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Why You Should Stop Saying “I Can’t Afford That”

we-cant-afford-that

I loved this post from Andrea Dekker and thought it was so thought-provoking:

About 2 months ago, I shared a post about one of my pet peeves — when people complain about “not having enough time” for various activities.

The point of that post (which you can read in its entirety here) is that I almost never say “I don’t HAVE time for ______” because I know that if I really wanted or needed to, I could MAKE the time for that activity.

Instead I say, “I’m choosing not to MAKE the time for ___________ right now as I have other priorities.”

By simply changing the way I phrase things, I feel much more empowered, more in control of my time, and less defeated by everything I don’t get done each day. I know that I made the choice to do something else — whether it was tending to a sick child or taking advantage of really nice weather instead of doing my work or opting to make a big fancy meal instead of enjoying more free time — it was my choice.

Similarly, I almost never say, “We can’t afford that.”

This is not because we are “loaded” or have unlimited financial resources. It’s simply because I know that in almost every situation…”

Read the full post here.

Personally, I think that while there are legitimate things we cannot afford and in the early years of our marriage, there were many things we didn’t have room for in our budget, we’ve found that saying “We’re choosing to spend our money differently” helps us to remember that these are choices we are making based upon priorities we’ve pre-determined. And this causes you to approach your finances with a completely different mindset.

In addition, I agree with Andrea that it makes you feel empowered. Your money is not in control of you; you are in control of your money. You are choosing how to spend it. Even if you only have a little bit of money to spend, you still can choose to spend that little bit as wisely as possible.

Do you agree with this article? Why or why not?

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67 Comments

  • Ana says:

    Yes, I loved this article! I commented on the original post that I’ve heard the saying, “You can afford almost anything you want. You just can’t afford everything you want.” That’s what we’re trying to teach our children.

  • Luba says:

    Yes, I agree completely. No matter our financial situation, we should not feel like victims or portray yourselves as such. 🙂

  • Kyle says:

    Amen Crystal! Julie (my wife) and I started saving from day one of our marriage so that she could stay home when our kids were/are young. We also made choices about where we lived, what kind of cars we drove, etc so that we could save for the future. Many of our friends say they want to stay home but “can’t afford it” (and of course they make more). Obviously, we’re no better than them. It’s just a case in point.

  • Lori says:

    This is so true. I used to say “I don’t have time” or “I wish we could afford ____” but I’ve been working really hard to avoid using those words. I realized how whiny I sounded, and that thankfully the needs of my family are met.

    I am not the best homemaker, because when I get home from a long day of work, I prefer to relax after dinner, and do the basic clean ups. I could be doing more housework but I choose to leave it until the weekend. I might complain when Saturday comes along, but it’s my choice.

    And, yes, we would love to have a second car because it would make our lives easier, but at this point in our lives, we choose to not take on a monthly payment.

    We would also love to own a house, but because of the area where we prefer to live, renting is our best option. I do love the convenience of calling our management company if something breaks down (we are not particularly handy).

    Basically, I am focusing on being grateful. I notice that when I express gratitude for what I have, the things I want don’t seem as important.

    • Kelsey says:

      Totally agree! In fact, I was just thinking about this this weekend. Our family of five lives in a TINY little rental house right now because we’re really aggressively paying off student loans. A member of my husband’s youth group came over on Sunday, and the first thing he said was, “Wow, your house is SO small for five people!”

      Honestly, I was a little offended and defensive at first, but then I thought about this whole idea. We could live in a bigger or nicer house right now if we budgeted that way, but instead, we’re paying off a crazy amount of our debt each month (and will be 100 percent debt-free by Christmas! PTL!) Just thinking about those intentional choices we’ve made freed me from feeling insecure or insulted by his comment.

  • Stephanie says:

    We are throwing everything we can right now at retirement for us and college fund for our daughter. Every cent is budgeted and we are actively tracking every expense. We are not even choosing to pay down our mortgage faster because the annual returns we can get in our Roth IRAs greatly exceed interest savings on the 3.125% mortgage if paid down early.

    I guess my perspective is we limit our spending now with our eyes set on retirement because ‘My future self cannot afford that.’

