Introduction: The following is a guest post by Dennis McKonkie, who served a mission in Atlanta, Georgia for the LDS Church. His mission changed the trajectory of his life, and he feels indebted for all he learned during his two-year service. Dennis has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from MIT and works as a Computer Science Consultant.
Serving a full-time mission is incredibly fulfilling. It changes lives, both yours and the people you meet and teach. However, it is also expensive. While the church does a great job of crowd-funding for it’s Elders and Sisters through missionary funds, there is an added boost to your personal mission when you know you are paying for it with your own money. Here are a few tips for those future missionaries who want to start earning money now.
1. Set Up A Budget
Regardless of what you plan to do with your life after getting out of high school, setting up a budget is a necessity. Whether you decide to go on a mission or go straight to college or to a job, having a budget will help. While you are in high school (or even before), maintaining a budget will help develop important life skills that you will use forever. It might be hard to set up a budget if you are still in high school, simply due to the fact that you may not have many financial responsibilities. If this is the case, try doing what I did: Set a goal of how much money you will spend each month and save everything else. My monthly budget was usually about 100 dollars. That covered the gas for my truck, the few times I would eat out at lunch time, and some play money to spend on things like going to the movies or a baseball game. I saved the rest of the money I earned for my mission and only spent it if I really wanted something, like the time I splurged on a new baseball bat.
2. Get A Part-time Job
If you live in a rural area, you can work as a farm hand or in a local convenience store. If you live in a more populated area, you could work as a night-time janitor for office buildings (I did that for a couple of years at my father’s office). I had a mission companion who worked at a Dairy Queen throughout high school. By the time he left, he was a manager at the restaurant and made more money than his peers. He was able to purchase his own truck in high school and saved up enough money to pay for his mission.
Many restaurants will hire people who are as young as 14. This means that those who take these jobs early on will be able to save up some money for at least four years before leaving. Making $3,000 or $4,000 a year for part-time work could add up to a nice sum.
Once you turn 18, you could spend the summer before a mission selling door to door. There are plenty of options, ranging from selling pest control services to home security systems. These companies love working with returned missionaries, as they develop great communication skills and work ethics while serving the Lord. If you are a pre-missionary, you will develop many of these skills before heading out to the mission field, which will make your mission even better.
3. Become An Entrepreneur
If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur, it’s possible to get started at a very early age. You could look to meet needs that require physical labor, like mowing lawns or shoveling walks, or you could look to babysit or walk dogs. Finding out what people in your community need and then seeking to meet that need at a fair price can lead to some pretty good earnings down the road. Enterprising young people could also look to flip cheap items for a profit on sites like eBay or Amazon.com. I’ve seen a couple of my friends pay for their missions through these efforts.
4. Look For Scholarships
Many missionaries attend college for a year or more before leaving on a mission. As part of an overall plan to save money, it’s important to look for scholarships to help you conserve money that you could use to pay for your 18-month or 2-year missionary service. Some options are athletic scholarships and academic scholarships, and for readers in the United States, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also, if you are interested in studying science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) in college, there are scholarships just for people who are studying in those fields such as this STEM scholarship. There are similar opportunities for students in almost all fields of study.
5. Save Money Gifted to You
Most teens will get a gift of some sort for major life events like birthdays and Christmas. Additionally, some cash gifts can come in around high school graduation. You should look at these gifts as building blocks toward your ultimate goals. Even a couple of hundred dollars a year could add up to $1,000 by the time you hit graduation. Graduation gifts could add up to even more.
In my family, my father gave us a rule to live by from a very young age: as soon as we got money, we were to put 10 percent away for tithing and 20 percent away for savings. The remaining 70 percent was for us to do what we wanted. Oftentimes I would put more than 20 percent into my savings account, because my needs were met and I didn’t need more money to blow on candy and baseball caps.
I promise you this, serving a mission will be one of the most challenging things you have ever done. It will also be one of the most rewarding. Paying thousands of dollars to go serve others is a tough pill to swallow, but the blessings come back to you tenfold. Trust that you are doing what is right and give it everything you have. God bless you.