Thursday, May 15, 2008

Building a House of Cards
alternatively, Tuition isn't the budget breaker in this budget!

Reading this letter in the newest Yated just hurts me. Budgets interest me and this budget is so overinflated, although the writer does not realize it, that it hurts. A family of six (four children) is spending a massive amount of money, and while she puts tuition as a primary issue in her letter. . . . . .tuition simply is NOT the reason their budget is literally out of control. Their costs are just simply out of control. I am literally picking up my jaw off my desk after reading this letter because I have a very solid idea of what the expenses for a family this size could be, and this is just shocking.

I hope the recent economic slowdown does not end up biting this family in the bottom. Household budgets is something I take great interest in (over the years, I've helped many people form a budget) and it is clear to me that this family has built themselves a house of cards. Their fixed costs are enormous, so much so that a turn for the worse in business or employment, could take them under, but not because they have an overinflated grocery budget (that could be changed with some hard work!), but because they have an overinflated mortgage and overinflated auto costs, etc. I've written so many posts about tackling the variable costs in a budget (food, utilities, consumer goods). But, if the obligations are massive (mortgages, car payments, students loans), cutting the food budget in half can't save you.

Presuming there are numerous families that have built a house of straw (and I'm certain there are), many families, and by extension the host communities, could be in for real problems if the big bad wolf starts to blow.

Read on [my notes in orange]:

Dear Editor,
Today, after finally getting my kids back to school and catching up at work for the time I missed over Yom Tov, I opened up the four weeks of mail sitting at home. Maybe it was the timing that set me off, but when I opened my tuition bill for next year, I flipped.

Now, don’t get me wrong. As parents, we have committed ourselves for our children’s education to be top priority. That bill will, iy”H, be paid in full by hook or by crook. The teachers and the school staff members deserve decent salaries. But for three children, my bill was well over $20,000 [high, but it could easily be double]. What is so bothersome is that in this particular school, the tuition came out to be $8,000 per child and it goes up every year, yet the children get off every year more and more. This tuition is supposed to cover 10 months of the year. When you go through the calendar, you’ll see that it actually covers less than 8 months, which brings it to over $1,000 a month per child.

This led me to go through my expenses for the year and see exactly what my necessary living costs are and what I can cut out.

Truthfully, I am not sure how people survive. We have three kids in school and one baby at home.

Tuition is $24,000 (this includes the extra book charges, dinner charges, and the building fund fee, which we are required to pay).

Camp costs $4,000 for 3 children. One child goes to sleep-away camp. [Having seen what many camps charge, I believe cost is on the low end for camps, especially since the child in sleep-away camp is being fed].

Our mortgage, together with our homeowner’s insurance, is $48,000 a year [$4,000 a month] (and we bought our home before the prices got out of hand. Our property, even in today’s slumping market, is worth double what we paid for it). [I assume this includes tax also, but I'm told property tax is not overinflated in the boroughs. So, even if the property is worth more---which in my opinion is only meaningful if you go to sell it--$48,000 is an incredible amount of be paying on a mortgage].

$30,000 is spent annually on groceries [$2,500 a month]. This includes Yom Tov and extra shopping for the baby. [You have got to be kidding me!!!!].

Utilities cost $32,000 [$2667 per month]. [Once again, you have got to be kidding me!!!! Having been involved with shul budgets, I know you can heat and air condition a fairly large building on $32,000 a year. This is ludicrous].

$17,000 is spent on health/dental insurance. (If not for dental insurance, I would be including $20,000 on procedures done last year on my husband and two daughters). [$1416 per month. I don't know what private insurance runs. It seems overinflated to me. But, perhaps it is not so]. $16,000 is spent annually on car expenses, car insurance, and gas (since we both work and need to drive a lot). [$1,333 per month. A lot of money, but perhaps this part of the budget is the first reasonable line item].

This adds up to $123,000. This means that before taxes and maaser, we need to make a minimum of $170,000. In most cases, this requires both parents to kick in financially. [I don't dare open up this discussion again :)].

