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Can't Afford It? An Excuse We All Make When We Don't Really Want Something.

Updated on July 25, 2010

Or do I just not want it?

As the recession continues to tighten its grip, some people remain unaffected while, tragically, others struggle just to keep their lives together. And then there are those of us in the middle, who aren't yet desperate but who have to be careful. We've had to realize that we can't have everything but have to prioritise, deciding what to do without in order to get something more important.

My maternal grandmother would have approved of that. She used to say that being able to have everything would turn you into a bad person just as surely as not being able to have anything. She may have been right. She was a smart lady.

So what's my point?

In common with, I'm sure, all dentists, in recent months I've had a lot of patients tell me they would love to have x,y or z done but they can't afford it at the moment. Now I don't know the state of those people's finances and I certainly wouldn't want to pry in that area, but something struck me about the reasons two of them gave me for not going ahead with treatment that would benefit them enormously:

"I can't afford that right now because I've just bought a new Merc."
"I can't afford that because I'm going to buy a 46 inch HD telly."

Both of these statements tell me that these two could afford the treatment offered - and more - if it were a priority for them. But it isn't. A new car or a better TV is more important to them than their smiles. Fair enough. I have no problem with that. Each individual has to make the decisions that are right for them and for their families.

The important point is that we should take responsibility for making those decisions. There are two questions we have to ask ourselves:

1. Do I really want this?

If the answer is "no", that's okay. Decision made. Move on.If the answer is "yes", we are faced with the second question

2. How can I afford this? What would I have to do without to make it possible?

But human beings don't like to take responsibility. It's so much easier to blame something outside of ourselves - like the economic state of the world. At times I've found myself wanting to blame the recession for everything from my shaving rash to not being able to find a pair of matching socks in the morning - when both of those things are clearly my fault, for not shaving properly or not putting my socks away with due care when they were washed. Okay so this is an extreme, and not particularly relevant, example but you get my point (and, by the way, my point ISN'T that anybody's financial position is their own fault. This is all about being honest with ourselves about our reasons for doing, or not doing, something.)

Yes it's tough but that's what being an adult is all about, isn't it? Certainly for me (and I know I'm not unique) every day is a constant stream of decisions, some of them straightforward and some almost paralysingly difficult but they all have to be made.

I have friends who embrace the old hippie ethos. They believe their destiny is in the stars and that they should lie back and enjoy the ride because even the bad times are interesting. Good for them - but that's not who I am. I sometimes wish I could be but I'm not and I have to deal with it.

Do you know who you are?

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.


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