| Making It |

Making It: Self-Supporting Singles

It was supposed to happen, but hasn’t yet.


It was supposed to happen, but hasn’t yet.

Meet singles in their 20s who still haven’t found Mr. or Mrs. Right, but who refuse to be defined by their singleness. Not content to live with Mom and Dad until their bashert arrives, these singles have moved out and on their own, preparing the nest for a partner and gaining vital life skills for a productive future.

But it’s not easy. There’s work and school to juggle, not to mention paying the bills, arranging Shabbos plans, and fashioning some kind of social life. All this, along with the pressure of dating and marriage.

Meet the singles who have decided to fly the coop, and wouldn’t have it any other way.


Name: Avigail Silver

Age : 25

Employment: Speech therapist

Income after taxes: $2,700/month for ten months a year, $30/month babysitting, summer job $2,000.

Rent: $400/month

Utilities: $100/month

Food: $150/month

Medical insurance: Copays about $200/year on parents’ insurance

Auto financing: $500/month

Auto insurance: $200/month

Gas: $60/month

Student loans: $0

Entertainment including gym membership: $190/month

Trip budget: $125/month

Grooming: $40/month

Maaser: $300/month

Shul membership: $50/month

Phone bill: $60/month

Clothing/accessories: $150/month

Flight expenses: $600/year


Prepare for the Future, But Live in the Present

Growing up, we lived on the outskirts of the frum community in Cleveland. My little sister has Down syndrome and my parents chose to live in our neighborhood so she could get the best education possible. It didn’t affect me much. I had a great social life in school, would hang out with friends during my free time, and spend Shabbos in their homes. I didn’t grow up wealthy by any means, but we never felt deprived. Still, with the challenges that a child with special needs brings, I never wanted to add to their burden, so I was pretty independent from the get-go.

I babysat and worked in day camps in the summer, and always saved money for my own luxuries and even necessities. My parents were happy to give me money, but I preferred not to ask them.

I graduated high school, went to seminary with all my friends, and returned with hopes of an imminent engagement. I dated throughout college, but lived at home. I paid off as much college debt as possible because I didn’t want to owe money once I got married. I was exhausted every week, so I barely got to go away for Shabbos in college. Most singles hope to get married before they graduate, but if they don’t, it’s not exactly par for the course, or very “acceptable” to move out.

My parents were very supportive when I told them that I was ready to leave the nest. They didn’t feel rejected or nervous. They empowered me to be independent my whole life, knew that I had the skills to pull it off, and actually wanted me to get a taste of real life — bill paying, housekeeping, and shopping — before I was thrust into marriage. I knew that I wanted someone in learning for the first few years, so this was a great school-of-life opportunity.

My friends didn’t think that what I did was unusual. In fact, many were jealous. Because my reason for moving was practical — being closer to friends, to the frum community, and to work — it was acceptable. Many of my friends felt stifled at home, but the idea of moving out was “pas nisht” according to their parents. The shidduch landscape has changed so much over the past few years, but now it’s not unusual for a 23-, 24-, or 25-year-old to be single and living at home.

I know that my parents don’t doubt my ability to find a husband, but having a distance between us during the week relieved some of the pressure I felt to get married. I was lucky enough to find a few friends who also needed to rent, and we found a great house. Since it isn’t far from my home, I took the smallest room and pay only $400 per month.

My food expenses aren’t so high, though it’s difficult buying one piece of chicken and one potato and one carrot for a meal. I also don’t have a lot of fridge space, so I end up wasting a lot of money on food that I might throw out. Sometimes it’s easier to just have takeout or leftovers from my mother.

I’m very careful with all my expenses. I put away money for a yearly get-away because I need it for my mental and spiritual health. I want to put away more money, but I won’t compromise on my life. I can’t live with the “I better save every penny for marriage,” because I don’t want to ever get to the point of resenting being single.

Going away with single friends who don’t need to watch every expense can sometimes be frustrating. One time we went someplace where it was $75 for zip lining for half an hour. I was not ready to part with money like that for such a fleeting experience, and I hated being made to feel cheap when it was a drop in the bucket for a friend who doesn’t for pay rent or food. I think it’s a misapprehension that people in shidduchim have a lot of money saved.

People might say, “If you have a perfectly good home, go live there.” I know I would save over $8,000 a year living at home. But I would not be as happy as I am today. Baruch Hashem, I have not found that living away from home has prevented me from getting dates. I have put away a nest egg for when my bashert comes. Till then, I want to live a normal life and grow as much as possible.

