It’s a well worn cliché but that doesn’t detract from its veracity: the recession is affecting everyone, and that includes certain people I know who would never have imagined in a million years that they would need to delay the purchase of a new Merc by a month. I tell you, some people are really suffering.
My friend Moshe was only able to go two Shabboses before people started to speculate as to why he was in shul but his Merc wasn’t in its usual parking space around the corner. He was able to shrug it off for a while by pretending the car was being serviced, “Those Nazi’s” he complained, “they say they’re the greatest engineers in the world so why can’t they get my sun roof to close properly? It’s deliberate!” After a while however, people stopped believing him, and he was forced to admit the embarrassing truth; the economic conditions had forced him to apply for a Freedom Card. The upside of this for Moshe is that he is now able to get off the bus outside shul rather than two stops away.
What makes it worse for Jews is that living in a tight-knit community there’s enormous pressure on us to put on a good show regardless of our financial circumstances. I find myself in exactly this difficult place at the moment.
Thanks to the Almight my daughter, the apple of my eye (crab), is to be wed in the spring and Mrs J is insisting on a simcha that puts every other simcha in the history of spoilt Jewish girls and nebbishe Jewish boys to shame. My wife has little interest in the financial pressure we, along with the rest of the world, are under. Her knowledge of current affairs does not extend beyond Radlett. (Still, there are enough affairs going on there to keep her ears flapping for a good long time so it’s probably just as well).
So I’ve had to do some thinking and I’d like to share a few ideas that are guaranteed to ensure a spectacular simcha on a shoestring.
1 Select your shul carefully. Some are much cheaper to join than others and many will do a deal if you ask. My research tells me that you can find some desperate ones out in the sticks, and while they might not have proper rabbis the advantage is that fewer guests will travel to them and that will further allow you to keep your costs down.
2 Go for quality rather than quantity. A smaller do will save you a fortune and you can announce it as very exclusive to those who might have expected an invitation. Be ruthless even if that means not inviting close family. The only criteria upon which you should decide who’s to be on your guest list is wealth. The advantages to this are manifold. You’ll be able to hire a tiny venue, many of the invitees will probably not come because they’ll be at some fancy charity do, and they’ll send a good gift anyway. Your simcha will have a better ROI than General Electric.
3 Of course it would be entirely inappropriate to ask people to stump up for their drinks. Gentiles may like a pay bar but frankly, for me, that’s a non-starter. There’s no money to be made from selling alcohol to Jews. However at my precious girl’s wedding one of the table decorations will be a dish with a label simply saying “Thank you”.
4 While it is forbidden to get married during the Omer there is no prohibition against having the party then, so here’s a nifty tip: make sure you have other plans for Lag B’omer and arrange for the wedding party to take place on some other date during the 49 days. The restrictions on entertainment will mean you save a packet by not hiring a band or discotheque. Instead, borrow a selection of board games from your friends.
5 Finally, you know all those benschers you’ve been collecting from Barmitzvahs and weddings over the years? Well cross out the names and dates and write in the details for your own do.
So there you have it. Eat your heart out Money Mensch.