How to Say No: Don’t Derail Your Goals

How to politely say no

So many of us are conditioned to saying yes to everything, including things we really wish we had said no to. We all know what this feels like. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so you agree to things you don’t actually want to do. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong. Not only can saying yes all of the time leave you feeling frazzled and without any time for yourself, but it can also derail your goals. That includes your financial goals.

At Clever Girl Finance, we believe that setting and achieving your financial goals is one of the keys to creating the life of your dreams. Nothing, including saying yes all of the time, should get in the way of that. So, in this article, we'll discuss the impact always saying yes has on your goals and how saying no will help keep you on track. Most importantly, we give you practical tips on how to politely say no once and for all. Luckily, there are ways to say no that are not as difficult as you might have imagined.

The impact always saying yes has on your goals

We are hardwired to seek social approval, to be liked, and to feel accepted. In turn, this causes us to say yes to many things that are against our own best interests. Always being the one who can pick the kids up from school, book the family’s vacation reservations, or drive an extra hour to meet up with a friend. All of that impacts your goals. These are three key ways that always saying yes can derail your goals:

1. It fills up your time

Always saying yes to things you don’t want to do fills up your schedule with other people’s priorities. You don’t have time to pursue your own goals if you’re always helping others pursue theirs.

2. It overwhelms you

Saying yes can overstretch and overwhelm you, leaving you sleep-deprived and depleted. Saying no is actually a form of self-care, and taking care of yourself is one of the most important ways you can keep yourself (and your goals) on track.

3. It derails your finances

Lastly, and most importantly for us around here, is the negative impact that always saying yes has on your financial goals. From busting your monthly budget to driving you into credit card debt, saying yes to the wrong things can put you on the wrong financial path. And it's a sure way to make you broke. We’ll take a closer look at this (and how saying no will keep those goals on track) next.

Saying no to keep your financial goals on track

From earning more money to saving for retirement to getting out of debt, there are endless types of financial goals. One way to help you achieve your financial goals is to create a vision board. But a vision board alone is not going to keep your financial goals on track. Whatever your financial goals are, saying no is one of the key things that will help accomplish this. These are just a few of the ways saying no can help you achieve your financial goals:

1. Say no to a relative asking for money

When a family member asks for money, it can be one of the trickiest money situations to manage. Luckily, there are rules to follow when it comes to lending money to family and friends, the most important of which is, can you afford it? Whether you can afford it or not, it is always your decision to give anyone a loan. If you do not want to, never feel pressured to. This is the perfect situation to stand firm and say no. By doing so, you will protect yourself and make sure your own financial goals are not derailed by someone else’s money demands.

2. Avoid succumbing to “money peer pressure” from friends

This is another difficult one. Do your friends constantly pressure you to spend more than you can afford? This is a form of peer pressure that so many of us face. Whether it is yet another all-inclusive brunch or a bachelorette party to an exotic destination, we want to be included in our friends’ lives. But we shouldn’t do that at the expense of our budgets. If you learn how to politely say no to this type of peer pressure and decline invitations that you don’t want to spend money on, you’ll be more likely to keep your own financial goals on track.

3. Avoid lifestyle inflation

It’s not always pressure from others that causes us to overspend. Sometimes it comes from within and the desire to fit in or keep up with what everyone else has. Lifestyle inflation, allowing your spending to increase over time, is a huge problem when it comes to reaching your financial goals. Learning how to be happy with what you have and to say no to yourself and your urges to spend will make it easier to keep your finances on track.

4. Say no to new credit card offers

It can be tempting to sign up for a new credit card, especially if it offers perks like travel points or a sign-up bonus. Sometimes, store credit cards come with discounts on your current shopping trip, and it feels like you would be passing up free money if you didn’t sign up for a new card. But remember that with a new credit card comes new responsibility. If you are already struggling with credit card debt or don’t think you can manage an additional card, it is probably best for your finances to pass on these types of offers.

5. Say no to keep your budget in check

Saying no will help you stick to your budget, which in turn will help you achieve all of your other financial goals. If you get accustomed to politely saying no to anything that will cause you to go over budget, you’ll be more likely to reach every financial goal you set for yourself.

Practical tips for how to politely say no

Have you read enough about why saying no is so important and are ready to learn how to politely say no? Follow these tips on how to say no and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals:

1. Don’t provide endless reasons or excuses

There are so many ways to say no. But a simple “no, I can’t do that today” or “no thank you” is sufficient. Drop the need to provide reasons or excuses for why you cannot do something. You don’t owe anyone an explanation and you aren’t being rude when you don’t offer one.

2. Don’t apologize

It is not rude to say no, so stop apologizing for doing it! You haven't done anything wrong by saying no.

3. Be firm in your response

You might get some pushback when you say no, especially if those around you are accustomed to you always saying yes to everything. Expect this pushback but be firm in your response. You might have to say no more than once for someone to get the hint, but stand your ground, even under this pressure.

4. Practice saying no

Just like everything else in life, learning how to say no takes practice. At first, it might feel uncomfortable. If so, practice with little things and work your way up to declining bigger invitations or bigger responsibilities. By practicing on small things (e.g., declining a Zoom happy hour), you’ll prepare yourself for the larger ones (e.g., declining to loan your sister $200 to go shopping).

5. Set and stick to your boundaries

Establish boundaries for yourself. What are you willing to say yes to? For example, do you want to get to bed every night by 10 p.m.? If so, then you will want to say no to anything that would keep you up past that time. Set firm boundaries with yourself and it will be easier to say no to anything that compromises those boundaries.

6. Distinguish between want vs. should

Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do. So many of us have been conditioned to put others’ needs before our own and we think we have an obligation to always say yes. That is simply not true and there are ways to overcome this people-pleasing behavior (this is a great resource for tips on how to stop being a people pleaser).

7. Offer another option

A no doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shut someone down or close the door on them entirely. Instead, consider saying no and offering an alternative suggestion. For example, what if someone asks you for a loan, but you don’t want to give it to them? You can say no to the loan, but offer to help in another way, such as directing them to free resources to learn more about their finances and helping them on their journey.

8. Surround yourself with supportive people

Surround yourself with people who will accept your nos and support your ambitions and goals. With understanding friends and family around you, it will be easier to say no (although, if you don’t have this support system, don’t let that stop you from saying no and sticking to it).

9. Get clear on your goals and priorities

Decide what you want out of life. What are your dreams and goals? Spend some time imagining and dreaming about the life you want and setting goals to achieve that life. Then, be ruthless in not letting anything get in your way of those pursuits – including saying yes to others.

10. Put yourself above all else

Lastly, remember to put yourself first. By realizing that you are truly the most important person in your life, you’ll be able to stop bending to the will of others and put yourself above everything and everyone else.

Learn how to politely say no so you can say yes to yourself and your goals

Saying no is sometimes easier said than done, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. However, with a little practice and with these tips, hopefully, you will feel more confident the next time someone approaches you with an offer you’d really rather pass on.

Whether it is something relatively small (like a dinner that is a stretch for your budget) or something large (like a personal loan), learn how to say no. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but nothing is worth derailing your financial goals for. Saying no means saying yes to yourself and your financial goals.

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