There are times when, out of our own fear of being rude or uncomfortable, we make money choices that aren't in our best interest. Here are five ways to say a financial "no"—whether it's refusing to loan money or bowing out of Girl Scout cookies.

By Jennifer Nelson
April 19, 2021
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Have you ever been put on the spot and invited to a home party for kitchenware, essential oils, lingerie, or jewelry, where you just knew you'd be expected to buy something? Ever been in front of a salesperson giving you their most ardent pitch? Money can be an awkward and uncomfortable subject, and a hard sell can be difficult to resist.

Maybe you find yourself wondering if your neighbor will be annoyed you didn't support her as an "entrepreneur," or if you didn't want to buy Girl Scout cookies from her daughter. There are times when, out of our own fear of being rude or uncomfortable, we make financial choices that aren't in our best interest.

Do you have trouble saying a hard financial "no"? Here are five ways to help you stick to your budget, your good financial intentions, and your goals when it comes to spending.

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Build resistance.

"At first blush, it might look like accountability, setting boundaries, or even budgeting is the solution here. But my clients have taught me over and over again that being able to stick to a budget, a boundary, or a goal is the result of something we lack all too often in our financial lives: resilience," says Hanna Morrell, a holistic financial coach at Pacific Stoa Financial Wellness, in Salem, Ore.

Morrell suggests intentionally and frequently exposing yourself to small low- to no-risk hardships. She had one client who wanted to stop avoiding the Salvation Army bellringer and felt guilty for not contributing every time. Her client finally worked up to making eye contact with the bellringer but not putting any money in.

Another couple had to learn to refuse to go in on group gifts they couldn't afford. By practicing saying, "our gift budget is depleted until next year," they learned to handle themselves and prepare for any blowback over not participating.

"By focusing on exposing ourselves to tiny discomforts intentionally we toughen up without trauma or failure," says Morrell. Eventually, you build up resilience and can handle saying no when you can't contribute to something financially-—guilt-free.

Defer to later.

"One of my favorite ways to say 'no' is by deferring the offer," says Forrest McCall, owner and blogger at Don'tWorkAnotherDay.

It's best to say something about how you appreciate the offer, but now is not the right time, and you will reach out when the time comes. This allows you to buy time and puts you back in control.

"I'm on a budget."

"What I've found to be the most helpful is to let people know that I'm on a budget," says Peter Shapoval, a money management blogger at TheZoePath.

When his good friend wanted to visit an expensive restaurant, Shapoval knew it wasn't in that month's budget. "I told him I can't go because my budget doesn't allow for it. But if he would like, I can budget [it] for a later date."

This accomplishes two things—you get in a hard financial no, and an alternative on your own timeline. It says, sure, I'd love to go to that pricey restaurant sometime—but when I can afford it, save up for it, and budget for it.

Practice saying "no."

“We find it hard to speak up and say no, as we do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” says Joshua Gerstler, FPFS, Cert SMP, FCA owner of The Orchard Practice, a boutique financial planning business in Borehamwood, UK.

“It sounds silly, but just practice saying no. The more you get used to saying it, the more natural it will become.” Plus, you don’t have to be rude: You can say no politely.

Gerstler sometimes has people knock on his door collecting for charity. Some are genuine and some are not. It’s tough to be put on the spot. “So, I decided that I would not give any money directly to collectors at the door, and I tell them that [politely]. I then look up the charity online and will donate to the ones that I want to support at that time.”

Be honest.

When all else fails and "no" is seen as an invitation for a salesperson to try even harder—whether that's a used car salesperson, a timeshare presentation, or someone trying to sell you a house full of new windows—try honesty.

"I always think that honesty is the best policy in these situations. You must remember that everyone is human and they will have some sympathy for you if you need to be tighter with money, or it needs to be going in another direction," says Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry, sites that help users reach financial goals and comparison-shop money matters.

Instead of putting yourself in financial hardship, just be honest about your money and try offering the truth—or a practiced version such as, "I just can't swing that right now," "That's a little out of my budget," or "no can do." There is no counterargument to this.

If they're reasonable, they will not bother you again about it.

With a bit of resilience in your financial toolbox and a little practice, you can get better at saying a hard financial "no" and avoid spending that isn't in your budget.