Author Topic: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.  (Read 14038 times)

WageSlave

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Quote from today's post: "US society has literally adopted the phrase “standard of living” to be synonymous with “amount of money you spend on yourself”. If you follow this rule, you permanently lock yourself into needing more money to feel happy..."

This along with the recent "Lessons from Ecuador" post has me thinking that perhaps the biggest message of this blog is that happiness is not a function of how much you spend on yourself.  You might say, "Well duh," but I'm trying to say that it's really a first principle.  The whole frugality thing is less of a goal, and actually more of a side-effect of learning to be happy on less.  It's "implicit frugality" versus "explicit frugality".

The question is, how do you find the courage to "break the rules" so to speak, in particular, breaking the "standard of living" rule quoted above?

Example: let's say you are "second generation upper middle class": you come from a family that had the same "standard of living" as typical middle class Americans, but the income was such that the savings rate was still very high.  IOW, pulled-off MMM-approved savings, but still consumed like non-Mustachians.  Now this lifestyle has the inertia of two generations behind it---that is, it seems "normal" to you and your parents (and maybe grandparents too).  To some degree, choosing an MMM-style life is a deliberate step away from all you've ever known.  Right or wrong, there's comfort in familiarity.  And if your financial house is in great order, what's the incentive to change?

I ask not to question the whole MMM lifestyle, but for more personal reasons: I know the answer(s), or at least I think I do... but my wife says, "Why would I want to live like that?"  The characterization above was loosely based on her, and our current situation is a continuation of what she's always known.  But there's a bit of friction there, because if we were to cut down to MMM-level spending, we could retire right now (at an ultra-conservative 2% SWR).  But she doesn't want to send our kids to a "bad" school, doesn't want to use cloth diapers, doesn't want to give up AC or have to wear a coat in the house, wants to eat out from time to time, doesn't want to get groceries on a bicycle, doesn't want to live in a 1500 square foot house, doesn't want to rent out our house when we go on vacation, etc.  And had I never read this blog, I probably wouldn't want to do those things either.  :)  Now I'm sort of walking an edge, trying to find a balance between living as lean as possible and not making my wife uncomfortable.  And to clear my wife of all the blame it's hard for me to make the wholesale Mustachian leap when we're still saving over 70% of net pay, despite considerable luxury.

I think where you come from determines how hard or easy the MMM lifestyle is.  Maybe it's a stereotype, but I see a lot of immigrants to the USA from poorer countries "naturally" living a Mustachian lifestyle.  It's a situation where they had a poor upbringing, so all they really know is working very hard just to make ends meet.  Whereas when you suggest the MMM/poor immigrant lifestyle to the typical middle class (or higher) first-world person, they immediately jump to the "deprivation" mindset.

(Anyone here also read "I, Cringely"?  Not too long ago, he did a number of posts on IBM suggesting shady labor practices and scamming the system.  Ignoring IBM and the H1B issues, just reading the comments on those posts suggests to me that a lot of people expect to have cushy jobs that afford them classic American consumerist lifestyles.  And when someone comes along who's willing to work longer and/or harder and/or for less money, god forbid they be a foreigner, otherwise, (assume slack-jawed yokel voice), "They're takin' our jobs!"  I remember someone suggested that we're now part of a globally competitive labor market, and the responses were alarmingly protectionist, along the lines of, "We're Americans, we shouldn't have to live like that.")

Thoughts?

Norrie

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2013, 07:19:17 PM »
It's been really helpful that my husband also reads the blog. Does your wife read it, or just hear about it from you? Because I think that the two are very different, and my husband kept looking at me like I had eight heads while I would prattle on about it. Now that he's a reader too, he gets it (even if he doesn't always want to do it).

I'm willing to do a whole lot of things to be more like MMM, but there are a bunch of things that are just out of my scope of desire or ability. I don't want to wear a coat in our home, and furthermore, I can't push things that far, because we have a kid with medical needs. I don't want to rent out our home when we travel (and it's not like people are bashing down doors to rent in our area). I also don't want to get groceries by bicycle in our current city, though I would have in our last town.

I think that there are a lot of changes that YOU can make that don't impact your wife negatively. You can certainly bicycle for groceries and make most of the meals, you can make calls to cut car insurance rates, etc. But aside from that, I don't think that it's wise to force the issue.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a wimp. But I want this lifestyle to be one that is sustainable and enjoyable to us, and so I prioritize accordingly.

happy

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2013, 07:53:51 PM »
You can do a "Fast 180" or you can do gradual incremental change. You can follow everything absolutely 100% or you can pick and choose and adapt to suit yourself. Thats up to you.

Why?:

1. For the good of the planet and future generations
2. Wasting stuff "because you can" is greedy and reflects poorly on your character
3. When you undo the layers of hedonic adaptation you actually don't miss the luxuries you take for granted. Luxuries are more fun when you don't do/have them all the time.
4.Being able to live frugally is the best insurance policy against all sorts of unavoidable events that might threaten your middle class comfort: you truly don't have to worry anymore because you know how to survive on very little very happily. It takes time to learn these skills. Best learn them before you need them.

High income earners seem to have it easier with regard to FIRE, since there is so much fat that can be cut from their spending, and the sums saved are so large, that FIRE can come relatively quickly.

Trouble is, they are so dependent on their bedpans and catheters that their rehabilitation is much more difficult.

Frankies Girl

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2013, 08:04:42 PM »
I'm willing to do a whole lot of things to be more like MMM, but there are a bunch of things that are just out of my scope of desire or ability. I don't want to wear a coat in our home, and furthermore, I can't push things that far, because we have a kid with medical needs. I don't want to rent out our home when we travel (and it's not like people are bashing down doors to rent in our area). I also don't want to get groceries by bicycle in our current city, though I would have in our last town.

