22 September 2007

Convincing your partner

One of the things I struggled with when I first decided I wanted to change the way we lived, was my husband's reaction to the change. He didn't understand why I wanted to change and then he decided such a change would be impossible.

What I proposed was to transition from a reasonably affluent middle class family with all the trappings of that, give up work completely, spend only on needs, reskill ourselves so we could supply ourselves with most of the services and products we relied on, to become more self reliant, independent and better able to look after ourselves.

While Hanno liked the idea of giving up paid work, he thought it was idealistic and unreasonable to think that two aging hipster doofuses could drop out and live without suffering financial consequences. So, his response when I posed the question was a firm NO!

Pffffffffft! Of course I did what any good wife would do. I went ahead with it anyway. LOL Initially what I did didn't include him at all. I had already closed down my writing business so my plan now was to show Hanno, that it could be done. I respected his decision but I didn't agree with it. I didn't know how much we would need to live on but I intended to find out.

The first thing I did was to completely change the way I shopped. I'd already given up frivolous shopping and now the only money I had on a regular basis was the grocery money. It was my only tool, so I used it. You all know how I shop - I stockpile, I make and grow as much as I can and always cook from scratch - so I went from spending $300 a week on groceries to spending much less by using those new (to me) methods. I started an emergency fund and put the leftover grocery money in it. I didn't tell Hanno what I was doing and he didn't notice a change in the quality of our food or that I'd stopped buying any chemical cleaners.

Over the months I built up our vegetable garden, bought more chooks, taught myself to bake good bread, bought a preserver on eBay and taught myself how to preserve food in a water bath. And I read everything I could get my hands on. Books were the last things I gave up buying because I needed a few good books to learn from, and those books lead me to others. I researched online too, joined an American frugal forum and learnt as much as I could there. All the time I never mentioned what I was doing or why.

By the time I again brought up the subject of Hanno giving up work, our two sons had left home (they both returned again a few times) and there was just the two of us to look after. Over the years, Hanno has been the best husband and father anyone could hope for. He's been a really hard worker and has never been out of work in all the time I've known him. So I guess the pressure of providing for a family was off and he was willing to look at the possibility of him leaving work. But the thing that showed him it might be possible was seeing the amount of money I had saved from our normal grocery money.

He could see that we didn't need a large amount of money to live on. We were growing a lot of our own vegetables and eggs, fruit trees had been planted and things were progressing nicely in the vegetable garden. He could now see the potential of providing many of our own needs from our back yard. And, of course, we didn't need a lot of money to feed and clothe ourselves anymore, and, most importantly, we had no debt. I'd done up a budget and it showed that we could live on $400 a week, and that included our rates, groceries, insurances, car and dog registrations, everything. When he saw it, he was almost convinced we could do it.

Not long after that we closed our shop in Montville and started the free fall into our new life. Hanno applied for an old age pension which helped cover some of our ongoing expenses. We'd never been in the welfare system before and it was a bit of an eyeopener for both of us. But we coped. He wasn't completely convinced we could do it until we'd lived the life for six months. Then he realised that, yes, it is possible!

I think that when it comes to change one partner usually tends to see the possibilities before the other. It is frustrating for both parties because one is convinced it can be done and the other is convinced it can't be. I took the soft approach, and it worked. I thought the best way to show it could be done, was to do it. Everyone who is shopping for groceries each week can do what I did. You can show your partner that cutting costs is not only possible, it's sustainable. And when you save all that money with out him knowing, and you suddenly produce it, it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

So if you have a partner who is hesitant about your life change, try to change yourself and what you do before you try to change him/her. Showing by example is a very powerful way of teaching and it just might work for you.


  1. i'm low on internet access again as i continue to transition back to the city but was able to catch up on your blogs today and wanted to let you know how much i continue to appreciate your insights! i'm SO glad Hanno had a great birthday! the bike looks great! may you have a most enjoyable weekend together and thanks for your continued inspiration!

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    That is a wonderful story and powerful too. Showing by example is always the best; we are often people who need to see proof, aren't we? I can understand Hanno's thinking on that.

    I do wish I knew more of the aussie lingo. Sometimes as an american, I get lost in the translation of some words a bit - such as: rates, old age pension (is this the same as social security here?), welfare (in the U.S. this is for the poor), and of course I am assuming chooks are chickens or at least in the same family? :)

    Also, I am curious as to how your $$ rates versus U.S. Would you know that? And lastly, I think you mentioned it, but was wondering what type of shop you had owned?

    I think you have the best kind of life too...

  3. Interesting thoughts, it's a bit more complicated in our house because we share the household spending and cleaning, cooking and the money earning. So I can change what I eat and buy, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still get bought. I had a discussion yesterday with my Mum about my partner being equally responsible for domestic tasks and therefore an equal in the decision-making (we were talking about throwing out his worn out saucepans) and an equal 'owner' of the kitchen. I can change myself quietly, but I can't change the house without negotiation.

    Oh and Lyn, rates are a tax you pay to local government based on the value of your land, the old age pension is social security for people who don't have superannuation (or not enough) to fund their own retirement, welfare is generally for the poor here too, but is much more generous than in the States. Most families with children get some sort of payment here, even if both parents are working, as well as most retirees, not necessarily enough to live comfortably on if you rent in the big cities though. And chooks are chickens.

  4. I'm doing this too Rhonda, the slow and soft approach. Although my husband is nowhere near retirement age and we still have young children at home. Sometimes it's so very frustrating, but I can see the change in his attitude and nothing makes me glow like I do when I hear him quote me to someone else. It's probably really good for me too, as I've always been pretty spoiled and gotten my own way so this is teaching me patience . But most importantly it's showing my children that it's ok to be a little different, that there are many ways to live, and that it's not all about them.

    cheers Lenny

  5. I have just discovered your blog. It is so wonderful!! As I was reading I couldn't help think of the British Comedy "Good Neighbors". Have you heard of it?

