How to be persuasive

by Grace aka costofcollege

How to change someone’s mind, according to science

A new paper from researchers at Cornell University sheds some light on how and why people are convinced to change their minds. The researchers analyzed nearly two years of postings on ChangeMyView, a forum on the internet community reddit where posters present an argument and invite people to reason against them….

Their research suggests that the arguments that end up changing people’s minds have certain dynamics. Numbers are important: The more people that try to persuade the original poster, the greater the likelihood of changing their view. So is timing: Those who write back first to the post first are more likely to persuade the original poster than those who write later, as the lefthand chart below shows.

Interestingly, the researchers find that some back-and-forth exchange between participants is a sign of success in convincing someone, but that a lot of it is a sign of failure …

More on this study:

Why are people more persuasive when they use language like “it could be the case”?

A Subreddit Sparked a Scientific Inquiry Into How to Change Someone’s Mind

What do you think?  Have you seen these dynamics play out on this blog or on other online forums?  How does this relate to real life discussions?

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117 thoughts on “How to be persuasive

  1. Redditors are a special subgroup of the population, and the Redditors who participate in this particular forum are even more special. (That came out wrong.) This is a specific group of (probably) mostly young men who are open to having their minds changed. The results aren’t going to apply to the whole population. As someone who taught philosophy for years, I learned early that reasoned arguments rarely change anyone’s mind, even if the arguments are clearly correct.

  2. The first assumption in the study is that the person is open to being persuaded or at least has a willingness to even consider another point of view. I agree that calm language (and in person tone and body language) helps as do nubers and examples. In my job, I have a person who needs decisions provided as concretely as possible, even when the decision is theoritical. With this person, I always use an example or provide a scenario. Once I learned that I got much better decisions.

  3. I learned early that reasoned arguments rarely change anyone’s mind, even if the arguments are clearly correct.

    I don’t think anyone ever changes their base instinctual response to an issue.

    If one were to, I don’t know, throw away their Christmas tree every year lights, ornaments, stand and all and buy anew the next year, some folks are going to be appalled. Now, one could make a compelling case that this is cheaper and more environmentally conscious than living in a McMansion with a full basement and room for various and sundry items of crap. Someone who is appalled may even take that argument to heart and toss the unopened fondue set they got as a wedding gift 20 years ago while cleaning out the basement. But, that initial response of – “OMG, what if I suddenly have a burning desire to fondue? Maybe I can re-gift or sell it on eBay, etc.” never changes. But, you may be able to grudgingly influence the eventual conscious decision process.

  4. Or, another example used vs. new cars. Some people are attached to the idea that new cars are a wasteful indulgence and used cars are the sensible choice even when the math doesn’t agree. You can make the argument that that’s not the case with a 3 year old Accord and they might even buy the new Accord. But, that instinctual idea that it’s a wasteful extravagance won’t leave them.

  5. Rocky,
    for me, the chief PITA factor in selling on ebay was taking the pictures of the stuff and uploading the right photo(s) and also properly categorizing my stuff. But it was my first (few) times out and there’s a learning curve to everything. All in all, it’s pretty easy.

  6. I agree with Rhett – people generally have an initial opinion on everything, regardless of whether it is based on any fact or just gut instinct. I do believe that some people are willing to consider another point of view. But, I think that you generally get incremental changes in perspective vs a wholesale change.

    Take something like k-6 education – I, like most people, assumed that a smaller class size meant more attention per student and likely more individualization. My opinion fell into the party line of “smaller is always better”. Partly based on this assumption, our first school was chosen with an average class size of 15. However, we found that the school was so small that it couldn’t acquire a critical mass of resources (money to purchase books and materials/aides and volunteers) and therefore was actually less individualized than a bigger school. We moved from averages of 15 per class to 22 and found our DDs received more individualization. It seems counterintuitive, but the result was the school had more resources and parents were more likely to volunteer in the classroom as they thought a teacher needed help with 22, but not with *only* 15.
    My position moved from “smaller is always better” to “larger with is sufficient support can be better than smaller”.

  7. I learned early that reasoned arguments rarely change anyone’s mind, even if the arguments are clearly correct.

    I don’t think anyone ever changes their base instinctual response to an issue.

    Hmm, I think it depends on the type of person, maybe as described in the Myers Briggs types.  Some are more instinctual and some are more logical in their decision making.

  8. I think the other question is are you talking about something where a person can hold the same “value” while still being able to hold different opinions? For example, I may just see the car as a means of transportation – new or used is immaterial to me, but I care about reliablity, total cost (including repairs and insurance). In that case, I could easily buy the new Accord vs 3 year old one with no “buyer’s remorse”. But, if I value owning a “luxury” car (new or used) then almost nothing will make me want to own the Honda instead of the Acura.

  9. I agree with the Myers-Briggs comment. As an INTJ, I am considered more open than others to changing my mind based on data. Understanding this helped my relationship with my Mom.

    One of the biggest differences I think I see between conservatives and liberals on the role of government is that liberals assume that government will be competent (at least as competent as the private sector, and likely cheaper due to no quest for profits) and conservatives assume government will be less competent than the private sector. This underlying assumption strongly affects what people believe government should do.

    One of the biggest differences I see on race is age-based. I think opposition to racism has become as normative as opposition to atmospheric nuclear weapons testing and that much of what is now called racism is actually classism. Many of the arguments I read from the Hillary Clinton generation sound like hippies interested in the peace sign debating with the WW I generation. Leading pundits and politicians seem to forget that we are 50 years past the 1960’s.

  10. Rightly or wrongly (and probably the latter, but what the heck) I divide the world into two groups: people who make decisions based on numbers, and people who don’t.

    One ex was able to do multi variable calculus but just didn’t care about numbers; all his decisions were emotional. So what if grad program X cost 2x as much as program Y, in a low-paying field? Program X was cooler. No matter how many times I pointed out the difference in loan payments and similarity of the programs, Ex didn’t care. I think he is now living off the grid in Vermont keeping bees, griping about the payments he hasn’t made in three years and the injustice of the system.

    DH is a numbers man. He wants the new Car, but any way we slice it we would have to spend $20k on the first three years of depreciation. If we buy used, it will be more like $10-$13k. Once I pointed that out, he accepted it.

    Of course some decisions can’t be made on the numbers, or I’d be single and a partner at a law firm….

