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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Orthonomic Poppouri

More Fundraising
YWN reports that the Chinuch Atzmai system in Eretz Yisrael is broke. Per protocol, rabbis flew from Israel to Lakewood to draw attention to the urgent situation and an asifa was held in Lakewood. The solution (drum roll please) more fundraising. The address where you can send donations is at YWN.

This article has made HonestlyFrum scream dayenu! He writes at YWN:
"Where do they expect the money to come from? We are going broke trying to send our own kids to Yeshiva. The unfortunate reality is that in these tough times after we finish paying our own bills and tuition (those who pay some or all) there is no money left."

And on his own blog:
"The schools cannot, and have not been able to for a while, sustain themselves without looking outside for funding sources. The problem is all those sources are currently, and for the foreseeable future, dried up. Both the MO and charedi system need to be revamped and overhauled, and they need to be done together without senseless bickering about hashkafah. The current model needs to be broken down and in its place something different and better needs to be built. It's time that our community left its comfort zone and began radically rethinking the model of Jewish Education. "

I find it ironic that the meeting was held in Lakewood, the city that saw their own teachers go on strike due to non-payment only 2 months ago. Perhaps they found a hoard of money somewhere and can now go on to not only support education in their own city, but education in Eretz Yisrael?

I don't want to be rude, but it seems that leadership is not in touch with the plight of the average American tuition paying parent.

Speaking of appeals, yet another (very needed) appeal.
YWN is reporting that this Shabbat all Young Israel, Orthodox Union and Agudah affiliated synagogues will be making an "Emergency Parnasa Appeal." The press release reports the growing unemployment rates in cities such as Passaic and Brooklyn and the growing pressure on Tomchei Shabbos in Lakewood. It appears that funds will be designated to the same community as the donor. Monsey, Flatbush, and Boro Park have dollar-to-dollar matching funds available.

Bizarre economics are not surprisingly alive and well amongst YWN commentors. One commentor appeals to readers to keep making lavish simchas and keep shopping (by frum vendors). Another commentor believes we need to open our pockets more and shop at frum businesses so that they can hire more frum people. Another commentor yells "We must buy everything we can from [J]ews. This will help their family stay above the line, and then they will pass it on to another [J]ew."

In my (hopefully more educated opinion) the economic problems the frum community is experiencing are related to a low (perhaps negative) savings rate, high consumption lifestyle, and too much dependency on the frum community. Yes, we should patronize Jewish businesses, certainly where the halacha requires such. But, what is very needed is OUTSIDE money coming in. Jewish business owners need to be seeking a larger client base that is not solely or even heavily dependent on the community at large. Cutting back is going to become a way of life out of necessity, like it or not. It is sink or swim time and business owners are going to need to find ways to diversify their client base so that you are not dependent on one particular type of client.

The latter commentor also tells business owners they need to hire Jews, even if you have to pay a higher rate. Perhaps this commentor isn't familiar with just how thin the profit margin is in business? I'm an accountant and will tell you that 1) hiring employees is very costly and 2) profit margins are thin and there often isn't much breathing room to start throwing more money at one employee over another, to say nothing of the potential legal liability. And, no, not *every* dollar you spend in a Jewish business will land in Jewish hands.

Sadly, we learn that a man who operated a 'free' grocery store in Brooklyn can no longer continue doing so as his rainy day has sadly come, may he have a refuah sheleima.

What is the State of the Union?
Meanwhile, Ezzie has put together a Jewish Economics survey. I'm not sure what he will do with it. But the survey is fairly comprehensive and I'm hoping Ezzie will send the date to the OU, the Agudah, Young Israel, and some day schools and yeshivot so that they understand the few are holding out, but rather trying to hold on (as I believe is the general case).

And speaking of dependency
Kiryas Joel is the most dependent locale in the United States. Yeah, not a badge of honor and certainly not good news as the American taxpayer gets increasingly tired of bloated social services budgets while their own kids are seeing classroom sizes increase, etc.

