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Excuses or Choices?

excusesIf you interact with the public on a daily basis, you’ve probably heard a ton of different reasons for why people do or don’t do certain things. Sometimes the reasons are worthwhile, well thought out, and very smart. Sometimes the reasons are comical and don’t make any sense. Many times reasons turn into excuses, and excuses are often the things that hold us back and keep us from becoming the people we want to be. Here is a look at some common excuses and how to turn them into choices so they won’t cause problems when trying to reach your goals.

I Don’t Have Time

Now this is one I can certainly relate to. When you work, have a family, and are involved in other outside activities, time is certainly a scarce commodity. I have also been guilty of trying to do everything myself because I felt no one else could do it as well as me. Not having enough time can also cost you in terms of money and health if you are eating out every night because you feel you too rushed to cook or if you don’t exercise or take some time for relaxation. There are only 24 hours in every day. We have to make time for the things we need to do, so we’ll have time for the things we want to do. 

Make a Schedule– I admit, I never used to schedule my time at home, and I generally got nothing done because I would start fourteen things and never finish any of them. At work, we would fall apart without a schedule,  and home tasks really aren’t that much different. Write down what you need to accomplish during the week and start prioritizing. I’ve found that taking care of the least fun task first often helps.

Delegate– Maybe there are some things you can delegate to others. When I worked all the time, I still felt like I had to do all the cooking and housekeeping, even though Jim got home hours before I did on many days. Finally, I asked if he could make dinner on the nights when I worked late. Guess what? He could. Maybe he doesn’t always make things I would choose, (hot dogs do belong to a food group, right?)  but that’s OK, and we don’t end up having to get takeout.

Get Up Early– If I wake up an hour or two before everyone else, I can be super productive or work out without feeling Mommy guilt. It does require turning off the TV or computer so I can actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour, but it’s well worth gaining the extra time. 

I Can’t Afford It

I was in line at a convenience store last week  when I overheard a customer taking to the clerk about how expensive health insurance was and that he couldn’t afford it. He was buying an energy drink and two packs of Marlboros. I’m generalizing, but if he took the $15 he likely spends every day on these items, that would be over $450 a month. He looked to be about my age, and especially if he stopped smoking, that would certainly buy a health insurance policy.

“I can’t afford it” is a huge excuse that gets used  to account for lots of things we don’t do; everything from buying healthy food, making a budget, funding a retirement plan, the list goes on and on. While it may be true that you don’t have enough money to buy whatever you need or want at this exact moment, you likely can afford it.

Track all of your spending-If you have no idea where your money goes, you’ll never be able to save any of it.

Find ways to lower costs or make more money-Sometimes this requires tough decisions. If your rent is eating up all of your money, you might have to move. You might have to take a roommate. You might have to sell your new car and drive a beater. You might have to tell your friends that you can’t go out with them. You might have to take on extra work or mow yards. You might even have to cut up your credit cards, but I guarantee that if you spend less that you earn, you’ll find more and more ways to afford the things that are important.

Consider every purchase-My rule for purchases is a three step process. I have three questions. Is this purchase an absolute necessity or will it add value to my life? Do I need it right now? Is this the best possible price? If the answer is yes to all three, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise, you likely don’t need it or can find a better price.

 Make Choices Not Excuses

I’m as guilty as the next person of using excuses like the ones listed above, especially lack of time. In reality, we make choices, not excuses, every day. I could have time to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese, but I would probably have to cut out all other activities and save enough to spend some time immersed in China. I choose not to do this because speaking Chinese is not important to me.  I could go back to work full time and make more money, but I choose not to because we have paid off most of our debt and currently have more than enough money to live on. Choices are great!

Excuses, on the other hand, are not so great. If I use the excuse that I can’t afford to pay off my credit cards because I don’t want to cut spending and change my lifestyle, then  I’ll never have choices besides divvying up how much to split between Visa and Mastercard. If you use the excuse of not having time to exercise when you’re really scared of failing or that someone might laugh at the overweight person trying to jog on the treadmill, get over it and make the choice not to use an excuse.

