Mission Finances, Part 1.5

August 7, 2011 | 40 comments
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(Note: this is part 1.5 of series that looks to be running at least 4 posts long at this point. Part 1 is here.)

In the comments, Naismith pointed out that the $400/month is not the sole expense potential missionaries face. In order to go on a mission, a potential missionary needs a dental exam (including, at least in my case, getting his or her wisdom teeth removed) and a medical exam. There are also clothing costs—for my mission (IIRC), I needed 10 short-sleeved white shirts, 2 long-sleeved white shirts, a bunch of ties, two suits, a couple pairs of slacks, and a couple pairs of shoes.

The thing is, all of these upfront expenses represent real money. While potential missionaries with their own health insurance or on their parents’ insurance only have to pay their $20 (or whatever) copay, without insurance, medical and dental exams represent a real out-of-pocket expense. (And the New York Times tells me that more than 100 million Americans don’t have dental insurance.) Heck, if a white shirt costs $20, 12 shirts will set the future missionary back $240, and a pair of suits will cost $800.[fn1]

And these are expenses that, to the best of my knowledge, the Church doesn’t generally cover.

See, the thing is, I totally understand these expenses. If you’re going to be a missionary, you need to dress like a missionary. And my wardrobe wasn’t white-shirt heavy when I was 19.[fn2] And it’s certainly important that potential missionaries be in good health when they leave—as I understand it, preventative medicine is the best way to say healthy.

And it’s not just a Church thing. As a data point, in order to enter the Chicago Public Schools, a child needs to have a medical exam (including vaccinations) and an eye exam.[fn3] I’m fortunate enough to have employer-provided medical insurance,[fn4] but I don’t know what a Chicago family with a 5-year-old does if they don’t have insurance.

So how do missionaries navigate these upfront expenses? I assume that the expenses are necessary, but can you imagine a world in which they’re not?

[fn1] You can probably get suits for cheaper, but, really, $400 for a suit is a steal. But even if you could get a suit for $100 (which you can’t), that’s $200. And I’m sure Sister missionaries face at least an equivalent cost. I just don’t know offhand what Sisters are expected to bring.

[fn2] Actually, I currently only own 1 white shirt, so that’s not just an 19-year-old me thing.

[fn3] The eye exam thing is new this year, so we have yet to see how it plays out. But it seems like a pretty good idea, right?

[fn4] No clothing insurance, though.

40 Responses to Mission Finances, Part 1.5

  1. Kent Larsen on August 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Some observations:
    * re: public schools — uniforms or dress codes aren’t that unusual any more, and even when they aren’t required, parents usually spend a lot of money on clothes at the beginning of each school year.

    * The clothing costs might also be compared to “entry into the workforce” costs. At least it used to be, when wearing a suit at work was required for most college-educated men, that getting a job meant going out and buying two suits or more.

    * In the Intermountain West, I assume (and have heard stories) that ward and stake members step into help the poor. This is probably true to some extent in the rest of the Church also (certainly in the U.S.). When I was about to leave on my mission a local LDS dentist did the exam and yanked my wisdom teeth. I don’t know if he charged my parents for the work or not, but I do know that I never went to him before that visit or since. (and previous exams had been at the local university dental school. With 8 kids my parents probably needed help in this).

    Perhaps LDS dentists and doctors could weigh in, but I suspect that a lot of donated work goes to missionaries.

    More interesting might be what happens overseas, especially Latin America, where the costs as a proportion of income and the poverty rates are higher. [Other areas also likely have similar problems, if not quite as many members.]

  2. WVS on August 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Re: Kent. We haven’t paid for any MD related stuff. It was all donated. Dental work was another story.

  3. Whizzbang of Winnipeg on August 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    In Canada all your health stuff was covered except dental. I had to buy a Liahona Bike for a whopping $500 American, but it lasted the entire mission and that bike was a TANK! I had a companion from an area in the States and I would bet all of his clothing was second hand and I felt for him so I gave him what I could. In LA where I served members sometimes bought clothing items for the missionaries or at the very least gave you money for stuff.