But Speaking of Badges of Honor. . . I'll Wear This One
Meanwhile, frequent commentor Ariella of Kallah Magazine kindly pointed an imamother poster to the Guest Post on a $3000 Brooklyn wedding. The poster writes that she and her husband both work, but between living costs and tuitions they have "NO" money to make a wedding. She states they have a large family and there is no way to make a small wedding (how can she not invite 1st cousins?) and is therefore looking to "find help in paying/arranging this wedding"

The ideas of the Guest Poster were dismissed out of hand by another poster who writes:
"as for the orthonomics post - half of the things she mentioned we dont even do (wedding cake, wedding favors, fancy kesubah) and half the things are not shayich (not everyone has a brogther who can videotape the wedding, a rabbi isnt an expense - anyone is siddur kidushin, you just tip them - , we dont do a bar, the badeken chair comes as part of the wedding hall package, inviting 100 people isnt shayich as our family is bigger than that), and there's a lot more to making a chasuneh other than the wedding itself - the gifts, theh furniture, the trousseau... "

I will tell you what isn't "shayich" having NO savings, especially in a down economy! The poster reports were daughter only wants the parents make a wedding, which is good, because quite frankly anything more for a large family living paycheck to paycheck that will likely be repeating this process in the not so far off future would be ridiculous.

Not that anyone is listening (the advice at this blog isn't "shayich"), but here is my advice. It is good advice for anyone lacking savings or in debt that senses the urgency of building an emergency fund and/or getting out of debt:
  • Go on a complete spending freeze and place all saved funds into a separate, interest bearing account. Unless you absolutely need something, and by that I mean every pair of shoes in your closet has a hole through to the foot, don't buy it.
  • Get rid of services you can do without from now until the wedding. Bake don't buy; clean don't outsource; and day camp is a clear winner over overnight camp. Should either parent be off in the summer-the kids stay home unless they are working.
  • For everything else that you do need (food, utilities, etc), declare a 20% budget cut. Heat gets turned down; showers get taken in 5 minutes; laundry gets hung up to dry; coupons get cut; if someone can walk to do/get something, they walk; beans, rice, and vegetable soups become dinner staples.
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Will the caterer come down on the price? Would he come down on the price if you skip the salad course? Is a sheet cake less expensive than a plated dessert? (I know, I know, it's not "shayich).
  • Decide what your top priority is vis a vis the wedding, and put every other want on the back burner until you have covered the cost for the biggest desire. E.g., if you want to feed 200, don't even think about renting dresses for all the sisters from a gemach when the dry cleaning bill will run the cost of 10 meals. Shabbat outfits will do. My readers tell me using a gemach can be expensive, so you need to be careful.

53 comments:

Lion of Zion said...

to continue with weddings:

1) the only thing sillier than spending all that money on a gown you wear once is to then spend even more money to preserve it. just recycle it and give it away.

2) no one has suggested cutting back on engagement rings.

Ezzie said...

Thanks SL. I'd *love* if someone like the OU/YI/Agudah would pick it up and work with it (I'm actually surprised that the OU never seem to have run anything similar themselves).

I will certainly attempt to approach any and all of those with the data once it's collected and analyzed as well, and hope that they will take it seriously.

Re: YWN's appeals... I've noticed that the style used is awfully similar to the one used by our government. The constant reliance on others to bail out problems does hit a wall at some point... but until then, what do the people getting the money care? Unless more people take HF's approach, this will continue to happen.

Anonymous said...

LOZ - 1) the only thing sillier than spending all that money on a gown you wear once is to then spend even more money to preserve it. just recycle it and give it away.

Yes! We used my sister-in-laws old gown as barter for the rental of a wedding gown. Nobody was using it anyway.

2) no one has suggested cutting back on engagement rings.

My wife has no engagement ring. She didn't want one. Who needs it anyway? All we did was to go into Tel Aviv to Rechov Allenby and get 2 identical (other than size) gold wedding bands at a small jewelery store. They cost probably $100 or so and they have performed admirably so far.

Mark

Commenter Abbi said...

"place all saved funds into a separate, interest bearing account."


Where exactly do you find these? Not at your average bank. Isn't the interest rate at or close to zero?

Commenter Abbi said...

Also, can you clarify this sentence: "The poster reports were daughter only wants the parents make a wedding, which is good, "

Anonymous said...

I must say, though the appeal is a necessity at this time, and the number of disparate groups coming together to do it is heartening, the NAMING really bothers me. Do we have to call it "The Parnossa Fund?"

The whole point here is that we're trying out a stop-gap measure for families who suddenly find themselves WITHOUT a Parnossa. It's an emergency tezdaka fund, and those who avail themselves will be living off tzedaka!

It frightens me to imagine that there will be families who think of their monthly check from this program as their current form of "Parnossa". One of the biggest problems in Orthodox Judaism today is how many people live off of tzedaka and believe that other peoples' blood money can be considered their "Parnossa"

Ezzie said...

Also agree with Anon. For a second, I thought the "Parnassa" fund was a project to help people find jobs. I was saddened to realize it was not.

Perhaps it's because people have become less interested in giving tzedaka, and terming it as such would have received a more negative reaction.

JS said...

