Monday, March 15, 2010

Delineating the Costs of Pesach

Of all the yomim tovim that we celebrate, most people agree that Pesach costs the most monetarily. They are quick to point out that the cost of food is much higher since it must be only foods allowed for Pesach, and mostly with special hashgochahs just for Pesach. People look at their cash outlay before Pesach and groan, loudly and with gusto. But are these special food purchases really the only thing that raise expenditures pre-Pesach to the levels we see? Nope.

One reason the expenditures go up is company. For those whose children come home to them for Pesach, or who have others coming for the Yom Tov, expenses are multiplied way beyond regular expenses. When you go from feeding only a few people for a week to feeding a small army for a week, you are going to be spending money, lots of money. This year there is going to be very little Chol HaMoed free time, basically being yom tov, Shabbos, yom tov. Those meals over Yom Tov and Shabbos are not peanut butter sandwiches and a cup of coffee, no matter how "lightly" you cook. By my reckoning, not counting breakfasts and snacks or "tea" in the afternoon, nor regular Chol Hamoed meals,I'll be serving 11-12 major meals, all in one 8-day period. If I had company every Shabbos, for both meals, it would be 6 weeks to serve that many company meals. If I had that company only once on Shabbos, it would be three months to serve that many company meals. And the cost of those meals would be spread out over a 1-1/2 to 3 month period of food budgeting. And the choice of what to serve for those meals would be strictly mine, no special kashrus or minhag concerns applying.

And if you are not serving meals to company but only to your family? Principle still applies. In 8 days you are going to be serving the equivalent of 6 weeks of Shabbos meals.

Yes, this time of year cleaning gets frenetic for some, and the cost is there. Use more cleaning supplies and you spend more money. Some people have cleaning help all year round and get extra help for Pesach, and some splurge on that help only for making Pesach. Yes, this costs money. Right around now laundry doing has increased, and yes that too adds in, even if only a few dollars. And then there is the load of clothing going to the dry cleaners. And if you should decide to have your carpets cleaned? More money added to the expenditures.

Not every one is completely outfitted in their kitchen for Pesach cooking and serving. It seems that every year something new gets added. And that adds to the cost as well. Even those such as myself who have been making Pesach for decades find things that have worn out and need replacing. And for those who serve on paper/plastic and use foil pans instead of buying pans they may have no room to store, that is not a food expense and certainly adds to the cost of making Pesach.

And yes, there is the shopping of the non-food kind. I have to be one of the few women I know who does not jump on the "get a new outfit or more" for Pesach bandwagon. Why should I? I wear my clothes until they are no longer physically wearable. A suit purchased two or three years ago is still perfectly appropriate for shul, and I don't give a rat's behind about whether the color is in or not. For those who truly love clothes shopping, the spring styles and fashions are first arriving into the stores now; they'll be much more choice later on. And nothing goes on sale right about now: Easter and Passover are big-bucks times for clothing stores. And you can't count on the weather to fit with the clothing you purchase now--many a Pesach where the weather has resembled late fall rather than late spring, and those new clothes stay in the closet. And is it really, really necessary to buy more than one outfit, when closets in homes are bulging at the seams? Clothing shopping is an extra dropped into the budget, not a required item, and it's coming at a time that the budget is being strained in other areas. Perhaps, if money is tight, only those who have changed size over the year, such as growing children, should be considered as "must spends" before Pesach. The clothing shopping before Pesach has far more to do with being stylish than with necessity.

Just a little side note here: I caught a bit of flack on a different blog when discussing the purchase of hand shmurah matzah. Yes, it can be pricey. Yes, it is what we use out of choice and not out of ignorance that other alternatives are available. No, I don't "like" the price, but I want the product so I pay what is asked. But here is the thing. You have any idea how many pounds of that hand shmurah I can buy just by forgoing a pair of those "fancy, shmancy" shoes? Or not buying that "must have label" outfit or sweater or skirt? Or NOT buying a Borsolino and company hat for the men folk? Or yet one more limited time of use because it's in right now item? Like the rest of you, I choose where my money is going to be spent. At least in my house, in the tradeoff for designer/labeled clothing against the hand shmurah matzah, the matzah wins every time, for everyone.

