We decided that the follow up to yesterday’s post by DW would best be done in a conversational style. This discussion is best read in the light of yesterday’s post and in particular the comments of that post.
DW: Living with Jacob is an interesting experience. As can be deduced from him having a blog, he’s much more vocal about his ideas than me. But, I am not some weak willed nilly. The parts of our life that follow his ideas are that way because I agreed to his ideas, and I have decided that the changes will also help me to get where/what I want in life. I grew up in a military family with 4 kids (enlisted). We lived paycheck to paycheck. We shopped at goodwill when I was a teenager (got the most beautiful dress there once), and we went garage saling anytime my mother could get us up early enough on a Saturday. So a lot of the idea’s Jacob has introduced into our household aren’t really that foreign. I guess I’m pretty lucky that way, I’m not coming from a totally opposite lifestyle.
Jacob: Conversely, there are parts of our life that follow DW’s ideas (such as owning a car and having a cell phone). Something, which could be a point of confusion especially when considering the many blogs that basically describe people’s current journey to become either debt free or financially independent, is that the things I write about are both about the present post-FI stage as well as the past pre-FI stage. For instance, when I was pre-FI and when DW had CC debt, we only had broadcast TV and we did not have internet at home. Now we have internet and DW has cable. Another difference is that we are keeping our assets split so that I’m FI but DW is not. The combined level of extremeness is not as extreme as what I used to do it on my own. Conversely, the combined level of consumption is no longer on the “average American”-level like DW used to be at.
DW: That said, there were a lot of adjustments from both of us when moving in together. We’d both been on our own and we had specific idea’s about how we were living and Jacob had very specific ideas about where he wanted to go in life e.g. financial independence. I never believed it would be possible for me, so it wasn’t anything I considered. Jacob has helped me realize it is possible and it is really something I want. While I’m not as extreme as he is, I am trying. I am out of debt (not counting student loans, which are being paid on even before I graduate), I can afford to go and buy new clothing (I have lost weight in the last year and finally lost a clothing size) without putting it on the credit card.
Jacob: I estimate that at DW’s level of extremeness it would take 10-12 years for her instead of five. For instance, I get most (not all) of my clothes either for free or 85%+ off, whereas DW “only” gets the regular sales of 30% as far as I can tell. Well, she did get a coat on freecycle.
DW: A side note about our wedding, my only requirement for a wedding was that my parents were there and preferably my siblings. My brother was in Iraq during the wedding, but my sister stood beside me. I got to have a fancy dress, we had a wonderful bbq (my brother-in-law grilled for us). My sister and brother-in-law let us have it in their back yard and they decorated for us. It was a wonderful wedding and exactly what I wanted (except my brother). I actually didn’t want to invite all the friends because the wedding was several states away and I felt horrible thinking about asking them to spend the money to come out, especially when I wanted to focus all my attention on Jacob’s and my families (his parents and sister came for the wedding). We spend under $3500 on the whole thing (including two trips to NYC).
Jacob: Almost half of that amount sits in the engagement ring ;-). Ideally I would have had the wedding at city hall with perhaps just our parents as witnesses. Generally, the larger the social event the more I suffer. More than 4-5 is a crowd. I think I managed to avoid a few aunts and uncles, but I still think 17 was far too many, at least in advance. In retrospect it wasn’t that bad. I still think the rest of the amount was very high compared to what it could have cost (in my country weddings have not gotten that expensive until recently). For instance, the $600 tent rental could have been avoided.
DW: it had been raining and flooding in that part of the state for the whole summer, so my mother wanted to be prepared.
Jacob: If it had rained (it didn’t) we could have moved inside.
On shared expenses…
DW: As Jacob pointed out we share the rent, electric, gas, car and RV insurance, (we payed 1/2 each for the car and RV), groceries, phone, internet, fixtures or household items. Since we do share the expenses we have to agree on the expenses. When I bought my iphone (puppy managed to dump my $30 old one in his water dish), I knew he wouldn’t want that and it was entirely just for me. Therefore, I paid for the iphone and for the extra service that goes with it out of my own money. For the puppy, his rather expensive food (food allergies), antihistamines, and vet costs come out of the joint account. He has a life-time supply of his favorite bones (joint payment), so if I decide to buy other treats, I get those out of my own money. His toys get put in a box and cycled to keep him interested (we actually gave away one box of puppy toys when we moved. There are things I want and chose not to live without, I pay for those things. Jacob pays for those things that he feels the same way about. He suggested the food budget, I agreed because I also want to achieve financial independence, so saving whatever money we can is great.
