4 Ways Saying No Can Make You Wealthier

by Dana George | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 16, 2020

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Blackboard Saying No

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If you're someone who finds it difficult to say no, it's time to rejigger your thinking. Saying no can help you build wealth.

If you're someone who finds it difficult to say no, it's time to rejigger your thinking. Saying no can help you build wealth

We are socialized to be polite, to be helpful, and to say "yes" whenever possible. If you've ever heard a 4-year-old say, "You're being mean!" because you told him or her no, you'll understand how early we learn to associate the word "no" with negativity.

The problem with always saying yes is that it can be expensive, emotionally and financially.  Here are four ways saying no can make you wealthier:

1. Say no to time-sucks

Time-sucks are obligations that drain you of energy and steal your focus. They start out innocuous enough. In fact, invitations to take part in time-sucks sound something like this:

  • "You must be on the board of directors! We need someone with your unique insights."
  • "Can you watch my kids, just for an hour or two? I haven't had a break in weeks and think I might snap if I don't get away. You're always so good with them."
  • "You wouldn't mind helping me out with this project, would you? The boss wants it for a meeting, and you will make us all look good."

No matter how much flattery accompanies the request, anyone who asks you to commit time is asking you to donate a portion of your life. Of course, if you have time available and decide to give of yourself, it can be rewarding -- if it's what you want. However, if there's a little voice in the back of your head saying that you already have enough on your plate, listen to it.

Here's what saying no to time-sucks can do for you financially:

  • Gives you more time to focus on your job, make more money, and create wealth -- whether you work for yourself or someone else. 
  • Gives you time to work on the kind of projects that make you stand out at work, which will help next time you ask for a raise or apply for a promotion. 
  • Gives you time to plan for your future (only 3% of Americans spend time each day managing household financial matters. Don't let time-sucks stand between you and your money).
  • Offers you the opportunity to rest and renew. The more refreshed you feel, the more productive you will be.

2. Say no to deals that are "too good to miss"

Have you ever made an impulse buy, simply because the price was so good you couldn't pass it up? American companies spent nearly $198 billion on marketing last year. They know exactly how to capture your attention and how to make you think, "I can't leave this tackle box here. It's a great buy!" Even if you don't fish. 

There is zero need to buy something you don't need just because it's on sale. Stores love it when you do because it helps them clear out the warehouse, but it robs you of money you could be putting into an interest-bearing savings account or investment. 

This is how to teach yourself to say no to deals: Try to see yourself 10 years down the road. Will you still be using the sale item or will it be gathering dust in your basement or garage? What if, instead, you opened an online no-minimum IRA?

Say the sale item in question cost $10. If you passed up the sale and transferred that $10 to an IRA, you could make it work in your favor. Assuming your IRA has an average annual return of 8%, a single $10 investment would be worth more than $21 in 10 years. Passing on a $20 item and investing the money instead would give you more than $43, and choosing an investment over a $30 item would give you nearly $65.

And that's one single shopping trip. Imagine passing up many "too good to miss" deals throughout the year. Each pass could be diverted into an investment designed to make you money. 

3. Say no to following the crowd

As humans, we love to fit in with our pack, to be accepted by our group. Unfortunately, we often try to fit in by doing what others are doing -- even if it's not good for us. If all your friends buy a house before you're financially ready, don't do it. If your friends are going on a group trip you can't afford, plan another trip and save up for it. 

The truth is, true friends do not care about the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the furniture they sit on when they visit your home. Saying no to following the crowd is the same thing as saying yes to your innate value as a human being, minus all the trappings. 

Oh, and if you don't have friends who care about you in a way that makes you feel safe and respected, find new friends.

4. Say no to debt

Who among us has not been tempted to charge something we can't immediately afford or to take out a loan for more than we budgeted? Learn to say no to debt as often as possible. One of two things will happen if you wait to pay cash for the things you want:

  1. You will appreciate it more because you worked for it and waited, or
  2. You will decide you don't want it after all, saving yourself money

Have you ever heard of someone tossing and turning at night, worried that their investments were earning too much compound interest or their savings account was becoming too large? Not likely. 

Sleepless nights are most commonly associated with having more debt that we can handle. In fact, most debt is taxed with a psychological cost. Sure, we trade money (and financial security) for debt, but we also trade a sense of wellbeing. 

In a study conducted by The Ascent on the psychological cost of debt, 71% of respondents in debt said they think about it more than they would like, and 69% of people with credit card debt said it made them feel ashamed. Is getting something you want right now really important enough to risk feeling bad about yourself? 

Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to say no, whether it's to yourself or someone else. It may be uncomfortable at first, but keep practicing. It gets easier.

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