Therefore, we also need someone to watch our baby and need to hire help to make sure that the housework is done. In addition, for 2 of the 10 months that our children are home from school due to days off, we have to spend extra money to entertain them [the word "entertain" makes my skin crawl, but that is a subject for another post]- through school sponsored programs or other programs - since my husband and I cannot take off (our jobs don’t give us off for 2 months a year). This costs approximately $50 a day, which comes out to $2,000 a year. Our household help costs $22,000. This brings the family income to $194,000.

For the summer, we move upstate for income purposes. We spend an additional $10,000 on a bungalow and expenses. This brings the number up to a minimum of 204,000- and at that point taxes increase and so does maaser [I start my budget not from what we have to earn, but from what we have to spend from the primary income earner's budget after saving a set amount. Just noting this because this method of laying out a budget is strange to me]...

Remember, this is a 6-member family and we try very hard to monitor our expenses [whatever you say. . . .your food and utility budget would eat through our entire take home pay]. However, often, time is more valuable and we have to spend more on food so that we can spend more time with our children; we might shop at a more expensive local store than run around to cheaper stores. In this cheshbon, I did not mention clothing and other items such as Chol Hamoed trips, Afikoman and birthday presents [thank G-d. I think I'd faint if the cheshbon included those numbers], etc., but I think you get the picture. [Nor do you mention life insurance or retirement savings which is an absolute MUST, especially for a family spending like this].

After making this calculation, I started wondering. My spouse and I both work full time. We both try to make sure that when the kids are home from school - on school days - one of us is home with them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We saved money when the going was extremely good. We also bought our house before the market exploded, so our mortgage is pretty reasonable for our neighborhood. But there is a whole generation that is graduating school now. They need to be able to live. Something in our society is going to have to give. We may have to create a secluded culture where we are all committed to hiring from within, but then we also need to make sure that our boys and girls are qualified to perform these jobs [I'd say a large part of the spending/budgeting issues just might be the already secluded society. Unfortunately, it is an uphill battle to educate about a different way when there is little to no exposure to it. And, yet, the spending habits I've highlighted on this blog erode the financial foundation of so many that I can't help but to try to be a small voice out there].

I know that this letter will probably have people writing in about how I could save money here and how I could save some money there. (I know I could. I could also move out of Brooklyn to Eretz Yisroel.) But the reality is that, boruch Hashem, I can afford to pay more than maaser, and I can afford to pay more than the tuition bill. As I see it, however, there are more of us who can’t afford basic expenses and these numbers increase daily. Our school system may need restructuring [darn right!], food prices have to come down [they are going up], our baalei battim may have to commit to hiring only frum people [they have bills to pay to, nu?], and other things have to be done [like a complete economic overhaul?]. But we need to start making changes and we need to start making them quickly. The economy is definitely not working in our favor. I hope to hear positive feedback.
C. K.

P.S. Check out some of the comments on ProfK's post, New York the center of the World. . . Not" written by those who left or want to leave NY and the parents/in-laws are hot under the collar about it. Yes, as the letter writer says, "we need to start making changes" and "something in our society has to give." Living in Brooklyn (or anywhere else that housing costs are out of this world) is something that will have to give.


mother in israel said...

For the summer, we move upstate for income purposes
What does this mean?
I cringe when she brags about giving more than maaser.

Orthonomics said...

I presume they move upstate because they have some sort of retail and/or food business that goes up there. . . . or, perhaps they own a camp?

Anonymous said...

Being self employed, I can tell you the numbers for private insurance is scary.

I am cringing at her grocery and utility bills, but I empathize with her insurance.

Anonymous said...


But as the head of a tution committee, I can tell you many people don't have a handle on their finances. 100% spot on sephardilady it's not tuition, not with the other expenses listed there. But if they can cover it all, why are they complaining?

And where does all the "more than maaser" go? Their local institutions or every single "Get $5000 in tickets for $4500 early bird special to benefit the 'Every Mattress for a Child Fund'" Chineese auction advertised in the Yated?