Maybe I'm heartless, but I read stuff like this and have to shake my head in disbelief and laugh. The chinuch atzmai is collecting for Israeli yeshivas in the very same community (Lakewood) that is also currently collecting for the Paranasa fund. How completely out of touch can people be? How more blatantly can we send the message of ignoring "aniyei irecha" (the poor of your own city" to send charity halfway across the globe? Sorry neighbor who can't afford to put food on the table, I have to give money to some guy in Israel.

I guess things aren't all THAT bad though since people still have that same old phenomenal arrogance of entitlement amd believing all their problems could be solved if EVERYONE ELSE just sucked it up and paid more for everything, hired Jews at higher prices, and over-extended credit to other Jews. This makes me laugh so hard. If people are still throwing around the same tired old "truisms" about how frum economics should work in their misguided opinions, I guess it can't be all that bad.

Personally, I hope things get MUCH worse so that maybe, just maybe people are forced to open their eyes a little bit and see that this system is completely broken and that the rabbis and community leaders have been leading them off a cliff. Because if all that comes out of this crisis the status quo, a lot of people have been suffering for nothing.

Whatever tzedaka money I have will NOT be sent to prop up these absurdly dated community models.

rosie said...

I am thinking that in order to keep the money in the frum community, we may have to buy from frum Jews but we should tell them what we are willing to pay. For example, a non-Jewish photographer might charge less than a frum one to photograph an event but he will not know what to expect in terms of how frum events go unless he has experience photographing frum events. We can get a price from him and a price from a frum Jew and tell the frum Jew that we will meet him half way. If the goy wants $5000 and the Jew $10,000, offer the Jew $7500. We will get better service from the Jew at a better price. He has the right to charge more than the goy but we don't want to pay double for the the experienced Jewish photographer. We should also let our frum food stores know when we see something on sale somewhere else, that their price for the item is too high. The same could be true of any goods. It is easy to do an online price search so we could inform the frum store owner when his or her prices are way out of line from what it costs elsewhere. That way, we at least give the frum owner a chance to get our business.
We should also inform the frum business owner as to when the products are inferior. For example, now most baby bottles and other plastic products are BPA free. If your local frum store is still selling the dangerous ones, and try to tell you that people have been using them for years, tell them that unless they get the up-to-date merchandise, you will shop elsewhere. The same is true of clothing that may actually be more tznius in some non-Jewish stores today then in some of the frum upscale stores.
To a certain extent, frum stores in some neighborhoods charge more because the locals often lack the transportation to get to malls or cheaper stores. They see that they can take advantage of the captive buyer. If you have the ability to get the same products cheaper elsewhere, tell them and give them the choice of lowering the price or losing the sale. Some items have a huge mark-up and there is room to negotiate. Other items, such as food, have a narrow profit margin.
Frum business owners complain when they don't get the business so at least they should know why the business is going elsewhere or be given the chance to fix the situation.
We should be willing to do business with frum Jews who charge a fair price for their goods and services.

Anonymous said...

Rosie: There is no reason, other than charity, to pay more for a jewish photographer than a non-jewish one. There is nothing inherently different in their services. If you know that the jewish photographer is struggling financially, then paying the extra is a nice way to give him/her tzedaka without it looking like tzedaka, but isn't it better that tzedaka be needs-based and we usually don't know who really needs it. Should you still pay the jewish photographer 50% more if he's loaded due to an inheritance? If the photographers aren't getting enough business maybe they should also serve non-jews, although their prices need to be competitive. As someone noted earlier, more money needs to come into the community. We can't do that if we are only serving (and overchargine) each other.

(BTW imho, in this day and age of everyone having a good digital camera, 5K or 10K for a professional photographer is another one of those luxeries that can easily be dispensed with).

Lion of Zion said...

"We will get better service from the Jew"

yeah right

"He has the right to charge more than the goy"

what right is this?

SephardiLady said...

Agreed on the name of the tzedakah fund. Not sure why I didn't point that out except the post was getting lengthy.

Abbi-ING Direct (www.ingdirect.ccom) is an online bank that will allow you start an interest bearing account with very little money, perhaps as low as $25if I recall correctly.

The bank is only online, but you can link your checking to the bank account and make electronic transfer. Perhaps ING deserves its own post. I love the format and have set up various different accounts I can see and label on one webpage.

Lion of Zion said...

ROSIE,

i'm sorry, but i'm in disbelief that you suggest we pay an extra $2,500 (!) for something.

tesyaa said...

I'm in disbelief that a photographer could cost as much as $5K.

SephardiLady said...

