Friday, January 16, 2015

Paradise Is For The Birds

Living in Hawaii isn't all sunshine and rainbows. It's pretty blasphemous to say that. There isn't much more annoying than people being jealous that you live in Hawaii and then being utterly shocked when you tell them, "it's okay." I know plenty of people that love it here. Locals, of course, because this is their home. As a military spouse, though, I am in the minority when it comes to not loving it here. 

Don't get me wrong. It's beautiful here. There are tons of things to do if you are the outdoorsy type. But for me, let me quote a popular meme: I'm outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios. I'm really not a sun and sand kind of girl, which is why I loved living in Washington State so much. That is my perfect weather. I didn't even mind the rain. 

It rains in Hawaii too, and of course that is when you get to see some magnificent rainbows. In fact, it rained while we had family visiting. We had quite a few overcast and rainy days. Could you imagine spending a fortune to come to Hawaii and it raining half the time you were here? That is one thing that living here has going for it because you get to enjoy the sun and sand as if you were on an extended vacation.

It's not a vacation though. This is real life. 

We still have to pay rent: shocker. And our rent is outrageous. For our family of seven, in a 2000sf mainland style home, we pay $3200 for rent. Our house was originally listed at $3500 including landscaping services but the price was dropped when it just wasn't getting rented. 

Add the insane cost of electricity to that. In a normal month (aka: not using my central air), we spend between $300 and $400 to keep our family running. Laundry, dishes, hot showers, computers, cell phones, televisions, and lights all use electricity and while we could trim a little off the top, it really wouldn't make much of a difference. Using the air conditioning, however, makes a huge difference. The first year we were here I used our air just a handful of times and our bill was almost $500. About a year later we had a really hot summer that spilled over into fall and winter and I just couldn't handle it. I decided to see how much my electric bill would be if I kept my central air on all day. During the day it was set at 82 and in the evening I bumped it down to 78. The first month, which wasn't a full month of use, our bill was almost $600. It shocked me that it jumped so high but only $100 more than the handful of times I used it previously was manageable. The second month, however, jumped to $673. Almost $700 to run my air conditioning, not happening. I turned it off and opened up the windows again after that billing cycle. We just couldn't afford to throw our money away like that when we survived for over a year without using the a.c. continuously. We didn't need to use the central air on a daily basis.

Water, on the other hand, is an amenity we need everyday. With a family of seven, we use a lot of water. Laundry is never done, no matter how often I do it. Dishes are done at least twice a day. Water bottles are filled constantly because no one wants to be dehydrated in Hawaii. Showers are staggered so not everyone is showering in one day, even though they probably should he showering every day, and some of us take longer showers than necessary (my 9 year old son takes longer showers than any of the girls in the house, including me). Lastly, our sprinkler system. If we run it daily, which we have to do in the summer, it uses a lot of water (especially when there is a broken sprinkler head). Our bill was almost $300 when we used it consistently. When our sprinkler system broke and our landlord didn't get it fixed quickly, our yard started to suffer but our bank account was thankful. It's nice in the winter months, too. That is our rainy season so using the sprinklers isn't a top priority. This last bill only cost $105. It reminded me of our water bill in Washington. I wish it could be that low every month but I know I only saved about $50 from the norm because we were out of town for three weeks. 

