Pesach preparations with a difference

Pesach is potentially the most physically exhausting yet the most spiritually uplifting time in the Jewish calendar. But unfortunately, likely one of the most expensive as well. In light of this seasonal reality, I thought it would be very helpful to follow up from my last article with some practical tips to save money.

To put us all back in the picture, I had suggested trying to shave at least 5% off your monthly expenditure in order to break the cycle of overspending, and instead manage to accumulate savings. And whereas some readers might have thought it a very helpful idea, others might have doubted its immediate applicability in the upcoming pre-Pesach spendathon.  To dispel those reservations here are some practical ways to reach your new spending goals even during the consumer-driven holiday periods.

Ignore advertising campaigns

Most advertising campaigns in Israel before Pesach offer details of their most amazing special offers, and end with the words “assur lehachamitz” (loosely translated as ‘it would be criminal to miss out’) which is a timely play on the word’s root connection to chametz (leavened bread that is forbidden on Pesach). I’d like to offer the radical advice that it’s absolutely fine to miss out! All those businesses are trying to boost their sales figures at your expense – literally. A couple of years ago someone I know did a price comparison of a fridge before Pesach and compared it to different times of the year. Surprisingly enough, the bottom-line price was very similar to prices throughout the year, without the pre-Pesach hype.

Separate your true needs from wants. Recognize that unless you really need that item on sale you are actually spending rather than saving. Think carefully before you make that purchase to ensure it’s something you really need and that it fits into your monthly budget. A useful tip if you buy online is to wait 48 hours before pressing that ‘buy’ button.  Save the purchase but wait a few days.  That cool-down time will help you decide if it’s a need or a want.

Don’t make purchases when you are physically or emotionally drained

A fascinating research study shows when people’s willpower is run down they tend to spend more money and buy more items. People who are financially less secure and are constantly faced with stressful financial decisions have depleted willpower which leaves them vulnerable to purchasing things they wouldn’t consider if they were feeling stronger or happier.

Other studies show that people are more likely to buy products in the third hour of shopping in a mall when they just want to make purchases and leave, and often buy items they later regret. When you are shopping try to be tuned in to how drained of willpower and energy you are. If your energy is waning, leave the mall and come back only when you have a specific item to buy.  Go back to the store another time at the beginning of your shopping expedition and see how you feel about the item you were considering.

Limit instant loans to cover that debt

Getting a loan used to be a complicated and protracted process – going to a bank, filling out forms, waiting for approval etc. While those types of loans still exist, there are companies that offer immediate ‘small’ size loans, and people with smartphones can find themselves getting texts that offer a loan just by clicking on a link. Don’t be tempted! It is a huge mistake to think that a ‘small’ loan is a painless way to buy what you want now. If you have no alternative other than to take a loan to deal with your debt, think long and hard before committing to taking any specific one.  Ensure you have a plan to pay back the loan and research the repayment terms to find the best terms available to you.

Cap your credit card expenses

Paying by credit card is hugely convenient and painless, and it offers instant gratification. Just swipe your card and forget about it until the amount is debited, possibly weeks later. That’s why people find paying in cash a very successful tool when budgeting. The transaction feels very different when you are handing over your hard-earned notes to pay for something. However, not only is paying by credit a very popular method, it received an extra boost as a result of the new ‘cash laws’ passed by the Israeli government. One of the restrictions is limiting cash transactions to below NIS11,000. Since that law came into effect there has been a 17% increase in the use of credit cards for payments above that sum. And whereas most people’s transactions are for less than NIS11,000, the law has had the effect of making credit cards the preferred payment option in even more instances.  Try and restrict your plastic friend’s influence on your life. and set a cap on your credit card budget.

Plan and list

Draw up a list of your projected expenses during the Pesach holiday –include activities for children if relevant in the pre-Pesach week, and proposed trips or outings during chol hamoed. Israel offers many free activities for all ages during the chagim.  Ensure your income and savings are sufficient to cover your projected expenses and if not, plan to cut back. Look at your ideas and see if there are cheaper but comparable options available. 

Limit your food shopping trips

Try and ensure that your proposed shopping list contains everything you will need to buy new for Pesach – from disposable dishes to silver polish to table wine.  Draw up your menus and add the ingredients to your grocery list. People who shop several times a week spend more than those who shop once a week. We all know that going to the store for just one thing never quite ends up being just one thing. An organized shopping list and an organized shopping schedule will make a significant difference to your shopping bill, especially when you are starting from scratch for Pesach.

While Pesach is potentially very expensive, and definitely more expensive than a ‘regular’ month, careful planning can make a significant difference.  With some early preparation and discipline, you can be well on your way towards a 5% monthly saving track.

Wishing you a financially and spiritually uplifting Pesach. Chag kasher vesameach.