How Much Spending Money Does My Child Need for their GAP Year in Israel?
How much money am I going to need to send my child every month when they’re in Yeshiva or Seminary? This is one of those questions that gets asked all the time by prospective GAP year parents, and it makes sense why… Parents are already spending a significant amount paying for the actual program so it’s a fair question to wonder what additional expenses are involved in sending your child to Israel for the year.
To answer this question, we combed the “Israel GAP Year Parents” Facebook group and reviewed literally hundreds of comments by GAP year parents to get a sense of how parents tackle this issue. The very short answer is… it depends! In this article we’ll give you an overview of the main factors to consider and then we’ll talk about actual amounts of money.
What are the main factors to consider?
Let’s look at the factors you need to take into account when considering spending money.
Does the program provide them with all their meals?
This is one of the most important factors because there is a huge difference between a Yeshiva that provides 3 meals a day and a seminary that expects the girls to make all their food on their own. If your child is essentially self catering, a significant part of their budget will be spent on food.
The quality of the food provided also comes into play. In places where the food did not meet their child's expectations, a lot of parents report that their child would often order takeout instead of eating the school meals.
A lot also depends on your own attitude and your child’s attitude to the food and to spending money in general. Some parents have a more open approach to the subject with the attitude that their child should be as comfortable as possible even if it means ordering in on a regular basis. Other parents feel that the child should be able to adjust to the food that there is and if they want to order in, it should be on their own dime. There is no correct answer here, just different approaches.
How does the school handle Chagim and Shabbat? How often will your child need to fend for themselves?
Some schools expect students to be in school for most Shabbatot and also provide a framework for the Chagim, while other schools encourage more time away from the program visiting with family and friends. Time away from the program costs money. Your child needs to get to where they're going (transportation), you will typically want them to buy their hosts a gift and depending on how long they are off, there could be other costs like food, lodging, entertainment etc.
Many parents mention that whatever your monthly budget is, you should take into account that it will be higher in the months that they arrive and are settling in and also during the chagim.
Where is the program located?
The location of the school makes a big difference. On the one hand, when your child is in a remote location, travel expenses will be higher. On the other hand, when your child is in a remote location, they typically spend less money on shopping and entertainment because the options are much more limited.
It also depends on the culture of the institution itself. In some places it’s more accepted to go out a lot and in others, the students spend a large majority of their time on campus.
What else do they need to pay for themselves?
Does your child need to regularly buy toiletries? Do they pay for doing their laundry? What is the school’s policy regarding books - are they provided by the school or do they need to buy them? All these things can add up and it’s important to know what to expect beforehand.
What is your attitude to shopping?
There is a fine line between things that your child need and the things they would like to have. Your attitude to shopping will have a big influence here. There may be items that your child definitely needs, like a required set of sefarim or a bottle of shampoo and there may be a really nice coat that your child is dying to buy when he already has 5 others. Parents are divided about how much to allow for “leisure” spending. One common approach is to budget a certain amount for these items and then to allow your child to choose where to spend their money.
Should I determine a fixed budget for my child?
Parents are divided on this issue. Some parents prefer to just top up their child’s credit card as needed with the attitude that their child is thousands of miles away and they just want to make sure that their child has everything they need. A different approach is to set a specific budget and anything over that budget is paid for by the child themselves. One parent even reported that their child keeps an excel sheet with a line for every expense! There are also some in between approaches where there is a loose budget with allowance for extras, especially on arrival and during the holiday months.
Many experienced GAP year parents advise you to be flexible with the budget as things can often be more pricey in Israel than you are used to and you can adjust the budget along the way until you find the right balance.
So how much do people actually spend?
When parents speak about actual amounts that they send monthly, there is a huge range from $100 to $1000 a month but when when you consider all the different factors, this makes sense. Based on all the parents responses, you get the feeling that the average parent budgets between $300-$500 a month, with the months that contain Chagim being slightly higher. Again, these numbers are not set in stone because it depends on so many different factors.
We hope this article has been helpful. Please share your feedback with us if you have any comments, suggestions of questions. We wish you the best of luck for your GAP year in Israel.
At Pack for Israel we provide everything you need for your gap year in Israel. You can order bedding and towels, small appliances, toiletries, storage accessories, and more that will ship directly to your school in Israel.