Step #1: Call a Meeting
If you attended my budgeting webinar last week, you know that I am a firm believer in monthly budgeting meetings.
I’m not talking about creating the budget from scratch every month, but rather fine-tuning it for whatever your family may be facing in the coming thirty days.
You create the general budget framework once, but you tweak that framework monthly.
For example: Let’s say you would normally budget $100 for clothing, but your husband just started a new job and will need three new suits next month. Time to tweak the clothing budget.
Or you normally budget $50 for gifts, but this coming month, you have three Bar Mitzvahs and two weddings to attend. Time to tweak the gift budget.
The same principle applies to your food budget.
We typically bump up our food budget by at least $200 to accommodate Pesach – both the increased food costs throughout the week, as well as the cost of hosting both seders at home.
Now, since I also believe in zero-based budgeting (income minus expenses must equal zero), when we increase our food budget, we need to decrease our spending in another area.
(Or increase our income that month.)
Which is why a budget meeting is so important.
You see, most of us wouldn’t object to being told that we get to spend more money on food this month. But we probably would object to being told that we had to spend less on clothing, entertainment, gas or housing.
So at your budgeting meeting, you and your spouse (if you’re married) must not only decide how much you will spend on Passover this year, but also what you are going to cut from your budget in order to make that number work within the context of your total budget.
Remember: You goal is a zero-based budget.
Step #2: Ask the Four Questions
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced that having a budget meeting is necessary, you may be wondering what you’re going to talk about at this meeting.
In order to determine your Passover budget, I recommend asking yourselves the following Four Questions:
1. How much do you typically spend on groceries each month? How much did you spend on Pesach last year?
Even if you don’t keep detailed records, you should be able to pull up past bank statements or credit card statements that will give you a good idea.
2. What are the specifics of your Passover plans?
Are you spending yomtov with your in-laws? Or are you making both sederim at home? Do you pot-luck a lot of your meals? Or cook everything yourself?
Do you have a big family, with everyone home for yomtov? Or do you have a smaller family?
3. What is the reality of your income and overall family budget?
Are you deep in debt? Has one partner recently lost a job? Are you saving up for your daughter’s wedding in June?
Have you recently gotten a raise, or taken on a part-time job, allowing some breathing room in your household budget? The tighter your overall finances, the tighter you Passover budget needs to be.
4. What items in your household budget can you live without in April?
Whether or not your family already has a working household budget, common sense dictates that what goes up (Passover spending) must come down (other spending) to keep the budget balanced.
So ask yourselves: Where can we tighten our belts… to make room for all the matzah?
As you may have already guessed, I am not going to give you a magic number for what you should spend on Passover.
Because there is no magic number.
(It’s called personal finances for a reason!)
Whatever number you come up with is a-okay – as long as you can reasonably cash-flow it. We don’t want to celebrate our liberation from Pharoah by enslaving ourselves to American Express, okay?
Next Steps: Sit down with your spouse before March 1st to make your budget for Passover. If the number you come up with represents an increase over your regular food spending, make sure you identify areas that need to be cut in order to fund this increase.