Orthonomics said...

qsman-I don't know if you could write some thoughts as the head of a tuition committee, but I'd welcome a guest post.

ProfK said...

I am still trying to get my mind to process the figures in the letter. $48,000 a year for a mortgage? $30K on food, $32K on utilities and $22K on household help? Someone get these people a financial advisor or an accountant or something, anything that will give them a grip on reality. From what the writer says they can afford what they are spending now, but why/how is it that they are spending this much? Their earnings are far higher than average but their expenditures are truly out of whack, even for their earnings. Even if she served lamb chops three times a day and champagne at every meal she couldn't be spending this kind of money. Something suspicious here.

And TY for the link.

Anonymous said...

Although you may cringe at the lashon she uses to describe childcare for her kids on their days off ("entertain") she has a point. In Baltimore, I figure I will have to pay about $300/week for 3 kids during the weeks before and after camp when I have to work. But Baltimore is not NY so I don't know what's reasonabel in NY. Also, that $300/week is simply what I pay out, my cost for the week also includes lost wages which are inevitable when my kids are not in school.

Also, I agree with anon 8:13. If you are paying group insurance for a family and your employer isn't paying ANY of it $1416/month seems about right for decent health insurance. There are ways to do it cheaper, but not if you have any signifcant health issues. We paid about $1,000/month (insurance + expenses) for the 2 years where we bought our own. Only $400 of that was fixed though and those variable amounts can kill your budget. My husband spent $1,000 for prescription drugs one month.

Also she has a point regarding shopping. I work almost full-time. My Sundays are HECTIC and that is without spending much of the day with my kids. I make it to Walmart or BJ's about once a month. If I could spend the day running from store to store taking advantage of the specials, my food bill would certainly be lower. I simply don't have the time (or koach) for this.

Most of her other numbers do seem exhorbitant as if the family is not even trying to turn lights off, cut back on junk food, etc.

Anonymous said...


These expenses are through the roof! I can't even fathom spending $2500 a month on groceries. You could order in from a restaurant every day and spend less ($60-$80 a day for 30 days). Heck, maybe that would let them cut down on the household help which I would hope is helping with the cooking.

And $2670 a month on utilities? Do they leave every single light on, have the AC/heating constantly running and do laundry and run the dishwasher around the clock?

I would also like to understand the "going upstate for income purposes". I can only assume they have business up there - maybe related to selling to all the people who go to the mountains?

The insurance and mortgage to me seem fairly in line with numbers I've seen thrown around. And for better or worse, someone making $200K+ wants to live in a large house, especially if they have 4 kids.

But more than anything, the letter kind of bothered me as they seem to be complaining and bragging at the same time. The whole tone was upsetting to me - everything is so expensive and we have so many luxuries, oh how do the less fortunate ever get by?

What also bothered me is they talk about baalei battim having to pick up the slack for the rest of us. But these people could be baalei battim if they just managed their expenses!!! I mean how much do you have to make before you're a baal bat? Is $200K+ not enough any more?! I understand if a couple making that much has real, true expenses, but this is not the case here - they could easily cut expenses, still live well, and be able to donate several 10's of thousands more to charities and to help others out.


I would LOVE to see a guest post one what tuition committees are like and perhaps more interestingly how out of whack fellow communitiy members finances are - it would give a good picture of were we stand as a community.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on. You think this is for real? The writer already mentioned that the (grand)parents kick in, as needed. Please, give me a break. I want so see REAL numbers, not these crazy ones. Also, do you think that if this was real, the letter writer would be able to pinpoint and track expenditures so as to give a decent estimate of their spending? Not on your life!!!

OTOH, if they bought a house the size of a shul, it would explain the mortgage and the utility bills, right?

Anonymous said...

I believe her letter is both mostly accurate and I think you are misunderstanding her intent. First the numbers

$24k tuition is accurate.

