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10 shopping tips to avoid the holiday hangover

When you want to make sure the extra expense of festive meals doesn't break the bank, but you still want to celebrate in style
(courtesy)
(courtesy)

Spend enough time in Israel and you’re bound to hear the phrase “Acharei Hachagim” meaning “after the holidays.” When someone says that, it means that they will deal with a particular task after the holidays are over. The two big holiday periods in Israel are Pesach and the Tishrei holidays in the fall. Once one of these holiday periods are on the horizon, procrastination becomes legitimate, as you are so busy preparing for the festivities that you will only get to said tasks after the holidays. As these holiday periods conveniently sit on opposite sides of the year, all you have to do is procrastinate a little longer and the next chagim come into view. For some, getting their finances in order is one of those “acharei hachagim” things.

Many people go shopping like crazy before the holidays, as if they won’t be able to go shopping again for the whole period and need to stock up as much as possible. Yes, a lot of people host during the chagim. But you can be smart about it. Making a few small changes may help you avoid the hangover of big credit card payments “after the holidays.”

Here are some my favorite tips:

  1. Buy store brands and other small no-name brands as much as you can. They are almost always cheaper and usually of very good quality. Hot tip: They are usually hidden away on the top or bottom shelves. The most expensive items will always be at eye level.
  2. Always shop with a list, but stay flexible. For example, instead of listing particular fruits, our list says “fruit.” What we come home with depends on what was on sale. Instead of listing a particular cut of meat, we write “chunk of beef” and buy whatever of that category was cheapest. We then choose recipes that use whatever we bought. Make sure to check the freezer section as well as the fresh counter and compare prices.
  3. When buying things on sale, always make sure that the barcode of the item matches the barcode listed on the sign. If they don’t match, the item you picked likely isn’t on sale. This is an easy mistake to make.
  4. Chol Hamoed day trips are coming up and you’ll need to pack lunches. Deli and cheese are always cheaper at the counters than prepackaged. Shufersal has several high quality home brand cheeses at the counter for as low as 27 shekels/kilo.
  5. Track the sales at your local supermarkets and learn which stores have better prices on which products. We follow our local chains on Facebook and watch for new sales.  Alternate where you shop to get the best prices. Buy enough of the cheaper products to last until the next time you buy from that store.
  6. If you get gift cards from work that can be used at a supermarket, you can use them to lower your food bill.
  7. When buying any product take a look at the size of the package. Many stores today also list the price per 100 grams in small print alongside the price. If you don’t see the price per 100 grams, open the calculator on your phone and check. Sometimes the bigger package isn’t actually a bargain.
  8. Online shopping is often cheaper than shopping in person. No impulse buys, no picking up the wrong item because you thought it was on sale, and you can see your bill add up as you go to avoid surprises at the check out. Best of all, you can check your kitchen inventory at home while you shop to make sure you actually need more of a particular item.
  9. At the checkout, avoid tashlumim (paying in installments) like the plague. They are the epitome of the “chagim hangover,” and will have you paying for food you have already eaten for months into the future. Strive to stay around this month’s food budget so it doesn’t eat into next month’s bills.
  10. Once you’ve done your shopping and cooked your yom tov meals, make sure to finish the leftovers! Or make smaller portions. When you throw away food, you are throwing away money. If you have kids (or adults) in your household who never finish what is on their plate, put less on their plates next time. If they want more, they can always have seconds. Bring leftovers to work for lunch or repurpose them into other meals. Stir fry, anyone?

Going into overdraft for the holidays is not inevitable. Use some of these ideas as well as your own to keep yourself within your budget this month. You can do it!

May 5783 be a year of health, happiness and financial growth for all of us. Shana tova!

About the Author
Shlomo Bronner is a bookkeeper, payroll specialist and one of the authors of the Chasing the Fionist Dream blog (fionistdream.com). He is an amateur photographer and history enthusiast. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, two kids and beautiful rescue mutt.
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