  • Renee says:

    I like this concept, and I believe it to be true for myself. But I would like to share a very eye-opening exercise I recently did with a financial literacy volunteer who works with low-income clients, as it changed my perspective on this; maybe it will strike a chord with someone else, too.

    This volunteer showed me a sample budget from a client that showed all kinds of items that didn’t seem “necessary” to me: leasing a new living room set, giving money to family, taking the kids to the movie. But as the client’s motives were explained one by one, I felt deeply shamed for judging her choices: she needed furniture to meet the living conditions set by her social worker, but couldn’t afford to buy – so she leased to give her kids a place to sit and do homework. She gave money to her mom because it was more important to save her mother from eviction than to buy groceries for herself. She took her kids to the movies because it was a sweltering summer day, and they had no AC. The few hours spent at the movie not only gave them some respite from the heat, but allowed them to form a family memory together of a fun afternoon, all the more special because of its infrequency.

    So while I agree with this concept for myself, I remind myself that it is a luxury to get to choose between wants AND needs, while some in this world will only ever have a long list of needs. And so I try to practice grace and perspective as it applies to others, and choose to refrain from judging the financial choices of others. They may be walking a much tougher road than I will ever know.

    • Meagan says:

      Thank you for this comment. This is a concrete and excellent reminder of why we should not rush to judgement.

    • KT says:

      Thank you for this. This is a wonderful reminder not to judge from the outside-looking-in. Things are often more complex than they appear.

    • Yes, such wise words here. And this is why it’s important to me that we only focus on ourselves and what we can do to change our mindsets, change our financial habits, and spend our money well. I believe that, in the long run, this will make a MUCH greater impact than criticizing and condemning others for their choices ever will.

    • Karen Rucker says:

      Thank you for saying that. I wanted to like the positive spirit of this post, but it bothered me somehow because sometimes in my family we often simply can’t do something. Not don’t choose to, but actually can’t. And I’m not usually bothered by it. I don’t want or need an iphone. I don’t want or need a real working farm with cows and pigs. I don’t want or need a lot of the things that my kids want. But I also don’t want them to be ashamed of simply not being able to do something. We don’t just choose to not buy a new car. We can’t buy one. And there’s nothing wrong with not being able to. It’s not a horrible thing to know the reasonable limits of your budget and know that there are things you can’t afford. As long as our needs are met and we have enough extra time and money to enjoy a little time with each other, we can have a great life secure in the knowledge that life goes on without iphones and new cars and we are not all that worse off for missing out on a few purchases because we have more important things like hugs and laughter and silly children.

    • Paula says:

      Well said!

  • lynn m. says:

    I’m still trying to teach my husband this, right along with our son. It isn’t what all you can buy it is what you decide is worth your money. We live in a modest house, with a new but not fancy car so that I can stay home with our son. Prior to our son we made many similar choices because travelling was important to us. We realized that once we had our child it would be harder to go across the world with a baby. Again we choose to spend our money on that and forgo what many other 20 somethings decided to blow their money on. It is all how you decide to live your life, stick to it, and be unapologetic because at the end of it all it is your life.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I really have to disagree with this posting to the point that I find it irritating.
    Truth is sometimes you ‘can’t’ afford something. Sometimes you have to save. It doesn’t mean you can’t afford it in the future but just not at that time. When we got a hole in our roof we had just spent our life savings on having insulation put in our old house which had none. The roof was ‘important’ but putting a new one on is thousands of dollars. We ‘couldn’t’ afford a new roof. We could afford to research and figure out how to patch the damaged area for now.
    Sometimes I don’t have time. I’m reading this on break @ work. At times things over lap and you DON’T have time! At those times you have to give something up that may be important (dr. appts, etc) and/or ask for help and hope someone is able to. I’m very lucky I have my husband but feel for my friends who are single parents. Oh yes there is a ‘choice’ always but sometimes the choice can make you feel less impowered example being my single parent friends who lose their jobs due to ill children or children having appts because many work places won’t work with them.
    Everyone is into this whole ‘positive thinking equals positive outcomes’ and the reality is that’s not true. You work your tail end off and you pray it works out. Don’t tell people to beat themselves up just because they are time or money strapped let them face reality.

