To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a cupboard or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?
For the last few years, my wife and I have been living paycheque to paycheque. I wouldn’t characterize this behavior as irresponsible, or even a complete failure, but rather average.
It’s the norm to operate a household without any financial plan, and we have gotten this far without a zero-based budget. It’s been harrowing, stressful, filled with countless financial “disagreements” — but we have gone the distance!
Calissa and I have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood, wonderful twin boys, and a brand new van to drive them around in. From the outside everything looks good so what’s the problem?
The reality is that although I love to READ about making and managing money, I have had a terrible time implementing any strategies or systems like Dave Ramsey’s course.
First World Problems
I remember a time when we saved up $1000 in an emergency fund and I felt proud of what we’d accomplished. It wasn’t long after that we bought a large screen TV.
Why did we do that?
I wish I could tell you that I had a better excuse for getting off an otherwise healthy financial path, but the road to our financial destruction has been paved with all sorts of well-marketed goods.
Cruises are the largest of these items.
Overspending is one of those habits that needs to be thanked for its service and let go. Permanently.
After many frustrating moments leading up to the initial painful meeting, Calissa FINALLY agreed to come on board with a new financial system called YNAB, which is an acronym for You Need A Budget.
Did we need a change?
Why did it take so long?
Anyone can have a great idea, but what true entrepreneurs have discovered is that the real work is in the implementation. Why was I failing? The system was sound.
The true problem is how I have made my partner feel while delivering the information.
I’m tired of running on the hamster wheel and I want her to understand that, so I press, get frustrated, and then get mad when she doesn’t respond.
Does that approach work?
She resists the idea at every turn.
It doesn’t matter what kind of graphs or cash flow statements I bring to the table, once I push, she shuts down. Even though the benefits of a zero-based budget far outweigh the pain, I get no traction.
On another front, keeping our new house clean and tidy has also been a challenge, so I have been inspired by Marie Kondo to adopt her philosophy and method to address this problem.
Marie Kondo is a slight Japanese woman that developed a powerful system to take control of the orderly state of a household. Her approach can tackle the largest problems and with this method, you can train yourself to make better decisions.
The Konmari Method
Your home gets organized into 5 categories:
- Komono (misc).
- Sentimental Items
Each item is taken out category by category, examined and held. If the item gives you a spark of joy keep it if it doesn’t discard the item. The discarded items are thanked for their service and put to rest.
YNAB allows for all your financial habits to be systematically pulled out and examined category by category. A great follow through after cleaning your financial house is to thank the old ways and habits for their service, and discard them forever, and not to feel guilty about them keeping you average.
With the Konmari Method, your house stays clean and tidy its the same with YNAB. There is nothing quite like returning to a fresh clean house.
Learn From Experience
In a recent podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, Tim asked Marie if there were any mistakes she made that she regretted. The biggest one was when she was younger and still developing her philosophy, she threw out other people’s items without their consent. As you can imagine this created a huge problem and eventually led to a big fight with her parents.
Financial habits cannot be discarded on behalf of someone else. Each member must do their own pushups, and follow through themselves. That’s the only way it will work.
As long as each person remains attached to the old behaviors and spending habits, they will eventually resurface again and both of you will suffer.
No matter how frustrated I am, I don’t agree change can be forced.
Inspiration and Influence
Before I get to how I changed my delivery, why don’t we look at the system I found to clean our financial house. The first step is a simple principle: spend less than you earn and invest the difference.
YNAB teaches you to implement The Four Rules of Budgeting:
- Give Every Dollar a Job.
- Save for a Rainy Day.
- Roll With The Punches.
- Live on Last Month’s Income.
It’s a progression as simple as properly folding your clothes and putting things in order by category.
The Dreaded Budget Meeting
The advice is outstanding but there is one MINOR obstacle to still overcome. How do I share this gold mine with Calissa?
In other words, no matter how sound the idea, or sincere the intentions, if you can’t communicate or negotiate with your spouse, the plan is destined for failure, because you will never get it implemented.
It’s not that I don’t know how to solve the problem, I just get killed when I deliver the message.
Enter The Hostage Negotiator
Christopher Voss is a genius.
I ran across Christopher first during an interview with James Altucher a few months back and was impressed by his story. However, his last interview with Tom Woods has really driven home that I need to read his book called Never Split The Difference.
From listening to Mr. Voss describe negotiation, I know that by trying to get Calissa to accept my ideas, I have made her feel anxious and try to avoid the conversation entirely.
There is a better way.
Here’s an excerpt from Christopher’s Website:
The interesting psychological aspect of accepting the “No” is that it triggers reciprocity. Once people feel that they have protected themselves, they are often more willing to listen. They are not worried about what they have exposed themselves to by making an unintended commitment in saying “Yes.” The voice of worry in their head is not distracting them.
Is it as simple as changing the approach?
Instead of declaring, “This system isn’t working, we need this ___________ .” Maybe it’s wiser to ask, “Is this current system working?”
Pause. Listen, and actually wait for the answer.
A subtle difference. Time will tell whether I can get it to work, but it feels good and hopefully, it will spark joy in both our lives.