The very first rule in balancing a budget is to set aside
your exact maaser as soon as any money/paycheck comes
in. This is divinely guaranteed to work! And it does. Try it,
without any tricks, and you will discover reduced emergency
expenses and added income. Now read on...
The not-so-secret secret of making ends meet is the obvious
advice offered by all home economists: spend less than you
earn. However, with all good advice, it is simpler said than
done. For those women who truly want to live within their
means, how is this sage wisdom followed with so many
`important' reasons to spend -- and spend a lot? Even the
cost of vital items such as food, utilities and clothing have
risen dramatically. What can one do? I hope the following
tips will be of assistance.
One of the first things one can do is to create a quick,
simple budget plan. List your total take-home income on one
piece of paper, and all of your regular monthly obligations
on another piece of paper. After making out your budget and
actually seeing on paper how much money you need to pay your
bills, you might need to ask for an extension. If necessary,
talk with your creditors and explain that you've taken a look
at your financial situation and have devised a plan and wish
to pay everything off. In almost all instances, they'll
welcome your plan and work with you to help you get caught
up. [In fact, some Israeli banks are now offering such a plan
for paying off overdraft through a bank loan at lower-than-
overdraft bank costs.]
One way to cut your expenses is with your groceries. Create a
weekly menu plan using foods in season and other low-priced
food goods. Then, based on your menu plan, make a detailed
and itemized list of all the food and items you need. Total
up the costs and have in mind that this is the amount you
plan to spend. This should help eliminate impulse buying.
Never go grocery shopping when you're feeling hungry.
When making up your list of groceries to buy, always check
your local papers for best buys. Shop at cheaper stores. Try
to make use of refund coupons. If they're for brands or items
that you don't want to use, try to trade them with people who
Another way to watch your expenses is to give up snack foods
and foods and items that come individually packaged. Instead
of buying a chocolate bar to munch on during outings, take an
apple from home. Instead of eating out once a week, cut it
down to once a month and make it a real reward for having
lived within your budget for the preceding month.
When cooking, prepare more of your meals from scratch instead
of serving processed, precooked or ready made frozen foods.
(Baked beans, falafel mix, pizza, gefilte fish and so on.)
Save your foil -- just wash it and use it again. Reuse
plastic bags and save any plastic or jar containers -- just
wash and use them for keeping leftovers. Freeze even small
amounts of leftovers to throw in when cooking fresh:
vegetables, soups, cholent, gefilte fish, stews.
Use washable cloth handkerchiefs (diapers?) or cheaper toilet
paper instead of expensive facial tissue. Cut your own
Shabbos toilet paper from whole rolls.
Clothing is another area in which most people can save.
Instruct everyone in your family that there won't be many new
clothes purchases until your finances are reorganized --
instruct them to learn to value and take care of the clothes
they have so that they will last longer. When you do need to
go clothes shopping, first scour the second-hand places,
namely gemachs, since second-hand boutiques may often
charge regular store prices and you may think you are getting
a bargain. (If you're still embarrassed about gemach-
shopping, go to one outside of your neighborhood.) When
buying new, look for irregular, damaged or factory seconds
(sug bet). A majority of these items are perfectly
wearable and the defect is usually very minor. Just examine
the items carefully and ask the saleswoman to help point out
the problem if you don't see it yourself. Shopping at an
outlet mall might be another solution where you can find true
Learn to sew on buttons, repair ripped seams, and sew on
patches. Try not to throw anything away that can be fixed
easily or cheaply. If something becomes outgrown or no longer
wanted, save it for a garage sale or trade for something you
can use at a second hand store.
For car owners, learn all you can about auto upkeep and minor
repairs. Purchase a `do-it-yourself' manual to learn how to
do make them. Talk with your relatives, neighbors and co-
workers about swapping services -- you do some odd jobs for
them in exchange for their doing things that you can't do.
Instead of splurging on expensive gifts, think of a service
you can offer (to babysit for a friend after birth or for
over a Shabbos, or to cook/serve for someone's
simcha). Be on the lookout for liquidation sales and
buy a few inexpensive items at one time that can be given as
gifts for a long time to come.
And finally, avoid window shopping and malls because in all
likelihood, you will end up spending money you don't have. Go
to a pretty park instead and enjoy your newfound ability to
spend less than you earn.