Money Problems: Why It's So Hard To Say "I Can't Afford It"

Young caucasian woman with empty wallet - broke
Young caucasian woman with empty wallet - broke

Why is it still so difficult to say those four little words?

That's the question journalist Veronia Dagher posed recently in the Wall Street Journal. After all, huge numbers of Americans are struggling financially at the moment; anyone having to cut back or do without has lots of company. Reuters broke the news last week that the second quarter of 2012 saw the most significant rise in household debt since 2008. Forbes reported that outstanding student loans together amounted to over $1 trillion in March 2012, and, according to the Washington Post, American consumers "are projected to finish 2012 with a net increase of $43.5 billion in credit card debt."

And yet, admitting that there's no room in your budget for that dinner or new outfit, or even a haircut or pedicure, sometimes feels so hard that you go ahead and spring for it anyway -- as those credit card debt numbers bear out.

The reason we can't just say "no," Carl Sword, a New York-based psychoanalyst told the Journal, is that the pressure to spend often comes from peers. Dagher wrote that "feelings of shame, embarrassment or a desire to avoid conflict are just some of the reasons folks won't say no."

Jezebel's Dodai Stewart suggested that women especially are pressured to spend on their appearances, clothes, and accessories, whether or not they have the means. Maintaining hair and nails, waxing, shaving, and other types of grooming can be expensive as well as time-consuming.

So, what would make it easier to stop spending outside your means? Sword suggested holding frank conversations with friends and family about the limits of your budget and also to beware purchasing too quickly, before you've had time to think it over. Another reason to get off those flash sale sites, right?

And it's best to avoid dishonesty, Brad Klontz, a Hawaii-based financial planner and financial psychologist told the Journal. Not wanting to reveal their financial struggles, people with limited means sometimes cancel frequently or make up excuses for declining pricey social invitations and end up alienating their friends in the process.

Commenters on Stewart's piece offered suggestions for how to deal with friends who are less than understanding about your budgetary limitations. Teachplaylove recommended blaming a tight budget on a nonexistent third party: "We have ALWAYS said, "Our Financial Planner says No." Exactly two people know that our Financial Planner's name is 'Excel' or 'Google Spreadsheet.'"

JustMe35 switching out the statement "I can't afford it" for the less embarrassing "that is too expensive and not a necessity."

And Tallgirl206 advised a more radical way to avoid money-related shame:
"If your "friends" make you feel like shit for saying "I can't afford it" then it's time to get some new friends."

Would you be comfortable telling a friend "I can't afford it?", or getting rid of a friend who didn't understand your money troubles? Tweet us @HuffPostWomen or sound off in the comments section.

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