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Many motivational speakers demand we say “yes” to life. Whether it involves going back to school, taking an educated risk or meeting new people, “yes” gets heavily promoted.

But you know what? “Yes” doesn’t always work out so well. There are times when “no” is a more appropriate answer – especially when it comes to improving your financial standing.

Today, I’d like to share with you some financial situations in which it’s good to say “no!” But I won’t leave you hanging. There are ways to decline with grace and strength. Are you ready to say “no?” Yes? Here are some times you may want to do so.

1. When Thinking About Putting Your Child’s College Education Before Your Retirement Savings

If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve probably heard the advice that, in case of an emergency, you should put your oxygen mask on before helping your little ones. Why? Well, if you pass out and your children can’t put their masks on, you’re all out of luck.

The same advice applies to your retirement savings. You should always save for retirement as the priority before you help your children with their college education. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do both at the same time, but it does mean that if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or your child is nearing high school graduation and you have no savings to speak of, retirement accounts should come first.

Parents without the funds to support themselves may find themselves elderly and depending on their children for financial help. That should never be the case.

“I frequently discuss this topic with clients who range from new parent millennials to Baby Boomers with young adult children,” said Jude Wilson, founder and Chief Financial Strategist at Wilson Group Financial. “I tell them, ‘of course you can help fund your children’s education, but you must prioritize your retirement funding above all others.’ Your children can always apply for a scholarship, or at worse case a student loan, but there is no such thing as a retirement loan.”

If forced to choose, you can explain to your children that you want the best for them, but your responsibility is first and foremost to your spouse and your own financial stability. Explain that you want to be there for them when times get difficult, but college is a privilege, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure your children don’t take advantage of you.

2. When Asked to Co-Sign a Loan

You know why banks want co-signers on student loans, personal loans, auto loans, and just about every other loan under the sun? It’s because they’re trying to ensure that the debt gets paid back.

Now, if a bank, with its years of experience and trained financial professionals doesn’t believe a borrower alone can pay back the loan, why should you? Unfortunately, so many family members are asked to co-sign on a loan only to wind up paying the monthly bills. Electing not do so could damage your credit score and wallet. (Yikes.) You can monitor your financial goals (like building good credit) for free on Credit.com.

That’s why it’s in your best interest to say “no” whenever you are asked to co-sign anything. Instead, sit down with whoever came to you about the loan and talk to them about the situation. You can say “no” to co-signing but perhaps help in another way.

You could gift them the money if you have enough – just make sure they are going to use the funds as you intend and won’t waste it. You can make your gift contingent on certain expectations you have for them to better their lives and become self-sustaining.

Another option is to simply teach them how to fish instead of handing them the fish. While this might not help them out immediately, it will improve their self-esteem and their long-term financial security.

3. When Trying to Keep Your Spending in Check

Sometimes, the person you need to say “no” to is yourself. I know, that hurts, but it’s true. In our materialistic culture, it’s rather difficult to say “no” to that new smart watch or fancy pair of shoes.

How can you? There’s an obscene amount of money thrown toward advertising efforts every day. Americans are awash with ads. The marketing is clever. It tells us that we need this or that because so and so has this or that. It tells us how much better and happier our lives will be with the products.

So how do we keep our spending in check and say “no” to ourselves? One word: budgeting. Budgeting helps when you have short-term goals to strive for. Start a budget and you’ll have clear boundaries on what you should and should not spend. By making these decisions beforehand, you’ll be able to avoid impulse purchases. You’ll also be able to judge each expense within the context of your finances as a whole. It’s also important to find your reason for budgeting, like saving for retirement or paying your college tuition, so you stick with it.

4. When Saddled With Too Much Debt

Sometimes, it’s hard to say “no” to old habits. Keeping debt around can turn into one — and it’s a habit worth breaking.

Many people forget that if you just stop incurring more debt, you’ll likely eventually pay it off by making the requested or minimum payments. Saying “no” to more debt means that your existing debt should eventually go bye-bye.

Still, you should aim to aggressively pay off your debt as soon as possible by prioritizing high-interest payments and/or cutting non-essential expenses from your budget. Say “no” to debt and watch your financial situation greatly improve.

There are plenty more financial situations in which you should say “no.” If you make a commitment beforehand to these matters, you’ll find the willpower to do the right thing at the right moment. Saying “no” isn’t always bad – sometimes it’s necessary so you can say “yes” to a better life.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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