Finances & Money

Ways to Save #11: Learn to Say NO!

This is part eleven of the Ways to Save Money Series.

Growing up, many of us in the Gen-X and Y generations, and even the Baby Boomers, were taught that “the world is yours” and “you are different, unique, and valuable”. While I agree that recognizing your identity, your strengths and your weaknesses is very important and crucial to maturity, the idea that each of us is entitled to whatever we want in this world goes a bit too far. Unfortunately, this entitlement has pervaded our own sense of identity to the point that we’re passing it onto the next generation(s).

How does this sense of entitlement manifest itself in us and our children? Through the inability to say NO!

If you’re a parent, how many times do you give in to your child’s demands for a toy, for food, to sleep in your bed, to go on a trip, etc.? Do you find yourself rationalizing and reasoning about why your child deserves it? Honestly, if you truly think your child is God’s gift to this world, you’re probably not actually reading this. You’re probably too busy figuring out how to pay the minimum balance on your credit card for all that crap you just bought your kid.

But as I hinted, this isn’t just a problem for parents. “Saying No” is a problem for many of us. Some of us are just too nice, or are afraid of offending others, so we say yes to expensive lunches or pitching in for gifts for coworkers when we don’t even know the person. We don’t want our kids to hate us. We feel guilty about saying No.

For others, we can’t say no to ourselves. I’m not a psychologist, but I AM a spender myself, and I can say that spending is much more emotionally than logically driven. For instance, I want an iPod. I’m an impulsive buyer, and the only reason I’ve said no so far is fear of recession and just plain cheapness. Every morning I see people enjoying their music on the train and at work, and I have to fight the urge to just order one online.

The Secret to Saying No

Basically you just have to force yourself to say no. You have to stop caring about others’ feelings all the time and consider yourself and your budget instead. You have to figure out why you want to spend that money. If it’s a new gadget, do you already own an adequate alternative? If it’s a new house, what’s wrong with where you’re at now? If it’s for a coworker’s gift, is it out of fear for what people will think if you say no?

For the coworker’s gift example, you just need to say outright that you don’t really know that person, or it’s not in your budget. I bet the “money collector” will wonder what the heck a budget is and why it’s restricting you, but hold strong! Respond that you have set amounts for food, housing, utilities, entertainment, etc., and this surprise expense just doesn’t fit into what you’ve set aside this month. You just need more of an advanced notice.

I know you’re saying “Yeah Mike, easier said than done. You try it!”. Well I’ll tell you that I have said No at work. And I have had to explain myself. But I held strong and didn’t give in to peer pressure. One benefit now is they don’t usually bother asking me for contributions all because of this one incident. Sure, they probably won’t ever take up a collection for me, but I don’t need or want a fruit basket for turning 30 anyway.

So hold strong against friends, family, coworkers, and especially yourself when the temptation or pressure is pushing you to spend. Ask yourself if you really need it, if you can afford it, or even “How many hours do I need to work to pay for that?“.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I love this one… I have been using the “how many hours to do I have to work to pay for this” question for years. It’s depressing and almost nothing it worth it when you put it into perspective like that. And the work collections, ug! I never contributed to those. I got out of those by never having cash on me.

    • what I find the most repulsive about Erik Loomis is that he equates petitioning the government for the redress of grievances with murder and terrorismSo not very different from Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which is law of the land.

  • I am a boomer and have children that have a hard time saying no. With the current economic down turn they are scrambling to make ends meet. Although I have to say they didn’t grow up with everything and often had hand me downs. I agree that entitlement and the ability to discern when to say no is an important talent as well as living within ones means and cutting up the credit cards.

  • Great post, saying No is a very hard thing to do especially if you’ve been saying yes all the time and are now bombarded with expectations. This is a lesson that takes a long time to learn but its an important one if you want to remain sane and out of massive debt.

  • yeah, society is trying to shape us!

    if i want to buy something that isn’t alloted in my budget, i’ll either dip in my “fun pot”, or actually look around the house and see what i can sell! haha… it sounds crazy, but i’m telling you IT WORKS.

    I’ve sold 10+ items (clothes, books, toys i never use) on craigslist/ebay over the past few months and got a good $300 into my “fun pot”. Whenever it’s time to pick up something i really don’t need, but WANT like crazy, i just take out the bills and go on my merry way.

  • I really think you should reconsider your co-worker gift contribution strategy – don’t underestimate those fruit baskets!!


    But seriously – I have a kid and you are right – you have to say no.


  • I couldn’t agree more! The inability to say no has lead to much misery in people’s lives especially when it comes to personal finance. When will people realise that we don’t have to keep up with the Joneses to be happy?

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