  11. Sky, a very dedicated engineering student was super-excited by the Kepner-Tregoe decision making process presented in one of my engineering lectures. When he said he would make all his decisions that way, the professor pointed out that some decisions in life have an emotional component, like choosing a spouse.

    People for whom that is a revelation are not good dating material. :)

  12. I can be persuaded about certain things once I’ve changed because of life experience. I am more aware or educated about something. For example, there are many topics that are discussed here and I was not exposed to that yet in my life so I wasn’t persuaded by some of the discussions.

    For example, the third row or minivan for a family with one child. I never thought I needed this when we discussed many years ago, and there probably isn’t much that you could have said to convince me. It would be very easy now because I value certain functions and features over certain brands now that I’ve been driving a child and her friends for more than ten years.

    I really wish (really!!) that I had been persuaded by my aunt and uncle when we bought our first home to buy a home with a larger garage. I think they talked about this endlessly, and we just didn’t get it until the first winter. We would trade so many other features to have a 2 car garage, but as city dwellers – there was nothing they could say to persuade us.

    As I have become wiser with age, I listen more to all of your discussions and to my family. I value more of the experiences that certain people have already lived through, and I am persuaded by their advice or experiences because I know that I can generally trust them even if it is something that is brand new to me.

  13. @ AustinMom. I think it was on the Freakonomics podcast that they dove into the class size issue and found that the ideal ES class size was between 18 and 23 kids. Any larger and it was too big to handle, any smaller and there wasn’t enough critical mass to provide diversity for discussion or groupings. I thought it was really interesting and made sense once you heard the results of the study.

  14. I’m trying to shape my kids’ spousal criteria while they are still so young that I can make them think it was all their own idea, with the goal of inclining them towards partners who are (1) capable of selflessness, (2) numbers-based decision makers, and (3) not insane.

    Of course the first part of that project involves getting them to have those traits themselves….

  15. I think I may need to temper my son’s ardor for numbers-based decision makers, based on the fact that girls who don’t draw their rainbows red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet are drawing them “wrong”.

  16. There were studies done not so long ago that found that when trying to change the minds of misinformed people, giving them correct facts actually made them less likely to change their minds. Depressing.

  17. I have been most successful in persuading someone to change their mind (aside from going over his/her head to a boss) by pointing out an issue they may not have considered and the positive or really negative implications for them, giving them a different perspective. Alternatively, you can appeal to their baser instincts, like greed or laziness.

  18. I have changed my mind on the ‘badness’ of certain things (e.g. drug use that is federally illegal) by having friends who (quite to my surprise at the time!) used that substance and were not bad people. :)

    As for me changing the minds of other people…not sure I have. I am a poor arguer – always think the person disagreeing with me is attacking me personally and then I cry. This is why I am not a litigator. :)

  19. I’m stuck under a sleeping toddler but tempted to write an onion-like Totebag matchmaking service ad: “Have a child who saves money for a rainy day, uses the Oxford comma, and aced BC Calculus? Concerned the future spouse will blow the inheritance on custom sports cars and always eat the whole cookie? Call now to set your son or daughter up with a fellow Totebagger who will appreciate your child’s ability to quote Austen and to recognize Neil Degrasse Tyson at a restaurant on the UWS.”

    DD is also adamant about rainbow order.

  20. I’m not sure about a matchmaking service, but I’m pretty sure Milo’s kids and my kids would enjoy endless jokes from Boys Life on a roadtrip.

  21. I come from a family of pratical people and that extends even to the decision making involved while choosing a spouse. A persuasive tactic that is too emotional sends off warning signals and flashing lights. Instead a pros and cons method is more helpful.

  22. Well, I’d say that it’s a combination of the convincee’s values and decisionmaking process and the convincer’s ability to explain in a way the convincee will hear.

    In the Myers-Briggs world, I started out as an “NF” — I cared about what something meant, and I judged that largely based on my feelings/perception. At that point in my life, I would have been convinced by emotional pleas to fairness or justice. After law school, I shifted to being to an “NT” — I still care about what something means (vs. facts and details), but I was more persuaded by logic and reason, and more able to identify logical flaws in arguments on both sides.

    i think in many cases when people come across as fixed and unpersuadable, it may be partially attributable to just not being able to talk in a way the other will hear. If you are an NF, all the facts and data in the world are meaningless unless it fits together into a larger story that says “this is fair” or “this will help this person more than that will.” OTOH, if you are talking to someone like WCE, you better come armed with facts and research and detail.

    And speaking of WCE: I generally agree with that characterization of the distinction, although I would phrase it somewhat differently. First, it’s not that I trust the government to be competent, it’s more that I distrust that that the profit motive will lead the private sector to good decisions. In a world where Vanguard can be sued for not charging *higher* fees, yeah, no, I’m not going to trust the free market to look out for my interests. So I think government oversight/regulation is a necessary check on untrammeled corporate power and self-interest — call it the lesser of the evils.

    Second, I think the government has one critical obligation that corporations and individuals don’t have: the duty to protect individual constitutional rights against the will of the majority. That is a core part of the government’s charter that is not part of any corporate governing documents (indeed, the Vanguard suit suggests that even trying to look out for the little guy can get you in trouble). State governments should be the first line of defense there (I firmly believe in the 10th Amendment), but they don’t always have great track records, especially on unpopular issues, so you need the feds to step in where necessary.

  23. I spend my entire days persuading people about various things. Children to brush their teeth. Clients to follow my advice. Children to pick up the trail of shoes, backpacks, Gatorade bottles, granola bar wrapper…that follow them everywhere. Husband that we need new garage doors purely for aesthetic reasons. On balance, I’m pretty good at persuasion, but I find constant days of it exhausting.

  24. Off topic… I went to see the orthopedist. I complained about my hurting heel and the fact that my hamstring pain is still present after 9 months – no better, no worse. The orthopedist said, yep, plantar fascitis. I came home with a prescription for orthotics and a big ugly boot for keeping my foot in position while I sleep. She also showed me foot stretches and said they are important. Her opinion is that I need to make the plantar fascitis go away and then get back to running. She thinks I am not helping anything by staying away from running.

