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What’s your excuse? “I can’t afford …”

Photo by o5com via Flickr

Granted. There are just some things that fall out of my price range. While I would love to drive a two-seater Mercedes convertible, I don’t have the funds to support that right now. And I do realize there are situations when individuals can barely afford the basic life necessities. Those aren’t the “I can’t affords” I’m addressing in this post. I’m looking at folks, me included, who roll out the “I can’t afford …” excuse without thought, as if some nebulous force of the universe deems how we can and do allocate funds (Much like the time excuse examined here.)

As with an “I don’t have time” excuse, “I can’t afford” brings the same knowing nod, needing no further explanation. We all understand, “I can’t afford”.  Frequently, closer examination of “cannot afford”, reveals “chooses not to afford” or “need to make some changes” insights. We’re in control of what we do with our money. On the surface, that’s a no-brainer. But, sometimes, when evaluating “why” something is deemed out of reach. you uncover it’s not really the money after all. Sometimes, it’s fear of moving into the unknown or an apprehension to facing and admitting a need for change (“you know need to do it”). It’s difficult to recognize, address, and remove personal roadblocks; but not impossible.

In my travels, I’ve seen people “unable to afford”

… training courses, but were able to hang out nightly at the local watering hole.
… air conditioning repair, discussed daily over a $2-$3 take-out breakfast and a $5-$7 take-out lunch.
… appliance repair, shared while showing 37 (seriously, we counted), “It was only $1” purchases.
… car repair, but never far from a cigarette.
… additional certifications, while brandishing the most recent technical gadget.
… professional coaching or additional education, but sipping high-priced lattes, daily.
… resume, job search, or career assistance to launch a career, after investing countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars in an education, advanced degrees, or specialized training.

Pushing past or taking steps to work around each of those “I can’t affords” would bring improvement to the individual. Yet, through choices made, they blocked opportunities to enhance either their circumstance or their career. Please don’t think I’m immune. Looking at the “I spents” and the “I can’t affords” in my life continues to be eye-opening.

Photo by borman818 via Flickr

Rather than feeling deprived by the universe “I can’t afford that” (and dare I say, almost resentful of those who can), I think about what changes I need to make in my spending habits and move toward making it happen. Through more careful evaluation, I discovered little changes add up quickly.

Assessing how we allocate limited resources, like time and money, leads to more prudent planning and allocation of those resources. For me, looking at where I choose to spend and invest means better decisions and understanding of “where does the money go?” Have I allotted funds for my own personal development? Am I allowing myself some fun?

This post does not pass judgment on anyone or any expenditure. It’s meant to challenge us all to think and plan about where we want to go, what we want to do, and what it’s going to take to get there. One less lunch or dinner out, one less latte, or one less impulse purchase each week adds up quickly. Small changes can mean the difference between forward advancement, and the “I can’t afford” blues.

An eye-opening “I can’t afford” story comes from a caller (we’ll call Arnold) several years ago:
Arnold sought a six-figure contractor position overseas, and came to me as a referral. The referring friend (Phil) had landed his dream opportunity and had already been promoted since becoming an ex-pat. Phil credited me with helping him get his foot in the door. After discussing Arnold’s needs, I quoted the package level most closely matching his experience and career goals – a reasonable investment for a service that most likely would have helped triple his salary, given him a 100% ROI on his career investment in the first week of employment, and helped him realize his dream.

His response:
“Ms. Dawn. You’ve got to give me a discount. I can’t afford that.
I’ve got a brand new truck, a brand new house, and all new furniture. There’s no way I can do that.”

Can’t afford? Or made other choices?

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  1. […] « Focus: A powerful element in job search What’s your excuse? “I can’t afford …” » […]

  2. Gayle Tabor says:


    As usual your advice is spot on! Too often the choices made with time and money reflect our wants to the detriment of our needs.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Nice post! Over the past few years, I have become less responsive to the argument that someone “just can’t afford my resume services.” In situations where that is true, I refer people to free or less costly services that have reasonable quality. However, for everyone else, I point out that a resume is a major career investment–one that can produce positive results over the long-term.

    What we “want” usually takes priority over what we “need” because what we want is usually a lot more fun to do at the moment. Focusing on what we “need” requires maturity and the prioritizing of long-range goals. It’s important not to give up on people who focus on their “wants” over their “needs” because that focus can change over time. And I want to be there for them when and if it does…

  4. Dawn says:

    Great points, Steve. I too have referral sources and offer suggestions to help folks, whether they become my client or not. I’ve always said, I want people to get the help they need, either with me, or through me.

    You’re so right. Wants are much more fun than needs. Being an adult sure isn’t easy, is it? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, and taking a moment to add value to the conversation.

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