$4000k camp is accurate, low, and as she "needs" to work, necessary.

$48,000 - mortgage. It would seem high to anyone outside of Brooklyn, and it does seem high to me. Her house must have cost 700k. And she does have a nice house, but I believe you would be surprised at how little it does get you relative to the giant price tag it has. Outside of the NYC are you would probably be getting acres of land for that type of money.

$30k on groceries - Seems high but with a baby (diapers, wipes, possibly formula ($100 a week)) someone who doesn't comparison shop because she is working is going to spend at least half that if not more.

$32k on utilities - okay I have no idea where she gets that number. Either she is including her business utilities with her home ones or she added in an extra 0.

$17k for insurance - totally accurate

$2k - for daycare on days that schools do professional development for their teachers, legal holidays, etc. I guess she doesn't want the babysitter/housekeeper watching the younger kids. In any case this is small fry compared to everything else.

$22,000 - but that is pre taxes according to her, so that's $300 a week or so to pay the babysitter, even post-taxes it would be $430-
which is standard for a babysitter in NYC (non-East Side which is double), especially someone with experience and who comes highly recommended.

$10k - to move to summer to make money. I assume she makes more than that and it financially viable/necessary to do this.

Now she could do the following,
1. Move the heck out of Brooklyn.
2. Stay at home with her kids.

Take #2. If we take her numbers as accurate, we could probably cut the food bill to at most half or so, no camp, no daycare programs, no babysitter. Total saving -> $38k.
(I'll ignore pre-tax, post-tax beause I don't if $22k for babysitter was pre or post). She still needs to make $160k.

Take #1- move out of NYC and save a whole lot of money. I'll assume her mortgage will be cut in half, and her utilities to a tenth (though maybe she has a lot of appliances or something?), and everything will fall as far as cost.

Her response to that is she doesn't want to and she herself doesn't have to. So why is she writing the letter?

She sees that Brooklyn is in danger. She knows that she herself is a baalei bayis, but others won't have the luxury of living here anymore. What will become of her community?

Any community like Brooklyn can out-price itself to the extent that it will be abandoned. As far as economic realities abandoning Brooklyn probably makes eminent sense, in the way any market correcting itself does. But for the individual player, such corrections that are bound to come can be quite painful.

She sees Brooklyn as mega-hub of American Jewry with a past that was bright but with a future that is uncertain. She wants to make sure that future is bright for at least a little bit more.


Anonymous said...

I don't know here.

I have 4 kids (2 in college), and I am paying $125K for tuition (not all out of current income.) $24K for 4 kids is cheap. My fifth grader alone is $16K. The camp bill is pretty low; daycamp around here is $250/wk at the cheapest place (more if you need hours beyond 9-4.)

On the other hand, we don't live in a cheap area or in a small house (5 bedrooms, about 2000 sq ft of living space), yet pay half what this person does for mortgage, taxes, and insurance. If that is really what it costs to live in Brooklyn, she should just move.

And the utility bill seems insane. if she isn't off by a factor of 10 or running a small factory in the basement, she needs to check if someone is stealing from her to run a small factory; I can't imagine how you could run that bill no matter how extravagant you were (well, maybe if you were burning olive oil to run the furnace.) Even with oil heat at $4.00/gal and an 80 year old house I am spending less than $7000/year, and our utility rates are among the highest in the country.

Ditto the grocery bills. We don't have the time to spend shopping carefully (at least to the extent that would require going to more than one supermarket) and spend less than half--and teenagers are more expensive than babies.

I'll spot her the $2000 on babysitting when school is off. But what about the $20,000 for the baby. At least around here $1500/month is top-of-the-line for a day care. You can get good family daycare for significantly less. Also, you should be able to set up a FRAP to pay at least the first $5K with pre-tax dollars. Ditto for the health insurance.

Anonymous said...

sephardilady, how can I contact you?

Orthonomics said...

Orthonomics at gmail dot com. I'd love to hear from you, qsman.