Name: Beth Kohan

Age: 33

Employment: Librarian

Income: $4,150/month after taxes

Shared portion of rent: $800

Food: $100 a week

Medical insurance: $250/month

Auto payments: $140/month

Auto Insurance: $140/month

Gas: $20/week + $116/month for metro card

Utilities: $60/month

Student loans: $0

Entertainment: $100/month

Annual trip budget: $2,000

Shul membership: $300


It’s All About Balance

I grew up in Seattle as a typical child of immigrants. My father came to this country from Russia with barely anything and he worked hard to support us. We never felt poor, and to this day both my parents are very generous people. I’ve never felt comfortable taking money from them, though, and sometimes I wonder if their frugality pushed me to be the saver I am. My friends worry that my penny-pinching prevents me from living life to the fullest.

I went to day school as a kid, but our family drove to the shul for chagim and Friday night services. We never mixed milk and meat, but the meat was not exactly glatt, though it was kosher.

I was always working. I babysat or worked in restaurants. I spent all my free time in libraries, which is probably why my drive to become a librarian was so strong. Even while taking a full course load in college, I worked 45 hours a week to make money.

After college, I discovered that I wanted a closer relationship with G-d. With a degree in library arts and no job in sight, I went to Eretz Yisrael to learn. When I returned to America, I lived at home for a year and moved to Pittsburgh to work. I was lucky enough to find a job as an assistant librarian in a warm frum community. I am lucky that my parents paid for most of college, and I worked hard to pay off two college loans quickly, because now I don’t have any loans to pay back. My parents never took me off their cell phone bill, but I pay for everything else on my own.

Although I love my parents and speak to them often, it’s definitely lonely in Pittsburgh. It’s hard needing to find a place for Shabbos and Yom Tov every week. It pushes me to be more independent. I know that I have Hashem on my side, but there is no physical manifestation of someone in my immediate life, and that is hard.

While at the end of the month I am solvent, the responsible side of me always wishes that I could put more money away. I don’t see myself saving for my wedding, because I think my parents will be so happy when I finally get married that they’ll pay for it. But not knowing what the future brings, especially after so many years of dating, is difficult. It’s like living in limbo. I feel like I’m waiting for my life to start.

I never know what to do about big purchases. There’s the frugal side of me that wants to squirrel away as much money as possible, and there’s the other side that pushes me to live in the present.

Food is such a challenge. For example, if I make a pot of zucchini soup, I can send some to the families that host me, but really, buying a quart container is even less wasteful. Another example is getting rid of chometz for Pesach. I prefer not to sell chometz, but to discard it. But even though I don’t shop a lot, I accumulate things, and the week before Pesach I asked my rav if it’s really okay to throw out $100 in groceries.

I am so lucky and very grateful that there are families to host me, but I don’t feel comfortable eating out each meal for Yom Tov. Some families go away, or host their own extended families — plus, I am always there for Shabbosim during the year.

While I wish I could start my own family, I definitely don’t want to remain stagnant. Once, to get away from feeling alone, I traveled to a hotel for Pesach. I didn’t consider it a luxury, but even the cheapest one cost a few months of salary. It was so worth it. It helped me meet other families and singles, and was my way of celebrating the chag. I also like to host meals for friends on Shabbos, but that isn’t always cheap either.

Baruch Hashem, I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but at the same time I don’t want to waste anything. I take nothing for granted and I know that He is watching over me. In the end, I think my savings strategy is a kind of hishtadlus: I know that He will send me a lifelong partner soon, and that together we can spend some of this hard-earned money.

Name: Dov Avner

Age: 20

Employment: Assistant manager in the food industry. Freelance waiter.

Income: $2,400 to $3,000/month after taxes

Rent: $425/month

Food: $75/month

Medical insurance: On parents’ plan

Auto: $0 (Paid cash for my car from savings.)

Gas: $60/month

Grooming: $20/month


Clothing: $75/month

Phone: $25/month


Flex Your Independence Muscles

When I was a kid, my parents provided us with what we needed, but luxuries were doled out carefully. My family lives in a smaller out-of-town community and I went to a high school close to my home. When it came time to find a yeshivah, I knew that I wanted to leave town and find a place where I’d feel more connected to the rebbeim.

My friends recommended a yeshivah on the East Coast that caters to students who need a more one-on-one relationship with their rebbeim. For the first two years, it was great, but I soon realized that long-term learning was not for me.

