Hi, everyone! I’m a kollel wife in Lakewood who considers herself a pro at budgeting (while having fun!), and I’m excited to share my knowledge with you about saving money and making smart choices while you shop.

Pesach is coming up, and it doesn’t need to be as crushing an expense as many people think it is. I hope to teach you how to make a simple budget and stick to it.

The number-one rule for saving money and not dipping into savings is: if you can’t fit it into the budget, you don’t buy it. You figure out how to fit it in, or figure out how to manage without it. It’s a game! No one said you can’t be creative. You can use coupons or discounts, shop on sale…you name it, but if it just doesn’t fit...it’s time to be creative and figure out how you can manage without it.

Building Your Budget

Welcome to the first step toward a less-expensive Pesach.

The first, and possibly most important, part of the process is creating a budget. Write down each expense, including rent/mortgage, bills, tuition, insurance, and every item purchased and its cost over the course of the month. Try to include everything you spend on, including that latte you just couldn’t resist at the end of a long day at work and the little trinkets you had to get for your adorable nieces.. When you’re done, add up all the expenses on your list: this is the amount of money you need for an average month.

Next, write down your total income per month, making sure to include your and your spouse’s salaries/stipends and any expected income from parental support, side jobs, and tips. Now subtract your total expenses from your total income. If there’s anything left over, that’s money for you to put into savings for the future or for the bigger expenses that come up throughout the year. (If your expenses are greater than your income, it’s time to either think of a way to increase the income or to cut your expenses. But that’s for a different time.)

Once you have your budget for an average month, make a list of expenses specific to Pesach. Break down your expenses into categories such as food, clothing, and Chol Hamoed trips and assign a total amount to each. Try to be as realistic as possible, and don’t forget to include a category of unexpected expenses. When your list is complete, you have successfully created a budget!

Budgeting apps

While you can build your budget using old-fashioned paper and pencil, for those with internet access, you can choose to use different apps or online sites to help track your spending. The most highly rated free and user-friendly program to manage spending and saving is Mint, produced by the makers of TurboTax. You can use it to view your balances, bills, investments, and credit score all in one place. It provides one big picture of your finances and puts spending into perspective. It can also provide you with money-saving tips and bill-pay alerts. Mint constantly updates your spending categories and transactions, making it easy to see where your money is going and how much of it is going to certain categories.

Another free and useful app is Albert, which is similar to Mint but offers fewer services. It analyzes your income, bills, and spending to create a personalized monthly budget. It also determines how much of your money you should put into savings. PocketGuard is another a free app which tells you how much money is left to spend at any given time after subtracting bills, savings, and other expenses throughout the month. Lastly, if you are in debt, Dave Ramsey offers an app called EveryDollar which provides visuals on how much you have and what was spent in order to help you get rid of debt and build savings. EveryDollar Plus has a fee but offers the convenience of connecting to your bank account.

Credit cards

Before starting a discussion on credit cards, a word to the wise: Dan of DansDeals, a credit card deals guru, opens his seminar with, “If you can’t be responsible, don’t play the game.” Nevertheless, if you will continue to log all your expenses during the month and it won’t lead you to splurge on extras, it may be wise go for a cash-back credit card. Not all cards offer the same rewards, though, so it is recommended to do some research before deciding which card is the right one for you. For example, Bank of America Cash Rewards offers $150 cashback on every $500 spent as an online sign-up bonus. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Signature Card offers $200 back for every $1,000 spent, and Capital One Savor offers $500 for every $3,000 spent. All deals are for spending the specified amount in three months. When used right, these credit card deals can help rebalance the extra expenses of Pesach. You can find these credit card offers and more on getpeyd.com.

Once your budget is ready, the next step is shopping for Pesach while sticking to it.

Happy budgeting!

This article first appeared in The Voice of Lakewood