in making things happen, reflection

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, think about this

When you say “I can’t afford it”, what do you really mean?  I think this is an important idea to deconstruct because money and your thoughts about money are an integral part of your emotional health.  All adults spend some portion of their life thinking about money.  Whether you have a lot of it, a little or just enough.

This is because money at it’s core is an abstract idea.  There is a practical element to money because we all need to trade the value of money for goods and services we need.  But most of the time when we are thinking about money, it is not the practical aspect of money that is occupying our thoughts.

What Money Represents to You

Before I go into my recommendation about what to do when you think “I can’t afford it”, here are some things to consider about what money represents in your life.  There are three key things money represents when we are dealing with the abstract concept:

  • Actions or Lack of Actions
  • Fears
  • Beliefs

Our thoughts about money are a representation of actions that we have either taken or failed to take.  An example of this is when you bounce a check, the emotion you have about money at that moment is based on a lack of balancing your check book.

Money also represents our fears.  This shows up primarily in your attitudes around spending, saving and investing.  Based on your internal programming, if you believe that life is about scarcity, you will try desparately to hold onto everything you have and miss out on opportunities to be a better steward of your money.  On the other hand, if you have a fear of being ‘controlled’, you may reject the idea of a budget and just spend whenever you want without planning because discipline translates to emotional bondage for you.

When it comes to beliefs, money and how we use it is generally aligned with what we truly believe, regardless of what we say we believe.  I have a friend who says: “Your spending history is your true story”.  So if you believe that your worth as a person is tied to how much money you have, when things get tough financially, your self-esteem takes a hit and it is difficult for you to move forward.

The Two Meanings of “I Can’t Afford It”

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, examine the meaning of the thought.  It could mean one of two things.  The first source of the phrase could be a question of priorities.  When you say “I can’t afford it”, you might really be saying that the thing you want is not of a high enough priority for you to move the resources from something else to get it.  On the other hand, it might be a true issue of capacity and you really have a shortfall even if the thing you want is a true priority.

One Word to Change The Meaning

In the case where it is a capacity issue, there is one word that you can use to shift your mindset.


“I can’t afford it … yet.”

By adding that one word to the phrase, you force yourself to go into planning mode and to face the real issues around why you are stuck.  You can’t plan for a way to afford it without addressing your limiting beliefs and your fears.  So you can do the true internal work that will get you unstuck, instead of staying on a surface level that doesn’t move you forward.

I talk about this at greater length in this Facebook Live Video.