    • Carrie says:

      Very well said, Elizabeth. I don’t think there is anything wrong with telling my kids we can’t afford something. It is true. Not because I mismanage my money, and not because of a choice I make. This is life and I want them to understand limitations.

    • Becky says:

      Elizabeth, I can understand your frustration. I think it becomes easier to feel like something is a choice when you have more of an abundance, or more choices available. I generally don’t have a hard time saying that I choose to save my money for retirement vs. spending it on little luxuries. However when it comes to “choosing” between necessities (food or rent), it could make me feel like things were beyond my control. I think in that situation, I find it more helpful to focus on choosing to make the best decision given my circumstances. I think the example you gave of patching your roof is perfect. You had already spent your money on something necessary and practical (insulation) and then your roof was damaged. Instead of trying to finance a new roof you knew you couldn’t afford, you chose to be responsible and do the research necessary to find another solution. Through no fault of your own, you were in a tough situation with no “good” option, but you chose to take the best path available to you at the time and avoid making a bad situation worse (by taking on lots of debt). I think you made a great choice, and one that will hopefully make your choices in the future easier.

    • Kristine says:

      I agree. The article also irritated me because right now we really can’t afford much of anything. We’re struggling just to pay our bills and have enough food to eat. There really is no money for anything extra. My husband has been suffering from a chronic illness for the past year, which has resulted in several thousands of dollars’ worth of medical bills (more than we could ever save up for) and has caused him to miss a lot of unpaid time from work. I started working part time to help make ends meet. I hate having to tell my kids that we can’t afford things, but we really can’t, and it’s not even a choice for us what we spend money on right now. Everything goes to necessities.

      • {Hugs!} Praying for encouragement for you today!

        And just remember: by choosing to spend your money on necessities (instead of choosing to dig yourself further into a hole financially by using a credit card for non-necessities), you are doing the best you can with what you have. You are making wise choices, even in such a hard, hard time, and I so applaud that!

      • Tonya says:

        I hear you. We have been through several seasons of unemployment recently and feel similarly. My mother “insensitively” asked me the other day if I had been clothes shopping lately. I just said “no” as politely as I could, because I really wanted to say, “You know we can’t afford that”. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say so.

        I think things will look up soon as my hubby has just found a part-time job (on the path to full-time, hopefully).

        I do agree with the author of the original article that we do have many choices about how we say something. But sometimes it is the truth to say “We can’t afford that”. It’s not just negative talk, it is the truth.

  • Liz says:

    I’ve learned to say, “I’m not spending on “that” so I can spend it on “this,” with certian members of my family because otherwise they think I have no money for anything. They will even say, “You couldn’t afford to go to the movie, but you can go out to dinner?” It is all about making choices, I’d rather eat out than see a movie, or stay home with my kids than live in a big city.

  • I do agree with this. I believe that the way we view our money (or time) has a lot to do with how we use it.

    I used to say I didn’t have money a lot in my early married life. And it was true that our income was meager at that time. Then one day I had a light bulb moment and realized that I DID have money, even though I might not have money for THAT.

    After I had this mind shift, I noticed that I felt a lot more empowered and in control of our finances whereas before I always felt like a slave to them because I never felt like we’d ever have enough.

  • JD says:

    I have lived both ways, very small income and lots of needs and no way to meet them and have had enough to cover expenses and needs. There is a difference.

    • cwaltz says:

      I agree.

      It definitely is easier when you are not picking and choosing between needs (and yes there have been times where I was thinking “we can’t afford that” as the time came to replace a tire on a car used for transportation to work and we had bills that I needed to pay that I could not afford to pay on time AND cover the costs of that also needed tire)and can actually pick and choose wants(I can afford to buy a washing machine instead of having to trek down to a Laundromat-Finally!)

      I think this deals better with prioritizing when you fall into that second group dealing with a long list of potential wants then it does when you are in the first group and being forced to choose between paying for medicine for a child that got sick and paying the phone bill on time because you don’t have the means to pay for both.

  • Nancy says:

    I get irritated when my cousin tells me she can’t afford to go to a family reunion I plan at a restaurant twice a year. I make sure the restaurant has a preset menu with a realistic price for everyone. She knows I organize this event every year, twice a year. So she can’t afford to go and spend $25 for an afternoon with extended family, but she can afford Starbucks every day.