  4. Peter LLC on August 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    You can probably get suits for cheaper, but, really, $400 for a suit is a steal. But even if you could get a suit for $100 (which you can’t), that’s $200.

    You can indeed get suits for $100 (or thereabouts) off the rack all day long–I have ten of them. And $400 for a suit isn’t really a “steal,” it’s an expensive cheap suit. Real suits cost at least twice that with anything less made in the same sweatshops churning out $100 suits.

    But you’re right–one way or the other it’s still a pile of money up front for many missionaries.

  5. Jax on August 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    $100 suits have been my staple since leaving home. Look just as good as the $400 ones.

    I wish I had ignored the ‘shopping list’ of items to take on my mission. Same list as Sam’s basically, but why carry around all that stuff for 2 years. 6 shirts was fine for me in Argentina, 2 sets of shoes (church and running), 2 ties (only wore one and kept the other for emergencies). You might need all that stuff in a two year span, but I didn’t need it all at one time and hated carrying it around until I needed it. I had one bag I didn’t unpack for 8 months because it was clothing I didn’t need.

    Missionaries should ‘look the part’ but not feel bad about going cheap and going with less.

    I suspect the Chicago family with no health insurance goes to their local health department for the check up and eye exam. That is what they do in Arkansas.

  6. Tim on August 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I couldn’t have survived without at least a handful of ties, two suits, and at least two pairs of dress shoes. The original shoes and the suits didn’t survive the mission (and I took the pants to a tailor multiple times). I bought two more pairs of dress shoes there (I wore through the soles), and threw out the suits soon after getting home. I imagine missionaries who don’t do much walking or biking have less need to replace shoes and suits. As far as ties go, they’re the only color an Elder gets to wear; I needed a little variety to stay sane.

    Six shirts would have been plenty. Three suit pants wasn’t enough (I highly recommend getting two pants with each jacket, or even more if you can).

    The most expensive item for most missionaries is a bike. Mission funds pay for cars, but missionaries have to pay for bikes out-of-pocket. Not exactly a fair deal there.

  7. Roland Richey on August 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Then there is the naive factor. My most expensive cost in my mission was paying for my companion’s (native Brazilian) aching tooth to get pulled. (We were both flat broke for the rest of the month.) It never occurred to me until now, that the mission would cover these types of costs for elders in the field.

    There is also the cost of transportation from your home to the MTC. The church only picks it up after that point.

  8. Naismith on August 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    “There is also the cost of transportation from your home to the MTC. The church only picks it up after that point.”

    Is this currently true? Our kids all got transportation provided from our local airport to the MTC.

  9. Ray on August 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    The cost from home to the MTC is paid by the Church, unless you drive there on your own.

  10. MC on August 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Halfway through my mission, I had lost a bunch of weight from walking out in the heat, and one of my suits was worn out and oversized. So my mission president called up my stake president and asked if there was money in the stake mission fund to buy me a new suit. In response, my stake president sent $700.

    My mission president actually did this with several elders that didn’t come from rich families (we were solidly middle class, but with little money left over). Apparently most of the stake mission funds just sit there untouched for years. This was eleven years ago, so I’m not even sure that there are stake mission accounts anymore.

  11. Zack on August 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I know that I’ve had conversations with several young men and parents of young men in our ward about the cost of a mission. I’ve frequently heard them say that they’d love (or they’d love for their kid) to go on a mission, but worried that it was just too expensive. I of course told them, in every case, that they should talk to the bishop and/or stake president. There are plenty of people who would enthusiastically help them pay the cost, I’m sure.

    But really it seems to me like it’s time for a letter from the first presidency to be read over the pulpit. It could say something to the effect of “We realize that sending a young man or woman on a mission often represents a greater financial sacrifice than many of those prospective missionaries (or their families) can be expected to make. Full-time missionary work is too important to the Church and to those who participate in it to be neglected for financial concerns. Prospective missionaries and the families of prospective missionaries fearing that the cost of preparing for or serving a full-time mission could limit their ability to serve should speak with their bishops immediately. Bishops should encourage them to serve. Members with the means to do so are encouraged to sponsor the service of missionaries from their ward and stake.”

