what happens when no one hears "no"

Poor Steve with his plastic, rotating nemesis.

Sean and I are five weeks in with teaching Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (FPU) class at our parish. Last night's lesson had to do with changing personal spending habits--also known as saying "no" to our impulses to buy things because we tell ourselves we "need" them.

I "need" a new van... but really I just want the car that vacuums up after my crumb monsters.  

I "need" another pair of jeans... but really I just want something dressier to wear on date nights. 

I "need" a new rug in the family room... but really I'm just tired of looking at the stains on the current rug.

We've all got to learn to tell ourselves "no." Delayed gratification is a pretty good marker of adulthood. But in this age of snowflakes and the constant urging to treat yo' self, even adults seem susceptible of throwing tantrums.   
People hate hearing "no." And so we have a country full of adults who have yes-ed themselves into hundred of thousands of dollars of debt. 

But it's more than just money matters, of course.

That family who insisted that their little girl get to wear a white tux to her first Holy Communion? They were told "no." They didn't like it.

I've had so many more examples lately--at home, at work, with kids. It's maddening. It's disheartening.

It's what happens in a culture when no one hears "no."

I've committed to doing a monthly budget with Sean, every single month, no exceptions. A budget doesn't mean a damn thing, though, if you don't stick to it. It doesn't work if you get to the end of the month, the clothing budget is at a scant $4, and I see a pair of clogs for $30--and buy them. That's not how it works.

It only works if I tell myself "no." It only works if I set that example for my kids. It only works if Sean and I both keep our promises to stay on track with money.

A wonderful couple in our class came to us and asked for help with their budget. They asked us if we put birthday presents for our kids in our budget. We said "yes, we do, but with how expensive parties can be and wish lists for new toys that stretch on forever, our kids hear 'no' a lot."

The couple looked at us.

"Really?" they said. "You tell your kids no about that kind of stuff?"

"Yeah," we said slowly.

Saying "no" to our wants, our perceived needs, our kids' wants, our tantrums, our kids' tantrums... it's not easy. It's not the norm.

But maybe it should be.

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