How to say no when you're on a tight budget | SavvyWoman

How to say no to yourself and others when you’re on a tight budget

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By Becky Goddard-Hill of

Habits are formed over time. As many women have children later in life we are increasingly used to having and spending money and being able to purchase luxury items from our disposable income. Perhaps a magazine, take out coffee, sandwich deals at lunch time, new dress because we have a night out. We need to learn new habits and a new mantra if we are going to stay out of debt as budgeting parents.

Cash will be tight

Parenting by its very nature reduces cash. There’s another mouth to feed who needs ‘stuff’ too. If you don’t go back to work you lose your income. If you work part time you reduce your income and need to pay for childcare and if you work full time you have a lot of childcare costs.

Saying ‘no’

‘No’ is such a short word to say and it can keep you out of a whole heap of trouble. But it is hard.

Scenario 1

You have a train journey to take and it’s a long journey, you want a latte and magazine to keep you warm and occupied. Telling yourself ‘no’ isn’t easy so how are you going to manage this?

  • It’s a lot easier to say no if you come prepared; a flask and a library book can make a huge difference and will reduce the temptation to spend.

Tip: Be prepared

  • Think about what you could do with the money you don’t spend. Create a vision in your head of doing something more important with it, perhaps buying tonight’s tea. What could you make for £5? Let your mind drift and keep occupied/distracted that way.

Tip: Refocus the money 

  • Buy a newspaper instead. It’s cheaper and will stop you being bored.

Tip: Have a cheaper alternative

Scenario 2

It’s winter, your baby is waking at odd times and you’re feeling a bit run down. You so want a manicure, pedicure or hair do to make yourself a bit more attractive and to perk you up.

  • Just say a big ‘no’ to the beauticians! Doing your own nails or having a friend do them is the way forward. Maybe you could help them by babysitting in return? You will still feel great and pampered just not poor as well!

Tip: Have a cheaper alternative

  • Delve into a box of treats you have created for yourself. Fill it with 99p face packs, a little bath bomb, perhaps a little hair slide, a DVD you have been meaning to watch and a magazine someone gave that you have saved specially. It really doesn’t need to cost much.

Tip: Be prepared

  • Work out what that hairdo and manicure etc would have cost. Because you didn’t indulge, what can you now use that money for? Is your car’s MOT due? Does your credit card bill need paying?

Tip: Refocus the money

‘No’ can seem like a little, mean, bad, horrid, pesky, word but saying it loud and proud can make the difference between worries and stress about debt and being a happier, more relaxed parent who feels in control.

Dealing with family and friends

My personal view with family and friends is to be upfront about what you can and can’t afford wherever you feel okay to do so. If you have a partner, encourage them to talk to their family and friends as well.

BECKY’S TIP: If you can have that uncomfortable conversation about how your funds are limited – that will make a big difference. Once it’s said it’s out there and smaller gifts, refusals for meals out etc. are likely to be met with understanding.

Offering alternatives

Not buying gifts at all or never socialising can make others feel uncared about.

  • Money is not the spice of life. It’s the thought that’s important, so passing on an appropriate book you have read as a gift or a bunch of flowers from your garden can mean a great deal.
  • Inviting everyone to yours can be cheaper.  Opt for something like a big pot of soup after a winter walk – it’s lovely and costs nowhere near the same as a night out.
  • Put your thinking cap on! Doing something is always better received than doing nothing.

When you can’t say no

If the friendship is too new or lacks the depth necessary for you to be able to say you are skint then stock up on excuses and make sure they aren’t time limited. For example:

If a friend invites you to a meal out and you can’t afford to go, if your answer is ‘I am busy that day’ it will just result in another day being offered. Instead say ‘Oh I much prefer to cook myself’ and invite everyone to yours, suggesting everyone makes or brings a course.

If your child is being invited for expensive swimming lessons, instead of saying that the swimming course was full when you tried to enrol your child, say something like ‘we think we might prefer to teach her ourselves’.

BECKY’S TIP: Good luck! And please remember if someone falls out with you because you have little money they were probably never worth your energy in the first place.

Related articles:

Saving on the cost of a new baby

Money saving tips for mums; how to cut the costs and make your money go further

Which savings accounts for children pay the best rates?

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