    So I don’t think it is a matter of “I can’t afford” it is simply ” I don’t want to go” but she uses the I can’t afford it as an excuse.

    I guess what I am trying to get at, is that people appreciate honestly.

  • During my single mom years, when the budget was extremely tight (that’s mild), I never wanted my children to worry and so I adopted the phrase, “I’m choosing to spend my money on something else.” I assured them that they never needed to worry about their needs, but I shared when I was saving for vacation, a new tv or extracurricular activity.

    I love this concept and think it’s an important message to myself, too!

  • Andrea says:

    I love this! I would say my husband and I are more financially stable than some of his other siblings and friends. Different times, I hear my husband say “I/we can’t afford that” around them, and it makes me cringe. Not out of pride, but more out of sympathy because I think they know we could afford it, and probably more so than them. I know what he means is, it’s not in the budget. We don’t pay attention to the dollar amount sitting in our bank accounts, we only pay attention to what our budget says we can spend on a particular item or category. Because that other money sitting in our accounts is set aside for another purpose.

    We are getting ready to have twins in a week and a half, and I am planning to drastically cut back my hours at work so I can stay home with them as much as possible. We are going to have to cut back greatly, and I love that this post helps us to keep our focus on gratitude for what we do have. Are there going to be more things that we have to choose not to spend our money on? Certainly! But it’s a choice we will make, knowing that we are allowing me to stay home with our children and doing what we believe is best for our family. I want to share this article with my husband so that we can both have a better perspective from the beginning of this new journey 🙂

  • chelsea says:

    My response is “Its not in the budget” and/or “Its not on the list” (if we’re grocery shopping). I use this when I’m out with the kids and they ask for something they see. This works for adults too. And depending on the situation, I like to be honest about my “real” reason, if there is one (I’m not interested, I don’t want to, etc).

  • Jacki says:

    We can’t afford it. There I said it because it is the truth. Losing a good paying job and taking one that pays 1/3 less with double the insurance costs took our family from getting by to cutting way back. Then the new job of 5 years included no raises due to the economy. The rising cost of just eating, property taxes, insurance, utilities and declining health have put us in a bind. We can’t afford it.

  • Ashlea says:

    I think that for most people this is absolutely true. Most people have a choice. They don’t always think they do, but if they sat down and were honest with themselves, upon observing their receipts, you’d see there were a lot of “choices” made all month long.
    However, for some of us, there is no choice about it. We are barely breaking even on the bills and barely feeding our families. If you look at our monthly spending, there is no starbucks or any other “choice” items. It’s simply living. Bare bones living. Just making it living. And it’s people like me who are truly offended by the people who say, “I can’t afford it” when you see their spending habits.
    In the end, we all need to just mind our own though. When it’s all said and done, God will not be asking me how I counseled my friend about money or how another family used their money, but how I used what he gifted me with. And to be offended by someone saying they can’t afford something that you know they can, is simply jealousy and envy. It’s something I have to pray against constantly. 🙂

  • Mindy says:

    We can’t afford it either, literally! The money is just not there. And I truly don’t like saying that all the time because of they way people look at me. We struggle just to get by each month but by the grace of god we do each month but it isn’t easy. I wish there was another way of telling my 5 year old that we “can’t afford it” but sometimes it really does just have to be said. Prayers to all who are struggling!

  • I wrote a post on this exact topic recently, including three reasons why I don’t say “I can’t afford” and what I say instead:
    http://www.sixfiguresunder.com/dont-say-cant-afford/
    One of the biggest reasons is that it puts me in a passive position like a victim, rather than being empowered to act.

  • JD says:

    I agree! You choose how you spend your money. Responsible can afford nicer things because they spend their money wisely.

    • cwaltz says:

      I think it’s wrong to claim that those without are going without because they weren’t responsible with money and those with means are bastions of responsibility. Some are fortunate enough to be born into circumstances that allow a safety net. They can absorb the inevitable mistakes that come from being human and have a learning curve. Others are not that lucky. Their mistakes become holes that aren’t easy to dig themselves out of. It’s one of the reasons I passionately believe in social safety nets. I’m probably not going to be popular for saying this but a lot of circumstances boil down to luck. It’s about being fortunate enough to have parents that can give you a hand so that you can save and then being in the right place at the right time to land that job that covers your bills but pays the extras, etc,etc.

