cash flow

Since this is a blog about two accountants, I think it's appropriate to address the issue of money on the island. Even though all of our friends are professionals, everyone feels flat out broke after only two weeks into our new lives because of all the cash outlays that have hit us all at once. If you're planning to move to the island, be prepared to pay for the following:

  • Vehicle. (Or two.) This can run you anywhere from $900 CI (an unlikely low) to $5500 CI for a typical used car. Obviously, the sky is the limit on car prices, and if you're spending $10K+ on a car, you're probably spending too much, but I've not met one person who's on any kind of payment plan for these used cars (most are private sales), so plan to have the cash in hand.
  • Driver's licenses. The maximum charge is $85 CI. The license expires on your next birthday, so the charges are prorated accordingly.
  • Vehicle inspections and licensing - $185 CI/vehicle.
  • Apartment. Rents on the island are "low" right now, because there is an oversupply.  We are most well-versed on the 2 BR / 2 BT market, and rent for an apartment in the popular Seven Mile Beach (SMB) area will easily be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2K CI / month.  When you sign the lease, you have to provide a full month's deposit and the first month's rent immediately. Unless you're rooming with someone, plan for another $4K CI.
  • A utility deposit. This is $100 CI/bedroom or $500 CI on SMB.
  • Car insurance. The minimum is around $450 CI/car/year and is paid up front.  My insurance was $435 CI for an open policy, allowing any driver over 25 to drive my vehicle and be insured. This price included a 60% discount that I earned because I brought a no-claims letter from my former U.S. insurance company.
  • Cell phone plan. The plans here are either prepaid or post-paid. We went the prepaid route (roughly $80 CI for two phones for a month), but getting a post-paid plan means putting up a $500 CI deposit.
In addition to all of the compulsory items above, we've also dished dough for the following:
  • Scuba diving certification. The diving here is supposed to be phenomenal, so becoming certified was high on our list. On our second night on island, someone recommended Happy Fish Divers to us, so we proceeded to sign ourselves and 15 others up for lessons (later this month; blog to follow.) The typical price is $250 / person, but NS (as always) negotiated the price down to $200 / person since we effectively found every free accountant on the island and talked them into joining. NS said the owner thought it was Christmas when NS handed him $3400 yesterday. Again: money up front.
  • Gym membership / other sports activities. Our hotel comes with a complimentary pass to World Gym, which is handily right down the road.  Both of our firms sponsor memberships, decreasing the annual fee from $450 CI/year to $300 CI for NS and $150 CI for me.  Also, I've joined a 10-week running clinic which trains for a relay-style marathon in December (don't get excited, all you hard-core runners. These are baby steps).  Another $50 CI.
  • Port fees. We spent about $70 CI on storage and handling fees for our 15 boxes. NS' firm will reimburse us, but we still had to have cash in hand. Also, we paid about $80 CI to truck the boxes from the port to our hotel. I fedl like all we've done since getting here is burn through loads of cash!
  • Groceries. Or dining out. I know I brought 15 whole boxes, but I didn't include any food. Food shopping is expensive; like a carton of ice cream is $8. Crazy!
Hopefully you noticed a theme above: Everything is denominated in Cayman dollars. The island businesses (and many individuals) will accept U.S. dollars, but they exchange it at $1 USD to $1.25 CI, which is not nearly as favorable as the spot rate, which is around $1.20. We were fortunate that our Mastercard exchanged our USD to CI at close to the spot rate (along with a 1%  fee). The local bank exchanges the USD at .82, which works out to about $1.22. I know it seems like we're talking about pennies, but when you're converting literally thousands of dollars (see lists above), it really adds up.

In conclusion, come to the island with a cash strategy. If you have a bank with an ATM card that charges low exchange fees and gives you a decent exchange rate, deposit $10K or more in that account before you leave so you can start drawing the money down upon arrival. We had to request that our bank give us a temporary increase on the daily withdrawal limit so that we could get enough cash in hand to buy these cars and secure lodging. Once we finally get our first paychecks at month end (and only once a month from here on out), the cash flow situation will smooth itself out. In the meantime, can someone lend me a (Cayman) dollar?


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