How to Save Money on Living Expenses in Israel
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
If you’re anything like the average Israeli, you are looking to save money. It doesn’t take long to realize the living in the Holy Land comes with its fair share of expenses. Luckily, there are many tactics and resources available to help you save.
The first step to saving money in Israel is creating a budget. Knowing your income vs. your expenses is basic, but essential, and often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life. A sufficient budget includes all your net income, fees, and savings goals. Making a budget creates a clear picture of how much money you have to spend each month while putting some aside for the future.
Tools & Resources for Saving Money in Israel
There are various resources available in Israel that can assist you in budgeting. An organization called Paamonim does just that. The non-profit provides free financial coaching to families and individuals in need of guidance—a team of expert volunteers assisting applicants with budgeting and other vital services. Paamonim also has free tools (in English and Hebrew) on their website to use for budgeting.
Some local websites and applications can help with budgeting. The Ministry of Finance’s website has a handy and comprehensive budget calculator (in Hebrew). The calculator considers Israel-specific expenses and income sources, making it an excellent resource for locals.
Many apps available on Google Play or App Store can assist in budgeting. MyFinanda is an Israeli budgeting app that can sync with your local bank account and credit cards for easier financial management. There are many other easy-to-use financial-management apps, such as Handwallet, Wally, Fast Budget, and more, but keep in mind that these won’t sync with an Israeli bank account.
Reducing Living Expenses in Israel
Once you’ve laid out all your expenses are, there’s no doubt you’ll want to get them down. While easier said than done, it is possible to lower your cost of living, even in Israel! There are many types of living expenses in Israel. Here we break down how you can save in different areas.
Planning your Expenses
One way to save on living expenses is to plan future costs. It is a strategy to offset “emotional spending” or buying on impulse. Looking into the future - a few months or a year - and making a list of what to purchase can temper the tendency to impulse-buy. You may find you repurchase many of the same items year after year on a seasonal or quarterly basis, such as school clothes, beach toys, holiday items, etc. Predicting your future shopping behaviors allows for time to shop around for deals and giveaways, which could save you a lot.
Saving big bucks at the grocery store involves some planning and research, at least at first. Creating a weekly menu and arming yourself with a complete shopping list can undoubtedly help reduce spending. Listonic is an excellent app for creating and managing a shared grocery list, and updates in real-time. Taking children with you to the supermarket or going shopping, hungry is linked to higher spending. By planning your shopping trips correctly, you can save hundreds of shekels a month, if not more.
Researching the best places to do your grocery shopping might take some time, but it can save you big. Major supermarket chains and outdoor markets (shuks) can be significantly cheaper than smaller, local stores. Mysupermarket.co.il (Hebrew) allows visitors to compare prices between supermarkets and find the best deals. Generic brands are usually less expensive than brand name items. Although the individual savings per product might be small, it can add up to a lot over a few months.
Due to high taxes, and other factors, clothing, electronics, and many other items are pricier in Israel than other parts of the world. Still, there are ways to cut expenses. The market is full of deals and discounts, and it helps to be in the know!
Coupons are everywhere. Groupon, Baligam, and other group deal sites have discounts on everything from couches to vacations to clothing, electronics, and more. If you want to be sure you are getting the best price, check out zap.co.il. Zap is the ultimate price comparison site in Israel for almost all consumer products.
Many Israeli shoppers go online for significant savings. The online retail store Next offers useful quality items for lower prices than generally available in Israel. Asos, Iherb, and Aliexpress are other favorites. To save even more on these sites, you may consider making your purchase through a cashback site such as cashback.co.il or cashdo.co.il. These sites provide consumers with rebates on each purchase and have accompanying apps and extensions for easy use.
The country is not lacking in trendy second-hand shops, community free swaps, and giveaway sites. Agura is a popular site with a corresponding app full of people all over the country, giving away tons of stuff for free! It doesn’t cost to look, and someone might have just what you are looking for.
Lowering Monthly Bills
It’s possible to save on bills like electricity, water, insurance and more. Many immigrants quickly learn that to reduce electric bills, it helps take advantage of the middle eastern sun. Using a solar-powered water heater and drying clothing outside can cut costs. But there are other ways to live more frugally. For example, many individuals such as pensioners, lone soldiers, some single parents, and more qualify for electricity discounts. A complete list of those who qualify is available here in English.