Let's also talk about eating out this time of year. Yes, the day I turn my kitchen we bring in Pizza. After that, my kitchen produces the edibles for us. And yet, there are many who indulge in eating out for way more than once during the run up to Pesach. This, too, adds to the higher bills during this time period.

I haven't mentioned all the other extras that seem to come out this time of year, but they too add to the expenses. It may or may not be possible to cut expenses a great deal in one area of spending, but it could be possible to control these expenses by looking at everything that costs for Pesach time. And if you consider that all the items mentioned, plus those not, are how you WANT to make Pesach, then you shouldn't be complaining about the cost when it's your choice to spend the money. Sure, I kvetch a little--only human--but I'm spending on items and choices that I want. If I truly couldn't afford to pay for what I wanted, there would be plenty of ways to cut down on spending, and buying less food is not the only way.


Anonymous said...

You didn't add in to those expenses for company coming that bubby and zayda have to provide toys and games for the visiting grandchildren so they'll have something to do. And afikomen presents, even if fairly inexpensive ones. Food is a big expense when you are feeding 12 for over a week but it's not the only expense.

Trudy said...

Food costs go up as a percentage of what you spend on Pesach depending on how many you are feeding over yom tov. Agreed that other things also add to the cost but for us the food is going to be the major expenditure this year. I'll be having 17 people to feed for those 12 yom tov/shabbos meals plus all the other eating. Even with some little children counted in the numbers that is some serious food spending.

With all the food shopping and cooking that needs to be done, who has time to shop for clothes! Besides, where would I wear those clothes? If I'm really lucky I might get out of the kitchen to get some sleep at some point over yom tov. Does it count as clothes shopping if I bought a couple of new aprons for this year?

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is when you are spending a lot on stuff you legitimately need, it's easy to get sucked into the mentality of "I just spend $300, what's another $25" and buy things you don't really need.

Lion of Zion said...

"One reason the expenditures go up is company."

the blessing of too many friends and family

we were strongly considering staying home for the sedarim this year instead of going to my MIL as usual. maybe now i'll factor in finances and go after all!

pre-pesach is the worst time to buy new clothing. who know if it'll still fit 8 days later?

"all the items mentioned, plus those not, are how you WANT to make Pesach, then you shouldn't be complaining about the cost when it's your choice to spend the money. "

that was my point. (and the ignorance comment wasn't directded toward you.)

Lion of Zion said...

that should be "the blessing of many friends and family" and not "too many"

Anonymous said...

We first had pesach at home last year. Food was expensive but buying all the pots and dishes and glasses and utensils is what killed the budget. And I still had things to buy for this year, but I knew what I needed to buy and spread it out over the whole year. If you leave everything to the month that pesach comes in then the bills are going to be high.

Anonymous said...

For all those of us who are going to be guests this year, these posts are a good reminder to do your share (to the extent you are able) to chip in for costs and be good house guests, including doing your share of the cleaninup, cooking, serving, etc.

Lissa said...

We love having company of all kinds and especially on yom tov. But that really does cost and cost a lot. It's a heavy spending week for Pesach no matter how you budget and try to hold down costs. I've stopped being shy though. When guests ask me what I'd like as a hostess gift I tell them to pool together and buy me a case of Kedem wine. Rather have that then another chatchke to have to find room to hide somewhere.

I'd say you were right about the clothes though. Even if you kept everyone to one pair of shoes and one suit or outfit and shopped frugally and avoided the label trap you would still be spending plenty at a time that money seems to fly out the window. Now if you don't do that frugal shopping or shop the frum stores or really care about what's in and what's out in fashion then you are going to be spending a lot of money.

Tuvi said...

Last year was the first Pesach we were at home and our parents and a couple of unmarried siblings all came to us. Both parents gave us money before Pesach towards the expenses and we protested to them. Then we did all the shopping, and were thankful for their practical gift. For this year they are coming again and their gift is the shmurah matzah and a kitchenaid mixer for Pesach. Again, thanks to parents who already know how mjuch Pesach can cost and who gift us to help out.

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

We are commanded in the Shema to:

‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
“Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

“Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

When ‘dayanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ - even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

Therefore, the ‘rabbi’, ‘dayyan’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.