My wife and I were recently discussing the interesting reaction one of our children had to the buying of a specific food item, a type of “pretzel”. Despite it being a seemingly small and insignificant purchase, she was extremely grateful and it literally “made her day”. We acknowledged that her reaction was not typical: other children seem to be less appreciative even when they receive much more.
As we age, our tastes tend to become more sophisticated (for sophisticated read expensive), although there are certainly personality types who are satisfied with less, regardless of their age. After working with hundreds of families over the years, it still amazes me how some can get by on less (and be happy doing it) while others can’t manage even when they have far more funds. The Pesach holiday complicates things even further, as it can often create a major hole in our financial plan as we struggle to buy things to try and satisfy our desires and yet somehow remain within our working ‘budgets’. I believe that everyone should take advantage of the upcoming Pesach holiday and use it to contemplate the extra ‘stuff’ that we surround ourselves with, take the opportunity to reset our lives and work on appreciating what we have.
All our lifestyles are surrounded by commercialism, to a greater or lesser degree. Products are no longer made to last, so we are used to replacing items more frequently rather than getting them fixed. Our lives are much more materialistic than those of our parents’ generation. The problem is that suddenly we look around and discover that objects have become our major focus, rather than values.
As we age we tend to focus more on families and relationships. Age, and with it hopefully maturity, gives one a different perspective on life. You’ll have a hard time finding a successful businessman who, at the end of his life, regretted not spending more time in his office, as opposed to with his family. Unfortunately it is not only older people, but many younger ones challenged by serious illness, who are also confronted with a major reality check as they struggle to connect with what is really important to them, their internal true values.
And in case you were wondering how this fits in with your finances, please read on. By working on your degree of appreciation, or ‘hakarat hatov’ you will not only improve your quality of life, but you will also have an incredibly powerful tool to help you control your expenses. The realization that your happiness is not directly connected to the purchase of any gadget or item, can help control your spending more effectively than any other financial ‘trick’.
My last article was very practical, containing tips for saving money before Pesach. But if you internalize the above message, then reducing your expenses by 10%-20% will be infinitely easier. When you are more focused on core values, you will find it much simpler to categorize your needs vs your wants, and that’s where your savings will start. You’ll be able to disassociate yourself from the hype around the latest ‘must-have’. Like every other adjustment, this is a process which will take time, but Pesach is the perfect time to start developing these ideas.
For seven days we are commanded to eat matzah (unleavened bread), a staple that is reduced to its most basic state – just flour and water baked within a specific time period. No yeast to help it rise and be more impressive, no additional nuts or additives. A flat and unpretentious food. Matza is meant to inspire us to reach spiritual heights by returning to simplicity. This year let’s see if it can also inspire us to look at our basic financial needs and recognize what is truly valuable, and appreciate the basics as a means of simplifying our finances and our life in general. If we are successful and can manage to be less focused on a materialistic lifestyle it will also be much easier to attain more in the spiritual realm. The message is simple, which doesn’t mean it’s easy. But there you have it … literally food for thought.
Wishing you a spiritually and financially uplifting Pesach.