Some of you may be wondering, “How much is my Mission going to cost me?” The cost comes out to around $400 a month, which means over the course of a 24-month period of time for an Elder, it will cost $9,600. And for a Sister over the course of 18-months, it will cost $7,200.
The Good Ol’ Days
The monthly fee of $400 is a relatively recent thing. Obviously, the first Missionaries of the Church, such as Samuel Smith, paid their entire way and there really was no “Missionary Program” that existed. They went from door to door, teaching all the while receiving what they needed on a daily basis. Sometimes they went without, more often than not.
A Little More Recent
A little bit more recently than the days of Samuel Smith, Missionaries would pay for the cost of their Missions depending on where they were assigned to serve. Many would go to their Bishops and say, “Bishop, I want to serve a Mission. However, I don’t have very much money, so I’ll need to serve somewhere poor. Possibly a 3rd-world country.” And so it was, and the Bishop would send them off.
The Church began seeing problems with this. Soon, there was nobody who was financially stable enough to go to the more expensive areas, such as Europe. The Church decided the change the way it funded its Missionary Program.
In 1990, they made the change. They said, in essence, “Everyone is going to pay $400/month, and then we’ll distribute it to where it is needed.” Whereas that Mission to Africa may have costed $250 a month in total living expenses, in Europe, a small apartment could have easily been $1300/month. Now, everyone pays the same cost, and the Church then distributes the money where it is needed. Some people pay more than the actual area in which they are serving will require, while other areas are much more expensive than the amount of money they have contributed.
I’d say my Mission was on the “more expensive” side. I served in Albuquerque, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. And while I wasn’t by any means living a lavish lifestyle, I know without a doubt my monthly expenses greatly exceeded $400/month.
Monthly Break Down
If I were to roughly break down my Mission expenses, it would look something like this:
- Small one-bedroom apartment – $650/month
- Utilities – $40/month
- Our monthly allowance (for food, shampoo, TP, everything) – $120/month
- Gas – $120/month
- The car itself – $250/month
All of that comes out to roughly $1200 each and every month. It’s pretty obvious to see that my measly $400/month didn’t make that big of a contribution. So where does the other extra come from? Partly from the general Missionary fund, the giant account where all the Missionaries pool their money and it’s then distributed. But I’m sure tithing money helped pay for a lot of that as well.
Should I expect to spend more each month?
Missionaries are provided with enough for their “needs,” but most definitely not for their wants. Each Mission is different, and the amount of money allocated is different from the amount in which I received. I had companions who were a little on the larger side, and sometimes struggled to make it until the end of the month before their money was depleted. I had other companions who ate cold cereal and Ramen Noodles all month, and had a large surplus at the end of the month. Basically, if you’re somewhat frugal with your money, and don’t go out to eat every meal, your monthly allotment should allow you ample food, as well as a little extra to cover toiletries and other little odds and ends.
There were months that I, myself, had a hard time reaching the end as well. I found that expecting to spend about $20/month of my personal funds gave me a lot more breathing room. It ultimately depends on what kind of a shopper you were. I liked to go out to eat once a week, as well as buy more expensive groceries such as treats, meat, and fresh vegetables. Also keep in mind that most Missionaries receive at least one meal a day from the members in the area that they’re serving. So you only have to worry about breakfast or dinner. And often times, the members will give you left-overs that you can take home. These were always greatly appreciated.
The Church gives you a Debit Card that automatically reloads at the beginning of each month. Some chose to leave the money on their card, others went straight to the ATM and pulled it out in cash. In my Mission, both were completely acceptable.
I often saw Missionaries who would misuse their money for inappropriate purposes. The money that is given to you should not be spent on BB Guns, Toys, souvenirs, or playing cards. They are sacred funds, and should be used as such. I knew of one Missionary who ate only beans and rice his entire Mission, so the by the end, he had a large stalk-pile of money. On his last day in the Mission, he went to the mall and bought an expensive digital camera and new clothes. Purchasing food, toiletries, stamps, letters, and other things are all appropriate uses of Mission money. For anything else you may want to purchase outside of this, expect to use other personal funds.
What about the initial expenses?
Again, this is all relative. I personally felt that buying clothes for Elders would be more expensive than it would be for Sisters, but I’m not a really good source to ask on that. Before I left for the MTC, I think my parents spent close to around $1,000 for everything that I needed. That included luggage, one suit, 6-8 white shirts, 6-8 pairs of pants, ties, a backpack, rain coat, socks, shoes, and a few other things. Looking back, I should have been more frugal. By the time I got out of the MTC, I couldn’t fit into any of the pairs of slacks that I had purchased earlier, because I had gained weight, and they had also shrunk in the wash. When I arrived to the field, my companion and I immediately ran to the nearest Goodwill and bought two pairs of slacks, each for about $7. I wore both of those for the remainder of my Mission (shhh. Don’t tell my Mother).
I’d recommend stopping by your local thrift shop, first, just to see if you can find any good deals. I had a companion who found a great $20 suit at Goodwill, and wore it his entire Mission. If you don’t find anything good, then by all means hit up Missionary Mall or Mr. Mac. But why not take a look to see if you can’t save a few dollars?
Do all that you can right now to start saving for your Mission. As you can tell, it’s not cheap. Start saving when you’re young, so that by the time you arrive at the age to serve a Mission, you won’t have to be a financial burden to your family. The Lord will bless you one hundred times over (Matthew 19:29) for serving a full-time Mission, and you’ll value it more, knowing that you’ve worked for every penny.
Look for my upcoming blog post entitled, “Ways to Earn Money for a Mission.”