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High Holidays on a low budget – Rosh Hashannah

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It’s Elul already, and the Chagim are upon us. This is one of the three most expensive times of the year (the others being Pesach and Hannukah), so some frugality is certainly in order. Here are some money saving tips for this upcoming Rosh Hashannah

#1 – Sending flowers abroad? One of the ways I cut down on this cost is by ordering them from a flower place close to where I am sending the flowers, instead of using 1-800-flowers or the like. The big surprise is that not only is it cheaper, but it is the same local florist that 1-800-flowers uses!

#2 – There is a well known custom of buying jewelry/clothes for women and toys for children for the Holidays. Ask your wife about helping you buy something in your price range for her. Take a Friday and go through the shuk to find something nice together. The time spent and the togetherness in finding the item may make up for its lack of material value. As for kids, remember how simple kids are. They are probably happier with a ₪ 5 toy from the shuk then they are with a ₪ 300 doohickey from Toys R Us.

#3 – Share the simanim – Many people buy simanim for Rosh Hashanah. This is a sampling of many rare fruits and vegetables to symbolize a new year that is sweet/fruitful/enemy-destroying/bad-decree-tearing-up. People usually sample these simanim just a bit and the leftovers go bad and get tossed– so serve less. This can be hard, because the fruits only come in a certain size package, so the best thing to do is to go to a neighbor and arrange to share your simanim and split the cost.

#4 – Plan and limit your meals. You don’t need to have every side dish at every meal. Plan a meal with a main dish and a couple of sides, no more. After that people just overeat and don’t get to savor any of your cooking.

#5 – Not every meal has to be meat. You can have a fish meal or (dare I say it) even a dairy meal during a holiday. My family has a dairy meal the first morning of Passover because we just overate the night before and are about to do it again (this is in the States, where we have 2 days). This meal helps out our budget and preserves some of our appetite.

#6 – Eat with friends. Odds are you’re going to cook enough food to feed a small army anyways, so invite a few more people over. In turn, you’re likely to be invited to eat out as well, which can save you from cooking another insanely large meal.

#7 – Borrow a Machzor. It is a bit surprising, but most libraries have Machzorim (even Artscroll) that you can borrow for free.  Buy one after the holidays when they go on clearance so you’ll have one for next year.

#8 – Consider the following story, when giving charity this Rosh Hashannah (taken from Gemara Ketubot 66b):

It once happened that R. Johanan Ben-Zakkai left Jerusalem riding upon a donkey, while his students followed him, and he saw a girl picking barley grains in the dung of Arab cattle. As soon as she saw him she wrapped herself with her hair and stood before him. ‘Master’, she said to him, ‘feed me’. ‘My daughter’, he asked her, ‘who are you?’ ‘I am’, she replied, ‘the daughter of Nakdimon Ben-Gorion’ (one of the richest Noblemen of Israel). ‘My daughter’, he said to her, ‘what has become of the wealth of your father’s house?’ ‘Master’, she answered him, ‘is there not a proverb current in Jerusalem: “The salt of money is giving some away?”‘ (If you want to keep your money, give some to charity)…

Did not Nakdimon Ben-Gurion, however, give charity? Surely it was taught: It was said of Nakdimon Ben-Gurion that, when he walked from his house to the house of study, woolen clothes were spread beneath his feet and the poor followed behind him and rolled them up! (to keep and to sell for their own profit).

If you wish I might reply: (1) He did it for his own glorification — (2) And if you prefer I might reply: He did not act as he should have done, as people say, ‘In accordance with the camel is the burden’

In summary (1) give charity, (2) do not just give it for some fancy honor and (3) give according to what you can realistically afford – don’t be too thrifty, nor too cheap.

If you have any more money saving tips for the Rosh Hashanah, please include them in the comments below so that everyone can benefit. Thanks and have a Happy, Healthy New Year.


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