I was driving to work and heard an ad on the radio for a money management seminar. The ad went something like this:
“He wants a big screen TV, she wants weekly manicures. Money is tight and neither one of them knows what to say. Here are the 4 words that will change your life: We can’t afford it.”
Simple and to the point. I completely understand what they’re trying to say – for the majority of people, money isn’t the kind of thing we can be cavalier about. Sometimes we have more room to breathe than at other times.
The same mindset goes for eating habits. Some of us are on strict “budgets” while others have the luxury of being more laid back about their “spending.” Few people can always eat everything all the time, no matter how much it “costs.”
But here’s the issue I take – yes, there are times when you legitimately cannot afford to buy something you want. I can’t walk into a brand new subdivision and sign the paperwork to build my own house. I simply can’t afford that.
However, I actually can afford a weekly mani/pedi. Would that mean cutting my spending somewhere else? Yes. Is that the way I want to spend my money? No. So should I say “I can’t afford it?”
As stupid as it is, there’s a feeling of shame and guilt that comes with saying “I can’t afford that.” It’s the same feeling you get when you’re out with friends and they all want to order pizza. You know that’s more calories than your diet calls for (or it has carbs, or it has dairy, or whatever your diet plan rules say to avoid) so you either have to order salad or go off your plan. There are times you have no problem saying “I can’t afford that” but there are plenty of times it just sucks.
I can’t count the number of times my friends and family have said to me “What CAN you eat?” while I was doing some kind of diet. They wanted to be supportive and accommodate my strict rules, which is great. And in most cases it was in response to me saying “I CAN’T eat ___.”
But we do ourselves a major disservice when we get into the CAN’T mindset. It’s hard enough to exercise self control all the time. When we start telling ourselves we CAN’T then saying no to things suddenly comes with an even greater burden. Look at it this way:
Imagine walking into the Louboutin store and seeing the most gorgeous heels you’ve ever seen. At a price tag of around $900-1400, odds are you’re going to want to say, “I can’t afford those.” And then all those oh-so-helpful sales people will give you their smarmy grins and you’ll feel like they’re judging you even if they’re not and have no right.
Instead picture yourself saying “I want something better.” Talk about a powerful statement! You don’t have to say it out loud, but can you imagine how smug you’d feel if you turned your nose up at a pair of Louboutins? I’m not saying to walk around acting pretentious all the time because that’s not a good attitude either. All I’m saying is that it helps to remind yourself where your priorities lie.
Saying no to a pair of $1400 shoes is an extreme example and some people actually take pride in saying they can’t afford things like that – I’m not one of them (the ones I want and won’t be getting are about $1300), but that’s fine. But what if it were a $40 pair of shoes? It’s not as easy to admit you can’t afford those, is it? I know it wouldn’t be for me. Saying “I want something better” feels a lot easier than “I can’t afford that.”
I think most of us, when we’re not in that dark place of self-pity, doubt, fear, or desperation can agree that there are a lot of things in this world that are better than designer shoes. Financial freedom/stability is one of those things. Saving for a house is one of those things. Saving for anything you desperately want is one of those things!
Now apply this idea to your food choices. Personally it’s hard for me to imagine looking at a mouthwatering dessert and saying “I want something better” because there are just times when warm, melty, gooey chocolate on top of anything is kind of the best thing I can imagine. But the more you tell yourself you CAN’T eat something the more it feels like sticking to your food plan is punishment. And if sticking to whatever guidelines you’ve chosen for your eating habits is already punishment then how are you going to feel when you “slip up” or go off plan? Yikes.
My point is this: We all have limits, whether they’re financial or nutritional or both (and/or something else entirely), and when we’ve realized what they are we have to practice setting our boundaries over and over. There’s not magically going to come a day when we’re not tempted by something that in that moment seems way more urgent and important (and delicious) than that seemingly far-off goal we’re working toward. By reinforcing a positive outcome we’re honoring ourselves and our goals instead of getting bogged down by the idea that we need to be deprived to get what we want. Taking this mindset is not just going to help us reach our goals but it’s also going to help us respect where we are right here and now which is an important step in any process.
And that’s something we can all afford.