I think that there are a lot of changes that YOU can make that don't impact your wife negatively. You can certainly bicycle for groceries and make most of the meals, you can make calls to cut car insurance rates, etc. But aside from that, I don't think that it's wise to force the issue.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a wimp. But I want this lifestyle to be one that is sustainable and enjoyable to us, and so I prioritize accordingly.

No, you're not wrong and not a wimp...This is my take on it with my husband as well. We have cut out non-essentials - what WE consider frivolous or easy to do without - and the cuts are enough to have us live frugally and still enjoy a "standard of living" that we are happy with. We still eat out, run the A/C or heater and the like, but we do without things that most people would think are must-haves.

It's a big shift to move from rampant consumer to thoughtful frugality, and there are many different levels. I would suggest baby steps. One of the biggies for my husband was getting him to think about  "Why do you want that?" and "What would happen if you didn't get it?"

And I'd also suggest that she read some of the MMM blog, and some of the books available - Millionaire Next Door is a good one to get you thinking.

Cyrano

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2013, 08:54:00 PM »
What do you want that can only be bought with days rather than dollars?

Answer that question for yourself, and forgoing the things bought with dollars becomes natural.

dragoncar

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2013, 08:55:45 PM »
Well does your wife want to work the rest of her "life"?  I consider this a valid lifestyle choice, just not mine.

ShortInSeattle

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2013, 09:23:16 PM »
I wouldn't want to wear a coat on the house either! I suppose my initial reaction is that if you are currently saving 70% of income that's awesome. You may want to go a bit further - but I don't think your wife is being unreasonable.

It's a negotiation, right? Your enthusiasm might make her feel like you want to push her into a miserly existence. You can make improvements that are within your control (offering to cook when she doesn't want to... instead of eating out) or make smaller nudges (Drop the thermostat a degree, not ten.)

Share books and ideas about FI and give her time. If she comes around, awesome. If not, you are already doing well. Kudos.

Insanity

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2013, 09:26:16 PM »
It's been really helpful that my husband also reads the blog. Does your wife read it, or just hear about it from you? Because I think that the two are very different, and my husband kept looking at me like I had eight heads while I would prattle on about it. Now that he's a reader too, he gets it (even if he doesn't always want to do it).

I'm willing to do a whole lot of things to be more like MMM, but there are a bunch of things that are just out of my scope of desire or ability. I don't want to wear a coat in our home, and furthermore, I can't push things that far, because we have a kid with medical needs. I don't want to rent out our home when we travel (and it's not like people are bashing down doors to rent in our area). I also don't want to get groceries by bicycle in our current city, though I would have in our last town.

I think that there are a lot of changes that YOU can make that don't impact your wife negatively. You can certainly bicycle for groceries and make most of the meals, you can make calls to cut car insurance rates, etc. But aside from that, I don't think that it's wise to force the issue.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a wimp. But I want this lifestyle to be one that is sustainable and enjoyable to us, and so I prioritize accordingly.

As Frankies Girl stated, you are not a wimp nor wrong.

It has taken us a long time to get where we are.  I have been running a budget on mint for about 1 year.  Over the last few months, I've showed her where our expenses are - some of them were on me.  Like eating out for breakfast and lunch too much.  We'd go out to restaurants every night on the weekend. 

I took the first step, stopped getting breakfast and lunch.  I then showed her the numbers for what we are doing with our e-fund (I wanted to invest it, she didn't feel comfortable with that), but eventually I convinced her it was worth it.  We have enough credit to manage any major expenses for a few days. while sale of stocks clear.   Then I looked at long term trials of switching things where there can be refunds.  So far, that has worked.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend doing the pull the plug approach.  I don't think that gets them on board and could lead to resentment.   You'll have to lead by example.

Good luck.

HappierAtHome

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2013, 09:36:17 PM »
Based on what you've said, you don't have the $$$ to retire at your current spending level / "standard of living". You do have enough to retire at a much more frugal spending level. I wouldn't agree to that either, in your wife's shoes, because there's too much uncertainty involved in retiring and similtaneously cutting your expenses dramatically.

How much longer do you need to work to build up the 'stache enough to retire at your current spending level? Is it worth holding on for another few years for a happy wife? Don't forget that happy wife = happy life.

A couple more years may also give you the time to slowly build a shared vision together that fits better with your preferred lifestyle than the current one.

hybrid

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2013, 07:19:23 AM »
What do you want that can only be bought with days rather than dollars?

Answer that question for yourself, and forgoing the things bought with dollars becomes natural.

Ding ding ding, we have a winner.  Without lifting a Mustachian finger you are saving 70%, so you must be making some serious dough.  You've got a great 1st world problem on your hands.  Do you want to live in luxury and retire quite comfortably, or do you want to forego a bit of luxury now and use that money to buy some time.

That's the argument you make to your wife.  For someone in your position, time is the most precious commodity you can buy.

As others have said, you don't have to go down this path all at once.  We did it a step at a time, and it was much easier for the missus to accept that way.  Any improvement is improvement, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition.  Start with the lowest hanging fruit you will get the least grief over (NOT switching to cloth diapers!) and see if you gain any traction.

HappyHoya

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2013, 07:25:45 AM »
I can't tell you how to convince your wife, but I can promise that your/your wife's upbringing does not mean you cannot live differently, if you want to. I grew up upper middle class, at the very least. Like you, my family wasn't isn't incredibly materialistic in an obvious, showy ways, and my father liked to think he was fiscally conservative and would mock others' waste, much like MMM does. He still saved a lot (or directed $$$ towards business ventures- with varying degree of success). However, they still drove new, brand new model year (if modest) cars, lots of paid help around the house, spent hundreds every week on groceries, buying (or having someone else buy) ingredients for one meal where the rest would go bad in the back of the fridge or pantry, private school for me, vacations with no attempt to even look at costs, etc. They currently live in a >10,000 sq.ft. house, which is more than ten times the size of the apartment I share with my husband. For me, growing up the way I did was fine, and I had a good childhood, but I also don't fondly remember the materialistic things. I hated when stuff would become the subject of a fight, and often wished things were simpler.

