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How do YOU Afford your scuba diving fix?

As times continue to be tough for just about everyone, DiverWire.com writer Stacy Amberson talks about how she (and others) are finding creative ways to pay for their scuba diving vacations.

How do you afford your dive travel?  What non-essentials are you willing to give up? How much economizing will you do?  To a small percentage of divers those questions aren’t relevant; they simply decide on a location and go.  The rest of us have to plan and save, more than ever in this depressed economy.  As things get tighter and finances more precarious, it takes creative budgeting to afford those dive excursions.

Giving up one thing to have another.  Personally, I’d rather dive than almost anything so I’m willing to give up a lot.  It’s all about priorities and perception.  What is the most important to each person?  Both present and in the future, long term?  Looking forward, seeing the big picture.

Many people work hard to have beautiful homes, pools, cars and all the “perks”, new clothes, accessories and jewelry, dining out, golfing, gambling, nightlife and entertainment, the latest electronic technology or maybe … dive travel.

Several times the dive Gods have smiled down with fortuitous timing; a well paying contract job in Greece prior to a group trip to Fiji, an unexpected investment dividend right in time for a Christmas trip to Roatan, repayment of a loan coinciding with an invitation to visit friends in Australia.  Usually though it’s just down and dirty scrimping, saving and a lot of dreaming.

Once the conscious decision to seriously save was made it seemed to be surprisingly easy.  Initially just a few random economies were necessary; skip the movies, have all meals at home, no more spa days, facials and massages, use the library instead of buying books.  Saving wasn’t so difficult after all, especially when there was a wonderful dive trip as the reward at the end of all that self-sacrifice.

However, along with the California budget crisis – a 15% pay cut, came escalating mortgage rates, and rising prices for just about everything.  Even finding money that could be saved for dive travel became difficult, though not impossible for the truly determined.

More non-necessities had to be identified, take the cut and fall by the wayside.  Manicures and pedicures went without much fanfare, car washes and detailing didn’t hurt too much either.  Indiscriminate purchase of exciting and pretty new products at the Clinique, Bare Essentials and MAC counters was a bit more painful to give up.

No more trips browsing through Target, picking up monthly ‘necessities’ like personal products and cleaning supplies which tended to add up alarmingly at the register.  Costco Warehouse became instantly off limits for the same obvious reasons.  Dozens of sales/specials email offers from a handful of favorite online merchants are deleted without even opening to avoid temptation.  New shoes, despite a prior whole-hearted belief in this gospel, aren’t truly essential, especially with a closet full of over 50 pair already.

Small casual purchases, each inexpensive on its own, but adding up nonetheless were suspended indefinitely.  Multiple varieties of scented oil for the home, special scented fabric softener specifically for linens, new toys for the animals every trip to the store (even though they have quantities amassed at this point to keep a zoo full of cats and dogs happy for years).  These and other unassuming items previously considered vital began to be discarded one by one, discontinued cold-turkey with extreme prejudice.

Finally although considered a necessity by many, cable was canceled.  While that was and continues to be a significant and harsh concession to the ‘saving-for-a-dive-trip’ cause, I know intellectually (and repeat to myself daily) in the long run it will all be worth it.

Quiet, discrete and dedicated to saving with these and other reductions, it’s inevitable to hear:

“You must be hella rich, you’re always going on all those exotic vacations” from an outspoken co-worker on his way out to lunch, while I ate at my desk.

“It must be nice to be able to take all those fancy vacations” from an elderly, well-to-do relative who supported and enabled a drug using adult daughter.

And although still being taken aback by blatant hostility online proves either my eternal optimism or stupidity;  “I know you have a sugar daddy.  There is no way a single woman, a state worker no less, could afford all those trips!”  Yikes, someone forgot to sound the chauvinist alert warning bell.

Is there really any appropriate response?  Would people with that mind-set, those non-divers even hear it?   Regardless, I’m always tempted to explain myself because I put a lot of hard work and energy into saving for those trips!  I am always completely broke, actively saving for the next dive trip wherever that may be.  I save my breath as well.

Life does continue happily along, if not as comfortably.  Stripped down to the basic fundamentals is not an ongoing hardship although it does take some getting used to.  Diving is the bigger picture, travel to warm tropical locations with crystal clear water, healthy colorful reefs teeming with life.  Good long time dive buddies, new friends just waiting to be met.  New reefs, walls and wrecks to explore; those things make it all worth while.

To read more of Stacy’s scuba-related observations, go to STACY’S DIVERWIRE stories

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