  6. Hi Rhonda;

    I am just curious as to what made you want to live a simpler life?

  7. hi Rhonda love coming to your blog and do so very often to be inspired, and i never go away dissapointed.i think simple living is the way to go but in a busy family starting slowly and reading your advise is going to work in the long run .. things can't be done over night but the sea change is what most of us want... happy days and thanks for the encouragement.. Margie

  8. Good to see you again, simply authentic. : )

    Lyn, I'm sorry if I've been confusing you with our terminology. Kate answered most of your questions but I'll add a little bit. We have a scheme similar to your 401K scheme which is called superannuation. It was introduced too late for people my age to take advantage of it so we're relying on the pension and our own money. Our welfare system is similar but more generous than yours. It pays $4000 to each woman when on the birth of a baby, our unemployment doesn't run out, etc. When we were working we never had any form of assistance and our kids went to private schools, we paid for private health insurance so we have never claimed, nor expected any form of government assistance until now. And the current exchange rate is about 86 Australian cents to $1 US. When Hanno retired he got bored staying at home and bought a shop that sold hand crafted furniture, prints, lamps, gifts, organic toiletries and all sorts of things.

    Kate, our house is run on an equal footing too, always has been. We've never divided up our money though. Every cent we both earned went into our joint account to be spent by either of us as we wanted to spend it.

    Lenny, they're important lessons for children to learn. Your DH sounds like he's taking note of what you're doing. ; )

    Wendydarling, do you mean "the good life"? If so, yes, I used to watch it when it was on in the 70s and was envious of how they did it.

    Alexia, when I closed my business, I'd just finished a big technical writing contract for one of our biggest companies, and just couldn't face signing another contract to continue living at a fast pace doing a job I didn't enjoy anymore. That started me thinking about not working and my reading introduced me to simple living. I'd been a bit of a closet hippy all my life, was a teenager in the 60s ; ) and I'd always grown vegetables and had kept chickens for a long time. It all just fell into place really. : )

  9. I didn't mean that your house wasn't equal, only that it sounds like you make all the grocery decisions. I don't.

    When I shop I do it my way, and I cook accordingly, when he shops & cooks he does it his way. Which is great, except that his way involves more packets and processing.

    Also I'd take issue with your argument that as you have health insurance and sent the kids to private schools you've therefore never leant on the public purse. In Australia both systems still enjoy subsidies from the federal government. You certainly paid more than others though.

  10. HI RHONDA,

  11. Being divorced i guess I am in that slightly easier situation that I don't r3eally have to convince anyone else of waht i am doing. My children seem open to changes I want to make and I can even handle the "greenie" labels from a few friends and workmates. I'm proud to be doing my bit for the environment and trying to lead as frugal a life as possible. I'd like to be comfortable in my retirement so debt reduction (my mortgage) is my main priority these days. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

  12. Rhonda,
    I bet when you started to read U.S. blogs/message boards it may have been confusing for you - thanks to you & to Kate for explaining more.

    I'm impressed by several of the things you mentioned - the AU government seems to take care of their people more on several levels. (Don't want to turn this politically, but just an observance from what was shared.)

    After some of our disasters here (especially Hurricane Katrina) it made me powerfully aware that one should not put expectations upon the government to help. This is definitely a concern I have in the type of world we live in these days as well with natural disasters. I want to be better prepared for the future.

    I really love Rhonda's blog as it sincerely helps with some of these issues. So thank you, Rhonda. You are helping many I am sure.

  13. I have just come to your site from Homespun Living. This and your post about cold process soap are the only two I've had an oppurtunity to read. I too make cold process soap and was interested in reading your method/recipe. I love this particular post because I talk continually to my husband about living this kind of life. We have a 1 and 2 year old and my husband came with a lot of debt. This is a dream that we are working towards however. I can't wait to continue to read more on your blog.

  14. hi rhonda, i came across your site the other night by accident, and ended up reading til 4am!!!! i'm a complete novice to computers, but am slowly learning.WHAT AN INSPIRATION YOU ARE!!!! I feel complete refreshed and inspired(even if i haven't had much sleep) I'm a 42yr old dane, married to an englishman, and with our 5 kids we live in england,where i like to think we try to do our bit, be it ever so humble, it all helps,right? Well, today i've made soappowder for the first time, and it is great! I have always been called a bit of a scrooge, but we really don't need to create so much waste, or to throw away perfectly good things,i HATE waste of any kind. I thought it was just me who felt so strongly, imagne my joy when i discovered a whole community of likeminded soul.I feel so recharged and inspired to keep doing what we are doing, and much more. keep up the wonderful work,you will be my first port of in the mornings from now on. is it too late to join the napkinswap??? I'd love to join in, kind thoughts dorte

  15. Of course I did what any good wife would do. I went ahead with it anyway.

    LOL - that's lovely. We certainly do create much of the atmosphere at home.

  16. Hello Daisy, Tami, Dorte and Shukr and welcome. Dorte, this swap is closed now and will end next week but there will be another to follow, so watch the posts and I'll announce another swap soon. Thank you all for your kind words. : )

  17. Good post Rhonda, I think it was Ghandi that said we should be the change that we want to see in the world. The last comment you made about changing yourself before you try to change your partner is a very true and powerful one.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    P.S. Google reader is stil not updating your blog, I don't know why. I've tried to remove and re-add it, but nothing.


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