Recently, I signed up for online therapy. As soon as I hit “sign up” after inputting my debit card information, I suddenly felt nauseous. This expense would cost me over $200 a month, and I’m not exactly in the most stable financial situation right now. I went back and forth about it all day, telling myself I could just cancel it. It’s not worth it. I’ve managed without therapy for so long. I have a journal. I have wine. How could I possibly justify therapy right now?
But then, I realized it was worth adjusting my budget for something as important as my mental health, which impacts nearly every other aspect of my life. So I’d spend a little less on groceries. I could dip into savings. I’d take on extra assignments. It would be okay, and I could make it work. In fact, the reason I was having so much anxiety and guilt over therapy in the first place was probably one of the reasons why I need therapy in the first place: I convinced myself mental health wasn’t a priority, that it was something I could tuck away and ignore. I come from a family of immigrants who don’t think therapy (or mental issues) are, well, real. Of course, they absolutely are.
It’s taken me a while to justify a lot of investments (like therapy), knowing that purchases like these are important. And if I can do some financial Tetris, I know therapy will make me feel better and help me live a happier, more manageable life. I’m also well aware that I’m lucky and privileged to be able to afford investments like therapy. Some people can’t or don’t have access, and that goes for a lot of investments that make life more comfortable. This makes me feel incredibly grateful that I can afford the following investments in my mental or physical health and helps me feel appreciative rather than nauseous over this type of spending. Below are some “self-care” type expenses that I’ve found are absolutely worth it.
1. Yup, therapy
I’ve learned that it’s not healthy to keep things bottled up for a long time. I did that for like, 29 years. Being able to talk to an unbiased third party who can give me the tools to help myself understand why I feel the way that I feel has been beyond helpful. It can definitely be expensive (some therapy is covered by insurance — definitely look into it!). But it can improve the way that you function on a daily basis. It can help your relationships, work — everything important to you.
2. Publication subscriptions
I used to be morally against a subscription to say, The New York Times and New York Magazine, but it got to a point where I was missing out on so many good (digital) articles that I said screw it, and purchased a couple of subscriptions with my business debit card (at least I can write them off at the end of the year). Plus, as someone who creates content online, I understand that subscription-based models are how many publications are able to stay in business and pay their staff. And I’m happy to help support that.
3. A good couch
I feel like there are a couple of furniture pieces you can splurge on (if you have the means): A good mattress, and a good couch. Everything else you can just get from IKEA, Target, Wayfair, or Craigslist. And actually, the mattresses from IKEA are pretty great, so you don’t even have to go too crazy with a high-quality mattress (and pssst: you don’t need a trendy, DTC mattress in order to get a good night’s sleep, no matter what your targeted Instagram ads say). A nice couch does end up being expensive, but I personally spend a lot of time on my couch reading, working, or watching movies. It gets a lot of love, and I plan on keeping it until I die, or it somehow breaks. Couches are where we spend a lot of time as families, and we’re probably more likely to do so if we make that space as inviting and plush as possible. (You can also find great second-hand couches on Facebook! I’ve found a few pieces of West Elm furniture for half the price, and you’d never guess they were pre-used.)
4. Car maintenance
Confession: I currently have a huge crack in my windshield. I haven’t gotten it dealt with because I rarely drive anymore, but if we were not in the midst of end times, I would get it fixed. Because I invested a lot of money in my car, and I love it, and I appreciate it for getting me to the places I need to go, I’ll pretty much always take it in whenever I see a “maintenance required” light pop up on my dashboard. The other option is driving unsafely, and I just don’t think that’s worth it.
5. High-quality sneakers
Back when I was going to the gym, I had an old pair of sneakers that would squeeze my toes, making it painful to use the elliptical or even a stationary bike. I went on this way for a while because I told myself I’m “not a sneaker person,” which is true (flats 4ever), but it got the point where I avoided going to the gym so I wouldn’t have to deal with aching feet. If parts of your body are starting to hurt because of old footwear, clothing, or accessories (like an old bra with a rogue wire that stabs you all day long) just get a new one. You don’t need to go all out and buy some crazy $300 pair of gym shoes, but do look at reviews, and do get quality shoes that promise comfort based on what kind of activity you do. (For example, running shoes are different from regular gym shoes.)
6. A high-functioning laptop that lasts
Every 5-7 years or so, I cry a little bit and then buy myself a new Macbook. I *know* I could get a PC for cheaper, but I’m so used to Apple products, and I’m constantly on my laptop and phone for work, that figuring out a PC just isn’t worth it. And, honestly, Macs tend to last a lot longer than PCs, in my experience. (My husband has gone through three while I’m still using a Mac I bought in 2015.) You can also look into refurbished options, which are way cheaper, and if you get the product from a reputable place, just as good as a new purchase.
7. Air conditioning or heat
I will do my absolute best to manage in the heat (or cold), but if I’m starting to experience headaches or can’t sleep, I’ll use the central air (which I know am super lucky to have — I haven’t had access to central air in seven years). If you *can* spend the money on utilities like electricity in order to keep your environment livable, do it. No need to make your place movie theater-cold, but if you can keep your space comfortable, don’t feel bad about that.
8. Fast internet
If you use internet for work, then you know how important fast internet is. You can usually either write this off at the end of the year when you file taxes or ask your job to reimburse you if you’re working remotely.
9. A good set of tools
I was gifted with a high-quality toolbox that I keep stored away, and it’s been a life-saver. Having a nice toolkit keeps you from spending money on Task Rabbit when you can watch a YouTube video and fix something yourself.
10. High-quality kitchen basics
Since I try to cook at home 90 percent of the time these days, I rely super heavily on my really good knife (Shun is a great Japanese brand that’ll last you forever if you take care of it and keep it sharp) and skillet (Lodge is actually pretty cheap, but amazing quality — you can get one for $23 from Target). I also really love baking, so a good handheld mixer is something I use at least once a week. If it keeps you from ordering out *and* helps with your sanity, investing in kitchen basics is justifiable.
11. Good health insurance
My husband and I just went on private health insurance. It’s the first time I’ve had to do that, and when I got the final number I nearly passed out. Obviously, we shouldn’t have to pay an outrageous amount of money for health coverage, period. The U.S. health insurance system is notorious for its flaws, but we didn’t have much of a choice. I personally need to see specialists a few times a year, and I don’t qualify for government assistance. I can currently afford a private PPO plan that covers what I need, and I decided that was an investment I was okay with making. My health is worth it.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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