Rosie-We live in a free market system (and I hope we still will in four years). The market determines the price. Clearly the frum market has been willing to pay more. But, as the money dries up, the business owners will simply need to COMPETE in the free market. I will pay a competitive price, but your examples are anything but competitive.

SephardiLady said...

tesyaa-Don't be in disbelief. Photography is expensive across the board. We broke rank and went with a non-Jewish photographer because a similar package started at about $3000 LESS than the frum photographer.

Was the photography as good? Unfortunately not in this case. But for something I don't spend a lot of time looking at, it serves its purpose.

Honestly Frum said...

SL, thank you for linking to my site; the conversation needs to keep going and getting louder. We need to let the people running our schools know that we will no longer stand for the old way of running things. I think if this recession has taught us anything so far it is that the idea that "the money will always be there" and "the yeshiva will find a way" are no longer true. The days of the Yeshivos relying on wealthier parents to make up the short fall are all but done. It's going take a new way of thinking and a lot of innovation to fix this thing, but it can be done. Regarding shopping in Jewish stores, I heard a shiur a few months ago where the rav said we have an "achrayus" to patronize Jewish stores even though it means, most often, paying more. I don't see why if I can get the same thing at Shoprite for 25% less I need to go to the Jewish Store owner? Where I do see the importance of supporting our own brethren, maybe consolidation in the kosher food industry is needed as well. Why does every large Jewish neighborhood (Brooklyn not included because they are realy out of control) need 3 or 4 (at least) Kosher Grocery Stores? If the stores consolidated they could bring down prices drastically.

Ariella said...

Lion of Zion says that no one has restricted engagement rings. In fact, though, I did hear of an edict in one of the Chassidic communities declaring that all kallahs should get cz rings. The cynics, though, pointed out that they were still buying shtreimels for the chassonim for a few thousand$.

I am as incredulous as most of the posters that a Jewish photographer is allowed to get 50% more than a nonJewish one for the same job. Why is he not subject to halachos of not charging excessively? The costs for photography are about the same -- cameras, lights, software (assuming they are using up to date digital equipment) lab processing, and album binding. Now to tie this into the "buyer beware" warning for "gmachs," there are photographers who call their services a gmach that are really in it for profit and may not even offer the cheapest deal possible. As for real costs -- they can range tremendously from a bare bones package around $1000 to $10K and even more, depending on how many extras you add in, like double crews, overtime, and deluxe albums.

The way to cut down tremendously is to find a photographer who shoots well who is willing to just give you the images without prints and albums. Then you can keep them on a disc or your computer until you find the most cost effective and appealing option for your own albums and prints. If you're willing to keep them digital and fairly simple, you can do it for free with templates available at Google docs. i don't have personal experience with this because I got married way before the digital age really got underway. And the photographer used was well-known as a mid-priced Jewish owned studio. I don't know what it cost, but I certainly didn't find their service or idea of trite poses anything to write home about. What I found most disturbing was that they walked out way before the wedding was over because they had talked my in-laws into 2 crews but had not put into the contract that even a single cameraman would stay for the duration of the wedding without incurring overtime. I am not the type of person who would insist that someone else has to foot overtime charges, so all I do have of the second round of dancing are the snapshots my friend took for me on a very basic camera, and those pictures are far more interesting than anything the photographer shot.

tesyaa said...

Well, I must have been giving people the wrong impression I'm rich, because my brother has professional equipment (he's not a pro though) and he photographed my kids' bas mitzvah parties. He lives out of town, doesn't look particularly Jewish and doesn't like to mingle with the other guests (he's shy). So people must think I hired this pro for $$$.

The photos & videos he burned on CDs for us are awesome.

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rosie said...

Frum photographers know what shots will be popular at Orthodox weddings and that they have to be pushy. Goyim have very orderly weddings where people stay in church pews and sit and watch. Jews push to gather around the bedeken and chuppah and a photographer has to be ready to push even harder or he misses the shot. Frum photographers with lots of experience charge more for that experience. Frum photographers who are just starting out charge less but they will often not give the quality of an experienced frum photographers. Obviously if you feel that people should stop buying new shoes, a $10,000 photographer will seem like the example does not belong here.

Ezzie said...

While I agree on the Jewish photographer knowing which shots to get better, unless the non-Jewish one has a lot of experience (in Cleveland a large % of people use Alberto, who is very good, very reasonable, and very not Jewish), one definitely does not need to spend $10,000.

At my brother's wedding in Harrisburg a friend who enjoys photography took about 300 pictures, and by Sheva Brachos had given copies to my brother and each sets of parents as a wedding gift. They were great shots.

