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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jewish Debt

No no, this isn't some sort of metaphorical post about what the Jewish people owe to society or what society owes to the Jews. It's about the cost of being frum - and it IS expensive.

Today I was emailing with another blogger who said something like "Wouldn't it be great if there was a blog where frum people could anonymously talk about their financial problems? I don't think I look that different than any other man in shul but I'm up to my eyeballs in debt while everyone else seems to be doing just fine!" (OK I added the bit about the eyeballs but the rest is kinda, almost accurate.)

Well how about here? In the comments section?
You can use your real fake name, or make up a new even faker fake name!

I'll go first even though some of you know who I am.

I work full time, my husband works full time.
We live modestly, in a small house in an expensive town.
We have two children in Yeshiva day school.
We make too much money to recieve a scholarship but not enough to pay tution without skimping on most everything else.
We are in at least some credit card debt about 50% of the time.
We have no "help" around the house.
I iron all my husband's shirts myself and get my hair cut at supercuts 3-4 times a year.
We eat out (someplace cheap- pizza or similar) about twice a month.
I spend a fortune in groceries.
Our vacations consist of day trips and visiting relatives.
We have almost no savings.
I don't buy lottery tickets.
I have no plans to retire um... ever...
But I'm OK. Things are stable and we have everything we need and even a few extras like guitar lessons for Bas-Shifra, cell phones and a cable modem.

OK, now you.


At 9:05 PM, Blogger Esther said...

I am really glad you posted on this subject. We have been suffering from serious financial problems since my husband was in yeshiva five years ago. We really struggle with the costs - especially around the holidays like now. I have almost no extras - I go without a haircut until I absolutely need one and then either my husband cuts it or maybe Supercuts, I buy maybe two new skirts a year, and we don't go on vacations. We did one really smart thing and moved from a super-expensive city to a lovely community where we can afford to live and where we have experienced tremendous chesed, especially in getting tuition reductions from the school. But our debt from previous years is suffocatingly out of control. I won't go on here in the comments right now but this is one of the main areas I intend to cover on my blog - not just the debt, but the way it can make us resent certain aspects of the "requirements".

At 10:39 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Well, I'm a doctor, and except for that, I could pretty much echo what you wrote. I finally paid off my medical school loans and immediately went back to the bank to take out loans for my daughter's college tuition, because having and old man with MD after his name doesn't grant you much scholarship money.

I think we bring in a lot of money but it goes out very quickly, too. I'm in the highest tax bracket. I get massacred by the AMT every year. The rest goes to tuition for my six beautiful but expensive kids.

We have a small house. I have 3 kids to a room. I drive a 13 year old car. I can't afford a new one. We can't afford even a single family trip to anywhere nice (and yes, we spent all our previous vacations with relatives across country).

My kids have never seen a palm tree or a white beach.

They've never been to Israel. Frankly, I don't know how ANYONE can afford to take their family to Israel.

But we're making do. I have a lower standard of living than my parents did, and they weren't professionals.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a smart idea. I don't know if I'm all alone and maybe this comment stream will be a good indication. My husband and I struggle with money. We didn;t always struggle. When we were first married, we lived almost rent free in a relative's apartment. We took pride inthe fact that we weren't the type to worry about every cent. We developed some really bad habit in terms of bill paying, saving, investing, and tracking what came in and what came out.

we were able to buy a house before things got too expensive. Then we were able to buy a bigger house, still before things got too expensive. Since we bought the second house expenses have ru out of control. We were lucky to get a home equity loan whe the rates were good and now we are close to $80,000 in total debt just to make ends meet. This includes a few credit card we cant pay down and yeshiva tuition that is too expensive to afford and my husband needs to be the guy every year to let our kids in and we'll pay next year. It is all so expensive. It would be very great to hear that we are not the only Orthodox family suffering from such debt and not making ends meet even though my me and my husband both work day and night. Because we work so hard we have a regualr baby sitter. If not for the babysitter i couldn't work and I don't how we could afford to keep our house if we didn't have both incomes coming in every month. Already we have a hare time with the paying the mortgage every month we're late. I hope mor people tell their stories so we can all know that we are not alone.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger koferet said...

This is a question that has long bothered me... as yet I don't have expenses like yeshiva tuition (I'm thinking of public school -- it has to be cheaper to send kids there and hire private tutors for Jewish stuff) and a mortgage, but it boggles the mind how Orthodox Jews plan ahead financially.

I think a large problem is secular pressure to display financial stability, typically through material consumption, combined with pressure to do the 'right' frum things.

Yeshiva tuition has to come down (which it will if Orthodox Jewish parents start to pull their kids from the schools because they can no longer afford tuition) and we need to move into less cosy suburbs.

Now, these are not easy things to do. It requires defying societal norms. But your messages and what I see around confirm that something's got to give.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

well, this is not just a jewish thing...see http://kablogalah.blogspot.com/2006/06/middle-class-splits-for-outer-suburbs.html

i can only speak to american debt, since mine is not frum day school. most americans, except the very wealthy, are a little to a fair amount worse off than they were 35 years. a lot of what you are writting about, Shifra, is not specially jewish. hope to elaborate later.

At 2:29 AM, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Not at your stage of life yet (married with kids), but definitely kept up nights worrying how I will afford to live a frum life. For any of us who are not lawyers, doctors, accountants, investment bankers or dentists (and even for some who are) it is a real struggle. My parents also fell in the too wealthy for a scholarship/not wealthy enough for it not to hurt category, and they had 7 of us to send to day school! As for me, I have paid off my grad school loan, but will soon be taking out another so that I can go into a field that pays better in order to be able to even attempt to afford life as a frum Jew in the U.S. Of course, if Jameel has his way, and we all make aliyah, at least the tuition part will not be such an issue...Fantastic idea for a post. Thanks, Shifra!

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Israel, so this answer will be much different from the previous posters. We live very modestly - no meat except for very special occasions, no chicken except for shabbos. We have a lot of guests on Shabbos, so that part is expensive, but we don't eat expensively during the week so it sort of evens out. We don't have a car, so we don't pay gas or insurance. We take busses and walk. We pay a minimal amount for health insurance. My husband is learning in a well-paying kollel and I work basically full-time. We don't have kids in school yet, but from what I hear, tuition is negligable. So is babysitting/gan. Our vacations include renting a car and taking day trips around the country to free places. We live in a smallish apartment in Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, we're ok. If I need an American product from the grocery store, I can buy it. I see a lot of "Yad Hashem" (the hand of G-D, figuratively speaking) living here in Israel, especially in the financial department. I don't know how we'll marry off our kids or buy them apartments, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

See - this is good stuff!
Thank you you all for sharing -
In real life I will do anything to avoid talking about money but this is theraputic isn't it?

If you aren't broke feel free to share too, maybe you have some advice for the rest of us.

I can't reply to everything but here's a comment that jumped out to me:

"I have a lower standard of living than my parents did, and they weren't professionals."

This is true for us as well in some ways. I did not grow up with money by any means but my house now is smaller than the house I grew up in, and my husband and I work much harder (and more hours) than my parents ever did.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous h2oil said...

hello there,well i'm not jewish and know far less of how jewish finances should be...just wanted to ask a question...

do u guys tithe your income?
(i mean, do u give 10% of your income to G-d?)

and if u do,what do u expect from this practice?

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Hi H2Oil- yes, as Orthodox Jews we are expected to give 10% to charity. However some consider synagogue dues and/or hebrew school tution to cover some of this 10% since there is often not enough to go around.

I'm not sure what I expect... To help others in need? To maintain the infrastructure of my community? A front row seat in heaven? (not)

Eliyahu - I realize this is not a uniquely Jewish situation I just feel that my "religion based spending" is the difference between my making it and not really making it.
Please elaborate on your comment.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger koferet said...

A few items --

(0) How do I manage money?

I don't worry about it too much from month to month, but before spending any money in a month, I put aside a chunk in a savings account so that I don't see it and won't touch it. Then I pay all my bills. Whatever is left goes for food and fun. Every three months or so, I make up a monthly budget, with all my expenses written out as line items, and see how my actual spending lines up with what I think I'm spending. If there is a gross misalignment, I track my expenses day to day, dollar by dollar for the next month or so that I get back into step with my target budget. It isn't easy at first (it took me three years to get to this point) but as time progresses, you get into different spending habits.

If only I could do this with exercise and diet! It's really beyond me why I have discipline for some things but none at all for others.

(1) That we would never in real life talk about money.

I am uncomfortable even in this extremely anonymous state.

(2) Professionals and standard of living

Here's the thing about professionals and standard of living: there is an expectation that a professional will display at least some modicum of social and material status.

An accountant is expected to live in a nice upper middle class suburb. A plumber is not. However, the two probably have comparable annual incomes. The result? The plumber can live in a working-class neighborhood, while the accountant 'has' to spend extra money to maintain an upper middle class image. The plumber can use the extra money to fund things like tuition, retirement, vacation, and a later trade-up to a bigger house.

(3) Tithing

Do I tithe? No. I give about 3% of my annual after tax income. Could I tithe? At the expense of my future ability to pay yeshiva tuition, college tuition, and buying a house. Should I tithe? Some would say yes, some would say no.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

FWIW, I am not Frum but I share in your pain.

The challenge of sending my children to a Jewish day school almost made me lose all my hair.

We live in a modest home in LA and have two cars. It has been a while since we last took a real vacation and there are many moments in which I wonder how long things will go like this.

Thankfully I had some retirement plans I participated in at prior employment or I might have to work forever.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger sheva7777 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Brutus said...

Here's my sob-story.
I'm broke. I made a decision 4 years ago to start my own business. The business has grown beautifully. I'm paying my employees nice salaries. They have both purchased homes in the interem. However as the owner of the business I get whatever is left over which is often nil. During the first 2 years of business I took nothing and I'm still working off the $65,000 of debt I accumulated with credit cards and various family members. I just get by these days with the meager salary I force myself to take, and pay the minimums on my credit card debt. I don't know how I will ever qualify for a mortgage.
The funny thing is, I'm the envy of all my friends who dream of working for themselves. They have no idea what they have with their regular steady salary.
I look really happy and respond that "things are great" when asked, because nobody wants to do business with a loser.
Still happy you asked?

At 11:40 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Great topic Shifra. Just so your readers know, I welcome guests posts on frum financial situations. Debt seems to be the norm and it is really scary, especially since debt (more often than not) begets more debt, and massive debt begets insolvency.

I have been planning to write a budgeting and debt entry for a long time. I better get started. It is obviously a topic that is of interest to people.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger DTC said...

I think that Gil at Hirhurim had a post about this a while back. He quoted someone as saying that in order to live "comfortably", a frum family (assuming 4 children or so) would need an income of $150k. He's probably right on target for that, but that's only for the NYC metro area; this figure is probably too low for LA.

The funniest part is, I'm saving $$ this year on my youngest because yeshiva tuition is still a bit cheaper than a baby sitter. (although, any savings went out the window now that another child has moved up a tax bracket - oh, sorry, now in a higher grade.)

At least we're saving some money by not paying for financial planning. :-/

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, so why is it that Jewish life is so expensive?

I'm not frum and I was scared away from the day school by the tuition costs for three kids.

Yet I do keep kosher and as I look at the costs of meat, I sometimes wonder is it worth it, especially with the brouhaha around Aaron's meat (see the Forward) and the Monsey meat scandal.

Jewish summer camp and Hebrew school and shul dues end up costing us $7500 a year, and my first child's bar mitzvah, despite doing a huge part of the cooking myself, still cost over $7500 (and it wasn't at all lavish although there were a lot of people there).

Since we're not Orthodox we can drive to shul which is a good thing because the neighborhoods that are walking distance are also very pricey--and why is that?

We both work now which is helping pay off those back bills, but we wouldn't be where we are if not for the help of our parents...

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Ahuva said...

What I don't understand is... if everyone is in debt, why can't we all get together and modify the community standards so that we don't have to live this way? One anon mentioned spending more than $7500 on a Bar Mitzvah. I've never lived in a community. There weren't any standards when I had my Bat Mitzvah; I was the first of the children since they founded the Temple. So we had a pot luck set up in the sanctuary. It didn't occur to anyone to hire a band or a DJ. Mom splurged and got engraved invitations and thank yous, but my dress was made by a friend as her gift for the occasion. The next girl had helium balloons for decorations and catered food; we were all a little amazed at the "excess."

Why is everyone suffering in silence?

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Bill Gates said...

This is something I wonder about quite often. I live in an affluent neighborhood, though I am not affluent. I am a small business owner and work insane hours just to keep my business afloat. (I frequently sleep under my desk due to very late night projects). If my wife didn't also work, there would be no way we could afford to live. No way.

I do own a house, but the only way I was able to buy a house to begin with is because my father in law gave us money toward the downpayment. We were lucky to first buy in the late 1990's before the price of houses went through the roof (pardon the pun).

Because I'm neurotic, we have a cleaning lady/housekeeper/ in our home several days a week and I lease a new car every two or three years. We pay dearly for my narishkeit: the car is my insanity because when I was younger, my parent's used cars would often break down on the highway. These experiences of stomach churning anxiety manifested themselves into intense fear every time my family went on a long road trip. I promised myself I would never allow my children to experience that truama. We have the cleaning lady because my wife and both work and we're not very organized with cleaning, laundry, dishes, et al. Yet, despite my own culpability in this area, I'm a neat freak. So to preserve Shalom Bayis, I insist on having help.

We spend over 20K a year on yeshiva tuition and I'm usually behind on my payments. Coming up with the mortgage is difficult some months, too. Last year, my business hit a very tough spot and I had to endure 8 a.m. calls for some time from creditors. I've also had my credit cards suspended a few times due to non-payment. A few months ago, my EZ Pass was confiscated at a bringe due to a lack of funds caused by a suspended credit card.

The only vacations I ever took was to mount airy lodge and three days to florida in the late 1990s. Anything since has been amusement parks or local day trips. My mental sanity luxuries aside, we live a fairly modest life that includes quite a bit of debt above the mortgage that we've accumulated over the years.

I often wonder why it has to be like this. My per household earning puts our family in a rather high earning category according to national averages. Yet, we have so little to show. It can make you go mad. On the other hand, I'm the head of of a delightfully laid back, blessedly happy family, with beautiful funny kids, and our health to be thankful for (kinahora). Even with the crushing debt, that's not too shabby.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Ahuva asks a great question. Unfortunately, it seems that the Orthodox community in particular suffers from groupthink, fear of what the neighbors will think, and staggaring fear of anything that might negatively impact SHIDDUCHIM. Unfortunately, this pressure affects many financially, and it takes a strong person to buck the pressure and just say no.

The pressure, for a new couple, starts at engagement and never ceases: engagement gifts, wedding standards, sheitels, clothing, nursery school, camp, seminary or yeshiva, extracurriculars, etc.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This trend of frum families being burdened by debt is not a new one. But it has gained attention in recent years, mostly because of rising home prices (hence, rising taxes) and rising day school tuitions.

Also in recent years, the Houston Orthodox community has seen a dramatic increase in number of new families. These families have been attracted to Houston for many reasons:

1. Wonderful synagogues – Houston boasts three Orthodox shuls each with its own eruv, a Sephardic shul, and several Lubavitch locations.

2. Superior quality, affordable day school – tuition at the school is at least several thousand dollars less than what you would find on either coast. The school has a multi-million dollar facility with a tradition of graduates heading to yeshivot as well as Ivy League schools.

3. Terrific access to kosher food – there are meat and dairy restaurants. Many of the large chain grocery stores contain a huge variety of kosher meat, deli, and even sushi. So because of all the "big box" competition, even food prices are the same or better than on the coasts.

4. And most importantly, affordable housing – you can buy a 3 bedroom house for $120,000. Housing prices vary by the neighborhood, but Houston still has an average home price of less than $200,000.

As mentioned above, since housing and day school make up most of a family’s monthly burdens, then by simply moving to Houston, they have successfully improved their financial position.

Given, the breadwinners must also find jobs. Those whose jobs are flexible have been telecommuting, while those that are self-employed set up a new branch here in Houston to the benefit of everyone. Incredibly, the Houston Orthodox community has even made efforts to help individuals find jobs, so that they can live comfortably.

Sound too good to be true? It almost is. But check it out for yourself.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Lab Rab said...

Being single, I'm in a different situation than most here ... though unfortunately, with education and other debts, also a very similar one. I do get plenty of repeated ribbing from people who think they know best, encouraging me to find a more lucrative profession than the rabbinate. I guess I can respond that the grass isn't always greener.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both of our parents has debt issues which have trained us to be frugal. We never got an expensive engagement ring or china (other then a $40 national wholesale liquidators one that we got as a gift but never use) We never got a bedroom set. We are cheap about vacations. We cut our own hair. We are not so much into appearances so our clothing is not so expensive/ no dry cleaning. Similar philosphy with cars, etc. Most of our eating out is the pizza store.

