Sometimes people ask me, what’s the best thing to spend money on? I always say experiences. Travel. Classes. Time with friends. The memories you gain from experiences will outlast the happiness you feel when you buy a new purse or pair of shoes.
The Best Thing I Spend Money On? Therapy
Overall, one of the best things I spend money on is therapy. I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was a sophomore in college and suddenly snapped at my ex-boyfriend. Worried that I had anger management issues, I decided I should see someone.
Since then, I’ve seen four therapists on-and-off over the last six years and I’ve never regretted going to one. Finding a good therapist is like finding a good friend. It can take a while to warm up and share your issues.
Honestly, I hate finding a new therapist because you have to repeat all your childhood stories, all your issues, all your insecurities all over again.
It’s like dating and having to describe why each relationship ended (and why that makes you feel like such a loser). I hate sharing the story about my friend’s brother on whom I had a huge crush and what it felt like when I told him how I felt and he asked if my friend Ashley was single.
I hate sharing how different I felt growing up as an immigrant whose last name is impossible to pronounce correctly. I’ve since learned that many of my American friends have difficult-to-pronounce last names, including my fiancé.
After you get past the introductory questions, therapy, like dating, becomes fun. Each therapist is different, but this last one has been my favorite. She’s given me tools and strategies to use when I’m feeling anxious, when I feel like I’m the worst person alive and when I want to compare myself to every person’s Instagram feed. (She also helped me find a comprehensive book about anxiety that I can use until I find a replacement for her.)
She’s taught me about automatic disruptive thoughts and given me free worksheets that I can use when I’m upset (there’s nothing like pulling out one of these in the grocery store when you’re feeling anxious). I keep a handful in my desk at work and in my purse. Since I’ve started seeing her, I don’t see other people’s successes as my failures, and I don’t see my failures as character traits.
The only downside of therapy, except for coming back to work after crying your eyes out and deciding between telling people it’s allergies or that you were at your therapist’s office, is the cost.
Therapy can be expensive. When I was in school, each hour-long session cost $25, and my parents paid for my bi-weekly appointments. When I graduated, I was so terrified of spending money on anything except for the basics that I decided not to find a new therapist, even though my anxiety and depression was affecting me on a daily basis.
How I Can Afford Therapy
It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I finally started going to therapy again. The more I talk about it to people, the more I realize many of my friends also go to a therapist and that the ones who don’t aren’t judging me for it.
Therapy is more necessary for me than flossing my teeth, which is a bad example because I never floss my teeth. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and going to therapy gives me the coping skills to deal with my problems better.
For a while, I resisted going back to therapy because I knew it’d be expensive and that unlike college, I’d be the one paying for it. When you’re used to getting something for free, you don’t value it as much. But I realized that paying for therapy is necessary, at least for me. I value it as much as my $100 gym membership or my $150 sewing class. We all have things we do to relieve stress, and this is mine.
Thankfully, my insurance covers most of my bills, and I’ve only ever had to pay $12-$30 for a half-hour session. So for about the price of a round of beers, I get to share all the things I’m scared of to a total stranger. I also choose to go to a low-cost clinic which charges far less than a private psychologist, and I know that universities often have psych clinics that only charge between $5-$30 a session. If you aren’t sure where to go, Google “low cost clinic therapy” and you’ll find a few results. You can also call your primary care doctor as they might have some suggestions.
Now my therapist is leaving, and I have to find a new one. But I’m also trying something new: anxiety medication. For a long time, I was scared of taking meds. I thought that all I needed was a good psychologist who could listen to my problems and then assure me that I was totally normal. A few weeks ago, the idea of taking meds felt like I was saying, “Nope, talking about stuff isn’t enough. I need even more help than the average person.”
After talking about it at our last session, I realized that it’s ok if I need medication. My therapist assured me that I’ve done a lot of work over the last year and that sometimes my brain needs a little help. Some medication can reset the anxiety that floats around in your brain. Some you only need for certain situations. Others you can stop taking once you don’t need it anymore.
I’ve only been on my new meds for a few days, but I can already tell a huge difference. I don’t get the tight feeling in my chest when I get anxious. Little things don’t freak me out. My fiance says I seem much happier and a more vibrant version of myself. The best part? My new medication only cost $38 at Costco (my insurance doesn’t cover it).
Where I Get My Anxiety Medication
I get my meds from Costco because they’re so much cheaper than any other pharmacy. Seriously. I think they were going to cost about $100 at Walgreens or CVS and about the same as Target. My mom, the brilliant woman that she is, suggested I use Costco because they’re famous for undercharging on prescriptions.
In some states, you can use the Costco pharmacy without being a Costco member, but in other states you do have to join the warehouse club. Membership is $60 a year, so it’s worth it if you save more than $60 on prescriptions. I even get my dog’s heartworm medication from Costco because it’s the cheapest there too.
Another tip is to use a GoodRX coupon when you pay for your prescription. According to their site, they can save you at least a few dollars off your prescription, and you can use a GoodRX coupon at most pharmacies including Target, Costco, Walgreens and CVS.
A few people have also recommended I try an online Canadian pharmacy for my anxiety meds. I know some of these are supposed to be legit, as they require that you fax over your doctor’s prescription. I haven’t tried any myself, so I won’t link to them here. But if you’re having trouble getting an affordable prescription, see if they might be more affordable online.
How I Pay For Therapy and Anxiety Medication
I use my HSA card for any healthcare-related expense, since it saves me money off my taxes. An HSA or Health Savings Account is like a savings account you can only use for medical costs. The benefit of it – and why I use it – is that the amount you contribute to your HSA can be deducted on your taxes. I try to contribute about $100 a month which covers my therapy and anxiety medication, but you can contribute as little as you want.
Plus, the funds from your HSA roll over from year to year, and you can contribute thousands of dollars each year. I try to estimate how much I’ll spend on healthcare costs throughout the year and divide that by 12 to figure out my monthly contribution. But if I find that my HSA is getting too big, I’ll cut back on saving for a couple months. (Side note: you can use an HSA for any health-related bills such as doctor’s visits, other prescriptions and more).
Sometimes I feel guilty for spending so much money on my mental health, when most people don’t have to. The rational response to that worry is, “Screw other people.” A lot of people are scared of therapy and medication. A lot of them don’t want to own their shit, even if that means being unhappy. I shouldn’t care what a lot of people won’t do.
I’ve also learned that it’s ok to change my budget for something as important as therapy or anxiety medication. In fact, now I can’t believe that there was a time that I avoided therapy for financial reasons. I think back on those years and wonder how much happier I’d be now if I started medication earlier or had kept going with my sessions. I’m just glad I realized now that it’s one of the best things to spend money on.