Panic not! – Productive Pre-Pesach Planning

Purim is over, and you have surely put away the fancy dress, stripped off the masks and faced reality. There’s no denying it now, Pesach is on its inspiring – and most definitely expensive – way!

The last couple of columns dealt with identifying financial goals, and avoiding common pitfalls. This month we’re going to discuss the financial ramifications of Pesach and how you can put into practice the tips we’ve been discussing. Regardless of how financially savvy and careful you are, Pesach is potentially the most expensive time of the Jewish year. So what can you do?

Approach the whole Pesach financial package the same way you approach your general financial plan.

First, you need to know what you can afford to spend in the coming month, and then work out your priorities for that expenditure. Do you want your money to go towards a vacation during Pesach, extra daycare before the Chag, or painting your house before you clean? It’s much easier to allocate your money when you have a clear sense of your priorities. So take the time to sit down and discuss with your spouse, and children if they are old enough, what you want to do with your money. Include as many family members as possible in the decision-making process in order to ensure maximum “buy-in” from all concerned.

If you are currently living within your budget, then prioritizing your goals and cutting back on less important expenditure might well be sufficient to carry you through the month.

For those who need more tangible financial assistance – plan ahead. Make a detailed list of all the cleaning, food, disposable and non-disposable items that you will need. And then look into a ‘group buy’ (possibly through your shul or community organization). You may be able to save yourself some serious money by becoming part of a collective purchasing group. Realistically, you won’t be able to buy everything via a group. However, by being organized in advance, you can make all your purchases at the cheapest location – rather than dashing out frantically at the last minute to a more expensive local store, when you discover that crucial item that you are lacking!

If you prefer to spend your money on a vacation rather than extra food, remember that home-made food is not only usually healthier and fresher but much cheaper too. If you are accustomed to ordering in food for Pesach, you can decide to save money by eliminating those extra fancy dishes you don’t make yourself while enjoying simpler but often tastier, home-made delicacies instead.

For Pesach clothing needs, discover the many gemachim that provide or sell nearly new/gently used clothing. If you can find suitable clothing for your family at a drastically reduced cost, you have just saved yourself hundreds and hundreds of shekels. It’s worth checking out the gemachim as someone else’s mistake can become your perfect find. Just be aware that some gemachim close on Rosh Chodesh Nissan – so plan for this in advance too!

If doing house improvements is high on your priority list, consider the “Do It Yourself” approach. There are endless websites and tips for the DIY amateur. If you have the time and patience there may be no need to call in a professional. You can save yourself a great deal of money – and you may discover some latent talent of which you were completely unaware!

Remember that a shekel saved is actually worth much more than a shekel earned. No matter what tax rate you’re paying, Israelis are heavily taxed, and so saving one shekel is the equivalent of up to two shekels of income (especially if your tax rate approaches 40% and you add Bituach Leumi payments on top).

Prioritize and plan, identify your needs versus wants, and you will be well on your way. Creating debt in order to enjoy the Chag might seem like a viable option and for many, the only way of getting by. But my experience tells me that higher debts will increase your stress in the long run, as you dig yourself into an even bigger financial hole. Avoid debt unless you are sure that you have the means to pay it back.

Pesach is the festival of freedom – turn this one into both a financially and spiritually liberating experience. Chag kasher vesameach – you deserve it!