The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is almost here… Mazel Tov!
Or perhaps – Oy Vey?
Believe it or not – that dreamy Bar/Bat Mitzvah party you planned for your kid can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Just ask the endless number of parents who had to reach deep into their pockets to fund their child’s big day – just to keep up with the Joneses (or in this case, the Cohens).
In fact, you’d be surprised how many parents even take on debt just so their son/daughter’s party Instagram looks better than everyone else’s.
Please, don’t fall into that trap. You might end up realizing it wasn’t just a trap, it was a bottomless pit.
How do we avoid that? How do you plan a Bar/Bat Mitzvah on a budget? Is that even possible?
You bet it is!
And today, I’m going to prove it to you…
Set a Budget (and Stick to it!)
What’s the first thing you need to plan a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party on a budget? A budget.
I know… shocking, isn’t it?
Setting a budget is never sexy. But it’s the first step to reducing your costs and making sure your wallet doesn’t turn into a leaky bucket.
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to start crunching numbers, draw math equations on your window and go all John Nash (“A Beautiful Mind” anyone? excellent movie!) on me. In fact, we’ve already done the hard part for you.
We created a free Bar & Bat Mitzvah Budget Planner Worksheet that’ll help you plan an amazing Bar/Bat Mitzvah without spending a friggin’ fortune.
This worksheet will help you:
- Set a budget (and stick to it).
- Keep track of all your Bar & Bat Mitzvah costs and expenses in one place – so that nothing slips between the crack.
- Estimate how much each item will cost – whether you’re planning a party, luncheon or ceremony (or a combination of them).
- Set priorities for each item so you can plan, reduce and eliminate unnecessary costs
- Share the worksheet with your spouse, partner or an event planner and turn “Mission: Bar/Bat Mitzvah” into a team effort!
Simply open the worksheet, click Make a copy, and within seconds – you’ll have your very own budget planner all set up.
Note: Don’t request edit access to the original file. That’s unnecessary (and to be frank – it’s bombarding me with emails, so please stop!). Simply make a copy and you’ll have a fresh template ready to go.
Be Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Event Planner
Guess what? You’re planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party on a budget – that means you’ve just hired yourself as the event planner. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, I’ve got good news and bad news:
- BAD news: The pay is awful. In fact, it’s $0
- GOOD news: You’re saving A LOT of money you would’ve otherwise spent on a Bar/Bat Mitzvah event planner.
More GOOD news: by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll realize you don’t need an event planner! You’ll be ready to face the challenge, tackle the tasks and slay the dragon!
Team Up With Another Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Imagine 3 sets of parents:
- The first set of parents have twin sons
- The second set of parents have a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl
- The third set of parents have one 13-year-old boy
Question: which set of parents will likely spend the most on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration (assuming they’re all celebrating at the same venue and they cap their expenses)?
The answer? Odds are they will all spend *roughly* the same amount.
How is that possible? Shouldn’t parents #1 and #2 spend more? After all, they have 2 Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations to prepare, not 1.
Not if they combine the two celebrations into one event. That way, parents #1 and #2 can effectively arrange 2 Bar/Bat Mitzvah party for the price of 1.
Note: There might be some extra costs like buying 2 Bar Mitzvah suits or Bat Mitzvah dresses instead of one, but most of the “heavy” costs can be combined.
That’s especially the case for the parents with twins. Because odds are both kids share the same group of friends, so the whole “who gets to invite more friends” argument is spared.
“Hey, that’s not fair! How is it our fault that we God didn’t give us twins?!”
Before you go protesting outside your neighborhood synagogue, I’ve got good news for you: you can team up with another Bar/Bat Mitzvah and split the costs of the event!
A joint Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration doesn’t necessarily mean two siblings. You can partner up with one of your kid’s BFFs, classmates or another family member.
Invite Close Friends & Family Members Only
Let’s face it – no Bar/Bat Mitzvah teen likes to smooch your boss or a bunch of strangers from your workplace (although it can certainly help you get that fancy promotion).
They want to celebrate their Bar/Bat Mitzvah with their family, friends and classmates (including the cute boy/girl they have a crush on).
So if possible – invite only your (and your kids) close friends and family circle. That’ll save you a whole lot of time, money and you’ll spare your kid those awkward conversations with your uncle’s stepsister’s daughter.
Invite Kids (and Some Adults) Only
You can even take it a step further… NO ADULTS ALLOWED! OK, OK, some adults are fine (don’t be rude – send grandma and auntie Bracha an invitation).
Like it or not – this is your child’s big day – NOT yours. Every second they have to spend entertaining your boss (here comes the promotion baby!) is a second they’re not spending with their friends. And guess who they prefer spending time with?
