As much as you care about loved ones, sometimes you just need a bit of space. You might need to recharge your mental batteries, or money might be tight as you watch the clock until payday. So how do you set a boundary, without offending anyone?

If you struggle to express the need for some social downtime, here are some handy prompts to help you say no, kindly. And, as a general rule, keep in mind three main elements: you appreciate them asking/something nice to show you value them; the polite but clear ‘no’ response; openness to catching up another time. This route ensures your friend feels heard, and your needs are met, but the door is open still for future fun together.

Declining due to energy

  • Thanks so much for asking, but it’s not great timing for me. I could do next week?

  • I’m having a chilled one this weekend, but hope you have a lovely time! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  • I need a bit of me-time this week, but really appreciate you thinking of me. Let’s catch-up soon.

  • I’d love to hang out, but I’ve had a really long day. Another time?

  • I’d usually be so up for this, but in all honesty I’m exhausted. Mind if we reschedule?

Declining due to cost

  • I’m on a bit of a budget right now, so won’t be able to join. But hope to see you soon.

  • Thanks for the invite, but I’m trying to be more careful with my spending. Perhaps we could catch-up on a [insert free/low-cost activity] instead some time?

  • I’d love to see you, but this is a bit out of my price range at the moment. Would you be up for [X] next week instead?

  • That sounds great – maybe next time! I’ve maxed out my budget this month.

General decline

  • This sounds lovely, but it’s not a good time for me at the moment. I’ll check in soon!

  • Sorry I can’t make that, but I hope you have the best night. I’ll call you tomorrow to hear how it went.

  • Thank you for thinking of me, but it’s not really my thing. I hope you have a good time though! Fancy a [insert suggestion] soon?

  • I can’t, I’m afraid, but thanks for asking. Are you going to [future event]? Looking forward to catching up then.