Mike S-I presume the household help includes cleaning help, in addition to babysitting, possibly gardening too. Cleaning help can be a quick drain, although in brooklyn cleaning help goes for a lot less than OOT.

I'm still baffled by the grocery budget, yet I saw a person at Imamother who was shocked to find they were spending over $2,000 a month on groceries for a similiar size family.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there with overinflated budgets. A mother (one child) back in the 90's told me they were spending $1,200 on food a month (she was compalining how much more expensive kosher food was). I was a college student, at the time, spending no more than $50 a month (granted, I only fed myself 6 days a week). I think her comments gave me my initial interest in household budgets.

Secondly, the notion that you have to run around ever single week to keep the grocery budget in line is erroneous. But, that is the subject of a future post.

Anonymous said...

anon from 11:00 am ...... her mortgage wouldn't be cut in half by moving out of town--- it would be cut by THREE QUARTERS.

Mortgages in our neighborhood in Cleveland are about $1000 a month including taxes. We pay $1200 a month in rent plus water and sewer, so about $1300 a month but for now the extra $300 a month or so is worth it not to have to be homeowners (we're not remotely ready, being $200,000 in debt with no down payment available).

$4000 a month could easily go right down to $1000 a month. then boom.... she could stay home, raise her own kids and save a ton more money every year with no daycare or babysitting, and with more time to comparison shop the groceries.

They'd be super duper rich here in our neighborhood. I have no sympathy for anyone choosing to live in Brooklyn when there are Clevelands, Atlantas, Milwaukees, Cincinnatis, etc etc out there.

Anonymous said...

Depending on the particular profession, the income would be cut as well.

Average household salary Cleveland - $32k
Average household salary NYC- $47k

The difference in salary would cut the house cost difference to a half, and again this is very-profession dependent. The higher the pay, the more likely the gap widens.

She's not asking for sympathy. She wants a practical way of keeping hey way of life alive in Brooklyn. Though there might not be any way to do that. Her angst is obviously not yours.


ProfK said...

I refuse to apply angst to someone clearing well in excess of
$200K a year. Bad management maybe. And quite frankly, it sounded more like bragging under the guise of "woe is me-ism." People who make that kind of money have ready access to other people who can help them manage it. If they don't seek those people out that is really truly their problem, just please don't cry to me how terrible things might get.

Anonymous said...

Oy vey, I don't know where to start.


You know what? I don't want to respond to this before Shabbat, I will wait until after Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.


Anonymous said...

It's primarily the house which explains the utilities. The average sized houses around here are running $800 a month utility bills and these are not the stupid people. So, I'm guessing if she lives in a big house--typical high ceilings, piece of cardboard McMansion then her utility bills could be enormous. I know it's not likely in Brooklyn, but I don't think she actually lives there. I'm going to guess Monsey where every word of this, especially the tuition figures make sense. Bottom line, I don't know why you torture yourself by reading these articles. We aren't going to change these people. I also don't worry about these people because their parents or the yerushas and stuff from their grandparents always bail them out. Same with the jobs, etc. We don't know from this. Neither of our parents has an extra dime to give us. We always wonder how it works. Our wedding gifts in total around 10 years ago were 8,000 bucks. And with that we were sent on our way to life. We bought a house with a 20% down payment that we saved ourselves. We live in an alternate universe from most NY area Jews.

Anonymous said...

I want to leave NY, but I'm caught in the same trap the Aliyah people have. My oldest kid is too old to uproot. I dream about it almost every day.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, how old is "too old" to uproot?
I brought over an 18 yo - straight into the army and a 13 yo whose school issues were solved by him getting a GED and going to University instead of 12th grade. If the kids are willing and flexible, it may be doable.

Anonymous said...

the average household salary in Cleveland might be $32 k if you're including all the east cleveland non Jews, etc etc. But in the Jewish community, most people (who aren't kollel couples) are making much more than that. I don't see a huge salary discrepancy in most professions.