The pictures friends/family friends took by our wedding were better than most of the shots we got from our Jewish photographer.

tesyaa said...

I'm deleting my previous comment...

I'm sorry, I meant to say we NEVER would have hired a photographer for a bas mitzvah if we didn't have my brother's free photography. We're not crazy to spend money on bas mitzvah photography.

Lion of Zion said...

ARIELLA:

"I did hear of an edict in one of the Chassidic communities declaring that all kallahs should get cz rings"

i don't think any of these recent sumptuary decrees have actually taken hold. has it been any different with the one you refer to?

anyway, the example you cite, if true, is instructive, but not directly relevant to the communities most of us here live in. and i note that only Mark (a guy, of course) has said here that he skipped on the diamond.

ROSIE:

how do you get from new shoes to a 10k photographer?

Commenter Abbi said...

SL: Ok, that site is really an exception. Putting your money in a regular bank savings account or MMA won't really do much for you with interest rates hovering near 0%.

Ezzie said...

Abbi - Nowadays, so long as you have internet, no reason not to use banks like INGDirect. My sister/bro-in-law have an excellent command of their finances and have been using ING for a number of years very happily.

Ariella said...

YOu're right, Lion of Zion, that no one seems to adhere to these simcha limits, and still go ahead with huge orchestras and elaborate vorts (engagement parties) even though these were explicitly banned. Now, don't take me wrong on this. I really didn't care about getting an engagement ring, though I was given one. But I do have to point out that it is the only one of the wedding expenses that not only retains its value but likely increases in value.

I know that most people do not think of their engagement rings as an investment. Yet, while a used gown loses most of its value, and all the food, music, and flowers are gone after the big day, a ring can still have value. And, though it is not currently fashionable (especially because the diamond industry has been so successful in its marketing beginning form the mid 20th century "A diamond is forever" slogan) diamonds can be reset. So if someone inherits a ring, as a friend of mine's husband did from his mother, he can offer it or a reset version to his kallah. My friend actually loved the ring just the way it was. Again, I really don't think the rings are important in and of themselves, and only the wedding ring itself (my 14k band cost $35 back in the early 90s) is required for the wedding ceremony. But I would say that I also know a mom who offered her daughter-in-law the choice of gift of furniture or the diamond ring, and thought her rather foolish for choosing the latter. Obviously the girl was thinking that you can more easily impress people with a ring on your finger than furniture in your home they may not see. But as far as ring vs. actual wedding party expenses, the former would have more enduring value.

Ezzie said...

As a small note, while rings definitely don't need to be expensive/extravagant, I've heard people say that the significance of a ring and the meaning of it helps them feel good about their marriage even in tough times, etc., and reminds them why they married and what hopes/values/dreams they wish to pursue.

That doesn't mean someone needs a $5,000 ring, but I wouldn't make engagement rings one of the first cuts.

JLan said...

"1) the only thing sillier than spending all that money on a gown you wear once is to then spend even more money to preserve it. just recycle it and give it away."

Note that your best bet is to give your dress, if possible, to a 501c3. If it was an expensive dress, you may even be able to save money by buying over renting (I know someone who has a choice between renting a dress for $2500 or buying the same dress for $3000. Expensive, I know. But even if the used (once) dress were revalued at $2000, a donation/deduction might well make up more of a difference than the cost of buying vs renting).

And SL- ING is great. I actually started using them because my employer does 401k plans through there, but I'm quite happy with them. At my relatively small amount of cash, I get more in interest in a month than I would at Chase in a year.

Esther said...

Rosie - I actually agree with your main point. Frum businesspeople need to be businesspeople. If they want to get business, they should be keeping up with the competition, act professional, charging competitive prices, and if they are charging a higher price they should be promoting the reasons why you're getting something of a higher quality from them. Unfortunately I think all of us have seen too many examples of frum people who don't treat their business like a business, but rather just feel entitled to having the local frum community buy things from them.

I disagree that we should automatically still use the frum business if they are charging higher prices. I feel the responsibility is on the business owner, frum or not, to make his business work.

(As an aside, I don't think whether a photographer is frum relates to their skill, but rather if the person has experience photographing Jewish weddings. Now, obviously any frum photographer does, but so do many non-frum. The question is what quality are you going to get from the person. If you feel you'll be getting a higher quality from the frum person, AND photography is one of the areas that is most important to you at the wedding AND you have the budget for the higher price, then obviously use that person. If any of these are not the case, then the fact of the person being frum shouldn't even enter the discussion.)

Critically Observant Jew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Critically Observant Jew said...

