Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Isabel wrote that she had a dilemma. Her neighbor seemed to always be selling something. She has four kids and it often feels like at least one is selling candy or cookies to raise money for school projects or the girl scouts. And she always feels obligated to buy something. Isabel has no children so there’s no reciprocation. Plus, she’s not allowed to eat sugar because of health issues and just gives what she buys away.

In addition, the neighbor likes to have parties where things are for sale. From makeup to housewares and everything in between, Isabel is often buying things she doesn’t want, just to be a “good neighbor.” She’s tired of buying jewelry she won’t wear and all the rest of the stuff she won’t use, especially since her budget is tight and she has to give up other things to do it. Meanwhile, her friend gets lots of free things for having the party. She wants to be a nice person but doesn’t want to keep being put on the spot to buy–buy–buy.

Most people encounter this kind of problem. It might be your co-worker selling things for her kids, or getting pledges to raise money for a walking/running marathon for a charity or a friend into having parties where you have to buy merchandise. Once a year isn’t terrible, but people tend to overdo it. And if you don’t set boundaries, your budget can take a beating. Plus, you’ll build resentment for the person who puts you on the spot.

I’ve been put on the spot many times, especially when I lived in DoorMatvile. DoorMats stand out as people who can be suckered into making a purchase or donation. And it’s true! When you want to please everyone, you will feel obligated to fork over money for things you don’t want, or believe in. It feels uncomfortable to turn someone down. But, you can do it without alienating people if you’re careful, and firm.

The next time one of her neighbors kids come selling sweets, she needs to say she can’t use them. She can explain to her neighbor that she isn’t allowed to eat sugar and would rather not buy those things anymore since it’s a temptation and waste of money for her. Maybe she can buy something once in a while to bring to someone she visits but only when she can. For the bigger picture with the parties included, Isabel needs to have a friendly talk with her neighbor to explain that all these purchases are hurting her budget and she’s not in a position to buy more.

Whether it’s merchandise parties or kids selling to raise money or people running for a cause, you shouldn’t automatically hand over your money. Keep it on an individual basis. If it’s someone you care about and it’s a once in a while thing, then do it in moderation. If everyone else in your office is buying something, you can buy the cheapest thing. But in most cases, saying the right thing will get you off the hook. Try:

•    “I’m not in a position to buy anything right now.”
•    “This is not a good time to ask me.”
•    I already bought some/donated to the cause so I can’t do more right now.”

End with, “I’m sure you understand my position.” Little white lies won’t hurt you. I do donate money to my own causes and prefer that over someone else’s. Most people will understand. If they don’t, oh well! Don’t succumb. I’ve said things like “I do what I can and if you can’t understand that, there’s nothing more I can say.” I don’t try to justify or explain. Your real friends will accept your position. You don’t owe anyone, unless you’ve taken collections for your own kids or causes or had parties. Otherwise, do what you can and stop doing what you don’t want, guilt free. That’s self-empowerment!

Take the 31 Days of Self-Love Challenge–a pledge to do something loving for yourself for the next 31 days–and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at Read my 31 Days of Self-Love Posts from 2012 HERE.

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