Budgeting and Culture

Our Money Choices

How Culture Affects our Budgeting

Religion and culture and our Social Circles (I am going to use these interchangeably- I know they are different!) affect every part of our lives. What we do, what we wear, how we live, the decisions we make, and especially what we spend our money on. Culture defines what is important to us. To be able to discuss personal finance we have to understand how our cultures defines our choices.

Importance of our Culture in our Lives

Humans crave connection. Everyone wants to be part of some sort of social group. Everyone wants to belong somewhere and to somebody. We need a social group. These groups are often based on different things: our religion, our location, our stage in life, our family, our ideologies, our work etc. Even people who embrace “alternative lifestyles” often do so in a group. They find other people who see life the same way as them and connect with them, creating their own social group. Each social group comes with their own set of expectations, norms, traditions, and practices. All those make a difference to what we consider IMPORTANT.

Any discussion of personal finance, budgeting and money has to include the understanding of what is IMPORTANT. A pretty basic rule that most agree on is : Spend money you have on things that are important and don’t waste money on things that are not. Pretty simple, right? Well, who decides what is important and what it not? Why is one thing important and one thing not?

There are some things that are pretty universal: Food, Water, Shelter, Medical Care. These are considered pretty basic needs. I think most of us are pretty lucky that these are not things that we are grappling with (besides for the medical care! Its a fortune but we all agree that we have to spend the money). Its everything else that gets more complicated.

So what is IMPORTANT?

The answer is: I can’t tell you. No one can tell you. Only you know what is important and what is not.

No More Gifts!

This is why I came to this moment of clarity and introspection:

I am Jewish and I sent my kids to Jewish schools. I always celebrated Hanukkah with latkes, doughnuts, games of dreidels and a gift. In the community (social group whatever you want to call it) where I grew up and where now raise my kids, most kids receive a gift for Hanukkah. That’s right: A GIFT. One gift. It was a nice gift- maybe a bike, a fun toy, a small piece of jewelry. My parents would wake up early on Black Friday and we would usually get something nice. I remember when Razor Scooters were all the rage and my sister, brother and I all got one for Hanukkah that year thanks to a Walmart 5 am visit from my mother.

This year, I managed with some referral credits and a coupon to get a building toy and a set of walkies-talkies for my boys for a total of $10 (from Zulily- if you want to sign up, message me and I’ll me you a referral code). That’s it for me- Hanukkah gift shopping done! I was feeling proud of myself- and I started down the rabbit hole of being slightly holier-than-thou. After all, I can get my kids 2 gifts for under $10. Why do all these people stress out about giving gifts for the Holidays? I only give my kids and I don’t get them a lot. One toy each is more than enough. Think of the MATERALIASM. All kids want is LOVE. Stand up to consumerism and stop SPENDING MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE. Sounds great, right? Nice soapbox I built myself there.

And super insufferable, especially considering that the I am not breaking the mold with my holiday giving. I am giving what is socially acceptable in my circles. My kids will not be going to school and hearing that other kids got more than the. They will be receiving pretty much the same as most kids in their class, most kids that they hang out with. I am not going to be showing up empty-handed to a place where I am expected to bring something. And most crucially, I AM NOT GIVING UP SOMETHING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME.


For many people, holiday gift giving is IMPORTANT to them. Its what they know, its what they do, its what is socially acceptable in their situations. If it is important to THEM, then it doesn’t really matter if its important to ME.

There are other things that are important to me that I am sure other people would laugh at. We just spend a nice amount of money on the Four Species for Sukkot. That may seem like a laughable waste of money to most of you reading this. To me, its as important as anything else and I would go into debt (if I had to) for that.

Don’t Throw out the Baby with the Bathwater

When reading and learning about Personal Finance and Budgeting- remember that not everyone has the same worldview as you. Not everything that is Important to you is as important to them. So of course they don’t get it. Of course they don’t understand. And yes, there may be some things that you can “take a stand on” but its easier said than done. Most people, myself included, can’t go against everyone we know and do things so drastically differently from what our culture dictates. (I think you will find that those who do are often part of a culture or sub-cultures that encourages doing differently, so in fact they are not really doing differently. They are just acting in accordance to what their culture prizes or values).

Please don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Don’t disregards advice from people who value different things than you, who think that different things are important. There are many great people giving great advice- as long as you tailor it to your specific circumstances.

So whether its holiday gifts, religious items, private school, Quinceaneras, Bar Mitzvahs, and anything else I can’t even think of:

Spend money on what is IMPORTANT and don’t waste money on what is NOT IMPORTANT… to YOU!

Preparing for The Good

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more info.

Why should you read books about investing and money management if you have no money to invest or manage?

It seems a little silly to read about investing when you’re lucky enough to be able to build a basic emergency fund or maybe even pay off consumer debt.

Here’s Why: So you can prepare yourself for the future.

Am I so convinced that investing will some day be in your future? Yes. Yes, I am.

Why? Because you are already reading this blog. If you are taking the time to read an article about personal finance that means that you are interested in actually taking control of your finance. Now, I may be naïve or hopelessly optimistic, but I believe that one day, we (and I include myself in that) will one day be in a better position financially than I am today. It may be soon, it may be in 50 years, it may be after I have some lower points in my financial roller coaster. But that day will come. And when it comes, I will be ready and prepared! That’s just the type of person I am.

Just like I encourage you to be ready for when times get worse (by saving NOW and building a robust emergency fun) I encourage you to be ready for when times get better.

If doing that involves reading some books, then by all means: Let’s do it!

I would not be worth my salt as a personal finance blogger if I didn’t recommend that you check these books out of the library first. Libraries are awesome and a great way to get free books. You can even get e-books from the library and download them straight onto a Kindle. If you can’t get those, then definitely try to buy used. I can’t remember the last time I bought a new book! If you can, use my Amazon links to place your order. Its a real help to me.

So I turned to the great people of #PF Twitter (That’s personal finance twitter for the uninitiated. Follow me on twitter and I’ll introduce you to some great folks in that community!) and I posed the following question:

“Best personal finance/investing book?”

Pretty simple question.

These are some of the responses I got:

5 Great Personal Finance and Investing Books:

Do you want to make money, or Do you just want to fool around? By John D. Spooner

(recommended by @SmallIvy_SI)


Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! By Robert T. Kiyosaki

(recommended by @ShelbyGrosch)

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

(Recommended by @10YearTarget)

Broke Millennial Takes On Investing: A Beginner’s Guide to Leveling Up Your Money by Erin Lowry

(Recommended by @kbout11)

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

(Recommended by @misterash13)


Other Great Book Recommendations:


Recommended Books on Investing by The Small Investor

10 Year’s Target Bookshelf

4 Great Books to Read Right Now


One Thing After Another

How To Budget for One Thing After Another

Fighting Budget Fatigue

Budgeting for The High Holy Days

When a few big scheduled events happen in close succession it poses a bit of a budgeting challenge.

Do you budget one big lump sum?

Do you budget for each event separately?

Do you even budget at all or just throw money into an account and then hope for the best?

The latter may seem like the best approach especially when you’re probably going to spend the money regardless of whether you have it or not. After all, you are not going to cancel a holiday, especially if you have credit cards available.

The High 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.

Although, I am going to be talking about the High Holy Days specifically these ideas can be applied to any set of events that happen in close proximity to each other.

In past years I have usually set aside money for all the holidays and clothes shopping at once and did a one lump budgeting method. What usually happened, is that towards the end of the “season” we would run out of money and put some on the credit card. When that happened, “budget fatigue” set in.

What is Budget Fatigue?

Budget Fatigue


Continue reading “One Thing After Another”