Saying No

The hardest part about saving money (or even just living within your means) is saying “no.” In fact, saying “no” may be the hardest thing about being an adult in general, but it is particularly difficult when the reason for your refusal is monetary. Saying, “I don’t have the money,” is a tough thing to admit, so tough that we come up with other ways to say it, prettier reasons. “I don’t have the time” or “I have a previous commitment” feels nicer. “I can’t afford that” elicits pity, a split-second look across someone’s face, and no one is sure what to say after that. “I can’t afford that” is so final.

But I wonder if this white lie keeps money a taboo subject. “I’m sorry but I can’t afford that,” will never sound like a normal answer unless we start to tell the truth. Until we start to be honest about our money, it will feel shameful.

I am defined as much by what I don’t do as what I choose to do because I can’t have everything. Saying “no” means claiming my priorities and living by them, especially when saying “yes” feels like the easy, default answer. Saying “no” more often makes my “yeses” more valuable; when I say “yes” to a suggestion, I really want it and I’m willing to invest in it (time as well as money). I’m willing to make a sacrifice for a “yes” but it is a conscious choice, not the default option.

I had to tell someone “no” today, and I took the easy way out. I claimed familial commitments, when the real reason was money. Familial commitments were a factor, but much further down the list than my real motivation: I could not afford this invitation. And I am glad that I said “no” even though I gave less than the truest answer with my refusal. I live my life through how I spend my money, and I need to live the life I have now, not a life someone else would like for me.

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