This allowed us to save some money every month and we were able to buy a small house.

Every year, as our multiple children started school and moved up grades, our tuition bill went up and the amount we could save went down. I even plotted a graph of our projected savings account. We are now over the hump where our costs exceed our income and we are dipping into savings yet our tuition is only have of what it will be at its elementary school peak. We aren't even thinking about high school, let alone college.

I guess we keep going until we go broke and then ask for tuition assistance. Or we can have faith that hashem will increase our income or something. Or we could move (not sure how much that would help).

I am puzzled by how everyone else does it.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Wow - so it's not just me who can't figure out how to manage this situation.
Living small and working hard just isn't enough.

If we don't save for retirement we will end up depending on our children (we can forget about social security by then) and how will THEY support us with the cost of tution being what it is?!

Clearly this is problem that can only survive one generation... IF that but what to do???

At 7:40 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

We are now over the hump where our costs exceed our income and we are dipping into savings yet our tuition is only have of what it will be at its elementary school peak. We aren't even thinking about high school, let alone college.

It is downright scary when families who are frugal and got a headstart right from the beginning are over the hump. And, it just isn't right. As far as I am concerned, tuition should be affordable on a "cash flow" basis, just as food should be. I don't know where the breaking point is for the community. But, when frugal people who got ahead are dipping into savings early, it seems like it is soon to come.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

I don't know why but some of these comments almost brought me to tears... Not sure why... Maybe cuz I know I may have to deal with this stuff someday soon. (I'm not married yet... That's why I say some day soon...)

At 10:12 PM, Blogger littlejerseygirl said...

I have to admit that I have it pretty good, and even then it is hard. Neither of our parents are very wealthy, but they were able to help us out when we got married. I was in undergrad and my DH was in grad school. They paid our rent for us and - best of all - my in-laws paid for all of my husbands college and grad school & my parents paid for my college so we have no loans.

Dh is in the medical field and I work part time at home. I have 3 kids.
Combined, we make in the low 6 figures pre-tax. Sadly, this is not a great amount.
We have a mortgage.
First the tax man comes and takes about $30K (I think that is accurate)
We pay $10,000 a year in property tax. (3.5 bedroom house - not huge, but it is nice)
My 2 children are $16K a year in tuition. (#3 starts next year and I am petrified)
$10k a year for Health insurance
$2k a year for car insurance (2 cars - one was a hand me down and one is new cause Dh commutes and needs something reliable.)
$1,500 for day camp
$50 per week on a cleaning lady. yes - this might be perceived as extra, but it helps with the Shalom bayis. There is no way that I could maintain my house on my own and Dh can't stand the mess.
I pay everything by credit card - clothes, food, phone bill etc. I NEVER carry a balance. I do not want to be paying for today's chicken in 20 years. My balance at the end of each month is anywhere from 2-3 thousand. Food is expensive, clothes are expensive, (and no I do not buy $100 dresses for my 5 year old. Today I got her winter Shabbos shoes for $14. I am practical about my spending) Sometimes I might buy something extra here and there, and I know it ads up, but nothing crazy. I am married almost 7 years and the only jewelry I got in that time was a pair of gold earings for $70.
If you did the math, you will see that there is almost nothing left to save.
How sad is that?

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

I think this sounds pretty common. At least you didn't add that you're seweing fake prada labels and wearing burberry knockoffs. Don't laugh. I've seen it. I really can't say so much about the issues since I'm still livin large and single, but you make me want to stay that way for a really long time..lol

At 4:27 AM, Anonymous SeeBee said...

This is all very sad....From a European perspective, we don't have it that bad but it can be hard to find a job!! I am buying a one-way ticket to Israel ASAP! Ok, so I may not get a job there either but I will save on heating bills and Jewish stuff....

At 5:24 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

interesting post and comments.
while i'm still single, i see what my parents have to deal with, paying off school fees, yeshivah fees and managing all other bills and costs (keeping kosher, giving tzedaka etc). It isn't easy (in fact, there have been times where things have been damn hard) but we've never lacked anything that we needed but luxuries like overseas holidays or new cars weren't possible. (my car is a 22 year old bomb but it does the job!)
growing up like that, now seeing properly what the costs are has made me quite careful in terms of managing money (what little i make :P ), career (how to have one so that i'll be able to contribute income) and what i expect in the future (with my own family one day, career etc).

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shifra: Blogging has made life much easier. I just released the annual Muqata Blog Shareholders Report, and I'm pleased to announce that our results aren't that bad...

You can check out the financial section here

Shana Tova!


PS: I think I'll post my family's financial situation under a different name -- perhaps my DovBear blogging name...

At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Brutus said...

Bill Gates, we should talk.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous bill gates said...

brutus, send ur contact info to shifra.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My balance at the end of each month is anywhere from 2-3 thousand.

As a single person, this boggles my mind. I am not critiquing the spending pattern of the poster; in fact, I really appreciate her willingness to share the detailed breakdown of her expenses as she did. I had no idea a six-figure salary could get eaten up so easily while spending responsibly, and I appreciate her for having enlightened me.

Rather, my bewilderment reflects my own ignorance. As one person alone, on the edge of poverty, my entire monthly budget is less than half of that poster's monthly credit card statement, which, if I understand correctly, includes some bills such as of the telephone and all of her "cash" purchases such as food and clothing. She described non-extravagant patterns, so I am surprised to learn that typical, frugal monthly purchases for a family can add up to so much! I'd be interested to know what the breakdown is on that. It seems I been underestimating what it costs to support a family!

Shifra, this is a good discussion. Because society doesn't talk about expenses, we tend not to gain a sense of what is spending too much (or too little!), but if we share information with each other, we can learn from what others share with us about what reasonable, realistic budgets are.

I'm curious to know what people's monthly budgets for food (including both groceries and eating out/snacks) are.

My food budget is $180 per month. (I also put aside $5 per month to save up an extra $60 for Pesach food and supplies.)

Often I think $180 is too high for one person. My costs outweigh my income and I have little fat left to trim. I've heard of people who feed families of four for the same or a lesser amount. Maybe I eat too much.

Then again, I often think it cannot be lowered much more. Many people spend the same amount in a much shorter time period. $180 isn't much higher than the monthly food stamp allowance for one person is. I can't afford much in the way of higher-priced items like kosher specialty foods or organic vegetables. I don't have funds for entertaining or eating out.

For people who pay for their own schooling or time in Israel, I'm wondering how. With loans? Surely a teenager couldn't save up enough money to cover all the tuition and travel and living expenses. And doesn't financial aid expect parents to chip in?

And for those paying their own way who then got married and began a family while still in school, how was this done? With the added cost of a wedding, of rent, of setting up a household with no wages coming in?

Besides being very worried about my own situation, I feel badly that I don't/can't give more to tsedakah.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Maybe Bill Gates can advertise his products here on Ask Shifra and then my financial worries will be over just as long as I keep cranking out MS friendly content and don't reveal my secret crush on Linus Torvald....
Oh darn, now it's out!

The one- some of these comments made me teary too. It does seem so unfair and impossible yet here we all are managing (somehow!) I wonder if day school administrators and local Rabbanim know how hard these things are even for those not asking for (or receiving handouts).

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every year, as our multiple children started school and moved up grades, our tuition bill went up and the amount we could save went down. I even plotted a graph of our projected savings account. We are now over the hump where our costs exceed our income and we are dipping into savings yet our tuition is only have of what it will be at its elementary school peak. We aren't even thinking about high school, let alone college.

I guess we keep going until we go broke and then ask for tuition assistance.

See now, it sounds to me like this family should already be getting tuition assistance. If the savings are already being used because the expenditures, as modest as they are, exceed the income, because of the skyrocketing tuition, and they (the savings) are not projected to last through high school and college, let alone remain on hand in case of emergency, unless an unrealistic increase in income occurs, then shouldn't some financial aid be granted?

This family planned ahead, and still will end up needing assistance! It's one thing to save up for, say, four years of college and not need to ask for financial aid because there is enough to cover the four years as was the goal, money saved specifically for that and only that purpose, but it is another thing to use up all the family savings, which should be there not only for schooling but also for emergencies and retirement, when not enough was saved in the first place to make up the difference needed between available income and the tuition bills.

Wouldn't it be better to get a little tuition assistance each year so that the costs do not outweigh the income all that much and some savings can be maintained, rather than having to wait until the savings are exhausted to receive any aid, when it might not be enough and there will be no savings left for emergencies? I would think that the committee that grants the financial assistance would understand that just because there is enough money in the savings to cover the gap for this particular year's tuition doesn't mean that all of the savings should be used up.

Maybe this family doesn't want to take from those who are more needy. That is a good concept to keep in mind. But maybe the tuition aid committee would see that this family is eligible for a little bit of help, and it could be up to the committee to decide what to award to whom, so that no one family would fear applying would mean taking something away from someone else. If the donors knew that the committees awarded the assistance fairly, each family according to need, then maybe the donors would donate more.

And, hey, if the family receives assistance but then gets that unrealistic increase in income, the family can donate back to the school so that others may receive aid.

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous with the savings account that we are dipping into.

We have not asked for assistance yet because we assumed they will not get anything until we deplete (or nearly deplete) our savings. What is the yeshiva policy on that?

I found some paperwork from when I was in high school requesting parents to take out second mortages before they ask for assistance since if they are willing to do it for college, they can do it for high school. That scared me.

What I am doing is putting money into my 401K now since I don't know if I will be able to in the future. We are not saving for college although I hope to send my kids to a good college somehow (against the wishes and educational level of the current school they are going to that I am paying tuition for, but that is a different topic)

By the way, what is the attitude of yeshivas on putting money into 401K/IRA/college saving plans as far as aid goes? Does anybody have any experience

It would be nice if we could afford a bigger (not fancier) house at some point. In theory we could spend all our savings and get a bigger mortage and get a bigger house and ask for tuition assistance. However, this seems immoral as well as silly since our current house (with low interest mortage)is OK for now and it doesn't make sense to move. We would only be moving to deplete our money.

Our other sad thing is that if we had less kids we would probably be fine. Its a hard decision to have more children (which is something we really wanted) knowing that it would cause us financial issues down the road.

When the kids grow up, my wife may be able to work full time so that may help. Right now its doctors appointments, etc. everyday so it isn't feasible.

Some other possible solutions we have considered but decided against (at least so far)
-Going to a cheaper school in a different town (socially negative for the kids)
-Moving to a cheaper community (job is the issue)
-Moving to Israel (Job, family, etc..)
-Homeschooling (Hard enough to get kids to brush their teeth)
-Public school
-One of use selling our soul for a high paying super long hour job (even if we found one, whats the point of having kids you don't raise?)
-Buying a big diamond with all our money, burying it in the backyard, and then getting tuition assistance (not serious about this one but I'm sure many do the equivalent)
-Quitting my job and joining a kollel because they seem to get bigger houses then we have.

BTW, thanks for the great topic.

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I think it is important to make this comment here. I'm directing it at single people reading this comment stream and subconsciously filing away yet one more reason to stay single.

There's no question, married life is expensive. Start adding kids and the expenses become extraordinary. But...

I clearly remember, about 13 years ago, talking to my then-girlfriend, now wife about getting engaged. The concept seemed so unrealistic to me. I ust kept thinking that getting married was something that other people do. They had wealthy families and various other financial assistance. But I figured I could never afford to lead that kind of life (thank you Billy Joel).

I looked at other people and at what they had, and believed that the money they had would never come my way.

And yet, I took the plunge, got engaged, got married, had kids, and made a fantastic discovery.

For some reason, somehow, thehousehold income grew in reasonable proportion to the number of kids we had and the expenses they brought..

Yes, we struggle, in many ways like most everyone else posting here. But if someone points to finances as the reason to put off marriage, I say...God wants you to get married and have kids. You can be confident he'll foot at least most of the bill.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-We don't have experience with tuition committees, but I would suggest you apply for assistance (show documentation of your spending patterns and savings patterns including the all important fact that you are now dipping into savings to continue schooling your children). I have been told that some schools are more generous with tuition assistance than others. And, it seems that you have been quite responsible. (If I was on a tuition committee, I'd be more inclined to offer you a scholarship that the families that played fast and loose when they were in their pre-tuition days and now have their hand out begging).

Even if you receive no assistance, the schools NEED to know that responsible people are really hurting.

Oh, and if you do apply. . . please write a guest post for me (orthonomics.blogspot.com). :) :) :)

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

SL - that's not been my experience!
Email me and we can discuss it.

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Still Wonderin' - yes, He might, but I haven't seen him do it yet.

We have a nice home, bought after 7 years of saving and with inlaw help. We have two kids, both with medical needs, and we're struggling to pay the mortgage, the utilities, preschool and oh yes, try to fix things before they break badly enough to damage the house so that we can't sell it someday...

It's a constant struggle. To be fair, our medical bills are awful and the kids' medical issues also drive up our food budget astronomically. Even so, the man makes a good salary, I work parttime as a freelance writer, and where does it all go?

We don't have cable, we don't get a newspaper, we don't eat out. Ever. We shop at Target...getting me here?

I could give you a line item description, but it's just too depressing.

God gave me two wonderful, complicated children. But I strongly suspect that His gift is the children and the ability to shoulder the tough stuff. Not anything that pads the bank account. The idea of day school makes me shudder - at 14-16,00 a year, what makes these schools think we can afford that?

Most people I know are having their kids' tuitions paid largely by the grandparents, which only solidifies an already difficult situation for the rest of us.

And with all of this, how on earth does one save for college? Really, truly save for the kids' college?


At 9:12 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...


In my community, from what I am told, there is little tuition assistance to be offered. I can't speak from personal experience, except to say that I am tired of my ill prepared neighbors assuming that scholarships will pay for their children and that they don't need to prepare.

I was told by someone in another community who has sat on a tuition committee for many years that his community does not expect complete liquidation before offering a discount.

Of course, that doesn't match up with my in-laws experience. . . they dipped into their home.

Shifra, great topic. I have been planning a series on debt and will probably start it off with a bang by linking to your post after Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger littlejerseygirl said...

Dear Anon

I had previously written:

My balance at the end of each month is anywhere from 2-3 thousand.

And you commented:

As a single person, this boggles my mind. I am not critiquing the spending pattern of the poster; in fact, I really appreciate her willingness to share the detailed breakdown of her expenses as she did. I had no idea a six-figure salary could get eaten up so easily while spending responsibly, and I appreciate her for having enlightened me.

So, I'm back to do a further breakdown of a recent credit card statement.

$650 on food
(you said you had a budget of $180 for one person, so $650 for 5 people is not bad.

$600 on clothes and shoes. This does NOT happen every month, but this time of year the kids need new clothes, shoes, tights, sockes for school and Shabbos/Yom tov. And I got myself shoes too which does not happen all the time

Almost $300 on gas. I do mostly local driving but some errands are further. Dh commutes half hour each way

$200 tzedaka - this also does not happen all the time unfortunately

$100 phone, tv, internet

$130 DH disability insurance

$500 on "extras". This month that included a $100 medical copay,
about $150 on entertaiment for the children during their break between camp and school
$25 eZpass
$50 gym membership
about $75 at home improvement stores for various small home repairs
$15 for a haircut for me
$15 for the newspaper

the Total is over $2,400.

See how easy that was?

And even though next month I will not be spending that kind of money on clothes, I will probably have to pay a $500 installment on the car insurance. If it is not one thing it is something else.

We may not be as careful as some people are. There are many who forgo the newspaper, the gym, the internet etc. But at the same time we are not "spendy" people. Things just add up.

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Jersey Girl-

We aren't the scholarship committee you don't have to justify your expenses here ;-)

I myself wonder where the heck all our money goes but like you it's little things (like shoes for the kids) and big things (like appliances that break, or a leaky roof) that get you.

Things like newspapers and gym memberships are important too. Everyone has "something" they need to make themselves feel like a mench - if that's a cleaning lady once a week or a gym membership so be it.
I don't think either of those things are horrible or selfish. People who work hard should have some way to relax and take care of themselves.
It makes you a better parent too IMO.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Well, this is the whole point, though I want to avoide causing this stream to deteriorate into a grievance forum about the challenges of frum finance...

Shifra.....you're saying that everyone needs something to make us feel like a mentch. And clearly, we need to tell this to ourselves to justify the expense. But we're all educated, hard-working people having to put a microsope on gym membership (?) the newspaper(?). It's ridiculous.

Sephardilady, I take umbrage to your self-righteous harumph about those who "didn't prepare" glomming precious scholarship dollars. Not everyone is Ms. Frugality or the The Personal Finance Whiz. God knows they don't teach these skills in yeshiva, although Home Ec used to be a staple of public education. This social contract we all bound ourselves into sucks. Why the hell should anyone have to contort themselves into a financial pretzel just because it's expected to send kids to yeshiva? And then be made to feel like a schnorring criminal when you can't make it work. The yeshivas created this desperation about sending kids to private schools and then they get all touchy when parents can't afford to pay. And so do you.

