My Frugal Simcha | A Chicago Bar Mitzvah for Under $3,000

My Frugal Simcha features reader’s stories about their beautiful simchas – on a budget. If you have hosted a budget-friendly wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Brit Milah or other simcha, we’d love to read about it! Please fill out this form to submit your story.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.44 PM

Today I am thrilled to welcome contributor, Tracy Schultz, who orchestrated a beautiful Bar Mitzvah in Chicago this past January for under $3,000. As many of you know, I am deep in the planning stages of my own son’s Bar Mitzvah and I am awed by the amount Tracy was able to save — and still have such a lovely affair. 

By Tracy Schultz

I was able to plan my son’s Bar Mitzvah for under $3000.  This included kiddush for the shul, lunch for the family, and a party for his classmates.

Although I saved a lot of money, I did put a lot of time into it, doing the legwork and designing things on my own, which I understand does not work for everyone.  Here’s how I did it:


Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.12 PM

For the invitations, I wanted to include Hebrew, but did not need any special effects like raised lettering or special paper.  I used Vistaprint, which allowed me to print 2 sides for the same price as one.  I purchased a groupon and upgraded to heavier stock paper, and the cost per invitation was less than 50 cents. The front and back are shown in this image.  I also sent many e-invitations out via Paperless Post.  The logo was free, because I did it myself, and I’ll happily make one for others at a discount.

Takeaway: Search sites to compare prices, test out invitation design tools to be sure they do what you need, and then look for additional discounts.  For good deals on quality logos, contact me.


Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.19 PM

I used David Kippot for our mesh kippot because their price was less than the others I had researched.  They sent me the above image to confirm the design and we received the kippot within the estimated time window. We had an issue with the first prototype and they worked with us to resolve the issue very quickly and to our satisfaction.

Takeaway: Go with the lesser known company and get similar quality.

Suit & Dresses

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.25 PM

Men’s Wearhouse was having a great sale on suits…in August, while the Bar Mitzvah wasn’t until January.  They have a 90 day return policy, so I took the chance and had him try it on again in November.  Shoes and tie came from Kohls (tie was on super clearance) and shirt from Carson’s. I got my girls matching outfits at Kmart, which had the right colors due to the December holiday season.

Takeaway: Know your return policies and get things when the price is right.

Seasonal Products

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.33 PM

Since I knew well in advance what the colors would be- Black White and Red for the Chicago Blackhawks, I took advantage of post-holiday discounts for several items.  At Michael’s, I found table fabrics after Halloween and Xmas for deep discount.  At Target, I purchased red plates, flatware, napkins, ribbons, chalkboard place cards and chalk markers.  I also got red and white mints post-xmas and red, silver and black wrapped chocolate coins post-chanukah.

Takeaway: Try to figure out the colors at least a year in advance.  Then, check craft stores, Target and Walmart after holidays that correspond to your theme colors.

Special Offers

While we were planning the Bar Mitzvah, several special offers occurred that I used to purchase items for the Bar Mitzvah.  Google Express had just started in Chicago and I got a couple of $15 off coupons and purchased red cups.  American Express had a Sam’s Club online offer and I used it to purchase clear plastic plates for the kiddush.  Shutterfly had an offer for free address labels and I only had to pay shipping.

Takeaway: When you see a general deal, think how it will help in planning your simcha.


We decided not to have a caterer for our kiddush.  Our Shul offers a basic kiddush for a set price.  This includes a certain amount of baked goods, soda, cholent, crackers and paper goods.  Then I purchased on my own upgraded paper goods (see above), various chips and salsa, and candy.  A local caterer dropped off kugels and cubed deli and I added to the basic bakery order.  One thing to note when it comes to bakery items: If you are being charged by the pound, sometimes it is better to go with a lot of smaller versus fewer larger items.  For example, sandwich cookies weigh twice as much as regular cookies.  Thankfully, I had help on the day of the kiddush to assist the shul staff with setting up the additional food items.

Takeaway: If you can get help in the kitchen, drop off catering is a lot cheaper than catered.  If your shul allows it, do as much of your own shopping as you can.


Lunch was at the shul and the food was dropped off by my son’s favorite restaurant, Tein Li Chow.  They offer a special on their party menu that vegetable/noodle dishes are half price for every meat or chicken dish ordered.  I ordered 2 beef noodle salads and got 2 fried rices for half price.  We also got panko schnitzel and they gave us free fortune cookies.  Rolls came from the bakery, however, we thought we would save on dessert for lunch by buying the pareve cookies from Aldi, which we think are great.  I also purchased drinks, fresh vegetables and dressing on my own.

Takeaway: Get your child food he/she likes, as it is their simcha.


We had a broomball party for the boys, which ended up costing us less than expected due to an error of the ice rink.  I made several pastas and a couple salads, and served hot chocolate, cold drinks, fruit, cookies and candy.  Making everything myself really saved money, as the cost per person on the food turned out to be under $3.

Takeaway: Having an event at a location where you can bring your own food is a huge money saver, but it’s possible to cost more in time.


Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.20.53 PM

I got my thank you cards at Shutterfly, using a coupon, but I honestly wasn’t pleased with the quality.  I gave out host gifts of jelly belly (post xmas sale)  and sparkling grape juice (new grocery store competing for kosher consumers), as well as bread crumbs for Shabbat Shira, as we have the tradition to feed the birds.  For additional decorations, I purchased vinyl banners from Banners on the Cheap for $10/each and was pleased with the quality.  I made my own centerpieces using office max’s print center and foam board from Michaels.  I used a professional photographer, but made my own album using shutterfly’s free album coupon that I received in my Kohl’s credit card statement.

All in all, I was really pleased with the way the weekend turned out.  I know many people value their time, and I definitely spent more time than the average person would for a Bar Mitzvah, but I enjoyed it and felt good about doing a nice job for a small cost.




  1. Shoshi Lewin says:

    Mazel tov Tracy and yasher koach!

  2. Susie Klinock says:

    My son is a single dad and I’m planning my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. I did his older brother’s a couple of years ago, but you gave me some new ideas. You and I are alike in that we like to do things nicely, but at the least expense possible. With the first Bar Mitzvah, I created a set of files that have been used by many families at the Jewish day school that the boys attend here in Kansas City. Thank you so much for your help! – Susie Klinock

  3. MomOfTwo says:

    What’s a mesh kippa? I usually have to provide for family and am always looking for a good deal…

    • A mesh kipah is one made out of the material used for basketball jerseys, with holes in it. It’s, I guess you can say, a sporty kippah.

  4. Charnie says:

    I’ve skipped kippahs altogether for our last 2 simchas (one BM, one wedding). Almost all the guests were either Orthodox or knew to bring one. If that’s not doable, just have a dozen or so available. Ditto benchers. Rule of thumb used to be order 1 per couple. Now it’s more like for 1/3 of the guests because most people don’t take them anymore unless there’s something highly unusual about your bencher. All our china closet drawers are crammed with benchers!

Leave a Comment