4 Years Living Abroad: What I’ve Learned About Money

by Ryan Yates

yates-family-eleuthera-IMG_3350rt-400x225What a difference a day makes – or 1460 of them.  My family and I have spent a little over four years living outside of the United States as missionaries to the island of Eleuthera.

We’ve definitely been on an amazing adventure, and we’ve grown as a family and individually.  One area in which I was surprised to gain wisdom was with our finances.   Like so many others, I thought that I knew everything that I needed to know about budgets and smart spending.

Not so much…

As missionaries, we are responsible for raising all of our financial support – so each dollar needs to be used wisely.  Here are some things I’ve learned about family finances, and hopefully you can find them helpful as well.

Family Matters

Nothing is more important than family.  Moving away to an unfamiliar country has definitely brought us closer together, helped us to appreciate one another even more, and given us a better sense of family unity.

What I’ve learned in the past four years is that choosing family over money is always the best decision.  It’s not always possible, but try to avoid the pattern of money over family.

If you keep making excuses to work on weekends, or stay late, or travel most of each month, you might be left with lots of regrets.  Enjoy your job, but love your family.

Need Outweighs Want

Just about everyone in the history of spending money can do a better job of living within their means if you can figure out how to solve the Need vs. Want equation.

In the last four years, it’s been a little easier to distinguish need vs. want for me and my family.  Mainly because we live in a place where there isn’t as much “want” available for purchase.  Not to mention, we’re cut off from 95% of the advertising that we had become used to while living back in the states.

No matter what your circumstances, you can always spend less when you clearly identify wants as unnecessary purchases.  Let me encourage you to make wise choices when spending your money.    Accumulate more wisdom and less stuff.

Advertising Works Better Than You Realize

Lastly, I’d like to shine a little more light on the overwhelming, and seemingly hidden, effectiveness of advertising.  I say hidden effectiveness because, as vigilant as we were to avoid being controlled by marketing and advertising, we were still very susceptible.

I didn’t realize how susceptible we were to advertisements until we moved outside of the US and lived in a country almost devoid of marketing – our spending habits changed and we stopped thinking that we had to buy everything we were being told to buy in order to have a better life.

Even more shocking, when we returned to the States , we felt the full force of mass marketing psychology telling us the only way to be happy is to buy stuff that we really don’t need.

I could go on and on about the effectiveness of marketing, but I’ll just remind you to control your own spending, and don’t let the advertisers do it for you.

And that’s about it.  Don’t overlook the little things.  Be open and honest with your spouse about the condition of the household finances.  And remember to cherish and love every moment with your family.

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