Why should an attorney -- who makes $125,000 a year and wants his wife to stay at home so the kids can see their mother, after all, they're never going to see their father who works from 8 to 9 every day -- have to beg a tuition committee for a break on the tuition he pays for his 5 (at least) kids (orthodox jews need to have a lot of kids, too...isn't that the expected norm?)? And god forbid you make less. If you dare expect your children to recieve a religious education, then you'd better get used to eating baked beans and tuna, scratch that, frozen flounder, for dinner every night. If not, how dare you ask for a tuition break.

Give me a break! Why should hardworking, sincere, and relatively affluent people be made to feel like garbage just because the expected norms of the religous community have ZERO bearing on the reality of any other normal human being.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

"Sephardilady, I take umbrage to your self-righteous harumph about those who "didn't prepare" glomming precious scholarship dollars. Not everyone is Ms. Frugality or the The Personal Finance Whiz. God knows they don't teach these skills in yeshiva, although Home Ec used to be a staple of public education. This social contract we all bound ourselves into sucks. Why the hell should anyone have to contort themselves into a financial pretzel just because it's expected to send kids to yeshiva? And then be made to feel like a schnorring criminal when you can't make it work. The yeshivas created this desperation about sending kids to private schools and then they get all touchy when parents can't afford to pay. And so do you."

Still Wondering--Please read between the lines(!), I don't need to spell everything out on the heals of Rosh Hashana. "Ill-prepared" did not refer to the general profile you are presenting and it shouldn't(!). Most of us do not or will not have enough money to put our children through day schools/yeshivot, even if we are fortunate enough to earn 6-figure salaries (maybe someday we will hit the 6 figure mark too!).

Most of us don't want to shnorr. We don't want to feel like failures after scrimping and savings on good salaries. And, we shouldn't have to count every penny for our hard work. And, we don't like being told that every darn thing is a requirement. . . from Preschool, to day school, to post-hs yeshiva and seminary, to camps, etc, etc, etc.

The profile I was refering to was different.

(On that note: It is one thing not to teach personal finances. It is another thing to ACTIVELY discourage young people from making smart choices for their future. And, I have seen active discouragement.)

At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something I was told recently:

In the frum world, poverty line starts at 100K salary.

I think, after staring at the tuitions for the local yeshivas, that I believe it. But how crazy is that?

At 3:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why the hell should anyone have to contort themselves into a financial pretzel just because it's expected to send kids to yeshiva? And then be made to feel like a schnorring criminal when you can't make it work. The yeshivas created this desperation about sending kids to private schools and then they get all touchy when parents can't afford to pay. And so do you"

Still Wonderin -

Here's the thing: Private schools are EXPENSIVE. You've got your lease/mortgage on the school, which is exorbitant. You've got heating costs, gas costs, air conditioning, textbooks, desks, supplies, and of course, your staff. Even after countless fundraising attempts, most schools are way in the red. Even with most of their students paying full tuition.

If you ask for a scholarship - guess what? Tuition increases the next year! Because SOMEONE has to make up your scholarship.

My family has worked for yeshivas. They make absolutely no money. I was offered a job to teach at a yeshiva for about $4000 for the year. That's it. And most teachers don't even get paid on time. So how do you propose they cut tuition costs? Where can they get all that money left over from?

Other private schools get funding from a church or some other religious entity. Our shuls just struggle to survive themselves.

I hate all this finger pointing at yeshivas for their evil, money hungry ways. Please. If everyone asked for scholarships, yeshivas would cease to exist. Period. As it is, I know of one school in a prominent city that is MILLIONS in debt, because of the increase in rent for the building. And they have no way to pay it off. They are going under, my friend. And your scholarship is helping.

Public schools are a nightmare. I know because my son is forced to go to one. They have no supplies. The teachers are horrendous, and cruel. The teachers are not accountable for their actions, and your kid will be yelled at/belittled/humiliated in class. The curriculum is a joke. And the school district nickels and dimes at the cost of your kid. Feel free to send your child there. I mourn every day that I have to send my kid to public school.

Many many people cannot afford private school. Yeshivas especially. I have two children, and I can't afford to pay our tuition. So we don't buy a house. We rent. And we have no money left over. None. Our savings are nearly gone. And the child in public school needs a LOT of help. so we're ALSO forced to ask for more money on top of that, from a lot of relatives.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

This might be useful information for some of you:


With certain income limitations, you can put aside $2000/year per child for virtually all educational expenses. Unfortunately we don't earn enough to pay US income tax so it won't help us.

We are finding money very tight as our kids become teenagers. Food and education expenses rise astronomically. Our tuition is much lower compared to the US but my husband's salary is also much less. And taxes are high. We do better than most Israelis but we do maintain a modest standard of living because of the number of children and choice of schools.

For those who are interested I posted a list of expected expenses for the coming school year. http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/2006/08/back-to-school-israel-style.html
I was thinking over the holiday that the second day of Yom Tov is a big expense that we Israelis don't have to deal with!!! Not to mention missing work of course.

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous living OK in the 5 towns said...

This is fascinating. I am writing somewhat from the other side in that we are doing OK in my opinion.
First of all I am like the poster who puts everything on the credit card and then pays it off. This totals about $3-4 K per month. I also shop for bargains and do not spend a lot of $$ on my kids clothes, shoes etc. If they must have that Juicy sweatshirt I will not pay for it, they have paid for it themselves using ebay. I am working on getting them to see that wearing labels is stupid but so far I am failing. At least I am not paying for it though.
My kid's tuitions are cheaper (they go to more right wing schools, I think). I have 4 kids and their tuition bill is about $37,000. However I work in my girl's school and that gives me a discount. I would advise mothers who want part-time work to try to get a job in the school - besides for the tuition discount (this is not needs based, it is a job benefit) they are able to offset my salary against the tuition so that it is not taxed - ok so I am working for no pay but I have almost no tuition to pay out of pocket. Also I have summers and school holidays off.
We live in a nice suburb of NYC. Lucky for me (and this is one of the primary reasons we are doing ok) we bought our house in the early 90's. So housing costs only about $2000 per month or so and only has about 8 years left until it is only taxes (which are around $8000 per year) and insurance.
We only have 1 car (minivan), DH takes the train to work. The car was bought new and financed but we already have it for 8 years and hope to have it for longer yet. Sometimes we need 2 cars, but we just have to work it out or borrow a family members, or take a cab (still cheaper than that 2nd car).
Dh or my mother cuts my hair, but the kids do get haircuts, I go to places that have "student specials" and the boys go to a $5 barbershop.
We also take minimalist vacations - we flew to relatives on Southwest airlines for less than $100 per ticket. Yes we had to drive 1 hour to the airport in the sticks but it was so worth it (and avoiding the LGA delays was an extra bonus). We took the kids to Israel once because we got a tax refund bonanza - we apparently grossly miscalculated our withholding one year and got $8000 back so we used it.
We do tithe our income and were doing it our whole life. We found that if we didn't suddenly some expense would creep up - like when our car window was smashed - we had to pay $150 - just the amount we should have paid for charity. I never think of that money as ours - we have a separate checking account for it and the money goes into it immediately.
I don't really know the answers, I feel that it is important to teach our children that money doesn't grow on trees (they are having a hard time with this one, we live in a wealthy neighborhood and don't even ask how many ppl are going to Israel for Sukkot).
I also feel that we as a community have to buck the trend. We have to say no to lavish weddings and bar mitzvahs (we made a shabbos lunch affair - not that cheap, but cheaper because there were a lot less ppl), to rediculously huge houses where each child has his own bedroom and bathroom and playroom (that's another thing - we bought a 2 family house and rented out the other apt for years and years). And who needs a vort?
And college - CUNY is perfectly fine, at least for undergrad. I went to a private university (on scholarship) and got the same job as others who went to Queens and Brooklyn.
And the hardest one - teach our children that they are not entitled. That they need to grow up with a plan to self support. I hope to be able to help them, but as you all know, who knows what life will bring?
Don't know if this helped anyone.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous ok wherever we are said...

ok in 5 towns. please forgive the personal question. Because you are posting annonymously it may be less inaapropriate than if we knew you. A few comments up, someone posted that under 100K is below the frum pverty line. May we ask how much money comes into your household a year? I'm curious how much money it takes to live comfortably with four children in yeshiva in a suburbian Jewish neighborhood.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger MoChassid said...

We will pay over $85,000 this year in tuition without dime-one of scholarship.

We have already put two kids completely through grade and high school, one through college, one in her third year of college and we have only 5 years left of high school. I make a very nice income but, nevertheless, after tuition, taxes and mortgage, it has been, at times, a struggle.

The good news is that at my age I have been able to put a significant amount away over the years in matched 401k plans). There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

I'm single, so thank G-d I don't have to deal with tuitions, mortgages, etc. at this point in time. Still, after I pay for rent, food, and student loans, there's not exactly a whole lot left to put away. I don't know how I'll manage when my expenses inevitably increase.

Still, my parents' situation sounds very similar to many described here. They never got scholarships for my sister or me until I hit college age, but there were only two of us. If there had been three, they very well might have needed tuition assistance. They're both professionals, but we never went on big splashy vacations, and my clothes came from Marshall's and TJ Maxx instead of brand-name stores. And we even lived out of town, where the standard of living isn't nearly as insane and a lot of the costs (housing, tuition, food, etc) are a lot less.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous TW said...

OK in the 5 Towns mentioned
"And the hardest one - teach our children that they are not entitled. That they need to grow up with a plan to self support. I hope to be able to help them, but as you all know, who knows what life will bring?"

Regardless of actual income, Yes, it's important to get the message across re: entitlement. Why is there a sense of expectation of the newest, latest? Money doesn't grow on trees, and yet families feel the need to keep up with the Kosherica Cruise that the Schwartzes took, and the lavish black-tie bar mitzvah celebration, when often times people are going into hock with 2nd mortgages, loans, etc. to cover costs. What's wrong with having yom tov at home?

MoChassid mentioned that he's paying over $85K in tuition-- that's a lot of money, no matter how you slice it. Please realize, not everyone is making $150K or even $100K. Even with higher education, not everyone is employed in fields with high financial remuneration. Does the future of housing and tuition concern me? Yes, absolutely. The ostentatiousness and expectations are beyond reality.

Another thing that I have yet to fully comprehend are the sheer numbers of "young families" moving into the 5 Towns and surrounding areas after 2 or 3 years of marriage. It used to be that couples scraped together funds in order to buy a house...are everyone's parents contributing towards the purchase of a home? And how about the 5 figure taxes?

I'm concerned. Does it mean that I need to change my profession? Maybe. Do I need to go back to school? Maybe. Will education in another field be a guarantee of financial success? There are no guarantees. [Obtaining academic degrees does not always translate to dollars.]

I hope neighborhoods on the outskirts of the 5 towns [and other overpriced communities] that are within walking distance of shuls will have an overflow from those that won't stand for this any longer. There are viable communities out there, if people are willing to make the move. [Also, what about the rejuvenation of other areas that still maintain Orthodox shuls that are no longer in their heyday-- Astoria, Jersey City, Whitestone, etc.]

[btw, the prices of most of the houses in the area are driven by location and not by the actual value of the house itself-- where comparable homes in a Jewish community (with shuls, yeshivot and kosher food) in the midwest and other not so far locations go for hundreds of thousands of dollars less]

Shifra, thank you for bringing up the subject.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I post this with a lot of trepidation. I will be the first to admit that I am very lucky, being in a medical speciality that pays a lot(as opposed to internal medicine, pediatrics, and other really useful specialities). My wife teaches part time, but is mostly home with the kids. When I was in training, I had all the money problems and issues that have been described. Thankfully, those are behind me. My money worries are of a different type. Mainly, how to make sure my kids are not spoiled(there is unfortunately a whole lot of that in the neighborhood), and grow up not being materialistic and being thankful for what they have. On a personal level, I worry that I don't do enough good with what I have been given and that we should donate more, etc. I am totally aware that these are problems that most people would love to have, believe me, I am not minimizing the very real and painful monetary problems that have been listed. I have lived them also. But I wanted to try to keep things in perspective. Despite not having day to day money issues, there are plenty more worries and issues that money doesn't solve, and I would gladly trade my material position for a resolution of some of the other issues.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

Addendum--a couple of things I forgot to mention before:

1) Seminary didn't cost much more than high school, and a heck of a lot less than college, so my parents were b"H fine with sending me.
2) I was awfully glad to be the first one in my class to have a bat mitzvah party, because we just had a nice luncheon at shul (catered by a relative), whereas most of the other kids had huge lavish parties.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in one of the expensive Jewish suburbs and make a very nice living for my age. My wife is in grad school and we have a part time babysitter and 1 kid in nursery. I think that the problem is 2 fold and it has evolved into itself, on the one hand people are living well above their means. On the other hand there is no other way to do it in our community. Tuitions are out of control, however the schools expenses are up as well, good teachers aren't cheap and I know very few decent mechanchim driving aroung in Lexus'. The cost of meat is a sin- and clearly leads to sin as well. I thank g-d have managable debt at this point however I fear that by the time I have 4 kids in Yeshiva it is going to cost me over half my take home pay just to cover the tuition and other hidden fees such as building fund and scrip (a this point in the community in which I live it would cost roughly $52,000 to send 4 kids to elementary school). The long term solution to most of our problems would be a tution fund, It is working in Chicago. If we can find a way to control the tuition costs our entire cost of living would come down.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous tw said...

Will the bubble burst? What kind of solution could be patched together? Support from the BJE? or UJA-Federation?

When will enough be enough? There is no doubt that cost of living in this area is rather high. Are there big donors out there that could be tapped?

Each family has it's own expenses and two neighbors living next door who make the same amount can be splitting the pie very differently.

People are probably deluding themselves-- not everyone is making over $100K. Yet, this is an area with good housing stock, schools and amenities. Yet, not everyone can hack it.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what I don't understand? Most of the posters here come from the modern/yeshivish/baal batish world. Everyone keeps talking about their 3 or 5 kids in school. What about the Charedi world, where many many families have 7+ children? Meanwhile, they are more prone to having children in kollel after marriage, with the expected help from their families.

Obviously, the system as it is currently constituted cannot sustain itself.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Tell me more about this "tution fund." I know that some "out of town" schools reduce their tution by fundraising from outside sources which works quite nicely.
This cannot however work in a place where people are asking for money every place you look. I'll have to post about "the tzadaka industry" another time as well.

I'm really impressed with the willingness of people to share their situations and experiences here on the blog. I look forward to suggestion for solutions as well.

Anonymous 10:49 it is very true that money isn't everything - I think most of us would take a little financial stress over other issues given a choice.
Sadly, however, these challenges are not exclusive. I know many families with both financial and other problems in fact financial stresses are one of the leading causes of marital problems.

At 1:43 PM, Anonymous TW said...

This just in, via email from YU:

"Rabbis Tackle the Rising Costs of Tuition

Select communal rabbis joined with representatives
from the Orthodox Caucus, Orthodox Union,
Rabbinical Council of America, and Yeshiva
University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) early
on this summer to discuss their role in dealing with
rapidly rising costs of tuition at Jewish day schools
around the country.

Organized by Jordana Schoor, executive director of
the Orthodox Caucus and director of Special Projects
at the CJF, over 20 individuals met at
Yeshiva University, with some teleconferenced from
across the United States, to deliberate what roles
pulpit rabbis could be taking to alleviate the “crisis,”
a debated term.

The meeting began with a nodding of heads when
Rabbi Kenneth Brander relayed his experiences as a
communal rav who was confronted by congregants
lamenting that they just cannot afford to have more

“This is a really serious issue and congregational
rabbis really have the potential to help us ensure
that we will be able to provide our children with a
Jewish education,” noted Elliot Gibber, a YU Guardian
and RIETS Board member and Chair of the OU Tuition
Initiative. “I was happy to see the talented rabbis
around the table recognizing and acting on their

The main initiative that was debated by the
participants was how rabbis can encourage their
congregants to focus their tzedaka efforts toward
local day schools. Earlier this year, the Vaad of
Baltimore issued a somewhat effective statement
advocating for a focus on local and educational
charities. While all agreed that more tzedaka dollars
must go to educational institutions, the question of
the efficacy of such a statement and how one can
sensitively and responsibly reallocate tzedaka funds
was discussed. The participants agreed to draw up
suggestions for how communities can balance the
competing tzedaka needs while ensuring that day
school is affordable for every Jewish child.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice
president of the Orthodox Union, focused on the
tensions that arise for couples struggling to make
ends meet. Communal rabbis are faced with
increasing shalom bayit issues due to the high costs
of educating children in day schools, and many rabbis
are seeking guidance to better counsel their
congregants. Allocation of discretionary funds to
financially strapped congregants is another increasing
concern, one for which many rabbis seek guidelines.
Rabbi Yossie Stern of Project Ezrah in Bergen County
presented some of his experiences in this arena and
plans to publish some of his suggestions and
guidelines that will be disseminated to rabbis

Recognizing that this is a national problem that
impacts drastically on Jewish life, Jewish education,
and by default, Jewish continuity, all agreed that
communal rabbis must be trained to lead their
communities to solutions. Through various venues
available to YU, the RCA, and the OU,
we hope to work with rabbis to avail them of
proper support and help them lead their communities
to working solutions."