While reading your electricity meter can seem daunting, it may be worth it for some extra cash. The electric company doesn’t always come by to read the meter and could be charging you based on what previous readings were. Reading the meter yourself and calling it in or reporting it via their app can ensure the electric company is up-to-date and not overcharging. The app also shows your previous meter readings.
Water isn’t cheap in Israel. That is why it’s essential to update the water corporation with the correct number of people in your household. The number of people in a housing unit is set to two by default. The water company needs to be updated if there are more than two people and can provide more water at a lower rate. (Less than two people living in a household should be reported as well).
When it comes to insurance, there are two ways people commonly overpay in Israel. One is that they let the policies automatically renew year after year without checking if expenses have gone up or if a better deal is out there. The other is unwittingly paying for duplicate policies or paying twice for the same coverage. The Ministry of Finance runs a website called “Har BaBituach,” which can tackle both issues. The (all-Hebrew) site lets visitors enter personal information in exchange for a breakdown of all their insurance payments. It also has a tool for running a quick policy comparison and finding the best deal.
You can save on your internet and phone bills by doing a bit of research ahead of time. With the click of a button, a website called Kamah Zeh (“how much is it?”) compares multiple plans, showing you the best deals for the package you want.
Already have a plan? A few minutes on the phone might get you a little extra cash in your wallet. Internet providers will often lower their prices if you ask. Some companies give new customers introductory monthly rates for the first year, and then raise the price after that. A quick phone call might be enough to convince them to keep it at the initial monthly amount, and save you a few hundred shekels a year, or more!
Low-cost health insurance is enough of a reason to move to Israel, right? While probably not your primary motivator, knowing the ins and outs of your health insurance plan can help keep you within your means. Depending on your policy, you might qualify to get discounted eyeglasses, orthodontist appointments, massages, chiropractic treatments, exercise classes, personal trainers, and more. There are significant reimbursements on diagnostic tests, doulas, and products for expectant mothers. It doesn’t hurt to check out your health fund’s website or speak to a representative and get a list of benefits.
Bank Fees & Money Transfer
Bank fees often come as a shock for many new immigrants from abroad. No matter which bank you choose, these fees are inevitable, but taking specific actions can help. For example, taking money out of the bank machines is cheaper than going to a teller. These ATMs can be used for taking out and depositing cash and checks.
For more significant savings, choose an alternate service when looking to transfer money in and out of the country. The banks often charge high exchange rates and have hidden fees that aren’t always easy to spot. Many immigrants to Israel receive money from overseas regularly. This can be pension payments, monthly salaries, or stipends from families abroad. Using a trusted money-transfer company like IsraTransfer can significantly reduce costs by offering low exchange rates, no hidden fees, and dealing with all of the bureaucracy. Transfers can be done directly using an online portal or mobile app. The friendly, English-speaking staff is a bonus!
Living in a small, high-stress country means sometimes you just need a break! There are plenty of ways to find deals when it comes to having fun. Credit card companies offer a lot of 1+1 tickets and discounts for events and attractions around the country.
Also, the very affordable Matmon Card provides free entrance to the over 100 nature reserves and national parks in Israel. This alone can give a family with endless entertainment. Cuponofesh.co.il, Groupon, and other websites offer countless deals on hotels, attractions, and more. Another app, called Pruvo, helps compare hotel prices to get the best deal. Prefer to stay in an Airbnb? The country is full of them, and it’s possible to find accommodations even for a large family. Many Airbnbs in Israel have kosher kitchens, so people who keep kosher can save big on food.
Around the holidays, the country is full of free events and waived museum entry fees. There are also countless free tours in major cities, just check with the local municipalities for details. Independent spirits can enjoy free virtual tours, available through apps like this one by Abraham Tours.
Are you up-to-date on your aliyah benefits? Even if you made aliyah a decade ago, there might be benefits that haven’t expired. New immigrants can receive rent subsidies, property tax discounts, free tuition, and much more. But other benefits, such as mortgage assistance, only expire after 15 years in Israel. Nefesh b’Nefesh published a handy timetable of aliyah benefits for quick reference.
Yes, stretching out that shekel is doable. There are apps, websites, and organizations ready to assist you and make your life easier.
Although saving money on your living expenses in Israel may take some initial work, it’s well worth it. By utilizing the resources out there, you’ll be surprised by how much it can add up. Remember to budget, use available apps and websites, stay on top of your payments, and don’t be afraid to negotiate a better deal. A lot of companies expect a little chutzpah, as long as it’s in a friendly tone!