  25. For the sort of persuasion Lark’s talking about, giving the message time to settle in is very helpful. I think it’s a technique you hear about for young children, but it works for adults too. Bring it up in an informational way — “if you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, you’ll want to do that before we leave” “I’ve been looking at new garage door options recently” — and let that sit for a while. Then bring it up as a to-do but not an immediate one — “I need you to brush your teeth in the next five minutes before we leave” “I’d like you to take a look at these garage doors I’ve flagged over the next week” — to set it up. Then once the ground is prepared, have the immediate action talk — “Time to leave. Since you haven’t brushed your teeth, do that right now” (this relies on “time to leave” being announced in advance of the real leaving time) “[At a time when you’re both relaxed] Which garage door option did you prefer? No, I don’t think there’s a functional problem with the old ones, this is an aesthetic improvement, but you can see the cost is reasonable and the way they look now bothers me [etc]”

    For political discussions, I don’t really think it’s appropriate to try to change the viewpoints of family and friends. Discussing it is fine, including argumentative discussion, but don’t go at it with the idea that you need to convince the people in your life to have the Correct Views. (That said, I really appreciate my sister-in-law’s efforts in introducing my mother-in-law to Snopes, which is the sort of thing that comes much better from a daughter than a daughter-in-law.) If you want to try your hand at political persuasion. do it in a more public forum. And there I agree with the idea that concrete examples are helpful, and framing your argument in the language of the person you’re trying to persuade rather than what seems natural to you is helpful. And as with the interpersonal type of persuasion, time for people to get used to an idea is very important, but when you’re talking about public policy issues you need time on a longer scale, years rather than days.

  26. @HM — you just described my conversations with DH over the garage, to a T.

    I also don’t really think of the kid nags/discussions as “persuasion” — I’m not trying to convince them that I’m right, I’m just trying to get them out the door before I blow a gasket. In those kinds of discussions, I am more and more resorting to “because I said so” to signal that it is NOT a negotiation and they just need to comply. :-)

    Clients are another issue entirely. . . .

  27. @Ivy — My experience was pre-freakonomics, but what they found totally reflects the experience I had. I think that somewhat ties into what Lauren said – in part you need to have some experience to value certain things. And, specifically to her point – I wished I’d gotten a minivan sooner too!

    Off Topic – Any one see the Audible Deal of the Day?

    Futher Off Topic – I don’t know how elderly people who have no one to advocate/navigate with them/for them make it through the system. My mom’s current skilled nursing facility put me in a panic yesterday. After talking with the therapist, there is no need for immediate panic, but they thought they communicated she COULD do something on her own (and that she understood) and she thought they were reinforcing that she COULD NOT do it on her own. They talked to my mom again – confirmed she didn’t really understand, then I communicated the same thing to her, and now we can see if progress will happen. Today is sort of a test day to see how her understanding impacts her activity.

  28. @ HM, yes, that’s exactly how the garage door discussion goes down. Except you forgot to include a public compliment about Husband’s opinion (once finally obtained), e.g., at supper club mentioning to another person within earshot of DH “We’re thinking about new garage doors – I initially thought about XYZ but DH liked ABC better, and I think he’s right. He has a good eye for that kind of thing.”

  29. I’m trying to think of a home improvement conversation like the garage door one HM scripted above, and I can’t. Does that mean all of our home improvement decisions have been mutual and collaborative rather than one person persuading the other?

  30. ““I’ve been looking at new garage door options recently” — and let that sit for a while.”

    I disagree (although by saying that, I mean that I more or less agree with everything else you said).

    I think this is more of a man/woman thing. When *you guys* say something like “I’ve been looking at new garage door options recently* what you’re trying to say is “I want you to agree that we need new garage doors.” Meanwhile, what I’m hearing is exactly what you said–that you’ve seen some new garage door options recently. What of it? Hell, I might have just been watching Extreme Houseboats and saw an $800k houseboat option recently, that doesn’t mean I want you to start considering us buying it.

    if you want new garage doors, just say you want new garage doors.

  31. @L — maybe it just means you’re young and need to give it time. :-)

    We built an entire house in 6 months without a single conversation like the above. But we’re @2 years in to serious thinking about a garage. . . . Probably because I care a lot more than he does, so pushing off the decision = he gets what he wants, while I’m stepping around careful not to push too hard so we get there in the end.

  32. @ L – Sometimes it is who cares the most. For example, I really don’t care about our solar panels. They are nice to have, but I wouldn’t have done all the research. He gave me the run down, I asked a few questions, but in the end it was really his decision. On the flip side, the upstairs bathroom redo – trying to decide between a few different tiles, he put forth some opinions, but ultimately he said that he rarely goes up there; its the girls and I that use it, so if we are happy, he happy.

    Now, new flooring in the main part of the house will have much more discussion.

  33. I do the same time thing with the kids as HM. I also found that they are most receptive to listening to the schedule for the evening or the next few days or any other reminders when told to them in the morning on the drive to school or walk to bus. I also talk to them one on one in the car, something people mentioned on the Totebag.

  34. Lark -re: the public compliment. Very smooth. 1) I would never think to do that, 2) luckily for me DH does not expect me to do that and 3) my MIL is always doing that. She could sell snow to an Eskimo in a blizzard.

  35. Another useful tool for persuasion — active listening. And expressing someone’s concerns about an issue back to them can be a bridge to explaining why you think your proposal on the issue is still the better one (or who knows, when you better understand the concerns maybe you’ll be persuaded to adjust your own conclusions). It certainly works better than dismissing concerns out of hand.

  36. ATM – that is also how my house works in the morning.

    Milo – I agree with you. Sometimes DH and I would go through a list of the whole house and the wish list for it, and then put them in order, so even that “I would like to have new garage doors” comes up in the context of that prioritizing/itemizing conversation.

  37. HM – how many communications/public speaking courses have you taken? You definitely have it down. ;)

    Active listening for me is up there with the approach take in performance reviews – (fake) positive feedback followed by the real critique. If not done well, it is really obvious what you’re trying to do and can backfire.

  38. I definitely have done the repeating-more-loudly-each-time thing, but I think it’s actually less effective than the early notice – ask with time limit – it’s time do it now approach. It makes me less crazy, at least.

  39. ATM, my mother is very good at that sort of thing and I eventually noticed the techniques she was using on me ^_^.

  40. And you’re right, the key with active listening is to actually try to understand where the person is coming from, not just repeat some magic words you learned in a corporate training.

  41. LfB, I think your government comment on effectiveness and profit may explain some of the rural/urban divide. When Ada was talking about her HMO (which I think is the same HMO my FIL had for cancer), my thought was that HMO’s are great for urban people but the coverage is too limited in rural areas-my FIL had to move from Montana to Washington to get coverage from that HMO. I suspect there are similar rural/urban issues in other areas.