    Based on the number of times that I’ve had this conversation, I’m sure that many more young men, young women and parents of young men and young women wanting to go on a mission have had similar doubts without bringing them up to anyone. How many young men and young women who would like to serve don’t ever serve because they don’t think they have the means? I’m sure there are plenty, especially among families that are perhaps slightly less-active (but families with children who would make stellar missionaries and benefit greatly from mission service).

  12. jks on August 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Zack – around here every young man gets courted by the bishop for years. If he is a living, breathing teen male who has ever once come through the door of the church the bishop goes out of his way to talk to him about what he might need to go on a mission. I don’t think lack of finances is ever holding anyone back in our ward because although I’m sure there are those who can’t afford it, the bishop would never let lack of funds stop a mission.

  13. Sam Brunson on August 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Kent (et al.),
    I assume that you’re right that, in areas with LDS doctors and dentists, they do a lot of free pre-mission checkups. Which is great for prospective missionaries in areas with LDS doctors and dentists (though query the effects on said doctors and dentists; I’ll leave a discussion of benefits and burdens of providing free services to prospective missionaries for another day). So that presents a partial solution to the problem. But what about areas where there are no LDS doctors and/or dentists? (And that doesn’t solve the clothing problem. Even though in general I think men should wear nice suits that fit, I’m sympathetic to cheap suits for missionaries, given the abuse they take.)

    Ray,

    The cost from home to the MTC is paid by the Church, unless you drive there on your own.

    Do you know how long this has been Church policy? I know that in the early 80s, missionaries were responsible for the cost of their transportation to the MTC. I’m pretty sure that, in the mid-90s when I went, my parents paid for my flight to Utah. But between my mission and my sister’s and brother’s missions, the Brazil policy changed such that U.S. missionaries went straight to the Sao Paulo MTC. I haven’t talked to my parents about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Church covered their transportation to the MTC. But it would be interesting to know when (and why) the change happened.

  14. Whizzbang of Winnipeg on August 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Sam-As of April 1998 when I went into the MTC you were given a choice if and when you wanted to fly to the MTC, they paid for the flight, and when you wanted to go-if you needed it. But they obviously didn’t pay for any side trips…

  15. Whizzbang of Winnipeg on August 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Zack-I wouldn’t be an active member of the Church today if it wasn’t for help I received from others to help pay for my mission. In coming from a less then wealthy family it too me years of wrokinng to come up with half of the cost plus other expenses. At first my branch pres. told me I needed all of the money to go and the Church wouldn’t help. I complained to the Stake Pres. who told me that I wasn’t entitled to serve. That was the first time I had ever thought about just quitting the Church and moving on with my life, to make it owrse my non-member Aunt told me why would I want to help a Church that wouldn’t help me? So I was having to earn more money but my heart wasn’t in it. My parents Bishop count wind of this and said that I was to go to the Stake Pres. and tell him that my parents Bishp would back me with whatever money I needed and that I woul dbe on my way. I did and I was and I am FOREVER in that Bishop’s debt(not literally), he saved my life really.

  16. Hagoth on August 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Speaking as a person who lives in an area where nearly all members are converts I’ve got to say that I am surprised at the absence of savings discussions here.

    If the parents are already members of the church then they know that their boy is going to serve a mission from the moment the ultrasound technician congratulates them on having a healthy baby boy. You can start saving for the mission monthly cost and a couple of thousand dollars to pay for up front costs from day 1. That’s 610 dollars a year or $50 a month.

    If your son decides he doesn’t want to serve a mission then I’m sure the $12,000 you’ve saved for him in an appropriate tax shelter will be a huge boost as he sets off to college/work/marriage or whatever. Worst comes to worst it’s a useful investment if you have a family disaster!

    The biggest challenge we have is people who join the church at or very close to missionary age. It’s not uncommon for 18 year olds to join the church in our area. Saving for a mission over a year is tough but we’ve found that it is all about the young person. If they want to save then even a basic retail job will allow them to save 60% of the total cost within a year.

    Considering that we have a small ward (70-75 members out each week) we have never struggled to find people willing to support a missionary. Indeed, more often than not, members volunteer more money that it actually costs to support the young man before we talk to anyone. Usually people will approach and offer to pay £5 or £10 a month. But you add that up across a group of members and the £240 a month missionary support cost disappears very quickly.

