Friday, 19 December 2014

Shabbat Shalom UMevorah

What are your thoughts for today? Some think of it as Friday while some think more of tomorrow, i.e. Shabbat. Either way, it's time to say:

 It's quite a special Shabbat this week.

This week is Shabbat of Chanukah and a time to remember the miracle of the oil that remained burning for 8 days while new oil was prepared to light the Menorah. It's also Shabbat Mevorach meaning the last Shabbat of the month of Kislev and the time to recite a prayer to bless the coming month. Next month will be the month of Tevet.

The image above of the Holy Temple is a reminder of this special time and what Chanukah represents. It's also a reminder that when the Temple stands in it's proper place, there is blessing that flows from there to the rest of the world. Just like on the last Shabbat of the month we pray for peace, blessings and good things for the month ahead, so too, the prayers and holy services that takes place in the Temple is all aimed at bring peace and blessing from Jerusalem out to the rest of the world. What a very special concept. 

Shabbat in Jerusalem is starting to come in a tiny bit later again. Candle lighting this week is 16h03 (in Jerusalem - if you live elsewhere in Israel, please check the correct candle lighting time for you). Remember to light your Chanukah candles before lighting your Shabbat candles leaving enough time for all the blessings and songs if you sing them. Approximately 5 minutes is needed to complete the Chanukah candle lighting and be ready to light your Shabbat candles. 

Shabbat Shalom U'Mevorach and Chanukah Somayach to all. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Tashlumim (Installment Payments) in Israel: Friend or Foe?

While owing a credit card can be of assistance to many - when used correctly, they can become a source of tremendous problems when used incorrectly. Not all countries are equal however...

While all countries will allow you to debit your card with a payment when you wish to purchase something, a country like Israel has an additional credit option over and above this regular facility.

Let's get this clear from the beginning - anyone using a card irresponsibly will find himself in serious trouble within just one month. It's not the plastic that makes the purchase. It's the money in the account that comes off the account when the credit card is due for payment - something many forget! Of course if you find yourself in need of carrying this piece of plastic with you because for any number of reasons, carrying another payment type (cash or cheque) is uncomfortable, but actually do have the money in your account, then your credit card can assist you when you find you just don't have the cash on you. Purchasing items on the Internet (responsibly) can be done using your card. Not having the card may mean you lose out on a book you may be able to obtain from overseas (or any other item you may need at the time.) But again, if you forget that - while the payment goes through, it has not actually gone through until some other date during the month when the bank account is actually debited - avoid this piece of plastic in every way you can!

In Israel, there's an additional payment method made to "help" you when money is tight. It's called "Tashlumim" (תשלומים). The word Tashlum means payment, though the correct translation in this case would be "installment". In other words, you go to the sports store and notice a wonderful fitness machine that you simply must have! It will set you back ₪4000 - but when it comes to being fit - it's worth it (you say to yourself!) You ask the store owner (perhaps) if he can give you a discount. He replies that he cannot, but not to worry, you can purchase the item in Tashlumim. In fact, you probably won't even feel the money being paid - he may convince you. He tells you that in Israel you can often get up to 24 months of Tashlumim - so your ₪4000 super-powered aerboic swimming/cycling/flying machine will cost you just ₪167.67 per month. Now isn't that affordable - he asks? He's convinced you. Your account has convinced you. Your card has convinced you and you go ahead and make the purchase. The item is delivered and for a week (for a start) you're a fitness freak! Slowly it starts to settle in though that though the item is in your home - you still have another 23 payments to make.

The salesman will also convince you that your Tashlumim are free. What's "great" about this Tashlum business is that you'll be sure to meet another Tashlum fanatic at your next grocery purchase. You'll meet another one selling your electricity. Another selling you some other widget-gadget and so it goes on. Each of these salesman will also convince you that purchasing through Tashlumim is the way to go! In fact, when you check out from the superstore, you may encounter a smiling teller ask you "Tashlumim or Ragil"? He's asking if you want the payment to be made over a series of months or if it should come off in one go. In fact, the way he says it clearly points to Tashlumim being the way to go. You may even choose it!

Fine! So you have your super-aerobic machine now on Tashlumim, and you've even bought your groceries on Tashlumim. You've paid for you electricity on Tashlumim and a whole bunch of other things which all seemed to be just ₪150 every month. But you've forgotten the biggest thing. After ten such purchases - that month alone - you'll be obligating yourself for ₪1500 a month for 24 months! But that's not all, because once the next month comes around, you'll find yourself doing the same thing. You'll now be adding your original ten Tashlumim with another 10! Before long, you'll find yourself in tremdendous debt - making use of a completely "useful" and "helpful" Israeli payment system. Essentially, you've now turned your credit card into a doubled-credit card! It seems like you can get more out of it. But you can't.

What's more - the point they never tell you - you'll be paying a fee of around 50 aggarot per "pushed off" installment payment. In other words, if you "sign up" for the ten Tashlumim offer, you'll be forking out another 5 Shekel each month for the hidden costs of those payments. It never sounds like much when you think of "just" ₪5, but that's the point they all want you to think - until of course you realise just how much these "small" amounts add up to!

