An Honest Breakdown Of How Much I Spent Last Week To Cope With Stress


I’m currently dealing with an issue I’ve really never had to face in my young life: stress. I’ve never been a super high-strung person, and often find myself pretty easily able to let shit slide and relax even when things get busy. Maybe it is my inner yoga teacher, and maybe it is the fact that my doctor has joked about my low blood pressure, saying that I am “so relaxed that I’m nearly dead”, but I’ve never been one to get generally anxious about daily life and feel at all weighed down by stress. However, with graduation less than a year away at this point, and a billion things I have to accomplish before then, I’m starting to feel the weight of it all. And I’m hoping (really hoping) that it doesn’t begin to affect me in any big ways (i.e. financially).

Since I started working with TFD, my ability to appropriately manage my finances and be an all-around well-adjusted human being has increased significantly. I have an emergency fund, a savings account, and a bunch of tricks up my sleeve that are keeping me on track towards the financial future I so desperately want, even though Past Mary was probably headed down a much darker path. However, I am still, at my core, a human freaking being who makes mistakes. In fact, I sometimes get stuck in a cycle of mistakes: I make the (financial) mistake, admit it on TFD or elsewhere to ~cleanse~ myself of it, then feel so embarrassed that I make another mistake to try and cope. It is a mechanism that it definitely used by more people than just myself, and it is one that I will always struggle to halt before it gets me into trouble.

But without baring too much, I will say that the past few weeks have been really hard. I like to brush it off and say “sChOoL sUcKs” or “ugh I’m sooooo stressed about graduating”, but it is much more than that. This is probably the first time ever in my life that I’m so distracted by life-things that I generally just don’t feel like myself.

I know, objectively, that there are healthy and productive ways to cope with such feelings. Aside from seeking medical attention if extreme stress turns into depression, there are little things, like spending time outdoors, getting exercise, doing yoga, etc. And all of those healthy, lightly-therapeutic activities are things I’m entirely capable of doing, and actually genuinely enjoy – but for some reason, this week I chose to shop online and replace meals with marshmallows. And I’m not proud of it, and I’m trying to un-do it now that I’m feeling a little clearer (thanks to a few generous return policies), but I’m still going to put this out here so you guys know.

1. At least six cups of Starbucks coffee – two of those being $5 chai lattes. (Note: I actually packed my own coffee in my own travel mug on all of these days, but was so sleepy that I decided I needed additional coffees throughout the day, which was dumb and expensive. This means I spent nearly $20 on coffee I didn’t need.

2. Three or four $4 protein bars I bought in public, (because I was too stressed and busy to have time to cook and pack lunches at home), even though I know that ordering them in bulk on Amazon as I normally do comes out to only $1/bar. Apparently I thought spending $15 on protein bars was acceptable, although I know, objectively, that it is absolutely NOT.

3. Two of the same exact dress – neither in my size – by semi-accident (because I was deliriously browsing online and wanted to check the price with a promo code, and accidentally clicked “place order” on a site where my PayPal account was already linked), but way-too-easily accepted. This cost me $120 total, but I returned both, so it came out to a cool $0 in the end. Semi-win?

4. A dinner out I couldn’t afford because I wanted to show off, and I was feeling weirdly financially insecure about being taken care of that day. I like to treat my boyfriend as much as he treats me, but I simply can’t easily afford to sometimes. For some reason, I pulled out my cash and paid the bill knowing that this was the only cash I’d have for at least another week. It was only 20 bucks, but I have a pretty strict “spend the cash you allow yourself for the week and don’t go over that amount or charge any additional shit” policy to prevent myself from over-spending on fun stuff. It works, but it also stinks. I did have to use my credit card for a few days after that until I got paid (because I pretty much refuse to take money out of my savings account).

The thing about this list is that I can hardly justify being upset with myself, because these little mistakes didn’t even add up to a ton of money. I am doing pretty well financially, and I could hardly consider this much of a slip-up. It is more the principle behind it – I don’t want to live a life where spending money on junk makes me feel better when I’m feeling stressed or unwell. And it is hard, because it is so easy to turn to a “treat yo’self” mentality during times of extreme stress, but it is important to remember that it will ultimately cause more stress, and possibly become a huge financial setback. For now, I need to remind myself to practice what I preach here on TFD, and hold myself accountable for it all; it is easy to forget sometimes.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

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  • Violaine

    Gosh… They sound like healthy choices… My “stress money” usually goes to wine and beers…

    • Katinka

      and chocolate 😉

  • Anni

    Word of advice: I would watch the coffee thing. I was in your position about two years ago and in my very rigorous hands-on major, I slept a grand total of about 4 hours a night for 6 months until I graduated. To accommodate for the lack of sleep I drank a shit ton of coffee, and a lot of energy drinks and soda and when I finally freed myself from all for a much more sane 8-5, I realized that I was having a lot of withdrawal symtoms (bad headaches, intense cravings, shaky/jittery-ness with energy drinks AND without) and I took another 3 months to slowly wean myself off that which was hell on my body.

