Why Is It So Hard to Say 'I Can't Afford That'?

Illustration for article titled Why Is It So Hard to Say I Cant Afford That?

The first sentence in this recent Wall Street Journal piece sounds sad and irrational:

Many people would rather struggle to pay off a large credit-card bill than utter the phrase "I can't afford it."


But it's true: Many people spend even when they know they should not, believing they will catch up on debt or figure it out somehow. Make it work. As Carl Sword, a New York psychoanalyst, tells WSJ, "There's a lot of peer pressure in our society to spend." Not to mention the way we're inundated with ad campaigns, videos, TV shows and movies filled with alluring products and aspirational lifestyles.

In addition, many of us are taught to be confident, positive, self-assured. In a way, "I can't" seems negative, belittling, pessimistic. Maybe you can? If you move some things around? And don't eat for a few days? And win the lottery?


It also seems as though women, especially, are encouraged and pressured to spend at every turn: Those legs need shaving, those nails need polishing, that skin needs makeup, that hair needs deep conditioner. And don't forget to spend two grand a year on your vagina!

Ultimately, part of the advice one of the financial planners in the article offers is, instead of saying "I can't afford that," just blame the adviser — as in, "My accountant won't let me buy that." That is, of course, assuming you can afford a financial planner.

It's Really OK to Say, 'I Can't Afford That' [WSJ]

Image via Jim Barber/Shutterstock.

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Erin Gloria Ryan

The worst is when you have a wealthy, oblivious friend who doesn't understand that not everyone is wealthy. You have to bash them over the head with it so it's even more embarrassing. Conversations go like this:

$Friend: Hey, let's all go to LE FANCY DU JOUR for dinner and drinks!

You: But cocktails are like $15 there.

$Friend: But they're soooo good.

You: I don't think I can go.

$Friend: I'll just spot you!


$Friend: (all crestfallen that you ruined their fun.)