      I’m not saying being responsible and recognizing mistakes won’t help someone get ahead. However, I am saying that not everyone who hasn’t gotten ahead is where they are because of irresponsibility. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. For some those mistakes are more costly.

      • Jennifer says:

        I so agree with you. I was fortunate enough to be born to parents who made living below their means a priority. This meant they paid cash for my college education, which is huge.
        There’s no way my husband and I, in the fields we work in, would have been able to buy a house if we’d had student loans to deal with.

      • Lindsey says:

        This definitely needed to be said. It’s easy and ignorant to say and believe that people are poor by choice. It’s simply not so.

  • KT says:

    I love the sentiment of this post …. and it does say “Why I almost never say…” which means there are times that the author, as well as the rest of us, truly cannot afford something. However, like others have mentioned, I think most of the times we do have a choice. Not always, in a lot of instances.

    I also agree that using different words helps to create a sense of empowerment and positive outlook on life… if there is something I truly cannot afford right now… it doesn’t mean that there won’t be the opportunity in the future. Choosing different words also creates a sense of hope in times of despair… something we all can use from time to time.

    (((Hugs))) to those struggling… and thanks to Crystal for all the encouragement she provides!

    • I love this comment and how changing what you say (and think) helps to give you hope. Like when we’ve lived through really, really lean times, remembering that we were making short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits. It didn’t mean that those sacrifices didn’t still hurt, but it gave much more meaning and purpose to them.

  • amie says:

    My situation now is that I can pay my bills, but I have debt. I grew up in true poverty so there were many times that we really could not afford things… food, clothes, utilities, etc. There was no money. This is very different than how my children live. I feel silly saying I can’t afford something they want because really, I can, but that would slow my debt reduction. I tell my children that I want to manage my money wisely and shop carefully so that we can have more. So, that means shopping with coupons, not being brand loyal, buying things on sale, rarely eating out, etc. This post is not appropriate for people who really cannot afford something, and I believe there are many people in this situation, but for those of us who have the ability to choose where our money goes, it could be empowering.

  • Ashley says:

    Overall, I really agree with her point of view. As some of the above comments have said, some people don’t have a choice between wants and needs. Those people tend to have a more intense focus as they cannot afford to squander whatever luxuries come their way. But I think this article really speaks to people who do have some wiggle room, me included, who can misappropriate time and finances without a plan. My family lives on a zero-based budget and it can be oh-so-tempting to say “I can’t afford __________.” In reality we should be saying, “We can afford that, but need to forgo it as we have a greater goal in mind!” God has blessed us, and we need to be good stewards of what we have. 🙂

  • Kristie says:

    The assumption of this article is that your budget is entirely a reflection of your choices. But for many of us, this is more than a mind game of “feeling empowered.” We honestly do not have it. Not in the bank; not in savings; not in property. Many people in full-time Christian service are probably cringing at the original article. They (like our family) work over-time, take on extra jobs, and save carefully–but it’s still pretty slim. For me, the best response is an acceptance of the limits that my loving heavenly Father has allowed into my life for His purposes. My husband pastors a small church and works a second job. I work a small job, in addition to homeschooling. Four of our six kids work extra jobs and pay for almost all “extras” themselves–from bicycles to college registrations. No amount of math genius will change that, and I am OK with that. Overall, it’s healthy for kids to learn to accept these things rather than living with the illusion that we just have chosen not to do those things. I view that as false security, and I think it contributes to the trend of wastefulness that exists in many young people. If you have that money in your bank account (as the author indicates she does), then she is correct that you shouldn’t say you can’t afford it. But for those of us who are a little closer to the edge of the budget than that, the truth is what it is and we need to teach our kids to trust the Lord even when we can’t afford certain things. It’s OK to be cheerfully honest about that. Definitely no reason to pout or complain, but I’m a realist too. 🙂

    • I appreciate you bringing this perspective. Again, here, I’d say that it is about choices: you’ve chosen to lead a ministry lifestyle, chosen to trust God for your daily bread, and chosen to have that as an opportunity to teach your children about faith. You’ve chosen to walk by faith instead of pursuing a different career and, therefore, you have to choose to spend your money very carefully and work very hard as a result.