  • Anonymous

    I used to love reading TFD, but it’s getting harder and harder to relate to the same college student writing about her lifestyle everyday. Maybe consider quality over quantity. This is not the writer’s fault, but it’s hard to take advice from a younger woman in a quite different part of her life. Some of your readers are a bit beyond stressing about graduation. (Not to say I don’t remember totally flipping out when I was in my last semester.)

    • Megan

      I read TFD regularly and I am a graduate student in the last year of my Master’s program. Though I’m not an undergrad, I can relate to the ~stress~ that Mary cites, and it resonates with me. TFD’s audience is wide and varied, and I appreciate that their articles reflect a multitude of perspectives.

    • Court E. Thompson

      I totally understand where you’re coming from (I’m 30) and have felt similarly, particularly over the summer. I definitely avoided or skimmed through a number of articles because I couldn’t relate. [note: this is not just something I’ve noticed with TFD, but also with other blogs after they hire new interns/EAs.] But I’ve always enjoyed Mary’s articles, even when I have “oh honey” moments after reading them. She’s just working through the same stuff we did at that age. (A hell of a lot better than I did, btw.)

      That’s not to say you don’t have a point. However, recently, I actually feel like there has been a bit more balance, incorporating more late-20s/early-30s perspectives. I hope they keep doing more!

  • nell

    Be gentle with yourself! You are smart to be aware of why you are really buying things, but a coffee or a snack here or there when you are really having a shitshow of a day are just not worth beating yourself up over. It’s also important to remember that when you’re paying for convenience (i.e. coffee and protein bars), you’re also buying time — time that you used to work and study (instead of cook or grocery shop). Hopefully it’s not an all-the-time thing, but it happens!

  • bextannya

    I tend to react “outwards” with stress as well. I used to buy anything and everything as well as pick at my skin (as I thought that this was “therapy” in a way) instead of actually figuring out what was stressing me out and how to take control.
    I’m happy to say that I am now more aware of when I’m stressed, and I really try to listen to myself to avoid picking at my skin/buying random sweets and things. I talk myself out of a lot of stuff and deal with what’s really freaking me out. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy!
    If I can offer my two cents, it would be to stop, take a moment and listen to yourself. Talk to yourself, tell yourself you’ll get through this moment, and find a way to do so. Plan ahead as much as you can, and plan for the days you know you won’t be able to plan (ex. for making lunches/doing assignments/etc). My greatest resource for time-management stress was to write it all out.
    You’ve got this!

  • Emily J

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. I understand the worry that one week of this will slip into a lifelong pattern, but if you’re too hard on yourself for it you’ll have an even harder time not doing it and you’ll make yourself even more stressed. Aim for resilience, not perfection. The former is achievable, the latter is a myth. Resilience so that when you do slip up (because you will slip up) you have designed your systems to bounce back and you know that they will. Perfection is brittle and fragile and also a lie. It actually sounds like you’re handling all of this quite well. Seriously.

  • Ellie Rockhill

    GAH. this. Mary, you’re awesome. Thank you for always being real, even if it means just posting about how you bought some chai lattes and took your bf to dinner when you couldn’t afford it. Because I -so- relate. Right down to the fact that for SOME REASON I too have eaten marshmallows for dinner. I am an adult right?????

    (OK and I hate withapassion the concept of #adulting, but for real, why didn’t/don’t our parents ever talk to us about how much being an adult doesn’t feel like it, or ever share stories about eating marshmallows for dinner? Did they not do that? Did they not feel weirdly proud when they picked up their dry cleaning, cooked some chicken breasts, and vacuumed? Anyway. Side rant.)

    Yeah, I feel you here, sister. I’ve started keeping an excel spreadsheet to track all the times I get an urge to spend money, when (if) I finally caved in, how badly I’d wanted or needed it, and how I felt about the purchase (or holding off). So far in the last month I’ve 7/10 wanted to take my BF out to celebrate my new job, to a restaurant where we’d easily spend $40-70, and each time he’s really gently been like, “Babe… I’d really rather you save your money. Why don’t we go home and cook together to celebrate?” Bless this boy.