It’s easy to slip into bad habits when you’re under stress, and unfortunately many of our anxiety fixes impact our pocketbooks, making matters worse, rather than better.
“Stress seems to create behaviors such as over-eating, substance abuse, or shopping, that result in immediate, short-term gratification,” says Dr. Leslie Torburn, author of Stop the Stress Habit. "When we’re stressed, the bigger financial picture just doesn’t come into the decision making process.”
An immediate-gratification mindset triggers our need to make ourselves feel better in the moment, despite the impact on our health or wallet.
“Stress leads people to seek comfort that is often obtained by spending money,” she says. “It’s important to step back and see how you spend your money. What are your financial goals and how are these bad habits sabotaging those goals?”
Here, Dr. Torburn’s cheap, but effective, fixes for the five most expensive stress habits:
1. Smoking. At around $9 per pack in some places, a pack-a-day cigarette habit can cost you $63 per week, or three grand a year. Just one extra pack per week (less than three cigarettes more a day) can up your expenses nearly $500 a year.
“If you’re at work and [usually] take a break to smoke, go walking instead, or walk for five minutes before you start smoking,” she says. “Take your breaks with non-smokers rather than fellow smokers. Sometimes all you need is a distraction to curb the temptation.”
2. Drinking. If the average cost of your favorite cocktail or glass of wine is around $10, two glasses a each week will add more than $1,000 a year (not including tax, tip and cab fare). And a six pack of beer at home (around $7) or a budget-friendly bottle of wine ($10) won’t save you much.
How to save yourself: Dr. Torburn suggests that if you’re looking to unwind, choose different activities, like walking, biking or hitting the gym. If you’re into the happy hour scene, start with water and intermix a less expensive seltzer with wine. “You’ll stay well hydrated and keep your bar tab down,” she says.
3. Shopping. Some estimates put leisure spending at about $113 per trip. Adding just one day of shopping to your weekly budget can rack up almost six grand in impulse purchases.