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.
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