      When you view it like this, it should encourage you to know that you’re walking in obedience and making sacrifices as a result — sacrifices that will pay off long-term in big benefits: lives changes, your children getting to see God provide, etc.

      Thanks so much for how you are serving. Your reward in heaven will be great!

  • As my Grandmother use to tell me, “the only thing you cannot afford, is the time it takes to feel sorry for yourself.”

  • cherie says:

    Very interesting reading the comments too

    I have to say that I say both things. It is true that we make choices with the money we have. It is also true that our money is limited and there are a great many things we cannot afford [and a great many things we can]

    I think it is important to teach our children that we are making conscious choices with our money – and understanding needs vs wants and being sure to include saving for emergencies that become needs.

    But I think that our society has become ashamed of not being able to afford things. Because that means we’re poor. Or a failure. Or lazy.

    No one can afford everything. There is no shame in saying so if it’s true. Nancy’s cousin obviously is using it as an excuse to avoid something she doesn’t wish to participate in – but if it’s true, well be honest.

    As a teaching method, and as a method for thinking about money – I think we should say both things and think about the difference, about what they MEAN.

    If my kids ask if we can order pizza I may say, ‘I don’t choose to spend my money on that right now’ – but there are times when the answer is ‘I can’t afford that right now because we’ve had this and that extra expense this month’

    I think it’s important for them to hear that there’s something I can’t afford and I’m neither ashamed nor stressed about it.

    There have been times when my worrywarts have felt concern that we couldn’t afford something. But I’ve explained over and over how we have what we need in gracious plenty, and much of what we ‘want’ – but that there’s always a limit.

  • Susan says:

    I’ve been in different financial situations at different times in my life. Based on my current situation, I agree with the article that I can afford things, it’s just a matter of what I choose to spend money on.

    But there was a time when money was so extremely tight that I truly could not afford anything but absolute necessities, and it was not because of choices I made. A number of things happened that were outside of my control, including but not limited to an injury where not only did I rack up huge medical bills at a time when I was unable to work because of that injury, but there were also legal fees resulting from the fact that neither party’s insurance would pay the damages, both claiming that the other party was at fault. And, as a single parent, I had no choice but to pay more childcare expenses than I otherwise would have, again because I was unable to properly care for my daughter because of my injury. Around the same time, the owners of the rental I was living in abruptly sold it, forcing me to move on very short notice. And the new place ended up costing me quite a bit of money because of damages that did not come to light until after I moved in, damage that posed a health concern for my young daughter. And for me, but I was worried about myself than I was for my little one. And yes, I did get an inspection beforehand — I was not negligent in choosing where to live. But I was desperate because of the short notice, the injury disability, and the money situation. It was a very stressful time in my life.

    Back then, if I’d said I couldn’t afford something and someone responded telling me that it was simply a matter of choice, I would have been very offended.

    I’m not complaining about the tough times or lack of money — I knew I’d get through it and life would get better, and it did. But some people are not so fortunate. Some people who suffer injuries similar to mine never recover enough physically to return to work in their lifetimes. And to those individuals I’m genuinely sympathetic.

    That said, I would agree about how a positive attitude can make all the difference in how we view our circumstances. I’ve seen plenty of people who manage to remain cheerful in spite of difficult circumstances, financial or otherwise, and they are truly inspirational.

  • Guest says:

    I really enjoyed the post and have often though the same thing. I do understand why some people may feel that it’s a flippant response but I don’t think the author means it that way.

    At the end of the day, they are choices. If you have chosen to be a SAHM so you’re living on one income, that’s a choice. If you’re in ministry and have a lower income, that’s a choice. If your husband works at a lower paying local job because he doesn’t want to work off and miss time with the family, that’s a choice. That isn’t to say they are easy choices but they’re still choices.

    That said, the author even pointed out that she ALMOST NEVER says it.

    One of the greatest benefits of this shift in mindset is that it’s a reminder that you are not a victim of your own life. You have choices and you’re making the best choices you can with what you have and where you are.

