“I cannot afford it.”
This is probably the most popular excuse for saying no to purchases. But you know what? It is never true.
Well, I suppose if you asked me to purchase Michael Jackson’s estate, I could tell you honestly that I couldn’t afford it. But what about the nice shoes that my son wants? Or the extracurricular activity my daughter wants to join? Or the extra night out my spouse wants to splurge on a date?
“I cannot afford it,” is the common response, but it’s hardly ever true. And your son/daughter/spouse know it. I propose to you this: claiming you cannot afford something is a whiny excuse for not purchasing it.
When you think about it, that’s a pretty bizarre concept. Especially coming from a father of 16 children. Trust me, I get plenty of requests for purchases. “I cannot afford it” is not the excuse I give. Allow me to explain why I don’t give this excuse, and what I say instead.
Those $100 Shoes
Being self-employed, my income varies from year to year, but averages around $50k per year. Hardly rolling in the dough, but not in extreme poverty either. If anyone has an excuse for “I cannot afford it,” it’s me. I know people who make twice as much as me who use the “I cannot afford it” with their children, their business associates, and so on. Stay with me if you’re one of these folks, because if you comprehend what I’m saying, you will, in the long run, bring great freedom to your financial livelihood.
Take, for example, those $100 shoes my son wants. I have access to $100 right now. In a snap. When he asks me for the money, guess what? I have it. He’s old enough to know I do. Like most sorta-poor people, I have $100 of non-discretional funds.
Teenagers included. My son makes good money working for our neighbor, selling homemade swords, and any other activity he finds the time to do. He’s a tough young man who wants $100 tennis shoes, and he has access to that $100 just as fast as I do. The argument may be made that I have more money than he does, but I can turn that table on him: he has much more non-discretional money than I do. I’m providing food and shelter for 16 people; he’s got his mind on designer tennis shoes.
So, it is not true that my son or I “cannot afford” the shoes. It is also not true that because I have more money than he, that I should buy him his shoes. While “I cannot afford it” is the excuse given by most people in this situation, what is the better thing to say? (Or the better excuse?)
What to Say Instead of “I Cannot Afford It”
If you have read Guy Kawasaki’s bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad, you get what I’m saying. “I cannot afford it” is the “poor dad” mentality. In other words…
- “I’m a victim of my own limitations.”
- “Life has kept privileges like designer shoes from me.”
- “I am poor.”
The “rich dad” doesn’t settle for excuses like these, and though a “rich dad” and “poor dad” may have the exact same amount of money, the “rich dad” understands basic economics enough to liberate his family from such nonsense.
My son wants shoes, but not enough to spend it himself. A better response: “$100 is a big chunk of money; do you really think they’re worth that much?” The discussion turns to the value of the shoes – an economic discussion – rather than a debate on who is more impoverished. I inevitably turn this on him. “If you want to spend $100 on your shoes, you have every right to do so.” My son still wears nice shoes, but they aren’t the $100 ones that he desired before he was forced to think of their real value.
Really, this is liberating stuff. You may find yourself in family squabbles over what the family should or shouldn’t buy, based on this fallacy of “I cannot afford it.” My son isn’t trying to convince me that I really can afford it (which, by the way, he’d be right). Now he’s thinking of whether he really wants the stupid, overly priced shoes.
The Spoiled Alternative
Warning: Don’t get miffed if your son decides he really does want those shoes. Let him spend his hundred bucks. He’s learning the tough lesson of quantifiable value, and his value may be different than yours. That’s okay. As long as he understands the true economics behind his purchase, he will be much better off in the long run than those spoiled kids whose parents are buying them designer shoes.
Let me conclude on that point: the “spoiled” kid with the $100 shoes that you and I both know the kid did not buy himself. None of us wants our kids to end up spoiled and rotten, but buying them the shoes or ending up with an “I cannot afford it” argument does precisely this. Really, both scenarios lose. Picture the whiny kid in the back of the room with $20 shoes complaining about how his parents can’t afford clothes. He’s no different than the sporty jock in the center of his friends with brand new designer shoes.
Instead, be a “rich dad” and keep true economics in mind. You will liberate your children from an impoverished view of life, and regardless of how little you make, you will raise “rich” kids.