I'm very much into Internet Savings Accounts (moved from local bank to ING, then to Countrywide, then to WT Direct due to difference of yields. I use BankDeals blog (http://bankdeals.blogspot.com/) to research my online banks. I highly recommend anyone who has what to put away, to put it away into an FDIC insured online savings account.

Lion of Zion said...

EZZIE:

"I've heard people say that the significance of a ring and the meaning of it helps them feel good about their marriage . . ."

no way.

SL:

please do a post on internet savings accounts

Ezzie said...

LoZ - Can't tell if that was sarcastic or not

Lion of Zion said...

ARIELLA:

"I really didn't care about getting an engagement ring, though I was given one."

did your חתן know that you felt this way? i wonder how many of us buy rings only because we *think* she expects it. (disclosure: i did buy a ring)

"But I do have to point out that it is the only one of the wedding expenses that not only retains its value but likely increases in value."

1) there are probably better ways to invest your money than diamonds?

2) do you know anyone who actually sold their diamond to help make ends meet? to pay for tuition? to buy expensive medication? saying it's an investment doesn't mean anything unless we're really prepared to cash in when needed. (maybe tuition committees should ask for diamond appraisals.)

"So if someone inherits a ring, as a friend of mine's husband did from his mother, he can offer it or a reset version to his kallah."

my brother just used my grandmother's ring.
but one ring can only be used by one child/grandchild. great for them, but the others still have to cough up the cash.

just one more comment on sumptuary laws for weddings: some of us (myself included) comdemn bans when we don't like them (which is usually). so i'm not comfortable with a ban on diamonds either, as much as i think they are a waste of money. i'd much more prefer gentle coercion by parents and in-laws :)

Lion of Zion said...

EZZIE:

i sincerely hope that i don't sound harsh, but i find it very strange that an engagement ring serves such a purpose for these women. or perhaps i understand women even less than i had thought.

i guess a girl could look at the ring and think about how much he loves her that he worked so hard to save up for it. but in so many cases he didn't even pay for it himself anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ezzie - As a small note, while rings definitely don't need to be expensive/extravagant, I've heard people say that the significance of a ring and the meaning of it helps them feel good about their marriage even in tough times, etc., and reminds them why they married and what hopes/values/dreams they wish to pursue.

Unfortunately, many people who need to focus on the ring to remind them of that often end up with marriage trouble. A ring is just another thing. A marriage is something much more meaningful than simple things.

Ezzie - That doesn't mean someone needs a $5,000 ring, but I wouldn't make engagement rings one of the first cuts.

I would. It fits all considerations of something to be cut:
1. It has no inherent value whatsoever.
2. It has no necessary function (like a watch, wallet, or a purse does).
3. If disposed of, it has zero affect on ones life.
4. It, in fact, has unnecessary costs associated with it (extra insurance, less peace of mind worrying about losing it, etc).

The only value i can discern is sentimental.

To me, it's a no brainer to omit it. However to some people, the sentimental value is very high and they make the choice to get one. And as long as that sentiment is worth it to them, worth more than the costs, then I have no problem with it. It's entirely their business. Of course, I would be disgusted to see someone collecting for Hachnasat Kallah with a diamond ring!

and i note that only Mark (a guy, of course) has said here that he skipped on the diamond.

Very simply, I am not aware of any halacha requiring, or even encouraging, an engagement ring (as opposed to a wedding ring). It strikes me as a "made up" requirement of some sort, perhaps designed to increase the sales and profits from diamonds. Finally, lest anyone thing I am a domineering ogre of some sort, the choice of an engagement ring was completely up to my wife. I was completely willing to buy her one if she had her heart set on one. She definitely didn't want a diamond, and at first was thinking of some sort of colored stone (emerald, sapphire, etc), but in the end couldn't envision herself wearing such a thing, so she decided against it.

Mark

Ezzie said...

LoZ and Anon - I knew I'd had a post on this at one point. :) Click.

Look - there IS inherent value in sentimental things. There's a reason people take pictures. There's a reason people cherish certain objects. It would be foolish to pretend that these things do not have value. Yes, in the short term, the extra $2,500-3,000 dollars might be very useful; but in the long-term, having a symbol is important. I think that certain costs are more understandable than others. It is when those costs get out of hand or are added to and added to that we start to have serious problems.

I think that part of it is we need to be realistic about what the baseline expenditures should be and actually are within the frum community. (Feel free to take the survey SL linked to in the post.) When we see that most people can do without certain things, it's easier to cut those things. When we see a whole community spending money on something, it's important to determine if that expenditure is wise or necessary, and if it is, can it be lowered somehow.

