How to Save Money on a Bar Mitzvah Party (part 1)

Harrison is written in graffiti-like script on a wall at a bar mitzvah party

I doubt you’d be googling how to save money on a bar mitzvah party if you could afford to drop half a million bucks on hiring Cardi B to perform at your son’s bar mitzvah. If you have that kind of money, mazel tov, I hope you have a fantastic stress-free party.

But what about all the stressed-out parents trying to save money on a bar or bat mitzvah party without dipping into the college fund, remortgaging their home or turning their child’s solemn rite of passage into an episode of keeping up with the Steins? 

Seriously, the social pressure to book the ‘must have bar mitzvah venue’ or ‘the must have bat mitzvah DJ’ is very real in some communities. If I had the answer on how to avoid falling into the social pressure trap, I’d either be a very rich man or a very happy, relaxed beach bum. However, as I provide bar/bat mitzvah entertainment, I’ve seen numerous ways over the years to save money when planning a bar mitzvah party.

One size doesn’t fit all

lit light bulbs hang from a ceiling at a bar mitzvah party
Remembering that everyone's situation is different can save you money and stress.

First, this isn’t a one size fits all issue. A small budget to one family may be $25,000 and to another family that’s a figure they can only dream of. To one family, a frugal bar mitzvah may be a DIY service followed by a picnic in the park. To another family, frugal is 300 guests in a 4-star hotel rather than 500 guests in a 5-star. 

You want the day to be a reflection of your child as an individual and your family as a whole. That can be a simple family affair or large community celebration. It can be quirky and fun, solemn and serious or let’s paint the town red. What it doesn’t have to be and probably shouldn’t be, is a carbon copy of what everyone else is doing. Where’s the individuality in that?

What I am trying to achieve here is simply to offer ideas for how to save money planning a bar mitzvah party or at least how to spend the budget wisely. You can decide whether each idea can work with your plans and your budget. 

Dealing with social pressure when planning a bar/bat mitzvah party

Bar mitzvah guests dance and wave their hands in front of a stage
Social pressure can affect both you and your child. Focus on the right things to offset this.

While researching this series of articles, I’ve been dismayed by how many people simply say, “just forget about social pressure” without offering any tips for how to do so. To me, if it were that simple, social pressure wouldn’t exist. We would all just say, “Meh” and do our own thing. 

One way to avoid dealing with social pressure when planning a bar/bat mitzvah is to concentrate on the religious ceremony. When family or friends talk about the must-have party entertainment or must-have caterer, shut the conversation down by talking about the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony itself. 

Spend time with your child exploring the religious significance of the occasion. Learn together why tefillin can be so expensive and why there’s such a large difference in prices. This purchase needs to be prioritized in your budget and by encouraging your child to center their day around the ceremony, rather than the party, your child will be better equipped to deal with social pressure.

If you’re confused about purchasing tefillin or by the vast range of prices Chabad.org has an excellent article on purchasing tefillin – a buyer’s guide.

Mark Oppenheimer’s piece, Three Rules for a Better Bar or Bat Mitzvah, may be a good place to start this conversation with your child. 

Set a budget and stick to it

Pete with a shocked look on his face standing in front of a dancing crowd of people at a bat mitzvah
My face when I see how lavish some of these bar/bat mitzvahs are. 😲

Again, this is often easier said than done. Whether it’s a bar/bat mitzvah; a wedding; home renovations or planning a corporate event, budgets have a way of running away with us. 

If you want to control costs, it’s vital you set a budget and stick to it. Tell your child the budget and if they want the best DJ in town, ask them what they are going to cut from the budget in order to pay for it. This is after all their passage into adulthood when they become responsible for their own decisions.

Understand how budgets run over. If you’re organized, you have a folder or spreadsheet to plan the bar/bat mitzvah. You’ve included printed invitations and to save money, you chose the non-lined envelopes. What you may have forgotten to include, is the price of mailing the invitations out.

This is when it becomes too easy to start going over budget and once you go over a little, it’s easy for the budget to start spiraling out of control. Set the budget and stick to it! If you find you’ve forgotten something, then something else needs to be cut or an alternative found. 

It’s a community celebration so call on the community

Women sit a wooden outdoor table planning together a bar mitzvah party
Now is the perfect time to get your community together. Use their individual strengths to cut bar/bat mitzvah costs.

Modern Western societies have largely lost the community spirit but a bar/bat mitzvah is meant to be a community celebration, so call on your community. 

Can a family member, close friend or member of your community act as emcee so you can hire a cheaper DJ? Find out why bar mitzvah DJs are more expensive than wedding DJs in my upcoming post, ‘How to Choose the Right DJ for Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah’.

Get together with other upcoming bat/bat mitzvah parents and consider if there is anything you can buy collectively to use at all of the celebrations. One-sixth of the cost of a set of serving platters may be more affordable than disposable plastic or foil trays. Are there any decoration items you can buy collectively and use at all of the parties?

If you don’t know any other upcoming bar/bat mitzvah parents, it’s the perfect time to ask around and get your family more involved within the community.

Offer to provide a dish or two for each of their kiddush lunches and ask if they will do the same for you. This doesn’t reduce the cost but it spreads it out. But more importantly, it builds community spirit and reduces your stress levels.

Make use of the talent around you

A DJ spins the tunes in front of dancing crowd of people at a bar mitzvah party.
How about letting your cousin show his DJ skills? This has the potential to save you lots of money.

Do you have someone in the family or a friend that’s a great photographer or baker? How about an aunt, sister or cousin who loves crafts? See if they’ll make the party favors.

If you have an arts college near you, a good young photographer may jump at the chance to add bar or bat mitzvah photos or video to their portfolio. And it will certainly be at a fraction of the cost of a professional photographer. Just be sure to check out their work beforehand and ask them to take a few photos while you’re there so you can see the quality of their work.

Also, be sure to ask family members to help entertain and transport out-of-town guests. 

I hope this has given you some food for thought. Next time, I’ll share more tips and ideas on how to save even more money on a bar mitzvah party. Stay tuned.

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