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous OK in the 5 towns said...

Sorry I was out all morning so I just saw the question now. I was trying to figure out whether to post our income in the original comment and couldn't figure out how to put it.
I think you are not going to like what I have to say in regards to our income.
Although we live pretty simply, in a converted 2 family house, with few vacations, it is about 200,000s between the 2 of us. And there is some but not much left over. Certainly not enough to go to Israel every year, or even on a ski vacation. I do send my kids to sleepaway camp (3800 each times the 3 that are old enough to go - again to more right wing camps, I understand the more MO camps costs 5 - 7K each child). For my daughter's bat mitzvah we made it together with another 2 girls so that we split the cost (which we managed to hold down to about $1200 for the whole party)
And I do consider myself chareidi - at least somewhat. I have 4 kids because I went through (and I guess still go through) infertility. (and that has its own set of costs...) It is a pet peeve of mine when ppl presume your frumkeit from the number of kids you have. I guess Yitzchak Aveinu was not chareidi either....
So I guess to live ok in the 5 towns you need a $200,000 income and be thrify. Obviously I am older than many of you. When we bought our house we had to borrow money from a friend to keep the minimum balance for our checking account. We had a horrible tenant who we put up with because we needed the income. But now it is almost 15 years later, so the situation is different. But I still plan to send my kids to CUNY (or Touro if they insist - but then I expect them to get an acedemic scholarship).


At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So $200k and thrifty habits does it in the 5 towns for a 4 child family. Now we know why the Lakewood population is exploding.

My guess is that "OK in the 5 towns" is the highest income poster so far. The lawyers in the big firms (entry salary = $150k, partners > $1 million) aren't posting, and my bet is they aren't tithing either.

While a tuition bill of $40k is a disaster for those earning less than $150k, it is Pesach vacation chump change for many, at least in 1 of the 5 towns. For investment bankers it is only small portion of their 'chanukah' bonus.

To truly understand the issue, we need better data -
(1) how much do you make
(2) how many kids
(3) how big is your mortgage and property tax bill
(4) Yes/No Are you 'making' it?

The short answer we know: Under $100k? No chance! But with some better information, we can determine the required $.

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous TW said...

An open question- where is someone who isn't making a top salary supposed to live or send their children to school?

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Whoa whoa!
It's not my intention to run an indepth survey of Orthodox economics here on this blog.

Everyone's idea of "making it" is very different. I have some friends who suffer greatly because they cannot afford to travel while others are just thrilled to find they can afford the occasional roast for yom tov.

Much of this conversation is subjective and I don't want this to turn into a judgement session.

I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence here - even without hard numbers that hard working professionals even those with small families and modest lifestyles are bent to the breaking point by tution (specifically) as well as other costly expenses that have become a part of frum life.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Haredi idealogy is responsible for many of these problems. The extreme Haredi reticence to use birth control, the Haredi insistence on the kollel lifestyle, the Haredi frown upon college. The facts are that to make a decent living in America one almost always needs to go to grad school. I think the rabbonim who encourage financially unwise decisions and discourage common-sense prudence need to bear th responsibility for many of these problems. Just think of the numbers of kids that gedolim of previous generations had and the numbers being had today. Look at frum people and see how many kids ppl in their seventies had, people in their fifties had and now people in their 30's are having. Are we supposed to have children if they will need to be supported by tzeddaka? I don't believe that's what Hashem wants. Are we supposed to bring children into a marriage that is already strained b/c the wife feels like a shmatter b/c she does not have enough sheitels and the husband feels inadequate b/c his hard work can't provide them? This is nuts. If you think you can't afford tuition payments then guess what you should be on contraception. It is about living within one's means. And if you are from the 5twns, then every schnorrer who comes to town MUST be asked "what are you doing to change the poverty in your community?" Kollelim should be cut and college education should be the norm. I regularly tell people that I won't pay to perpetuate their problems. It is not tzeddaka, it is a terrible cruelty, just like giving money to a gambler to blow away. There needs to be accountability.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those in kollel and are struggling to support your family and pay for shiduchim you might have to come to that realization that you not just your wife has to get a job, you have to get a job, not just a job, but a good job which might require you to get a secular education. I as a frum person I totally agree that learning in kollel is a very good thing, but having quality of life for you and your many children might require you to make some sacrifices like, less than a dozen children. Those of us who dont learn in kollel, but go to daf then minyan then work then parent then minyan are tired of the excuses by the kollel folk who claim poverty but dont work and want it all. We work very hard to support our children and even support your children. Hashem does not want you to be akneeim. shana tovah

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous ok wherever we are said...

ok in t he 5 towns....thank you for your honest and illuminating answer. i suspected that 200K is the magic # people need to be bringing in in the 5 towns and other suburban jewish communities.

I read an article several months ago that 200K is the new 100K. when I was I college, 100K was ultimate earning goal.

Now that # has doubled.

At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Mouse said...

Here's my secret:

I would have liked to have had more children but unlike many charedim I can't live on faith.

It's never been my objective to be rich but I can't bring myself to expect God or other people to fully support me and my family.
I have a small family and barely squeeze by every month - with more expenses I can't even imagine it.

I know this was my choice - but it was a also bigger sacrifice than I even thought I would have to make.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Amanda Rush said...

This has been a very interesting discussion on Jewish debt. Here's my perspective. I'm below the poverty level, as in making $18000 a year, before taxes. I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to afford mezuzot for the five doors in my apartment that need them. I get kosher meat when I can, otherwise I don't keep meat around. I usually don't give tzedakah because I'm spending what I make on making ends meet. How do single people in the frum community manage a frum lifestyle?

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any statistics or guesses as to the percentages of frum families (for the sake of this discussion, those that send kids to Yeshiva) fall into the
a) <$50,000 family income
b) $50,000-$100,000
c) $100,000-$150,000
d) $150,000-$200,000
e) >$200,000


At 6:47 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I say: make a communal decision to shut down all the local day schools, let everyone recover financially for a year or two, and then make mass aliyah as a community.

Dramatic and imperfect, but also dramatically inspiring.

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I currently have 2 kids 1 in kindergarden and 1 in nursery. I lke to think I make a good living for now, upwards of $150,000, I am under 30 and own a home. I also am currently [uting around 10K a year into a 401K. My wife currently doesn't work b/c she is in school. I fear that in 5 years from now when we Im'h have more kids, $250,000 will not be enough to support a confortable life style with kids in Yeshiva and sending them to camp. The ever rising costs of living in a frum community must come to a head. Those who can MUST. Instead of charging absurd tuitions to those who cannot afford it, start making tution as a percentage of earnings. The person who owns $1 million should not be paying the same amount as someone with say 4 kids that "only" makes $125,000 combined. We, as a community, whether the 5 towns, Teaneck, or Brooklyn MUST act now or we and our chidren will be in huge trouble in the very near future.

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Living for the 1st of the Month said...

Years ago, as a naive newcomer to the 5 towns, someone told me you need to make $250K to have 4 kids in yeshiva and camp in the 5 towns. That number was mind-blowing to me.
Well, here I am 10 years later (thankfully I bought my house before the boom) making nearly that much (husband works crazy hours, I work P/T) and somehow there is still no money left at the end of the month.

We are frugal is several respects- the kids clothes come from Target and Children's Place, etc. and we could definitely cut our spending in other areas (cable, take-out), but I just don't understand how someone can make so much money and always be "just getting by" or slightly late.

The sick thing is, all our expenses are going up- prop taxes, tuition, food, gas, camp. There's just no relief in sight.

At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are a family of 7 with 5 kids in yeshivas. Our income is around 100k with both of us working. (As BTs, we both have graduate degrees.) We bought our (smallest in the neighborhood) house at a great time after saving for years. We barely squeeze by and only afford camps and simchas because of help from family. Our meals are basic, the kids dress in gorgeous hand-me-downs and clothes from Walmart/Target type places, the van is used, I mow the lawn. My question: How does everyone else afford the designer clothing, SUVs, vacations, restaurants, house renovations, new furniture???

At 9:46 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

My question: How does everyone else afford the designer clothing, SUVs, vacations, restaurants, house renovations, new furniture???

Every home has a different definition of "afford." While I'm sure many pay for these extras in cash, others believe if the debt is available to finance these things they can "afford" them too.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Whoa...MoChassid pays $85000 a year in tuition, and I was all prepared to be totally shocked by this figure, until I realized I am not that far behind him!

Whatever you were trying to get out of this post Shifra, it seems clear that the one factor that is "taxing" Orthodox finances the most is TUITION and we need to figure out another way to pay for our kids' education or we are going to be in BIG TROUBLE starting with the next generation.

This high-cost education is very often NOT encouraging our children to go out and find lucrative careers to further support themselves and their children and the Kine-hora growing Orthodox infrastructure.

It is encouraging them to go to Israel and study or join Kollels and try to find rich in-laws. This cannot sustain itself.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon from jerusalem

fascinating discussion. being in israel the circumstances are very different. we take home (that is after taxes - most israelis talk that way) in a year about 200-210k - but alas that is shekels. many years ago we talked with our friends that were left behind in the ny suburbs and came to the conclusion that housing costs were the big damper on family size in israel and tuition functioned the same way in the states.
i would think that there is money to be made by an entreprenurial (sic) out there. if there are many families that can't make ends meet with 100-120 k $ a year in most ortho communities in the states, then it should be possible to build (or re-create) communities and turn a profit. each half a generation needs 4 communities like this in order to let the more modest income people to live like menshen. i guess that is similar to what the person from houston said.
and of course the aliya option is still there. not every one needs to live in southern jerusalem there are many affordable communities here.
this does not belittle the fact that there are financial problems here too. just that some of the problems you are speaking of can be dealt with here.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Wow. I'm tearing up reading these... and knowing the many people (including family members and friends) who are in the same (and worse) situations. I'm going to come back and answer myself later, with the tricky part being that I'm *not* anonymous (like PsychoToddler and MOChassid) and have to figure out what I can and can't write.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Another option that people should consider is GETTING OUT OF THE NY AREA.

There are many smaller communities around the country where housing is MUCH more affordable, and tuition is often similarly reduced.

Here in Milwaukee, we have school choice, which is a program that pays money to the yeshiva for students of families below a certain income. Arguably this program was not set up with Jewish kids in mind, and the Governor is working to close whatever loopholes allow Jews to benefit from my tax dollars, but right now it is a big help.

Of course, it is an entitlement, and as such it is a double-edged sword, because it basically disincentivises people from becoming financially successful.

(Basically-"why should I earn more money, I'll lose my school choice and pay it all out in tuition")

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous CountryGirl said...

Besides the much lower cost of living "out of town" - (really, not even Baltimore!) you can relax and you don't need to impress anyone. You do your own thing. It's great! These places do exist. I'm from out of town and we temporarily in NY. Its nutty how you can spend so much just to look and live like everyone else.

Another point - I work in a Yeshiva Day School office. I rarely get paid on time. I can attest that the business office pinches pennies - they are really frugal. The school has fundraisers throughout the year. Most of the Rebbeim have other jobs. It is a constant challenge to attract qualified General Studies teachers with their budget. They are not extremely generous with their scholarships. However, the biggest problem is that people who have agreed to pay full and can, do not. (Many have other priorities. And the Mercedes they are driving is their brother's...)

Thank God, my kid gets reduced tuition because I'm an employee, because even though we live very simply, paying full tuition would probably put us in debt.

Our belief is that God takes care of our needs, as long as they are real honest needs. We really feel the hand of God taking care of us.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous o-jew said...

We're doing okay but that's because I make in the mid $100k and my parents paid for our house and pay my kids tuition. When the time comes for me to pay for my kids I think we'll have no problem doing it but we won't have enough saved for a serious college. It's either scholarship or state school.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Shifra, amazing comments thread here. My youngest sister is homeschooled, and she is better educated - both in secular and limudei kodesh subjects - than the rest of us were. Not an option for everyone, but one alternative to consider...after reading through what everyone has written, I both feel better and very distressed at the same time...so much pressure to make so much money...I definitely need to get out of NY..

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you make in the mid 100Ks and don't pay for your house and tuition, what do you do with your money such that you can't save for college?

At 3:17 PM, Anonymous kollelmama said...

We live pretty decently on 25K a year. How do you like that?! We do only have one child though, and he doesnt go to school, although goes to a babysitter sometimes. But we cut costs. Live frugally in Israel without a car and all that. It's not easy at ALL, and we are being fully supported, which WILL end one day, but for now it's working.

At 3:44 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

Wow... This post really struck a cord... (Money always does). 86 comments!!! What's the AskShifra record for most posts ever?

At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kollelmama ...

25k post tax ...

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous makingendsmeet said...

live in the five towns.
combined income of between 325k to 350k
tuition is over 50k
mortgage and line of credit payments (bought house before boom)
send kids to camps (local and sleepaway).
life insurance coverage.
go on vacation once a year.
house needs to be painted, and we need furniture.
put away 10k in 401k
we are just paying our bills.
hardly ever go to resteraunts except wok tov.
count in rising gas and electric costs.
i havent bought a suit in years.

believe it or not, we are just making it.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"combined income of between 325k to 350k...believe it or not, we are just making it."

You're right, I don't believe it.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"combined income of between 325k to 350k...believe it or not, we are just making it."

Assuming 40% goes to taxes, that is still over $15,000 a month take home. $5000 to tuition. Where does the other 10,000 go?

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Chicago a very good guy named George Hanus is working on a solution to the tuition problem. Its called the 5% solution, and the idea is to have as many Jews(religious and non-religious) as possible dedicate at least 5% of their money in their will to Jewish education. So far they have gotten off to a slow start(maybe more people need to die??), but there are signs in front of all the shuls, schools, and other community buildings advertising it and if/when it picks up steam, it will be a significant source of revenue for all the area schools. There are creative answers out there, we just have to find them and take advantage of them.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous makingendsmeet said...

you can assume higher than 40% because of AMT and SS.
5k a month for tuition
mortgage and loc is 2200 a month.
gas and electric
various insurances (home, car, life, umbrella, medical) is at least 1k a month.
car leases is 350
so we have 9k a month for expenses without food or vacation/pesach or camp.

the other 6k a month:
we put away 1k for 401k
pesach/camp is 1k. (more if we go way to a cheap place)
vacation is 1k (if we go once alone, and once as family)

down to 3k a month
gas for car
house maintenance (lawn, sprinkler, and house issues)
wok tov - 2 or 3 times a month (20$ a pop).
thats another 1k a month.

so we are down to 2k.
some of the income is bonus and benefits that are not guarenteed. also taxes are more than 40% due to AMT, that knocks off 1k a month.

lirr/mta is 250 a month.

we are down to 750$ a month.
shul expenses and assorted tzedakkah
wedding and bar mitzvah gifts
birthday parties and gifts for shabbos invites.
reciprocating shabbos invites
chanuka and pesach gifts
medical co pays
get the kids toys once in a while.
and we have a little left over.

and we dont live in a fancy home, nor drive fancy car.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous makingendsmeet said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Josh said...

A few thoughts:

1) It seems that, despite everyone's different financial circumstances, most of the people on this thread seem to be "just getting by". Perhaps the deer's skin always does manage to encompass its flesh.

2) I was hoping that someone would mention the 5% solution, and now that someone did, I would advise anyone who missed it to scroll back up in the thread and read that anonymous post, as it seems to be one of the only well-thought out solutions to the problem - although perhaps that's merely due to its deus ex machina character.

3) Assuming that frum people have equivalent incomes to their non-Jewish/non-frum neighbors and similar expenditures, differing primarily by the addition of yeshiva tuition, why is anyone surprised that people with many children in yeshiva are experiencing financial difficulties? I know this thread is primarily devoted to listing different ways of making change for a dollar and empathizing, but the current economic situation should surprise no one.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kollel mama: "we are being fully supported" with 25K (after taxes) and no tuition costs.

are you naive enough to not realize how much that amounts to for those who dont have the luxury of being supported but instead have to toil 8 to 10 (or more) hours a day at a job that does not provide spiritual fulfillment?

putting aside the implications for your own family by not saving while youre young and (at least hypothetically) not having any degree which translates into a qualification for a skilled labor position, i sincerely hope you realize you are living, at the moment in what amounts to a dream world for most people. they dont have people who have $25k a year to give someone else and/or they recognize the necessity of savings and a marketable skill (typically requires a degree or two) so that they and their children will not be impovershed down the road.

sorry for the long post and i hope it does not come across as mean-spirited. such is not my intention. however, i do think your post conveys a terrible lack of understanding of the issues at hand.