    I tend to think government does a better job of regulating corporations than it does regulating itself. Do you think a corporation with liability for the spill described below would behave differently than the EPA did?
    http://www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9126853/epa-mine-spill-animas

    or do you think the Elk River chemical spill is more characteristic of corporations?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Elk_River_chemical_spill

  42. “Active listening” — I dunno, sometimes it really is fake it till you make it. At work, when I am dealing with linear detail-type people who distrust my leap-to-the-conclusion style, I make it a point to ask clarifying questions and do all of that “so are you saying that . . . ” stuff, because they need to have the impression that I am pondering and and considering every detail, even when I already know the answer.

    And at home, DH tends to go silent/grumpy when things are going badly, so I have to do those same things to pull out of him what’s wrong and generally keep the conversation going beyond “how’s your day?” “it sucked.”

    ITA that it feels fake, because it is not my natural approach. But it does actually work.

  43. WCE,

    Why is it either or? Wouldn’t most people think that certain tasks are best left to the government, some to private industry and some to a combination of public and private industry and you need to evaluate each on a case by case basis?

  44. LFB – I think I’m just bad at it, which is why it feels so fake (and exhausting).

    HM – re the kids – We really haven’t found one technique that consistently works. It seems completely random. I also think there is a difference between being loud versus true yelling. We’ve tried it all.

  45. “I tend to think government does a better job of regulating corporations than it does regulating itself.”

    This I 100% agree with. It’s much, much easier to tell other people what to do than do it yourself. IIRC, there is a pretty long history of various gov’t agencies trying to foist their own cleanup responsibility on private industry.

    But my initial point was about the government as regulator vs. government as market participant. I don’t think the government is any better than private industry at *doing* the cleanups. But we do need Congress/EPA/etc. to create the laws and regs that prohibit these kinds of discharges in the first place and require an appropriate cleanup when they happen. Otherwise, the whole west looks like Silverton, and no one has the authority to require protective measures to prevent the contamination, and no one is responsible for any cleanup.

    But even reading that article, don’t the companies come out looking worse than EPA? First you had decades of contamination from unregulated mining activities from before there even was an EPA. Then you have decades of regulated companies doing crappy jobs to close/clean up their mines and causing leaks/spills/fish kills. Then you have those same companies going out of business, leaving no one there to handle cleanup at all, and forcing EPA to step in. Yeah, they did a crap job, but they didn’t cause the original problem, and it’s not like all of the companies before them did any better (if they had, EPA wouldn’t even have been there to screw it up).

    So do I think a private company would behave differently than EPA? Yeah, absolutely. A good company would have a whole compliance organization that would have been on it immediately. OTOH, I think the history here shows what companies do all-too-frequently: declare bankruptcy, walk away, and leave everyone else holding the bag.

  46. For kids, the key at my house was eye contact. If they had to stop and look at me, they heard what I was saying. Otherwise, I was just Charlie Brown’s teacher.

    On the difference between faith in government and faith in private enterprise, I find that those who are more likely to favor a totally free market approach view corporations as inherently honest, vs keeping a permanent thumb on the scale.

  47. The trick to the public compliment is it has to be sincere. Assuming you really mean it, though, it can be a very solid way to cement a course of action you are advocating for.

    if you want new garage doors, just say you want new garage doors
    Oh, absolutely. Only I will do so after I’ve laid all the other ground work. It’s all about the exposure theory – multiple exposures to something increases the likliehood of it being accepted. So if I’ve generally talked about garage doors in a low key way for 6 weeks (6 months? Depends on what the subject is) once I announce I actually want it, it’s perceived as more reasonable then out of the blue announcing I want to replace perfectly good doors with prettier ones.

  48. Rocky – Selling on ebay isn’t difficult. But there is a learning curve about setting prices, specifying as is and no returns for inexpensive items and setting the shipping cost and insurance in a way that satisfies ebay, and also you have to be able to take a well lighted picture. But what you have to ask yourself is why you are selling on ebay. If it is a business, you usually have a garage or shed on your property to store the stuff as you pick it up from estate and rummage sales, and a simple photo booth and mailing area set up, and a well worn path the to post office. If you are divesting of a personal collection, you are simply trying to get back some of the money you spent over the years, and if your collecting was shrewd and timely, to make a profit. If it is simply an electronic yard sale or flea market, you have to decide whether you are the sort of person who cannot throw something out if it “still has life in it” and has resorted to ebay to dispose of all the stuff that didn’t move at your home or church rummage sale and that the charities simply don’t want as a donation.

  49. I am glad that I don’t have to have advance agreement for any sort of buying decision, with the possible exception of vacation – destination and timing. I would be exhausted by having to spend several months establishing consensus to replace a storm door or new major appliance. There are plenty of non financial areas where daily compromise/cooperation is required.

    As for trying to convince anyone to change his/her mind, I don’t see the point.

  50. WCE,

    I think the government issue is in someways similar to the car buying issue. In some cases, depending on one’s situation and the deal available, buying new is the best option. In other cases buying used is the best option, other times leasing is best. But, for whatever reason, some people become overly attached to one option beyond what can be justified by logic or experience.

  51. f one were to, I don’t know, throw away their Christmas tree every year lights, ornaments, stand and all and buy anew the next year, some folks are going to be appalled. Now, one could make a compelling case that this is cheaper and more environmentally conscious than living in a McMansion with a full basement and room for various and sundry items of crap.

    Except there’s a huge in-between area here. Having a house big enough to store Christmas decorations doesn’t automatically mean it’s a McMansion with a ton of extra space you don’t need.

  52. I am glad that I don’t have to have advance agreement for any sort of buying decision, with the possible exception of vacation – destination and timing. I would be exhausted by having to spend several months establishing consensus to replace a storm door or new major appliance. There are plenty of non financial areas where daily compromise/cooperation is required.

    Meme, I’m with you. The processes people are describing for what they go through to get their spouse to agree on things seems completely exhausting. I can’t imagine having to go through that all the time.

    As for trying to convince anyone to change his/her mind, I don’t see the point.

    Generally I agree, but sometimes I can see the importance of it.