While I was in yeshivah, I worked on the side. My mom happens to be a great cook, so it’s a bit ironic that I found myself in the food industry, surrounded by unlimited culinary options. I managed a sushi kiosk in the local community center and met a lot of great people. One of them was a regular customer who invited me for Shabbos often. I became a ben bayis in his home, and eventually he offered me a full-time job in his business, which provides kosher meals for tour companies.

Since I was not learning full-time anymore, I told my parents that I wanted to try to do as much on my own as I could. I found a roommate and moved out of the dorm. My savings from the sushi job, along with my new employment, meant that I had enough for a security deposit on the apartment, a new phone, and a used car. I was so excited.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be to support myself, but I am so proud that I am. I started college studying food service and hope to get a degree in business. I go to school full-time for four days a week and work in the evenings and on the weekends as a waiter.

I am lucky that I don’t need to repay my student loans yet, but since I know that day is looming, I’m carefully saving so that I can repay them.

Working and studying is definitely a challenge. I used to have time to exercise and spend time with friends, but now my free time is for school and work. I really would love just to chill.

Yet I remember what it was like being a kid who needed something more. So I decided to give back.

I started to learn with the son of the balabos who hosted me regularly for Shabbos. I felt good about giving to others, and the kids in that family saw me as an older brother. I don’t have a lot of time for extracurricular activities, but I feel as though this isn’t detracting from my free time, but enhancing it.

I am not totally on my own: I miss my family and go home for Yamim Tovim. But I felt as if I needed to prove to myself that I could make it on my own. I never liked taking things from people, and being independent ensures that I won’t have to depend on others in the future.

I wish that I could save a little more money, but the way I see it, the more I strengthen my work ethic, the greater the chance I will have this stamina once I have a family. So many of my friends are learning and growing in their own way, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to support themselves. Not because they don’t have a degree; they’re all bright and talented, but I don’t think they have the stamina to keep the hours that I do. I look forward to getting married one day, but before I do, I want to know that I can support my family comfortably.

As future-minded as I am, I still know that I have one more crucial step before I get married: I have been putting aside money to learn in Eretz Yisrael.

Independence tastes great, but I know that Hashem is the One Who’s making everything happen. Deepening my relationship with Him will tie together all the loose threads of my life.

My financial strategy

Avigail: I don’t wait until the end of the month to pay the credit card bill. I pay the balance weekly to keep better track of my spending.

Beth: Keep minimal balances in my checking account and maximum balances in my savings account. The less I have to spend, the less likely I will spend.

Dov: Budget for expenses and also for pleasure.


How I finance large purchases

Avigail: I have some cash that I keep for emergency large purchases.

Beth: I only make large purchases when I know I can afford them. And when I do, I pay in full, up front, so I don’t have to pay interest.

Dov: Save money, avoid borrowing.


My toughest financial decision

Avigail: Going on vacation versus putting extra money in savings. I need a vacation once a year to keep myself sane and refresh, so that usually wins the battle.

Beth: I used to do so much research that by the time I bought what I wanted, I was exhausted. I still do research, but I stop as soon as I find a reasonable price.

Dov: Going to college and incurring those expenses, even though I have a good job.


My biggest nisayon was

Avigail: Choosing to work in a Jewish school for $12,000 less than my last job paid, and no benefits. But the ruchniyus benefits outweighed the financial benefits (for now, at least, while I can afford to live with less).

Beth: To make the leap to be 100% financially independent.

Dov: Sticking through college even though I needed money for expenses.


I am lucky because:

Avigail: I have such a supportive family that is behind me in everything I do.

Beth: I have the skills to save what I need every month.

Dov: I started at the bottom of the business and proved myself and worked myself up to become the successful employee I am today.


What would you do with an extra $100?

Avigail: Put it in savings.

Beth: Treat myself to a fancy dinner.

Dov: Go out with friends.


What would you do with an extra $1,000?

Avigail: Put 70% in savings, 10% in emergency cash, and then use the remaining 20% to buy something I never would otherwise.

Beth: Invest in the future.

Dov: Put it into savings.


My attitude in a word:

Avigail: Hakaras hatov to Hashem!

Beth: Spend wisely.

Dov: Be optimistic.


I wish people knew that:

Avigail: I’d much rather be married right now, but I don’t cry myself to sleep every night. Instead, I take advantage of being single and let myself have a good time.

Beth: I don’t put my life on hold when I’m single. I deserve to be happy now.

Dov: It’s not so scary without your parents to take care of you. I have learned a lot about myself and grown so much.


(Originally Featured in Magazine)

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