"I can't afford it" feels like the only thing my husband and I say anymore! We need to make this one money mindset shift (psst: no vision board needed). | https://www.frugalconfessions.com/debt/dont-say-no-ask.phpShifting your money mindset from “I can't afford it” is something you need to do if you're going to enjoy your days in your one wild, and crazy life. It's one my husband and I had to make as well!

“Wanna eat out at our favorite Mexican place?”


“How about we go see that new movie?”

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“I really want a flat screen television.”

Heck no. I can't afford it!

This used to be the extent of our want/wish conversations…particularly right after Paul and I got engaged and decided to finish paying off the last $25,000 of our $59,496 in debt before walking down the aisle.

It was a fabulous strategy that helped us pay off that debt, pay for our wedding, put a down payment on our home, and go on a first-rate, 11-day honeymoon to Austria (in the span of 14 months). Especially when we added Frugal Decadence into the mix, meaning we didn't sit at home all day for want just because we didn't have much money to spend.

But the ‘no' responses persisted in our household for months even after taking our debt out to the back and giving it a proper burial.

No is easy. No doesn't cost money (usually). No means we're building up a wad of “yes's” in our savings account because we've learned how to save money, or putting money towards debt.

But ‘no' is also unimaginative. It's limiting. And it's darn right boring after awhile.

You start feeling like you're missing out on things. You start feeling like you're working to pay other people for things you don't want to pay for anymore. You start feeling deflated, as if you'll never get out of this stupid cycle of work-bills-work-bills.  Like money is the dictator and you're kind of just at its whim (isn't it your paycheck, after all?).

‘No' became a reflex for us, like when the doc whacks your knee in that special spot and your leg kicks up without you telling it to.

Change Your Reflex to Open Up Your World

The thing is, I've learned that even if you're deep in the thickets of paying-off-debt where the gazelles are plentiful and fast, you don't have to say ‘no' to everything.

In fact, it's a great exercise to start asking how instead.

How can lead you down a whole different path (my whole life at the moment — being out of debt, working on my passion job, living in Texas with Paul — came about because of this simple tweak to my money mindset).

Here's how (there it is again!) you can do this:

  • Address the Psychology Behind Saying ‘No': Why is it that you say ‘no'? It's probably because you don't want to spend the money you have earmarked to pay off debt or for savings. But let's go deeper than that. Is your ‘no' reflex simply something you picked up from the money dialogue in your childhood? For me, I was so used to hearing “we can't afford that” that it became my modus operandi even though it was entirely untrue. Figuring this out led Paul and I to start saying “we choose to not purchase X” instead of firing back, “we can't afford X”. Talk about a huge money mindset shift. Find out what it is that is making you say ‘no'. What's the reason? The excuse? The need? Then ask yourself if that is really true.
  • Rephrase Your Responses As they Come Out: Even if what you're wanting and asking for is absolutely far-fetched (like your brain at the moment cannot wrap its way around one atom of what you'd like let alone the whole thing), you still need to do this. Ask yourself “how”. How can I do this? How can I make this happen? How can we X? How would that look? How would that feel?
  • Open Yourself Up to Possibilities: After you've rephrased your question into some sort of how, you can sit back and allow your brain to work on it (even when you're not thinking about it). The only other way you can help this process along is by opening yourself up to possibilities you may not have considered before. Because undoubtedly, they will bubble up to the surface — and usually at the oddest moments.

Looking for how money mindset shifts have occurred in our own life?

Money Mindset Shift Examples from My Life

I'll share with you how this has played out in my life, complete with all the disclaimers my mind had come up with to determine that there was no way I could have what I wanted.

Example from My College Years: Even though it's going to cost too much money for my minimum-wage, federal-work-study-job paycheck to handle, and I won't have time to take off, and people would think it was *k-razy*, how can I buy tickets to spend Winter Break with Paul in Japan?

Possibility I Opened Myself Up to: I was interning at the time with a local agricultural-based, snack foods company. They had thrown around the thought of going international at some point, so I approached them with what would seem to some (and to myself) a crazy proposal. They could sponsor the cost of my ticket to Japan, and in exchange, I would do some market research for them while there. And it worked! They cut me a $500 check (half the cost of the airfare), and I took a box of snacks and sat out in Tokyo one day collecting surveys after 30 or so people tried the products. When I got back to the states I did a mini-presentation for them. I even ended up in the local newspaper! Win-win.

Example from our Debt-Paying Days: Even though it was just 9 months away, and even though we had no idea where the money was going to come from, and even though I wondered if my husband-to-be would be upset at the sudden extreme frugalness, how can we pay off our remaining $25,000 in debt, pay cash for the wedding/honeymoon and also to put a down payment on a home all before walking down the aisle?

Possibility I Opened Myself Up to: Remember that awesome first-time homebuyer's tax credit they came up with in 2009 (the one you didn't have to pay back)? When we got engaged and knew that buying a home was on our want-list, it made perfect sense for us to buy a house by the end of 2009 to take advantage of it. And it worked! We emptied a good chunk of savings for the down payment on our home, then when the check came a few months later, we put $7,000 down on Paul's car note and $1,000 to buffer our emergency savings fund. Pretty cool how we knocked out debt while getting what we wanted.

It's time to shift your money mindset and see where ‘how' can take you, no matter if you're paying off debt or beyond. So start asking it! If your path ends up anywhere like mine did, then you're in for quite a ride.

3 replies
  1. Don
    Don says:

    It’s incredible how we react and how life plays out when we change a negative into a positive. With just saying “no” or “we can’t afford it”, the mind stops thinking creatively and we are stuck in our cycle.

    But simply changing our words to a “how” shifts everything and now our minds are free to think and be creative and we grow.

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