Is it in the budget?
Pirkei Avot teaches that one should “calculate the cost of a mitzvah (commandment) against its reward, and the reward of a sin and its cost.” Buying matzah for Pesach or a lulav for Sukkot will cost me extra money but will bring me closer to Hashem. In today’s language this calculation is termed a “cost-benefit analysis.”
This principle not only applies to religious life, but to all aspects of life. For example, if one is trying to lose weight, one must consider the types of food and mode of exercise that will reap the greatest benefit. When bored, depressed, or out with friends/colleagues, one must decide as to whether the food that is about to be consumed is really in consonance with one’s goal. And, if not, is the immediate reward going to outweigh the long-term loss?
When it comes to finances, we should use the same cost-benefit analysis. Do I really need this product? Will the purchase put me into the negative? Is there a less expensive brand that will be the same quality? If I buy on credit, will I have enough money to pay the bill when it comes due? If not, how much money is really being spent on this purchase?
In the larger picture, this is creating a budget. One needs to learn how to budget their time, resources, etc. and know how to determine whether one’s costs fit into the budget.
Budgeting time, money, food intake, etc. is an ongoing pursuit. The problem is when one hears the words “budget” or “diet,” one sighs a groan meaning, “something else to limit my life.” What happened to living free and easy?
In truth, a budget shows where every cent is going. It does not dictate lifestyle or limit choices. It merely identifies where a possible “hole in the pocket” is. Part of the budget should be creating an emergency fund for the unforeseen expenses and a savings program to end the concept of living from paycheck to paycheck.
Whether a person is bringing in $12k or $100k, one needs to budget their money to ensure that it is not being spent just because it’s available. One’s expenditures should be viewed through the lens of the greater goal, namely, financial independence, rather than through the lens of “I’m broke, I’m broke, so it’s off to work I go.” The best thing about making a budget is that it can change over time. It is not a stricture on one’s life, but rather a way to create financial freedom and reduce the stress of life.
Hopefully, this article will entice you to check out budgeting and achieving financial freedom. Let’s make some time to sit down and help create a budget that works for you.
Rabbi Fred Nebel
Jewish Family Services Director