If there’s one thing every millennial with nonrich parents can relate to, it’s financial issues—or, more specifically, the ceaseless, dogged presence of money-induced anxiety that we keep closer to us than our Velcro wallets. Even when I feel like I’m in a decent place financially, a purchase as seemingly mundane as a tall Starbucks drink weighs on me. I have an ever-present guilt about my inability to save, and I’m constantly pulling my hair out over what the next decade of my life looks like. That, mixed with an inner-dialogue justifying why I deserve to splurge on an opulent Burger King meal after a great business meeting, is exhausting.
Plus, I live in L.A., where the wealth divide runs the gamut from a homeless state of emergency to Taylor Swift’s $25 million mansion. Every day I witness restaurant patrons drop hundreds on dinner—yet for me, spending even $20 on food feels outlandish, spoiled, and financially irresponsible.
Money is my most real and regular anxiety trigger, and overcoming it seems unfeasible. But in an effort to lay it all out and visibly witness how ridiculous my negative inner-monologue is, I made a list of everything I bought this week that sent me spiraling into a black hole of anxious darkness. Behold.
A Grande iced chai latte with soy milk from Starbucks: $5.05
Every time I go to Starbucks, I berate myself about being a selfish, greedy monster who might as well max out my credit card with a trip to the Amalfi coast that I can’t afford. I’m not a coffee drinker or caffeine addict, so a tea doesn’t feel like a necessity. Thus, even waiting in line makes me break out in hives. I harangued myself so much about this one purchase that I was actually under the impression I went to Starbucks every day this week. But after looking at my bank statement, it turns out I went only twice. Even so, I told myself, “You don’t need this, you gluttonous brat.”
Note: I am one purchase deep and already sweating, looking at this seemingly endless trail of $1.99s and $4.99s.
A tuna sub from Jersey Mike’s: $11.67
I had just worked out super hard at the gym and decided to put my foot down. I needed to nourish myself with real food. So I got the full combo: a six-inch sub, chips, and a soda. If you don’t know what Jersey Mike’s is, it’s sandwich hell. It’s where hoagies go to die. Still, this was a splurge to me. This is how I “treat yo’self”: a sandwich with extra vinegar and no banana peppers. I wanted them, but they cost extra.
Ugh, this exercise is not helping—I actively feel bad about myself.
Groceries from Trader Joe’s: $13.46
I felt so guilty and downtrodden about buying myself a lump of sandwich detritus that I went straight to Trader Joe’s to buy two frozen dinners, praying that it would force me to stay in my cave for the next two days. It did, but it forced my grubby little hand elsewhere…
Amazon movie rental: $4.99
Now stuck at home with my groceries, I rented this lesbian movie on Amazon called Becks that I didn’t even like. I hated it so fucking much! It’s been a week, and I still haven’t been able to let it go—that I spent $5 on renting a movie, which I didn’t need, which sucked.
Just slay me now. Split my head in two like a butterflied shrimp.
Friday night sister date—dinner and a movie: $40.22 Sometimes, I convince myself that I’m a human who’s allowed to feel joy and treat myself to companionship on the weekends. So I went to my favorite restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings, and saw Blockers with my sister. This was supposed to bring me fleeting happiness, but instead it made me sweat thinking about the $40 I threw away.
Brunch with a friend who just got laid off: $45.65
This one really physically wounded me, especially because I had already spent $40 two days earlier. One of my closest friends was laid off a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wanting to take her out for a nice meal—yes, $50 is a “nice” meal—because that’s what you do when a friend is down. It feels good to help! I want to help. I want to feel confident enough in myself and my finances that I can take a friend out and not get as nasty with myself, but here we are. I am nearly $50 shorter for trying to be a good friend. You sicko.
A large Vita Coco coconut water: $4.79
I felt very dehydrated after another big workout and once again thought it’d feel good to quench myself and give my body what it needs instead of feeling drained and starved for basic nutrients. Wrong. In my fraught, broken psyche, it felt like I committed a war crime. You are every stereotype of an elitist Los Angeles prick, I told myself. You are owning yourself, lib.
ANOTHER ICED CHAI LATTE WITH SOY MILK: $5.05
You just can’t help yourself, can you bitch? You get a Grande instead of a Tall, which is basically a cup of ice with the mist of someone else’s coffee breath, and then you complain about needing rent money? Disgusting.
If anything, this exercise made me realize how bad I am at feeding myself. But I was also reminded of much I’ve been working out lately, which is extremely validating and makes me feel morally superior. As a person with mental health issues—including but not limited to anxiety and depression—I’m not sure how to grapple with the daily cost of living and the gloomy effect it has on my spirit. Sometimes I remember the mythological fallacy of being a homeowner, and I completely crumble. I’m 26 and can barely buy a fresh juice without convincing myself that I’m coastal elite trash. On that note, while checking my statements for this cute little exercise, I realized I’ve been donating monthly to the ACLU since the 2016 election. I canceled it. I’m so sorry, but I can’t afford rights right now.
Jill Gutowitz is a writer in Los Angeles. She has written for Vice, Broadly, Teen Vogue, AwesomenessTV, Dame Magazine, and more. Follow her on Twitter @jillboard.