Not only that – it’s cheaper to cater for kids than adults. You won’t have to spend a ton of money on fancy Bar/Bat Mitzvah food and alcohol (SPOILER alert).
You don’t need 7 kinds of salads, expensive appetizers or luxurious entrees. Kids have fewer expectations. Serve them a bunch of mini burgers, fries, hot dogs and maybe some chicken fingers – and the young fellas will be ecstatic!
Tip: Don’t forget dessert!
No Adults? No Alcohol!
There’s no point in serving alcohol if it’s a kids-only party, now is it?
Instead, stock up on sodas (hopefully diet), water and other alcohol-free drinks. The result? A diet bill!
Send Affordable Bar/Bat Mitzvah Invitations
Parents these days spend WAY too much on invitations. It’s no bloody wonder… I mean, how can you say no to your kid’s sweet puppy eyes?
“But mommy, look how cool Debby’s Bat Mitzvah invitation is! Why can’t I have one?”
Kids go beyond their ways to keep up with their classmates, and you, the parent, end up paying more for invitations than Mike Tyson pays on a casual trip to Vegas (turns out tigers don’t come cheap).
You tell me…
Note: Heck, we live in a digital world. If you really want to save $ – you can even send out digital invitations for free via Facebook/Whatsapp/Email and call it a day.
Use Budget (and DIY) Decorations
- Table settings
- Chair covers
- Seating cards
Is all of this necessary?
I always say: Too much is too much.
If you’re not careful, you’ll quickly find yourself in a bottomless pit of payments that went to excessive table centerpieces.
Instead, pick some of your favorite Bar/Bat Mitzvah decorations, or even make em’ yourself! You can treat it like a Bar/Bat Mitzvah family activity!
Keep the Candle Lighting Ceremony Simple
If you ever meet with a Bar/Bat Mitzvah event planner, at some point they’ll ask you something like: “would you like a custom-made setup for the candle lighting ceremony?”.
I kid you not – you might faint when you hear the price tag on these things.
Do yourself a favor – go with a simple candle lighting kit – ideally one that matches the kid’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah theme.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting ceremony is a special moment. You get to pay respect to the people you care about the most. There’s no need to “Hollywood” it.
Avoid Expensive Party Favors
You wouldn’t believe how much money parents spend on Bar/Bat Mitzvah favors that guests end up throwing in the trash when they leave.
It’s a shame, really… and a complete waste of money.
You can make do with cheaper souvenirs, or even skip them altogether. Trust me, no one would mind.
Get Cheap Entertainment that Gets the Crowd Going!
I heard the circus is in town… want to hire them?
How about a special Hava Nagila performance by Justin Bieber (he does have a tattoo in Hebrew, so why not)?
Hah! That’s not exactly a budget Bar/Bat Mitzvah, now is it?
On the other hand – you can go for reasonable Bar/Bat Mitzvah entertainment ideas that us ordinary people can afford.
- A cool Bar/Bat Mitzvah DJ that gets the party going
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah dancers that bring Simcha!
- A Bar/Bat Mitzvah magician that’ll blow people’s mind
Or… Skip Entertainment Altogether
- … Do you really need a DJ? Can’t you just create your own Spotify playlist and plug in your laptop for the night?
- … Aren’t dancers perhaps a bit “too much”? (They sure are if you’re having the Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the synagogue)
- … Trapeze artists? Is this a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or The Olympics?
- … Is a magician really necessary? What are we 6-year-olds? (I’m just pretending to be a grown-up. I LOVE magic!)
Designer Dresses? Really?
One of the major differences between a Bar & Bat Mitzvah is the amount of money parents spend on clothing.
Boys are easy: get him a nice suit, a pair of elegant shoes – and he’s all set.
Girls? Let’s just say it tends to be a more expensive affair to dress up your daughter for her Bat Mitzvah.
But does it really have to be?
I get it… Girls like to impress their classmates (especially the boy they secretly have a crush on).
But that’s not an excuse to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy Prada dresses. One cute (and modest) Bat Mitzvah dress with a matching pair of shoes and one (!) piece of Bat Mitzvah Jewelry is more than enough to impress the sweet Jewish boy in class.
This isn’t a Broadway play. You don’t need an entirely new wardrobe for the party, nor do you need a fashion designer to tailor-make a dress for your kid.
Fire the Photographer
“You must be joking!”
Wait, hear me out. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah photographer. After all, we live in a social media driven world.
As the saying on the street goes: “If it ain’t on Instagram, it never happened.”
So why am I picking on the poor photographer?
