I’m the first person to admit that I’m terrible at budgeting and being an adult, which is a nasty combination of unhealthy habits. While I’m perfectly good at spending money on things I want, I’m not so great at spending money on important things that, in comparison, are either expensive or, well, boring.
I live with my fiancé, a well-paid computer programmer, but I’m still establishing my footing as a freelance writer and editor, so my income is much smaller than I’d like it to be. While we split all our regular bills, I feel weird about asking him for money for things that are explicitly for me. I want to be able to buy personal items for myself, and I don’t need any man, even one I love, to give me an allowance, thank you very much. I know plenty of other people are comfortable with that kind of arrangement, and I have so much respect for that, but I haven’t gotten there yet myself.
Thanks to some irresponsible prioritizing — did I really need that $30 Lush moisturizer? — I’ve found myself buying things I want with my own money, but not things I really, really need. I’m finally starting to see how these habits are hurting me, and I’m taking the time to recalibrate what’s actually important. These three things have significantly changed how I feel as I move through the world, and I wish I’d spent money on them sooner.
1. Clothes that actually fit me.
In the last few years, I’ve slowly gained about forty pounds. I don’t have many clothes left that fit me in a way that makes me feel comfortable. I was reluctant to replace well-loved jeans that not only had gone threadbare between the thighs but that were also starting to dig into my sides. They were no longer as comfortable as they used to be. So, I ordered a new pair in a size larger than I’d ever ordered. Despite my attempts not to be, I was a little sad about that. But when I put the jeans on and saw how they actually fit around my waist without squishing me in (and how nice they made my ass look!), I got over it. Frankly, I don’t want to go back to the size I was before. I just want to feel comfortable in this new body, no matter what number my labels read. Owning clothes that fit and look nice on me helps me feel like myself.
2. Semi-regular massages.
About six years ago, I was in a car accident that left me with a messed up back. Every once in a while, I have immense lower back pain, and instead of doing anything about it, I usually just drink some water, take some ibuprofen, and complain to whoever is around who will listen to me for longer than five seconds. (Note: That list is quickly dwindling.) The pain inhibits my sleep, and just generally makes me cranky and unproductive. For Christmas, a friend got me a gift certificate to a local spa, and I put it toward a package of three massages. It was horrifying to feel the massage therapist dig out so many knots during that first appointment. I left the spa a convert. I hadn’t realized just how much stress I was holding in my back, or how miserable it was making me. It may seem like an extravagance, but when you work from home on your own schedule like I do, it doesn’t take much to keep you from being productive. When my back feels better, I feel better, and, in turn, I’m less whiny and I get more (and better) work done. A major win for me, and a win for everyone around me.
This one is huge. When I was diagnosed with clinical depression last summer, my doctor prescribed me an SSRI and suggested that I go to therapy. The medication only costs me $10 a month, so that was an easy change for me to make. But the potential cost of therapy scared me. I anticipated anywhere from $40 per session to $100 per session out of pocket. I’m 25, so I’m still on my dad’s health insurance (thanks Obama!), which does include mental health care. But I was so afraid that it wouldn’t cover enough. I started seeing a therapist last month, and it turns out it only costs $25 per session. Granted, that’s $100 per month, which is not pocket change for me. But the first time I went, I knew it was something I needed, and it’s been immensely powerful and helpful already to learn more about how my depression and negative thoughts affect me. I’m learning more about myself and finding new ways to cope. That’s worth building my budget around.
From now on, I’m going to think about every purchase I’m making, and not making, more critically. What am I valuing, and why? It’s time for me to help myself live a better life in the long term, not just in the moment. My mental health is more important than that $9 cocktail that sounds oh so good.
Jess Kibler is a freelance writer and editor. She lives with two cats, one human, and a coffee addiction in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter here.
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