How Saying “No” to Money is Saving Me Money

Today, I have a post written by my sister-in-law. It’s a great read and I recommend reading Is Your Job Worth it? How Much Is It Costing You? as well. I know that title sounds pretty contradictory, and I could have used something like, “Just Don’t Do It” or “Say No, Now.” But, before I explain…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: October 16, 2018

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Today, I have a post written by my sister-in-law. It’s a great read and I recommend reading Is Your Job Worth it? How Much Is It Costing You? as well.

I know that title sounds pretty contradictory, and I could have used something like, “Just Don’t Do It” or “Say No, Now.” But, before I explain my reasons for saying “no” to making money, let me introduce myself.

Hi, my name is Ariel. My husband and I both work full time, go to school for graduate and undergraduate degrees, and have three kids.

It really is as exhausting as it sounds, but I like to live my life on the chaotic side. We bought our house when we were just 20 and 21 years old and had a one year old daughter. He was working two jobs and going to school full time, and I was working two part time jobs.

We budgeted and penny pinched, but money was so tight that we actually qualified for a small amount of food stamps each month. Buying our home was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, but it really made getting by tough.

As the years progressed we went on to have more kids, he finished his undergraduate degree and I began working on mine.

During the past 11 years, each of us has usually held between two to five jobs at any given time. On top of that, we relied on credit cards and borrowed money from family. Everything is paid off now and having that weight gone feels so good. Even now, when we are able to save money and spend it on things like the occasional family vacation, talking about our financial past is really tough for me.

We were really young when we started out, and taking on all of those jobs was the right thing for our family. As we became more financially solvent, we kept saying “yes” to more and more work.


I started saying “no.”

I finally realized that the stress put on us to make money was actually causing us to spend more than we should have.

So one day, fairly recently, I decided to start saying “no.”

The stress of our jobs kind of hit me over the past couple of years. Again, we have three kids and I like to be involved in their school and extracurricular activities, which takes time. I was feeling upset with myself because I wasn’t able to make the same kind of financial contribution to our family that my husband did with his full time job. On top of being in school full time, I took on babysitting jobs, cleaned houses, took on more hours at my current jobs, and did whatever I could to add to our income.

At first it felt great. I could stop for coffee in the morning, we could go out to eat, I didn’t think twice about buying the kids what they wanted, and started spending a lot of money on frivolous things like having my nails done.

At some point I started thinking about all of the things I used to do to save money:

  • I was a strict meal planner and grocery shopper. When it was only the four of us, I spent only $75 a week on groceries!
  • I made all of our meals, we never bought disposable products, and I made cleaning supplies.
  • Heck, I even sewed cloth diapers from fabric I found at Goodwill! I remember the sense of pride that brought me.

Those things were necessary, but they felt good.

I had stopped doing all of those things because we were making more money, but all of the money we made wasn’t being saved or even used on meaningful things. There were a couple of months in the past year when I was working five jobs for a total of 50+ hours per week. Some of these jobs, like in home child care, didn’t even pay minimum wage. I began to realize that all of the spending I was doing was to compensate for the time I didn’t have.

Instead of making dinner, we did take out. Instead of making coffee in the morning, I stopped at a drive thru. Instead of looking through things at resale shops, I ran to the mall.

With the decision to stop taking on more hours, and saying “no” to additional job requests, I have found myself with the time to make dinner, which is something I genuinely love doing for my family. I have the time to meal plan again, and not only grocery shop, but actually use all of the food in my fridge. There is nothing more depressing than throwing away food.

Life is still chaotic with school and kids, but this summer we are planning on working a little less and enjoying our time with one another. We are starting a vegetable garden, will have the time to find free activities in our area, peruse books at the library, and maybe catching up on sleep will allow us to spend less money on coffee.

Still, I love making money, but now I’m thoughtful about what jobs I take on. I say “no” to the ones that will bring on stress, and “yes” to the ones that will make a meaningful impact in my life.

Could saying “no” to making money help you to save more money? Do you find yourself spending more money due to your job?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Sometimes you have to pull a handbrake on to avoid getting caught in the rat race. I see so many people spending a large portion of their salary getting to work and doing things at work (like eating out). I imagine if we could all work from home we’d save a fortune. It’s when we start working long hours that we turn to fast food and other conveniences to save us the time, but cost our pockets or our health. I’m a big believer (more so now) that when your health suffers you have to say no.