Simple: because we live in a social media driven world, young, up-and-coming photographers will jump at the opportunity of working at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party for very little money (maybe even for FREE) – just so they can build their portfolio.
And believe it or not – you’d be doing them a favor!
When you ask youngsters these days – “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Most of the answers you’ll get aren’t “I want to be a doctor/lawyer”. That belongs to the past. Today, you hear answers like “I want to be a Youtuber/photographer/social media influencer”.
And what’s crazy – is that these are totally attainable career paths! Especially when so many parents can are willing to give some lucky kid an opportunity of a lifetime (and save some money in the process).
Welcome to the 21st century, boys and girls.
Book the Venue During Off Season
Everyone knows about the wedding season. Believe it or not – there’s also such a thing as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah season… and it’s affected by the wedding season.
You’d want to avoid booking a venue during the summer. That’s when weddings & Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s peak – particularly in June and September.
That’s when Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties get expensive.
Instead, book your Bar/Bat Mitzvah during the off-season (winter time). During those times, you’ll be able to snag a better deal.
Book a Lesser Known (or New) Venue
iPhone or Android?
Ahhh the famous geeky debate.
You see – the problem with that question is that it’s completely unanswerable.
I mean, the word “better” is too vague…
- Do you mean which phone has “better” hardware (many Android phones outperform iPhone on this one)
- Do you mean which one has “better” software, apps and features (that’s up for debate)
- Do you mean which one looks “better” (that’s entirely subjective)?
One thing is undebatable though: Ask most people which brands they like “better” (again, who knows that “better” means): Apple or Samsung. I bet that 99% of people would choose Apple without even blinking… even though iPhones don’t seem to “crush” Android phones in almost any parameter, and despite the fact their products tend to be MUCH more expensive.
Why is that?
One word: Brand.
When you buy an Apple product, you don’t just buy a phone, you buy a status symbol. People are paying a premium NOT because the phones have a longer battery life (actually, it doesn’t), they’re paying a premium because they want to identify themselves with what Apple represents – beauty, taste & luxury.
The same is true for venues.
Parents don’t necessarily book the Hilton or the Ritz-Carlton because it’s “better” (again, what does that even mean?), they book it because it’s “The Hilton”.
In other words: they’re willing to pay extra to associate themselves with Hilton’s brand… even though it’s not necessarily “better” (notice the recurring theme here?) than other venues.
How can you avoid paying extra on a venue just because it has a luxurious brand name?
Easy: judge each venue based on their merit, not their brand name.
- What are they offering?
- Where is it located?
- What’s the capacity?
- What is their F&B (food & beverages) minimum, if they have one?
- How accommodating are they?
Tip: Keep an eye open for new venues in town or “under the radar” venues. Often they’ll offer better rates to help get the word out.
So, if you want to save money on your venue – look for the “Androids”, not the “Apples” 🙂
Book the Venue on a Weekday
Another big money saver is to avoid celebrating during weekends and aim for weekdays instead.
Remember – Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are different than weddings: their not as fancy (although we’re getting there), they don’t last as long, and adults don’t drink as much.
In other words: it’s an easier recovery the next day – and no people “calling in sick” for work!
That means celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah party during the week is certainly acceptable, and I would argue – an excellent idea!
Forget the Venue. Celebrate in the Synagogue
The synagogue can be more than just a house of prayer. It can be a house of Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations!
You don’t have to book the Hilton just to compete with the other kids (and their parents). What seems like a race to the top can easily turn into a race to the bottom (of your pockets).
Instead, you can settle for a modest Kiddush luncheon at your local synagogue after the Torah reading.
Talk to your local Rabbi, and ask him how much it’ll cost – in detail. I promise you – his figure will give you a sigh of relief (especially if you did get a quote from the Hilton).
Plus, odds are he’ll be able to set you up with great (and cheap) Bar/Bat Mitzvah caterers too!
Buy a Cheap (but not the cheapest) Tefillin
A boy’s Bar Mitzvah is his coming of age. It’s the day he transforms into a man – starts to fulfill the Torah commandments and finally becomes responsible for his own actions.
One of the most important Mitzvot in Judaism – is the Mitzvah of Tefillin.
Did You Know?
Jewish men put on Tefillin during the morning prayer every day, except for Shabbat & certain Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot).
Buying your son his first pair of Tefillin is always exciting. The only “problem”? It’s expensive.
But the real problem is – it can be REALLY expensive (or it can be too cheap, that it ends up becoming expensive) if you’re unfamiliar with how a Tefillin is priced.
Do yourself a favor – read about the different types of Tefillin, and choose the one that fits best for your son’s needs. That alone can save you hundreds of dollars. Guaranteed.
