Mrs. BNL’s Perspective On The Brave New Life

This is a guest post from my wife, in response to my recent article about getting her on board to our new lifestyle.  Feel free to use the comments section for any follow-up questions you have for her, as she represents someone more reluctant to dive into our frugal lifestyle than most others on this site.

 

Hmm, let me see if I can recall how the brainwashing began…  BNL has always been better at saving money than me. When we first got married we had many “discussions” over our budget (which was really quite generous looking back). Each January we would agree on the year’s budget (including a monthly amount of money for me to spend specifically at Target with no questions asked – this was the most important part of the budget!). I think this is where he got me started. We lived for years with this budgeting approach, as long as we stayed within the budget or even a reasonable amount over, everyone was happy. It was only after we had kids that BNL really started talking about a different way of life. I happily quit my job when my son was born to stay home full time. Fortunately, we were able to maintain the same lifestyle as when we were both working, since we were already budgeting and living well below our means. Still, we lived in a huge house, had huge bills, and didn’t really restrict ourselves all that much. I bought what I needed for the kids and us. Life was good in my opinion.

 

Then one day BNL started talking about quitting his job and retiring early. That threw me for a loop. As in, that was not predictable. I’m fairly predictable, feel like I’m pretty normal, grew up in a “normal” family, have “normal” thoughts/plans/dreams/etc. BNL started challenging me on what is important to me, what is really truly important.  Mainly, we talked about doing what’s best for our kids and simply being happy. Not having a nicer couch, not living in a big house, not spending lots of money eating out. I wanted to live a happy life and raise my kids to the best of my ability – I think that’s where he sold me on the whole picture.

 

Moving to a smaller house was such a positive change for us. But let me see if I can remember how I started to think it could be better for us….hmm, I guess it was mostly about making my life easier. It is hard to keep a big house clean. It’s hard to pick up toys from all over a big house. And I began to question the value of having a large excessive house. I guess BNL got into my brain… So it all just aligned with BNL taking a new job and moving across the country. Seemed like a good time to downsize.  It really is less stressful to have less stuff. In this house the bills are much smaller and there’s less space (almost half the size of our last house) to clean up and fill up. We aren’t missing the big house with big bills and a big pool and yard to maintain at all. And of course there is the benefit that BNL can ride his bike to work and we sold the second car. I’m not about to give up my car, especially with 2 kids, but I am in the process of researching a more fuel efficient smaller car that will serve our needs just as much as a gas-guzzling 3 row SUV. No one ever told me that having kids doesn’t really mean you need an SUV or minivan. I thought that was a given before I started really thinking about things.

 

One of my primary motivators is doing what’s best for my kids. I have read a lot of books recently on simplified parenting. One of my favorites is Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne. It really struck a note with me. One of the things he stresses is that kids don’t need an excessive amount of toys. It made me feel better about really paring down the stuff they have because I came to realize the negative mental impacts from forcing too many toys on them. Payne also wants kids to not watch any TV. I’m almost sold on this, but can’t seem to break my own personal ties to watching TV! (If it were up to BNL, we wouldn’t even have a TV anymore…)

 

I’m not a saint or as perfect as BNL (Editors note: Sarcasm detected!). I still have materialistic desires, but I don’t get out of control or compromise our family’s finances. I have money set aside which earns dividends that I can spend freely however I wish. If I want to splurge on a Coach purse or spa massage then I can do that! I sell stuff on craigslist to get rid of having too much stuff, then I buy a latte at Starbucks. This way I feel like I can stick to a budget and spend less overall, but still have a little freedom for the little things that make me happy.

 

I still have a goal to continue to reduce the amount we spend on food, which I think will get easier when BNL quits working and we have more time to jointly plan meals, shop sales, find recipes for cheaper cooking, etc. So we don’t stress over it too much now. We have room to improve and luckily lots of time to do it in the future!

 

For many years I thought BNL was stealing our money (and I still joke to him that he has all this money saved somewhere that I don’t have access to) and investing it all online and I would never see it again. Who knew that would be the reason that he would be able to retire early, have more time with our family, and enable us to break out of the rut and become financially independent, something I never knew I wanted but now can’t wait to begin.  Wonders never cease. He pretends he had this big master plan all along, but I think he just stumbled down the right path :)

 

One final thought on BNL’s article about my acceptance of our new life: Just so it’s clear, I get a haircut as needed.  I am not going to let BNL cut my hair!