    1. Eating out will definitely make you gain weight, leave you broke, and chasing your own coattail in working paycheck to paycheck.

  2. I saw a documentary recently about Iris Apfel, a 90+ yo fashionista. She said something which really struck home with me about not having kids. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was something about how you can’t do it all. One thing has to come at the expense of the other. She said if you try to make the most money, be the perfect mom and spouse, have the best career, etc all at once, something has to give and if you don’t make the decision, that something is going to be you.

    1. Ariel

      Anne, I’ll have to look that up. That’s so hard to take in, because you know we do want it all. At least I do 🙂 I think maybe it’s accepting that you are doing and being the best version of yourself in each situation.

      1. Joelle

        I highly recommend watching “Iris”, Ariel!

  3. Marguerite

    I so agree – I am from another generation – I made all the meals save for the occasional (monthly or even less) Chinese food dinner- I took my kids at Mc once, yes once – the burgers I made at home and the fries were so much better and cheaper – many young families today spend more eating out than they save and like the writer, are tired and most likely stressed about money.

  4. Definitely agreed! Stress takes a toll and for many of us, our wallets take the biggest hit because we’re simply try to get by because we’ve become so busy. There needs to be a balance.

  5. Jessica Nuttall

    Working multiple jobs leaves less time for saving money at home by eating homemade meals, making cleaning products, etc. I’ve found that to help have meals ready, I use my crock pot for almost every meal I make. That way, we don’t have an excuse to stop somewhere for a quick dinner, when we know that there is already a meal waiting for us at home. We have to adjust our schedules also, so that we are not gone every single night of the week and weekend. I have only 2-3 nights at home per 7 days, and I have to make those count by getting laundry, dishes, and cleaning done. I also have to schedule a few nights for relaxing and spending time with family–the race to make more and save more can take such a toll, and it is important to not forget to live your life.

  6. I understand you at 100% also if I am not married and I don’t have kids but sometimes say no to things is better choice for us:D

  7. Sometimes we get off track with our savings or investing. Just means we need to regroup, ground ourselves and get back on it. Letting yourself go too long in a different direction than your goals is dangerous. Realizing the unnecessary spending early is key. Good perspective and honesty that we’ve all been through.

    The Green Swan

  8. Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog

    This is a very good point. I think it’s difficult to value your time when you aren’t making a lot of money yet. I think this premise works best for people who have reached a certain income threshold already. When you haven’t reached that threshold, it can be very difficult to say no to money.

    1. Ariel

      Thanks, and yes, we weren’t there yet. But, now I have to remind myself that it’s okay to relax.

    2. Couldn’t agree more to all you’ve mentioned.

  9. There are definitely times when I know I can save more money by not working than I would make. Plus the stress of being so busy… It’s good to weigh all of the factors before saying yes.

  10. This was great to read this morning as it sounds similar to what our family went through even with my small offline business! I know exactly how to budget and manage money but was so busy running around working and spending that we didn’t make ourselves sit down and slow down! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Norman

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and how you figured out the right balance between working for money and spending time with your family. I definitely think that it is important to know when to say no to making money. The answer to that question is different for everyone and depends on the type of lifestyle that she wants to achieve. It sounds like you got it figured out though!

  12. This 100%. I spent so many years working a full-time job and several part times on the side. One day I realized all that extra work was simply funding a disposable lifestyle. I turned around and saw that my life was just filled with meaningless junk that I had traded for precious years of my life.

    1. Ariel

      You are totally right, most of what we were doing was disposable. Taking that leap to get away from it can be a terrifying and rewarding step all at the same time.

  13. Amanda

    Amazing post, Ariel!

    “I was feeling upset with myself because I wasn’t able to make the same kind of financial contribution to our family that my husband did with his full time job.”

    Although my husband is unconditionally supportive, I relate to this 100%. But we have both agreed that time>money and have made many financial sacrifices to allow us to have more time. When I tried working more, we ran into the same issues listed in this post – we were eating out more and just generally spending more money. Saying “no” was our answer as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ariel

      Thanks Amanda! My husband really is incredibly supportive, and we both have the mindset that if each others happiness is a huge source of our own. I’m glad you’ve found your own balance.

  14. So true! My husband and I have been figuring that out this year. We both quit our part time jobs (he still works full time and I still have another part time job) because the we realized the chaos they caused was probably costing us all the extra money we were making! Crazy!
    Thanks for sharing, loved your story!

    1. Ariel

      Thanks Karina, and congrats on making choices that were right for you and your family!

