My partner and I got $3,500 engaged without meeting each other’s families. Being in Israel, it was impractical to fly back to the U.S. to meet them before getting engaged. We both knew that we were bashert —meant to be — and we wanted to get married and settled.
Although we loved traveling, we were tired. We both wanted to buy a house, which was out of the question for us in Israel.
Our wedding planning was almost complete. Our next step was figuring out where to live and work. Ultimately, we decided to move back to the United States. We were surprised by some of the differences between the cost of living in the U.S. and that in Israel. (Though of course, it can vary from state to state in America.)
Cost of Living in the U.S. vs. Israel
The plan was to live with family in Atlanta and in Los Angeles until we figured out where to settle.
But the price differences between the U.S. and Israel soon became apparent.
For instance, I was blown away by the prices of fresh produce, especially because almost none of it was locally grown and all of it was covered in wax — the complete opposite of Israel.
At the same time, I couldn’t complain about the access to limes. My partner and I love Mexican food, and without limes in Israel, our burritos just weren’t the same.
I was also taken aback by the cost of cell-phone service. Unlimited data and minutes, including calls to the U.S., cost less than $20 a month in Israel. Now I’m spending $50 a month with limited data.
It soon became clear that we hadn’t taken all of our potential living costs into account.
Unexpected Expenses Added to Cost of Living in the U.S.
My partner got a job at a school in Denver, and we moved there a month before the wedding, staying with relatives. By now, we’d been back in the U.S. for four months. We were looking for an apartment and thinking about buying a car.
I didn’t know anything about car buying. While we researched as much as we could, we were in a time crunch. We were borrowing my aunt’s car, and she was due back in Denver in three weeks.
Should we take out a loan and buy a new car? Should we get a hybrid? Or should we buy privately or from a dealer?
I moved back to America with only about $2,000 in savings. My partner had saved much more over the last 10 years, and she had the cash for the car. We test-drove a Prius, but ended up buying a Honda Civic for $13,000 through a private sale.
I’m still not sure if we overpaid, but we sure hope that we won’t have to buy another car for years because it isn’t a pleasant experience. (Though these days, sites like Edmunds can make the hunt for a car easier.)
- Pack One Bag: Okay, maybe not literally, but leave behind anything you can buy cheaply. Pack only the essentials and start fresh when you land. Save money by not checking in that extra bag or three, too. Chances are the cost of shipping that sofa will be the same price as a secondhand one on Facebook Marketplace.
- Leave the Sofa Behind: With sites like Facebook Marketplace and even Craigslist, furnishing your new home is easier and cheaper than ever. You just have to be clever about it to get the best deals.
- Rent What You Don’t Need: Use a site like Fat Llama to rent items you can’t afford immediately or don’t need forever, like tools for DIY.
- Purge While You Pack: Be ruthless. Even objects with sentimental value need to be sorted in order of importance. You’re moving to start a new life, not to drag your old one with you. Sell anything of value on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist before you move to make some extra cash.
- Pack for the Season: There’s no point in stuffing your puffy winter jacket into your suitcase if you’re moving in the middle of summer. Remember, there will be seasonal sales in your new country, too. Bring what you need right now and invest in the rest later.
Finding Somewhere to Live
Meanwhile, my job was to find an apartment. There were preconditions: Since we shared a car, we needed to be within walking distance of my partner’s work.
Plus, we didn’t want to pay more than $1,000 in rent. We also had no furniture and weren't sure that we would stay very long in Denver, so wanted a furnished place.
We were lucky to find an apartment for $895 a month, including utilities up to $100 a month. The apartment was only a 12-minute walk from my partner’s school.
Denver’s rental market is insane right now, so we saw the apartment for five minutes and agreed to it, making sure to sign the papers the next day with the deposit.
Wanting to be closer to family and recognizing how expensive Denver had become, we decided to move to Atlanta.
We’ve made three failed offers on homes. One offer of $210,000 was for a three-bedroom, two-bath house in a good school district. With a little bit of TLC, it would have been a lovely home for us.
In Baka, where we lived in Jerusalem, I found a 419-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment for $257,000. There was no way we could plan to have kids in that tiny space, which is half the size of our apartment in Denver.
We’re hoping for a market correction, since we would rather buy a house in a buyer’s market. Until then, we’re living with my parents.
Moving Back to America: What We Learned
Moving to another country is challenging at best, but if you don’t do your research, it can be even more difficult.
Between surprise costs and cultural differences, you’ll encounter many obstacles when you arrive in your new home country. A little preparation and research can make the transition a lot smoother. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Additional reporting by Emma Finnerty