The Best Household CEOs Understand the Power of Saying ‘No’

By most accounts, there are more than 250,000 words in the English language.

Of course, I have my favorites.

For example, I’ve always been quite fond of platypus; I smile every time I hear myself say it.

For some reason, there happens to be a soft spot in my heart for the word kerfuffle too.

And I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I also find myself occasionally thinking of ways to insert words like hemidemisemiquaver, snickersnee, slangwhanger and fatuous into some of my blog posts. Unfortunately, I usually strike out.

Then again, I was pretty successful today.

I’m sorry; I’ll stop bloviating. (Never mind that bloviate is another word I’m inexplicably attracted to.)

If you asked my kids, they’d tell you my favorite word of all time is “no.” They may have a point; it’s a word I use freely with them.

“Hey, Dad! Brandon’s at the door. Can I do my homework assignment tomorrow?”

“No. Tell Brandon you’re busy.”

“Hey, Dad! Can we adopt a rabbit?”


“But, Dad! Jenny said she’ll give us the cage and two pounds of carrots for free.”


“Hey, Dad! Can I have cake for dinner tonight?”

“Hmm. I don’t see why not.”

“Really, Dad?”


My 12-year-old daughter, Nina, has been pestering me for her own Facebook account for more than two years now. And while I admire the kid’s tenacity, much to her chagrin, I’ve given the same answer all 566 times she’s asked. (Yes, that would be “no.”)

My kids think I’m always taking the easy way out, but I’m really not.

The truth is, it’s hard for me to say “no” as often as I do; it takes real discipline. At times, it requires a heavy dose of intestinal fortitude. Still, when I have to make a tough decision and say “no,” I say it. After all, that’s part of being a responsible adult.

Saying “no” often requires us to disappoint others, or appear rude. Even worse, if you’re dealing with immature people, it increases the risk of personal conflict and lost friendships.

The thing is, if you stand tall and stick to your guns, knowing how and when to say “no” can pay big dividends. For that reason alone, saying “no” is certainly a skill that’s well worth mastering — especially when it comes to managing your personal finances. In fact, it’s a key trait of effective household CEOs.

Look, it’s tough enough spending less than you earn when you’ve got a limited income — but it’s virtually impossible when you can’t muster the courage to say “no” to lavish vacations, expensive luxury cars, designer clothes, and impulsive purchases.

And while saying “no” may seem like an almost Sisyphean task sometimes, the good news is that it’s really not that difficult as long as you create a household budget to help you. That’s because a budget is a terrific tool for instilling financial discipline and guiding your spending decisions.

Believe me; I realize saying “no” is rarely easy. But it’s one of the smartest strategies available for keeping your financial house in order.

(And if you’re really lucky, it’ll help keep your kids in order too.)

Photo Credit: o5com

(This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on February 29, 2012)


  1. 1


    I have a horrible time saying “no.” I’ve gotten better about it in financial situations, but it’s still a struggle on many other levels. Honestly, I don’t tend to worry much about disappointing others – it’s more about disappointing myself. I always feel like I “should” be able to do more, which is a stressful way to think about oneself and the world.

    I’ve never had a hard time saying “no” to my son, though. I decided when he was little that I would treat every “You’re mean!” or “I hate you!” as a sincere compliment, so I guess I’m always striving for the mean parent gold medal. Plus hearing all those “noes” will make the “yes” moments even sweeter for him.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      With respect to my family and finances, I have no trouble saying “no” either, Andrea. But it’s in my nature to want to please others — especially at my day job — and so I have to work hard to make sure I do not over-extend myself sometimes, because in the end it affects the quality of my work.

      I’m still not there yet, but I’m getting better. :-)

  2. 3


    Kids don’t understand how exhausting it can be to continually have to say “no”. It isn’t as if it gives us any enjoyment and sometimes the temptation to say “yes” is so great, if only to stem the tide of incessant badgering.

    I also like the words papaya and platypus.

  3. 5


    I’m sure Nina thought your “No” was a fatuous reply, with no real thought on your part.
    Hopefully her disappointment won’t result in a snickersnee, her weapon of choice might be more deadly.