  53. Rocky – Selling on ebay isn’t difficult. But there is a learning curve about setting prices, specifying as is and no returns for inexpensive items and setting the shipping cost and insurance in a way that satisfies ebay, and also you have to be able to take a well lighted picture. But what you have to ask yourself is why you are selling on ebay. If it is a business, you usually have a garage or shed on your property to store the stuff as you pick it up from estate and rummage sales, and a simple photo booth and mailing area set up, and a well worn path the to post office. If you are divesting of a personal collection, you are simply trying to get back some of the money you spent over the years, and if your collecting was shrewd and timely, to make a profit. If it is simply an electronic yard sale or flea market, you have to decide whether you are the sort of person who cannot throw something out if it “still has life in it” and has resorted to ebay to dispose of all the stuff that didn’t move at your home or church rummage sale and that the charities simply don’t want as a donation.

    Interesting how people read into things so differently. I just read Rocky’s question as her friend just has something (or a few things) she wants to unload, not the he/she is looking to start a business. And I also assumed that the person has already done a reasonable evaluation and determined the items would have a reasonable chance of selling.

    Depending on what the person is looking to sell, I would suggest trying Craigslist first.

  54. RMS,

    If you have some spare time and you want to explore the human condition, I say sell it on Craig’s List. I’ve sold three things and in 66% of the cases it was an experience. Not bad or dangerous in any way… just…an experience.

  55. Well, crap. We just got outbid on our house in Santa Cruz. We offered $8K over asking but another offer came in so high that the seller didn’t even ask for counters from the other bidders. Meanwhile I watch HGTV and see people agonizing over $300K houses in Florida. Why can’t I want to vacation somewhere cheap? Stupid friends all over the Bay Area. Stupid nostalgia for my youth.

  56. Ha, Rhett, I think I’ve seen a fair amount of the human condition. I don’t need craig’s list for that. I have the library.

  57. Sky, I love your matchmaking idea. My kids have very decided music/book/movie opinions and woe betide a potential match who does not pick up on their Godfather quotes. DS has a new long-distance girlfriend and after a recent Skype session he RAN to tell me, “Mom, she knows about the Church Mice books!!!!!” He had never dared to hope of finding someone familiar with Arthur, Humphrey, and Sampson. I should make a list of desirable qualities in case this match doesn’t work out.

  58. my friends aren’t there.

    You live in Denver. You’ll have a three bedroom house in Mexico. You’ll make new friends*.

    * as the old saying goes. “Until I bought the beach house, I had no idea how many friends I had.”

  59. So it sounds like several of you would be cool with your spouse arranging to spend a few thousand dollars replacing the garage doors (or similar item) without prior discussion? That’s interesting. For me, any decisions involving that amount of money or involving permanent changes to our house are decisions I’d assume we both would need to be on board with before moving forward. (We don’t actually have garage doors, although I suppose we could install them and frame in a door in the side passage and then have a garage instead of an enclosed carport.)

  60. I’m with HM. If DH decides he wants a new garage door, I’m unlikely to argue, but I do expect him to run it past me first.

    There are occasional exceptions. There is a family story about my MIL’s car breaking down for the umpteenth time, and my FIL was on a 10-day camping trip. MIL lost her temper (so the story goes) and stomped out and bought a new Buick. This is exactly what FIL would have approved — they were Buick people — but the fact that MIL did it by herself was radical.

  61. spend a few thousand dollars replacing the garage doors

    Garage doors are way more expensive than I would have thought.

  62. HM – exactly! When I would say “do you want X for lunch?” and he would answer “ok”, then act appalled when I called him to the table because he HATES X, I clued in that he learned that “ok” was the answer that got me to stop talking.

  63. I’d say we’re somewhere in the middle. If it’s a necessity, like a furnace replacement, I’d spend it without feeling like I need to get buy-in. Same applies if it’s something we’ve more or less mentioned in the past, like the different options for boat slips.

    But for something entirely unnecessary and cosmetic, like garage doors, I’d consult with and expect to be consulted by DW. (Rhett – there’s a wide range of garage doors. We have fairly basic white aluminum ones, but they do have windows. And it’s side-entry, anyway.)

  64. “So it sounds like several of you would be cool with your spouse arranging to spend a few thousand dollars replacing the garage doors (or similar item) without prior discussion?”

    Depends. If it’s woodworking or wine, DH knows he has my general authorization to get whatever; if it’s something that I would care about, like home improvements, I would expect him to consult me first. But more from the “I care about that and want input” vs. “is it ok to spend the $.”

    But it’s also easy to not care when we take savings out first and keep sufficient $ in our checking account to cover those kinds of occasional splurges.

    Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s easier for me not to get worked up over what I would consider stupid/unnecessary spending when I don’t look too closely. :-)

  65. Rhett and LfB, I’ve spent the last month trying to develop a good plan to keep my employer in compliance with our VOC emission permit with the DEQ, given my new equipment. I agree that laws for environmental protection are necessary, but given the challenges of changing our ~20 year old VOC permit, I think a pollution credit system (the conservative approach) would be much better for the economy and the environment.

    We can’t manufacture stuff (fill in many kinds of stuff here) without VOC’s but it mostly matters what the total environmental VOC load is, not which company puts out how much. When, due to our low volumes for development, it costs us $100/lb to abate VOC’s and it costs the large company up the road $1/lb to abate VOC’s, it would make sense for us to buy credits and for them to spend a bit more on a larger, more efficient system. And tying in with my debate with Rhett about what an optimal blood lead level should be, what is an optimal VOC level? My company has outsourced most production to SE Asia, where they can spew all the VOC’s they want at no extra costs and have no health costs for workers housed in dormitories. Traditional accounting principles don’t seem to consider environmental costs in different jurisdictions in the same way they consider, for example, tax rates.

    And we appear to be laying off our environmental compliance people with no/minimal path forward, a concern that has my 4th level manager in meetings. I’ve been working hard to get information before they go, because I am strategically lazy, and information will be much harder to get once they’re gone.

    Based on my experience with Dow and DuPont, I agree with LfB about small companies that go under and leave the EPA holding the bag, but I think large chemical companies are actually better about avoiding problems than the EPA, due to continuous improvement focus and history. For example, the chlorosilane plant I worked at was 8 miles out of town, because chlorosilane manufacturing is inherently unsafe. You should not do it in Manhattan.

  66. I think a pollution credit system (the conservative approach) would be much better for the economy and the environment.

    Sounds fine to me. But why lable it “the conservative approach” (which it doesn’t seem to be in practice) rather than the best approach? If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t, who cares whose idea it was?