There is only one way to get a hold on these things once you realise what is happening. Avoid this form of payment wherever you can. It should clearly only be used by a responsible person in a very responsible and needed urgent situation. Relying on it - just because it seems to be the done thing, with everyone offering it can be the start of tremendous financial problems. 

Think of it this way... Instead of the ten Tashlum each month that cost ₪1500, see if you can purchase a super powered aerobic swimming/cycling/flying machine at that price outright and buying it straight out if you can. This way you'll have a great working machine that will be yours from the start - and not having to worry about the payments every single month. Likewise - consider managing all your purchases in this way. As each month goes by - rather put the money you would be putting into Tashlumim - into one item that you know you can pay for right away. If you can't - consider very well the real cost and time involved when making that Tashlum purchase!

Credit card debt is so easy to get into. In Israel, there's just one more way for helping you get into it even faster. Tashlumim. Be aware of what it is, and what it can actually end up costing you in the long run!

For more assistance on understanding some of the lifestyle in Israel and how you can get a better grasp of succeeding to live here, do contact us for a one on one life skills consultation.

** This post is offered to provide information to help the reader consider the points discussed for his own situation in order to help make an informed decision for himself. For professional financial or other advice, always contact someone you feel is best suited to assist you.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Cellphone Contract and Its Costs (in Israel)?

You may be aware that the cellphone industry in Israel is currently experiencing its most competitive times ever. There is at least one new provider entering the market - adding to the huge competition between Orange, Cellcom, Rami Levy, Golan and Pelephone. There are various deals - each claiming to be better than the next. But do you really know what is going on and what you'll end up paying for your monthly contract?!

A few months ago we were highly encouraged to join Golan. Golan offer a fantastic deal where for one price - you are able to call to 55 international countries and get yourself up to 6GB of Internet roaming data. What's more, if you sign up for two lines at once, you end up getting your second contract at less than half the price of the first - all for a one year period. Sounds too good to be true? It probably is! Not because of what it looks like - but because of what it could actually cost - as time goes by!

When we approached the Golan stand in Malcha Mall a few months ago, we ourselves were conned with their fancy sales-pitch talk. Indeed, the laptop of the salesman is open displaying how many hundreds of thousands of clients are currently joining Golan, with the counter increasing on at least a one minute basis! The deal was also clearly visible - as you'll see it on their site For ₪59 you'll get a line that gives you free calls to landlines and mobile lines within Israel as well as 55 international countries (mostly landlines only) as well as free SMS's - and everything else the line has including 6GB Internet roaming. In the small print - you'll see you can get another line for just ₪26 with the same package apparently all for a year - at least that's what we saw and what we were told by the physical salesman standing in front of us. But that's probably why it's in the small print!

After signing up for the contract, it was clear on the salesman's laptop that the second line would only last for 5 months - not an entire year - after which we would need to pay ₪99 a month for that second line - an amount we were never prepared to pay (and had clearly told him.) The competition is steep and it was not necessary to have to pay this amount for what we needed. We were however quite happy with the year offer as presented to us.

When we mentioned this to the salesman he explained to us that only those who are not prepared to work at their contact regularly pay more(!) When asked for an explanation, he told us that all we needed to do was to call them at the 5 month period and set up a new contract and we would be back on track with the cheaper contract - no additional or hidden costs. As long as you keep track and watch that you don't fall into a new contract with a new amount - but instead phone to update and let the company know you are not prepared for the ₪99 deal - they will restructure the contract to reflect the smaller amount again.

5 months later, we did indeed make the call, only to be told that we were lied to. In fact, we could indeed change the contract to a cheaper one (and not lose out on having to pay for the ₪99 line) but that it would also cost us an extra ₪49 because we had reneged on the original contract! When I told the saleslady on the phone that this is not what the original salesman had said, she apologised, but kept to her word. At the end of the day, it was clear, the contract that had been accepted was by far not what had been told or sold to us.

While I have enjoyed using the Golan contract overall, the recent behaviour and the show of fibs and secrecy of the real contract has sadly made me question them as an honest company I wish to continue with. The competition is steep - and there's no reason to have to be stuck with a company not prepared to be honest - at least at the outset.

While this behaviour was unexpected from Golan - we had experienced similar behaviour from Cellcom after being told that the phones we received together with the contract (many years ago when such things were possible when signing up for a three year contract) - would be free! It was again salesman talk - and it was only when we received our first bill that we realised that not only was there a charge for the cellphones - but the charge far exceeded anything we had expected for a phone of the quality we had received!

Is there corruption within the cellphone market in Israel in general? Why is there a need for the dishonesty presented?

Do you know what your contract is actually costing you? Are you aware of the additional, hidden costs that crop up every now and again when you least expect it?

Have you had good service from your cellphone company and happy with your contract? Please write to us and let us know. Good service should well be rewarded, and we'd be delighted to share the good work of good and honest companies in Israel. We definitely need to promote and support those who are upfront and honest - from the start!


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