I find that when people call for cuts to items that most people will simply not give up and more importantly think the suggestion is nuts (whether it is or not, they will view it as such), you make it that much harder to get them to cut items which they might actually agree are unnecessary.

Ariella said...

LoZ,:
>>>did your חתן know that you felt this way? i wonder how many of us buy rings only because we *think* she expects it. (disclosure: i did buy a ring)<<<
I made it clear that I really didn't care about a ring to my husband. His parents are the ones who picked it out. I don't think my MIL could imagine any woman not wanting a diamond ring. But, really, I never flaunted mine and did not even wear it every day.
>>>1) there are probably better ways to invest your money than diamonds?<<<
In truth, I think if I had invested my money in diamonds rather than mutual funds, it would be worth more today, as it would not have plummeted 30% or more. But, again, that is not the motivation behind buying the diamonds.
>>>my brother just used my grandmother's ring.
but one ring can only be used by one child/grandchild. great for them, but the others still have to cough up the cash.<<<
Obviously. But it is the only thing left, usually, that can be reused in this way. In the example I gave, yes, the brother who married before this one probably bought a ring. But this is rather a sad case in which both a brother and mother died of cancer before this one became engaged to my friend. His mother may have still been alive when his elder brother married.
>>>2) do you know anyone who actually sold their diamond to help make ends meet? to pay for tuition? to buy expensive medication? saying it's an investment doesn't mean anything unless we're really prepared to cash in when needed. (maybe tuition committees should ask for diamond appraisals.)<<<<
And, yes, I do know someone who sold her diamond ring when she desperately needed money. She wasn't happy about it, though. AS for appraisals, while it may not be something for tuition committees to consider, it may be something for hachnosos kallahs organizations to consider before using tzedaka funds to buy a kallah furniture because she wanted all the money her chasson's family would have given towards it to go for a ring.
..just one more comment on sumptuary laws for weddings: some of us (myself included) comdemn bans when we don't like them (which is usually). so i'm not comfortable with a ban on diamonds either, as much as i think they are a waste of money. i'd much more prefer gentle coercion by parents and in-laws :)<<<
I wasn't either defending or attacking the ban, only pointing out that it has been advanced. I know that bans are utterly useless when those who have it still are bent on flaunting it, as I see from the very lavish bat mitzvah parties that go on despite school rules that are supposed to minimize such conspicuous consumption.

Anonymous said...

Ezzie - Look - there IS inherent value in sentimental things.

No, that would be extrinsic value. Nothing wrong with it, just a different kind of value.

Mark

Ezzie said...

:P fine.

miriamp said...

I have a diamond engagement ring -- but not the classic solitaire, because I don't like that look. It's rather a small diamond, actually, but I like it. (I actually picked it out, although that wasn't the original plan, as we weren't actually engaged yet, and he wanted to own a ring before he asked me to marry him.) No parental economic help -- so he budgeted $200 for the ring, and luckily for him, the one I liked the most fit in his budget. My wedding dress cost $500 at a resale shop (plus $80 to have the sheer front filled in to make it tznius). No special family dresses -- told the relatives find something nice in Blue. Buffet style catering, local hotel instead of fancy hall. We did hire a small band -- that was probably one of the biggest expenses. No one bought us furniture either -- we had to do it all ourselves.

And you know what, we're still happily married, and not having all those extras for our wedding didn't really affect our future life together.

miriamp said...

Actually maybe it did affect our future life, but in a positive way -- we started out with less debt! Everything fit on the credit cards, and we had stock options vesting after a couple of years which we used to pay it all off.

rosie said...

I think that some here are misunderstanding my comments. I used photography as an example of a frum business that usually charges substantially more for their services than would a non-Jew. Part of the discussion is whether or non a frum Jew should spend more to patronize the business of another frum Jew (who charges more). It is generally considered a mitzvah to patronize a Jew over a non-Jew, unless the price is considerably higher to the point that it is not affordable. Frum photographers, therapists, funeral homes (to name a few businesses that cater to frum clientelle) generally do charge more and often part of that is to offset those times when their services must be given as tzedukah. While we can't imagine photographers (as opposed to funeral directors)giving away an expensive non-necessity, I have seen them knock down their prices for those who are truly indigent.
I was comparing new shoes to photography because SL did not like the examples that I used and she had used the example of a spending freeze that included shoes.
Obviously photography and diamond rings are not necessities.
Bas Mitzvahs did not exist when I was young. When my grandparents heard that Bas Mitzvahs were becoming the "in" thing (too late for me but in time for my sister) they voiced their disapproval and only my brother had a Bar Mitzvah. My daughters only had small parties at home with their classmates when they turned 12. (Don't ask what I spent on their weddings.)

tesyaa said...