I suspect the desire to succumb to the inertia of what you know isn't based on attachments from childhood, but not wanting to represent yourselves as different to your family now. Even if you don't care what they think about you, it's easiest to go along and not make people question themselves or you. I won't lie to you-- it's been difficult to accept that my family will never think of my home as a home, because it is not a large single-family home where we got rid of perfectly good interiors to make it perfectly new and "ours." Because of this, it's unlikely we will ever host family gatherings, even small ones that our home could easily accommodate. Since we live several states away, this puts pressure on us to travel, even though that isn't something we'd prioritize otherwise. We do spend more money on some family appeasing things than many other on this forum. My in-laws are really into gifts and request very specific, sometimes spendy things they clearly don't need. Fortunately they gift us money (because we say we don't need anything) so we put it right into an account which goes to expenses related to them- gifts, airfare, etc. Since your family doesn't show any signs of changing, you may find at times it's worth the money to not rock the boat. But that shouldn't keep you from living a mustachian lifestyle for yourself, if you want it. It's a choice and if you and your wife don't both want to do it, and you don't have to do it, you probably won't be successful. It is ultimately up to you both and not your families.

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2013, 08:13:19 AM »
Discuss goals for your family WITH your wife. If those goals include anything outside of spending time working, then saving money & buying time will make sense. Our goals include spending time together; doing what we want & staying at home w/ our children when they're young (so we forsake extra money now). With those very simple goals, my wife has gotten behind cutting spending as a way to reach those goals, it has nothing to do w/ MMM.

It is a slow process. Start small & build up based on what she thinks is a reasonable thing to do. Her sense of what is reasonable will change over time.

tooqk4u22

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2013, 09:07:03 AM »
Its all about making conscious decisions that maximize ones value trade - its not about cutting to the bone....just like you may not live like MMM.....MMM does not live like Jacob did at ERE.   Just be thoughtful about your spending.

I am more frugal/efficient than DW but it is not that she is bad, its just she values certain things differently. 

"But she doesn't want to send our kids to a "bad" school"  - I wouldn't either if it was in fact truly the case, which it usually isn't.

"doesn't want to use cloth diapers"   - we have three kids, there was no way I wanted to do this, nor would DW.

"doesn't want to give up AC or have to wear a coat in the house"  - neither do I or DW, but we do keep the heat relatively low in the winter (by normal standards) and sparesly use AC in the summer, but DW and I have greatly different temperature ranges for comfort - her range is far more narrow.   

"wants to eat out from time to time"   - we want to and do so, its not frequent and we get quite a bit of pleasure from it.

"doesn't want to get groceries on a bicycle" - neither do we, partly because of very busy multilane roads and partly because it is not worth the inefficiency and saving $2 in gas just a few times a month

"doesn't want to live in a 1500 square foot house" - we differ here because we do live in a house about this size for a family of five

"doesn't want to rent out our house when we go on vacation" - same here as I don't like strangers and not sure there would be much demand, but we might consider it for people we knew or they family of friends.  Also could be because we haven't been in a position to leave our house for a month or more - that might change our thougts.

So maybe it is upbringing, but I think DW and I actually have a "standard of living" that far exceeds what we grew up with so anectodally that does not support your position.

As you can see, my position is close to yours, but I don't see anything wrong with it.  I could lower my standard of living (i.e. expenses) and FIRE sooner or with less, but we live how we like to live - could we live on less, absolutely....could we spend more, absolutely....do we spend far less than the average household in our situation, absolutely.

I tend break it down between needs and wants, and have made a conscious decision that certain wants are worth working longer for so that the can be incorporated into our FIRE plans, on the other hand I also know that they can be cut if needed both in terms if I lost my job/hated my job or just wanted to FIRE sooner or if the stock market crashes....so it also provides me with a lot of financial cushion.   The key is to recognize and acknowledge what are needs and what are wants.




brand new stash

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2013, 09:39:50 AM »
I would be terrified to retire based on a theoretical spending rate.  I think you need to live at that spending rate or close for at least a short while before assuming you can maintain it for years.   But if you have the current savings for reduced spending rate retirement, and you are saving 70% of your income, then you aren't far from having the savings to retire at a higher spending rate. 

What I would suggest you propose to your wife is that you agree to postpone retirement for another year, but that she agrees to actively work with you to reduce spending.  Lets say that you manage to reduce your spending in ways such that you increase your savings to 75% of your current income.  That is both more money in savings, and allows you to get acclimated to spending 25% of your income instead of 30%.

Stache In Training

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2013, 09:42:01 AM »
I'm going to second the sentiment of starting small.  Maybe you can start doing just one thing and then make sure you are tracking, so you can show the savings.  Then once that isn't a "burden" any more, start another thing.  You can just do it yourself, and just lead by example.  When she sees how much fun you're having, then she'll want to join in.  (and maybe invest the savings, so that you can say, 'no, I'm not being frugal, I'm making us richer, faster!'  That mindset may get her on-board.  A lot of people when they hear frugal, they hear cheap.  Instead, say not frugal, richer.)

You are experiencing the most common reaction to MMM and frugality in general.  People think their life isn't that bad right now, and they look at all the sacrifices people make, and say 'why?'  Instead, maybe just look at the biggest non-essential spending you have, and cut back just a tiny little.  If you ease her into it, she won't even realize that she's moving towards the frugality side, because she'll start being a bit more happy.

Maybe on a nice day, suggest that you ride your bikes to go out to eat, because it's just too nice not to ride your bike. (Only when you already would have been going out) This way you're bringing up the idea of biking, it'll be nice and therefore enjoyable, and then you end it with eating out; a very non-mustachian thing to do, but at least you didn't drive the car to it, and that will be very enjoyable for her and your family.

