How good are you at saying “no”? Better still: how good are you at saying no without an explanation?

Oof…I admit this life skill is one that has been “under construction” for me for some time. But, I am much better at it today than I was even five years ago.  

If “yes” tends to fall more easily from your lips, I bet this time of year is a HUGE trigger.

More than likely, the holiday season is when all your boundaries, especially your financial boundaries, get tested.

Be it boundaries you’ve created to protect yourself from your own temptations, or those you’ve created to manage the requests and expectations of others.

If boundaries are about self-agency and self-empowerment; if they are about limits established by the words “yes” and “no,” what is it about the word “no” that makes it harder to say than “yes”?

  • Do you say “yes” to that invitation for fear of missing out (FOMO)? 
  • Do you add that extra project to your (already full) plate because you don’t want to appear as if you’re not a team player?
  • Do you say “yes” to (fill in the blank) because it is what is expected of you by way of social and familial conditioning? 

There’s value in the test

You already know the value of having healthy boundaries (not too rigid or too loose) in your life. You know it based on how it felt when you honored your boundaries, as well as those instances when they have been breached.

Here’s what I want you to pay attention to when it comes to boundaries, especially during the holiday season, and it is this: Boundaries are not simply about what you say yes or no to.

  • They can reflect your strengths, as well as your areas of improvement;
  • They can amplify your values and what is important to you; and
  • They can highlight your true capacity – be it physical, social, emotional, or financial.

The holiday season brings all of this into sharper focus, which, interestingly enough, can help you prepare for the New Year ahead…particularly on the money front!

Seem like a stretch?

Consider this: Financial boundaries illuminate how you relate to money and how you relate to yourself and others in the context of money. Here are a few examples:

Reconnect with your vision & intention

To set a meaningful boundary, it helps to first give some thought to your vision, intention and goals. So if/when your financial boundary gets tested, it’s an opportunity to assess the status of these: are they clear; have they changed; and what can you learn from the test that you can apply to how you will approach money moving forward? 

Evaluate your system

You may not have a documented system for how you approach money, but you most certainly have one. Even though it may not mimic the “style” you bring to other areas of your life, your money style shows up in how you manage your day-to-day choices; how you plan for the future and manage bigger, long-term decisions; how you respond to unexpected surprises and challenges.

So if/when your financial boundary gets tested, it’s an invitation to evaluate your system. Or, set aside time to document it.

Identify knowledge and support gaps

After the Great Recession, it became a requirement that some banks perform “stress” tests. These tests are intended to reveal how well prepared a bank is for an economic downturn. It helps to determine how big of a hit their financial health will take in the midst of a crisis. Doing these stress tests before an event actually happens helps them prepare for them in the event of.

In a way, when your financial boundary gets crossed, it reveals your areas of vulnerability. It’s a stress test…albeit after the fact. But, it can help you identify what type of help you may need to be better prepared in the future — that need may look like information, insight and/or support?

Hopefully, as you’ve been reading, you’ve been thinking of your own specific financial boundaries. If not, pause here for a moment to write them down (you know I’m a fan of pen and paper!). As you reflect on your boundaries, have any of them been breached thus far this year – by yourself or others? Can you see a breach on the horizon as we move further into the holiday season? What can you do to either preempt it or minimize its (potentially) negative impact?

As you reflect on the boundaries you have today, do you need to create some new ones in order to set yourself up for (greater) financial success in the year/s to come?

The power of “no”

Boundaries play an important role in your life. They are what lead to healthy relationships…with yourself, others, and money.

But let’s be real: Setting them may be the easier part of the process.

Communicating them and sticking to them…now that’s the hard part!

As I mentioned in the first piece of this series, this time of year when the trifecta – of rounding out the year, preparing for the holidays and planning for the new year – all converge, they can put pressure on your finances, time and emotions. Bringing a host of matters into sharper focus. Bringing a host of matters into sharper focus.

Like whether:

  • You have identified your physical, social, emotional, or financial limits.
  • You’re aware of the warning signs that a boundary has been breached or on the verge of being so.
  • You notice when it’s easier to be direct and when it isn’t, and how your comfort shifts depending upon the other person/s.
  • You give yourself permission to let having your boundaries be what they are – irrespective of other people’s reaction.
  • You notice when a boundary needs to change because your circumstances have changed.
  • You choose to view your boundaries as a critical component of your self-care. Yes, you may be saying “no” to a temptation of your own, or to the requests and expectations of others. But that “no” is offset by what you’re saying “yes” to. (An important side note: If the holidays trigger depression for you, it is all the more reason to set, follow and communicate your boundaries.)

At the end of the day, boundaries are about standing up for yourself.  And while that is not always easy to do, it is absolutely necessary. 

During this time of year, you may have to do a lot of standing up for yourself. But, isn’t that what self-agency and self-empowerment are all about?! So, it’s my hope reading this piece will help you to do so unabashedly and with great confidence! 

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