    The handbook states that no missionary need not serve a mission due to financial limitations. The criteria in our ward, at least while I have been bishop, has definitely been one of sincere effort and contribution. As long as the young person has saved what they can then they can go. We’ll find the rest of the money. There’s no way I’d send someone who hasn’t saved though, even if that means setting aside as much cash as they can over the six months or so it takes to do the prep work. It’s much easier to be committed when you have helped to pay the way.

    On a total tangent. Why do US folk object to nationalised health insurance? In the UK we pay an 11% contribution in our tax packet and we’re covered. If you earn nothing, 11% is nothing, and you’re covered. Why don’t you guys want that too?

    To date we’ve not had to find that much and everyone who has wanted to go has gone.

  17. Whizzbang of Winnipeg on August 8, 2011 at 1:15 am

    hagoth- I agree with you but know that not all people come from well to do families that can contribute, or have savings for missions due to family pressures. I like the following talk by Pres. Packer per this issue,
    http://lds.org/ensign/1990/05/teach-them-correct-principles?lang=eng

  18. Chadwick on August 8, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Ah the mission finances. I served 99-01 and thus benefitted from the ZCMI 20% suit discount to missionaries. But once ZCMI was bought out by Macy’s, I doubt that tradition has carried over. Anyone know for sure?

    I remember my uncles and the church chipped in for my older brother’s mission, and my parents were very proud of the fact that they paid for my mission without help. But if they had needed the help, they would have taken it, no question. Help was always there in one form or another. No one ever once mentioned to me a need to delay my mission until I secured my own funds. And for those familiar with UT geography, I grew up in Midvale, hardly a nice or affluent area.

    In Bangalore I found out last minute we had a missionary leaving that week. I knew he was leaving but didn’t know when. All I had on me was a 1,000 rupee note (ie $25US) and gave it to him. He was floored. I’m not sure if it was the amount (that’s about 3 days pay, give or take, around these parts) or if it was the giving of a gift period, and I didn’t ask. I just told him to take it and buy a lot of ties.

    All missionaries in Asia go to the Philippines MTC, including the Indian Elder above (who was called to serve in the India South mission, his home mission), and my native mission companions in Hong Kong. They already knew the language so it was for spiritual training only and they were only there for 3 weeks. For the Indian Elder, this was also his chance to get endowed. I’m quite positive the missionaries did not pay for these flights, though I have no proof to back this up. But considering this Elder’s shock at a 1,000 rupee note, where would he ever get the funds for a plane ticket from India to the Philippines?

  19. Coffinberry on August 8, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I’ve got a son serving in southern Chile right now. A couple of comments:

    Men’s Wearhouse has a program (even outside of Utah) called Mission in a Box. It contains all the items a missionary needs specifically for the particular mission, at a discount. You can pick and choose which items to buy (we didn’t buy the heavy winter coat because we had bought a multiple part Columbia parka for him for Provo at an outlet the year before, for example). Doing the Mission in a Box saved lots of money on the initial outlay.

    We sent him with three pairs of Dress shoes ($~270) and just had to ship another pair. He cannot buy clothes and shoes down there because at 6’3″ he is taller than the locals, and also because he has spent most of his mission in smaller fishing villages or poor towns. So every thing he needs must be shipped by mail, which is Very expensive.

    You misses underwear costs

  20. Naismith on August 8, 2011 at 7:21 am

    “On a total tangent. Why do US folk object to nationalised health insurance?”

    We probably shouldn’t get into this since it is a total threadjack. I have studied this issue for years and still can’t quite understand it. Especially, since we DO have nationalized health insurance for folks age 65 or older.

  21. Coffinberry on August 8, 2011 at 7:22 am

    (ack…sent too soon)

    Underwear… Garments obviously, but also thermal garments to pls thermals to go over the top of garments. They need to be the kind that keep one warm despite being wet all day every day and never really getting dry. So thats an additional expense.

