How Do You Say “I Can’t Afford It” When Technically… You Can?

Especially when the reason you can’t afford it is because you want to save?

Photo credit: Toshihiro Oimatsu, CC BY 2.0.

As regular Billfolders might remember, I upped my savings rate from 10 to 15 percent this year. This means that I have 5 percent less income to spend, and—when you combine this increased savings rate with a handful of annual, larger expenses like optometrist appointments and “celebrating my nephew’s first birthday,”—it also means that there are many more items that I suddenly cannot “afford.”

Last month I planned out my expected expenses through August, and, combined with my savings goals, there isn’t a lot of money left over.

My Income Is Fully Booked Through August

So I’m going to have to figure out ways to say “I can’t afford that” when it is obvious that, if I hadn’t set myself this 15 percent savings rate, I probably could.

I feel guilty writing that I’m going to check Samantha Irby’s new book out of the library instead of buying it, because I know I could afford the $11.99. It’s just twelve dollars, come on. But I also can’t afford to spend that $12, if I want to meet my other priorities and goals.

I’ve already overspent that budget I made in April, because you can’t really say—either to your friends, your family, or yourself—“I am unavailable to take on additional things and/or experiences.” If it hurts my feet to walk in my shoes, I’m going to buy a new pair. You can plan all you want, calculate the exact number of times you’ll need to take a Lyft vs. the bus and the exact number of restaurant meals you might eat when you go visit friends or family, and then there’ll be a rainstorm or a new restaurant someone wants to try.

And yes, I can afford all of this. That’s the point. If I weren’t earning enough money to buy new shoes or take a Lyft during rainstorm-related surge pricing I would be writing a different piece. So yes, I’m doing well financially. But I also have this savings goal.

So I’m going to have to figure out when to say “I can’t afford it.” When to say “this is more important than my savings goal,” when to say “no, my savings goal is more important,” and when to say “okay, if I pick up a little extra freelance work I can hit my savings goal and pay for this.”

How do you balance all of this? Part of me is like “if you just go back to saving 10 percent of your income your problems will be solved.”

But I also read The Value of Debt in Building Wealth three times, and I know that if I’m going to have anything resembling wealth in my life, I need to save.

‘The Value of Debt in Building Wealth’ Could Change Your Financial Life

So… how do you manage your competing financial priorities and goals? This might be The Ultimate Question Of All Billfoldness, since it seems like a lot of what we look at deals either directly or indirectly with this problem.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.