Don’t Live off of Loans

[Be-Ahavah U-B-Emunah – Terumah 5773- translated by R. Blumberg]


Don't take loans if you’re not sure you can pay them back. That is also a type of theft.

“The wicked man borrows and does not repay” (Tehillim 37:21).

Do not say, “I've got a lot of expenses, and I have no choice.” Certainly you’ve got a choice. The rule is: Don’t spend more than you earn. Spend less!

Less! 1) Because you must return all your loans. 2) Because you need reserve funds for unexpected expenses, pleasant or unpleasant. An example of a pleasant expense is a wedding. An example of an unpleasant expense is a washing machine that has to be replaced.

You therefore need a reserve fund.

Don’t spend money you don’t have. That is morally licentious, even morally corrupt – living off the money of others.

Our Sages said that there are four types who are too impossible for words, and one of them is a poor man who is arrogant (Pesachim 13b). This refers to a person of little income who lives like a rich man.

As a rule, don’t spend more than you bring in. Towards that end, here are several practical pieces of advice:


A. Don’t rely on your intuition. Rather, keep a precise budget that covers annual, monthly, weekly and daily figures. Realize how much each item costs you, as with car upkeep and cellular phones. Knowledge is power. Just as we must spiritually take stock, so must we take stock of our holdings. That, too, constitutes taking stock spiritually.


B. Use cash. Don’t use a credit card or checks. Just use cash. That way you’ll know whether you have money or not.


C. Limit expenses and cancel unnecessary ones. Don’t envy others and don’t covet their possessions. Jealousy, lust and seeking honor banish a person from the world. Not just the world-to-come, but this world too. Get by with little. Who is rich? He who is content with his lot (Avot 4:1).

Here are some details:

1. When you make a wedding, there is no obligation to invite so many people or to hire an expensive hall, catering service, band or photographer. Don’t take loans that are not based on what you own now.

2. The same goes for the engagement party, the Shabbat festivities before the wedding, the festivities during the week after the wedding, bar and bat mitzvahs, circumcisions, kiddushs, etc.

3. Move to a more inexpensive apartment. Avoid remodeling and expensive furniture.

4. Buy a less expensive car. Or live without a car altogether. It is possible.

5. Limit telephone use. There’s no need to talk so much.

6. Buy simple, inexpensive, essential food.

7. Don’t eat out. Bring sandwiches, fruit, etc. with you,

8. You can smoke less… You can smoke not at all. Each year 10,000 people die from smoking, with a sixth of them dying from passive smoking, and hundreds of thousands more who get ill.

9. Limit travel expenses.

10. Limit electricity expenses. My late father-in-law, of blessed memory, received free electricity as one of the perks of his important position in the Electric Company, yet he still went around the house turning off every unnecessary light. He taught: “Someone is paying for this!”

11. Buy inexpensive clothing. Second- hand stores have an enormous selection of lovely clothing in excellent condition at rock-bottom prices.

12. During vacation time, expenses skyrocket. Don’t spend on anything you feel like.  Keep your spending under control.

13. The same applies at holiday time.


D. The Consumer Culture: Steer clear of the consumer culture, and from going on shopping excursions to malls. Don’t go in there! It’s a place full of unnecessary temptations.

If you must, plan in advance and prepare yourself psychologically not to be tempted. Go to less fancy stores. Compare prices. And remember: shopping is not a recreational activity, nor a treatment for depression.


E. Admit the truth: If you’ve got a problem with overspending, admit it. It’s a sickness. True, you’re not the only one. About half of the Jewish People live in overdraft.

Yet that is no consolation. Pal, you’re sick! Get a hold of yourself! Nobody will solve this problem for you. Don’t expect others to come up with the solution, and not the government, as they do at demonstrations. Rather, the only guilty party is you. Because you are spending money that you don’t have.


F. Redemption comes gradually. Save another hundred shekels, another ten shekels, another shekel. One small saving and then another, add up to a great saving. One penny to another adds up to a large sum.


G. No more overdraft. Important rule: Have no overdraft. In the United States, it doesn’t exist. If a person there is missing one dollar in his account, a thousand dollar check will bounce. In Israel, the bank doesn’t allow overdraft out of kindness, but because it makes a lot money from it, and your own debt balloons. They say of overdraft that it is sweet at first, but bitter in the end.


H. No loans. Don’t take loans. They’re not a wonder cure. Loans have to be paid off! Don’t keep borrowing to pay off loans. In the end everything will collapse like a house of cards.


I. Not even interest-free loans. Even they have to be paid off. A free-loan is not a gift.  Other people are waiting for the money. Don’t steal from Free-loan societies. Don’t live at other people’s expense, not even to do mitzvoth, except for a few exceptions. Don’t be a beggar. Don’t be a Schnorrer.


J. The same applies to your children. Teach your children thrift. Don’t give in to their pressuring you to buy them everything their heart desires. Don’t submit to extortion. Such submission begets worse extortion. Show them your budget and let them share in the responsibility. Start teaching them from age five, the age when education begins. Handling money is part of education as well. Give your children spending money on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. Let them decide what to do with it, whether to save it or to buy items or to go out on excursions. Let them take responsibility. They can get jobs as well.