MsSindy

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2013, 11:34:51 AM »
I'm not sure how long you've been married, but in all fairness you're trying to change the rules on her.  You guys got married with a certain understanding/agreement of what your life would look like, and now you're trying to change that.  I'm in the same boat, so I can totally relate.

It sounds like money isn't necessarily the issue and she has a 'reaction' to money.  So try to put it into terms that might seem more appealing to her.  For example, does she care about the environment at all?  Could this be an angle you pursue with her that you have a smaller footprint on the environment for the sake of the kid's future?  What legacy do we want to leave our kids?  What are we teaching them from a values perspective?

Or maybe you can talk about your desire for you to have more time to spend with the kids (if this is true).  It's hard to argue with a husband who wants to spend more time with the kids!

Maybe you can try reducing your hours at work to give you sort of a mini-retirement?

You may never get to MMM-level badassity as a couple, and that just may be something that you have to accept.  I think it would be pretty cool to try living like that, kind of like an adventure, but my DH isn't interested in going "that extreme" - so we meet in the middle.

Like I said, remember, you're trying to change the rules on her.  Go slow, be patient, and try to take an angle that will appeal to her.  What things are important to her - explore those.

WageSlave

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2013, 12:30:43 PM »
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a wimp. But I want this lifestyle to be one that is sustainable and enjoyable to us, and so I prioritize accordingly.

While I have conflicted thoughts and feelings on the matter, at the end of the day actions are what counts, and my actions are consistent with this.  But if I had to wager a guess, I suspect MMM would call us wimps.  In this post I talked about looking at this in terms of a continuum, with Jacob (ERE) and MMM far to one end, and debt-laden spendypants consumerist at the other extreme.  I liken my current situation to the "25th percentile", which is somewhere between the midpoint and the MMM end.

But in that post, I was talking about the "overall MMM factor", for lack of better word.  In other words, all the attributes that make up a MMM/non-MMM person are arguably continuums themselves:

3. When you undo the layers of hedonic adaptation you actually don't miss the luxuries you take for granted. Luxuries are more fun when you don't do/have them all the time.

Agreed, but what is luxury?  Take the microwave for example.  Nobody really needs one if they have an oven, but they are so damn convenient.  Nobody really needs an oven, when you could just start a fire for cooking.  If you eat only fruits, nuts and vegetables, you theoretically don't even need to cook anything.  I'm admittedly being a bit hyperbolic, but the point is, everyone will define "luxury" differently.

4.Being able to live frugally is the best insurance policy against all sorts of unavoidable events that might threaten your middle class comfort: you truly don't have to worry anymore because you know how to survive on very little very happily. It takes time to learn these skills. Best learn them before you need them.

Also agree, and this actually has a huge appeal to me.  I can do financial planning until I'm blue in the face, but the further into the future I look, the more uncertain things become, and the more likely black swan events become.  I think William Bernstein said something to the effect of "80% is as good as it gets when it comes to long term predictions".  Meaning, you could have Carlos Slim's bankroll, and MMM's spending, and still only have, at best, an 80% chance of financial success in the long run.

So again, it's a question of degree.  Why not spend a year or two living in the wilderness, completely on the land (like one of those extreme survivor shows)?  Again, it's hyperbole, but anyone who can pull that off is definitely badass, and is certainly better suited than most when it comes to extremely dire unpredictable future scenarios.

Trouble is, they are so dependent on their bedpans and catheters that their rehabilitation is much more difficult.

And that's really the gist of my question.  But take a less hyperbolic example: air conditioning.  Normal, healthy people don't need it.  Even if you're 100% off-grid, renewable energy, manufacturing the AC unit has an environmental cost.  And for that matter, so does the manufacturing of your solar panels, wind/water turbines, etc.  Yes, I know running the AC is detrimental to the environment, but it's not immediately obvious---it's an abstract concept.  And just my AC alone isn't harming the environment, it's everyone's in aggregate.  If the world population was only 1000 people, surely we could all run our ACs full blast and have virtually no impact.  I grew up with AC, find it hard to sleep if I'm too hot, can easily afford it, why give it up?  I'm happy to run it a little lighter than most people, and use a smart thermostat to only run it when necessary.  Relatively speaking, I define my AC usage as moderate relative to the average American, but still indulgent luxury when compared to MMM.

Millionaire Next Door is a good one to get you thinking.

I've read MND, and waiting to get it back from my parents so my wife can read it.  But, my impression was that many of the people profiled in that book (with possibly the exception of the Scots) is that they are more like me ("25th percentile") than they are like MMM.  That is, "smart conscientious consumers", but not "hyper-optimizers".  Maybe the obvious example is cars: MND millionaires typically drive $30k-ish domestic cars, rather than luxury imports.  But they're not riding bikes or even getting tiny 10 year old hatchbacks.

Based on what you've said, you don't have the $$$ to retire at your current spending level / "standard of living". You do have enough to retire at a much more frugal spending level. I wouldn't agree to that either, in your wife's shoes, because there's too much uncertainty involved in retiring and similtaneously cutting your expenses dramatically.

And for the record, I'm not suggesting that.  Too many big changes at once!  I was trying to minimize the rambling in the initial post, but what I'm doing is to take the slow and steady approach.  That is, slowly adopt changes that keep us moving in the right direction in terms of lifestyle.  But, I kind of feel like we've reached a standstill.  We've picked all the low-hanging fruit.  The next steps are more challenging, and mere suggestions are met with trepidation.

How much longer do you need to work to build up the 'stache enough to retire at your current spending level? Is it worth holding on for another few years for a happy wife? Don't forget that happy wife = happy life.

A couple more years may also give you the time to slowly build a shared vision together that fits better with your preferred lifestyle than the current one.

