I Cried when I Got Our Electricity Bill

The time of year has come again…the time when my husband and I yell at each other, the time when I snap at my kids over the smallest things and the time I try and convince myself… AGAIN… that it is worth it.

The time has come to fill out our tuition subsidy form. To prove again that our situation has not changed and that we are considered among the “have nots” when it comes to providing our children with a Jewish education. The time has come for me to explain that my father who saved for his retirement doesn’t offer me money to pay for my kids’ school nor will I ask. The time to go over each and every aspect of our financial life, to self-reflect, am I wrong to put my kids in one extracurricular activity, or should we stop buying birthday presents and going to birthday parties (they add up).

When your gross income is less than $150,000, getting a tuition bill that is close to $50,000 takes your breath away.

How do people do this, and camp, and life? I cried when I got our electricity bill.

We keep dipping into our line of credit to cover our expenses, even though we have received a subsidy and appreciate  that we have received it. The subsidy isn’t enough to stop our debt from increasing. I do, after all, have to pay the electricity  bill.

In March and April I will hold my breath and wait for the bargaining to begin.. to be at shuk… when the committee says we can pay more, even though I know we can’t. My husband will get frustrated. I will cry. My husband will call the head of tuition (who is the sweetest man) and then the amount we wrote we can pay (the amount I write down because I am too embarrassed to write less-even though the amount I wrote will put us further into debt) will be accepted. And then I will breathe… till next year, when I have to do it again.

My kids go to camp because I work at camp… not because we can afford the camp. They go to one extra curricular activity a year because although we can’t really afford it, I feel they need it for exercise and self-esteem. Their clothes are hand-me-downs. We have gone on one family vacation in 10 years – paid using my friend’s time share and using points. Each year my husband’s self-esteem get shattered as he feels he has failed as a provider.


Each year my kids show what they have learned when they daven at Shul (yes- we go each week). Each day they take pride in Israel and become stronger Jews in heart and soul.

Will I do it again next year? Maybe. Does it hurt us… yes. It hurts us financially and strains our relationships. Should the process be different? Less humiliating? I wish.


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