The High Holy days are a time of serious introspection, repentance and celebration. It is also really expensive!
Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur and Sukkot coming all in one month is a pretty big budget buster and has left quite a few families with some sleepless nights. This year will be a very tight year for many families and as we pray for a year of Parnassah (Livlihood) and a year were we are the ones who are able to give charity, rather than accept it- we must do our best to act responsibly with the money we were give to manage.
When a few big scheduled events happen in close succession it poses a bit of a budgeting challenge.
It may seem easier to just forget the whole budgeting thing and just wing it and hope the credit card doesn’t cost you too much in the future. I am here to tell you that this is a BAD IDEA.
Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. It will just push it further down the road and as we all know all too well- not one person knows what the future will hold.
Jewish Holy Days
Jews around the world are getting ready for the High Holy Days which are coming really soon. This poses a real challenge, especially since it usually coincides with the beginning of the winter season which includes its own set of expenses and planning. It also comes right after the expenses of summer: camp, vacation, and back to school shopping.
It feels like we were just getting ready for Pesach and already its time to be buying sweaters and planning warm soups for cold Sukkos nights.
How Do I budget for the High Holy Days?
All year, a percentage of my paycheck goes into my Holiday or Yom Tov Fund. Every single month. Every single month I am saving for Yom Tov. The way I do it is that all the money saved from May-September is used for The High Holy Days- Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Yes- there are some expenses that are related to Erev Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur Day), and Sukkos.
All the money saved from October-March is sued for Purim and Pesach. It usually ends up working out. If I ever have some “Extra money” from a side gig or a gift then I will also dump that in there to boost my savings if needed. If not needed, then I will put it in a separate envelope that’s reserved for other events, such as summer camp, Channukah, birthdays etc.
Separate Budget for Each of the High Holy Days
What I like to do is to budget for each of the High Holy Days and other expenses separately. I don’t like doing one big lump sum- but a series of smaller budgets and goals for each event.
Rosh Hashana- $500
Yom Kippur- $50
Winter Clothing- $500
These numbers are for illustrative purposes only. You may have heart palpitations looking at these numbers or you may feel like I am hopelessly out-of-touch. Whatever. The point is to try to budget a realistic amount of money for each holiday. Theoretically, you will have done this last year already and have been working all year to saving enough money to fully be able to fund all this with money in the bank.
Even if you don’t have money in the bank, it is worth it to set a realistic budget for each Yom Tov and TRY TO STICK TO IT! Don’t allow yourself to overspend just because you are putting it on the credit card. Don’t forget that every dollar that you borrow has to be paid back with interest. It may be worth it for some things- but is it worth it for all the things?
Do your best to cut expenses as much as you can, use coupons and money saving tips to get you as close to your budget as you possibly can. You should also do your best to try to increase your income as much as you can with side gigs or hustles to get some extra money to cover these expenses and to close the gap between your income and expenses.
I like to separate each Yom Tov or each of the High Holy Days into it’s own budget because of what I like to call: Budget Fatigue.
What is Budget Fatigue?
Budget Fatigue is when you become sick and tired of your budget, probably because it is not working, and you decide to ditch the whole thing in the trash. The way this worked for us was that once we were putting SOME money on the credit card, we ended up putting MORE money on the credit card. Once we “failed” at sticking to the budget- we might as well stop pinching pennies and just rack up “a little more debt” and enjoy ourselves.
We didn’t go and buy Lamborghini but we didn’t necessarily check prices on every item, and we did end up making some more pricier dishes or just buying clothes even though they weren’t on sale, or we weren’t positive that we needed them. Sounds familiar? I can’t be the only one with this thought process!
Here is the idea:
You do your best to stay within budget, hopefully having enough money in the bank or cover all these expenses. You do this by utilizing every frugal and budgeting hack you know of and the ones you research (Here are some ideas). The point is to stay in the budget.
Now, lets say you spend $400 on Rosh Hashana instead of $500. Congratulations! You are awesome! Keep that $100 for Rosh Hashana next year (or maybe roll it into Sukkot).
Lets say, you don’t stay under budget. You spend too much. That’s OK. No one is perfect and life sucks some times. Being Jewish is freaking expensive. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t let it get you down. Make a note of how much you spent and keep that number as a reference for next year.
And as we experience on Yom Kippur, you now have a clean slate. The disappointment doesn’t need to carry over. Don’t let it ruin the rest of the budget. Don’t let Budget Fatigue set in.
Following the success (hopefully) of Yom Kippur you can move onto Sukkot. Again, you may or may not stay in budget. But… if you do go over budget, you don’t need to throw your hands in the air. You can accept that you are not able to stay in your target goal. You can evaluate what made you go over budget (Did you not budget high enough? Did you not have enough money put away? Were certain things more pricey than you expected?) and then adjust accordingly.
Do you need to make more money? Do you need to put more money over the course of the year into your Holiday account? These are all problems that can be analyzed and solutions found.
If you budgeted enough for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur but not enough for Sukkot; you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by the High Holy Days. You just need to be overwhelmed by Sukkot. That is a much smaller problem to face. Therefore a much smaller solution needs to be found.
When you have separate budgets for each smaller event than you can make more targeted solutions. You have bite-sized problems that can be dealt with one at a time instead of one large insurmountably problem.
Why does this even matter? Especially if you may end up going over budget? Because you don’t deal with money purely on a monetary basis. You deal with emotions. You deal with fatigue. You deal with being overwhelmed and being stressed. You deal with desperation. You turn to spending to cope. You turn to denial to cope. That’s because you are a human being. Humans are not purely logical creatures and you are not a purely logical person. You have to work WITH the emotions that govern your spending and your budgeting. Mind games work.
There is a great app that I like to use to help me keep track of small saving and spending goals. Buck It is a free app that I got from the play store. It lets you set a goal and then it shows you how much more you have to save. It can help you really track smaller money savings goals. This can be great if you have all your actual money in just one bank account and don’t have physical envelopes or separate accounts.