 

 


31 Responses to Mrs. BNL’s Perspective On The Brave New Life

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m very happy for your family that both of you are on board. It took a lot of time to convince Mrs. RB40 too, but she sees that I’m not happy with the corporate life. It’s better off for the family to find a better situation. Good luck!
    I’m inspired by BNL to cut my own hair now. I’m picking up a clipper sometime this week. 😉

  2. YBB says:

    hahaha! I just cut the kids’ hair for first time last nite .. it went so well, I decided _not_ to let me wife cut my hair nor will I even float the idea of cutting hers .. *shiver*

    clippers – fine .. scissors? not straight forward (my son is too young to know what hit him .. hehe)

    • Scissors just take time, and a little experimentation. By my sophomore year in college, I was cutting 2-3 haircuts every Friday night (with scissors). I charged 2 beers per cut, which was a great way to start the weekend! No one wanted to be the third cut. :)

      The first few tirals were a little questionable, but I perfected the scissors in no just a few tries (on men/boys). Women’s hair is still something I have NOT perfected.

  3. Laurie Py says:

    Thanks for sharing. Questions for Mrs. BNL….

    How do you find friends that share your philosophy about spending? I find it difficult…seems everyone is indulging daily on lattes, cafe lunches, shopping excursions, adult b-day parties with extravagant gifts and children’s birthdays that are over the top… and I just seem like a party pooper b/c I don’t want to participate. And I have done all those things in the past but realize now that I want a simpler life.

    Also, how do you handle all the things that come home from public school in the form of fundraisers….there is so much it makes me crazy and my kids get wooed in with the “great prizes” you can win. Then I explain why we won’t be doing that and there are lots of tears. I think that the schools are using our children to get to our wallets!

    Thanks for a women’s perspective. I do love your husband’s blog but as a women, I really appreciate yours too!

    • Mrs. BNL says:

      A couple thoughts for you…I wish I had more friends who shared my/our philosophy because that sure would make things easier. I do have some friends with similar thoughts who live in other cities, but in Texas most of our friends were from work and our neighborhood, so they just happened to be the over the top-spend too much money types. But that is ok, because most of the people we were friends with had good hearts and were good people, even if they spent too much money on silly stuff (in my opinion). We were still able to be friends with them without doing all those things ourselves. Here in our new neighborhood, it seems like people are less over the top with spending, which may just happen to coincide with having less money to spend. Either way it works for us. We are fairly easy going and don’t tend to push our philosophy on others, we just do things our way and let others do things their way.

      As for your second question, we haven’t really faced this yet because our kids are still young (2 and 4). But I am sure we will if we decide to go the route of public schools. I’m sure it’s a tough one, but I think you should just decide what your priorities are and instill that in your kids. My son did have a little preschool fundraiser selling frozen bread. It was right before Christmas and my family was coming into town to celebrate so I just offered them the chance to buy the bread and we all got to eat it over Christmas while they were in town! They bought it and of course they loved being given the chance to buy overpriced bread because my son was selling it! Then we all got to enjoy it. But we didn’t go overboard and try to sell to everyone we knew:)

      Thanks for your comments on my post!

  4. The Stoic says:

    Thanks Mrs. BNL for taking the time to share your perspective. I really enjoy seeing how couples come to agreement on these issues.

  5. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    It’s interesting how sometimes we don’t even know what we really want until someone presents us with an alternative!

  6. Shawn says:

    Setting: late last night

    Mrs Shawn: “DID YOU SEE THAT MRS. BNL GUEST POSTED ?!?!?!?”

    Shawn, via text, after another marathon of commitments day: “Not Yet.”

    I always thought that if we were geographically closer, we would invite you over for a card game on a Saturday night. Now I’m pretty sure we would. Because we don’t blog, I want Mrs Shawn to respond fully to your post. Thanks for taking the time to write it down!

  7. Mrs. Shawn says:

    This post had my attention from the very first sentence. I would agree, with a slight grin, that there may have been some brainwashing at our house as well. We had the “normal” life that most seem to strive for…..two incredible kids, two well behaved dogs, a large home on a large lake lot, multiple cars, great careers, and on and on. Life was good in my opinion too…until it wasn’t. My husband had tried various tactics to introduce his evolving views on life. He gave me books to read, suggested I follow along on blogs he was interested in, and there were many, many discussions. I was receptive to a point but there was still an element of fear that goes along with letting go of what I thought I had wanted so much. As usual, my forward thinking husband was way ahead of me. I am catching up, but it took me longer to process all the changes. Through many twists and turns, we downsized our life. There is still much cleanup left for us but this has been an incredible ride. Getting rid of stuff and material items has decluttered us in many ways…..less to manage, less to maintain, less to stress over. I certainly don’t have all of the answers. But, I have embraced the idea of having what we need and using what we have. We no longer have a museum for a house that’s filled with things kept for that special occasion. I enjoy the fact that we no longer have the large house with the large bills and the large responsibility. I still like going out to eat, splurging on the occasional unnecessary item, watching mindless TV, and overpriced haircuts. Most importantly, I hope this transition will teach our children the important things in life are not things at all. I could go on and on. I will continue to evolve, and I have a deep appreciation for this journey that my husband initiated…..and for people like you and your husband who have taken the time to share your journey with us.

