2 April 2014

Convincing your partner about lifestyle change

An email arrived last week asking a question that I know a lot of people think about. There are a couple of different parts to this question so lets see if we can come up with an answer. 

The email from 'Madam X' said in part:

I know you don't give advice freely; however, I am four years from retirement. I feel that I am in a box without a hole even to breath through! And, the Mister isn't nearly on board with the values evolving within me. So.... I know Hanno became convinced when you quietly started your own "revolution" within your lifestyle. How did you keep your focus?

Retirement and other major life events often make us stop and think about what we're doing. Retirement seems to be the one milestone when we ask ourself some big questions and it makes us question where we are and where we're going. BTW, I think we should ask ourselves these questions at the turn of every decade but I don't think many people do it. Retirement is when changes are made. We either think about changing and plan to do it, or realise that if we are even going to change, this is the prime time to do it, but something stops us. There are also questions about capability, sustainability and responsibility. We hope that what we want to do with be within our capabilites, will last for a long, long time and that we do what we should be doing - for ourselves and our family.

But how did I focus on my revolution? Looking back now it seems like a difficult thing to do but at the time it was so easy. I was absolutely convinced that what I wanted to do made the best kind of sense. It would solve the dilemma of me not returning to work and it would allow us to significantly lower our cost of living. I believed early on that if I could work at home and make my home and life productive, that would supply many of our needs, and then just living life would provide structure, interest and purpose. In that early stage I didn't think that I would dive so deeply into home life but as I started working in my home and new possibilities starting opening up ahead of me my days became more interesting and my plans more achievable.

The main reason we could live that way was because we had no debt. We owned our home and we had no other debt so we didn't have to earn as much as we once did to get by. If we could reduce the cost of living by making a lot of what we used to buy, we'd both be able to give up working full time and we could spend much more time doing what we wanted to do. How could we not want to live this quiet, gentle and simple life? But...

When I told Hanno what I wanted to do, he thought I'd lost my marbles. =: - 0

When he rejected my plan outright, I decided to keep going alone. I had seen the possibilities, I'd thought about this a lot, I was convinced it could be done. Hanno was still working, he hadn't had the opportunity to see first-hand what my day-to-day life had become and he still believed that to live to our standard, we needed to work. With the help of one of my sons, we'd already enlarged the vegetable garden, we got a few more chooks to ensure a continuous supply of eggs and then it was up to me to see how much I could reduce our grocery bill. I didn't need anyone to help me with that. It was a matter of teaching myself how to make bread, soap, laundry liquid, sauces, relish etc. and taking up the needles again to sew and knit my way into a new life. It was only when I did all those things that I realised simple life was also frugal, healthy and environmentally friendly. Even more reasons to change!

:- )

You see, Madam X, I was absolutely convinced that living this kind of life was possible, and in many ways, was a reward for all the years of hard work we'd put in along the way. Knowing you're doing the right thing and sticking to it sounds difficult, but it's not. It was the life I wanted and it was so exciting to wake every morning with another day ahead where anything was possible.  It was exciting to see how much I could make and change and how much I could reduce our grocery bill. I did all that alone and quietly for a few months, with Hanno delighted that there was home cooking every night and occasionally the smell of fresh bread and cakes when he came home, I built up my skills and kept thinking about this life being part of the future for both of us. After a few months, I told Hanno what I'd been doing and showed him how much money we'd saved and how we could continue doing that if we both worked in our home. He had loved the changes I'd made at home. He loved the fresh vegetables, the home cooking and the savings, and he saw that working at home had changed me in significant ways. I was happy again! Soon after, he closed his business and came home to work alongside me.

Success and self belief is a powerful thing. I am lucky that much of what I did early on was modelled on how my mother and grandmother worked in their homes - when I started doing the work, it felt familiar to me. Not everything went according to plan, I had bad experiences along the way, I made mistakes, but my belief in my ability and the lifestyle itself kept me working away at it. When I started one thing, many other projects opened up to follow. Now I tell those I talk to to just start one thing and the rest takes care of itself. What you start with will always open up something else to try or learn.

