August 1, 2015

Let’s Stop Saying “I Can’t Afford It.” (Instead, Say This.)


“I can’t afford garbage service,” I said a few years ago. “Instead, I take everything to the city dump myself, every few months.”

This was before our city recycled, so everything except glass went to the same place.

That same year, I got a Vitamix—the beast of blenders that promises us smooth drinks and hot soups in seconds—for $500.

Why is it that every time we think something is “out of our budget,” we approve other expenses without thinking twice?

What makes one purchase better than another?

In a perfect world, it would be because one is necessary, and the other is not—but we are rarely so wise.

The problem with that is that it can ultimately hurt us, and here’s why.

Last year, I lost my dental coverage, which meant that my yearly checkup wasn’t going to be paid for anymore—so I skipped it. I said I couldn’t afford it.

This year, I realized how ridiculous that was.

What else did I prioritize that year instead, that amounted to getting my teeth cleaned? Did it not cost the same amount of money? To be fair, I probably spent as much buying flowers for the dining room.

Let’s look at it another way.

My friends and I earn, roughly, the same amount of money and yet—most of them can’t afford buying exclusively organic produce like I do.

However, they can all afford something that I can’t—a data connection on the cell phone. I use a prepaid card and only text when there’s no WiFi around.

One friend of mine can never seem to afford to travel—but he was able to afford a custom made guitar.

These discrepancies have taught me that it’s not about being able to afford something, versus not being able to. It’s about priorities and owning up to them.

So now, instead of saying, “I can’t afford a data plan,” I say that having internet on my phone is not my priority.

Because when I say I can’t afford something, I don’t look deeply into my decision—but when I say it’s not a priority, it makes me think about other expenses I do consider to be priorities.

Is going to the dentist really not a priority? Or should I re-evaluate where I spend my money this year?

Try doing this for a month, and see if your money isn’t better spent.

It’s easy—just replace”I can’t afford it” with “It’s not a priority.”

This puts everything back into focus.



Dear Money: It’s Not You, It’s Me.


Author: Joanna Steven

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/thethreesisters

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Carly F Feb 9, 2016 8:56am

De Smith, everyone has 24 hours in a day, if you don’t spend those wisely as well then your money point is moot. You either have time or money, so what are you not spending wisely? If you claim to have no money then I feel as though that points to you not spending your time wisely.

De Smith Dec 31, 2015 5:36am

Uh… yeah. It doesn’t make it any easier to say “It is out of our budget to get both toothpaste *and* shampoo this month” than “I can’t afford toothpaste *and* shampoo”. It is really galling when someone who can afford things like buying flowers for the table and exclusively organic produce gives advice on how to feel better about not being able to afford things – much less just by changing the phraseology one uses.

When you are below the poverty line, you literally *can’t afford* many things. Couching it in different language doesn’t make the little one happy about using plain baking soda as toothpaste or the teenager happy about cutting down showers to twice a week or making everyone re-wear clothes several times to cut down on laundry costs.

Natalie Aug 3, 2015 12:24am

Additionally, saying “I can’t afford” reinforces the fact you cannot which will only attract more of not being able to afford instead of allowing more money to flow in! 🙂 Keep words positive always! 🙂

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Joanna Steven

Joanna Steven is an Amazon best-selling author and the founder of The Nourished Village, a nurturing community for moms and their families. She regularly shares kid-friendly vegetarian recipes on her blog, and interacts with other moms on her Facebook page and Twitter account.