We need to  think choices instead of excuses. If you can think positively by saying I choose instead of I don’t or I can’t, it goes a long way toward getting to where you want to be. Even if you are making bad choices, realize that they are, in fact, choices. I’m sure it sounds better to say that you can’t afford health insurance instead of saying that you choose not to afford health insurance because you buy two packs of cigarettes every day, but isn’t that your choice?

What excuses have held you back? What’s the best one you’ve heard? What choices do you make every to reach your goals?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Not having time is a big excuse that I hear a lot. Heck, even I used it. When I think about how I don’t have time, I look back and realize, that I would have had time had I not spent two nights watching TV.

  2. I hate excuses but have formulated them when I was too lazy to dignify the person in front with a full answer. There are no excuses, if you don’t do something it is because deep down, you don’t want to do it. If a mother of six can run a blog, enter a marathon and write a book, anyone can, others just don’t want to prioritize and put that at the top of their list. It can be unconscious, but spending three hours a day in front of TV is a choice.

  3. I always hated excuses. Look, I know some circumstances suck (like a friend complained that she hadn’t done any kind of exercise in a couple years because of a knee issue), but swim, or or crawl…I don’t care, but do something! Making things “choices” like you said gives us the power to take 100% responsibility for our own lives. If I’m having “trouble” finding a full time job, it’s because I have not dedicated enough time to looking or doing it right…I can’t blame “the system…the government, etc. I also like getting up early btw even though I don’t have kids. I get a lot done in the morning!

    • There is just something more productive about the first hours of the morning. Not sure what it is. Maybe the mind is more uncluttered?

  4. I love the Marlboro story – that’s classic! We all makes excuses and I think that key is to not see them as uncontrollable circumstances as you’ll never get past them. The one I tend to use is saying that I do not have time. Sure, I am busy, but it just means that I have to schedule and be creative about when I do things so I can be more efficient.

  5. I am NOT a morning person (actually the opposite, a night owl) but I have found a ton of value in getting up early and getting to work at a reasonable time. I get some things done before I head out the door and I also am able to get things done early at work before too many people get in. Scheduling is so important! I also am not a great cook, but I try to cook if Victoria is working later than me. I also think “I can’t afford it” is an overused excuse. If I see people who have wants and desires for things that cost more money than they can afford and they use this excuse, I always point out how they could make more money on the side or how they could add additional income by getting more education, training, new job, etc.

  6. I hate hearing “I don’t have time” or “I’m too tired.” I have a friend who always says this and she doesn’t work or go to school. Makes no sense!

  7. A good reminder! I think sometimes were all a little susceptible to making excuses, but in the end it is all about prioritizing options and making choices.

    • I’ve been guilty of an excuse of two myself. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact when I get overwhelmed.

  8. I hate the “I don’t have enough time” excuse. Everyone gets the same amount of time in each day, it’s just how you use it. Also, I agree with you on not having enough money. People would have a lot more money if they just cut out some of their unnecessary spending.

    • I do believe that 90% of the time, we choose not to afford things. My husband hadn’t gone to the dentist in 5 years when I met him because he “couldn’t afford it.” Yet, he had a ski pass and a new bike. He chose those things over dental care, which is Ok, but it was his choice not to get his teeth taken care of.

  9. My mantra has always been no excuses, but avoiding decisions is a way of getting around it. I can change my habits, but it is more difficult to lower your fear which stops you from doing things. I remember thinking about fear when I started my first business after achieving financial freedom. I thought I could lose everything! Not overcoming fear will stop you from success.

    • Very good point. Fear can certainly talk you into using an excuse instead of going for something that might fail.

  10. Love this post, Kim! I hear every excuse imaginable from clients and prospective clients. 🙂 I have definitely been guilty of saying I don’t have time. And often the reason I don’t have time is because I jam-pack too much into one day. I’m trying to get better to say “yes” to the things I truly want or am willing to do and “no” to the things I don’t. Otherwise every minute of my day is booked and I’m not only exhausted, but have no flexibility in my schedule to do something fun spontaneously. Choices are definitely great and we all have them – we just sometimes chose to ignore them.