That's exactly what I'm doing.  But some days it gets frustrating to think, "If only we were already at the MMM level, I'd be at home playing with my kids right now."


tooqk4u22

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2013, 12:58:01 PM »
I'm not sure how long you've been married, but in all fairness you're trying to change the rules on her.  You guys got married with a certain understanding/agreement of what your life would look like, and now you're trying to change that.  I'm in the same boat, so I can totally relate.

It sounds like money isn't necessarily the issue and she has a 'reaction' to money.  So try to put it into terms that might seem more appealing to her.  For example, does she care about the environment at all?  Could this be an angle you pursue with her that you have a smaller footprint on the environment for the sake of the kid's future?  What legacy do we want to leave our kids?  What are we teaching them from a values perspective?

Or maybe you can talk about your desire for you to have more time to spend with the kids (if this is true).  It's hard to argue with a husband who wants to spend more time with the kids!

Maybe you can try reducing your hours at work to give you sort of a mini-retirement?

You may never get to MMM-level badassity as a couple, and that just may be something that you have to accept.  I think it would be pretty cool to try living like that, kind of like an adventure, but my DH isn't interested in going "that extreme" - so we meet in the middle.

Like I said, remember, you're trying to change the rules on her.  Go slow, be patient, and try to take an angle that will appeal to her.  What things are important to her - explore those.

Good insight.

Although I would argue that people and their desires do change over time, so it shouldn't be viewed as a complete game changer.

Also, another rationale (but unlikely to be well received) argument that is somewhat selfish is that if the lifestyle things are that important to her but not to him then the question becomes does he quit is job and they manage their finances somewhat separately - put in equally for basic living expenses and then each does whatever they want with the extra - for the record I don't like this approach but many couples do it (Jacob at ERE, madfientist are blogger examples).

lackofstache

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2013, 01:19:10 PM »

Based on what you've said, you don't have the $$$ to retire at your current spending level / "standard of living". You do have enough to retire at a much more frugal spending level. I wouldn't agree to that either, in your wife's shoes, because there's too much uncertainty involved in retiring and similtaneously cutting your expenses dramatically.

And for the record, I'm not suggesting that.  Too many big changes at once!  I was trying to minimize the rambling in the initial post, but what I'm doing is to take the slow and steady approach.  That is, slowly adopt changes that keep us moving in the right direction in terms of lifestyle.  But, I kind of feel like we've reached a standstill.  We've picked all the low-hanging fruit.  The next steps are more challenging, and mere suggestions are met with trepidation.




Can you start doing some things by yourself? I rode my bike for years, to work, w/ my son, to get groceries, before my wife would ride for more than an ol' around the block ride. Now she rides consistently w/ both kids. I started roasting my own coffee because I didn't want to spend $12/lb of mediocre coffee anymore and she wanted good coffee (so did I). I pick apples and bring 'em home to save on food costs. My wife has done her own things that maybe I don't worry about, but we've now come together & said "We do things individually because we want to, but if we did them TOGETHER, we'd be saving more money & sharing in each other's joy." Doing some of these things first and showing her that you get enjoyment out of them may well change her perception on the activities.

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2013, 01:23:54 PM »
First, I'm hung up on the incorrect usage of the word "literally".  No, the US has not literally adopted any phrase to mean lifestyle or amount of money spent.  Perhaps this bugs me because it's a word I hear used constantly among my teenaged students, and more often than not, they use it wrong!  They use it to emphasize the seriousness of the thing being discussed, they mean "to a great extent", or they mean "a great deal".  We all know that's not what "literally" means.  Rant over. 

I don't think living frugally is all that big a deal; that is, it's not all that far-fetched to mainstream America.  No one ever laughs at my choices; in fact, more often than not, people are interested in things I do and want information -- not that they want to copy my choices, necessarily, but they find them interesting. 

As for your wife, OP, I wonder if what's missing is THE POINT of why you're looking to downsize your spending.  If my husband told me today that he wanted me to slash the grocery budget in half, turn the heat down a few degrees, and minimize Christmas, I would definitely ask WHY.  I'd want to know if this were precipitated by some bad turn of events -- for example, did he lose his job, or do we have an unforeseen expense coming up?  Or does he want me to do this to save money for the future?  And, if so, for what purpose?  I would not be willing to scrimp and save and do without . . . for no particular reason.  But if you explain the benefits, I would listen and consider whether I agreed or disagreed. 

dadof4

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2013, 01:56:11 PM »
First, I'm hung up on the incorrect usage of the word "literally".  No, the US has not literally adopted any phrase to mean lifestyle or amount of money spent.  Perhaps this bugs me because it's a word I hear used constantly among my teenaged students, and more often than not, they use it wrong!  They use it to emphasize the seriousness of the thing being discussed, they mean "to a great extent", or they mean "a great deal".  We all know that's not what "literally" means.  Rant over. 
Shared pet peeve.  "Literally" now really means "figuratively" . Aaargh!

----------------------------

You got a lot of good advice here. Go slowly. Get her involved. Explain the big picture as you see it. Try to make it personal - (Would she be willing to spend time away from her kids just to afford things you don't need?).  Compromise.

WageSlave

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2013, 03:22:36 PM »
Maybe you can try reducing your hours at work to give you sort of a mini-retirement?

I've slowly reduced my hours a bit over the years, from 11.5 to 10.75 and most recently to 10.  That extra 45 minutes/day doesn't sound like much but it feels like a lot.  Relative to everyone else where I work, I'm now a lightweight.  I'd love to do 8 hours/day, heck I even asked about it.  Going any lower in hours just isn't doable right now; it would require me to leave, which would result in a dramatic pay cut, i.e. giving up what got me into this great 1st world problem in the first place.

You may never get to MMM-level badassity as a couple, and that just may be something that you have to accept.  I think it would be pretty cool to try living like that, kind of like an adventure, but my DH isn't interested in going "that extreme" - so we meet in the middle.

