Most of the financial freedom world is filled with happy families all pursuing the same goal. I’m actually kind of surprised so many financial freedom people end up together, considering how small this community is. Maybe they all meet on MMM’s forums.
The Miser household is a little bit different in this regard. I’ve been a financial freedom enthusiast for years now, but Mrs. Miser wasn’t always so content with the idea. My wife has the tendency to appreciate the finer things in life and even now, when this beast gets awakened, all hell can break loose!
One of the difficulties many people will face at some point is selling financial freedom to their spouse. This isn’t something many people have heard of, and bringing it up out of left field can be quite a shock to the system. I’ve been thinking back to when I first brought this up to Mrs. Miser and how I’ve managed to sell her the idea of this goal over the past couple of years. It’s been a long and gradual process, let me tell you, but I’ve broken it down into 10 steps.
Step 1: Bring It Up Gently
Okay, so you’ve discovered the wonderful world of financial freedom and you want to get your spouse on board. The first step with any joint goal is to communicate openly with your spouse.
It’s important to know that this will go one of two ways:
- Your partner will condescendingly nod, metaphorically pat you on the head and say they’re on board. They will then continue on with their life as normal, whilst thinking you’re a crazy dreamer who reads too many blogs and needs to come back down to the real world.
- They’ll be shocked and in disbelief as they have grown up in a world where buying things is a way of life and being in debt is a great way to get what they want. They might even be pissed at you for giving up on your assumed dream of buying a big house, nice cars and spending lots of money.
Either way it goes it probably won’t be a long conversation, just make sure they know you are serious about this, and this isn’t the end of it. The biggest mistake you can make is bringing up the topic, being put down and then burying the idea forever. Persistence is key!
Step 2: Take Your Time to Ease Them In
When I first brought this topic up to Mrs. Miser she was probably more in line with the first option above. She didn’t really take me very seriously when I said this was a goal I wanted to pursue, and she didn’t really think it would impact her in any way.
Now, I might have had it a little easier as I have always been a fairly frugal person. Unlike some, I wasn’t going from an extremely spendy life to a highly frugal life. I was going from a fairly average but money conscious life, to a more frugal but not unbelievably frugal life. This wasn’t going to be an enormous change for us, so the resistance was probably a bit gentler for me than it might be for you.
Over the next few weeks and months, keep bringing up the topic of financial freedom when it fits the conversation. If you have a discussion about spending money, state how it might detract from your goal and recommend an alternative. Don’t beat them over the head every time money comes up, but gently keep reminding them this is a serious goal you want to pursue and that it will be considered any time money is being spent recklessly.
This gradual and gentle reminder over time will allow your spouse to realize you are serious about this goal and it isn’t some stupid unattainable dream. It’s not just going to go away and they will have to talk to you about it in depth eventually.
Step 3: The “Serious” Talk
Eventually, if you follow the two steps above, your spouse will give in and want to discuss what on earth financial freedom is, why you want to achieve it and how you intend to get there. This is your opportunity, so be prepared!
You need to be able to sell the dream. How is this going to benefit your family in the long-term? How will it benefit your spouse specifically? Everybody will answer this differently depending on their life goals. This is where it’s good to know all of the reasons financial freedom is awesome.
Luckily, financial freedom is a pretty amazing thing, so the end result should be a piece of cake to sell to anybody. The only difficulties you might face will be if your spouse loves their job and maybe doesn’t want children, but even then there are plenty of reasons financial freedom is a fantastic life goal, even if you love your job.
The turning point for me was simply that Mrs. Miser isn’t a huge fan of working and would probably retire today if she could. She didn’t care about the messy details or even the finances. All I had to tell her was that we could be retired by the age of 40 with a fairly slight adjustment to our quality of life.
Step 4: Find Examples
By now you have probably piqued the interest of your spouse. They probably want to learn a bit more about this “financial freedom” thing. This is where you can point them in the direction of useful online resources explaining the concept further. Even better, show them examples of bloggers who have already achieved financial freedom, how easy it was to get there and how awesome their life is now.
A nice succinct post describing the journey and the result would work well, you don’t want to make them dig through droves of posts to find the information they need. Make it easy, have some links ready and share it with them.
I didn’t really need to do this as Mrs. Miser just trusted what I had to say, but some people may be a bit more reluctant, so cold, hard evidence is what will be required.
Step 5: Downplay the Effect on Your Current Life
The prime concern for Mrs. Miser when we discussed financial freedom was how it would affect our life now. As much as she appreciated the long-term benefits, she was hesitant as she thought, like many do, that she would have to give up a lot to get there.
This is where you need to be tactful. Don’t tell them they will need to give up their cable, their gym membership and you’ll have to sell your car and move to the burbs. Ease them in and show them it will be a gradual process. You can likely start with something small like spending less on meals out and Starbucks. Find something that won’t be a shock to the system at first to show how these small changes have a negligible effect on your quality of life. This isn’t going to be an overnight thing, it’ll likely take a year or more before you’ve crafted the complete lifestyle you need in order to retire early.
Step 6: Lead by Example
It’s no good painting a picture of your life verbally without actually putting anything into effect. As much as the small changes in step 5 will help get the ball rolling, you will need to lead by example when it comes to any bigger changes you might want to make.
