Three Ways to Say No (When Part of You Really Wants to Say Yes)

We’re all tempted now and then to say yes to things that we’re much better off saying no to. Usually this happens when the thing we’re tempted by is at odds with a larger goal — such as improving our financial lives, losing weight, getting healthy, or accomplishing some other task in a limited period of time.

When it comes to money, that temptation could take several forms. It might be a great deal that arrives in our email, seeing something expensive we’d love to get while out shopping for a planned purchase, or blowing our budget because we’re just tired of working so hard for so long to reach a goal.

Here are three ways to say no when a part of you really wants to say yes.

    1. Remind yourself of your goal. Sometimes literally reminding yourself of your larger goal can make a big difference. If you’re tempted by unplanned purchases that might derail you, place a note or a picture that describes your SMART goals right on your wallet. Think in detail about what it will be like when you reach that goal. By focusing on that instead of the temptation of the moment, you’ll be more likely to see the value of what you really want, and less likely to succumb to temptation.


    1. Avoid temptation in the first place. If you’ve got a goal of paying off your house, don’t leave email alerts set to notify you of great deals on a trip to Paris. If you often get sidetracked by catalogs, toss them in the recycling bin when you get them. (Or better yet, have your name removed from the mailing list.) If you usually spend more than you intended to while at the mall, stay out of the mall. If your friends and relatives often call you up and ask you to do things that you can’t afford at this time, tell them about what you’re trying to accomplish and enlist their help. (Or suggest alternative things to do that are less costly or free.)


  1. Build in breaks. If you’ve got a goal that you know will take a long time to achieve, build in breaks where you can indulge a little in the things you’re most tempted by. Just make these at either set intervals or after set milestones. For example, you might agree to eat a meal out after every $500 in progress toward your debt reduction, or you might agree to treat yourself to $50 in clothing every 3 months. Knowing these breaks are coming up will help you to say “no” to temptation in the meantime. And you’ll feel good about yourself for doing so.

The thing about sticking to your guns when you’re tempted to do otherwise is that you feel really, really good for doing so. Deep down, you know you’re doing the thing that you most want to do. And of course, every no to a little thing that isn’t all that important in the big scheme of things, brings you that much closer to a great big yes to your main goal.


  • My friend talks about the concept of “hell yeah” he only does things that inspire him to say “hell yeah”. It’s not so much about saying no, or yes for that matter. But those projects, activities, partnerships that get you so excited you can’t help but say “hell yeah.” Check out his blog post here:

  • I never a problem saying no, my problem is saying yes. I allow myself to say yes when it comes to travel.

    • Do you mean that you don’t say yes enough? I have so never had a problem with that. If that’s what you mean, is there any chance I could talk you into doing a guest post on the topic?

  • Thank you a hundred times over. We’ve been actively working to become financially free and for some reason we always shoot ourselves in the foot every couple of months. It wasn’t until I read your #2 bullet point on “Avoid temptation in the first place.” that I finally understood the problem.

    I am signed up to almost every mailing list out there to stay in the loop about deals and sales on my favorites items at my favorite stores. Also, we live in the cold Midwest so my husband and I will often go to the mall to walk around – and the temptations are EVERYWHERE!

    Immediately upon reading this, I have already unsubscribed to 2 of my major temptation store’s mailing lists and will continue to work through the others as they come in. Also, we will begin trading the mall walks for walks with our dogs (no matter how much we have to bundle up).

    Thank you for helping me find my lightbulb moment!

    • Shannon, that is so awesome that you immediately took action. So many people read something that interests them, think “oh I should try that”, and then don’t. You’re one of the people who are going to succeed :)

  • Hehe yeah, not taking the breaks too far is key.

  • Great advice. So helpful, especially during such a difficult economic time.

    Another way to avoid impulse spending to create and maintain a personal shopping priority list and consider it a warning signal whenever you find yourself being swayed to purchase something that isn’t on your list. If it’s a big purchase you’re drawn to, sleep on the decision. If you still want to buy it when you wake up and it involves a significant amount of money, look at your priority list and overall budget, and then decide what you’re willing to trade to get it. If you like the trade, then fine, go buy it. If not, then don’t.

    So many of our influences to buy things come from the media and advertising. It’s time to resist the influence of advertising, control your money, and make purchases based on your priorities. It’s your money, be your own financial expert. See to it that you, and only you, decide how you spend it.

    • Good advice. I like the idea of a personal shopping list. As far as resisting advertising goes, I try to ask myself, “Did I want this before I heard or saw the ad?”. If the answer is no, I sleep on it. Usually by the next day I’ve forgotten all about it.