how to say no
Money Management

How to Say No to ‘Can I Borrow Your Money?’

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‘No’ is a complete sentence, but I also understand its nuance within the context of Asian culture: rejection. A social faux pas in our ‘save face’ culture.

Therefore, learning how to say no without actually saying no is something that I had to learn organically, through observation and experience. My (Western-centric) reading materials certainly didn’t teach it.

And combine that with my natural leaning towards ‘agreeableness’ trait (as per Big 5 Personality Trait), which values harmony and peacekeeping over being confrontational – if I didn’t learn how to say no, I would have just agreed to almost every financial request out there. Women take note, because many of you tend to have this same trait too.

Obviously that wouldn’t have been a good financial move. So I’ll just go ahead and say this: to be good with money, you have to learn how to say no.

Financial requests you should learn to say ‘no’ to

From personal and online conversations, some financial requests that you should learn to say ‘no’ to include:

  • Can I borrow money from you?
  • Buy this (product or service), we friend right
  • Can you do this (thing that requires financial/time resources) for me (for free)?
  • This item is benefitting a person of your (position/salary/etc) (so you should spend to do the same too)
  • Come to my event! (of which you are expected to pay/contribute financially)
  • Donate to (charity)! If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!
  • Can you co-sign this loan for me/ be my guarantor? (DO NOT. NEVER)

Look, I’m not saying you should ALWAYS say no. Except to that last one, the loan one. Never, unless family member and in super specific situations.

Support a friend’s business. Donate to your favourite charities. Attend your friend’s celebration.

I’m just saying you have to be selective with your yesses, because you, along with 99% of people on this planet, do not have unlimited wealth.

The non-exhaustive list of phrases that means no

If they want to borrow your money,

  1. I’ll think about it
  2. I’m building my (emergency/house/wedding/business/etc) fund
  3. I’ll send you work opportunities when I see them
  4. I need to pay back my own loans
  5. You can sell your [item]
  6. I can only spare (a small amount that you don’t mind to give away – if they pay it back, good. If no, hey its worth it to remove that kind of people from your life)

If they want you to buy something,

  1. I’ll think about it
  2. I don’t like the style/colour/size/whatever
  3. I’ve been decluttering
  4. Let me get another quotation
  5. I might have already bought that, need to check
  6. I have a similar one at home
  7. Do you have anything within the RMxxx range instead of RMxxxx?
  8. Will discuss with my partner

If they want you to attend an event that you can’t afford to go/not within your budget,

  1. I’m not available on the date
  2. I’m not in the area
  3. I’m working on the day
  4. I’ve made other plans

If they want you to do something for free,

  1. I’m working on the day
  2. Okay, transfer me (a suitable amount) and I’ll do it, I can do with the extra income
  3. Here are some freelancing platforms, they have what you’re looking for
  4. Here’s a company that can help you with that

If they want you to donate,

  1. I’ve pledged my donations to another organisation
  2. Yes, of course I care. I’ll look for volunteering opportunities
  3. What is the organisation website? I’d like to do a background check first

Quick note about persistent people

Most people, in most situations, will get it. If you use any of the phrases above, they’ll back off.

Most people. Not all.

Some are persistent, either they lack understanding of social cues, or were brought up differently (leading to them feeling entitled to your money/ time/ resources), or are simply not allowed to give up until they get a firm ‘no’ from you (this was my instruction, back when I worked in telemarketing).

On that last category, some people – especially salespeople – are also trained in sales closing tactics, where they are told things like ‘50% of sales happen after the 5th contact‘ (source). In a way, they do want to wear out your maybes UNTIL you give a yes (or a no).

So your last resort? This phrase: ‘My final answer is no. Thank you for your understanding’.

Repeat it if you have to. Over and over again.

Last words

I know of people who got into financial trouble because they didn’t learn how to say no. They co-signed personal loans and house loans. They lent money they needed for essentials. They fought with their spouses (some got divorced).

All because they couldn’t say a two-letter word.

As an ending note, I’d like you, dear readers, to share additional tactics and strategies and phrases that you have done to navigate tricky financial requests. Share with us what have you learned from experience. How do you say no – any other useful phrases not covered here? Tell us in the comments section below.

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  1. I don’t know how to say no to myself. Whenever we eat out, I’ll have the tendency to treat people (usually RM 100 and below). It’s not much but I always do that and I’m not in a position to do that often. Something about my trait to be likeable I think. Need to work on this!

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