Rosie, I think non-Jews also give services for free or cheaply as charitable giveaways. For example, lawyers do pro bono work. Frum Jews don't have a monopoly on charity.

ProfK said...

You bet there can be sentiment attached to an engagement ring. Except for Mikvah, the birth of my kids, two hospital stays and Yom Kippur that ring is never off my finger for any reason. And yes, it is a reminder of the journey we started when it was presented to me, and it still glistens brightly, just like the marriage it's symbolic of. And by the by, I also wear my grandmother's engagement ring on a constant basis. You bet that is sentimental. I never met that grandmother but every time I look at the ring I think of her. Lots of places I can think of to cut down on expenses, but for me the engagement ring was not going to be one of those places.

David said...

Engagement rings are a Gentile custom which has become universal in the western world. DeBeers diamonds are the folks who came up with the idea, and it has become deeply entrenched in the vast majority of folks' minds.

However, the rule of thumb in the Gentile world is that the groom should spend "two month's salary" on an engagement ring. If we apply that logic to the Jewish world, there would be a substantial number of people for whom that number is $0, and therefore should not even consider an engagement ring.

If an engagement ring is sufficiently important component of a wedding / marriage, then let the groom work and save up for it.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thinking said...

Maybe I am the exception, but it never seizes to amaze me that married couples with kids suddenly find themselves with all sorts of dilemmas when faced with making a simcha. Did they not know when they had a boy that in 13 years they would have to make a simcha? Or 12 years for a girl. Or that in 18 years they would have to pay for college and start thinking about weddings?
Why don't people consider these to be "fixed costs" the same way you pay for rent, transportation, utilities etc? It doesn't matter how much you are going to spend on the simcha, whether it is $3K or $25K you need to have the money and it won't suddenly appear in your normal operating budget.

One of the most important things I learned when I first started making money was the value of automated deductions (thank you Citibank). It's hard to remind/convince yourself every week or month to transfer money between accounts. Well, you don't need to! The bank will be more then happy to do it for you and won't charge you for it.

For each of my children I have a separate money market account (not the best solution because I am limiting my returns by not aggregating the money, but I have another solution for that) that I have money automatically drawn from my checking account to. At first it was only $50 a month, but now BH it is $100. $100 a month @ 3% interest x 20 years = $33K.

Now I know a lot of people will say "$100 per kid every month is a lot of money!!" Not nearly as much as trying to suddenly come up with $30K or whatever your trying to come up with overnight!

If you need to come up with the monthly money and can't find it in your current income then you may want to consider tutoring or something similar. Tutoring at $25 per half hour is not uncommon.

Most of the "crisis" that we face could be averted with some very simple money solutions. I am by far not the most frugal or budget conscious person, but I am also not ignorant or reality.

Critically Observant Jew said...

Thinking: I do the same thing, but only with the mortgage - I add $250 on a monthly basis automatically, more if I'm able to. The trick to that, however, is to have enough liquid cash in savings/checking account for 3-6 months of expenses. Maybe I'm a bad member of a frum society, but I will not save now for my kids' day school tuition that will come 5-7 years from now - I'll pay when I get there if I have the money. Same for smachot - that will come out of the liquid cash in savings.

Ariella said...

I was struck by the same thougt as "Thinking" mentioned above. The woman who acts like she doesn't know what to do know that she has a wedding to prepare for was actually looking forward to this. It doesn't sound like her daughter's engaement took her by surprise -- she must have known she was dating for this purpose. And while she has very fixed ideas about what the wedding guest list would have to be and other things she feels obligated to buy for her daughter, she seems to have made no plans for the financing.

Anonymous said...

ProfK - and it still glistens brightly, just like the marriage it's symbolic of.

I thought the wedding band is symbolic of the marriage? That's why my wife and I got two of them, one for each of us. Or are you saying that only the woman should have something symbolic of the marriage? We've been married for 11 1/2 years and I've probably taken off my wedding ring only about half a dozen times during that period. I'm looking at it now and thinking that maybe I should leave work a little early and help prepare for shabbat.

Mark

Commenter Abbi said...

"2) do you know anyone who actually sold their diamond to help make ends meet? to pay for tuition? to buy expensive medication? saying it's an investment doesn't mean anything unless we're really prepared to cash in when needed. (maybe tuition committees should ask for diamond appraisals.)"

My mom hocked her engagement ring so my parents could make a down payment on their first condo. And a babysitter stole her wedding band.

But they still have a great marriage 35 years later.