Jacob: It’s a small dog, so the overall food cost is not that great. I do not understand the point of buying the puppy more toys when he clearly favors his bones and pays about 95% of his attention to those. He used to have two moving boxes full of toys. I don’t have an exact number: 20-40 or so. I think it’s more of a human (grandparent?) thing, wanting to buy toys to see the recipient play happily with it for 10 minutes before he goes back to his favorite. But we’re talking about a dog. BTW that dog also goes to the doctor more often than I do and I do grunt about that but it’s easier not to fight it. I think it’s a European vs American difference in attitude to health care. WRT the cell phone I’m still trying to return DW to a mid 90s way of thinking when the evil so-called indispensable cellphones didn’t exist yet.
On exercise …
DW: I am not as gung-ho as Jacob. I try to be better (because I don’t want to be overweight, I don’t want diabetes like everyone in my family over 55, and I would like to be able to keep up with Jacob going up the side of mountains). I have finally lost some weight and seen a physical reward to increased exercise. Jacob tries to encourage me to be more active, so that I’ll be healthier in the long run and he won’t grow old alone. I have played goalie for his pick-up hockey, don’t think I’m really into it though. I am trying Shinkendo with him, I am really enjoying it so far.
Jacob: This is probably the one thing I have been most vocal about. With my lifestyle, the calculators say that barring genetic effects I’m going to live until I’m 95 and I do expect to be at least fairly vigorous until shortly before the end. Call it selfish on my part but I want to enjoy life with DW until the end even if it means less cookies and more sit ups. If this is oppressive it’s at least oppressive for a good reason.
On the RV…
DW: I liked living in my little rented house with a back yard. Jacob wanted something smaller. He started with the tumbleweed houses and I said no way. He moved on to living on a boat, I let him talk and consider and even read one of the books he got. He luckily moved on, back to the tumbleweed. I was more willing to consider it the second time. We tried to set up a walk through and I checked out all the online videos. Then, luckily for us both, he found out that RVs had everything he wanted, but were a better bargain money-wise, and better set up. I grew up in a manufactured home and had been in RVs before so this idea was more viable to me. And, more importantly, we could go to some of the RV stores and look at the RVs, I could see what is really out there and what it would be like. We worked together to find the RV we have (he compromised to my unwillingness to go under 30 feet), and we decided together on the RV park we live in. I am very comfortable in our new home, I like our neighborhood more than our old neighborhood.
Jacob: Sadly she’s found out that she can often wait out my enthusiasm as I get interested in trying out something else (look, a shiny object!) I think this comes down to a need to understand new concepts in relation to familiar concepts like many people understand other people based on their understanding of themselves. I don’t have so much of that need, as I am and have actively tried to root it out of my system (Munger’s lattice of models approach). DW was the one suggesting that we went to the RV shows. I have wanted to be a “home-owner” for a long time, but there was no way I was going to pay $500k for a $100k house. I was initially gunning for a 26′ RV… we “settled” for 34′, which is considered a big rig.
On marriage and priorities…
DW: Jacob and I are both highly educated and opinionated people. We’ve both made compromises to move our life forward and get what we want out of it. I have no means given up everything in life that makes life worth living and Jacob does not control my every thought and action. We work together, we disagree, we reach compromises. We’re married, we do what works for us.
Jacob: I for one can not understand how cable TV and pugs make life worth living, … well, okay, I can understand the pug a little since he’s so offensively cute. On the other hand I just paid $111 for a bokuto (practice sword) which is essentially a piece of wood, whereas DW is using the free one the dojo provides. What it really comes down to is priorities. In particular since we are a couple we have to mesh two sets of priorities. What we have to do is to find the best way to rank these priorities (one of which is living together in harmony), because obviously we can’t have them all. Some choices have side effects as well. For instance, a $1 snickers is not about the money as much as it is about long term health consequences, not from one bar of chocolate but from the habit of regularly partaking in eating them. The 55F heat experiment (following from an earlier “no heat” experiment I did on my own in 2002) is not about saving $30 a month, although that is helpful to many people and nice for us as well. For us, it is mainly about knowing what to expect if oil spikes to $250 or gas gets rationed. We have the thermostat at 65F right now. $75/person for food is about learning to cook creatively on a budget, so that any limitations do not result in eating only rice. If you can do $75/person/month well, imagine what you can do with $150 which is still not very much by average standards.