    Let share my experience, though. This son was called to serve soon after our first returned home. My husband had lost his job while son one was serving, and we had burned through all our savings keeping the family gong while trying to start a company of our own. We had no idea how we would pay for this mission. (Our son had saved some but not enough). But there has been enough every month to pay the expense, and for the additional things. It has NOT been easy and there have been sacrifices but it is doable.

  22. Hagoth on August 8, 2011 at 7:28 am

    You know my folks felt that having me on a mission was cheaper than keeping me at home.

    What’s the general experience? Do people here think it is more or less expensive to have a son on a mission rather than at home?

    I don’t think savings are a matter of affluence, after all, some of the most ‘wealthy’ people I know are actually in the red if you balanced out their debts and assets…

  23. Kent Larsen on August 8, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Hagoth (22), I agree. If my son hadn’t gone on a mission he probably would have been in school some where. Minus tuition costs, living expenses could easily have been more than $400 a month. He is at BYU now and from what he has told us of his budget, living costs easily exceed $400 a month.

    He has a job and pays his expenses himself, but not all students manage to do that.

  24. Sam Brunson on August 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

    The idea that missions actually save money is attractive and interesting, I think, but doesn’t capture the full picture. Essentially, assuming that missionaries who would be in college for the time of their mission return to (or start) college shortly after they get back, the expense is only delayed, not reduced. If your discount rate is high enough, maybe this deferral creates real savings. For most of us, though, a two-year deferral doesn’t create a whole lot of savings. Moreover, while at school, our proto-missionary can presumably work to offset some—or all—of his or her missionliving expenses.

    And saving for a mission is a great idea. But some—perhaps many—people aren’t in a financial position to save significant amounts,[fn1] and even for those who do, mission savings come out of current consumption, college savings, retirement savings, or some other current or future expense. And yet they also face the same significant up-front costs, costs which Church members often informally meet, but which aren’t systemically covered.

    [fn1] I’m totally serious here, BTW. For most of us in middle-class America (what Planet Money calls “American-Dream America”), we can save. But a significant percentage of people—even in the U.S., and even in the Church—are, instead, part of PM’s “Broken America.”

  25. Kent Larsen on August 8, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Sam (24), I think you should also include in your analysis the fact that we have a finite life span. If you spend two years living more cheaply than you would otherwise, all other things being equal you have savings. Of course, a mission also delays higher earning years, ceritis paribus, so you may be right that its usually a net loss.

  26. Sam Brunson on August 8, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Kent, that’s a good point. Ultimately, it probably depends on when a person will start earning and how much. I assume that generally a mission constitutes a net financial cost to most missionaries, but I certainly would believe that, in some circumstances, a missionary (and/or his or her family) comes out on top financially.

  27. J.A.T. on August 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Couple more expenses[1]and [2]:

    *Photo sitting (many use their Senior pics). You need to attach a picture to the mission application.

    *Passport and passport photo ($10 and $100′ish)

    *Updated driver’s license ($10-$20)

    *Updated shots (many are given I think freely at the MTC if you aren’t up-to-date. Not sure. My shots ran around $100 from my local health department. Certain missions would require more.)

    *Suitcase set. Very expensive, especially the large stacking ones with wheels. For the love, never, never, never send a missionary out without wheeling luggage.
    ($240′ish?)

    *Sleeping bags. Several RMs who have served in cold missions (Former Soviet places especially) swear that you need a winter sleeping bag. It wasn’t on the list, but not a single missionary came without a sub-zero (goose-down) sleeping bag. ($300). They were very used!

    *Bikes? How do missions do bikes anymore? Still around $200-$300?

    *Emergency escape plans. My folks were hit up for $700 deposit for one of their kids serving in a politically unstable area. The country fell into civil war a few months after our missionary came home.

    [1] The newly issued Sister missionary style and shopping guide (online) is fabulous and colorful, but much more expensive than the 1980′s sister who could get away with a homemade jumper (a la Sound of Music) over a short-sleeved t-shirt. In addition to fancy blouses, suit jackets and fashionable outfits, there is a whole section on ‘accessories’- handbags, shoes, jewelry. Cha-ching.

    [2] We live outside the Mormon corridor where there are usually only two misionaries serving at a time. LDS dentists, docs, photographers, store owners, hair dressers, seamstresses/tailors, etc. either write off the bill or don’t take a profit.

