Saying No To Myself: A Money Skill I’m Still Trying to Master

Note to Self Word No Telling Myself NoWe’ve crested a lot of milestones in 2020. Not only do we have enough money set aside in savings to pay off our mortgage when we’re ready, we can also afford for my husband to take a short-term leave of absence from a work situation that no longer works for our family.

Oh. And the markets worked their magic long enough that my Roth IRA crossed six figures and I became a future old lady millionaire.

It’s been a big year.

You would think that this spate of money milestones would come on the tail of some great financial acumen.

You would think.

I’m sure the financial acumen is in there somewhere. But I’m also having this battle with myself. You see, I keep trying to buy things that I know I don’t even need or want. It turns out that no matter the bank balance, you can take the girl out of Target but you can’t take Target away from the girl. At least not this girl. Not when their app and website are finally running like they should!

Here’s what I’ve been working on telling myself no to lately:

Toddler pants

When I started sorting through the clothes that would take HP from fall to winter and even into spring, I realized that we were experiencing a pants shortfall. Running around in just his skivvies but make it fashion is kind of his MO in warmer months. But considering we were sledding last October, he definitely needed some pants.

So I bought some.

And some more.

And some more.

Before you know it, we had so many “I can’t believe this price!” pants, that I realized I was now tempted to go buy more shirts to go with them. That’s right. Instead of spending money to solve a problem, I created another one.

When the last Target box arrived in the mail, I put the whole box in my car and returned them. They were a great price, and I know he would have loved them. I know because we already own two pairs in different colors…which is all the more reason to take them back. I’ve also successfully talked myself out of at least a half dozen Poshmark purchases, which has been a gold mine for frugal and eco-friendly finds. 

RELATED POST: 5 Tips to Build a Quality Toddler Wardrobe from Poshmark for Less

Gym shoes

Allow me to translate: I’m talking about the rubber-soled shoes that you wear when you exercise or chase your small human around the neighborhood. Tennis shoes. Sneakers. But if you’re running around my neighborhood? Gym shoes.

Recently, I swung by DSW to donate some shoes. While I was there, I fell madly in love with a pair of gym shoes. Really sleek black mesh uppers with a rose gold accent at the heel. They are truly lovely shoes.

They also cost $80 on sale and don’t do anything different than the perfectly fine pair of gym shoes I already own. Though I had already mentally made my way out of the store with them in my daydreams, I killed my own buzz and went home empty handed.

RELATED POST: Shoe Recycling at DSW to Declutter and Earn Cash…Kind Of

A cash register toy set

My son loves money. He’s obsessed with piggy banks. He has one for real money (“Dirty pennies! Not orange!”), and he has one with rainbow coins to practice counting.

He also adores cash registers. So it made sense when I started browsing through a catalog of rewards that I can redeem via my insurance wellness program, that I settled on a Melissa & Doug play set that came with a cash register.

“He will love this!” I thought, as I excitedly added it to my shopping cart.

Of course he will love it. Just like he loves the not one, not two, not three, but four (!!!) other cash registers that we have in our house. Thankfully, I deleted the item from my cart and decided to make a wish list instead. Just because I’m paying with points doesn’t mean there’s no cost to all the clutter.

RELATED POST: 5 Reasons Why I’m Not Sold on Free Shipping Anymore

Final Thoughts on Mastering How to Say No To Yourself

Learning to say no isn’t the same as deprivation. It isn’t being frugal to fault. Instead, it’s me learning to balance money wins both small and large. Even if I can afford to buy these things, they don’t fit our needs–or even our wants. Plus, I’m all for saying no to extra clutter.

I certainly haven’t mastered the skill yet, but I’m working on it.

So Tell Me…Are you good at telling yourself no?


  1. Barbara

    This is a hard question no matter what consumer good has caught my eyes. My downfall is sewing, crafting and art supplies and honestly, my stash is FAR less than most of friends but still substantial. The thing that has worked the most for me is to imagine (before I buy) how I will dispose of the item when it needs to go. Who will take the jars of old, dried out paints, cans of solvent and crusty tubes of glue? Can I imagine making a donation (again) of fabrics I no longer love to a local quilting group?

    It is an imperfect system and doesn’t always work but imagining the lifecycle of items I buy at least slows me down and makes me consider whether I already own something that will work and keep one more item out of the landfill.

    Congratulations on all of your successes!

  2. I’m better at not putting myself in temptation’s way to begin with. So… I’m better at not shopping. Or when shopping just buying the one thing we need without doing much browsing or comparison shopping. (I tend to buy the “best” according to a list, or the first highly rated thing I see rather than looking at all the options and trying to find the best deal.)

    Amazon lists help a lot with wants that aren’t needs. I can put something on my Christmas/birthday list. Then before people start shopping I can get rid of the things I no longer want.

  3. Hi Penny- I tried to leave a comment earlier but I think it got lost to the ether as my internet connectivity flickered. Mostly, I wanted to say, (1) You’re doing great on mastering your “weakness”. You showed a lot of restraint in this post. And (2) What fun would it be if we were all perfect models of saving and investing. The ways in which we deviate from the optimal personal finance models are exactly what make us human. Otherwise we’d just be robots acquiring and storing wealth. And who wants to be a robot? Or friends with a robot? Embrace your humanity 🙂

  4. Yes and no. I am good at it in spurts and then I’m terrible at it! But I also have trouble with differentiating between “buying for fun” and “buying stuff we need.” The past few months I have been compiling two separate lists on my to do list: need or want to buy so that I can specifically focus on not impulse buying the wants and not feel like I’m impulse buying the needs. It’s a weird mental game of twister but it helps a little. Sometimes.

    It didn’t help me at all when I was browsing Michael’s for my things I need, quite a few wants crept into that cart. I use them all but still!

    I suspect this is a muscle that needs to be worked out, constantly. At least for me.

  5. Oh man, I would have struggled to say no to those shoes, too. Rose gold = my weakness!

    As far as saying no…mostly yes but sometimes no. It really depends. I find I go through phases with impulsive-ish spending — and it tends to happen after lengthy periods of telling myself no. I like to think it all balances out, though. Maybe.

  6. Staying home all the time has, for better or worse, led to some similar types of purchases, often for Baby AF. Lots of arts & crafty stuff, easels and markers and stencils, to help keep him busy during the day and to give us something creative we can do togethers, seemingly without end. Our most recent ‘just because’ purchase is a Melissa & Doug salad set, so now his make believe kitchen play can involve more veggies.

    I think these are things we should at least ponder saying ‘no’ to, as you say. We could use less clutter.

    Some days, too, I feel we’re so frugal that saying ‘yes’ sure feels like a good answer, too, though.

    All the best navigating these potential purchases. It’s never easy to know when you’re aligning your purchases to the lifestyle you want in the ‘just right’ way.

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