This is a guest post from Avi, who graduated high school last year and decided to take a year off before heading off to college. He found a gap year program in Israel which includes traveling around the world. So far his stops have been to Greece, Bulgaria, and Morocco, and by June will include Spain, Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and India. During his time aboard, he’s found it difficult to adjust to how he spends my money for two main reasons.
The exchange rate in Israel is about 3.75 shekels to a dollar, and this difference really threw me off at the beginning. I just couldn’t adjust to it and it made me hold back on a lot of purchases (I’m not spending 20 anythings on a burger!). I was sort of intimidated just by the fact that the unit of currency was higher than a dollar, so every time I paid for something, I always felt like it was a bigger hit than it actually was.
There was an upside and a downside to this: on the one hand, I was saving money by buying cheaper things when I could, but on the other hand, sometimes I would skip out on an experience or a purchase just because I didn’t want to give up so much money.
Controlling My Own Money
This is also the first time that I’ve really had to take care of my own money, and pay for all of my expenses by myself. During high school, I never really spent too much money on anything besides an occasional meal out or a movie with friends. Here, I had to live an entire year on my own money, which scared me a bit.
I wasn’t so willing to spend an extra five dollars (around 20 shekels) on every meal, because that would add up. I wasn’t sure if it was so worth it to take a bus and pay for transportation for a night out, when I could have just as good of a time locally. I wasn’t as quick to make a purchase that I know I didn’t really need, like getting an extra meal or snack here or there just for the sake of eating.
This had a similar upside and downside: I was definitely saving money on this, but was I also missing out on enjoying myself?
I came to a point where I realized that I shouldn’t worry myself over these kinds of money concerns. I don’t have to worry about expenses such as rent or cable, and I don’t have to worry about paying off student loans yet. All I am spending is my spending money, so I should probably do some spending! Obviously, I still need to be smart about the way I spend it, but I’m here this year to have experiences that I’ll likely never get a chance to have again.
I shouldn’t waste my time worrying about the little amount of money I’d save from holding back on a snack or the money I’d save by walking instead of taking a bus. That just stresses me out and I lose more than the few dollars I gain. I shouldn’t let it in the way of what I can do here. I shouldn’t let it make me miss out on an opportunity.
Since this realization, I have gone skydiving, treated myself to a nice expensive meal every so often, traveled around Israel, bought myself souvenirs from around the globe, and seen and experienced some unbelievable things. I’m happy to say that I’ve learned a lot about personal finance (however basic) this year, but more importantly, I’ve learned that it’s more important to take every opportunity I can and to experience as much as I can than to save a little bit of cash.