  28. polly on August 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    My son is approaching his 20th month on his mission. The start up expenses took quite a bite out of the budget. Our Stake President is a dentist, so didnt charge for that exam, plus filling a couple cavities. However we had to go to an oral surgeon for the wisdom teeth removal. That was 400 dollars with our insurance. We live in AZ but made a trip to my moms in CA and went to Los Angeles for his suits. Mens Wherehouse at least in CA no longer does the Mission Pack. We got good deals on the suits, think they were about 150, including a shirt and tie. We did a lot of shopping at thrift stores for shirts and ties. Still do, we keep an eye out and send them off when we find them. The church would have paid for airfare from the nearest airport, but we wanted to take him. They are flying him home to the airport of our choice. Just got the letter this weekend. My biggest regret is I wish we had gotten his bike through the company the mission president recommended because they guaranteed replacement. He had a lot of bike trouble. And that would have saved a lot of hassle. My husband lost his job shortly after our son left and it has been a real struggle. I remember our Bishop saying how blessed we would be financially with our son on a misson. Its been quite the opposite. Thats the real struggle is not telling our son how bad things have been.

  29. Jay S on August 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Is the dental work really a mission expense? It seems most people in their late teens and early twenties need the wisdom teeth removed, regardless of whether or not they went on a mission. Same with medical exam etc.

    Serving a mission avoids other expenses, such as car insurance (if still on parents policy), entertainment expenses, etc. And it converts others (yes you have to buy suits, but don’t need to buy other fashionable clothing, etc).

  30. John Mansfield on August 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    A dozen years back I shared a table at a dinner in Baltimore’s Peabody Library with Bruce Marsh, a professor of geology. Bruce had great stories about working in Antarctica, but he had another for my special benefit since he found himself sitting next to a Mormon from Nevada. As a young geologist, Bruce had a job with a mining company in eastern Nevada. He was soon to be married, and his future father-in-law advised him to buy a good suit instead of renting a tuxedo, so Bruce drove to Salt Lake City to do that. At the shop, the sales clerk directed him to suits that were much more expensive than he could afford, and he told the clerk that, but the clerk said not to worry about it, and sure enough, the shop sold him a very nice suit for a very low price. Telling his co-workers about this, they explained, “Don’t you get it? They thought you were going on a mission.”

  31. Mike S on August 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    As a doctor, it is actually hard to give free pre-mission medical work. Thanks to government regulations which require Medicare to be the lowest payer (ie. not pay more for a procedure than a private insurance company), if you give free care to someone you are actually committing Medicare fraud.

    As more and more physicians join large groups or hospitals, with even more strict adherence to the “letter of the law”, it is nearly impossible to write-off someone’s bill unless they can prove economic hardship, etc.

    So, if a doctor bills a missionary/pre-missionary, it’s not necessarily because he/she doesn’t want to help, but is a side-effect of government regulation.

  32. Chadwick on August 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

    I think Jay S makes an excellent point. $150 for a suit. I have trendy coworkers that pay that much for jeans they get to wear once a week on jeans day (in the US, not here in India). And, such as the trends are these days, those $150 jeans often look like they are one wash away from falling apart, and sometimes are dry clean only (rolls eyes). So the cost of my mission clothes is probably not too far off from the cost of keeping trendy for two years, if one is of the trendy persuasion. I guess the hard part is that the cost hits upfront all at once, which can be hard.

    I’m surprised to hear about missionary shoes wearing out. I bought two pair of Doc Martens and they survived the whole two years fine and also survived my sophomore year of college at BYU before I finally had enough money to replace those ugly, clunky things. And Hong Kong is strictly walking, no biking or cars as that would be a waste in a metropolis area such as it is.

    I do remember paying a lot for my luggage, but here I am ten years later using the same luggage to transport me to India, so I guess it simply accelerated a necessary cost only. I’m fortunate my parents stored them in their basement these past ten years until I needed them again, and they are still in great shape. We bought high end back then because my brother had such and I think this luggage would survive a nuclear holocaust.

    So I guess any accountant really should consider the opportunity costs here.