    • Mrs. BNL says:

      I can relate to everything you said! Seems like we’ve had very similar journeys, and of course, we are not at the destination either, it’s always evolving. I am glad I got on board at one point. The stuff really does drive you crazy once you realize you don’t actually need it all. I still do like nice things, just not so many of them. I am constantly in the process of decluttering and simplifying. One of the hardest parts for us lately is that our families are not on board and they tend to overload our kids with unnecessary stuff that we eventually have to donate or otherwise weed out. So it’s a constant process.

      I am always glad to hear from people out there living a similar life to us :)

  8. Liza says:

    I was wondering what your views (as a couple) are on helping kids with college. Is this something that you have already set aside money for or do you believe this is something the kids should pay for themselves? I havent read all of the back posts but this was a potentially very large expense that i did not see addressed in the posts i read. We are planning an early retirement as well and college savings (as well as the mortgage) is on our list of things that we need completed before we take the plunge, so i was wondering how you are handling it.

    • Mrs. BNL says:

      BNL and I discussed this last night for the first time actually after receiving your question. We’re not sold on college being all that important for our kids in the future (since we’re still 14 years plus away). But we talked about how we would help them if they could show us that they had plans and a purpose for college. In other words if our son or daughter came to us and said he/she really wanted to be a doctor, then we’d help. If he comes and says he needs to go to college to find himself, probably we would steer him in other directions to find himself :)

      • Liza says:

        I hink that whether to help with or pay for college is a personal decision, but i think you are definitely leaving a huge hole in your retirement plan if you do not define this a bit more. Have you investigated college costs? Even if your kids do community college and finish at a state u that would likely cost at least $40k per child in today’s dollars (likely more). Although you are under no obligation to help, your assets are considered in their aid application so they may not qualify for school or government aid. If you plan to provide no help or only a minimal contribution, i would suggest that you make your children aware of this from an early age so that they can start saving from allowance, gifts, and part time jobs to pay their own way. This is also important in order to manage expectations so they do not get their heart set on a four year college or private university if that will not be financially feasible. Given that you will be retiring on anamount that seems like a lot today but in 15 years will not seem nearly as large, i think that you will be well served to thoroughly think through as many of these issues as you can in advance.

      • Liza –

        Mrs. BNL’s explanation was a little short on detail, so I’ll elaborate. As Mrs. BNL said, we hadn’t talked about this much in the past, but this was mainly due to the fact that I had owned all the finances, not because I wasn’t considering it. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since well before my first kid was born.

        Currently, we have a 529 college savings plan set up for each of them. When they were born, my dad put in $2500, and puts in another $100 each month – he sees college as much more essential than I do, and this makes him very happy to help give them this gift. With compounding interest over 18 years, this will actually add up to quite a bit of tax-free money. It’s also nice because it can be transferred to other relatives if one of both of them decide not to use it on higher education.

        If that turns out to be insufficient, I will help them through college if/when they want to pursue something that requires a college degree. Our expenses over the next 15 years should be below the conservative 3% safe withdrawal rate when I retire. What this means is that we should have more money then than we do now, even after accounting for inflation. And if that’s still not enough, I could always go back to work (in a different field). A big benefit of retiring is to spend time with them. Once they’re gone, I very well might want to work. Heck, I might want to do some work once they are going to school all day (if we don’t home school – which is TBD).

        Additionally, I likely wouldn’t pay 100% of the expenses. I think some of the responsibility needs to be on them, which will force them to make sure that college is worth it to them.

        With that said, if my kid gets into Harvard and wants to study sociology, I’m not about to shell out a quarter million bucks for a degree that will pay him $40K/year. I’m not knocking sociology, I’m just saying that paying for a college education is only worth it for certain degrees. My engineering degree, for example, has paid for itself many times over.

        One key thing I should highlight is that I think the education system (our public school system and the college university format) is seriously broken, and so I don’t just assume that college is a must. Besides being in a huge bubble that I suspect will burst in the next decade, I also think the format is non-optimal, and the things valued in 20 years will be very different and may not require a formal university degree. Unless, of course, it’s in an area of accreditation or a specialty field.

      • CL says:

        I applaud you and Mrs. BNL. My parents saved for my college tuition basically my entire life. I got a clear idea of the exact dollar amount in high school when I was 14. I knew that if the cost of attendance was higher (definitely was/is), then I would need to cover my expenses. I was definitely motivated in high school to get good grades and get interested in extracurriculars, like volunteering, choir, and a few clubs. I wasn’t as crazy as the high school students in The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins, but I did have an extremely busy schedule. Now, I have scholarships that are almost equal to the dollar amount that they gave me, so I have money left over. As I read more and more articles and thoughtful essays on the value of a college education, I have realized that my life would be easier and more secure if I had gone to a vocational school. If you’ve read The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman (highly recommended), then you’ll see the value of letting your kid choose a job that won’t be outsourced, like plumber or electrician. Liza seems to think that college is a necessity. Dr. Kotlikoff from Boston University ran the numbers and found that plumbers make only $500 less in discretionary income per year than doctors.

