Like most people, we sometimes struggle with overspending or overeating (or eating the wrong things). So earlier this year we made a plan to combat those problems. Unfortunately, we didn’t “plan” our plan very well. We set goals and decided on ways to monitor them, but that was about it. We left the actual monitoring on autopilot. I expected him to keep me accountable and he expected the same of me. It didn’t quite work out that way and our progress toward our goals was stagnant. After some trial and error, we decided to try another way to increase accountability for our goals.
The problems we are trying to solve are in an effort to live better.
We’re not perfect. Far from it actually. We overeat, overspend, don’t get enough exercise, and have trouble keeping the house all together sometimes. I think this is a common thing in most families, whether they admit to it or not. Life is busy. SO BUSY. And all of the “should-do” and “hope-to-do” things sometimes get pushed aside. I know when I come home from a long, stressful day, the last thing I want to do is 3 hours worth of chores. I want to eat dinner, relax, play with Zachary, and spend time with Andy. These are, after all, where my priorities lie. I feel pretty confident in assuming you’re not much different.
But we know that sometimes we have to make sacrifices to get what we really want. The short-term gratification of one evening like that does not help me in the future. I want our family to be healthier, more financially sound, and working toward larger long-term goals. Eventually, I want to stay home with Zachary. And we want to live long, healthy lives in which we can keep up with our incredibly active boy. I know too many evenings of keeping ourselves from being accountable for our progress on our goals will damage our ability to achieve that. We both do.
The goals were simple but so difficult.
The goals were simple. Andy and I each set a goal to lose the extra weight we’ve added on over the past several years. I can’t blame Zach for mine. I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight a few months after he was born. It’s all on me. I have to accept responsibility for my poor choices. Too often we chose ease of preparation over healthier options that take longer to prepare. We weren’t making the worst choices but we were far from making the best. The extra weight was starting to affect our health and we need to change.
In addition to the weight we had gained, we had slowly started to be a little more loose with the budget. All of the extra money that should have gone to pay down extra on car and student loans suddenly was vanishing. It wasn’t hard to figure out why.
A stop at Starbucks for a couple of drinks.
Pizza on a Friday night.
A toy Zachary really loved at the store that we just wanted to give him.
A movie that was on sale.
It added up quickly. Several hundred dollars of extra money eaten away with small purchases every month. Extra money that could have been a few extra payments on a loan. That was the plan after all.
Our inability to meet our goals wasn’t because we didn’t have a plan.
We had a plan to solve each problem. We just weren’t sticking to them very well. For our weight loss goals, we have a google doc that we share. We weigh in every pay day and chart our weight. We even added on incentives; if we weren’t at a lower weight than the previous weigh in, we didn’t get our personal spending money that week. But it wasn’t enough. We would each go up and down, sometimes getting the money, sometimes not. Overall, I’m only down 2 lbs since the end of March when we started this! Andy has done a little better at about 10 lbs down in total. But that’s pathetic for 7 months worth of “effort.”
For our budget, we increased the amount of personal spending we were allowed to have. Lots of research had shown me that if you don’t give yourself the ability to spend a little, you’ll end up spending a lot. So we tried to ensure that wasn’t the problem. It doesn’t seem to have helped.
We also tried making it so that we weren’t allowed to stop and make extra purchases. Our budget is set up with specific funds. We have money in a Household fund for purchases that are necessary for normal everyday things that come up like diapers, laundry detergent, or new socks. Then there are other funds like Auto, Medical, and others. The rule was if we bought something it had to come out of some fund. We half-heartedly stuck to that as well.
No matter how we altered the plans, we just had such difficulty sticking to them fully. In order to follow our rules one of us had to tell the other one no. Anyone who’s married knows how difficult that can be, especially if you’re having to do it over and over and over! So we’d let each other slide here and there. Neither of us wanted to be the bad guy all the time.
We decided to try an experiment to see if we could increase accountability for our goals.
Recently, I decided we just can’t continue this way. It’s time to take a hold of this problem once and for all. So I came up with a plan. We’re splitting the responsibility for being the bad guy so that we can increase accountability for each of us on both goals. Here’s how it works.
We have two major goals. Of course, there are other goals besides these two but we’re focusing in on two since there are two of us. Once we get these under control we can expand onto the others. Each of us is in charge of a different thing. I’m responsible for the healthy eating. He’s responsible for the budget.
The rules are simple. If we want to spend money, he’s responsible for being the bad guy ALL THE TIME. If he wants to go out to eat or buy junk food at the grocery store, I’m the bad guy ALL THE TIME. There is to be no argument. If I say no, he can’t argue. If he says no, I can’t argue. Of course, there is a little room for debate sometimes. If either of us can make a reasonable justification, the other is allowed to either agree or put their foot down. If they put their foot down, then the discussion is closed.
Our experiment to increase accountability seems to be working.
Even though we’ve just started I’ve already seen progress. Last week, I told Andy no to eating out. And I got him to eat some fruit with his dinner. And he told me we shouldn’t spend money on a few things. It’s strange, but I’m noticing that these goals suddenly feel easier to get to.
I no longer feel guilty telling him no. I know it’s my job and he’ll tell me no when he needs to, too. Not only do I no longer feel guilty, but I’m starting to see a difference. I’ve lost a pound this week. And we’ve gotten more done this weekend rather than just sitting around watching tv and eating snacks (because there are virtually no snacks to eat). On top of that, we’ve built up a little extra into a fund that’s going to be extra to pay down loans.
I know it’s early, having only started this a week ago, but I am feeling very positive about it. Accountability is something we’ve always struggled with. More so now that we have larger goals. But I think we’re on the right track now that we’ve divided the responsibility. We’ve always shared responsibility in everything in our family, but this is the first time I’ve ever considered that maybe we need to define that responsibility for keeping ourselves accountable. I think it’s going to work.
Look for a monthly check in as I update on the progress of this little experiment and the goals we’re working toward!
Do you have large goals you could split the responsibility for with your spouse? Do you think it would work to increase accountability for you both?
-To your Better Life-