.

For me, a week of pampering and getting dressed up for dinner was worth the small sacrifices made along the way and not having to work, study and keep house definitely has me saving money already for next year’s trip!

DeAnna is a recent graduate of Austin Peay State University and a full-time nanny who is currently applying to law schools and hoping to keep her family’s debt as low as possible. She and her husband of two years, Brandon, are parents to six special needs “furchildren” and are striving to be debt-free and career-secure before having children some day.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. Heather says

    So nice of you to have included your family members on the trip.
    And it was interesting to hear of the extra expenses associated with cruising. Smart to have planned for that.

  2. Annette says

    great story, and I had to laugh at the $66 furbaby damage….that would be just my luck.
    We are planning a 2012 cruise to Alaska, the only big vacation I or my kids have ever had, my son will be 20 by then and my daughter almost 16, we are very excited and NOTHING will go on credit.

    • diane says

      Alaska is a great cruise. My husband and I took one through the inside passage in 2009. Loved it. We arranged for some of our own excursions rather than take the ships excursions. In Juno we took the local bus to the glacier. The local bus stop is an easy walk from the ship. We just missed seeing a baby bear when we arrived at the glacier. We also arranged for an excursion on the Aleutian Ballad featured on Most Dangerous Jobs. We were able to watch several bald eagles flying and diving for food. We are considering returning next year with our adult children. Have a wonderful time.

  3. Beth f says

    We’re doing a carribean cruise next spring!

    Quick tip…

    Hubbys been on several as a kid, if you are gutsy enough….two weeks prior to the cruise, prices drop dramatically. Three months in advance would be roughly $650-$750 but withun two weeks goes from $349-$399!!!! They do sell out, but if you plan carefully, its possible to get an awesome deal! :)

    • says

      I’m a cruise travel agent and while prices do sometimes drop at the last minute – more often the ship will be full and you won’t get the sailing OR the price you want. It is much better to book as far out as possible. If you book with a good agent they can sometimes get you in on one of their company’s group rates too. We do that all the time, then you get the group amenities plus the savings!

    • Lynn says

      Another tip for the very spontaneous – if you live near a cruise port, you can often go the day of the cruise and buy right there (yes, on the spot) for a very, very deep discount. At that point, the cruise ship is leaving and even a very discounted room is better for the cruise line than an empty room.

      You can get amazing deals, but have to be willing to take the chance of not getting to go. If you live in the same town, it makes it much easier since cruises usually leave in the afternoon – giving you a chance to buy in the morning and then pack and get back to leave!

  4. says

    I never get tired of reading these stories! That sounds like a fantastic trip, and it was so nice that you included your family as well! Thanks for sharing!

  5. says

    Congrats on saving for your cruise! We love cruising as a family! I even just started a blog for families that want to learn more about cruising.

    • Becky says


      How many cruise with you. We would love to go but there are six of us (4 kids) and am looking for that info – what’s your blog?

  6. Angie says

    This story really touched me. My husband is also a truck driver, though he only drives locally and is home evenings, weekends, and holidays. And I am a SAHM with a little babysitting gig on the side as well as another small side job. I think the key that I need to remember if I want a really nice vacation someday is SACRIFICE! But I know that it will be so worth it! I certainly don’t regret the decision we’ve made for me to stay home… its the best. Thanks for sharing this story!

  7. says

    Way to go! That was a fantastic, generous idea to take along his mom and your grandma! Not only did they have a lovely vacation, but you all now have those sweet memories in common. Good work!

  8. Mrs. G says

    I think this is the BEST “We Paid Cash!” story ever. It really made my heart smile! Thank you so much for sharing your story, DeAnna.

  9. Hillary says

    Beautiful story and we are so sorry for your loss. We lost my husbands dad too early, he was only 56.
    And your portrait is beautiful!! You will treasure those memories forever!

  10. Ann S. (grandma) says

    Thanks DeAnna for a wonderful vacation, it was my first and most likely my last. Me and Brandon’s mom had a great time together while y’all did your thing we did ours. I know she had a good time as well, even if we lost her a few times. Ha Ha I could never thank you enough for including me in your cruise, it was very, very special to me for my granddaughter to be so giving….. I LOVE YOU SO BOTH VERY MUCH!!!!!!! I wish you both many years of happiness……… Love, Grandma

  11. Treva@Sunny Side of Savings says

    Your posting is very motivating. I need to plan on setting money aside for a travel fund. I love how you and your husband work together at planning your trip together.

