Whose voice do you hear when you choose to be frugal: Your mother’s or your own?


by Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz


It was a gorgeous fall day, all crimson and sienna and sage and basil, and I was dressed to match. Since it would be my first day out in four days after being sick, I wanted to dress up, even if only for a fund-raiser breakfast for a yeshivah,held at the home of a congregant down the block. So I put myself together and figured I would visit and schmooze with neighbor, when it wasn’t verboten, and have a great breakfast.


Alas, I only had a cup of coffee; the real food was in the tent with the men. I just socialized with the family of the hostess, sisters-in-law, cousins, and kids who wanted to skip the speeches.

By eleven I was done with my “rebbetzin” visit. I had missed my treat, and I deserved one, after forfeiting both a fortieth high-school class reunion in Monsey, and a gathering of women writers held by Miriam Liebermann that morning too. Since the house and shul were being cleaned, my laundry and packing for an imminent trip were done, and I hadn’t eaten properly in days, I would treat myself to breakfast out, I decided.


FrugalBut there were frozen sauteed veggies on hand that would make a gourmet omelet. There was shredded cheese in the fridge. Slicing a new red potato and putting it in the oven at 425° while preparing the omelet would give me a side. I could treat myself – and save money, of course.


As I headed out to pick up cash for the cleaning woman I wondered: Who’s talking in my head? Me? My mother? My grandmother? A friend’s recent comment came to mind. After the year of aveilus (mourning) for her mother was over, one of the first things she did was go buy something at full price at Macy’s, a luxury her mother had never permitted. Never pay full price for anything, was her mother’s creed.


So was the voice in my head mine, or my mother’s and grandmother’s? Was I not fargining (permitting) myself because of them? Or was I simply being frugal because I wanted to be frugal? Did I need to give myself an excuse. or was I really happier this way. planning my own fancy brunch?


When I saw the sign on the Central Avenue ice-cream shop advertising a two-dollar scoop without the sugar cone. it was decided. I would have ice cream from my own freezer as dessert. treating myself to a good meal at home first. This was my own menu preference. And then I went down the street to rescue fine things at the thrift shops.


Why am I telling you an autumn tale of scarlets and scruples?


Because the moral of the story is this: When the voice inside your head is your own kargkeit (frugal or stinginess. take your pick) and not your mother’s, listen – and enjoy.

Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz, management consultant, career counselor and Rebbetzin of Congregation Agudas Achim of Lawrence. serves on the boards of several nonprofits and teaches life skills. She can be reached at faigiehorowitzss@aol.com.

This article was first published on May 9, 2016, in Binah magazine. Republished with the kind permission of Binah & the author.