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as several people have pointed out...
the primary, if not lone, problem is the cost of education.

the solution is a political/legal one. the goal is vouchers. however, since that is a bit much to hope for anytime soon there are many many things that can be achieved which head in that direction.

for example, there are very few frum communities i know of where all three of transportation, techonology, and textbooks are provided for by the city/state. with concerted efforts in local communities, all of those should be covered by the city/state.

in addition, i often wonder how well managed orthodox schools are from a financial standpoint (for all i know they are managed as effeciently as a fortune 100 co. but I suspect otherwise based on anecdotal evidence I have to the contrary).

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Hey - sorry I've not been able to access the blog all day - I feel like such a poor hostess!

The one - this is CERTAINLY the Ask Shifra comment record.

As for this comment:
"We're doing okay but that's because I make in the mid $100k and my parents paid for our house and pay my kids tuition. When the time comes for me to pay for my kids I think we'll have no problem doing it but we won't have enough saved for a serious college. It's either scholarship or state school."

About 80% of our income goes to the mortgage and tutition - where are you spending your money? I'm sorry I just can't imagine spending $150K a year on food and misc.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one commented on the torture of going through the "tuition committee" financial aid process! It's the most hurtful, embarrassing, anti-torahdik experience you could go through. No matter what you say,they don't believe you and assume you are just a schnorrer.Then they give you some obscene offer, like $1000 off your $40,000 bill!

I'm just glad that I only had three kids, and that in only a few more years I will be done. It's Queens college for all of them. We don't believe in debt, either for Yeshiva or undergraduate school.

By the way my husband and I are both well educated professionals, but we've gone through lay offs and other hardships. If I were a young couple just starting out, I would have no choice but to send the kids to public school. I would pick my community based on that, and just hope that NCSY and Kiruv camps can do the job. Public school kids get a lot of inexpensive opportunities for religious experiences that are funded by wealthy donors, and so are very reasonable.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amanda Rush:

I too am single. I am all alone. My income is even less than yours is. I cannot afford the things that make a Jewish home. I cannot afford much of anything.

Though of course in our communities marriage usually comes with children, it is also true that a couple together lives less expensively than two singles apart do, never mind the latter also, at least in my case, being incredibly alone.

While of course I feel for the families here, as a person without stable housing and without anyone in my life who cares about me, I can't help but be jealous of these families.

Still Wonderin':

No, I don't think God wants me to get married and have children.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh wow. Do you guys realize that if you try to print OUT the comments to read them, it's 61 pages???? What a popular blog. I'm not a usual reader--- I was pointed here by Orthonomics (SephardiLady) and by Esther (Debt and Life) - 2 personal friends of mine.

But they would both agree I belong on this post. Mind if I vent a bit?

My husband and I are married, 32, both working, and pregnant with twins. Here's our current situation.

I'm posting anonymously, but those of you who do know who I am, you already pretty much know all this. :)

We had some savings and paid for our own wedding back in 98 right after grad school. Student loans completely covered grad school. My parents disowned me, basically for becoming Orthodox. But now I'm being stalked by them-- I digress. My husband's parents make less money than we do, but more emotionally supportive they couldn't possibly be.

So there went our savings, but we were pretty young and stupid and not thinking ahead. Then, my parents sold some stock that was in a UGMA account in my name. I was about 24 at the time, and since they didn't give me the money, but had simply sold the stocks and had the 1099B sent to me (I paid thousands of taxes on money I never saw), it was a class C felony which started a snowball of debt for us. The way I saw it then was--- well, I'm in debt now because of the illegal tax situation, so what's an elliptical machine added to the credit card? What's a few dinners out? And then I got really sick and was basically forced by health to take my part time work at home business and turn it into a career. At the time I was that seriously ill, I couldn't imagine going back into my chosen field (which by the way was education which pays SOOO well anyway, as we all know.)

Well the very beginnings of a business are never easy, so there came some more debt. Now, thank God, my business is thriving, and my husband and I both make a DECENT amount of money (hubby makes $45,000 which frankly, for a full time teacher, is decent).

But, here's our monthly budget:

2485.99 Total for credit card and student loan debt if we ONLY pay the minimums on the credit cards. Our current debt is $114,000.

1000 to my in laws to pay down a $60,000 loan that paid off some of the credit cards-- they took a 3rd mortgage to help us

600 Groceries and food
1200 Rent and water - own? HA!
100 Cell phones
100 Home phone
50 Life insurance
60 Cable
150 Electric
200 Gas bill
58 JCC membership
100 Car and renters insurance

All in all, we spend over $6000 a month. Which is fine for "makingendsmeet" from a few posts back (sorry I don't have more sympathy for you, but I wouldn't mind your monthly income!)

But in our case, after taxes, we take home between $4000 and $6000 a month. Soon, we'll be adding diapers, wipes, and formula to the grocery bill.

I'm optimistic though because of the following:

1) In 5 years when I have kids ready for school, the debt will be a LOT more paid down. I'm doing really well on my student loan and we're almost done with a few of the credit cards. The monthly chunk that had gone towards that debt will simply go towards tuition. It's a really good thing that we waited 8 years to have children. 4 of those years we were trying NOT to wait any longer, but again I digress.

2) I have a masters degree in education. I may decide to partially homeschool, or partially depend on charter programs, or do something funky and creative. Depends on my kids' personalities, and the way the wind blows through the next 5 years or so. At this point I certainlly don't see paying for preschool, even though my mother in law is a preschool director. :)

3) I'm in a career now where my income goes up and up and up exponentially depending on WHAT I do and how quickly I can do it. I control my own income. In 5 years, I COULD be at a 6 figure point. Depends on what it's like raising young children--- I haven't yet done it while working my business! So we'll see.


I DEFINITELY don't think it's up to the school to give us a break just because we're in debt. That's our situation. We'll certainly ASK for scholarships, but I won't be surprised if we get turned down. The school is a business and needs to make money. I get that. We've got a couple of different options for schooling, and I don't feel absolutely TIED to any one school.

WHEW. That's enough. But boy do I feel better. Thanks for a great post and a great discussion!

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Anonymous, I'm sorry to hear that you're having such a dificult time. Forget about what I think god wants...do you want to get married and have kids?

Also, you sound very depressed. Are you depressed because you live below the poverty line or are you living below the poverty line because you're depressed?

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

To the last anon... I partially agree with you. I am also single and hope that people appreciate the fact that they have a spouse and family. On the other hand... all this talk does make me a little apprehensive and does nothing to ease any of the anxiety that the thought of debt brings out and me. IMYH we should all be blessed with parnosa for this coming year and Hashem should give us everything we need. As the song goes... "You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need"

Uppin the comment record one comment at a time...

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

Ok... my last comment was responding to two anons ago but another anon posted in the middle.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and ps! This is the 32 year old anon preg with twins again.

No savings, no IRA, no emergency fund. Our emergency fund is any credit card that has room on it! *lol*.

I would love to be a Dave Ramsey reading budgeting freak, but the little extras we have (cable, cell phones, eating out once in a while), keep us happy.

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, here I am, the only person willing to admit my household income is more than $500K a year (sometimes exceeding $1 million) for the past 10 years or so. I buy my groceries at Pathmark just like you do, buy my clothing at kmart (not a joke), buy my kids clothing on sale, on line, and my furniture at IKEA. I give between 10%-20% of my pretax income to tzedakah, a minimum of $50K a year. And yet I live in fear of the future. I must save because who knows how long the income will last. One child (that I know of) in my son's class is an orphan... what will happen to me if my husband can no longer provide? Why am I obligated to send your kids to school instead of saving for my own rainy day? One of you might live in the same town that I do, but you can't guess who I am.... and I'm not planning on buying anything expensive to let on who I am, either.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 9:04

household income meaning the two of you combined or mostly/all husband?

i ask only do to the hostile nature of your post. namely the part where you say "Why am I obligated to send your kids to school instead of saving for my own rainy day?"

If it is your husband bringing in the $$ then it wouldn't be you who should feel obligated to 'send' a/o else to school.

regardless, i dont think almost any of the posts blamed wealthy people or suggested they ought to pay for others.

nevertheless, your post wreaks of entitelment (this comes from someone who is well on his way to earning a high six figure salary).

it is hardly redeeming, but i at least hope you're bringing in a hefty paycheck on your own. i'm rather skeptical of it though, b/c someone who toils for their money, no matter how much they earn, would be sensitive to what the people here are writing.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I think someone previously suggested a tuition system based on a percentage of income, much like the tax system. Such a system would allow everyone to save for a rainy day, and would not particularly punish higher-income earning people, as their tuition would vary based on earnings. (Wow! Half-a-mil to a Mil. . . I'm hoping we will hit the six figure mark someday! Of course, I could work outside of the house and we would hit it. But, with day care expenses, we would never see a penny of my earnings, so it currently doesn't make sense to get out there and hit that mark).

I personally think such a system combined with a minimum tuition would have been a fantasitic idea if it was instituted long ago. As pyschotoddler points out. . who wants to work their rear off for a high income, when you ultimately don't seem to get ahead?

But, unfortunately, today the Jewish education system is crippled by its own lack of future thinking and lives in the past and we all suffer for it.

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

anon 9:27, are you smoking crack? None of what you are describing was present in that post. You got issues dude.
Kol Hakvod to anon 9:04, it's interesting to hear from the other side of the tax bracket.

At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does it mean to get by?

Some people cannot afford basic housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

Some people can afford only basic housing, food, clothing, and medical care, but cannot afford transportation across town, let alone yeshiva tuition.

Some people can afford a small house in a decent location, kosher meat for Shabbat and Yom Tov, new clothing for Rosh Hashanah, out-of-pocket dental work, one modest car, tuition, some tsedakah, and occasional toys for the children.

Some people can afford a larger house in a nicer neighborhood, kosher meat for themselves and guests whenever they want, new clothing several times a year, really great health and life insurance coverage, two great cars, tuition and camp, tsedakah of all kinds, toys, gifts, cell phones, cable television, eating out, and professional haircuts.

Some people can afford all of the above plus Pesach away, family vacations, nice parties and simcha celebrations, and retirement funds.

At some point, it no longer remains "some people can afford" but rather becomes "some people become used to spending their money on quite a lot of expenses they think of as necessities for whatever reasons and have no money left over for savings at the end of the month and are living paycheck to paycheck only because they are overextended and are only 'just getting by' because of their definition of what 'just getting by' means."

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still Wonderin':

Thank you for your sympathy.

I want to be married. I want to have a child. It didn't happen. It isn't going to happen.

My situation is quite unpleasant, and I imagine most people wouldn't be in good cheer in such a situation.

The One Who Will Soon Become Known:

Thank you for echoing some of my my sentiments about couples and families.

Yes, indeed, each situation comes with its own set of concerns. Just because these people have situations that, to me, are enviable does not mean that you should not recognize the added responsibilities along with the benefits that come along with such situations.

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the woman pregnant with twins:

I also have similarly awful problems with my parents. You have my great sympathies.

It sounds like you really have a handle on your finances now. I'm impressed.

I would guess that you all explored some time ago all sorts of solutions for your credit card debt, and do not need any advice.

Just in case you do not know this, however, I'll mention that a certain credit card will lower the interest rate to almost nothing when the account is a certain number of months delinquent and agrees to fixed payments to pay off the debt in a set number of years. Going briefly delinquent isn't fun for your credit record, but saving money on huge finance charges is great.

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous West Coast.... said...

Just found this blog today.

I am a graduate student studying to work in the Jewish community (its an actual degree) and in social services. I live out-of-town (LA) and come from a "modern" family. Have always gone to day schools, camps, Israel, private colleges etc. Basically, my family has been in debt since my younger brother started elementary school (he's now in 11th grade). It was never an option for me not to work and go to college and graduate school because how else would I support myself? My family has always been very supportive and welcoming-open meals on shabbos etc but I know it gets expensive. My dad also has the mentality that if you have money, even a little, you should spend it because you can't take it with you when you die. Not sure if I agree. Thoughts?

I wanted to respond to a few of the comments (there are just too many to respond to them all!). I have been involved in the Jewish community for a long time and know that there are many stigmas in the Jewish community (particularly the frum community). I think that this blog, and this question, is great--but when I look at the responses I don't see anything being changed. Not being wealthy is looked at as a negative thing-people don't want to talk about it. Look how many anonymous postings there are on this blog. But I think thats just the problem. We, as a community, aren't talking about it! We see each other in shul and in the market and don't think that anything is really a challenge for anyone. Someone's child is special needs, its stigmatized. Someone needed tuition assistance, its never discussed. What message are we sending to the next generation by not talking about things? Are we saying that its ok to hide behind a fake reality? I am not saying we need to broadcast our debt in front of shul from the bimah, but if Rebbaim and principals did discuss these things on a communal level, then who knows what would change in our community.

Regarding the "out-of-town" communites, I have always loved small town (or smaller towns) and spending Shabbos there etc. Yet people, I think, still don't want to get out of the idea that living in big communities (NY, LA, Baltimore etc) is the "best", places where everyone wants to live. What are we, and myself included because I live in a big city, to those smaller communities. I always say I would live in a small community, but in reality, I love living in LA, with twenty kosher places down my block, and thats just on my side of town. Am I perpetuating the stereotype I detest?

Thats it for now...

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

$500K Anonymous,

Thank you for being willing to post.

I think it is smart that you are frugal with your income with an eye on the uncertainty of the future. I have seen people who eventually earn incomes I imagine are in the neighborhood as yours trade-up in housing, cars, and such not cautiously, but beyond any kind of reasonable point, then lose jobs and get screwed in ways they would not have had they upgraded only modestly.

I give between 10%-20% of my pretax income to tzedakah, a minimum of $50K a year.

This is wonderful.

Why am I obligated to send your kids to school instead of saving for my own rainy day?

The tone of this does indeed stand out as different from the rest of your comment, especially following us learning how generous you are with the bit about giving away at least $50K a year.

Are you being obligated? Do you mean as part of the cost of full tuition? Would tuition assistance funds otherwise be one of the charities to which you'd give?

At 11:39 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

A question for Anon with the $500K to $1Million income who generously gives to tzedakah of $50K and lives modestly (kol hakavod, BTW). . .

What percentage of that $50K goes to Jewish education?

It seems to me that the nuts and bolts of elementary and high school education (i.e. staff, utilities, insurance, etc) fall low on the priority list as a destination for tzedakah.

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad also has the mentality that if you have money, even a little, you should spend it because you can't take it with you when you die. Not sure if I agree. Thoughts?

One shouldn't be a miser, but spending frugally and saving for the future and for unforeseen circumstances is smart.

Is there money your father is spending because "he can't take it with him" that he could instead use to pay down/have less debt and thereby have more money to spend in the long run?

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is the 32 year old preg with twins again. :)

to the anon who responded to me: we've decided never to go delinquent. Seems irresponsible to us, vis a vis our credit report and our future (we'd love to buy a home (no money down of course!!!) in the next 7 years. We took the loan of $60,000 from my in laws to pay off the cards with the highest interest. Now our cards are all 15% or below, even though we still have probably $60,000 on credit cards (the rest of the $114,000 is on student loans at 8% or lower).

To the 500K anon, I thought your post was very honest. I commend you. You give more to tzedakah than I take home after taxes. :) In terms of paying for other's tuition, I DO feel that at your level you should be paying FULL TUITION. You can afford it. Full tuition is for people with your money. BUT--- you should not constantly be schnorred to pay for specific other families who can't pay. It's up to YOU whether to give that 50K to Jewish ed or to whatever charity you choose. I'm not sure what you meant though.

Anon 9:27-- many families, including mine, are set up so that the husband's income and wife's income goes into a join account and it doesn't matter whose dollar is whose. If the husband makes 500K, WHY should the wife feel obligated to bring in a hefty income of her own? Even with no kids-- if my husband took home 500K, I wouldn't work for money. I'd volunteer, learn, etc. Not everyone would choose the same, but I don't think anyone who has a husband who brings in that kind of income should feel OBLIGATED to bring in her own. Unless, God forbid, the marriage is on the rocks in which case she'll eventually need to support herself.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous CountryGirl said...

While the focus is on the financial future of the Jewish community, we must remember that the most important activity the Jewish community can engage in to insure its future is JEWISH EDUCATION.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I've been thinking a lot about these comments and just want to throw something in for a little perspective.

First of all, I realize that almost all these comments were written in the spirit of "Shifra asked us to be honest, and so we are sharing information in the hope that everyone can benefit from seeing honest answers." The idea was not to whine, and I don't think most people have been. Actually I'm impressed by how many people here have a good attitude about living with the choices they make.

