“I didn’t agree to pay for their meal, Allison. I’m not gonna do it,” I said.
This might’ve been the most tense moment my best friend and I ever had.
We’d been traveling for three months and our last stop was in Spain, where she offered to pay for dinner for our host and his brother.
I freaked out. At that point neither of us had steady jobs, just some savings, which we were rapidly depleting due to our travels. So when I took a look at the $90 bill, it was overwhelming.
But paying was the right thing to do. She knew it. I knew it. And they’d both been such a delight to stay with. This was the only way we could show our appreciation.
Here’s the thought that held me back, though: “I can’t afford it!”
This is the most common financial phrase I hear and a money block I always look out for in my coaching clients.
I’ve heard them use this phrase to justify not spending money on a fitness class, a website for their business, or a virtual assistant.
Maybe you’ve used it as an excuse to not travel, not go out to dinner, or not start investing. But the phrase itself keeps you small, limits your potential for financial growth, and keeps you circling in an emotional state of ‘I have no money.’
It scrunches you down to fit the money situation you’re already in, versus expanding your range for your ideal financial situation.
But there’s a way to change this perspective. Instead of saying, “I can’t afford it,” try using this empowered money statement instead:
“I’ll be able to afford that soon. Here’s what I can afford right now.”
This phrase gives you agency over your money situation and makes buying decisions a real choice instead of a limitation. It feels so much better to say too because it opens a door to an opportunity versus closing it in your face.
The idea of being able to afford something soon also allows you to envision where you want to go and what you want your future financial situation to look like. With proper planning and clarity on where you’re headed, it’s possible to bring that vision to life.
So if I could go back in time, I would tell myself, “OK, I might not be able to afford paying for their full meal, but I can definitely afford to cover the tip.”
Because when you say you can’t afford something, what you really mean is that you’re scared you won’t have enough for something else.
I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough money to get home, enough for an emergency, or enough to pay for meals if I got stranded in the airport. But that fear wasn’t logical.
I could have covered the $10 tip, no problem. But I chose not to. So my friend ended up paying the entire bill by herself. And it’s one of my only regrets from that trip.
The lesson? If you can’t afford something, do what you can.
So if you can’t afford to eat out, try this: “I can’t afford to go out to eat every day, but I’ll go chill with friends and get a drink.”
“I can’t afford to start investing” could turn into, “I can’t invest $500 a month right now, but I can start with $75 a month.”
“I can’t afford to travel” might be rephrased as: “I can’t afford to go to Europe for the summer, but I’ve heard Mexico is amazing and I can definitely afford those flights.”
There is ALWAYS a way to afford some version of what you want. And it’s up to you to decide what that looks like.
So do yourself a favor and stop saying, “I can’t afford it,” not because you truly can’t, but because it’ll keep you stuck in the same financial situation. Focus on what you CAN do with your money.
Life was never meant to be dictated by finances. Just guided by it.