There is no Holiday whose spending is completely out of control quite like Pesach. But I think that if a slightly different approach is taken to the Holiday, your wallet may brave the financial storm at the end of the rainy season.
1 – Begin with the question of “how much can I spend?” Then run through a system of reverse budgeting. Break this down into as many groups as you can for Pesach in order to see where you can cut (usually I recommend fewer categories, but when you are trying to break apart wasteful spending, you need more categories.)
2 – Before shopping, learn the laws of Passover. You’ll be surprised how much you don’t have to buy. Do you need a separate toothpaste that tastes like a mix of rum and foot or can you just open a new tube of what you already have? Do you need a new deodorant? What brands are already Kosher for Passover? You’ll never know until you learn. I recommend the CRC’s website as a good starting point.
3 – Make a list and scout a few stores. Normally I would not insist on making a list and price checking the items in a few locations all in one week, but due to the magnitude of how much there is to buy for Pesach, I would recommend doing so. If you make time to make a few more trips, you’ll be able to save a bundle.
4 – Speaking of making time, another big moneysaver is making time to clean lettuce. Buying already clean romaine lettuce is much more expensive than cleaning it yourself. Schedule time to soak the lettuce a few times, clean the leaves and check them.
5 – Watch out for Kosher for Passover candy and cakes. They are insanely overpriced and no one really eats them because you just served a 5 course meal with 7 main courses. A bowl of fruit will be much more refreshing after a long meal and much easer on your wallet.
6 – Remember that Pesach is only 7 days (8 in the diaspora). You only need food for seven days, half of which are Chol HaMoed where you’ll be out of the house. So don’t pack up on food for all seven days – buy a bit less. If you run out of something (the worst fear of every Jewish woman) you can always buy a bit more on Chol HaMoed. It is better to buy less and to have to go back to the store on Chol HaMoed than to buy too much and waste the food.
7 – For families starting out – Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your Pesach kitchen. You do not need to buy every appliance just because Pesach is at your house. Buy a few appliances and try to borrow some others from friends who are going away for the seder(s). Maybe you’ll even use plastic dishes the first couple of years. Then, add a bit to your repertoire of Pesach paraphernalia each year. You’ll be surprised how quickly it builds up; within five years you’ll have everything. But in the short run, make due with what you can afford.
9 – Finally, plan for Pesach right after Pesach. Bank in NY my family uses the Artscroll Youth Haggadah as the standard at the table. While these Haggadot usually retail for $7 a copy, my mom bought all of ours for $3 a copy – by buying them right after Pesach when all the extras were on clearance.
A few other thoughts:
A – As always, remember that there are those less fortunate than us. Find a charity that gives Maot Chittin to help those in need.
B – Take ha lachma anya seriously. If you know someone who needs a place, inviting him or her for a Pesach meal is hachnasat orchim, tzedakah and being a good person all rolled into one.