But I think it's important to point out that the problems generally expressed here about how hard it is to make ends meet what with the tuition, camps, and mortgage are really very "high level" problems to have.

It's easy to feel deprived when one is shopping at Target, never goes on vacation, and never buys red meat . . . that is, when one is surrounded by others who wear designer clothes, talk about their vacations, and can buy any food they want.

But it's important to remember that having to choose between tuition at a private school or a vacation is a really excellent problem. The majority of people in the world do not have the opportunity for either of those things.

It is only in a wealthy society like the United States that people feel "entitled" to things like vacations, weekly dates with their spouse, and having to choose between retirement savings or private school, and feel somewhat deprived if they give up any of those things and still come out even.

There is no mitzva to have any of those things -- not even, when push comes to shove, to have a Jewish day school education, though I agree with everyone here that it best to make Jewish education a top priority.

Most people in the world, even those for whom public school is an easy option, cannot afford to send their children to summer camp, and I'm not even including those in poorer countries who cannot afford any kind of school from which to HAVE a summer vacation.

People all over the world survive just fine without designer clothes (when they can afford clothes at all). Giving them up is not deprivation, but simply a choice not to waste money on something frivolous. And it is perfectly possible to live a healthy life without eating red meat. Weekly dates with one's husband are incredibly helpful when one can do it, but again, not having it is not the same as being deprived. For most of the world, that's just life.

It's hard not to have as much as one's neighbors. But not nearly as hard as having to choose between food and medication, between food and rent, between subway fare so your child can get to school or buying him a notebook so he can take notes. There are people with THOSE problems within just a few miles of those of you in New York. Kal v'chomer in poor countries.

The problems expressed here are, for the most part, understandably frustrating problems, but they are still the problems of the privileged few, the problems of those lucky enough to live in the most wealthy society ever known in human history.

Again, I'm not accusing anyone of whining. We each live within the expectations of our own cultures. But still . . . like I said, having to choose between vacations or private schooling, Jewish camps or college savings, means that one is in an incredibly lucky situation. It's worthwhile to take a few minutes to truly appreciate the blessings Hashems bestows on us every day, to the extent that we take them completely for granted.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...


As a gentile, I'm FLABBERGASTED by some of the costs people have described here. In Smalltown, WI, tuition for a private (Christian) elementary school is just under $2000/year. The teachers are paid, enough that a single mom of two is a teacher there. Christian sleepover summer camp is around $300 for a week (dunno how long Jewish camps are). Camp employees are mostly college students, paid, but not as much as they'd earn at a regular job. Lots of kids have to help raise the money if they want to go to camp.

Somebody mentioned spending $150 for kids' entertainment between summer camp and school. I can't imagine spending $150 on entertainment for kids or adults for the whole summer. My Sweetie has books, a roomful of toys, craft supplies, a bike, a sandbox, and an imagination. I budget $5/person/week for all things unnecessary, and I use a pretty strict definition of necessary. We entertain each other.

Somebody else mentioned shopping at TJ Maxx to save money. I've been there, and it's usually only a savings compared to buying labels at full price. Target or WalMart is cheaper, and Goodwill/thrift sales are even more so. Guess where most of my clothes come from?

God wants you to get married and have kids. You can be confident he'll foot at least most of the bill.

Most? Maybe it's only in the New Testament, not in the Tanach, but I'm quite confident God will meet all my needs. If He doesn't provide it somehow, I must not need it.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

combined income of between 325k to 350k...we need furniture

Do you have a couch? bed? kitchen table? I'm pretty sure you don't know what it means to need furniture. More than half of the furniture in this 4-room apartment (housing 3 people) is from other people's garbage.

When I feel poor, I think of the average people in Africa and Asia. Then I feel rich.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to anon 500k:
I understand your concern about the future. Please speak to an adviser about annuities and life insurance policies.

To 325-350 (justgettingby or makingendsmeet?):
how do you expect to pay for your kids weddings I'YH and early marriage support. Some of you mentioned that your parents helped pay for your first house, will you be able to do the same for your kids? What will they do?

Comment: It has been mentioned that kids have a sense of entitlement. It gets worse: how many kids work? How many teenagaers have after-school jobs and summer jobs and paper routes etc? Kids don't learn to be self-sufficient and they don't learn what it means to sweat minimum wage that doesn't provide for all of one's desires until it's too late.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:04 here -- of course we pay full tuition for our children, all of the required 'donations' (dinner journal etc) plus make a private unpublished donation to the school when a board member calls. We also contribute cash to a chesed fund earmarked for the orphan's family. The only yeshivas we contribute to, however, are our childrens' or husband's alma maters. Husband and I have agreed that our number one priority is food for the impoverished. We contribute cash and scrip to a variety of tomchei shabbos type organizations which we have personally vetted as 100% going to food (no overhead). But no kiruv schools, no big donations to Lakewood, no mikvahs, no bulletproof buses, etc. When asked to contribute to these types of groups we will give a nominal amount.

To the person who said I wasn't entitled to spend my husband's money, you are making alot of assumptions. I earned all of the family's capital during the internet boom and got out at exactly the right time. So, yes, I was lucky but I earned the money honestly so I can determine how to spend and/or donate it. without even one shred of guilt.

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Changed my Life Style said...

Have 6 kids, lived in NJ, had annual gross of 200K, gave 10% after-tax to tzdeka, lived in a gigundus house with 15K property tax, 7K utilities, 3k landscaping, Let's not forget the 40K in TUITION.

Found that whatever was left disappeared into a black hole. Annual grocery bill was 25K. Spent easily 10K per year on clothing.

We got caught in the cycle of doing what every one else was doing because you figure that's the way that it's supposed to be done.

Like everyone else, we were working like beasts-of-burden to support this life style. At the end of each day, there wasn't an ounce of energy left to do anything. Felt like the life force was being sucked from my body.

Then, one day I saw that I was headed for an involuntary career change (restructuring, downsizing, whatever you want to call it).

I asked myself: How will I ever manage to feed the beast that we created?

Decided that it was time for a drastic life-style change.

Decided to sell the farm, pack up the bags and move everyone to Israel.

Bought the NJ house for 350K. Sold it for 700K.

Found a handyman special in a nice Anglo neighborhood here for 200K. Put 100K renovations into it. Put the balance of 200K in the bank, and now we have NO mortgage.

Arnona (property tax) is about $1500 per year. Utilities run $3000 per year because we like our air conditioning and heating. Own just one large family vehicle.

School costs including extra tutoring are under $10K.

We have the best health care system on the planet here and the supplemental upgrade policy costs $600 per year.

We have a small garden and now I cut the grass myself.

Now we spend just a few hundreds of dollars per year on clothing.

My grocery bill is down to the $15K/yr range, and yes, we do eat meat and we do a lot of entertaining on Shabbos.

We tossed the TV and that's $50/month in savings right there.

Cell phones are cheap here too, we have 8 phones (one for every member of the family) on an Orange family plan and my monthly bill is under $100. Can't do that in the US of A (as far as I know).

It's amazing how in 3 short years, we've been de-programmed of that certain kind of Orthodox-Jewish-American mentality that we once had.

Gone are the times when the kids all got new clothes and shoes for Pesach and Rosh Hashana.

Gone is the notion that we will have to spend $30K per year per kid to give our kids "proper" college educations.

You know what? Our kids are getting great educations here, and they will find good work and professions, and they will be able to build families, and they will never feel that they lack anything.

Why? Because it's all in the mind. What you think you need versus what you really need.

We are working hard since we moved here 3 years ago. That hasn't changed.

What has changed is that from the time I say Modeh Ani in the AM until I say Shema at bedtime, I feel like I am actually LIVING MY LIFE.

I am no longer a slave to a job, a house, the shopping mall and school tuitions.

I am free, free at last!

And I think that the scenery is a lot nicer here too. And, not to rub it in too much, but I can daven at the Kotel whenever I like.

Thanks for listening and come and visit us soon!

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Changed -
That was an awesome comment and an amazing thing that you did.

It answers Sara's comment (and kiwi's too) about how everything is relative and we all really can do with so much less.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

In Smalltown, WI, tuition for a private (Christian) elementary school is just under $2000/year.

I live in a major metropolitian area and there is a private Chrisitian elementary close to here with tuition of $6000. I wish we could study small schools like this to learn from them. I know they don't have the same staffing requirements of frum schools, but they must be doing something right.

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now our cards are all 15% or below, even though we still have probably $60,000 on credit cards

These are still high rates. Think of how much money you would save in finance charges if you were able to get a much lower rate. Think of how much more quickly your loans would be paid. You can calculate it!

For cards that you are no longer using to charge anything and are only trying to pay off the balance, the credit assistance departments at the various cards should be able to get you lower rates.

In such agreements, the card holder agrees to pay a certain amount each month for a certain number of months or years to pay off the debt. This is basically what you are doing now, paying the minimums. In return, you get a lower rate. Anything over 10% is too high, even for a regular credit card. You should be able to get under 6% for such an agreement. For such high debt, this can really help you put lots more of the $2500 you say you pay each month towards the actual debt and not the interest.

Yes, sometimes you have to go delinquent for a couple of months to get these offers. It's really stupid, but you have been getting punished with a higher rate for being responsible and paying your minimums on time. It feels risky, but is it better to get rid of your debt in seven years with a perfect record or in five years with a tiny five-year-old blemish and less money spent in finance charges? Maybe it is too risky. It stinks that it is set up that way.

Still, I urge to at least talk with the credit assitance departments and explain that you have been responsible in paying down the debt over the past several years, they should see your perfect record for recent years, but you have children coming and would like to pay the debt down faster with less of the payment going to finance charges and would like to know what programs are available to you.

You aren't schnorring anything by doing this, only negotiating a lower rate. The credit card companies can make your rates higher any time they like, and you have the right to try to negotiate. You still have to pay the original balance, but how many times over do you need to pay it through finance charges?

You've worked so hard to repair your situation and you have children coming; I just want the best for you.

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know they don't have the same staffing requirements of frum schools

They don't? What's different?

No matter whether the subject is secular, Judaic, or Chrisitian, well-qualified instructors are needed.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"God wants you to get married and have kids. You can be confident he'll foot at least most of the bill.

Most? Maybe it's only in the New Testament, not in the Tanach, but I'm quite confident God will meet all my needs. If He doesn't provide it somehow, I must not need it."

To our frined in Wisconsin. Thank you for your illuminating comment. I'm sure we must seem insane to you. I wouldn't completely disagree.

As for the comment above...I still stand by my statement. As the great philosopher Mick Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want... you get what you need."

I believe god picks up the tab for buying the stuff you need. For the stuff you want...you're MOSTLY on your own.

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 5:07 pm - thanks for the advice. I'm printing it out and will take it to heart. Honestly, I feel halacha would rather I pay my minimums on time than EVER go delinquent to get the better rates. But you know what, it won't hurt to ask a Rav.

--32 year old preg with twins

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe god picks up the tab for buying the stuff you need.

Then what are we to make of people who do not have funs for, say, food, medicine, or heat in the winter and die because of this?

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, that's "funds," not "funs."

At 8:21 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon 32 with twins: definitely consumer legal counsel and a Rav before doing anything. These issues are so complicated from a variety of standpoints.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

In Smalltown, WI, tuition for a private (Christian) elementary school is just under $2000/year.

My guess is that the school is heavily subsidized by the Church. It costs more than 3 times that much to educate a kid in the public school system, and that's with economy of scale.

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the 32-year-old pregnant with twins:

You are very welcome. I'd be eager to learn what the Rav you consult says.

I struggled a while back with whether or not to declare bankruptcy. I didn't pursue it, because of sentiments it seems you would share, and then learned more later on and began to have regrets.

Note that my experience with going delinquent was only for one card company. I was instructed by the representative to do that to get the better rate. It was a kind of backwards situation. The company doesn't advertise this, doesn't intend for account holders to go delinquent on purpose to become eligible.

Every company is different. I am not suggesting you jump in and go delinquent on a bunch of cards.

My main point is that, as you work so hard to repair the situation, you are still paying high finance charges and should be able to negotiate lower rates. I originally mentioned the going delinquent and getting the really low rate because I figured you had probably already negotiated low rates and wanted to let you know of the existence of even lower rates.

So, I encourage you to at least talk with the various credit assistance departments, as I noted earlier, explain your situation, and see what the representatives have to offer, and negotiate for lower rates in the first place.

If and when you have some extra funds to go towards paying down debt, you can also look into settlement agreements.

Were your parents made to make restitution to you as part of being charged with the felony?

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

"My guess is that the school is heavily subsidized by the Church. It costs more than 3 times that much to educate a kid in the public school system, and that's with economy of scale."

From what I understand the schools are subsidized by the local diocese (sp?)

While the Jewish Federation does help some schools our Jewish community as a whole is so fractured that there is no one major source of support.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Shifra-Only Catholic schools are subsidized by the diocese. Chrisitian schools, aka Protestant schools are various denominations, cannot be nearly as organized as the Catholics since they do not have an entire hierarchy.

So, just how are they keeping their rates so low? Even if they are being subsidized, they have a much smaller base than the Catholic Church.

Personally, I would love to know and learn more. As it is said, knowledge is power.

And, I think that this topic is a testament to the powerlessness that many of us feel.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Then what are we to make of people who do not have funs for, say, food, medicine, or heat in the winter and die because of this?"

Beats me. Ask our friend from Wisconsin.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SW stated, "I believe god picks up the tab for buying the stuff you need."

Anon then asked, "Then what are we to make of people who do not have [funds] for, say, food, medicine, or heat in the winter and die because of this?"

SW responded, "Beats me. Ask our friend from Wisconsin."

Um, huh?

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiwi the Geek and Still Wonderin' seem to be in agreement about God providing what is needed. (The disagreement seems to concern want as opposed to need.)

Kiwi the Geek wrote:

" . . . I'm quite confident God will meet all my needs. If He doesn't provide it somehow, I must not need it."

So it seems the question of what to make of people who die as a result of not getting what they need can be directed to them both.

Still Wonderin', however, blew off the question.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

Still Wonderin', I appreciate the clarification about God mostly providing. That makes perfect sense.

PT, just for comparison, I looked up a list of private school tuition in Kenosha, where I grew up. (Between Milwaukee & Chicago) None of the parochial elementary schools were more than $2500/year, and many were WAY less (the Catholic, heavily subsidized ones) There are two secular private elementary schools, obviously not church-supported, and one has tuition of $3000-5000. That particular school has a very high-class reputation. FTR, there are a WIDE variety of Protestant Christian schools -- it's not a big system like the Catholic schools -- and Protestant/Catholic are as different from each other as either are from any other kind of schools.

The school at my church is supported by using part of the church building and church staff to teach Bible classes. The church funds don't pay for any school costs other than the building & utilities; church members may contribute to a scholarship fund but that's a separate category from other church budget items. The school makes extensive use of parent volunteers for everything from the library to playground supervision.

So, just how are they keeping their rates so low?

I think parent volunteers and other non-monetary church participation are a big reason. Then the frugal money management. The school board members are unpaid. The teachers use resources creatively and avoid waste. (I'm currently collecting toilet paper rolls for kindergarten projects.) The church and school share a building, land, parking lot, taxes, utilities, phone system, custodians, and all other overhead costs. If anybody's interested, I could put you in touch with the principal and school board to learn more about how they save money.

Regarding public school spending, they have a tendency to waste money. My stepdaughter goes to a public school (court order), and we're pretty disgusted with them spending so much of our tax money on administrator salaries, then asking us to pay more fees and participate in fundraisers. Parent volunteers are currently raising money for playground equipment, when they already have much more variety than I had as a kid, and more than a public playground.

Considering that kids learn better in small classes, I don't think economies of scale work for education. I actually read once that for high schools, ~400 students allows for the best quality. That would explain why big cities tend to have worse public education systems.

Then what are we to make of people who do not have funds for, say, food, medicine, or heat in the winter and die because of this?

In the US, community food pantries abound. It's against the law to turn off heat for nonpayment in the winter. Drug companies have charity programs for people who can't afford their prescriptions. (I've used all three of these.)

If people's true needs aren't met, here or in other countries, I wonder if they've directly asked God for help?

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous GilaB said...

I think that the comment about different staffing needs of non-Jewish schools referred to the fact that Jewish schools tend to have many more hours of class time, and many more subjects, meaning that they need to pay more teachers. I had about 12 subjects a year by the time I was in middle school, and an eight hour day. I doubt that most non-Jewish private schools would have as much of either.

At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the US, community food pantries abound.

Many close for the summer. Many close completely for lack of food.

It's against the law to turn off heat for nonpayment in the winter.

This means nothing for those who need delivery of heating oil.

Drug companies have charity programs for people who can't afford their prescriptions.

The application process for this can take time that might not be available, and non-frivolous requests are often denied.

