Living in the United States in the year 2022 has its challenges, as inflation is eating away at buying and saving power, not that I had much of either to begin with—power that is. However, I could easily live within my means and put some aside for retirement.
Inflation makes us uneasy.
Instead of ordering a meal to be delivered, we save by eating at home or going to pick something up ourselves. We begin to count the cost of everything more. We no longer make quick decisions to spend.
Inflation here affects the world.
In this day of globalization, what happens in one country affects all the others, and this is always the case with the United States. It also affects Americans and other ex-pats living in other countries for ministry. It can hit hard the gifts given for mission purposes, and it can mean the small salaries cross-cultural workers do receive do not go nearly as far as before.
What can missionaries do to survive times of financial crisis? Learn to live with less.
I’ll never forget a former colleague telling me how she survived with young children as her husband finished a degree at Harvard. “We ate beans,” she said. “I cooked a lot of rice and beans in those days, and for years more, as we paid off his student loan while on the mission field.” I was in awe of her ability to stretch a dollar and still thrive in her work as a mother and missionary.
Before I left to go to Ivory Coast I was given a Mennonite cookbook entitled, The More With Less Cookbook. That book kept traveling with me over the next 30 years and was used more than any other book I had to create meals from scratch. I didn’t just learn how to cook with local ingredients but read Doris Janzen Longacre’s comments on life principles as well. This led me to read her next book, Living More With Less, and to begin learning the principles of living within my blessings.
Though a person who answers the call to service may sell, give away, and otherwise leave behind many earthly “treasures” prior to travel, it is not always as easy to shelve attitudes and habits that hinder us from living within our means. It is especially difficult for those who have lived within the last fifty years of the fast-food, prepackaged, and ready-made culture. They have no basis for understanding what “scratch” or “hand-made” really means because it’s never been practiced in their families or communities. We can’t hold against them that which they don’t know.
Still, when crises hit, changes must be made, and it is possible to pivot in service and life when we’re willing to learn from one another. Here are some suggestions for learning how to live more with less:
- Stop eating out or buying coffees in specialty shops, and start preparing your own food at home.
- Get a good cookbook like the one mentioned above or check out some YouTube videos (if you have internet) on cooking from scratch.
- Buy local—purchase foods that local people are buying and eating, nothing prepackaged, but fresh.
- If you buy meat, stretch it out with fillers, like oats in ground beef, and use every part of a chicken for meals and then soup stock.
- Gather your team or ex-pat friends around for a “best practices” session on how each person or family is learning to stretch their money further. Be willing to learn from each other.
- Talk to older missionaries about how they cook, survive, and make ends meet.
- Have an older worker teach a “cooking from scratch” class.
- Learn how to mend clothes instead of instantly discarding them when something happens. Find other uses for items that can no longer be worn.
Above all this, ask for prayer from your accountability partner over this issue of saving money. Sometimes it takes concentrated prayer to stop the natural reflex of spending from taking over and sending you further into debt. Don’t do it alone. Get help in prayer and accountability.
These days of inflation are good practice for increasing our trust in God and also preparing for potentially harder days to come. It’s never too soon to learn to live within our means on the field and off. We can do it by his…
Grace and Peace