You have to remember that you're convinced your retirement will be better if you live like we do. I think you're probably right. But your husband doesn't read the blogs you read every day, he doesn't read the books. You have to remain convinced and keep working at it, just like I did. Let him see what your plans are, show him the savings, cook his favourite meals, talk about your future. If it works well in your life, and he sees it makes you happy and reduces your cost of living, he'll probably come around. But you have to keep the faith and be the driving force until he develops an understanding of what you're trying to do and the benefits it will bring both of you.  Good luck!

If you've been in this position, how did you convince your partner?



  1. I, too am looking at retirement next year. I own a quilt and needlework shop, and with the current economy there are no buyers interested, so I will have to reduce the inventory to what I have room for at home. At least I love to sew, knit, crochet, and quilt, so I will have a lifetime supply to satisfy my crafting!-) We have only a little debt and are paying off rapidly our mortgage.
    I would love to sell this big house and resettle in the country, but husband is not yet convinced..... Have ordered your books and am looking forward to incorporating your ideas.

  2. Sometimes we don't need to convince other people to believe it what we believe in. If we live it ourselves without pushing the idea, the idea gradually disperses into other people. I have friends who thought I was crazy ... now they see how healthy and happy our family is just from eating homegrown food.....they have started thinking maybe they were the crazy ones.
    Start with the baking ....husbands like eating baking . The baking will lead to saving money ....husbands like saving money.

  3. Hi Rhonda, we are still 'transitioning' to the simpler life (& loving it), but it is a slow process & you are right when you say that one change leads on to another. I have made our laundry liquid for sometime now, but have yet to move to soap making -- it's on the list, & will happen, but I don't stress about the when. I make our bread -- initially doing all of it by hand but 'arthur itis' visited one day & has refused to leave -- so the breadmaker is now in permanent residence & does a good job. We rarely eat out or do takeaway & my culinary skills are improving (if only I could make a simple gravy), We take our lunch if we are away from home @ that time & the thermos comes too (a difficult thing initially for my takeaway king hubby) again it takes a little organising but becomes routine fairly quickly. We are still getting into the planting habit, but getting better, our chooks still lay & I'm learning as I go. Change takes time, it's an ever evolving thing, & if your partner is resistive (like mine is with some things) a slow plod is easier on everyones nerves, but quiet persistence will win the day

  4. Love your table runner Rhonda. I have difficulties with Chris, he loves the newest and the best, hates me going to garage sales and the tip..... He wants to stop work in a month or two and just do shutdowns but I am still a little nervous on the money side as he will have a large debt for his vehicle. His superannuation will pay the house off but I would prefer to be debt free before taking this step. I have told him that he will have to contribute more to the house...ATM he expects to be waited on hand and foot as he works and does renos..... I will expect him to take his dirty cups to the sink....and maybe even wash them up himself.... I wonder what will happen! I have also suggested that if he helps with the garden we won't have to pay so much for groceries.... I am trying to feed him little bits and pieces in the hope that he mulls them over and acts on them when he leaves work...

  5. Some of this depends very much on how your Significant Other defines 'retirement'. I know that very many men never really think of what they want to DO, just what they won't be doing (work) and so, sort of think that retirement is like annual holidays but FOREVER. That's when folks come unglued because there's only so much fishing or golf you can occupy yourself with. Unfortunately the words 'retirement planning' have been completely appropriated by the finance industry, when most people need to do more planning around what will give their life purpose and what will get them out of bed every day.

  6. Hi Rhonda and all Readers,
    love this post! I have faced the same issue, also I never told hubby what I'm planning to do, I just did it. And luckily he supported me on most of my changes as he saw it made me happy. There's a few things I haven't done yet but I know it's just not the right time (e.g. more livestock, growing seedlings from seed, crafty things). I believe your lifestyle has to suit your situation and in our situation some of the things I want to do aren't possible as this would mean I would get what I want but my partner has to take care of everything and he would not be able to do what he wants. This wouldn't be fair, so one thing after the other.

