I have always dreamed of calling a little piece of land my own. For as long as I can remember, I have imagined a small stone cottage with a vegetable patch, a tree for swinging, and a flower lined path. Now that we live in Israel my dream hasn’t disappeared, but reality has set in. Small apartments are the norm; you’re lucky to get a flower box and a balcony.
Unlike the US, in Israel a down payment is roughly 20% of the full price of an apartment. We’re talking at least $100,000 and that is just the beginning! Tack onto that an incredibly high price of living and you’re in a pickle.
When we discovered that our lease wasn’t going to be renewed this year, it brought to the forefront a serious discussion about our goals. We want to set down roots, and avoid having to pick up and move our family every summer. It’s not only expensive but emotionally and physically draining. Gil and I had a sit down last week to crunch the numbers and see if we could ever afford to purchase our own place. Luckily we have no debt (and hopefully never will!) but instead a nice chunk of savings. At the rate we are going we will be able to save enough for a down payment in less than 10 years. I decided to take matters into my own hands and reevaluate our household budget to see if we could close the gap before I hit 30.
I made a list of every single purchase, every take-out meal, every magazine that pulls money from the monthly budget. I began to realize that there are simple solutions to saving thousands of dollars in the long run. Here are some that I swear by:
* Shop in the less expensive grocery store. I buy the exact same products at a lesser price. Not rocket science.
* Portion out your weekly grocery money into an envelope or separate section of your wallet. When you use cash, you can see a visual running tab of how much money you have left to spend. If need be, bring a calculator to the store. In this day and age no one will look twice at you.
* Plan the weeks meals in advance. Purchase groceries according to the meal list, include any snacks. I found that this not only helped our budget, but my peace of mind. I hate it when 5 o’clock rolls around and you have nothing planned for dinner and no ingredients in your fridge. It cuts down on useless snacking and take-out as well.
* Cook. Instead of buying boxes of expensive granola bars, make your own at a fraction of the price. Make a big batch of bread dough and bake small loaves throughout the week for sandwiches and dinner. It’s easier than you think.
* Eat less meat. We eat meat on Shabbat and Tuesdays. If you incorporate more vegetarian meals into your cooking repertoire, you might discover that your grocery bill shrinks significantly. It is also healthier for your family and will save you money on health care costs in the long run.
* Factor in luxuries that make you feel good, and don’t feel bad about it. For example, I read a particular magazine every week. It’s not a huge expense, but it’s not free. Reading it keeps me feeling connected and therefore it’s worth it. Whatever this might be in your case- downloading music from iTunes, buying a book for yourself, going on a date with your husband, indulging in bath products, if it makes your life better it should have a place.
Not all of these suggestions will work for every family or every situation. But just incorporating one or two changes can alter your mindset and motivate you to reach your goals.