Buy an Affordable Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tallit
Another Mitzvah boys (and girls, if you’re conservative or Reform) follow now that they reached their coming of age is the Mitzvah of Tallit.
While the Tallit isn’t as expensive as a Tefillin – it can still amount to a significant expense.
Now, considering the fact that many Jewish boys will continue wearing their Tallit every day, for many years to come… My personal recommendation is that you don’t try to nickel and dime when it comes to a Bar Mitzvah Tallit (or Bat Mitzvah Tallit).
Unless of course – you know for sure that your kid isn’t going to wear their Tallit after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. In that case, there’s no harm in buying a cheaper one.
Save Money on Food
Here’s the deal: when you pay for Bar/Bat Mitzvah food, you pay for 2 things:
- The food itself
- The service
Now, when I say “Save on food” – you better hope I’m referring to the service, and not the food itself… and you’d be right!
There are 3 ways to serve food at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party:
- Plated service
- Food stations (nowadays there are also food trucks)
By the way – the order isn’t accidental. It’s sorted by price – from high to low. In other words – a plated service is usually more expensive than food stations, which is more expensive than a buffet.
So, guess which of these options I recommend to save $? (pssst… the answer is C!)
Don’t Pay for a Custom Bar/Bat Mitzvah Cake
Custom Bar/Bat Mitzvah cakes are part decor, part dessert.
Thing is, like many other Bar/Bat Mitzvah decorations – a cake can get pretty expensive. And it’s no freakin’ wonder – designing a Bar/Bat Mitzvah cake is HARD (check out the cakes in the link above, and you’ll see what I mean)… and if you ask me – it’s one of the most underrated artforms in the world.
After all – there aren’t many art forms that please both your eyes and your tummy…
That said – custom-made cakes are a luxury, not a must-have. Instead, bake a Bar/Bat Mitzvah cake yourself.
You might not be the Da Vinci of cake designers, but that doesn’t matter. Yours is more personal – from parent to child. No custom-made cake can compete with that!
Trim the Fat
Trim the fat? What the hell does that mean? (don’t worry, I’m not your new personal trainer)
It simply means: get rid of any expenses that aren’t necessary.
- Does your daughter really need 6 different dresses for one night?
- Do you really need 5 photo booths?
- Does Justin Bieber have to perform LIVE?
You get the picture…
Whatever you do – just don’t cancel the helicopter.
Skip the Party Entirely
“Say what?! Isn’t that a bit too extreme?”
In fact, up until recently, the lavish Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties you see today weren’t even a “thing”.
Here’s what a traditional Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration used to look like:
- The Bar Mitzvah reads his Torah portion
- Afterward, the parents usually invite close family & friends to an intimate reception or Kiddush luncheon at the synagogue (or at their house)
- Then, the Bar/Bat (maybe) would give a speech
Doesn’t that sound much simpler (and cheaper?).
Believe it or not, some families still believe so and choose to stick to that recipe even today.
Think about it:
- No ridiculously expensive party venues
- No Prada dresses (but affordable & modest Bat Mitzvah dresses, yes!)
- No Paparazzi hiding on trees trying to capture the perfect picture (if you live in LA, that may actually be the case).
The only problem? B’nai Mitzvah these days demand a celebration! And hopefully a BIG one!
Does that mean you’re doomed?
Hang on. There’s a 3rd option…
Take them on a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Trip (ideally to Israel)
Since we’re talking about a Jewish ceremony… doesn’t it make sense to celebrate your kid’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel – the Jewish homeland?
- Your son reading his Torah portion at the Western Wall
- Going Kosher wine tasting in the mountains of the Galilee (your kids can have the cheese)
- Taking a trip to Masada with your family to witness the breathtaking view from the top of the mountain
- Visiting the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea – to walk float on water.
- Catching a nice tan in Eilat to finish the trip on a strong note.
Suddenly, a party doesn’t seem so glamorous anymore, now does it?
If you ever thought of taking your entire family on a trip to Israel – now’s your chance. Your kid can even take advantage of this opportunity and plant a tree in Israel or take part in other unique Mitzvah project ideas that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Note: If you’re really determined (and can afford it) – you can throw your kid a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party AND take em’ on a trip to Israel! Talk about an unforgettable celebration…
Congratulations! You just got one step closer to saving your money!
Remember: The question isn’t if you can plan a Bar/Bat Mitzvah on a budget. The question is are you willing to sacrifice keeping up with the
Jones’s Cohen’s, and to what extent?
Take this article, save it, bookmark it, share it. Do whatever you need to do stay disciplined and within your budget.
Good luck… and Mazel Tov 🙂