I’m writing this article 1.5 weeks prior to Purim. For the past number of years my mantra in managing household finances has been “I’m learning. This is a journey.” This year, my second year making a seuda in addition to prepping shalach manos, purchasing costumes, and matanos l’evyonim, I’m particularly aware of the inherent costs wracking up. And while I gladly accept the opportunity to be mehader the mitzva, I do still want to keep my expenditure in check. Well, inspiration is borne of experience, and that is why I’m going to share with you the lessons I’ve learned over the years, and perhaps you’ll stow them away for next year. I know I will.
One of the most widely accepted strategies for buying lower priced costumes is to purchase them in late October / early November when they’re put on sale to clear. But what happens if you don’t know five months prior to Purim what your kids are going to be dressing up as?
Ebay. Did you know that you can order kids’ Purim costumes for under $11 on Ebay, including shipping? Just search “kids costumes” and hit lowest price + shipping from their drop down menu. Note: These costumes can take over a month to reach North America, so order early. Ebay is also a great place to order inexpensive costume accessories and seuda decorations.
Second hand and thrift stores often have costume stock that’s stored in a back room until October each year. Either purchase around then, or ask off season if they’re willing to pull them out for you to browse through. Picking up a teddy bear costume for $3 in perfect condition? Yes please!
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a significant Jewish population, you might be lucky enough to find secular dollar stores pulling out costumes prior to Purim, knowing that they can reap significant profit. Even if not, local dollar stores often have dress up memorabilia like various dress up hats, doctor sets, and accessories available for purchase year round. I buy these just to have on hand for the dress up bin at home.
If your community doesn’t yet have a Purim costume gemach, it’s time to start one! These are a huge service to the community. Due to the fact that so many families use costumes only for one year, especially if choosing to coordinate a theme, donating costumes and then being able to pick up gently used ones is a fabulous way to pay it forward!
DIY costumes aren’t for every balabusta, but can be so much fun for little ones to help out with. Though they can be time consuming, making a costume from scratch means you can make a costume literally for pennies by recycling materials around the house. Papier mache anyone? I’m actually partially DIYing my son’s costume this year, and he said to me today that he’s so excited for his costume “because it’s the first year we’ve ever MADE my costume!” Getting the little ones involved in the arts and crafts just adds to the dun.
Check out this link for a list of DIY Purim costumes with instructions that I’ve pulled together.
This is an area in which it’s so easy to get lost in the process and become overwhelmed, spending both more money and time than we should be allotting to shalach manos. With the upsurge of family themes and the need for the perfect presentation, women are spending hours and hours searching the internet for ideas, browsing store shelves for inspiration, and then finally having to put together the bags full of supplies on which you emptied your wallet and just lugged home.
And yet, guilty as charged. As mentioned, I’m learning!
#1 is remember the actual mitzvah. We give mishloach manos, of two different minim or types of foods, to increase achdus and unity with our fellow Jew, and to ensure that everyone has enough food to make their seuda. Perhaps there’s someone out there who otherwise wouldn’t be receiving any mishloach manos this year – this is the perfect opportunity to extend yourself. For more information on the mitzva, Aish HaTorah’s website provides a succinct and informative summary of the related laws and reasons pertaining to the mitzva.
How to we balance practicality with presentation?
Keep your list of recipients in check. Sit down and think to whom you need to give rather than giving to everyone you know. These days you can mail tzedaka cards instead of food which benefit community members and still show your family and friends you’re thinking about them. These can be prepared long in advance and mailed out prior to Purim saving the stress at crunch time. Mailing out cards has the added benefit of reducing the number of deliveries to make on Purim day.
Keep the contents simple. Remember there’s a requirement of only two minim, or different types of food. There’s no need to spend extra cash on food that will just need to be cleared out of the house before Pesach.
Offer real food contents rather than junk food. If you’ve seen my take on the amount of candy our children are eating, you’ll understand why I generally don’t offer sweets in my shalach manos packages. I do however aim to please. Whether or not you’re baking or cooking your contents, we can make a difference communally in our families’ health by offering healthy options. For inspiration, check out this post on DIY real food theme based mishloach manos options.
Related to the above section on mishloach manos, remember than we’re meant to spend more money on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos. Allocating our funds properly can truly make someone’s Purim a chag they’ll remember for years to come.
Wishing you a wonderful simcha filled Purim! Do you have tips on keeping Purim costs in check? I’d love your input. Please comment below to offer others your wisdom!