    Interestingly, when my partner retired and we moved to our current property, he worked harder than he ever did in his job and also he complains a lot (that's in his nature), he enjoys it and I can see how much happier he is as well. I guess men just don't articulate simple living as we women do. It might just not sound all that great to say 'I live simple' or 'I live frugal'. I actually never mentioned the word 'frugal' in our relationship. I always say "I live to be happy" and for me that's it.
    All the best

  7. Hoping Hanno is feeling better. I have really enjoyed your posts, pictures and advice over the past week!! They are so encouraging!!

    Even when the journey is or seems to be solo, there are small things that can be done to mold values, make activities fun, and create healthy attitudes and lifestyle choices. I find that seeking input can be helpful to learn where the other household members are relative to my thoughts and activities. This lets me meet them where they are at, to slowly and consciously move them from their comfort level to seeing things through “new eyes.” I also find that using friendly terminology can be helpful. (The term “frugal” is not a friendly word to me. Instead we talk about how we can use the resources to get the most benefit from them - for example food: best taste, texture, aroma, visual appeal, nutrition and family experience for the resources we have to devote to the “project.”

    Unexpected changes to health, work and the family and social realities can affect the best laid of plans for retirement or otherwise. Respecting where each person is and working together to meet /nest goals has been rewarding, because it keeps everyone happier and mutually supportive. I have found that what seemed to be delays in my timeline were actually opportunities to reassess and sometimes find what now seem to be better solutions than what were originally envisioned. It takes patience, re-evaluation, and justification, but has been worth it, when there is 100% buy-in and the results are better than originally anticipated.

    Perhaps it has not been as hard for us, as we both came from more simple backgrounds with experiential bases and live in an area where there are not as many social pressures. However, the need to keep up with technology to function in the larger world still exists as a challenge for those of us embracing a more simplified life.

    Thanks again for revisiting the subject.

  8. Hi Rhonda, I have been trying to convince my partner for years that we need to start this lifestyle while we are still young (late 30 for me, early 40's for him) as I believe things will only get more difficult the older we get. Thankfully, the savings we've seen from taking a more frugal approach, growing some vegies and having chickens has convinced him (actually I think it was the chickens that clinched it - he loves them!) Many of the "livestyle change" stories I read in the past seemed to be geared around who were cashed up and wanted a change, rather than a choice to live a better life. I was so happy when I found your blog and then read your book. It gave me the increased motivation I needed to keep going with the changes over time. We are what would be considered a "poor" family in current society - we have never had any savings, having raised 4 children from our early 20s, and I was a stay home mum for many years so we have almost nothing in super. We cannot afford a mortgage so are still renting privately and still have some debts (car loan etc) and have just become grandparents while still having one child at home and just about to enter highschool! Despite not having any savings behind us we believe we still need to make the effort to live a cleaner, healthier and better lifestyle for our own sake and to be able to provide something better and more meaningful for our children and grand-children. We are exploring ways to do this on a very small scale and work our way up. The ultimate goal is to live on a self-sufficient permaculture farm in Tasmania... quite a long way to go from debt in suburban Brisbane, but I believe we can actually do it if we can keep focused and take baby steps. We have found putting our goals down on paper, step by step, has been a great help as we can identify the debt and give it a time limit to complete. We can also pay attention to savings goals and short term stepping-stones which we can still achieve at the same time. I really enjoyed your book, and it's actually been fun to implement some of the ideas in it into our daily lives - making my own bread for the first time gave me a sense of achievement and satisfaction that nothing in my working life ever has. Thankyou for your inspiration! :)

  9. We are still a few years from retirement and are both working full-time. However, we have a clear goal.

    Our transition to living a simpler life has evolved over more than 10 years. It probably began with a strong environmental focus - in particular, limiting use of plastic bags. Decluttering, cooking from scratch, minimising waste and growing at least some of our own food has been some of the focus.

    Each step I have taken has been alone and over time my husband has accepted/joined in.

    We find that living more simply is different for everyone and it is a matter of doing what feels right for you even if your partner is not totally on board.