  9. Money Infant says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Mrs. BNL, it gave me some new insights into my own wife’s behavior :) I’ll be sharing this post with her to hopefully increase the brainwashing conversations we have about money.

  10. Daisy says:

    It’s great that you’re on board with your new life as savers! I’m with you on the hair – I’m pretty frugal, but my hair is being cut only by professionals :)

  11. Liza says:

    I see. You definitely have a plan then. My concern was not what specific amount you would pay but just that your first response suggested to me that perhaps you had not thought it through in depth. I see now that is not the case.

    • Mrs. BNL says:

      I am glad BNL replied because he is much better at explaining things than me. Plus he’s got all the finances down to a science so I trust him!

  12. Great post! As I said in an earlier post, I’m trying to brainwash my wife as well :)

    I’m glad you two were able to connect on a values level.

    I’m sending this to post to my wife right now!

  13. burntout says:

    It always amazes me as to how I come across similar concerns as we have, half the way across the world!

  14. Mike says:

    Thanks a lot for your perspective. I’d note that it’s STILL hard to keep a small house clean, it’s just less hard.

    On the kids watching zero TV, this is how I felt initially. Neither one of us is stay-at-home and we have an 18 month old daughter. There’s little or no TV in the evening, and none until she’s in bed. The morning is another matter though. Now that she’s more mobile, the morning routine includes some PBS animated series (Cat in the Hat, Clifford, etc.) It has an almost magical ability to keep her still for a few minutes while Mom and Dad get ready for the day. No advertising, either.

  15. RoseRed says:

    My other half sent me this link, as we on a similar journey at the moment. I am not very good being frugal, especially when I have PMS! But I am trying very very hard at the moment. We had huge rows at first as although it turned out that we actually had virtually identical life goals, we weren’t quite expressing them the same way, so I thought that he was telling me that I had to get a job and not ever have a nice house, and he thought that I wanted him to slave away at work and never see the children so that we could afford nice sofas and music lessons. I’d been reading Simplicity Parenting at the time, and was trying to get MrRed to live more simply while he was trying to get me to live more frugally. After a couple of weeks of sulking and weeping, it turned out that actually we both wanted to spend lots of time together with our children surrounded by simple beauty doing fun stuff and having the freedom to do work we enjoyed.

  16. L says:

    Both to Mr. and Mrs. BNL: I’m a bit late to this, but I wanted to ask you–

    We have a 2 year old child, and my husband points out that one downside (to his mind) of both of us retiring early is that he wants to demonstrate by example that work is important. We’re older parents, and I can see that we don’t want our son to get the idea that things/money come wtihout work. (My nightmare would be a teen/early 20’s who parties/spends out of control without feeling like anything had to be earned…)

    But I also value our time together as a family, so these competing goals are strongly on my mind, these days. I’m interested in your take on it.

  17. […] few weeks ago I received a question in the comments section of a recent post that caught me off guard.  Not because I didn’t have a response, but because I can’t […]

  18. John says:

    As a little advice from a 25 year old Perspective, who thanks to ERE and FI Goal orientations and lifechanging experiences, is debt free and have been gaining more and more passive incomes from various investments each month from a 50-75% Savings Rate toward FI; DO NOT be Obsessed with FI to the point where you talk about it constantly. Only occasionaly and rarely hint at it with other’s like your long term relationship girlfriend of 2 years, or best friends of 2+ years. Else disaster might insue. Just mention it once here and there, then drop it when you have conversations with them. (Most people are consumer-worker-job slave sheep who like to stay in the cave, except the people who have been enlightened and stick to Blog Forums and Blog Communities.) If they start peeking interest, then gradually talk with it, else let them live their lives normally, least they begin to develope negative views on your lifestyle choices and their own opinions on the wrong reasons why you want early retirement, like assuming a lazy lifestyle.

    Over Time they may eventually see the light. It’s tough i know, but we were all in the Dark and chained mentally at some point too.

    So if you are single, don’t mention or be so cheap or frugal on the first dates. Just be more Creative and show actions of who you are. After a few months, show free romantic ideas from your ingenuity for your SO. Just like BNL, it will take the Appearance of being “Normal” with a bit of obvious frugality for a Person to like you for who you are. When they are curious, then give them easy to understand good reasons why you do some of the simple and free things you do, like happiness comes from the free things in life, like love for your SO and your future or current Family.

  19. […] New Life’s significant other guest posts on her perspective on the Brave New Life. If you’re looking to change your perspective and take your life in a different direction, […]

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