  67. No prior discussion required in the Cat household for garage doors. This is something that would never cross my mind to buy or care about but my husband would love to pick out. We have very distinct zones of influence/control and rarely do things cross-over that require unanimous consent. Some furniture/decor items. That’s probably about it.

  68. There is a difference between coming home from a business trip and finding out that your spouse spent several thousand replacing the functional but decrepit garage doors without prior discussion on expenditure or style, and treating the process as an important give and take matter of intra-couple negotiation/wheedling over several months. If the garage doors have risen to the top of the list of items than must be fixed for one member of the couple, it seems normal that he or she would say the following, it’s time to get the garage doors replaced, and xyz company is having a preseason special this month. The house repair fund is in good shape. Here are a couple of styles and price points. I’ll make the arrangements and work from home on install day. Which do you like best? The only marital issue I would consider is whether doing this would further delay a long standing top of list item for the other party.

  69. Rhett, I suppose I called it the conservative approach because it creates a market that responds to changes and incentives rather than using lobbyists and regulators to make choices. Why do we regulate washers and CFL light bulbs rather than charging a tax on washers without certain water efficiency characteristics or light bulbs less than a particular efficiency, which affects the availability of new technologies like LED or quantum dots?

    As far as I can tell, it’s because some people love to regulate other people’s lives.

  70. “And we appear to be laying off our environmental compliance people with no/minimal path forward, a concern that has my 4th level manager in meetings. I’ve been working hard to get information before they go, because I am strategically lazy, and information will be much harder to get once they’re gone.”

    Perhaps you can hire one of them as a consultant.

    BTW, I agree with you on cap and trade. However, I believe that was just repealed in Australia– do you know why?

  71. @WCE: I think it depends on whether there are localized vs. national/international concerns. A trading program works best when spread over a large area, so you can get a lot of players in the game — but that also means you need to be talking about pollutants with long-range impacts. If you tried to trade, say, lead “credits,” you can end up with local hot spots when a whole bunch of people in the same area decide to buy instead of sell, and therefore create the very kind of health impact they are supposed to be avoiding.

    I think VOCs are largely regulated because they contribute to making ozone. So in your case, I don’t think they’d go for VOC trading, because you could increase local ozone levels and get into that hot spot issue. And if the impact of those restrictions is to outsource VOC production to China, that’s a net positive for the US environmental angle, because VOCs/ozone are not going to drift all the way across the Pacific (i.e., you’re “outsourcing” the health effects along with the manufacturing). (It’s obviously way worse for the people in China, but from both the company and the EPA perspective, it’s entirely logical, because each improves their position).

    OTOH, greenhouse gases are completely and logically regulated through a trading program, because no one has identified any localized impacts from high GHG levels — they are regulated for their global impact. So if we get so amped up here over about GHG emissions that we ban coal burning and wood burning and end up shipping all those resources to China, that’s a net negative, because they have so much worse environmental controls and energy efficiency standards than we do, so they are going to burn more and emit more than we would here.

  72. As far as I can tell, it’s because some people love to regulate other people’s lives.

    Hence your opposition to drug legalization.

    What you seem to be arguing for is a technocracy. Do we have a problem? Yes. OK, what’s the most efficient way to solve said problem*. With the “what’s the most efficient way” based on facts and data and not on ideology.

    * from what I gather you’re not opposed to the NHS concept of a quality adjusted life year.

  73. “Why do we regulate washers and CFL light bulbs rather than charging a tax on washers without certain water efficiency characteristics or light bulbs less than a particular efficiency, which affects the availability of new technologies like LED or quantum dots?”

    Because “tax” is a four-letter word to the same conservatives who supposedly favor market-based approaches? Especially as applied to energy efficiency and other “green”/”lefty” kinds of priorities?

  74. Off topic – I saw the movie Brooklyn (recall reading the book a while ago). I was transported back twenty plus years and got very emotional watching it.
    RMS – In the same vein as the movie, you cannot go back in time and home again. Hopefully a house will come your way and you will be happy with all it brings.

  75. There is a difference between coming home from a business trip and finding out that your spouse spent several thousand replacing the functional but decrepit garage doors without prior discussion on expenditure or style, and treating the process as an important give and take matter of intra-couple negotiation/wheedling over several months.

    Yes, this.

  76. Finn, for the past four years, people who are laid off or early retired (mostly) haven’t been able to return as contractors/consultants. The corporation wants to increase the percentage of contractors to have a more flexible workforce, but that model only works in populous areas, IMHO. No one wants to work for 6-12 months on a project here and then uproot his/her family to move elsewhere. Moving production to SE Asia hasn’t produced as much cost savings as hoped, due to increasing wages there and quality issues, especially when trying to implement product changes. It isn’t clear to me- and I think it isn’t clear to upper management- whether they should try to keep a major US site long term or outsource everything to Asia, quality be damned.

    LfB and Rhett bring up some good points about the trade-offs between libertarianism and paternalism. I think some conservatives reflexively oppose tax increases because they see every tax increase as an expansion of government. The gas tax should probably be higher, for example, so that highway improvements are adequately funded, and now would be a good time to raise it.

    By having a low tax burden among developed countries, the US encourages employment but middle class and above people support programs for the poor (Medicaid, Pell Grants) that they don’t benefit from. I don’t know how true that is in Europe, where universities are less expensive and more selective.The US is a heterogenous country and one of the reasons we are able to integrate immigrants so well is our moderate level of government. In Scandinavia, in contrast, I think employment is more dependent on cultural norms, not financial benefit, and so you have certain immigrants who are likely to remain unemployed, subsidized by social programs.

    LfB makes a good point about a national pollution credit scheme creating geographic pollution hot spots. A clean environment is an expensive public good, and rich people can afford to pay more for a clean environment than poor people. There is a lot of natural geographic variation in particular pollutants (radon, heavy metals, etc.), and poor communities would be willing to tolerate more pollution from manufacturing than rich communities because of the jobs associated with manufacturing. I’m not sure what would happen to the market for pollution credits around Cape Cod vs. around Akron. We already have a world in which dirty industry tends to be located in poorer areas.