    • I have certainly been guilty of that myself,and am slowly getting better. I was asked to be HOA secretary this year, and I really didn’t want to, but felt really guilty about that. I need to let myself be OK with not taking on every responsibility that comes my way.

  11. Last month I took my son to a presentation by his favorite author, Bruce Coville (Aliens Ate My Homework).

    Bruce told a story about when he was a high school teacher and after years of effort, published his first book. He was in the teacher’s lounge talking about his book when another teached sashayd in, overheard Bruce’s conversation and said, “I would like to write a book, but I just don’t have time.”

    Bruce said that in his imagination he grabbed the teacher by the neck and yelled, “You have the same 24 hours in a day that I do!”

    My impression was Bruce didn’t think that was a valid reason.

    • We all have those 24 hours, and it’s OK to take it easy and sloth away one every now and again, but how would anything get done if we all didn’t have enough time?

  12. Time is such a big one. In every stage of my life I’ve felt like I was busy, and yet I’ve pretty much continually added commitments along the way. Somehow those commitments are all able to be handled, despite previously feeling like I didn’t have enough time. Turns out I was just wasting it. Waking up early is one of my favorite productivity tips. I can get so much done early in the morning, and like you said it doesn’t have to be at the expense of spending time with family.

  13. Prioritization makes a huge difference when applied to finances and time management, as you point out!

  14. I love this post. It’s very empowering to “own” one’s decisions and make choices rather than excuses. Choices can always be changed if needed or if one’s situation changes. For instance, my husband and I spend a lot of time and money commuting to our respective workplaces (in opposite directions). One or both of us could look for a different job or we could move. However, we both like where we work and like where we live. Once we accepted that we were making a choice to deal with a long commute, we felt a lot better about the long drive and the price of commuting. We remembered that we’ve made this choice because it’s important to live where we do, and because we think that we both have good job opportunities where we work.

  15. Getting up early is how we make time to do extra stuff. Sometimes it’s 5 a.m…..but you do what you have to do. That really is the only way to work extra time into your day!

  16. Awesome post! I especially like this line: “…excuses are often the things that hold us back and keep us from becoming the people we want to be.” So true! I think it’s very effective to frame responses to opportunities as “I choose not to” instead of “I can’t.” That small change makes you stop and think about the decision in more depth. I think I’ll be doing this more often going forward. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. It’s not really an excuse but “my debt will be paid off one day” is a thought that has held me back for many many years. Now I’m matured enough to know that if you want something done, you start now. Not tomorrow, NOW!

  18. Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities Priorities! Did I mention priorities? People who make excuses are actually making other priorities over what they SAY they want to do. When they “can’t” do something, it’s usually a “I don’t want to, or am too lazy” to do something. If you want to work out, then you sacrifice your TV time to make it happen. If you want to buy a house, you cut the cable, stop blowing money on fast food and bars, and save to make it happen. “Can’t” is the most debilitating word in the English language. And you know what the biggest barrier to “can” is? YOU!

    Sorry for yelling. I feel very passionate about this subject as well. 🙂

  19. Hilarious. “I can’t afford it” is always a good one. If I don’t want to do something I just tell people, “I’ll get to it just after the aliens arrive.” That generally drives them away. I don’t get asked for much anymore. On that note, how come nobody talks to me anymore? Hello? Is this thing on?

  20. Kim, you’re right on here. Especially the “I can’t afford it” excuse. I always, always wonder now, ever since we analyzed our last year’s spending habits, if they truly can’t afford it, or if they’re just choosing to spend their money on other things.

  21. Not having enough time or money is a problem for everyone. No matter who you are, these are finite resources… what you do with your time and money is simply a question of priorities.

  22. Guilty. I know that some of my reasons are just said just to justify what I’m doing. But deep inside, I know that they are wrong and I could have done something to make it better but sometimes, I was just too lazy.

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