  33. Coffinberry on August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

    “I’m surprised to hear about missionary shoes wearing out.”

    While my son’s mission and yours share the no-cars/no-bikes experience, I think my son’s differs in that his areas of service were (I say were, because he is being transferred today to the regional capital for his last three months) rural. He put 5 to 20 miles on the shoes daily, largely on unpaved roads, with 9 months of the year being almost constant rain. I think those facts may have had something to do with the wearing out of shoes.

  34. Tim on August 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Maybe Doc Martens would have lasted me longer. At the time I served, I couldn’t find any that fit me. I spent hours looking for dress shoes that fit, and counted myself fortunate when I found a pair, no matter the brand or cost. Fortunately, my dress-shoe-shopping experience has gotten a lot better since I started shopping for shoes exclusively online.

    I also think that an area with more ground to cover by bike and foot wears shoes out faster. I imagine Hong Kong’s one of the most condense missions in the world. We covered quite a bit of ground tracting and street contacting in Germany, especially early on on my mission.

  35. Sam Brunson on August 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I killed a pair of Doc Martens on my mission in less than six months. They have the significant downside (or at least they did when I was on my mission) that they can’t be resoled. So once they died, they were dead. No bikes or cars on my mission.

  36. Bob on August 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

    When I went from California to Montana in the summer, I bought about a $250 cashmere overcoat for $5 from an Elder who was returning to California.

  37. Lee C. on August 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Does it still vary from mission to mission what is provided in each area, and what missionaries must bring with them?

    I served in two different missions, Sweden and Finland. In Sweden, bedding was provided in each apartment, and in those areas where missionaries biked, bicycles were also provided. The bicycles and bedding were generally donated by local members, and stayed in the area instead of following missionaries during transfers.

    When I was re-assigned to Finland (to teach Swedish-speakers), I found that I had to buy a bicycle and a sleeping bag, and take them with me every time I transferred. I would then have to try to sell the bicycle at the end of my mission.

    One system, I suppose, was more of a burden to local members, while the other was more of a burden to the distant members who were supporting the missionary.

    P.S. I still use the luggage I bought 23 years ago for my mission.

  38. Bob on August 13, 2011 at 9:32 am

    As far as bike costs go, my first mission president (in 96) limited us to $200 – which didn’t buy much of a bike. The second mission president allowed missionaries to choose, which usually meant bikes that cost between $300 and $400. More expensive, but they didn’t have to stop every hour or so and put the handlebars on straight like I did.

  39. DB on August 16, 2011 at 1:18 am

    ———————————————————————-
    (Originally posted this to the Part 1 thread, and then noticed 1.5)

    Sorry!
    ————————————————————————

    The present system seems far more equitable and “doable” than when I served a stateside mission from 1987-1989.

    It seemed like we had to pay for everything! Companionships with cars had to pay the mission what we termed as “car rent” each month, $25.00 each. (I believe that the official term was “vehicle use fee.”) We also paid for the fuel, and so many cents per mile if you used more than your monthly allotment.

    Our mission cost was $425.00 per month, 24 years ago. The mission, being in an area of the mid-west with few members produced very few dinner invitations for missionaries so food costs were an issue at times.

    Apartments varied widely in monthly costs. We were responsible for rent, all utilities, and phone. It was a relief to be transferred to an area that had paid utilities. Sorting bills out could be confusing, depending upon when you were transferred, new occupants not wanting to pay bills, etc. Looking back on these matters, it seems that the mission had no uniform policy concerning area apartments as many leases and utility bills were in the names of elders who had gone home years previously.

    Transfers were done by Greyhound bus, the tickets for which were paid for by the missionaries.

    I seem to remember that for a period of time we were also supposed to reimburse the mission for certain types of pamphlets we would hand out, but I may off on this.

  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 18, 2011 at 7:29 am

    err, Suitcase set, I travel with suitcases I bought at Costco. Much less expensive than the price you gave.

    DB — I served in the 1970s, same sort of expenses, including having to pay for cars when assigned an area with a car. For long portions of my mission I was in areas where either the mission president did not want us eating with the members or the members were not feeding the missionaries.