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!