  10. My partner loves the idea but sometimes has trouble following through himself :) I can't blame him as he is working full-time in a stressful job but it is very frustrating when his actions undermine my hard work (e.g. ordering pizza to be home delivered to "help" me when really it throws my food budget out by $30-$40). He is constantly amazed when I make yoghurt and laundry liquid etc but hates the bottles lying around waiting to be filled with said liquid. Basically he wants the benefits of this lifestyle but is struggling to come to terms with the practicalities of it. I think it is something that will come with time and hopefully he was be able to get a less stressful job which will make a couple of empty bottles sitting in the outside loo less irritating than they are at present.

    In terms of keeping focus I think it's normal and ok to lose focus every now and again. I certainly have whilst being in the early stages of pregnancy- I just didn't have the energy. What this lack of focus has done is make obvious to both me and my husband just how much money I normally save our household (the increase in grocery bills has been shocking) and how much work it takes to keep our home looking ship shape. Now that I'm starting to feel better again I am really inspired to get back on top of things and know that I am making a big difference to our family by choosing to live out these values.

    Some arguments can't be argued/explained but must be lived for others to see that it is the right thing.

  11. What an encouraging and wise post, Rhonda! Having read your book and blog for quite a while now (what a gift to me because I know that you are writing Just For Me sometimes! LOL), I have begun to see that we do indeed create our life. I think, for me, the sticking point was (notice the past tense now??) getting the Mister on board. However, I see that it doesn't take full partnership, does it, to begin? I have set that huge stone in my own path. Reading this I have realized that there is no stone; it is just a figment of my imagination! You are absolutely right; living life on one's terms is an individual choice. It is just more fun and effective, if there is a partner.

    So... I am going to give it a go and keep track for a few months of how things change for me/ us. It is the end of the term for me in four weeks and I will be home for 15 glorious weeks! Just think what wonderful things can be accomplished toward that lofty goal in that time!

    Thanks for the encouragement, Rhonda! You indeed provide wise words in season!


  12. It is hard to convince other people to change, just as hard to change yourself. I have been trying for a few years now to simplify and live a healthier, 'greener' life. But my partner still does all of the basic things that should be easy to stop. My examples are: not recycling, all rubbish goes in the one bin. Even though I have a bin for recycling, and a container for vegetable scraps for the chickens. And don't get me started on the plastic bags!

  13. I am so lucky. My partner is on the same wavelength as me. He happily shifted from weekends spent at clubs and galleries (not that we've stopped being interested in music or art) to any spare time spent gardening, and now chicken tending. He's a creative, practical person so if I have an idea he helps make it real.

    I couldn't have got anywhere near as far along the path without him.

  14. What an encouraging post! My husband and I are no where near retirement but I believe you are right you should evaluate every decade. We are coming up on the big 40 so I guess it is about time.


  15. My strategy has been to lead by example in this area. I got my husband to help me make some laundry soap and bake a cake recently, to might great surprise he was happy to do both. It just takes a little time to help change habits, and very little nagging.

  16. Like you, Blue Shed, I am lucky in that my hubby and I are on the same wavelength about our lifestyle. I've always been a homebody and couldn't wait to quit full time work so I could spend more time in our home, cooking, sewing, looking after the chooks, etc. He had to quit work for health reasons, but as he was 70, retirement was well overdue, and he is loving every minute. We are both keen to be environmentally responsible, and installed a rainwater tank a few years ago. We'd like to go solar one day, but are in the middle of renovating our 40 year old house at the moment, so solar will have to wait a bit longer. He is very good about recycling, and knows what goes in each bin. Neither of us like takeaway food, so my cooking pleases us both! I'd love to have a vegie garden but our health and the poor soil here have prevented us from doing anything in that direction.

  17. I think it starts with the little things. If you try to make a radical shift, too much too fast, you are going to scare them off. But, if start with something simple as recycling, then it doesn't seem too scary. Or cooking from scratch during the week. When they see that these things are doable they can accept it and then be more willing to adapt to the next change you would like to make.

    I am pretty lucky to have a husband who goes with my "crazy" plans. He may do some eye rolling but, at the end of the day, he wants me to be happy and will help me along. He is even learning to be handy which will definitely help with our fixer-upper!