Another factor is that some of the MMM badassidy just seems like it would be a lot easier when you're not "time poor".  For example, meals.  Say you have a pizza delivered and eat off paper plates.  It's very time cheap: you make a quick call, someone delivers the food to your door, you eat, then throw leftovers in the fridge.  The thought of having junk food delivered (by car!) probably makes MMM sick to his stomach.  And we could certainly make something healthier and just as tasty* for less money.  But the tradeoff is time.  It's money cheap but time expensive.  Even pre-packaged convenience foods have a time cost---really, they are the baseline in terms of time for anything prepared at home: getting out all the plates and silverware, serving dishes; then when it's over, things need to be put away, in the dishwasher, eating areas cleaned up, etc.  When I write that out, it doesn't sound like much, but in practice, I'd say it's a good 30 minutes, all-in.  I get home late and my wife is trying to take care of a fussy baby while chasing after a toddler all day.  Despite that, most of our meals are home-cooked, but on the weekends we tend to spoil ourselves.

Another example is the home maintenance/DIY thing.  I'm confident I could learn most things.  It's even easier these days with the Internet, YouTube, etc.  But the first time you tackle something---a leaky pipe, non-working HVAC or water heater, there's a huge "tuition" time-cost to DIY.  And if you really have no experience, you don't know how long it's going to take.  I assume DIY home maintenance only gets quicker and easier over time.  I feel like I'd be more willing to commit to that time when I'm not working so much (and the kids are a little older too).

* I am in Chicago; the bar is set quite high for deep dish pizza :)

Norrie

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2013, 06:38:31 PM »
I agree that MMM would likely see me as a wimp, but at the same time, he spends money on beer and wine, and I never do. We have different priorities, and his include drinking booze, while mine include watching basketball on cable TV. I COULD get rid of cable (and have thought about it), just as he could omit all booze out of his budget, but we both derive a great deal of joy out of our things.

I have a friend who runs a wilderness school. Folks go out into the forest of Wisconsin for up to a year at a time, and live on the land. I mean, if we're going full tilt boogie, ballz to the wall, then we'd all do that, right?

I think that there's comfortable yet tight middle ground, but it's going to differ from house to house.

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2013, 07:42:59 PM »
I have a friend who runs a wilderness school. Folks go out into the forest of Wisconsin for up to a year at a time, and live on the land. I mean, if we're going full tilt boogie, ballz to the wall, then we'd all do that, right?

This made my night.  Thanks for that, Norrie! :)

captainawesome

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2013, 07:26:46 AM »
I've had the same sort of discussions with my wife.  She's accused me of "changing so much over the last year" but it was out of necessity.  After she was laid off, and I became the sole income, I found this blog.  Then I realized that even though I could support the both of us on my salary alone, making a lot of "mustachian" changes to our lives would net us a lot more money, and a lot more comfort.  Over time she has seen that a lot of the things I have done are for the better, because financially we are in a better place and we still live comfortably (much more so than some of the countries I have been to over the years) She's changed her stance on car payments (she thought they were "just something everyone has") She's even got into the new "frugal fashion" trend that seems to be coming about, and is looking to start her own blog about it.  But none of these things happened over night (though that may have been easier)

We may not live 100% mustachian, but compared to a year ago, our savings rate has quadrupled, our spending rate is down, and we are still able to do things like take an anniversary trip to Mexico.  Slow changes that make sense to both of you will win out in the long run over a 180 that will only lead to tension.

dude

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #25 on: October 25, 2013, 07:38:01 AM »
I'm not sure how long you've been married, but in all fairness you're trying to change the rules on her.  You guys got married with a certain understanding/agreement of what your life would look like, and now you're trying to change that.  I'm in the same boat, so I can totally relate.

You hit the nail on the head, MsSindy -- and I'm coming to grips with that myself w/r/t my S.O.  Though I've always had a dream of retiring early, I have indulged a pretty comfortable lifestyle the past 10 years or so, and it's hard to pull back on that (for her, not me).  So I'm taking a gradual approach.  I have 5-7 years before FIRE is a reality, so it's baby steps from now 'til then.  And I've actually made very good progress with cutting many non-essential costs.  As the accounts grow, I think she's starting to see the value in this approach, and hopefully that will coax her gradually to come fully on board.

DoubleDown

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #26 on: October 25, 2013, 09:33:28 AM »
This is a tough situation, the same one for which I've sought and received excellent advice on this fine board. The suggestions are all good about taking things slowly, letting her adopt it at her pace (if she will adopt it), and keeping in mind the perception that at some level, you might be changing the rules and being sensitive to that.

I'll weigh in that at some point, a spouse who wants to FIRE might have to face the reality (and OP may already be there based on reported recent stalling point) that their spouse will NEVER embrace the idea of you retiring early or of avoiding consumerism to your desired level. Then you are going to have to decide whether you are going to do it anyhow. I could have tried until I'm blue in the face to convince my wife about me retiring early, and it would never work for a variety of reasons (primarily her own extreme pessimism about everything, in general).

Based on this, I decided to retire early anyhow, and she's getting to come along for the ride! I've done everything I can to ease her fears about it (literally hundreds of hours spent on it), but ultimately I concluded I was not willing to spend another 10+ unnecessary years working at a job I no longer want just to ease her unfounded fears, or her desire to spend and accumulate "more", or for her concerns about "status" with me giving up what is viewed as a sorta-high-status job. And we're still talking about a $60-70,000 annual spending budget (including housing), so I found her protests about essentially living like misers to be over the top.

This is a hard line to draw in the sand, and I recognize that. I wouldn't make that kind of unilateral decision against my spouse's wishes often, and will look for opportunities to make it up in other ways (such as taking on more of the chores and cooking). But for me, it was inconceivable to continue working forever when we're already FI. And when all is said and done, she really had no choice but to either accept my decision, or decide that our lifestyles were no longer compatible and leave. Fortunately she's sticking around for the ride.