    • cwaltz says:

      Sometimes you do have choices…..other times, maybe not. Is the kid who can’t afford college and who may not have parents who can give him the means to attend school really to blame for the fact that all he can get for income is a minimum wage entry level position? I tend to disagree he is being given a real choice. He’s being given a circumstance and being asked to thrive in spite of it. Can he? Probably. Hopefully. However, he has less room for error than the kid who has parents that may have the means to give their child a leg up when the inevitable unlucky event pops up like illness.

      It’s real easy to suggest that we make our circumstances but some of our circumstances may stem from other people’s circumstances and choices too. I didn’t choose to be born into a dysfunctional home with a father that was an alcoholic. It was a circumstance I was forced into. I daresay given the choice we’d all want to be born into a household where we learn to be happy, productive and functional. However, some of us may not have had that easy of a start. We should recognize that our beginnings definitely impact how we may choose to make choices as well. I can’t count the number of times I’ve prayed at feeling envious when I read a post about a family whose parents helped them with childcare while they took a vacation or a family that kicked in to fix up a fixer upper when their kid finally had a down payment on a house. I just didn’t get that type of family. It wasn’t what God gave me. On the upside, I do believe my struggles have made me an empathetic person who cares and that was a choice I made based on the circumstances I was given. So even bad circumstances can lead to people embracing good character traits.

      • Guest says:

        I definitely agree that not all circumstances are chosen but I have a different perspective on the examples you used. I grew up below the poverty line a trailer park in a rural town. I’m a first generation college graduate and my parents did not pay for my college. I took out student loans which are available for situations like mine and the one you mention. I worked all through college and lived off next to nothing. I did have the blessing of hard working parents who weren’t able to give me much financially but did give me the phenomenal gifts of a hard work ethic and love and I realize not everyone has that. My husband is from a highly dysfunctional family – alcoholism, abandonment – and he also worked his way through college and took out loans. We chose to not have children until we were well into our careers, had a house, emergency savings, etc. I never wanted to be a stay at home mom but I did want to take extended maternity leaves so we saved the money to offset my lack of income during those times. We’ve never received one dime from either of our families to help with these expenses.

        We’ve made mistakes just like everyone else (and continue to) but I do find it hard to muster up a lot of sympathy for people in situations that I personally overcame when they would prefer to talk about how they can’t do a, b, or c because they don’t have it as good as Jane or John did instead of focusing on what they can do. There are absolutely situations where people truly do not have a choice but I truly believe those are the exceptions and not the rule and there are social programs to assist those individuals and families until they can get back on their feet.

        Rather than feeling beaten down by my circumstances, I felt driven to do better. I don’t believe I am judging others with this point of view. I believe it’s actually the opposite in that I am ENCOURAGED by the opportunities most of us have to make choices to improve our situations.

        • cwaltz says:

          Student loans are a dangerous, dangerous route these days. There is over a trillion dollars in student loan debt and there are people who are paying back their well into their senior years. So even though you worked hard in school, some of the result was being lucky to end your schooling in an economic climate that allowed you to move ahead.

          I’m not trying to diminish the hard work that you and your husband have obviously put into your lives or the good choices you made but think about what it would have been like if upon graduation you found that the only jobs available to you were low wage jobs that made paying those loans back incredibly difficult? It’s an unfortunate reality for some of today’s kids.

          I definitely agree that you can thrive in spite of circumstances, as I pointed out, I have. That being said, it is harder than having that safety net in a family that can and does support you when you make those mistakes or have the life bumps that come along.

          It is funny that people can come from similar backgrounds and come up with entirely different perspectives and entirely different strengths as a result of overcoming. I suspect that when people describe you they use adjectives like strong and capable. I’m a soft touch and most people describe me as kind(although I suspect that what I’d describe it as empathy since I understand struggle)hearted. I’m the kind of person who’d give the world a hug if she could. I also suspect that there’s purpose in both of us learning what we did. The world probably needs strong AND kind to be encouraged by.

          • Guest says:

            I think you hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph. :-). I had a roommate (post-college) and she had very different beliefs about social policy than I did. We thought it was so interesting that both of us came from hard circumstances but had these vastly different points of view. You’re right, though. I’m a tough, scrappy fighter and tend to not dwell too much on feelings. The world needs all kinds, though, and I do believe we all show support and encouragement in different ways. You’d give the whole world a hug and I’d give it a battle cry and a kick in the pants. 😉

            Thank you for stating your perspective and beliefs so thoughtfully and respectfully.