    If you’re not careful you’ll turn her into a slangwhanger, being paid to bloviate.

    I’m going to say No mas.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      Hey Dr. Dean, I think the only thing I understood was the part where you said “no mas.”

      (Just because I said I like certain words doesn’t mean I know what they mean.) πŸ˜‰

  4. 7

    mindy says

    I always felt kids need to hear NO in order to become responsible- we’ve all seen the ones who dont hear it- but as a single mom he got it much more than others I think- and at times even when I could have said YES I would say NO to get him used to it and train him to accept it and not feel so entitled- it worked out well – he started working for neighbors at 12 (like your daughter) and began seeking ways to earn what he wanted. My son graduated college with no student debt because he worked full time and paid the tuition as he went.

    your posts crack me up– what do you think of flutterbudget?

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      I have no idea what “flutterbudget” means, but I like the way it rolls off the tongue! I’d rank it right up there with “bumbershoot.”

  5. 9


    Having switched to living on one income, my wife and I are having to say “no” to more and more requests. Lunches out with friends, concerts. Lots of stuff we *can* afford. But we can’t do all that stuff *and* meet our financial goals.

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      Hang in there. I remember when the Honeybee and I were just starting out — and went from two incomes to one, we were in the same boat.

      The trick we used to keep our sanity was to not strangle ourselves financially by ensuring we had a small “mad money” account that enabled us to at least go out and have some fun with out friends every once in awhile.

  6. 12

    Jessica says

    Where do you come up with these articles? Great post! My favorite word is flummox.

    And you are SO right. Learning to say no took me a lot of practice, and my finances took a hit for it early on. It’s much easier for me today. I don’t know if my kids should get a little credit for helping me get there or not!

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      Flummox … good one, Jessica! :-)

      As for where I come up with these posts. I’m not really sure. I just kind of take them as they come — but thank you.

  7. 14

    Phillip says

    “No” will never get you into trouble when dealing with high pressure salesmen like timeshare representatives.

  8. 16

    Lynne says

    My grandmother, who came to the US speaking 6 languages, but not English, used to say “It didn’t matter, the only English word she needed was No”

    • 17

      Len Penzo says

      That is amazing, speaking six languages. Wow.

      Did you know English is the third most-spoken language in terms of native speakers (after Mandarin and Spanish)?

      However, after you include folks who speak English as a second language, it is easily the most-spoken language on Earth.

  9. 18


    Being a good responsible parent requires to say no more times than yes. It requires much effort to be a good parent because of these kinds of decisions. I remember the hardest thing I ever did was tell my son, he could no longer be with his friend. His friend would get him and others in trouble. His friend’s parents were too lax with him. He is now 34 years old and has no education (GED), no career and lives at home.

    • 19

      Len Penzo says

      I hear ya, KC. Like Andrea mentioned, saying “no” more than “yes” only makes those “yesses” that much sweeter when the kids do get them.

  10. 20


    Given that a higher education now equates snobbery, we wouldn’t want you to edify us with sesquipedalian vocabulary to demonstrate how euridite you are. That would manifestly divulge a university education, and put you in an awkward juxtaposition of friendly blogger and pedantic elitist. Oh the horror!

    I myself would never use multisyllabic words. :)

    Parents, of course, do not have a monopoly on “no.” As I recall, the first two words my son learned were “mine” and “NO!”

  11. 23


    I really struggle with saying “no.” I need to learn that first and foremost I don’t have to agree to things I don’t want to agree. But sometimes I feel that I need to be a better friend, a better daughter, a better supervisor. Maybe it is time to just say to myself “the hell with it” and do what is right for me!

  12. 25

    Marie says

    My children will tell you that “no” is my favorite word. But they also seem to think that “maybe” means “yes”.

    But since platypus is one of your faves and you have kids, I just have to say it: “Hey, where’s Perry?”

    • 26

      Len Penzo says

      It’s the same thing in my house, Marie. “Maybe” (to the kids) is always construed as “yes.”

      So I’ve learned to never say “maybe.” πŸ˜‰


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