  15. I know Latoya already commented, but our story is so similar, Ariel! I was pregnant through most of my non traditional degree, he’s still in school, and then there’s work. When wet did start making more it was really hard not to spend on convenience because we are just so dang busy. If you ever want to talk I’ve been there. Still am haha. A couple more years till he’s done and then I’m considering possibly going back!

    1. Ariel

      Thanks FF, it is nice to have a support group around you when going through stuff like this. I feel like when we are finally finished with school it may be a little easier to balance work and home. My husband has one year left for his Masters, and I will be applying for PhD programs next year- so it will be a while!

  16. Lindsey

    This is an incredible story and a great one at that! I have found in our recent move that we were tending to eat out more. By the time we got home from work we were both so exhausted that we didn’t want to even cook. I was working on my blog, freelancing, and he was working all day in a warehouse. On the side we were continuously selling our old things and looking for ways to save money. It was exhausting! Side hustling too hard can easily lead to a burnout. It’s been hard to get myself going some days. But others I’m so grateful that I decided to cut back on my workload and spend time with the people that are most important.

  17. Great post Ariel!
    I couldn’t agree with you more and love the concept of saying no. I use to spend $61 a week on transit to commute to work and $4 a day on Starbucks coffee. I now work from home and save so much on coffee/commuting/gas/insurance/lunches etc. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ariel

      Graham, whoa that’s a ton of money on transit and coffee. But when you do start adding up your daily conveniences it can really be a lot of money. I’m glad you were able to find a way to cut all of that out!

  18. Yes, we definitely need to find the right balance for us between what jobs we take on, what we choose to pay for/outsource and what we do with our time.
    We have found a good balance now – we shop at the markets then the grocer, have a strict budget, I cook and freeze all our meals that night or use the slow cooker over a few days so groceries are half what we used to spend.
    Kids now do chores around the home so we don’t pay a cleaner.
    We downsized our home too.

    Freed up a lot of time with these few changes and I have selected to only spend school hours working instead of pushing myself to do everything. Financially we are way better off.

  19. Eric Bowlin

    The thing about being an investor is that sometimes it’s boring – I may go months without making a deal.

    So last year I picked up a job to make some extra cash. It was supposed to be less than full time.

    Then it became full time.

    The funny thing was, I didn’t even need the money. It just sort of crept up on me.

    Then I was working 7 days a week, and sometimes doubles. I realized that by spending all the time working, I didn’t have that random free day when the spark would hit me and I’d find that great deal to invest in. By working a job, it cost me the time to earn money as an investor.

    Life is a lot better now that I left.

  20. ZJ Thorne

    My jobsite changes on a frequent basis. Some locations are awful for my commute, but good because my favorite lunch spot is nowhere near. I have to bring my own food. I have to say no when coworkers want to grab lunch, because the places available are stressful (too many customers) and not what I want to eat anyway. It’s my happiest no of the day.

  21. Very memorable story. It’s not an easy analysis to do to quantify what your time is worth in dollars, which is why I think some people (me included) have a hard time figuring out the right opportunities to say no to.

    I am also impressed at the fact that you were able to feed your family on $75 groceries a week 🙂 definitely will have to analyze my grocery bill more to lower it!

  22. Monica@wellideclare

    I love your post. As a mom of five, I can personally relate. The time and energy has to come from somewhere. In order to say yes to one thing, you have to say no to another. I quit my full time teaching job last month. I’ve realized over the years that what I’m saying “no” to was often my own family. I’m terrified but I’m doing it anyway. Thanks again for sharing.

  23. I can completely relate. When we moved for my husband’s job last fall, I said no to a similar finance job with great pay and benefits to stay home with the kids and start my own adventure. So terrifying! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  24. rohit

    Hi, After reading this article my short comment is If you earn $100 then you need to spend $70 and save $30 every time repeat this. that concept of living life moment to moment is good when you have millions to spend, In India we say one generation do hard work and earn money and another generation earns nothing and enjoy the money, saving saving and saving, thanks for the article.

  25. Andrew Rombach

    This is good advice to start following; there are so many different ways to think about money. One piece of advice though: A scholarship during college can alleviate financial tension later on. This can help anyone get some time back later in their life instead of working of student loan debt.

  26. Jacob

    Great read. And sometimes it is indeed just better to let go. Spend time on the things you really love. And if you find something you really love and you can make money with, it will be so easy in life.