      • Guest says:

        I agree. I’m afraid it’s too easy to look at life’s circumstances and always try to weave them back to choice. It is not popular in America to admit that we could not control something. A missionary recently showed our family a DVD of Christians living in Cuba. Due to severe poverty, the people had no basic necessities. I just feel that we betray our American mindset when we say, “You have made choices that have brought you here.” Many people have NOT made the choices that resulted in their financial hardship. The article seems to assign a moral stigma to admitted that some aspects of financial struggle are, at times, outside of personal control. Sometimes we honestly can’t afford things. It’s not a crime to admit that.

        • Guest says:

          My original post was from a purely American point of view. Talking about individuals living in a third world country (like Cuba) is an entirely different ball of wax. You can’t compare the two.

        • cwaltz says:

          I don’t think it purposely is trying to assign a stigma, I think the person is writing from their perspective and life experience. It’ll probably even help some that are in the same phase of their lives where they do have more options and a broader range of choices.

          However, I do want to put the perspective out there that sometimes the choices people may be forced into are bad and worse based upon circumstances that leave them only these options(I spent several years in the Philippines where I met girls whose options were prostitution or starve.) Life does not give us all the same circumstances or the same options.

  • Jenna says:

    I enjoyed and agree with the article. Though, I have been telling my 3 year old lately that we “can’t afford” each toy he asks for. I catch myself sometimes and then correct myself and instead remind him that he needs to use his own money and doesn’t have enough in his piggy bank. I’ve heard him tell me “we can’t afford …” For things I want to buy, and frankly, it makes me laugh. Nothing like your 3 year calling you out on buying extra stuff you don’t need.

  • Charlene E says:

    At our house I prefer to say, “I can have what I want, but I can’t have everything that I want.”

  • WilliamB says:

    I think this is a useful mindset but doesn’t cover all circumstances.

    Right now I have a lot of choices. I can say “I don’t choose to spend my money on that.” “That” means a newer car, or eating out frequently, or going to first-run movies more than a couple times a year.

    OTOH that was not the case in my early 20’s. I had the basics without worry but there wasn’t room for much else. There were many things to which I _had_ to say “I can’t afford that,” including my paid-off car because insurance was so expensive.[1]

    Way over on the other end of the scale, I certainly couldn’t afford a $5 million home, no matter how many other things I chose not buy.

    [1] It is true that could have lived in a less expensive city. But at that season in my life I was better off living with supportive friends in Pricy City, than being alone with a car in Cheap City.

  • alicia says:

    Loved this! It’s an attitude we’ve been trying to develop in our kids lately. Our son was begging for a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese this week. We helped him estimate what that would cost & our older son told him “we can’t afford that.” (Can’t imagine where he learned that!) I had to explain that we probably could afford it, but it might mean we can’t afford to go to the beach again this summer, or fix our car if it dies like it did last month, or a myriad of other things. Like anything else, it comes down to priorities. Of course, our other kids chose the beach as top priority. The birthday boy still listed Chuck E. Cheese as first….but I guess delayed gratification and selfishness are problems to tackle another day! 😉

  • Bonnie says:

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to say it’s not in the budget? Both my children know that a budget is a plan for how to spend your money. There is also a difference between a want and a need. I’m already empowered by the Holy Spirit.

  • Karen says:

    I agree! I have encountered many conversations with friends and family about this! We all make choices everyday! We choose to invest our tax return rather than blowing it mindlessly!
    I often have conversations with my kids about this. They will ask for me to buy something (usually a toy) at the store and ask if we have enough money for that? I tell them yes we do have enough money, but I am choosing not to spend it that way. In followup with examples of things that would be better choices! I give them the opportunity to spend their money on it, and they say no thanks every time:) wise spending starts early!!

  • Rhonda says:

    While it is very true that we cannot afford everything, often saying “I can’t afford that” comes across as a whiny complaint. And to whom are we complaining? To the One who provides our every need.
    It also comes across as hinting for someone else to pay for me.
    You are right, change the wording. It makes all the difference in the world.

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