Being out of town also saved on our grocery bill. I didn't buy groceries for almost an entire month. We left Hawaii, for Ohio, on the 19th of December. Two pay periods went by without grocery shopping. When we returned home we had some food (thanks to our extended stay guest) and I managed to hold off on grocery shopping until two days ago. I take that back, I did a small trip on Monday. I spent $160 at Safeway and I really didn't have much to show for it since the majority of it was for my birthday dinner of football food while we watched The National Championship game (GO BUCKS!). Then on Wednesday I made a trip to Sam's Club (wish I'd have waited til I got there for gas... Another pricey real life expense... But i just didn't think I had enough gas to make it there). Anyway, I spent $291 at Sam's. I purchased enough meat (all on markdown, it needed sold within a day) to last us about 3 weeks (provided I cook every night... Ha!). I also stocked my cupboards full of snacks for the kids' lunches, bought a cake for my oldest daughter's birthday (I just didn't have the time or energy to make one), and picked up a case of water along with some pink lemonade mix for the kids to mix. $450 was what I spent this week on groceries. That used to be my entire month's budget when we lived in Washington. I know grocery bills vary widely amongst families but I have always seemed to keep our budget for food on the conservative side, buying the cheapest product rather than the name brand each time (except macaroni, that must be Kraft... It's the cheesiest!). Despite my conservativeness when it comes to grocery shopping, here the cost of everything (due to shipping costs) runs my bill up every time. Milk runs $6 a gallon, bread is almost $4 a loaf, and margarine is $2 for a 4 pack of sticks. Even after spending all that, I still need to get dog food, and I am low on pasta and sauce (a staple around here), and there are probably five other things I still need to get because I didn't make a list before shopping.  $800 a month is the low end for us but more often than not, I am spending $1000 just on groceries. Which doesn't include the gas to drive around this speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I was spoiled in Ohio. We saw gas under $2 for the first time in years. I even prepaid the gas for our rental (because I hate finding a gas station near the airport) and it still cost me less than what a tank of gas normally costs me here. The cheapest I found gas while back in Ohio was $1.71 and that was at Sam's Club (I love having that membership). Here, gas is usually cheaper on the military bases but I never go there... It's like the forbidden land for me. I've been a military wife for 11 years now and I still avoid the military life as much as I can. So, when I need gas I don't venture on post. I usually get my gas close to home unless I am making a trip out to Sam's where I can get it cheaper. This week I didn't have enough gas to make it out to Sam's so I filled up down the road. I had gas rewards but you can only use two at a time here, so I got $0.20 off per gallon. I paid $3.09 which ended up being less than the usual $60-70 fill up but then I got to Sam's to do my grocery shopping and gas was only $2.53! Oh, how I wish I could have made it. Could have saved another $10. That's also the lowest I have seen gas around the island since moving here a year and a half ago. 

Let's forget about the cost of living here for a moment and consider what it means to live somewhere instead of just vacationing in such areas. Our kids still need to go to school, which means early mornings and homework in the afternoons, 5 days a week. My husband still has to go to work which also means early mornings and more often than not, late nights due to meetings and traffic on the only two roads that lead home. Our evenings are filled with sports practice and our Saturdays are reserved for soccer games, college football and Doctor Who. Sundays are our only free days and during football season we usually spend them in front of the tv. We could always take that day as a mental health day and hit the beach or go hiking but again, I'm just not outdoorsy. On top of that, we are just too worn out from our weekly duties that we really just want to sit and relax (and clean the house since it hardly gets done during the week). 

So, the next time you are jealous that I get to live in paradise, remember that it's just like living everywhere else. You still have to grocery shop and pay the bills. You still have to go to work and help the kids with their homework. You still have to cook dinner and do the laundry. You still have to take your car for an oil change, take the dog to the vet, and make sure the garbage gets out on its scheduled day. There may be a lot of sunshine, there may be a lot of touristy attractions, but in all honesty, how often do you get out and enjoy what your city or state has to offer when your week is filled with personal and professional duties? I imagine it's not as often as you would like and not nearly the same as the person that just came to visit for two weeks. 

If you do get a chance to visit this island paradise, save your money just like you would for any vacation and enjoy what you can while you visit. If you move here on the military's dime, take it for what it is. Find something to enjoy about it, even if you are like me and just really don't like it, there is something here for you, too. Just don't be jealous of my sunshine and rainbows, surfing and hiking, palm trees and pineapples, because it does rain, we do get busy, and pineapples aren't as cheap as one would think. 

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