Different colors of money

Have you ever noticed that it’s often much easier to spend money overseas than at home?  For instance I had no qualms about spending 500 rubles for lunch in Russia but I think twice about spending the same amount in dollars in the US.  Even the Euro – which carries more value than the USD – has been easier to part with than my own home currency.

What makes foreign money different?  Or, rather, why do I react differently to expenditures enumerated in “green” bills?

When I think about it, I realize that for me different money means different feelings about spending money.  Different in that I feel freer to spend and less guilty about spending, when I do so in any other currency but USD.  There appears to be less “baggage” and less anxiety attached to my actions of spending.  I feel more independent and more in control.

So does this mean that at home I feel disempowered, imprisoned, and intimidated by money and spending it?

Maybe a little.  Why?

Because we all grow up listening and taking in the money attitudes that surround us.  Expressions like “money doesn’t grow on trees”, or “there is no free lunch”, or “you have to work hard to earn your living” create a context around money for us.  We think of money as something unattainable, something hard to get, something unfriendly, something cold, and something that our lives depend upon.  This context affects our own attitudes towards money and our feelings towards spending it.

Naturally the context that people create around money changes from culture to culture. And that’s why our attitudes towards money changes when we go abroad, when we leave the realm where that context was created.

I personally like my attitude towards money when I am abroad.  And that’s why I am now trying to recreate it here at home.  I am changing a habit of looking at money from the perspective of lacking and hard and instead choosing to look at it from the perspective of abundant and friendly.  As we all know – what you focus on …expands!

What about you?  How do you relate to spending money when at home or abroad?

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6 responses to “Different colors of money

  1. Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Our relationship to money is clearly driven by values, mostly by values we learn from our parents and grandparents. How free we spend depends also on the context. When I am travelling, I spend freely but within my overall budget. When I am in my home country (for Global Nomads, home could be any country) my relationship with money is about “being good stewards”, not so much about “getting enjoyment”.

  2. It’s because foreign money, espeically when it’s in different colors than your own money actually feels like “play” money, like monopoly money!

    Even after you’ve been living someplace for years, you are not recalling the prices of things in your youth in the new currency; whereas in the home currency you are. So prices always seem more expensive when you are paying in your home currency than in a foreign currency.

    Expat 21 at Expat Abroad
    expat21.wordpress.com

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  5. I know my attitude toward money definitely changes when I’m abroad. I agree with expat21 that it does sometimes feel like Monopoly money. Plus I usually try to calculate the exchange rate to see how much it would be in USD before I buy it because I can’t quite get a “feel” for how much a pound or Euro is, for example. Even after living abroad for over a year I still have trouble with Russian rubles because they have strange denominations (500, 1000) that it still throws me off a bit. I think it’s just difficult to understand the value of your money and to see if something is worth a certain amount.

    When I’m on holiday though I think I’m more relaxed because I have the mindset that I might never be here again so I want to make the most of it and perhaps spend a bit more money. Also living abroad I know isn’t a permanent situation for me so I don’t spend my money as freely as people here in Russia do. The attitude is that you’re better off spending your money than saving it because it will decrease in value and things have more value than money. If I were a permanent resident I might spend more money but because I know I’ll leave soon, I try to save my earnings.

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