Do You Think Earning Australian Dollar can Support the Cost of Living in Pesos?
I graduated from college in the '90s when most fathers and mothers choose to work abroad in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any country accepting sponsored workers in different industries. They will then send their hard-earned money to their family in the Philippines. My father, though with six children, chose to stay. I admire him for that. No dollar can equate with the time lost away from the family you are responsible to care for and nurture.
After graduation, a friend asked if I can support her in her missionary work in the province of Bicol under the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. I was excited for her and checked if I can support her regularly. Campus Crusade for Christ has helped me develop in my Christian faith while in College and I would love to see more college students experience the love of God and the fellowship of other Christians. It will be an honour to be part of their ministry.
Then it hit me!
I don't earn enough to contribute to my own family's household expenses. The wage I earn from my first job as the Administrative staff for McDonalds Distribution Centre is just enough to ride a jeep and a tricycle back and forth, have lunch, save for office wear and small personal stuff. I was able to buy a gold ring at one point, paying for Php750 per fortnight, supposedly for 6 months - which I eventually sold to a friend because whenever I see it (I wear it every time), I feel guilty of not having enough to help with my family's need.
That's when I thought of migrating to a country where I can get paid with dollars. I was thinking that when I send it to the Philippines, it will be multiplied. The multiplier then was around $19 to $27, depending on the country.
After migrating to Australia, I realised that the cost of living in Australia where my immediate family and I (now married with 3 daughters) will be in AUD. I will usually convert the prices to check if it is worth it. At the back of my head I want to know if the Php that I brought to Australia will be able to sustain our AUD cost of living.
Guess what? After one and half month, we have A$100 remaining in the bank. God is good and faithful. My husband got his first job where he will work for the next 4 years. It was a 5-minute walking distance from home so no expenses with transport.
And now the real expenses...
Rental house is more than 10 times that of rental houses in the Philippines. Private schools are 10 times that of public schools and public schools are 10 times the fees of private schools in the Philippines (at least in Laguna, where we were living before migration). Don't get me started with the cost of food and medical assistance. I was brought to the Emergency room one hot summer day because I fainted after I closed the car door with my finger at the hinge. After waiting for about 6 hours, the doctor just laughed at me and charged us A$500, which we were allowed to pay by installment. (The public hospital was kind to ask us how much can we afford. I said $50 per month and they agreed!)
These living expenses are based on the South Australian cost of living. South Australia is one of the most affordable states in Australia and is the world's tenth most liveable city according to Economist Intelligence Unit, 2018.
There was an instance of one long weekend due to a public holiday when we do not have the AUD to buy our dinner. Money was scarce and we need to prioritize rent payments. As it is a public holiday, my husband, being a casual employee then was on no work, and no pay.
Without knowing that this was our situation, one of our young church pastors drove past our home and gave us different types of bread from the shop where he works in. Because it will be a public holiday and a long weekend, shops are closed and they need to discard perishable items. They gave it to him and he gave it to us. We had to share the rest with another family at church as we cannot finish them all. (Remember when Jesus feed the 5,000 and 12 baskets were left!)
I remember telling my children - "it is not money that we need. We only need God as He can supply all our needs even if we don't have money".
It was difficult during the first years of immigration.
But once you have settled and got a stable job, you forget to convert and just spend.
The cost of living might be expensive but the income is commensurate. In less than 5 years we were able to buy our first house under mortgage. It is not because we have saved much but because they have a first home buyer grant for permanent residents. They doubled the usual grant and we were eligible to claim it. It was a one-time opportunity that I believe God opened for us then. After that, until the time of writing, the grant was back to the usual.
That's what is different in Australia. Opportunities open every now and then. I believe that God has opened a lot of possibilities in Australia that allow us to tap into God's infinite resources. Remember when the hospital even allowed me to pay the A$500 emergency room fee for A$50 a month?
And after more than a decade, we finally were able to send money to our parents in the Philippines and support missionaries in different countries.
Yes, AUD can support the Php cost of living: in the long run and if you are thrifty.
But I will prefer to bring my family to earn AUD and spend AUD.
It's not all about money though.
Where does God want you? That's where He can use you to your full capacity.