It's Okay to Say "I Can't Afford It"

Posted 25 Sep 2014 by Melissa Allan

I was having dinner with family one weekend, chatting about back to school activities and the upcoming school year ahead for the children, and the fact that now summer is over so I can get on track with finances again. I generally have a good handle on our finances year round but I find I’m often running over budget in the summer as weekend trips away, big BBQs, and vacations costs a lot of money!

It amazes me how, in our circle of friends, I rarely hear people say “I cannot afford to do that!” My husband and I earn a decent living, we have two children, pay our bills on time, take a nice trip every couple of years, save for retirement and children’s education so overall we are doing okay. There are plenty of extravagant things we know we cannot afford, but it seems like there are even more things we want that we simply won’t get because it’s not in the cards now. What’s important here is that that’s okay!

I believe if more people were honest and okay with saying “I cannot afford it”, they’d be better off financially. I see clients in various stages of their lives and with different money habits. Some are savers and some spenders. If you strive to be financially independent down the road, you need to be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot afford as a family. Let’s face it, those weekend nights out with friends, expensive dinners, golf tournaments, and frequent clothes shopping cost a lot. Not to mention the essentials like cost for sports and extracurricular activities for children, groceries, heating, and gas. Ask yourself if you really need a new car every three years? I read in a magazine at the gym yesterday that there has been tremendous growth in the automotive industry in North America over the past few years, but with that growth has come an increase to leasing and debt payments. People are on, what seems like, an endless lease schedule or extending car loan payments over six to seven years. Ouch!

In my case, I long for a new kitchen. Our house is only 12 years old but my kitchen is dated. I joke that one weekend my husband is going to come home and I’ll have everything changed, and that may just happen eventually, but right now we cannot afford a new kitchen. After chatting with my sister in law about it, I realized our friends and family don’t care that our cupboards are oak and our countertop is laminate!

To curb these trends in your own home, I recommend sitting down (with or without the help of your financial advisor) and creating your realistic bucket list. Next, be honest with friends and family about what you can and cannot afford as many people are in similar situations. There are a lot of extraordinary things you can do without money that are a lot of fun! Those who appear to be spending lots and seem to have everything (popularly referred to as “The Jones”), in some cases, are not as financially independent as you would think.

For now, our kitchen is fine the way it is. We will continue to save for our future and come retirement, we will be financially okay. Hopefully we can keep living a healthy lifestyle to enjoy retirement when the time comes.