One of the biggest difficulties I had when I began the financial freedom journey was live sports. I love live sports and watch them all the time, but it was costing us an arm and a leg to pay for the basic cable package AND the sports package just so I could watch “soccer” at the weekend. I had to find a way to be able to watch sport without paying this absurd amount, and I did. We cancelled our cable and sports package and I found an online solution.
If you want your spouse to stop eating out at lunch, make their lunch for them initially, highlighting how easy, healthy and cheap it is. Do you want them to stop buying coffee on the way to work? Get up 5 minutes early and prepare a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee for the road. This little bit of effort will go a long way to showing your spouse how easy it is.
The more your spouse sees these changes in your day to day lives, the less they will think they are missing out by making them. Eventually, hopefully, your spouse will begin to do these things for themselves!
Step 7: Highlight the Benefits
If you followed steps 1 through 6 properly, your spouse shouldn’t have noticed a drastic change in their quality of life. They should have begun to realize that they can live a happy and healthy life AND reach financial freedom, without a great amount of effort on their part. This is where you need to highlight the immediate benefits to compound their general contentment of living a simpler, more frugal life.
Mr. Money Mustache pointed out in his post about this that financial freedom is like developing a muscle. When you stop eating ice cream and start exercising, you immediately benefit through improved health. Financial freedom is no different, you’re just developing a money conscious muscle instead. The more you develop this muscle, the healthier you become and the more you question your former way of life.
The result of this is an immediate reduction in stress and an immediate increase in freedom.
Step 8: Compromise & Don’t be a Ball Breaker
Now your spouse is relatively on board with financial freedom, you might be tempted to dive head first into it. If you don’t harness your emotions you might find yourself becoming an irritable fool looking over the shoulder of your spouse at every turn to make sure they’re not spending money in a wasteful manner. This will only lead to arguments and it could potentially piss off your spouse so much that they give up the goal altogether.
It’s important to give some slack to your spouse, even if that means compromising on your goal. We have introduced an “allowance” or a “fun money” budget for Mrs. Miser to use on anything she wants. I don’t judge her spending here, she can do whatever she likes.
This loosens the reins somewhat, providing some freedom in what might feel like a very constrained world, at least to begin with. One day, if things go really well, your spouse might give up this money altogether (don’t count on it though).
Step 9: Move Onto Bigger Things
Depending on your lifestyle prior to pursuing financial freedom, there could be some big ticket items that need addressing in order to really ramp up your spending. These could be things like cars or rent.
DO NOT address these sensitive subjects until you have the full confidence of your spouse that this goal is a worthwhile endeavor for the whole family. If you move on this too early, you’ll probably just end up scaring your spouse away altogether.
Luckily for me we had already built a relatively frugal lifestyle before I brought up financial freedom. We already rent a fairly affordable apartment (for the area) and only own one car that doesn’t get used much. In terms of big ticket items, we didn’t have too much to worry about so I really only had to focus on the smaller items. Luckily we started earning higher salaries after we were both committed to financial freedom, so we didn’t have to reverse any lifestyle creep like some might need to.
If you time it right, bringing up the big ticket items shouldn’t be too hard. Your spouse should understand the benefits of living a simpler life and might even be the one pushing for this at this stage. If you do meet some resistance, you might have to compromise somehow or just continue making your spouse aware of the benefits. Eventually, one day, they will hopefully get on board with the big things too.
Step 10: Take the Reins
You need to make the whole journey, from bringing up financial freedom to actually achieving it, as easy as possible for your spouse. Unless you totally sell the idea to them and they’re completely on board, this will be your goal and they will just be a budding accomplice on the journey. Do not overburden them with details and analytics if they don’t want to know.
In the Miser household, I do all of the budgeting and tracking of finances, as well as all of the investing. Mrs. Miser doesn’t want to be involved in any of that, all she cares about is reaching the goal and not compromising too much on quality of life on the way there. I’m totally fine with this and for the most part, we don’t even need to discuss much about financial freedom anymore. We’ve crafted the life we need to reach our goal, all I do is monitor our progress and handle all of the investing on the way.
As I mentioned, the journey from never having even heard of financial freedom to being totally on board with it can be a long and delicate one. The key takeaways are:
- Persistence – Make sure they take your goal seriously, don’t allow them to make you question the possibility of it
- Patience/Tact – Don’t scare them off by telling them about all of these ways to reduce spending right away. Ease them in, it might take a while to get to the life you want to live.
- Understanding – Know it won’t be easy for your spouse at first, and they will need some hand-holding on the way.
- Leadership – It’s important you lead by example and take the reins when it comes to the groundwork.
- Positivity – Financial freedom is a wonderful thing. Don’t get bogged down in the details, keep yours and your partners eyes on the prize, both now and in the future.
Ultimately, you might not get your spouse fully on board with the idea. Mrs. Miser is largely willing to support my goal, but she still doesn’t see it as her goal. I’m happy to have a supportive wife, and we’ve managed to craft a life that we are both content with. Could we be more frugal? Of course! There are numerous areas of our life we could still reduce spending, and maybe one day we will, but for now we are both happy and content with the life we have, why would we change that now?