    Rhett, I think I’m mostly a technocrat. I perhaps see different externalities than you do- when you mentioned drug use (and, on another day, promiscuity), I thought of the Hepatitis C outbreak in Indiana/Kentucky. I don’t really care if people use drugs, but I don’t want to pay for their liver transplants/expensive medications nor do I want them to neglect their kids because they’re strung out on meth, which is the local problem. I definitely think QALY is a good way to allocate resources. If we had government healthcare where individuals had the option to buy more/better services, like Germany, Japan and Switzerland, (vs. Canada where healthcare is allocated by queueing), I would support a basic, actuarially sound government healthcare option. Based on the data actuaries are providing to state health insurance regulators and the general failure of the health coops that received loans under the Affordable Care Act, I’m not convinced anyone associated with government healthcare is serious about the trade-offs necessary to create a financially viable program.

  77. “I think some conservatives reflexively oppose tax increases because they see every tax increase as an expansion of government. ” — That could describe me. :)

    Whatever it is, I’m Against It

  78. Well I probably gave a poor example with garage doors, because there’s apparently wide variation in how people view them and the cost of them, but in my personal case, we have perfectly acceptable, entirely functional garage doors. I want to replace them purely for aesthetic reasons, to improve the curb appeal of the house, along with some other landscaping and exterior projects. The total cost of the projects came to $10,000 (garage doors are $5500 of that) – a detail I share only to illustrate why it would be important to me to have DH fully on board spending that kind of money.

    So, in line with the original topic, this is the kind of thing that takes some persuasion. Would DH ever initiate this project? No way – he just doesn’t care enough. And if I just sprung it on him, he would definitely have some initial resistance. But I have talked over the few months about wanting to really make progress on these projects, mentioned I was actively setting aside the money, and pointed out to him some other houses in our neighborhood with similar details. By the time I said this month, you know, I really want to go ahead and pull the trigger, would you please look at these three options I’ve narrowed it down to, he was fine with it.

    [As an aside, I will say these projects have totally transformed the exterior of our house and I am thrilled every time I pull up. Even DH, who never, ever would have prioritized any of this, said – I had no idea what a difference it would make.]

    I have to assume that for projects of similar scope, Denver Dad, Meme, and other would also want buy in from your spouse (or your spouse would want buy in from you). But maybe not – certainly relationships are different!

  79. By having a low tax burden among developed countries, the US encourages employment

    Labor force participation rate:

    Sweden 64%
    Denmark 63%
    U.S. 62%
    Germany 60%

    The percentage of foreign born in Sweden. 14.7, Denmark 8%, Germany 12.9% vs 9.7% in the US.

  80. @WCE: I wish more people were as thoughtful and logical, because I think we’d have much better regulation. The problem as I see it is that “tax increase” is a four-letter litmus test for most Republicans, and government support for energy efficiency for some reason seems to be close behind. So when do we end up regulating energy and environmental concerns? When the Democrats are in power. And the Democrats tend to distrust unfettered free markets, because they think the rich will game the system to buy their way out of everything and leave the poor to deal with the consequences. So you end up with either no improvements at all (when the Republicans are in power), or top-down, prescriptive, not-cost-effective command-and-control requirements (when the Democrats are in power).

    In short, our political polarization makes for some pretty poor policy, because everyone would rather score points yelling about the other side’s intransigence/unworkable solutions than try to cooperate to make something that works.

  81. Big expenditures thread…I think Meme at 814 nailed it. I have two (mental*) lists of stuff that needs to be done and nice to have:
    Needs, near term: refurb/replace: gutters, deck (really, some boards are showing signs of rot), furnace/ac, double hung windows (but these will not get done this year)
    Needs, beyond this year: roof
    Nice to haves: front landscaping, fridge, bathroom updates (both), living room couches, most/all wallpaper.

    I mentioned the gutters this past weekend after seeing leaks/overflows from the melting snow and DW said “and a new roof” so clearly that’s higher on her list than other stuff.

    *since here is the only place I have written them, they are still mental lists.

  82. I’m dealing with regulators right now, and they’re fuck1ng idiots. We’re sitting in a meeting where their whole argument boils down to “even though our published and endorsed guidance says X, that was only intended for a different scenario, and so it’s not what we meant.”

  83. Off topic, and on the matter of the Duggars: DD and I watched the 1st 2 episodes of “Jessa and Jill” last night and were surprised and impressed by how candid the two girls, as well as some of the boys, a few other girls and even Anna, were about Josh’s issues. They were all very much espousing family above all, forgiveness, etc, but they were also quite clear about their unhappiness about his “betrayal,” his “double life,” his “hypocrisy,” etc. John David said, “The hardest thing I’ve had to do was tell my older brother, ‘I don’t want to be like you anymore.'” Pretty amazing to see.

  84. Risley – We watched all those, too. I agree with what you said.

    Josh seems to be taking his sweet a$$ time in “rehab.” Either he’s in no rush to get home, or they’re not in any rush to have him back.

  85. Rhett, Sweden has a higher labor force participation rate among mothers of young children than the US does and lower among immigrants. You can’t just look at percentage of immigrants and labor force participation rate.

    “Nevertheless, high unemployment rates have disproportionately affected immigrant communities in Sweden. In 2009-10, Sweden had the highest gap between native and immigrant employment rates among OECD countries. Approximately 63 percent of immigrants were employed compared to 76 percent of the native-born population. This 13 percentage-point gap is significantly greater than the OECD average of about 3 percentage points.”

  86. WCE,

    None the less, your theory that low taxes encourages employment doesn’t seem to hold up all that well.

  87. Milo – agree. I expect he wants to come back as little as they want to have him. Snow day here, so we’re watching Jessa in labor right now …

  88. LfB, I admit that one thought I left out for my long post was, “Some people want a clean environment, but they don’t like it when the Koch Brothers buy virtually all the chloroethylene credits, driving out poor and minority immigrant dry cleaning businesses, because it doesn’t seem “fair” for the Koch Brothers to have so much power.”

    I have similar thoughts about the regressive nature about a carbon tax- poor people in rural areas who have poorly insulated houses and have to drive long distances to work will be hit hardest. Some people will advocate for a carbon tax, have these consequences pointed out to them, and then complain about how it “harms the poor.”

    On the bright side, it looks like even the Democrats are finally recognizing the unintended consequences in the student loan forgiveness program.

  89. I have to assume that for projects of similar scope, Denver Dad, Meme, and other would also want buy in from your spouse (or your spouse would want buy in from you).

    Of course. But neither of us would have to spend months carefully laying the groundwork in preparation for having a negotiation about it, and try to find the opportune times to publicly praise the other person for their acumen in picking out the perfect garage door.