  12. Lise says

    I cried while reading this, DeAnna. I’m so happy you all were able to take a cruise and so touched by your generosity. When I was single, I paid for an anniversary trip for my parents and they enjoyed it so much. They had never been on a trip like that before and my heart nearly burst at being able to give something back to them (though so small compared to what they’ve given me!)

    You and your husband are going to have a rich life indeed with this kind of financial prudence and generosity!

  13. says

    I loved reading this story. It seems like you and your hubby work very hard and deserve a vacation! Thanks for giving us the example of thinking of others and not just ourselves.

    I wish you the best of luck with your future and hope there is another cruise awaiting you then! :)

  14. Mel says

    I absolutely loved this story! It showed that being wise about money and avoiding debt isn’t just about the money per-say but also about the generosity it allows us to use to bless others with. So excited for an update down the road about what happens to you and your family!

  15. Laura says

    So kind. Your post warms my heart especially the part about taking along the moms! Bravo and hats off to you and your husband!

  16. val says

    WOW on that grocery bill! My jaw about hit the floor. Granted I have three small children but $25 a week? I can’t imagine. And we don’t buy many processed foods AND I bake a lot…perhaps it’s the organic goods I do spend on. But anyone with tips on how to cut the grocery bill, do post!


    • DeAnna says

      Thanks! I call it the grocery bill but it also includes household goods (except for pets- their kibble, litters, toys,soaps,medications,etc. are waaaaay more expensive!) I buy organic too, but I live in an area where a lot of people are misinformed or scared of organics and naturals. Hence, Kroger marks down perfectly good items every friday morning in order to clear shelf space for the processed junk 😉 I love it! I only buy meat is on sale, and I won’t pay more than $2 a pound- that means I utilize our 3 freezers a lot when organic,free range chicken and ground turkey get marked down! I also grocery shop early in the morning to get the best deals and only allow myself to go once a week.

      • val says

        Ah…we don’t have those “luxuries” so to speak. I live in an area with ONE grocery store and a Walmart and a whole foods store. Since there is no competition, good deals are very hard to come by! I’d say most meats are $3/lb and upwards and if they have incredible deals, I guess I must miss them. Something to look into. I am hoping to start gardening as well because we go through fruits and veggies like CRAZY around here (I have a Vitamix, splurge of last year!) and we make LOTS of veggie packed smoothies. Anyways, thanks for the tips. I’ll ask about marked down meats…that would really help…

  17. Carol says

    A tax refund is not free money–it’s YOUR money that you have loaned the government INTEREST-FREE all year!!! Change your deductions, save the extra cash and earn interest on your money and you will have even more next year!

    • DeAnna says

      The majority of our tax refund was from my lifetime earning credits and hope credits for paying tuition and my husband’s expenses as a truck driver. He gets so much money per day for living expenses spent while on the road.

  18. Dawn Brown says

    What a wonderful story. I am so impressed that you were able to do so much for you and your family when you worked as a team. Very impressive and kind of you and your husband. Good luck on next years trip. Thanks for your love of animals as well as family.

  19. Sheila Vives says

    I really really was moved that you treated “mom” and “grandmother” to a really nice and exciting vacation ! They deserved it, and so did you !

  20. angela says

    What a nice story! Your grandmother and MIL are so very lucky to have raised such wonderful generous children. Great motivation to keep on saving!

  21. says

    What an inspiring story. I’ve been considering taking my parents and grandparents on a trip, but haven’t been able to think of the best place to go. My grandmother has never been on an airplane and I’d really like to take her on a vacation while she’s still “young” enough to enjoy it. I hadn’t thought of a cruise, but that might be the perfect vacation as my grandfather loves to eat;-) Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Laura says

      We’ve been on two cruises now and I really do think it is good for families of all ages. There are so many different things to do. You can go your separate ways then meet for meals, hanging out, activities, etc. You can’t go far, since you are on a boat! We’ve enjoyed the view from our balcony rooms, but I hear that inside rooms are good for those who want to go to bed early (as long as you make sure you are not under a dance floor, etc).

  22. April Krause says

    What a great story! I am definitly keeping the post in my favorites. My husband and I have wanted to go on a cruise for a while and have been trying to make a plan, but have always ended failing at it. It was great to read the great ideas you all had. Plus, I love that she is a nanny because that is what I do and I that since she did it so can I.


  23. Carol says

    Thanks for sharing! What a loving, caring and thoughtful thing to do. God bless you for thinking of others. Hopefully HE will bless you by providing funding for law school as a reward for your generosity! (BTW I don’t believe in Karma!)

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