From a very young age I was taught the value of money and that it wasn't limitless. As I grew older and started working I realised just how precious each pay check was and how fast it could be to blow on something.
Going out, buying birthday gifts for others and just basic things for me. I knew how quickly these small costs could all add up. Whenever I spent money on something big, I would hesitate, and that's the mindset I've always had.
Is it really worth the blow to my bank account after making this purchase? Is something actually worth the price? I was always taught to save and save, and my parents never really said much about what was good to spend money on.
When I came across an AIESEC exchange, I had the option to spend about $2500 - and after this trip, the concept of "value for money" completely changed its definition for me.
My first hesitation was of course money. It was a lot of savings that I would have to spend while on this trip and also not to mention that during the 6 weeks away that I would also not be making any money as well. From a purely financial point of view, it did not seem like a very good choice.
This perspective changed completely when I actually went on exchange and had the best 6 weeks of my life. I realised that the experiences that I've had are truly priceless. So much that the very next year, I made that decision again to go on my second exchange because I knew that all the things I gained from this experience were more than worth the financial costs.
My biggest realisation was that you're not paying for a plane ticket, accommodation or travel insurance but what you're really paying for is an adventure in a country you don't know.
It's about the chance to do something different and purposeful.
The connections you build with the locals. The night time dinner conversations with people who grew up in a country and culture so completely different to yours. It's about the road trips with people you would have never otherwise met. It's about living like a local in a diverse environment. The food that is unlike anything you'll ever get at a restaurant back at home, breathtaking views more eye opening then what you can Google, and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Coming back from my exchange, I looked at my excessive shoe collection, clothes, handbags and perfume and compared it to what I could have spent it on instead. The amount of intrinsic value that these items gave me paled in comparison to what my exchange was to me.
That's when I realised that the learnings, challenges, people, and memories I had gotten from my exchange experience was worth more then any physical possession. It really forced me to think about what the "true" value of money is.
Sure, I still like to buy new clothes and material possessions every now and then when I need to (who doesn't?), but my purpose now is to truly think about how my money can help me live - and not how I can live to make more money.
My resolution now is to only ever spend money on experiences. Because as cheesy as it sounds, experiences are priceless, and they will add more value to your life more than anything else can.