The best money our family ever spent was on our children’s Jewish education. However, my mother-in-law gets the credit for that.
My parents were unable to afford extensive travel; fortunately, I was able to offer each of my three daughters a “daddy trip” to anywhere in the world they would like to go. The rules were simple: They picked the destination and planned the entire itinerary, and I booked airfare and hotels (to control cost). The fact that they chose the location and itinerary made them emotionally invested in the trip, the experiences and our relationship.
So far, two of my three daughters have completed their trips. The results were phenomenal! The first chose Spain and Portugal. By the time we arrived in Barcelona, our fourth stop, we were hot, tired and ready for a nap. Instead, she said, “We have to get going right away as the Gaudi House closes at 2:00 p.m.” I couldn’t believe it!
The following year, her twin sister chose Thailand. We played with baby white tigers, ziplined through the rainforest, had Shabbos meals at Chabad of Chang Mai and spent a day at a conservatory, rehabbing an elephant. We cooked, bathed and played with him for the entire day!
I look forward to my youngest daughter’s choice!
I got to spend two weeks alone with each of them, and I was able to get to know them as people, outside of the trappings of daily life. Life is to be lived, to be experienced, to learn and grow. The results of these shared experiences were priceless!
One of the lasting lessons I learned from my dad, z”l, was: “Always live within your means.” As a single mom twenty-plus years ago, I tried my best but often found it difficult, basically starting from zero. I rented a small but comfortable co-op apartment in Teaneck, N.J., watched every penny and saved what I could.
After several years, the apartment across the hall came up for sale. It was tempting; not only would I not have to deal with annual rent increases, but I also would not have to worry about the owners of the apartment wanting it back. Could I afford it? I crunched the numbers, tightened my belt and took the plunge (sorry for the mixed metaphors!). At last, I finally had a place I could call my own. Staying carefully within budget, I renovated, decorated, and felt at home. Definitely the best money I ever spent.
Postscript: At age 90, my dad, whom I had been caring for, made aliyah (it’s never too late, folks!). After helping him get settled in Israel, I realized that I had no reason to stay up north, and I now had equity in this apartment! I leveraged that into a nice condo in Toco Hills, and several years later, I was able to use that equity to buy my forever house, down the street from my kids and grandkids. My happy place!
Neither my father nor my husband’s father ever reached their 60th birthday, so I was grateful to have my husband reach his 75th year of life. My husband was pretty adamant that he didn’t want a party in his honor. Finally, after much badgering by our children and me, he reluctantly agreed. Now I had only three weeks to conquer all the logistics. To expedite matters, I chose to use the impersonal evite. I didn’t have all the contact information I needed, so I was busy calling people to get the necessary information. After several attempts, I found a caterer that was willing to a do buffet with healthier options.
We had a large crowd in our house, from my husband’s barber to his physical therapist, his gym coach, and a myriad of family and friends, some from N.J., with whom we’d been friends for more than 55 years. His friends from college stayed with us for several days, and it was a wonderful celebration.
One week later, the world shut down due to COVID-19. And a little more than a year after that, my husband passed away. We have beautiful pictures and fond memories of that day!
The best money I’ve spent is the money I give to charity, not only because it makes me feel good, but because it’s the right thing to do. For several years before COVID-19, I spent some of my best money hosting Shabbos meals at my home, to which I invited Jewish singles (most of whom I did not know), regardless of religious or political affiliation or ideology. I did this so that Jews of all ages and backgrounds could come together and meet in a comfortable and spiritual environment, to hopefully learn new things and to hear and discuss the various opinions that were shared.
Everyone was encouraged to express their points of view, without prejudice, about any topic they chose, while at the same time meeting and making new friends. Many lasting friendships developed, and at least four couples who met at my Shabbos table got married. The meals and guests I hosted provided me with an additional benefit. It eventually inspired me to work on creating a 100% all-free Jewish Singles website, which should be ready within the next several months.