The 5-Step Blueprint to Pitching Life Changes to Your Better Half

The blueprints for life changes don't have to be complex

Money talks can be tough. Whether it’s talking about debt, planning out longer-term goals, or even simpler talks about budgeting, it can be an uncomfortable experience to talk about money.

Things get even more strange when you start pursuing this weird thing called Financial Independence. From the outside it almost sounds a bit…cultish. After I was (re-) introduced to the concept of financial independence, I desperately wanted to share my thoughts and plans with Kristin.

She was not as receptive as I’d hoped – initially – but over the course of a few months that’s changed a bit.

What follows is a bit of a blueprint in how to bring up some of those “weird” money goals with your significant other. Whether it’s embracing frugality, downsizing, bumping up your savings, or anything else, having a good plan on how to approach a potentially difficult conversation will help.

Approach the situation with caution

People don’t like being told they’re wrong. I see it every day in my work, and I know that personally I fall into this category also. So if I got super excited about being financially independent and wanting to downsize our life to save more, I knew I’d need to approach it with some discretion.

Hopefully you know how your spouse will react to new ideas. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Drop hints over the course of a week or so about what you want to do – in my case it was eliminate the mortgage and bump up our retirement contributions to the point where we can (theoretically) retire debt-free in 20 years or less.

Focus on the benefits, not the process or changes

Some people really dislike change. They like it even less if they think their current way of doing things is the best.

As a process engineer in my day job, I can tell you that the biggest hurdle to changing a process isn’t the technology or understanding the problem. It’s getting the people involved to buy in to the idea of doing something different.

Same goes for the personal finance world. It’s a lot easier to explain the benefits of a new process over the process itself. Let’s look at a few examples.

Paying off the House

Compare these two statements, both of which have the same end goal in mind:

I’d love to be able to pay off the house 10 years earlier so that we can put that money toward some awesome international trips and be done working earlier! If we apply an extra $534 to our principal consistently over time we can make that happen. Let’s find out how to squeeze $534 out of our budget without significantly impacting our current lifestyle.”

That’s a lot easier to stomach compared to:

“We need to set up an automatic over-payment of $534 extra every month for the next 20 years of our lives so we can enjoy our lives later.

Cutting back on eating out

Let’s say for example your goal is to spend less money on eating out at restaurants. This can be a huge money dump, and isn’t likely the healthiest alternative to boot.

Instead of saying:

“We need to stop eating out at restaurants. It’s too expensive.

Try something with more focus on the end-game benefits and trying new things together:

“I’d love to try out some new recipes at home for dinner this week. Can we cook on Friday instead of going out like we normally do?”

By focusing on the positives of making a change, your statements are seen as less hostile, and people will be more likely to give them a shot. I’ve found this to be true in every facet of my life, from relationships to money to work.

Be the change you wish to see

If your significant other still isn’t 100% on board, but you’re dead-set on making a change, it’s up to you to be the change you wish to see. If you say you want to spend less on going out to eat, but then don’t chip in on cooking meals, you’re putting a huge burden on your significant other who’s already unwilling to change.

Cook the food. Clean the house. Mow the yard. Set up the automatic transfers. Cut down your own TV-consumption.

If you keep going on with your old habits until your better half buys in, you’ll be keeping those old habits for a long time.

Have patience and understanding

Ultimately not everything will change, and those things that do may take some time. There will be compromises.

I’d be perfectly happy just using Netflix and Amazon Prime – no cable TV. But I know that Kristin would go a little nuts not being able to watch some of the shows she wants.

So, we compromise and we’ll get SlingTV sometime after we move. She can still watch TV and we will save money overall.

Some battles you won’t win. At a certain point it’s not worth the argument and you just deal with it.

Celebrate the wins

Of course, when you do have a win, celebrate it together. Cutting down your cell phone bills may be a temporary inconvenience by switching carriers. You should still celebrate the extra monthly cash you have. Splurge on a short weekend away, pop a bottle of bubbly, or however else you want to celebrate.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Even if you want to hyper-optimize various aspects of your life, you still need to make sure that you and your significant other are enjoying it together.

Take some time to reflect on what you have. Think about what you’re brought to the world. Take a breather while you tee up the next thing to tackle.

Question:

Have you had challenges getting your significant other on board with your “weird” financial goals?? How have you approached the subject? Was it successful?

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6 Comments

  1. This article is my life right now 🙂 I have definitely sprung some crazy (and not-so-crazy) financial ideas on my husband. Most of the time his reactions range from “what are talking about” to “that’s not gonna happen”. I will give him some of them are justified like when I say I want to quit my job, sell the house, and buy an RV and live off doing odd jobs 🙂 He has been pretty receptive to smaller changes though.

    For more my realistic goals, I have found the “be the change you want to see” method has worked out really well. For example, I wanted to drastically cut our eating out for lunch spending from $400 to ~$80 per month. Before we both spent about the same, but when we cut back, I packed my lunch almost everyday and only bought lunch once or twice a month. This allowed him more of the budget so that the cut back wasn’t as extreme for him.

  2. Yeah the smaller changes are always easier to deal with. The house thing was one where I knew there’s no way I would win – and that’s fine, I love our house and where we’ll be. 🙂 And we compromised and are paying it off a little early so that we can still retire early, 100% debt-free.

    And that’s a great way to approach the lunches; making the change a little less drastic to start definitely helps!

    Thanks for weighing in!

    1. Totally agree! Plus when others see how easy it is (or the benefits of doing it) it’s a lot easier to get on board with what may be otherwise perceived as a weird idea 🙂

  3. Great article. It’s easy to get overly excited and forget to appreciate that your SO isn’t reading the same articles and getting inspired by the same things as you. It’s an evolution. I know what really made a difference for me was talking to my wife about the 4% rule and how much we needed to save for retirement. She bought in completely and was pumped to see how reducing spending brought that date closer. Then when I framed our cable cost in the context of: we’ll need to save $30k to pay for tv during retirement, it really helped convey my concern over what we were spending on something we could “afford”

    1. Yeah that’s an awesome way to frame it up. Is it worth 30k to have cable? That’s many months of contributions, years for lots of people!

      Thanks for sharing!

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