These are all good services, yes, but are not solutions and are not universally available.

And I believe the question was not asking what should people lacking in funds do, but rather regarded people who were not able to get what they needed and died and what to make of that.

If people's true needs aren't met, here or in other countries, I wonder if they've directly asked God for help?

I would think so, much more often than not.

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Still Wonderin', however, blew off the question."

I blew off the question because it's a moronic question. Why? Because belief in Goddemands of the believer to support two beliefs simultaneously, even if they are somewhat counterintuitive:

1) God provides all my needs and will deliver anything that I want as long as I ask.

2) God is God, I am man. God does what God wants for reasons that God knows and I never will. So I don't try to understand, nor claim to understand. I can ask all i want want. That doesn't mean there is any guarantee that it's coming to me.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

Many close for the summer. Many close completely for lack of food.

I've never heard of either happening. Maybe the situation in NY is very different from WI. I've lived in towns with multiple food pantries.

This means nothing for those who need delivery of heating oil.

I know nothing about that situation, so I can't comment. In WI there are also energy assistance programs so nobody will freeze, but I don't know if they cover that.

The application process for this can take time that might not be available, and non-frivolous requests are often denied.

The drug company programs don't cover immediate needs, but long-term medications. I've never heard of a legitimate need being denied. For immediate needs, I'd go to a free clinic.

Keep in mind, the meds people can't afford didn't even exist twenty years ago. We're blessed to have them at all, and even "poor" people in the US live longer than our great-grandparents or people in poor countries. What we know as poverty really isn't, compared to Africa and Asia.

Also, much of our need for meds would disappear with healthy lifestyle changes. (like with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure)

These are all good services, yes, but are not solutions

Not solutions? They've solved many of my problems.

and are not universally available.

Few things are universally available. Serious problems, serious needs, often require a patchwork quilt of solutions.

And I believe the question was not asking what should people lacking in funds do, but rather regarded people who were not able to get what they needed and died and what to make of that.

I'm questioning whether the hypothetical situation is actually true.

Also, if somebody died, without something that could have saved them, maybe God allowed them to die because it was time. Maybe He didn't provide that something because it wasn't necessary to fulfill His plan.

I would think so, much more often than not.

Possibly, but lots of people don't even believe there's a god to ask. Others pray to Allah, Buddha, or whatnot. I wouldn't consider them to be asking God anything. I myself sometimes realize after a ridiculous period of time that I haven't actually TALKED TO GOD about a situation, and I kick myself for neglecting the obvious.

God is God, I am man. God does what God wants for reasons that God knows and I never will.

Amen. I had pneumonia at 3 weeks old and spent 6 days in an incubator. 100 years earlier I would likely have died. Would that have meant God didn't provide for my needs? What if I'd been born in rural Siberia? Would that mean He didn't care? He is the sovereign Lord.

At 1:46 AM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

Y'know, all this about "what if God doesn't provide" reminds me of Job.

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" Job 38:4

At 9:33 AM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

I have renamed my children. I have decided to call my oldest "Porsche", as in: "that's the one whom I put through yeshivah instead of buying a prosche".
The next is named "yearly vacations", as in "that's the one I put through school instead of taking yearly vacations". They are followed by "Condo in Miami", "Flat over looking the Kotel", "swiss chalet", "Rolex", and "Yacht". We are thinking of naming the next child "Early retirement". :-)

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Sarah said...


Your comment is funny, but underscores my comment from earlier. If,to educate your children, you gave up a Porsche, vacations, a flat by the kotel, etc, then you are one INCREDIBLY wealthy man. Most people in the world can't even dream of such wealth, whether they are paying for private school or not. It's just hard to feel sorry for someone because, too bad, he had to give up things that most people live very nicely without.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Sarah said...

"Your comment is funny.....It's just hard to feel sorry for someone because, too bad, he had to give up things that most people live very nicely without."

What about my comment led you to believe that I feel one iota of regret for how my earnings are spent? I for one consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, that I get to spend my earnings bringing glory to Hashem's name instead of spending it on selfish, meaningless, objects that won't follow me after 120. I niether complain, nor feel sorry for myself. I wouldn't expect anyone to feel sorry for me either- jealous of me, maybe, (you see, I have a Porsche, Vacation homes, etc.) but sorry? no way.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I'd say FlatbushRenagade's comment is quite out of touch and even insensitive.

But, in the spirit of "humor" I'll dedicate some names for children of families I know:

1. "Thrift Shop"-the extend of frugality that some families have been forced into. One family I know even bought their daughter's Bat Mitzvah dress at the thrift store because they have a $70,000 tuition bill. Why bother working when this is your reward for busting your rear? Of course, the kids are teased incessantly, which adds insult to injury.

2. "Humiliation"-the experience of begging for a discount in tuition in from of the tuition committee, or begging for money from family.

3. "Devastation"-the experience of being offered $100 off your tuition bill that already had four zeros on it.

4. "Grandparents"-this family was driving a car so out of shape that the parents stepped in to buy something safer. "Grandparents" and "Humiliation" are twins, connected at the hip. Now the school expects the grandparents to pay for tuition, since they picked up the tab for a safer vehicle.

5. "Arguments"-These families are so on edge about how to juggle paying their bills and keeping a step ahead of the creditors that shalom bayit is a concept of the past.

6. "Depletion"-Either a family is deep in debt via the all powerful credit card, a HELOC, and loans from families. Or, a family is quickly watching their hard labored for savings shrink quickly.

Flatbush-I think it is comendable that you are giving up early retirement and a whole slew of luxuries.

If that was the situation in the frum world, I doubt most of us would be here discussing the situation. But, we have families with 6 figure incomes who are experiencing deep humiliation, falling into debt despite being frugal, and who don't have money set aside to retire when they just cannot work anymore.

I'd say a little sensitivity is called for.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"SephardiLady said... I'd say FlatbushRenagade's comment is quite out of touch and even insensitive.."

Huh? What is out of touch and insensitive? I simply stated-in a thread discussing the high expenses orthodox jews face-that the money I spend on tuition as a member of the orthodox community (and believe me, living in Brooklyn, I get off cheap) is a proud substitute for what others would waste these funds on. At no point did I, nor would I belittle the hardships many go through (myself included-at one point) to pay tuition. If you don't appreciate the satire fine, but throwing about these unwarranted insinuations is uncalled for.

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Retirement is a luxury, just like a Porsche.

I am still interested in solutions to the high cost of Jewish education, should anyone have a suggestion, please post.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Kiwi the Geek said...

"Thrift Shop"-the extend of frugality that some families have been forced into. One family I know even bought their daughter's Bat Mitzvah dress at the thrift store because they have a $70,000 tuition bill. Why bother working when this is your reward for busting your rear? Of course, the kids are teased incessantly, which adds insult to injury.

The new/used mentality must be very different in NY than in the Midwest. Some kids get teased around here for used clothes, but it depends how good they and their parents are at making them look nice. Remember, after you've had new clothes for awhile, they're just as used as the ones at thrift stores. And often you can find the expensive labels secondhand too. MOST of my clothes are used, and as an adult, I'm proud of my ability to dress both nicely and cheaply. Buying a nice used dress gives me more satisfaction than a new one.

On other threads, people have bemoaned how bar/bat mitzvahs are such a huge deal, apparently almost like a wedding, and in that context a used bat mitzvah dress would be very embarrassing. But my sister-in-law's wedding dress was used, and mine wasn't even a special dress, just a pretty flowered one I already had. This is unusual, but the circles we run in don't think less of us for it.

I got teased a whole lot as a kid, for my clothes and hair and style just not being acceptable, so I empathize with being embarrassed by thrift store clothes. But so much of this is based on contrived social expectations, while God cares about what's inside. Shouldn't we aspire to be more like Him?

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is 32 year old anon preg with twins again....

to the anon who asked me if my parents paid me back once they were charged with the felony, I'll simply say this.

I decided not to press charges. I didn't know a lot about the 5th commandment at the time (I'm BT) and thought perhaps in the future I'd have a relationship with them. I was wrong.

But they just recently did something else extremely illegal (apparently they've used my social security number to access my private medical records), so I'm working with a lawyer now and a Rav to decide how to proceed. I need to protect the twins' future and I'd be terrified of those people ever being in the same room with my children.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Flatbush Ren and Sephardi Lady - there seems to be some miscommunication going on and frankly neither approach really appeals to me.

Thinking about your kids in terms of what they've caused you to miss out on - or what hardships they've caused you to suffer is not necessarily the best way to go.

When I went to sleep-away camp as a kid I met two girls on the first day - one named Joy and the other Hope.
I thought to myself - those parents must really love their kids!

My parents named me Shifra, which mean beautiful, so I guess I lucked out too!

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

PS OF COURSE I don't think you really name your kid Porshe or Devastation... I'm just saying...

At 2:48 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Shifra-I agree with your assessment. I was just throwing the "humor" or lack thereof back in the other direction. Those suffering from debt caused by tuition WANT to give to their children. But, they just don't want to meet financial devestation, which too many are meeting.

I doubt many are passing up luxury cars, lavish vacations, or vacation homes to pay for Yeshiva.

But, the financial situation is causing many people to pass up on TIME with their children and SHALOM in their home. And, too many people, have suffered humiliation and have lost dignity because they just can't keep up.

Kiwi-Most 12 year old girls appreciate a new piece of clothing, especially for thier birthday. While there is nothing wrong with wearing used clothing. I know I enjoy occassionally picking out something new and wearing it. And, we even have a blessing dedicated to new clothing. So, there must really be something to it.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

I thought my posts were pretty clear, however if two people have the same misconception, I feel I should repeat myself:

After reading all the grumblings about how expensive orthodox life was, I was trying to underline what a superior substitute Yeshivah tuition is to the senseless goals those who have never merited paying tuition toil for. Just as one might proudly show off the Porsche he spent $50,000.00, I'd (proudly) be showing off my "Porsche". I derive more satisfaction in having spent my earnings on my childrens' yeshivah tuition than one who didn't merit to send thier children to Yeshivos, and instead wasted their earnings on useless luxuries. I don't think of my children "in terms of what I have missed out on", on the contrary, just as one would not complain about how expensive his Porsche was....I have no complaints about the price of my "Porsche". If you reread the origional post without bitter colored glasses, it should be clear.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Ralphie said...

slightly off topic, but can all of your AMT-ers please explain how you are affected by this tax? It happened to me once when I exercised some stock options... how else does this come into play?

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes!!! This post is freaking me out. We live in the city. My child is not yet of school age, but I've begun to think of where in the tri-state area are the schools and cost of living most reasonable (ha ha). I'm looking for a centrist neighborhood with decent, unsnobby, affordable schools. Does anyone have any ideas? (hopefully 1 hour or less to Manhattan)

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Yikes - email me - I have an idea for you.

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes again. What email can I reach you at? It'll have to wait until I get home. I can't access personal email at the office. Thanks!!

At 4:54 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Ralphie-The AMT basically takes away many of the exemptions and deductions you thought you had coming. It is triggered by certain types of transactions creating income. Unfortunately, it is complicated enough that even those in the businesses view the AMT mysteriously.

FlatbushRenegade-Thanks for restating yourself. Plenty of people (frum and otherwise) put aside their own material desires for the better good of their children. Unfortunately, I believe there will be tons of people that will just be priced out of a full day school Jewish education at the rate things are going at currently. I know a good handful of families that have turned to homeschooling. I have to wonder if they are only getting out of the market early, or if others will be following suite soon.

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the pregnant-with-twins 32-year-old:

With respect to the Social Security number and medical records, again, I have experienced similar violations. We unfortunately have much parental tsuris in common, it seems.

How to honor one's parents when the parents are abusive is a difficult issue, I know.

I didn't realize it would have been necessary for you to have pressed charges. Was it a felony against you, or against the IRS?

What has the Rav said about the situation? There are so many issues! Your parents have caused you and your future children hardship while gaining financially from their misdeeds. Is it honoring one's parents to go along with such actions, or is one obligated to press charges when one's parents do something illegal and damaging, as a form of rebuke and of creating safety for oneself?

What has the attorney said? Is it too late to demand restitution? This happens to other people too, so what does the IRS do in situations like these?

Or maybe you are concentrating only on the newer situation. It is heartbreaking and stressful when one needs to shield oneself against personal information violations and stalking by and get restraining orders on one's parents.

It is great that you are already taking action to protect your future children.

Incidentally, in your original comment you mentioned the cost of formula. If you are not able to breastfeed, then I am glad formulas are available to help. But if you are physically able to breastfeed, it is of course healthier than and doesn't cost money like formula. There are many resources available if you need lactation help.

I have another credit card tidbit for you. If a card company notifies you that your finance charge rate is being increased, you need not accept this. The company cannot negotiate a higher rate for you without your consent. The company is basically discontinuing its old contract with you and offering you a new one. You consent by not objecting. So if you receive such notification, you can inform the company in writing that you do not accept. Your account is then closed, and you continue to pay off the existing debt at the unchanged rate.

Yes, an experienced financial planner could provide you with a lot of help. I had assumed there was much you already knew that it seems, perhaps, you do not. Besides understanding more about how things work, you can get assistance in planning. For instance, as backwards as it might seem when you are trying to pay down debt, it might be smart to put even $100 into savings every month, to have a little cash on hand in case of emergency instead of relying on having credit available. As you pay down you debt, you might want to cancel cards so that your available credit is lower, so that when you eventually apply for a mortgage you have not only low debt but also a low amount of potential debt. You might need more expertise in looking at and repairing your credit reports. And of course you could get better help with dealing with the current debt. It is great that you have gotten to a place where you have a handle on the situation, have a good plan that is working, are less stressed, and are paying down debt rather than accumulating more; you can now improve the situation further.

Consumer credit counseling may or may not be helpful. Usually one can negotiate better rates on one's own than through CCCS, but if one doesn't know how to do this at all, then going through CCCS is helpful. CCCS is good for people who have little self-discipline for keeping up with bills, which doesn't seem to be your case, and for people who don't know enough about how the credit industry works, which might be your case.

And, issues of going delinquent aside, I bet the Rav you consult will say you are halakhically obligated to negotiate with the companies for better rates. After all, the better rates you have, the less of an obstacle paying off your original credit card debt will be, the sooner you'll be able to pay back your in-laws (honoring your husband's parents), the better you'll be able to provide for yourself and your children, and the less tsedakah you and your family will need.

B'sha'ah tovah, you'll soon have two healthy children to whom you'll be able to be a righteous parent.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Wow look at all the legal and financial advice being distributed here for free - I feel like I'm at the back of the shul during the haftorah!
(Kidding kidding)

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMT -- the way it effects us is thus: the first $xx,xxx of our dedutctions are disallowed. So, say your total itemized deductions are $30,000 (not too hard to imagine if you make $150K -- $10K in charity, $20K in mortgage interest.) If you are hit by the AMT, the first $10K might be disallowed, so none of your charitable contributions are allowed, only mortgage.

Regarding centrist orthoneighborhoods less than 1 hour from Manhattan, I'd look at Elizabeth, Passaic, Staten Island.

At 12:27 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

" "Thrift Shop"-the extend of frugality that some families have been forced into. One family I know even bought their daughter's Bat Mitzvah dress at the thrift store because they have a $70,000 tuition bill. Why bother working when this is your reward for busting your rear? Of course, the kids are teased incessantly, which adds insult to injury."

A $70,000 tuition bill is a problem, and a community where girls are teased for wearing used clothes is a problem. Having to buy from a thrift shop is not a problem. We were lucky to get some hand-me-downs before my daughter's bat mitzvah (in the shul, for 60 people, no band and I cooked). She was happy to pick out a dress from that pile. If she was teased, she didn't say; many of her friends certainly have less. And many made functions in wedding halls. I have started to check them out myself.

At 12:54 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

"I have started to check them out myself."

Thrift shops, I mean. Not wedding halls.

At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understood you perfectly well the first time. But maybe that's because I'm from Ave J ;)

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"SephardiLady said... I believe there will be tons of people that will just be priced out of a full day school Jewish education at the rate things are going at currently."

There was a time where jewish education was not so expensive. It was society that demanded a more luxurious form of education (i.e. the edifices many yeshivos are or have erected, a quality secular studies dept., etc.). These cost money. The chadarim of Europe, where children were segregated from the gentiles didn't have these ammenities. Take a look at Chasidic Yeshivos today. They don't charge the same tuitions other yeshivos and day schools charge, and that is because since there is no option, people never had the opportunity to demand the luxuries other segments of our society have demanded, thus making it cheaper to run their institutions. The day may come that all these expenses we demand catch up, and many will have to give up on some or all of the luxuries. For many this may mean either forgoing a formal secular education, or going to public school for it.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

what do you do when a Yeshiva refuses to refund money paid for services not rendered? I had registered my son for a NY suburban Yeshiva, and elected to have tuition paid through an ACH debit from my checking account. One week before school we decided to enroll him in another Yeshiva and notified the school. The first tuition payment to Yeshiva #1 was taken and we asked for it to be refunded. It is now five weeks later, and the school's administrator does not return telephone calls and we have no idea if we will get a refund.

