Do You Know How to Say No?

by Miranda Marquit

One of the most difficult challenges many of us face is saying no. Whether we are saying no to a loved one, or saying no to ourselves, sometimes it can be tough to disappoint someone. However, sometimes it’s necessary to say no. Your finances — and your mental well-being — might depend on your ability to say no.

Saying No in Your Budget

how to say no

How to say no

I used to have a hard time saying no to budget items. It seemed like if I wanted something, I should just buy it. However, it quickly became evident that saying yes to spending took its toll. I ended up in debt, with three credit cards almost maxed out by the time I finished college.

Now, I consider the expense before I make it. The first question is this: Do I have enough money to pay for it now? If not, the answer is no. For big purchases or vacations, the no can be followed with a short term savings plan to get the money needed to make the expenditure. The next question is this: Does it make sense with my spending goals and priorities? If I won’t use the product or service later, or if it isn’t an experience I know I’ll enjoy, I think twice about spending the money. Saying no means that I have more financial freedom, and that money is available for me to do the things that are truly important to me.

Saying No to Friends and Family

Often, it is more difficult to say no to friends and family. You want to be able to help out, or you want to be able to go and have fun with your relatives and friends. However, before you say yes, you need to consider the ramifications of your decision. If you don’t have the money to give a friend a loan, you should be up front about it, and offer to help in another way, such as babysitting while he or she looks for a new job.

You might also need to say no to spending time. This was a hard lesson for me to learn when I first started working from home. I always wanted to take off when someone asked me to lunch, or to some other activity. However, it quickly became stressful not to stick to something of a schedule. I’d fall behind in my work, and then it would cut into time spent with my son and husband. Such a state of affairs was not healthy for my most important personal relationships. Now, I sometimes say no if I know that I can’t handle the changes to the workload.

Saying No to Your Boss

It seems as though you have to say yes when your boss asks you to do something. Obviously, if you are being asked to do something illegal or morally questionable, you should object — and maybe report your boss. However, sometimes you are asked to take on an extra project. If you are concerned about your ability to do the project, you might have to say no. Some legitimate reasons to say no to your boss include:

  • You have other assignments, and you won’t physically have the time to complete a new one.
  • Your other work might suffer if you accept the assignment.
  • You don’t actually have the skill set needed to accomplish the task.

Express your concerns to your boss. It might be that he or she would prefer you to postpone work on another assignment if this one is more important. You should also consider finding out whether or not you might need a skill set later. If so, find out if your boss can wait for you to acquire the needed skill before you do the job. If not, it still might be worth learning a new skill if your boss will want to make use of the talent later on.

In the end, you should consider your schedule, and your finances. Sometimes it’s better to say no.

Photo credit: Horia Varlan.

Published or updated June 5, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 K.C.

My experience has been that those who want me to “loan” or otherwise give them money simply aren’t willing to say “no” to themselves or to take the hard action necessary to resolve their financial problems. They assume I have money to spare because I don’t have financial problems, but the reason I don’t have financial problems is because I don’t have money to spare. All of my money is directed to some purpose, current or future. I have no “extra money” to lend or give, other than money designated for charitable giving. It is arrogant of someone to assume that because I have financial assets, they are somehow entitled to them. When I say “no” to them, I give them the opportunity to solve their own problems and learn from the experience. Bailouts, be they personal or corporate, only encourage the bad behavior that led to the problem in the first place.


2 Nick @ till debt do us part

I think you could look at it another way. Instead of learning to say ‘No’ you could learn to say ‘Yes’ in the exact same situation. So in the case of spending too much instead of saying No to spending too much say Yes to financial freedom – free from the stress and worry that overspending brings.

Instead of saying No to a loan to a friend say that ‘Yes’ you agree with the old phrase – ‘Never a borrower or lender be’ – Ah if only I listened to this myself 😉

Just say ‘Yes’ but only to the positive empowering aspects in any situation – saying No can get you into a limiting bad habit.


3 Bruce

Great article! I’ve been saying no a lot lately, and yes it is tough to do at times.


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