We moved to Cleveland from Los Angeles and my husband, a teacher, only took a $5000 pay cut. (my salary is commission based and fluctuates wildly, so I can't compare my income LA to Cleveland especially since I got pregnant, put on bedrest, and had infant twins here).

A lot of people assume "you can't make money in the midwest", but until they send their resumes to the midwest, how do they know?

alpidarkomama said...

OY VEY! Our family of 6 lives just fine on $55K/year. I don't use coupons (there's never anything useful!), I cook from scratch, we do have health insurance through work but we still pay $500+ per month out of pocket, I stay home with my kids, we intend (BE"H) to do all of their schooling via full-time private tutoring (instead of day school), we save for retirement, we only eat out when we travel, we take *very* inexpensive but delightful vacations, we pay $600/month for groceries (meat only on shabbat + sometimes one other night), we paid 25% of our house in cash (and will be moving, b'ezrat hashem, next summer to a less expensive city where the equity in our current house will allow us to buy a comparable house in cash). I think it's embarrassing how wasteful we have become of Hashem's resources, and how many extraneous things are now considered "necessary." I am very grateful to Hashem that my husband and I are not raising my children with all of these bizarre expectations. Living our simple lifestyle, we are still living like kings and queens compared to 99% of the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

to correct one apparent misconception, I think when she wrote "In most cases, this requires both parents to kick in financially." she meant herself and her husband, the parents of her children. that's why the next paragraph follows logically: "_Therefore_, we also need someone to watch our baby and need to hire help."
so that's one financial malady it's unfair to pin on this letter writer.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher so I know how difficult it is really for kids middle or high school age to make friends. If you ask the kids themselves, they don't necessarily know what's ahead. Neither do the parents. So, for now, I remain where I am with a happy middle schooler and a watchful eye. It's not purgatory, after all. It's just NY. But reevaluating our lifestyle and how we can cut costs is priority 1 this summer.

Sara said...

Having just moved from Bklyn OOT- I think I can speak from both sides of the coin...
A house is NOT everything in life... Though everyone would love to own one... The only thing I find cheaper OOT is the price of a home....
1)Living in BKLYN we had 1 car- which was used very rarely. Hubby took the train to work- I walked. Here we need 2 cars- and everywhere is a drive. We are spending more in insurance [2 cars], gas prices, maintenance etc...
2)Hubby and I paid a little over $800 for health insurance for the both of us. Child covered under NY child health plus... Minimal charge- basically free. Our insurance bill now for family is $$1250 a month
3)We lived in a 2 bedroom apt. Rent was $1200. Now we live in a much bigger place- a rented house for the same price. But it is more expensive to heat/cool and we pay all utilites [water] lights for the outside etc....
4)Food, veggies, fruit and staples are enormously expensive here. I would say at least double the price!! Forget about kosher food. We keep cholov yisroel- so milk products are a fortune. And no, I do not feed my hubby after a long day of work pasta for dinner every night, nor do I serve meat every night or more than once a week. But I do cook healthy balanced nutritious meals.
5)Elementary school in our Bklyn neighborhood is about $8k per child. Here that price is for pre-school only. Elementary is $14k+
I could go on with the comparisions...
When I explain to my hubby that our living OOT is more expensive- the housing price comes up. Yes- housing is cheaper OOT. That's about it. Many pple in Bklyn buy a two family house, live in less space and make do...
I know this post is long- I just want to point out- that many of you just write 'time to move out of Brooklyn' etc....
Brooklyn has a lot of job opportunity [especially for s/o who is not Doctor, lawyer, accountant or even more- not a professional...] it is also cheaper on a daily level.
As a side note- while some of the letter writer's expenses seem high- most seems pretty reasonable to me....

mother in israel said...

"OOT" is not monolithic.
You raise some good points that anyone, moving anywhere, needs to consider: insurance, cost of renting, housing available, public transportation, day school costs. Moving in and of itself may not be the answer.

Are you comparing current food prices to what you used to pay in NY, or the prices now?

Anonymous said...

