So here's a list of Shekel-stretching things I think are worthwhile:
Bring the warmest down comforters you can afford when you come. Yes, you can buy down comforters here in Israel, but if you're looking for really warm ones - and definitely if you need hypoallergenic ones - (and you'll want them if you follow the next tip), buy them abroad. Look for clearance deals at your favorite bedding store and use coupons! Oh, and buy enough for your whole family, and a few for guests. You'll be happy you did.
Don't heat your house much - certainly not at night. After all, you'll be fast asleep under those super-warm down comforters. And for those family members who feel cold when first getting into bed, just fill up a hot water bottle and let that warm the bed... (this WORKS. we have not run the heat at night at all this winter!)
Air dry all your laundry. We've been here for over 10 months, and we still don't have a clothes dryer. Even through the winter, when it took a little longer, we air dried EVERYTHING. Clothes last longer, get "sun-kissed" freshness, you save money, and it's environmentally friendly. You also bond with your kids who think it's so awesome to help Eema hang out the laundry! What could be better?!
Ditch the bottled water habit. It's really a myth that it's safer for you. We use a filter pitcher to filter our water for drinking, and fill up reusable bottles. (Oh, and buy that filter pitcher here in Israel. We brought ours plus plenty of new filters with us, and the filters are just not made to handle the extreme hardness of the water. A filter that supposedly had a 2 month life - usually 6 weeks for us in the States - only lasted 2 WEEKS here. At that point it became so clogged with mineral deposits - from the hard water - that it became useless.)
Turn off your lights. Unplug all appliances when not in use. It really does shave money off your electric bill!
When shopping, focus on produce that costs 2 NIS/kilo or less. Fill your plates with lots of dishes using those foods, and use other foods sparingly to supplement. (Or go to the shuk just before closing time and get as much as you can for as little as you can!)
Pay attention to store sales and advertised prices. If you are overcharged at the register, just go to customer service. They will refund the difference, just state the facts and show them your receipt... I do this a lot, much more than you would think!
Before we made Aliyah, I shopped my local Florida thrift shops for clothing in various sizes for my children to grow into. I went on 50% off days - so I rarely paid more than $1 per item, usually less. While it does cost to ship items over in a lift, I knew I was sending a lift anyway, so a couple of boxes of children's clothing wasn't a big deal to add. If you are not bringing a lift, you could buy these super lightweight duffel bags:
that conform to EL AL's size requirements, and bring as much as possible using your aliya flight luggage allowance (we were allowed 3 bags each - that would have been 18 pieces of luggage besides carry ons. However, we "only" brought 13 with us - everything else arrived in the lift!).
Coffee makers -If you like "American style" drip-filtered coffee, be aware that coffeemakers in Israel can be very expensive. I DID find a very simple one with a not-so efficient thermal caraffe on sale for about 80 shekel, but it is really only good for serving coffee immediately. It cools off way too quickly. I doubt I would ever be willing to spring for the "really good" kind here, that's just way too much money for me. I have heard that some people are bringing their Keurig single-cup coffee brewers with them on Aliyah. If you do that, you must know that K-cups are difficult to find, and if you do get your hands on them, will be very expensive. So here's a great gadget to keep your Keurig brewer going, even here, where coffee follows other rules: The Ekobrew Cup, Refillable Cup for Keurig K-cup Brewers, is a re-usable, fill-it-yourself K-cup!
Another thing that a lot of people try to bring over with them is a cellphone. Specifically, a smartphone. Israelis are completely addicted to their smartphones, but they are much more expensive here than in the US. Consider buying one in the USA. Amazon is a good place to start looking for unlocked iPhones and other cell phones.
(This page is a work in progress. I will be adding more tips as I have time to write them, so please check back soon!)
So now, you'll notice that there are TONS of retailers out there on Big Crumbs, including Vitacost. A couple of weeks ago, I reported about both my iHerb.com and Vitacost orders.
So, if you want to double your savings, right now, you can get $10 off your first Vitacost order, and if you start shopping at Big Crumbs, you'll get a cash rebate (right now up to 8.4%!!) on the amount of your purchase. (But first click the link to activate your discount. Then go to Big Crumbs and start shopping!)
You can also get a discount when you order (first time) from iHerb.com, but they don't participate in rebate programs (use code QEJ101 for $5 off).
Awesome for natural-food loving ex-pats like me! Also awesome for my friends in the USA as well! Free stuff is always good!
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!
Other deals that may work for international shoppers (all if you start at BigCrumbs): $39 glasses offers international shipping for $12.95, and right now Big Crumbs has a coupon for $10 off PLUS you can 5.6% cashback!
AbeBooks offers 3.5% cashback and SOME sellers ship internationally