    When we decided to get new siding for the house about 5 years ago, the conversation was something like this:

    “We really need to get the house painted.”
    “We might be better off just getting siding. Probably won’t cost much more and will last a lot longer.”
    “Good idea.”
    “I’ll get some estimates.”

    Then as we’re in the process of getting bids..
    “We should see about getting insulation pumped in. This is our shot to do it.”
    “Good idea. Get some prices.”

    Then when they are starting to put up the siding, after the insulation was pumped in..
    “You know, the old garage door is going to look like crap with brand new siding.”
    “You’re right. I’ll make some calls.”

    The whole thing from the initial conversation to completion was about two months.

  90. The total cost of the projects came to $10,000 (garage doors are $5500 of that)

    How many garage doors did you get for that kind of money? Ours was about $1,000.

  91. Lark – I totally get it. A $10K home project would require quite a bit of discussion and planning in our household, and I am surprised that it wouldn’t for others, even if some here are wealthier than us. I also agree with Meme that there is a wide range between orchestrating a long persuasive argument and spending $10K while someone is on a trip.

    Over the past few years, we’ve replaced both our furnace and our air conditioner. We discussed those quite a bit too. Not in a “persuasive” way. But we discussed whether or not we should be proactive or try to get another year out of each of them, when to time it for the best discount, which model to buy (energy efficiency vs upfront cost trade off), whether we should just go through the Costco program or try to find a better deal, etc. We don’t spend $5000 on a household item without discussion. It doesn’t always involve a lot of debate, but definitely discussion. I would be unbelievably irate if DH bought a furnace without any discussion at all.

  92. Rhett, maybe I should have phrased it that “take home pay” affects employment. When people who are considering employment ask me about what I take home, after taxes and childcare, they usually choose to remain unemployed. Sweden has heavily subsidized, high quality childcare. The US has unsubsidized childcare paid with after-tax dollars after the first ~$5k. Big difference for parents of young children.

  93. I have similar thoughts about the regressive nature about a carbon tax- poor people in rural areas who have poorly insulated houses and have to drive long distances to work will be hit hardest.

    But, their housing costs are very low. I’m surprised you think the rural poor should be protected from their lifestyle choices but others shouldn’t be.

  94. Rhett, I wouldn’t support immediate elimination of Section 8 vouchers either. I’m not in favor of policies for either the rural or urban poor that would suddenly disrupt their lives.

  95. We don’t spend $5000 on a household item without discussion. It doesn’t always involve a lot of debate, but definitely discussion. I would be unbelievably irate if DH bought a furnace without any discussion at all.

    Right. I was responding to the people who said that the only way they can get their spouse to agree on a big project is to spend months laying groundwork and setting them up before they can even have the discussion.

  96. “And the Democrats tend to distrust unfettered free markets, because they think the rich will game the system to buy their way out of everything and leave the poor to deal with the consequences. ”

    I think that both Democrats and Republicans (and other thinking people) assume the rich will game the system. For example, estate tax, if you have over $10 million in assets, you can pay for the lawyers and accountants to structure your estate so that the tax paid is minimal, e.g. the Kennedys.

  97. I would be unbelievably irate if DH bought a furnace without any discussion at all.

    You leave for work and notice it’s cold. “Honey, can you see what’s up with the heat?” He checks…furnace isn’t working. He calls the furnace guy. “It’s totally shot. If it were up to me I’d get a new one.” “What do you suggest….” Done.

    It’s not like he’s a furnace aficionado and you have a basement full of furnaces.

  98. Denver – I think the difference is when one partner wants to spend on a particular item an amount of money that significantly exceeds what the other would consider normal, customary, sensible, and prudent.

  99. “It’s not like he’s a furnace aficionado and you have a basement full of furnaces.”

    I agree. Just get it done. I’m more than capable of coming up with an economically optimized plan for HVAC repair. Going along with what I said to Denver, I think the key here is that DW and I share similar values, so we can trust each other that one is not going to go off the rails and spend an exorbitant amount for energy efficiency that doesn’t have an acceptable ROI. There’s probably a parallel there to garage doors.

    At the same time, I think from the beginning of our relationship, we’re pretty good about granting some leeway when the other person wants to splurge (i.e., boat), with the understanding that they wouldn’t be buying it otherwise.

  100. And in that broken furnace situation, he wouldn’t be keeping me updated via phone or text of what is going on with the furnace guy? Again – the conversation might be more like DD’s examples, but it’s not like he wouldn’t tell me that we are bought a new furnace until I show up at home for dinner.

  101. Probably because we’ve been together so long and for other reasons, my H’s attitude towards major purchases is mainly ‘get-r-done’. I’ve been a SAHP many years and have assumed the role of managing large purchases. Sometimes I want more input, but usually he doesn’t really want to get involved until the final decision when he mostly agrees to my choice. Our car purchase was like that.

    I should use more finesse in gaining buy-in among some close family members on other matters sometimes.

  102. “he wouldn’t be keeping me updated via phone or text of what is going on with the furnace guy?”

    You would be irate if he didn’t? Why?

  103. “I’ve been a SAHP many years and have assumed the role of managing large purchases.”

    Not for their current house, but for the previous one, where DW went to high school, FIL never saw their new house until after closing. He was busy and they were moving more than a plane ride away, so MIL just handled it.

  104. I would prefer my husband just handle the furnace purchase without involving me. Just tell me if I need to be there to let them in to work and how they are expecting payment.

  105. Dh and I discuss purchases much cheaper than Lark’s $10K landscaping project. The only thing we don’t discuss in advance is clothes, food, and sports equipment.

    If it involves the house, both of us are involved in the prioritization/selection process. I think it’s disrespectful not to give your spouse a say. Even if they are content to let you choose, they should be given the opportunity to say so. DH and I prioritize home improvements differently, so moving forward on things sometimes takes a bit of discussion.

  106. “I’m dealing with regulators right now, and they’re fuck1ng idiots. We’re sitting in a meeting where their whole argument boils down to “even though our published and endorsed guidance says X, that was only intended for a different scenario, and so it’s not what we meant.””

    Welcome to my world! Every. Effing. Day. I call it the “LfB Permanent Employment Act.”

  107. Milo, I agree that the key is DW and I have similar values in this regard. My last big splurge that DW was against was when we upgraded to HDTV about 10 years ago. DW was opposed initially but it was just a reasonable discussion about where the money was coming from and how we’d still have other upcoming expenses covered, and she was fine. I didn’t need to spend months telling people how DW picked out an awesome TV and a great surround sound system.

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