I know Yeshivish people who live out of town and do not keep Cholov Yisrael because of the cost and difficulty in getting it. They have Psak on that. It is worth asking. With regard to schools, many out of town schools are community day schools that offer good secular studies programs. They charge accordingly. I'm curious if you looked into tuitions before you left and considered a community with more choice like Baltimore. Kosher food is cheapest in NY neighborhoods like Flatbush and Boro Park where there is a lot of competition. Any time you get to a place with less competition, you are going to be paying more. That's why many of my out of town friends buy meat and chicken in bulk and store it in freezers. They strategize and make home made whenever possible. Also, if you are only buying in the local kosher market (if you have one) or only Heimish brands, then, of course, your food costs are higher. Again, my Yeshivish out of town friends do not buy most of their stuff in the local Kosher joint, buy on sale at the big Supermarkets like Safeway and do often not the brand name, but the store brands. There are ways to cut costs. The two-car need is present pretty much everywhere except NYC proper. That, too, would have been a given to anyone planning to move out of town. Jobs are a consideration, but many of us who consider the out of town option are in professions that do not rely on connections within the frum world. We research the field in the community of choice and then choose whether to leave. I really do think that moving out of NY is an extremely cost effective and Neshama-effective move. The only drawback--literally the only one--I hear about from my Out of Town friends is that some of them have to send their high schoolers away for school. That is why we would never consider a community without an established and well-run Jewish High School.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to sound obnoxious. I just think the out of towners need to get more vocal and organized about publicizing this option. One "out of town fair" is not enough. My friends--of all stripes of Orthodoxy--are very happy out of town. They have challenges, but the payoffs seem to outweigh them. The most Yeshivish of my friends asked the right questions and prepared well for the challenges. Again, no Cholov Yisrael, community with nearby high school, one parent working in the school which cuts the cost of tuition. They could never have afforded a house in the NY area. And their kids are interacting with and learning about all kinds of Jews. They are teaching and learning from others. It's not for everyone, but it sure is worth a look-see.

Charlie Hall said...

You aren't going to believe me, but....

I live in New York City. None of these expenses surprise me at all.

$24K tuition is actually on the low side; the MO HS in my neighborhood charges that for one child.

$4000/month for a mortgage? Well, you can't buy a house for that little in my neighborhood in the Bronx. And in Manhattan you can't buy an apartment for that. The only thing that saves us here in NYC are the low property taxes; for this writer they are probably on the order of $4,000/year.

The per person grocery costs aren't far from what I see my wife and I spend, and what other families spend. I was stunned when I moved to NYC from Connecticut and my grocery bills doubled. Comparison shopping doesn't save all that much here. (What DOES is not holding to every chumrah on the planet, but that is another issue....Almost nobody in my nbhd eats only CY dairy products. And we may all become vegetarian if Rubashkin can't recover from their recent raid. We have always had a dairy-only kitchen so it doesn't affect us.)

$32k on utilities is the only item that seems high. But gas and electric are also quite expensive here in NYC. And if you have an old, big, drafty house like some frum neighborhoods in the Bronx or Brooklyn....

$17k on insurance is probably low for that size family; the writer is probably saying "Modim..." that they have it at all.

The child care costs are low by NYC standards.

I should add that state and local income taxes are high in NYC, and that someone in that bracket probably pays Alternative Minimum Tax as well.

Lion of Zion said...

as a new yorker, i agree with dr. hall's assessment. not too many surprises in her budget.


"That is why we would never consider a community without an established and well-run Jewish High School."

this seriously limits the possibilities. how many cities actually have established (i.e., stable) and well-run high schools?

ProfK said...

Just off the top of my head without any research,by state, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Washington, Nevada and California have established high schools, some have more than one, and I know there are others just not the specific details.

Should keep this in mind also: as a community grows larger, with more children in it, the chances are that a high school will be established because of need.

ProfK said...

Just off the top of my head without any research,by state, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Washington, Nevada and California have established high schools, some have more than one, and I know there are others just not the specific details.