Villanelle

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #27 on: October 25, 2013, 10:14:03 AM »
What is she willing to do?  What is she willing to change?

Maybe you can suggest that 6 months from now, you'd like to bump that 70% savings up to 75%, and then tell her that you've found ways to change your individual lifestyle that will cover 2% of that, leaving only 3% for the two of you to work on.  Maybe there's no coat in the house, but a cardigan or a nice base layer, and a 2 degree (F) change in the thermostat setting.  Maybe both of you spend 4 hours on one weekend day each month, doing a once-a-month cook that fills your freezer with meals to cover most nights for the entire month.  Maybe you offer to stop by the library every 2 weeks to pick up and drop off books and videos so there's no Kindle purchases and Netflix can be comfortably downgraded (but maybe not canceled just yet). 

If that works, then in 6 months, maybe you suggest another 5%.  Or 2.5%, if that's all she can handle.  And maybe you can suggest starting to alternate the library duty, after she sees how well it works. 

Sell your car and get something modest with great gas mileage.  Maybe she'll follow suit eventually, and maybe she won't.  Either way, you've improved your finances and made progress toward a goal that is important to you.

Little changes, with you absorbing much of the initial pain, will help with the buy-in.  And even if you never get much buy-in, you are still contributing to a slightly accelerated FIRE by cutting on your end. 


Mojo

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #28 on: October 25, 2013, 12:19:10 PM »
Has your wife ever been to a 3rd world country and seen what *real* deprivation looks like?

I know that would be pretty extreme compared to the gradual approach others are suggesting, but all we're talking about is a change in perspective..
« Last Edit: October 25, 2013, 12:30:01 PM by Mojo »

Insanity

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #29 on: October 25, 2013, 02:37:43 PM »
Has your wife ever been to a 3rd world country and seen what *real* deprivation looks like?

I know that would be pretty extreme compared to the gradual approach others are suggesting, but all we're talking about is a change in perspective..

I never really understand that.   My parents used to say something similar about leaving food on my plate. We aren't there.  Another perspective isn't going to change my view because I do have it good here and there is opportunity to consume large quantities of goods.

The thing that did it for me was realizing:  I can consume those goods, but it is costing me trips and time with my family.

WageSlave

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2013, 03:24:19 PM »
You are not thinking logically. It IS time expensive to spend money on take out if it doesn't contribute to your FIRE goals. It's the tradeoff between time saving now and having freedom later...

I believe you're saying that delivery only seems time cheap, when in fact it's time expensive, because of the extra wage-earning time required to ultimately pay for it.

And with that I agree, but again, there's a matter of degree here.  Lest I give the wrong impression, we practically never get carry-out or delivery during the week.  We prepare big portions (usually on Sunday) and eat off it all week.  But on the weekends we do splurge.

So the incidence of eating out is relatively low.  Couple that with the idea of time value.  Let's say a home-cooked meal takes an hour of time for preparation.  And we'll say that my real hourly wage* is exactly the same as the marginal cost in delivery over eating from home.  If we do this only on the weekends, that's about 52 extra hours of work.  Sure you could compound that MMM style over a 10-year period to give a shocking number, but practically speaking, is it really going to delay FIRE significantly?  And what if you're a high earner, and the marginal cost of eating out is only worth 15 minutes of wage-earning time?

*When I talk about "real" hourly wage, I'm using the Your Money or Your Life notion of looking at net wage (i.e. minus taxes and all job-related expenses), divided by total working time including commute and any over time.  This number is virtually always lower than the "advertised" wage, sometimes significantly.

Also, note the issue of family dinner and actually being present in preparing food, sharing a meal. If all you see is clean up and drudgery in family meals there's no way you'll all be into it as a long-term plan. My husband and I see that time of cooking, setting the table, and cleanup as together time, time to discuss upcoming plans, time to plan the next yummy meal, time to listen to Sat Morning NPR and laugh ("Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!").

Perhaps the biggest difficultly right now is having young kids.  We have a toddler and a baby.  My wife and I have zero quality time together unless both kids are asleep.  I got into a debate with someone in the main page comments a while ago, and my conclusion was that the other person didn't have kids, or at least had magical angel kids that thrived without any parental attention or supervision.  The second we turn our back, the toddler is poking the baby's eye or putting something in her mouth... or the baby needs to be held/fed/put down for a nap/diaper change...


Insanity

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2013, 03:27:47 PM »
Perhaps the biggest difficultly right now is having young kids.  We have a toddler and a baby.  My wife and I have zero quality time together unless both kids are asleep.  I got into a debate with someone in the main page comments a while ago, and my conclusion was that the other person didn't have kids, or at least had magical angel kids that thrived without any parental attention or supervision.  The second we turn our back, the toddler is poking the baby's eye or putting something in her mouth... or the baby needs to be held/fed/put down for a nap/diaper change...

LOL.  Sorry, I just know that exact situation as I am in it!  Awesome description.

Mojo

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #32 on: October 25, 2013, 04:13:06 PM »
Has your wife ever been to a 3rd world country and seen what *real* deprivation looks like?

I know that would be pretty extreme compared to the gradual approach others are suggesting, but all we're talking about is a change in perspective..

I never really understand that.   My parents used to say something similar about leaving food on my plate. We aren't there.  Another perspective isn't going to change my view because I do have it good here and there is opportunity to consume large quantities of goods.

The thing that did it for me was realizing:  I can consume those goods, but it is costing me trips and time with my family.

