Unless you’ve been living in a tent
Unless you’ve been on the street
Unless you’ve been secluding yourself voluntarily from the news this past week, you have probably heard about the current tent protests. Students have taken to the streets in an effort to demonstrate to the government the urgent need for affordable housing. While the macro-economist in me has a myriad of solutions to offer, the skeptic in me knows that the government will not do anything (after all, they caused the problem) and the responsibility to find affordable housing will ultimately fall onto the student.
This does not in any way excuse the government from its responsibility. The government could and should offer affordable housing to students by building dorms, building public housing, or even recognizing more universities in Israel, increasing choice and allowing students to attend schools in cheaper areas. In a true exercise of justice, the government could have the exporters subsidize student housing; after all, it was government practices in favor of exporters that caused the rise in housing prices in the first place.
But this post will not deal with what should be; rather it will deal with practical advice for students looking for affordable housing in the current economic environment. Here goes:
#1 – Consider housing further away from the University. There are many cheaper housing options that are a single bus ride from the University. Consider a student from Tel Aviv University. This student could look for housing in Tel Aviv, or could look for one next to the central bus station in Petah Tikvah – where a single bus can take the student straight to and from the University. Similarly, a student at Hebrew U could look for housing in Efrat and a student at Ben Gurion could look for something in Omer. There are obvious difficulties with living further away such as the time and cost of transportation, the impact on social etc, but a simple cost benefit analysis should be done to see if such a solution is feasible.
#2 – Get more roommates, even if it means getting a bigger place. Like the last idea, you need to check the math before applying this one to your particular case, but in many instances, getting an additional roommate can save a lot of money.
#3 – Save money on food. Do you buy food at the cafeteria? Well, whether you save the money on rent or on lunch, it is the same ₪ 300 a month. Consider packing a lunch for yourself. Choose one night where and your friends cook the food you will eat for the next week (a bowl of chili and some pasta can go a long way). And if you’re the type to use the snack machine at school, begin buying your snacks in bulk at the grocery store. Why spend ₪ 10 for a candy bar when you can spend just ₪ 4? Bring a water bottle around with you and fill it at one of the schools’ Tami4 machines instead of dishing out ₪ 6 for bottled water. This money adds up in a big way.
#4 – Cut down on luxuries. Do you go out drinking with your friends? Do you go to restaurants on more than a weekly basis? Try to find cheaper alternatives – buy a bottle of alcohol and drink with your friends in someone’s apartment or on the beach. Eat lunch with your friends in the park instead of going to another fancy restaurant. If you smoke, stop. And for God’s sake – make your own damn coffee.
#5 – Get a part time job. Nothing will help you learn the true value of money and how to use it responsibly like having a part time job.
#6 – Don’t buy textbooks. With few exceptions, you will never use them. And when you do need them, you can usually borrow them from the library (or at least use it in the library and either do your work there or photocopy the few pages you need).
#7 – Live on a budget. There is no solution that I can think of that does not hinge on the simple fact that a planned shekel goes further. Budgets are not just for families; they are for anyone who needs to be in control of his or her finances.
The housing crisis is just one of many financial crises that students will face in their adult life. In the real world, it doesn’t matter if someone can write a research paper; what matters is his or her ability to juggle responsibility, family, a social life, commuting, luxuries, and expenses. During one’s college years, learning to live on a budget may actually the most important step he or she takes towards adulthood.
Speaking of adults, in my next post, I plant to deal with housing solutions for young couples and families.
Students: What do you think is the most feasible change you can make in your financial life in order to accommodate housing?