My husband and I comment frequently that every person/couple/family choose to spend their money differently. To me, tipping is a fixed (at least) cost of a cruise and isn't something that just started happening. Here are some ways we save on the discretionary items (since, to us, tipping isn't discretionary):
o We book inside cabins. So far we've gotten outside cabins but we save alot by booking inside. Would we enjoy a balcony? You bet but we'd rather spend our money other ways.
o We buy the wine packages and the low priced ones at that. Would we like the "good stuff" better? See comment above
o We have iced tea or water at lunch - not sodas or wine. (Truly, your children won't die if they don't have sodas every day, will they?!?)
o We severely limit shore excursions (they cost ALOT).
o We would rarely, if ever, buy anything from the shops on board. I've never seen a good deal yet even on the bargain tables.
o We occasionally have a pre or post-dinner cocktail at one of the bars but don't make a habit of it. We do carry on a bottle of "adult beverage" which we'll dip into in our cabin
(I know that's generally a no-no but we do it anyway!)
o When we have meals off the ship, my husband and I usually share an entree. We do this at home also. It saves not only money but also we don't eat as much. Since the server is doing as much work as if we ordered two entrees, we always increase our tip.
These are just a few things that WE do. As I wrote, everyone decides what they do or don't want to spend money on. We have a LONG list of things that we DO spend on so make the choices that don't pain us too much. Another thing we did last year was to start a "travel envelope." We put the odd $20 in, some gambling winnings, an unexpected check from an insurance company, etc, etc. At the end of the year we had $2000(!!!!) in that envelope. We didn't go on a cruise this year but rather spent a month in England and Ireland. I haven't totalled it up yet but that probably paid for almost the entire month. There are so many choices to make that I'm sure everyone can find ways to travel (somewhere - maybe not a cruise) and not break the bank. Just a few thoughts.