Well, the point is not to live like an Aborigine.  It's to realize that, going from a 8-cylinder gas guzzler to a small hatchback (or bike), getting a slightly smaller home, eating more quality meals prepared from food bought at a local grocery store, watching less TV, etc, NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE DEPRIVING YOU; you've simply become adapted to all the pampering provided by this decadent western lifestyle.   All the Mustachians are doing is rolling back the luxury train a few years. As MMM put it, "It's the all you can eat American buffet, with a little bit of the fat trimmed on the edges."  We still have it pretty goddamned great.

/rant

Insanity

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #33 on: October 25, 2013, 06:24:59 PM »
Has your wife ever been to a 3rd world country and seen what *real* deprivation looks like?

I know that would be pretty extreme compared to the gradual approach others are suggesting, but all we're talking about is a change in perspective..

I never really understand that.   My parents used to say something similar about leaving food on my plate. We aren't there.  Another perspective isn't going to change my view because I do have it good here and there is opportunity to consume large quantities of goods.

The thing that did it for me was realizing:  I can consume those goods, but it is costing me trips and time with my family.

Well, the point is not to live like an Aborigine.  It's to realize that, going from a 8-cylinder gas guzzler to a small hatchback (or bike), getting a slightly smaller home, eating more quality meals prepared from food bought at a local grocery store, watching less TV, etc, NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE DEPRIVING YOU; you've simply become adapted to all the pampering provided by this decadent western lifestyle.   All the Mustachians are doing is rolling back the luxury train a few years. As MMM put it, "It's the all you can eat American buffet, with a little bit of the fat trimmed on the edges."  We still have it pretty goddamned great.

/rant

Okay, deep breathe.  I wasn't attacking it, I just didn't understand it.  No need to rant :)

But you did say "3rd world country"  - that doesn't lend itself to the perception of small hatchbacks, bikes, less TV, etc...  That's why I said what I did; that was the exact image my parents were trying to get me to see (third world country).  If you want to show someone how you can live on less, than take them somewhere where you can.  Just on a vacation even.  Where you don't watch TV, don't drive a car, use local groceries, etc.   My bet is you can find such a place even close by.

Mojo

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2013, 11:26:52 AM »
Sorry, didn't mean to come across as rude.  I just think if a person claims they're being deprived by not constantly being pampered, they could use a little change in perspective.  That's all :-)

Good luck to the OP and keep us updated!

FinancialIndependenceTime

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #35 on: October 26, 2013, 09:20:02 PM »
Quote
Personally, I wouldn't recommend doing the pull the plug approach.  I don't think that gets them on board and could lead to resentment.   You'll have to lead by example.

This is GREAT advice.

Junior667

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #36 on: October 26, 2013, 11:32:30 PM »
There is some great advice on here. After I discovered MMM and I shared my new interests with my wife, she was not amused to say the least. It angered her when I made changes to the finances (which she manages) and I pushed drastic concepts she wasn't accustomed to. I totally understand why in hindsight, but at the time it made for terrific arguing. I believe she is gradually coming around though not as fast as I wish. Bottom line, take it slow and lead by example is what I've taken from this.

Dee18

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #37 on: October 28, 2013, 07:40:06 AM »
What does she want now? Perhaps it's two hours to herself alone in the house on Saturday morning, perhaps it is dressing up to go out Saturday night so she can feel sexy after being mommy to two little ones.  If you figure out what she really cares about, you can make it a priority, perhaps in a Mustachian  way.  She may feel like you are being critical of her.....and she is having to give a lot of energy to those little ones.

cynthia1848

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #38 on: October 28, 2013, 07:44:29 AM »
I think you're doing fine.  If you want more time with the kids, you can think of getting takeout as going towards more time with the kids.  The value of your time is VERY high given your income.

We also have a very non-'mustachian' lifestyle in terms of takeout, car use, etc., but we are still saving about 60%, so I call it good.  (We also have 3 kids under 6, so quality time is a premium.)

Ishmael

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #39 on: October 28, 2013, 08:59:37 AM »
Highlight a critical component of happiness: contrast. Much pleasure comes from deprivation, followed by indulgence.

Have fun, and experiment with the concept in a few ways, like eating plain rice for a couple of nights, then getting pizza. Examine how freaking amazing that pizza tastes then. Then eat pizza for the next 5 nights, and compare how it tastes on night 5. Why don't you enjoy it as much? It's the same pizza as night 1! Do the same for sleeping, sex, running water, etc.

You can use this technique to find the right balance for both of you, with paring down conveniences to the low end, and then periodic luxuries to find the maximum enjoyment level.

This was a huge and important realization for me a few years ago... it prompted us to move into an old farmhouse and start to renovate it. Living without heat, running water, electricity was tough. It saved a lot of money though, and I still get giddy thinking back to the night when I was able to flick the switch and turn on the light. Or when the pump started running and belching out a stream of water! I'm sure I enjoyed that as much as some people's fancy trips to Europe.

I feel sad for the people that are born rich, and have no where for their (material) happiness level to go.


citrine

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Re: How big is the leap? Or, another "how to convince the spouse" question.
« Reply #40 on: October 28, 2013, 09:04:38 AM »
It is definitely a process and in the beginning, you will have to do the changing.  I had to do my part in finding the best sales, stockpiling, learning how to cook better meals, and saving.  We did cancel cable for two weeks and I asked for it back :) DH is now looking into getting a cable box and we are going to be revamping our cell plans.  We have stopped eating out 4-6 times a week to once a week.  We have started paying $400 a month towards our mortgage and the same amount to our savings.  We have enough money for 6-8 months, replacing our roof, and are working on our vacation fund.  He is also upping his 401K to 10% with 3% match while paying for child support and college for his sons.  One thing he loves to do is go to concerts...but we save up for him to do so.  The biggest thing we had to learn to do was become a team.  I showed him how he can retire in 10 years if we can keep our bills to 25K a year with a paid off home in a lower cola...now he is researching the best places to retire and looking at homes ;)
It is a process...not a race :)