Think You Can’t Afford It?

I can’t afford it…

These words are quite complex and they’ve been popping up  a great deal lately – both for the women I work with and in my own head. I’ve noticed that we are quick to claim “I can’t afford it…” when often, at least it appears to me, we mean something entirely different. And while these words may be quick to our tongue, they fall short of the empowered state in which most of us intend to live. Here are a few of the most common ways I’ve noticed this case of mistaken identity playing out:

1. When “I can’t afford it” really means “I don’t want to.”

This happens all the time and, honestly, who are we protecting by blaming the balance in our checking account for our “inability” to do something we don’t actually want to do? Whether it is a lunch date or a new house or a workshop, if you receive an invitation that you’re not interested in accepting, just say no. All you have to do is say, “No, thank you,” or “That doesn’t feel true for me at this time,” or “I’m looking for a different type of support right now.”

As I learned many years ago from one of my first teachers, “No,” is a complete sentence. Just decline, politely if you wish. You do not have to explain yourself to justify saying no. And if you’d like to explain your decision, do everyone involved in that situation the decency of offering the truth. If they have a problem with you, then they have a problem. You don’t. The truth is enough, just offer it and let it work its magic.

2. When “I can’t afford it” really means “I’m not worth it.”

This is when someone has access to the resources, really wants to invest them in this opportunity, but isn’t sure that it’s okay to give themselves the gift of this opportunity. I’ve seen women do it with everything from education to clothing (especially bathing suits), and health care to vacations. These are the same people who would never let their partner go to work without being perfectly attired, their children go without medical or dental care. They make sure that their co-workers’ shifts are covered so they can take time off. They give and give to make sure that others have their needs met, but they won’t invest in themselves.

This is not a life-affirming way to live. The “I’m not sure I’m worth it” mindset leads to burnout, illness, and perhaps most painfully, an unshakable case of martyrdom.

3. When “I can’t afford it” means “I’m afraid it won’t work.”

That’s a reasonable concern, but instead of just saying, “I can’t afford to,” let’s dig a little deeper. This either means that you’re unsure the thing you are considering is worth the investment, or you’re unsure that you’ll do your part to ensure your success after you invest. If it’s the quality of the investment — the membership, certification, services, or products — do some research before you give up on something that resonates as true for you. Ask for recommendations, typical results, and whatever else might help you decide if this is true for you. And don’t forget to find out if there is a money-back guarantee, and what you have to do to ensure you’ll get a refund if the investment doesn’t produce what you’d hoped it would.

If it’s that you aren’t sure you can hold up your end of the deal, then that’s another matter altogether. Take time to think about what you’ll need to succeed here. Support is key, and, depending on what you’re investing in, there are plenty of things you can do to set yourself up for success. New gym memberships work best with a workout partner. Recoveries are strengthened by support groups, sponsors, and perhaps therapy. I’ve even noticed dramatically improved results when my Sick of Being Stuck students share their experiences with the people they live with.

If you find something that you believe is true for you, go the extra mile to make sure it’s a solid investment and that you have what you need to show up strong in the experience. Once those two things are in place, dig in… and change your life.

4. When “I can’t afford it” means “my resources are otherwise committed.”

This is a tricky one because there are plenty of ways to spend your money that make sense and there are plenty of others that do not. The line between those two groups of expenses varies from person to person. Since your life today is (quite simply) the results you’ve cultivated by investing your resources (money…but also time, energy, creativity, etc.) the way you have in the past, it should be relatively easy to assess how it’s working out for you.

Take a moment to think about your life as it is today. Is this what you want more of in the future? If it is, then you’re set — keep doing what you’re doing. This isn’t a matter of not being able to afford; this is about making choices. You’re choosing to invest as you are, and it’s getting you exactly where you want to be. No worries. Hold your head high, and let your choices speak for themselves.

If you’re not pleased with the results you’re getting, it might be time to move that line.

For example, I used to think that I didn’t have the money to eat the way I knew was true for my body (sugar- and gluten-free vegan). I used to tell myself that I couldn’t afford to make the change. Then, I realized that I was spending money every single month buying the junk food that I was putting in my body, plus the money I spent managing my poor health, and I was dangerously close to needing to invest money in clothes in the next size up. This doesn’t even account for the non-monetary investments, like energy I sacrificed by fueling my body with junk and through the constant internal battle around food. I sacrificed much sanity and self-esteem in this war, all of which I got back when I made the change.

Essentially, it took a pretty harsh reality check about how many of my most vital resources were being invested with such lame results. I knew I had to make a change, to move that line to a place that was more aligned with my integrity, so that I could bloom into who I wanted to be.

5. When “I can’t afford it” means “I want this, but I’m not sure how to do it.”

This is where the magic is, if you ask me. When you feel the words forming in your mouth, “I can’t afford to…,” pause and consider if this is the kind of opportunity you want to cultivate for yourself. If it is, make it so. Release that old way of thinking, the belief that you cannot afford to have this thing in your experience. Instead, declare it as your own, and open your mind and heart to make room for it in your life. I’ve seen these opportunities become possible in as little as 25 minutes and as long as years, depending on the situation. Regardless of how long it takes to make it possible, if it’s true, it was always worth whatever it took to make it happen.

I connect with people regularly who say they want to register for a class, join a small group, or schedule a private session (with me or one of my peers) but recognize that their budget currently does not include this sort of experience. Some of them inquire, get the details, and vanish into thin air, while others go to whatever lengths necessary to create this opportunity for themselves.

That might mean redirecting funds from another lower priority, opening up to additional income streams, or converting resources we already have into money we can spend on what we want and need. As much as I can bear to, I strive to be open to all manner of possibilities, and my needs and desires have been met in all of these ways, plus gifts, mysteries, and more than a few downright serendipitous experiences.

This weekend, in fact, we are going to use one of my favorite tricks from the Sick of Being Stuck program. We are having a yard sale to turn the stuff that no longer serves us into the cash we need to take a huge next step in the life of our dreams. For us, this is about redirecting resources, cashing in on what we’ve brought into our lives in the past to keep dancing forward into our beautiful future.

And after sharing the Sick of Being Stuck experience for almost a year now, I know that — even without going through the motions of selling it all — releasing what no longer serves you from your physical environment is to change your life. Assuming, of course, that you want it changed. It will heal you, free you, restore you into the kind of person who calls in exactly what you desire.

If you think you can’t “afford” something, you’re probably right. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You are worth more than a distorted perception of yourself and the limited returns you think you can cultivate. Even if the decisions you are making aren’t cutting it right now, you must remember that you are still in control. You can make different choices. This is your life… go live it.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Janine J.
Past Member 3 years ago

yes! this was a great read. the last point was very helpful. thank you.

Linda H.
Linda h.3 years ago

Thank you. I'm in a pickle about a purchase and need to read this more than once.

Rachel R.
Rachel R.3 years ago

Good points! I think they can also apply to other forms of "can't", like "I don't have the time..."

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago


Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal3 years ago

Ah...the power of words.

Holly W.
Holly Windle3 years ago

When there actually is discretionay money, perhaps it's more honest to say that this expense is simply not a priority. Even when money is tight, some of us have ways of being able to make a donation to a crucial cause or buy a present to cheer a friend. For me, eating at a restaurant is pretty far down on the list, but I may very well buy kettle corn from my cousin's booth at a local Farmer's Market tomorrow.

Vicky Barman
Vicky Barman3 years ago

thanks for sharing