Should keep this in mind also: as a community grows larger, with more children in it, the chances are that a high school will be established because of need.

Lion of Zion said...


CA and NJ do have HSs, but do you think these areas are really affordable? (yes, i know there is a range, but the areas with the jewish schools are no the cheap areas.) i assume IL is also not cheap.

as far as the other states, established does not mean good. for example, i don't know how it is today, but 15 years ago the high school my friend went to in philadelphia was crap. same for the HS in atlanta and my friend's ES in minneapolis

"as a community grows larger, with more children in it, the chances are that a high school will be established because of need"

that's a pretty big risk to take

Lion of Zion said...


OOT also means reduced chances of having a school that meets your hashkafic, pedagogic, special, etc. needs.

alpidarkomama said...

Our rebbetzin, who attended the girls high school in Atlanta, has nothing but the highest praise for the school there and if she has to send her own children out of town for school, she will be sending them there. I'm very happy with being "OOT." And I would not be happy living in NYC, or really anywhere in the NE. Just doesn't do it for me - not that it isn't good for other folks!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Michigan (Detroit), Tennessee (Memphis), and Wisconsin (Milwaukee). Maybe Oregon (Portland) as well but I'm not sure. Texas is very affordable, and there are great, growing communities in Dallas and Houston.

alpidarkomama said...

No, no high school in Oregon. People who send their kids away send them to Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, or Denver.

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

OOT also means reduced chances of having a school that meets your hashkafic, pedagogic,etc.needs

Heaven forefend!

special needs.

Fair point.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Virginia, Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, possibly Seattle. I'm big on Atlanta, personally, and anything in the South. To me, Southerners are hands down the warmest out of towners I've met.

Anonymous said...

Vegas is booming and the residential areas are attractive. Many Californians relocate there because there is no tax, but I don't really like the heat. I forgot St. Louis, but I don't know anyone from there. The others I mentioned I worth my spending a Shabbos and a visit to the local high schools. I know I am limiting myself, LOZ, but I'm big on raising my own kids and I don't think sending them away at 14 is healthy.

Charlie Hall said...

Worthy of a post, or at least a comment:

Anonymous said...

I dunno, I do not see her numbers WAY off the mark. I live in Teaneck, not the Five Towns. Tuition for Yeshiva HS here is 25k per year per child and the multi child discount is not terrific. Our school and property taxes are 10k per year. Our mortage is $2150 a month ($25,800 yr). We have five girls -- and while not now, at one time we had FOUR of them in HS at the same time! That is 100k per yr at full tuition, slightly less with the discount (and even more with scholarship requested). We also go upstate in the summer (Shabbat only) and that costs us $4000 rental on the very rustic rinky dinky kuchelaine we have -- but guess what? We gave it up this year -- gasoline prices are just too high to do that trip every week!! We now only have ONE kid in HS, one in Israel for the almost mandatory Shana B'Aretz (it really IS a good thing), one at an Ivy League University where the tuition was so high we have added yet another loan to our already overloaded indebtedness (and that is with a scholarship!). The other two are married and living in Israel but of course, we help them out financially (according to our means) as they are not yet at the point of being 100% self supporting. (That's ok, our parents helped us too). OUR house has NOT doubled in price, the value now is only about 1/3 more than we paid for it. We purchased it 8 years ago. Of course, I also have not mentioned the groceries, meidcal expenses (I wear hearing aids, and needed new ones and they are NOT covered by ANY insurance thank you very much -- that was $5000 completely out of pocket. Not including replacements of tubing, earhooks, molds, batteries! And clothing, shul dues, building funds, tzedakah, commuting costs, utilities, internet, phones, cable, replacement of old furnace ($6000), the list goes on. DOES need to earn a heckuva lot of money to live in the frum communities of the TriState area...

Anonymous said...

Coming in a bit late, but worth mentioning that St. Louis has two girls high schools and a MO boys high school and a Chofetz Chaim yeshiva. OOT ain't what it used to be.