    Thanks for the post. As always it gives some great food for thought!

  18. My husband is slowly coming around as I've been at home now for three months and he can see, especially, how much it has done for my health. No more stress from daily hours of commuting, the job, or lack of time to just live has led to fewer migraines, more energy, and more joy. He was initially grumbling about the loss of my income and what that would mean to our spending, but I love bargain hunting and second hand items don't bother me, and he finds it funny that I'm able to be just as excited about a dozen XXL cotton men's shirts from the thrift store as I was previously about the latest (expensive) yardage at the local quilt shop.

    Several years ago, a series of life events drained our savings and necessitated our incurring rather significant debt. I know that others, for whatever reason, may also be in that situation. We put ourselves on a strict (and I mean strict!) budget, and within 2 1/2 years were able to pay off the debt and replenish our savings. It was hard work, and we sacrificed in many areas which we had been accustomed to spending in regularly: meals out, movies, other entertainment, gifts, things for our home, etc., etc., etc. When I left my job a few months ago, we knew that it meant continuing this new "lifestyle" of frugality. The biggest lesson I've learned is that the less I grumble about it, the more content he is with living with less. (That tells me he loves me very much and really just wants me to be happy!)

    I spend my days now keeping house, baking bread, planning time to spend with our grown children and friends, helping one daughter prepare for a new baby, knitting and sewing for two other grandchildren, reading and learning about health and nutrition, and plotting our vegetable garden which we will start next year when we've saved enough money to bring in soil and fencing. It is so nice to enjoy the simpler things in life, to have time to think and pray, and to appreciate all we have.

    Thank you for blogging!

  19. What a wonderful post, and so interesting to read all the comments from your visitors. A little sad to see how many of us are in just the same position - my husband is a couple of years off retirement and has no interest in working in the garden with me (and he tells me absolutely no intention of doing so either) . So I just carry on, on my own. He will either join me one day or he won't but I'll not let his disinterest stop me doing what I know is right.

    I have no idea how I discovered your blog, the usual way I guess, a link from somewhere, then another - but so glad to have found you :} Thank you.

  20. This post is so very, very close to my heart. Although I totally believe in this journey, I am alone with it because my husband has other ideas. We are not approaching retirement but I would love someone to share my enthusiasm for this way of life....I guess I just have to be patient and wait, like you did. It may come in time or it may not, but I am still happy embracing this way of life that you have shown me Rhonda xxxx

  21. My partner grew up on a farm, so you would think it would be easy to convince him of the benefits of a frugal lifestyle. They were poor and lived sustainably out of necessity. The good is that he has a lot of experience living off the land, the bad is that he has zero interest in living like that again. From his perspective, frugal living is what you do if you are poor. We make decent money, so he can't seem to fathom why we would want to live frugally. We are pretty good at saving for retirement and not having debt other than the mortgage, which we'll have paid off many years before retirement.

    I made laundry detergent for awhile and he hated it. We "conveniently" got a new high efficient washer and the warranty is supposedly voided if we don't use designated high efficiency detergent. So he has escaped the homemade detergent, but only for a year!

    I bake and cook a lot of things from scratch and have a large garden, but unfortunately I still buy him the processed versions of many things. Although he will gladly eat desserts from scratch! I hope that over time I will slow win him over since we've still got about 25 years until retirement. I make sure to grow the veggies he likes. He is great about helping me get the garden started every year (if there is a job that involves driving the tractor or building something, he's all for it), but planting and maintaining the garden is not something I can convince him to help me with. I continue to try new recipes and occasionally I stumble upon something he likes better than the boxed version. Those small victories give me hope. It definitely gets frustrating and time consuming, but I try to focus on what he likes to do and quietly go about my own frugal lifestyle. I may let him win the laundry detergent battle if I can get some chickens ;).

    1. He's a tough one, Julie. I wonder if you can find some friends who are living how you want to live - a couple with a garden and a love of scratch cooking. If he could see someone else enjoying it, it might make it easier for him. Good luck, love.


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