21 Believable Excuses For When You Need To Flake On Plans

“Oh, was that tonight?”

by Charlotte Ahlin and Jay Polish
Originally Published: 
A woman reads a book in bed while stretching her legs up a wall. These believable excuses to cancel ...
Olga Rolenko/Moment/Getty Images

It happens to the best of us. We make plans with other living human beings, and we fully intend to put on hard pants and "put ourselves out there,” but then... the night arrives, and we realize that we'd really rather just stay home with a book. All night. Alone. If you frequently find yourself sitting in a sweaty bar on a Saturday night, longing for the sweet embrace of your favorite reading chair, you might want to stock up on believable excuses for when you agreed to plans, but you really just want to stay home and read.

Look, you meant it at the time when you agreed to go see your friend's boyfriend's brother's ska band. It's just that you can't put this book down now. Once you're locked into reading mode, you're sticking with that book until you hit the "Acknowledgements" page. Besides, reading about grand adventures in distant lands, or thrilling mysteries in foreign cities, or even compelling biographies about notable historical figures, beats "going out" every time.

“I love my friends, but sometimes I’d just rather read,” says Eli, 26. Since they’d rather not lie to people all the time, “I’ll generally make sure my excuses have a flair of truth to them.” If they’ve had a hard day but don’t want to get into the specifics of why, “I’m tired” tends to do the trick, or saying that they’re “not up for people-ing.” “It’s not untrue,” Eli tells Bustle, “and if I’m close to the person, I can choose to explain more fully when I have more energy.”

If you're trying to flake on plans without losing all of your friends, here are 21 tried and true excuses to get out of plans that'll let you stay home with your book in peace.


“I’m really tired.”

"I'm so tired," you'll say, fully aware that you're about to stay up all night finishing a book about dragons. "I'm just really tired." If you can nail a realistic yawn, and perhaps some bloodshot eyes, no one will question your totally convincing exhaustion. But this lie might come back to haunt you when you're still up reading at 5:00 AM, listening to the birds chirp.


“I’m on deadline.”

Your deadline might not be for work: it might be to give feedback to your friend on the newest three chapters of their enemies-to-lovers fan fic.


“I’ve got Zoom fatigue.”

Everyone’s familiar with Zoom fatigue by now — even if your plans are IRL, spending too much of the day on Zoom is a legit reason to turn them down. But reading on your Kindle, no webcam required, just won’t stress you out the same way.


“I’m not up for seeing people.”

There’s nothing wrong with keeping it real. Yes, you’ll be seeing people on the pages of the original Bridgerton novels. But when they talk, you don’t have to say anything back, and it’s OK to be in that kind of mood.


“I just got really cozy.”

You were going to get off the couch and get dressed. You really were. But one more chapter became another chapter, which became a 17th chapter... and now it’s simply too late. Hopefully, your friend will be able to appreciate your snuggled state of being.


“My friend is going through a rough time right now.”

"My friend is just in a really bad place," you'll say solemnly. They don't have to know that your "friend" is a fictional character. I mean, they are going through a rough time right now! You have to be a supportive friend, and see them through the end of the book.


“I’m not feeling so well.”

A sudden illness is perhaps the oldest trick in the excuse handbook. And it's not really a lie. You do have a feverish need to finish this chapter right now. Anyway, you clearly cannot go to your friend's cat's birthday party when you're sick. Better stay home and read until you feel better.


“I’m vomiting copiously.”

Of course, you might have the sort of "kind," "considerate" friends who hear that you're sick and want to bring you chicken soup or some similar liquid. To really double down on the sickness excuse and drive all your friends away, get specific. "I'm vomiting copiously," or "Sorry, I have explosive diarrhea," should do the trick. You can also opt for the “I’d prefer to suffer alone” true-ism.


“I went way too hard last night!”

No one needs to know that when you say you "went too hard" last night, you mean that you were up late re-reading Ta-Nehisi Coates. Just let them assume that you have a raging hangover, when really you've been getting wrecked on tea and timeless love stories. And you're totally doing it again tonight.


“I have work tonight.”

This excuse to cancel plans might first require a few months of establishing that you have a boss who interprets “work from home” as “work always.” Then you get to act all bummed out and responsible when your boss "suddenly" asks you to work late. Your friends don't have to know that your boss is actually the new Alison Bechdel novel.


“I have work early tomorrow.”

Wouldn't you know it, you have to sign on to work early! For a business meeting! Or your boss asked you to open even though you always close! Or you have a big test in that one class that you totally forgot about. That's why you're "going to bed early." It has absolutely nothing to do with your strong preference for books over people.


“I’m broke.”

This isn’t exactly a lie if you're broke from buying new books even though you haven’t gotten through your last haul. And you need to save your money — to buy more books. So obviously you can't afford to see your cousin's improv show, and you'll just have to stay home in your fortress made out of brand new $30 hardcovers.


“My wallet/phone/identity was stolen!”

Just make sure that you're not texting someone with the excuse that your phone was stolen... they might see through that one.


“Oh, was that tonight?”

Really, the best excuse to not hang out is to cultivate a general air of flakiness over the course of several years. You're just "bad at texting" and "terrible at writing things down in your calendar," even though those things require little to no skill. If you don't mind continually letting down everyone in your life, just say you forgot and "made other plans" (they just happen to be plans with a fictional character).


“Ugh, my bike is in the shop!”

Otherwise known as, "Drat that form of transportation that I usually rely on! I am now cursed to stay home, all snuggly under the covers, and read my favorite book! What a disastrous twist of fate!"


“I totally forgot, my mom/brother/nutritionist is in town tonight!”

This one doesn't even have to be a lie! You can state that someone you know is in town, and then proceed to not hang out with them, either, because you'd rather hang out with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Malinda Lo.


“There’s a family/roommate/pet emergency.”

The "emergency" excuse to cancel plans is not to be deployed lightly. But if it is truly an emergency (i.e., everyone is bothering you about fulfilling your social obligations and distracting you from your book), then you get a one-time-only "there's an emergency!" excuse. Use it wisely.


“I got caught up with some work.”

Sure, your “work” might not get you paid, but it’s going to take some brainpower to finish reading that fanfic tonight. Which is its own kind of labor, in a way.


“Something came up.”

It’s not inaccurate. Something did come up. Your emotions. And their need to see this book through until the end.


Just start crying.

Nine times out of 10, bursting into tears will save you from all pre-arranged plans. Of course, one time out of 10 your friends will want to "talk about it," in which case you have to stare into the middle distance and whisper "I can't," before peaceing out of the park hang by 7:30 to be home, in bed, with a good book, by 8:00.


“Honestly, I’d rather stay home and read.”

Of course, there's always that most dangerous option: honesty. If your friends are book-lovers too, you might actually be able to get away with the occasional moment of truth-telling. Use this one sparingly, though, or people will start to catch on to the fact that actually, you'd always rather be reading.

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