About the Author

Real Life On A Budget

The One Word That Could Change Everything


Say it with me: “No.”

Say it again, loud and proud: “No.”

Great job. Here’s my point: I want you to remember the word no this holiday season. I want you to practice and get comfortable saying it.

Why? This single word can provide more freedom for you this year than any other word. Because, no matter what you believe or what you’ve done in the past, saying no can make this your best holiday season ever.

This is especially true for those of you who are on a budget, getting out of debt, and working through a difficult money situation. You need to learn the word no more than anyone.

When you’re on a tight budget, you should never feel obligated to:

  • Participate in gift exchanges.
  • Host a party.
  • Spend a lot of money on an office lunch.
  • Travel a long way to be with family.
  • Buy expensive gifts for your kids (or spouse).

During November and December, we tend to feel a lot of pressure to live outside our means. But it’s okay to say no. I promise!

So I know what you’re thinking: But how can I say no without hurting someone’s feelings?

I get that. You don’t want to upset your parents by refusing to travel to California. And you don’t want your coworkers to think you’re cheap for not taking part in the office’s white elephant party.

A simple “I’m trying to get out of debt and just can’t do that this year” is fine. Or if you want to be less specific, simply say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t this year.”

You have to do what’s best for you and your family. You can’t let emotions like guilt or peer pressure influence your decision-making.

Remember, it’s behavior that got you in debt in the first place. Discipline will get you out, but you have to stand strong when you feel weak—especially during the holiday season when everyone and every store is trying to influence how you spend your hard-earned money.

Don’t let all the festivities of the Christmas season ruin your budget. Remember that all-important word, and say it again with me one more time: “No!”


  • Amanda Jo Reisenweber

    We always try to teach our little girls, ages 4 and 2, about giving – especially during holidays and birthdays surrounded by ‘getting’. How do we curb their feelings of being left out? I feel like there is only so much redirecting a parent can do before they realize they just aren’t getting much. I don’t want Christmas to be about too many gifts or lots of spending -but I also want the kiddos to feel good! How do you get your family on board, too? A few tips or practical word choices would be helpful 🙂 Thanks!

    • Cher

      In our house Santa brings each child one gift and one book. Everything else is from Mom and Dad. We started young telling them Santa delivers to millions of kids- one gift seems fair. We are also honest in that we are not made of $ and that Christmas is celebrating someone else’s birthday, not theirs. The hard part is when family spends more on each of them than we do.

    • Sandra R.

      When my kids were younger I told them that mommies and daddies have to send money to Santa to pay for the gifts they received. Sometimes we can only send a little, sometimes none at all. That’s why some children receive tons of gifts and some kids get none. For those children we donate to charties so that they can also receive a gift at christmas. It has nothing to do with whether you’ve been good or bad. They would always receive some of what they want, some of what they need and maybe a few surprises as well. They would always be loved. That’s the most precious gift and it is priceless. This helped to explain some of the disparity of gift giving.

  • sadie

    This is great! For me, its hard to say no to social outings, or if I do go, and choose to get something smaller (or not join in on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th round) I want to be better about saying “No” to just splitting the bill. I wonder if people who suggest that are trying to pull a fast one because they’ve ordered the most, or if they’re really just unaware.