In the inerim I have already paid Yeshiva #2 and really need the money back.

I know if I owed them money they would hound me to death. I have been very nice about the whole process but my patience is wearing thin.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon 9:45PM-Does your contract with the Yeshiva allow you a refund? (It may not). If it does, I'd be calling a Beit Din now.

Anon 9:42PM-I personally wouldn't say the day schools and yeshivot of today are providing a luxury product. I think it would be interesting to learn more about the Chassidish system, but I know that timely payment often doesn't happen and quite honestly, I'd say a formal secular education if a necessity. . . although I'd be perfectly happy to find a new venue for it.(!)

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Find someone on the board who cares that the organization they support is blatantly stealing.

Ask another parent who pays tuition to the school, preferably someone very wealthy that the administrator is afraid of, to make out their next tuition check to the school, but give it to you to hold.

Then go to the administrator and inform him that the next tuition payment from so-and-so rich guy is either already in their bank account (i.e. your unrefunded payment) or in your pocket, to be be turned over to the school only when a refund check from the yeshiva is cashed in your bank account.

Good luck.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Izzy said...

Hi, I Firstly I think this is a great topic. I will let my wife read it as soon as I get home. My wife is always telling me "I do not understand how so and so is doing it" or Where do they have all that money from? My wife and I work full time for the past 6 years. B'H we just bought a house for whats called a "mad bargain" here in Brooklyn. We just make it every month We have one daughter not even in school yet. If anyone wants some good advice here it is. DO NOT SPEND WHAT YOU DONT HAVE!! period! for the past 5 years I have not let my credit card go without paying off the full balance. It is very hard and that is why I just make it every month. But you know something after 6 years I do not have even one penny debt bl'ah. I see so many people driving around in their new fancy cars and SUVs that cost 75 bucks to fill up! You cant tell me that everyone is rich or makes more money than I do. Im sure some do but I am sure that many of these people who drive these big fancy cars can not really afford it. Its a very old saying "keeping up with the Jones's" anyway good luck and the best thing you can do is RIP UP ALL THOSE CARDS"" Good Luck

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Good advice izzy. I was 100% debt free (tax deductible mortgage doesn't count), until sometime after my third child was born. It was a pretty good run!

But around that point the bills just got out of hand. Enter the HELOC

If you truly aim to remain debt free, and you don't have deep pockets in your corner, then stick to your guns and prepare to eat tuna fish on shabbos every now and then.

That was my threat to my wife every time she suggested paying the credit card minimum rather than the whole balance. That worked for only so long. Hatzlocha!

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Izzy said...

LOL Still Wonderin'
I hear what you esaying, I gues I shouldn't talk until I get into someone else's shoes. i hope My family and I will be blessed with all our needs comfortably. But I still say that here in Brooklyn, There is too much showing off whether its a fancy house, fancy car, eating out in all the over priced restaurants in the neighborhood who must keep the prices high because the landlords wives must have the fancy cars and erything so it just keeps on spiralling upward. When will people see the light I do not know but I hope people realize the truth that we dont need all these materialistic things in this world (especially if we cant afford it)
all the best

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Flatbush_guy said...

Wow, I just finished reading all the comments. Most of them are incredible.

For the record, we live in Bklyn, have 4 kids in local Yeshiva, and pay full tuition.

I think many of the issues that have been raised here are all interconnected, and form a rather vicious circle (or cycle).

If your anything older than 30, stop and think back to what life was like in the frum community in Brooklyn when you were younger. Honestly, it doesn't resemble what we have today in any way, shape, or form. 'Frumkeit' has taken, not a step, but a giant leap to the right. What was good enough for our parents, is Asur for us today.

As an example, the Yeshivos in Bklyn (let's start with the boys schools)are giving out the message that the boys should finish high school, then go to post-H.S. yeshiva for at least 2 years, then get married and sit in Kollel, and hopefully marry a rich girl, who will go to work, and whose father will be able to provide.

Of course the flaw with that system is that if every boy followed this system, then the next ggeneration of boys won't have any rich father's-in-law, since they'll all be in Kollel.

Another interconnected issue with the Yeshivos is their elitist nature. Each yeshiva only wants the 'best' boys. So any boys that doesn't come up to their lofty standards, must find themselves a Yeshiva that isn't one of the regular Bklyn ones. Hence they are 'branded', suffer internall and have their self-image ruined. Personally, I think this is one of the major causes of today's 'at risk' children.

I think the 5% tax mentioned by one of the previous bloggers will never take root, simply becuase sadly, we as Jews, have no Achdus any more. I'm not Lubavitch, but I believe that our dis-unity is one of the things keeping Moshiach away.

To Kiwi, the simple truth is that comparing prices of anything in WI to NY, where the cost-of-living is much greater, isn't practical. Life here just isn't the same. That isn't to say that we here can not learn to live a less expensive life-style.

Ok, I have more to say, but I think I've said enough for one day.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Flatbush guy- You broadened the topic here but I liked what you had to say - perhaps after the chagim we can address some of the other issues you mentioned here on the blog such as the pressure both girls and boys face when finding a HS, the impossibility of another "kollel generation" and the evident shift of Orthodoxy to the right.

I'm facinated by all those topics and look forward to exploring them further.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is 32 with twins again. :) TO the anon who keeps responding to me..... I really can't get into all the details here about what the Rav and attorneys involved have to say. It's a long story, suffice it to say. Are you my long lost brother or sister? Do we share parents? :) What's your story? I didn't think anyone else in the frum world ever had their parents abuse their SS#, wow.

I'll just respond to the breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding. OBVIOUSLY breastfeeding is free and I'd do it if I could because of that. BUT. I've been extremely ill in the past and now I'm on lots of meds-- it's a risk to be pregnant, let alone breastfeed. So the compromise was--- get pregnant, but don't breastfeed. That's in conjunction with 2 Rabbinical opinions and at least 3 medical opinions.

To GET pregnant, we did in vitro fertilization--- I kind of felt like HaShem didn't even WANT us to get pregnant. But in vitro worked, on the first try--- so this is HaShem telling us to be parents.

Maybe we'll open a credit card for formula, a credit card for diapers, a credit card for wipes, a credit card for baby furniture, and a credit card for baby clothing, eh? *lol*. JUST KIDDING!

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:42 here,
SephardiLady said... "I know a good handful of families that have turned to homeschooling. I have to wonder if they are only getting out of the market early, or if others will be following suite soon."

SephardiLady said... "I'd say a formal secular education if a necessity. . ."

Which one is it? "Yay! home schooling", or ""must have formal secular ed."

As fr the product Yeshivot and day schools are providing, my point was that although halacha dictates that we are required to give our children a Torah education, nowhere does it say that this has to be given in a state of the art building with two gyms, and a heated pool. Nor does it have to be in conjuction with the secular education. The time may have come where we have to revert to having our children get their jewish education in the old style Cheder, and those who feel they need a formal education will have to get it from the free public school system, or home school.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Flatbush_guy said..." Another interconnected issue with the Yeshivos is their elitist nature. Each yeshiva only wants the 'best' boys."
I agree, that this is a big problem, however, as a fellow Flatbush resident I can assure you that there are plenty of Yeshivah high schools in our area which don't limit their students to the elite. As a matter of fact when I was looking for a Yeshivah High School for my son, (who is a very good student, but far from an Illuy) I requested an interview at what is considered an excellent Yeshivah, even by the extreme right wing. You would not believe the enthusiasm with which they embraced my son, even before the entrance exam. They made us feel like it would be their privelege to have our son join their student body. So much so that my son entered the enterance exam with such confidence that he aced it. I asked the adminstration as to what it was that had them so excited about accepting my son, knowing that he was no illuy. Their response was, "our job is not to seek out illuyim, it is to teach children who want to learn. On the contrary, our success stems from the fact that we seek out only boys who want to learn, and let the other yeshivos fight over the illuyim." Needless to say my son has thrived in that atmosphere, and I couldn't be more appreciative of the administrations attitude.

"If your anything older than 30, stop and think back to what life was like in the frum community in Brooklyn when you were younger. Honestly, it doesn't resemble what we have today in any way, shape, or form. 'Frumkeit' has taken, not a step, but a giant leap to the right. What was good enough for our parents, is Asur for us today."

True, growing up in Flatbush, we were able to go to the Pizza stores, and even watch some TV, but when you look at the streets of Flatbush today, you also see aomething that didn't exist when we were growing up. The way people are dressed, and I'm not only talking about the girls, grown married women are an embarassment to our community, so I understand the move to the right. The left has gotten too liberal. It's in the mode of dress, it's in the Kiddush clubs where every shabbos there are grown men with impressionable children getting drunk and staggering home and passing out, it is in the laxed attitude towards what a frum jew is supposed to represent to society. So, what we are witnessing is one of the primary laws of physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, I'm not sure which came first, though, the loosening of morals, or the tightening of restrictions

At 4:05 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Which one is it? "Yay! home schooling", or ""must have formal secular ed."

You can give a formal secular education through the vehicle of homeschooling. I don't care if I have to teach our kids the "the R's," but they will learn them. And, unfortunately, my experiences inside some of our schools tells me the secular education that many schools are providing isn't worth much. So, I'd be more than happy to look for an alternative on the general ed side.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Chana said...

Just chiming in briefly. Small frum community in flyover country, 3 bedroom cape cod, 3 mortgages, 2000 minivan bought used, 1991 Buick inherited from DH's grandma, O day school tuition for DD, more debt than I want to admit to, the sinking feeling that we will never, ever get ahead.

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the 32-year-old pregnant-with-twins anonymous with whom I've been commenting:

Of course you do not have to answer my questions. I did not intend to demand answers from you, cause you stress, or anything like that at all. I am of course curious, but many were more questions for you to consider if you hadn't already. Though, the philosophical and halakhic questions of what to do in reaction to such behavior from one's parents of course are questions to which I would like to know the answers as well.

Indeed, your experiences sound similar to mine, as I've been mentioning -- experiences having to do with, yes, abuse of my Social Security number, as you phrase it, tax and other financial issues, obtainment of private documents and many other privacy violations, disregard for my safety, totally inappropriate behavior, and so much more.

Parents are the ones who typically obtain Social Security numbers for their children, so as adult children, there is no keeping such information from them. Also, parents are often able to obtain private information and documents simply by identifying themselves as our parents.

I think it is a problem when societies assume certain types or groups of people would not behave badly. There is an absence of intervention when because of such impressions it fails to even occur to those who could help that maltreatment may be happening.

I can't even begin to describe how I've been both abandoned and stalked by my parents. They have been abusive. They have acted illegally. They have really screwed me up. And they go on living their lives, while I am here, completely alone, in great pain, unable to pick up the pieces, facing every day the reality of a ruined life.

I'm so happy for you that you were able to become pregnant. It sounds like health problems are yet another unfortunate commonality we have. I really hope all goes well with the pregnancy and you live a long life in good health with your family. I am glad there exists a substitute source of food for babies not able to be breastfed.

B'sha'ah tovah, b'sha'ah tovah.

Oh, and I'd suggest you shred any copies of Love You Forever or The Runaway Bunny you might receive as gifts. You don't need to read your children disturbing books about abusive, controlling, stalking mothers, after all.

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

32 with twins again--- anon with whom I've been commenting, we should REALLY exchange email addies. This blog is going to scroll, and I think we can really help each other. create a gmail account or something with a fake name and I'll do the same and we'll post our emails here after Shabbos. If you're comfortable. You won't know who I am and I won't know who you are. But of course, in the back of my head, there's a sneaking suspicion that you're a member of my family trying to get more information out of me. Yep, I'm completely paranoid.

Have you thought about changing your SS#? It's SUCH a royal pain in the #@$#@#$@#$ but I may just have to bite the bullet and do it.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

Shifra, wow! I believe you've hit a nerve. You are blessed with heart-felt (or wallet-felt) comments. Just a couple of brief additions: Is it worth it? Well, the Avi Chai Foundation, which has as its main cause Jewish day schools, believes that day schools are the single best way to keep children active in the tribe after they're grown. Would we be better off without school expenses? Well, maybe, but an expert on bankruptcy and professor did a study that concluded that most Americans were just an unfortunate circumstance away from bankruptcy. She listed divorce, job loss for one spouse, and medical expenses as the leading causes. (If anyone wants her name, I'll locate her book.) See also the book, Nickeled and Dimed, where the author takes on such jobs as Walmart clerk, and waitress, and can't live on the income. Are the schools rich? Well, I've been tresurer for a shul, and consultant to a non-jewish publicly-funded charter school, and I would bet (is that OK just before YK?) that most of them are struggling just to get by. I leave you with the blessing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, "I want to bless you and me, from the depth of my heart, that we should give each other strength." May his memory be for blessing and may your fast be easy.

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous TW said...

People are suggesting Avi Chai as a solution. According to information presented at a conference in June, it seems as though Avi Chai plans to liquidate itself by 2020.

At 3:06 AM, Anonymous Changed my Life Style said...

Eliyahu -

When I lived in the US, I was on the boards of both the shul AND the kids yeshiva, so, I also have a first hand knowledge of the financial struggles that those institutions have.

Having lived in Israel for the past 3 years, I was invited to sit on the board of our new shul here (and I somehow mangaged to agree, go figure :-), and think I've got it figured out...

Where "Anglos" live together in Israel, they find a generous donor in the US (or other English speaking country) who foots the bill to build a brand new shul for them, then all we are left to do is kick in enough to pay the day-to-day operating costs.

For example, our shul can seat 250 people, has a big social hall, and even has amenities such as central air-conditioning.

We have about 60 dues paying families covering an annual operating budget of about $11,000 per year, so annual dues per family are only $200.

Keep in mind that the function of a Bet Knesset here is slightly different than a shul in the US. They are similiar in that they are are a place for davening and shiurim, but here they are not the focal-point of Jewish life in the community as much as they are in the US. I guess that is because here, life is Jewish all the time, all of your neighbors are Jewish, all of your co-workers are Jewish, even all the policeman and trash-collectors are Jewish, so you don't fell that the shul needs to be the complete center of Jewish life as much as it is in the US.

Another big difference is that most of the shuls here don't have a full time salaried Rav. A large portion of our operating budget goes towards paying our Rav a very modest monthly stipend, but other than that he, like many of his colleagues, teaches full time in a school for a living.

Anyway, I guess all things are relative. Even at $200 per year, people still complain that our annual dues are too high!

At 4:43 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

Anon 32 pg with twins--
Here is an article on breastfeeding and medications that might be helpful to you (or someone else!).
Wishing you an easy and uneventful pregnancy, and the healthy birth of your babies.

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Sunflower said...


Guess it's not just us :)
Although I did spend over 300 dollars in the last week on mezuzah checking, tefillin checking, and shatnez checking. Granted, that only happens once in a while, and the shatnez was a lot because we decided to do it in one fell swooop (had never done it before, and were trying to feel noble before Yomim Noraim ;) ).... but I guess that's just an added debt... er, bonus.

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think this blog is a great idea

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mother in israel-- for many reasons, our decision to formula feed is final at this time. But thank you for the article and for caring!

anon 32 preg with twins who today is having awful back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, but who's complaining? :)

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an article on this topic.

At 2:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over the years, I have observed that even people who make twice as much a year as we do have the same problem, namely finding some way to pay all the bills every month.
My theory is that most of us spend about 5% more than we make -- regardless of what our income level is. So the family making $60,000 is convinced it costs at least $63,000 to get through a year, while the family making $200,000 doesn't see how anyone could really live on much less, and finds that they can't save any money.
One thing that we did when our children were young was to have money deducted from my paycheck and put into a retirement account before we ever saw it. That turned out to be the only money we were able to save, and it has really come in handy.
It seems that our parents' generation was much more thrifty than we are, and they were able to save up money, whether in equity in a home, or in savings. Perhaps our children's generation will find a way to return to thrift.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Come on, make it to 200 already!

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

I appreciate your efforts PT - I'd love to see a post of mine make it to 200 on my own blog.

OK one comment closer!!

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

2 more...

At 12:58 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

ok, so just before RH, along with the hundreds or so of appeals for money, I received this flyer from http://www.Paamonim.com. It was stuffed into my local jewish newspaper. it addresses what most of your readers probably already have, good financial management. but it does remind me that most of us learned without any kind of formal training, and could hone our skills by learning. more on that later.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

so, to continue, i'm taking a tele-course on being conscious about money. this means tracking what I do with it, and then totalling up the results by meaningful catagories. after that, a little check-in about the feelings around the whole process. a little different approach, which i'm hoping will not only help me personally, but also will help me connnect with my clients when i work with them.


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