Stress-Reducing Exam Hacks that Your Wallet Approves of

Parentwise Canada - exam stress, impulse spending, saving money

Don’t bust your wallet when you need a break from the stress of exams.

No one is at their best when large amounts of stress enter the equation (aka – exam time!).  Some of us reach for junk food as our guilty pleasure of choice, while others hit the shopping mall and put some miles on their plastic.

Stress eating or spending is directly tied to stimulating the pleasure centers in your brain.  The good news is that once you know why you reach for that quick fix, you can go about finding healthier and more cost-effective ways to handle intense stress while studying for your finals.

1) Don’t load up on coffee and energy drinks

Contrary to popular belief amongst many students, flooding your body with caffeine does not, in fact, ensure academic success.  Sipping on a double-double that you brewed at home while reviewing your notes probably isn’t going to hurt you too much, but when you start pumping litres of java, or several cans of sugar-laden, neon green beverages through your bloodstream, you’re inevitably going to doom your body into vicious up and down swings.  This constant energy roller coaster can increase anxiety and lead to a jittery mindset that is not conducive to productivity. In addition to not providing a magical ability to focus in on your studies, your caffeine dependency can be a costly habit to indulge in.  Your budget can quickly be whittled away a few bucks at a time if you’re not careful.

If you think I’m overstating the case, do some quick mental math on how many beverages you purchase on an average week, and multiply that number by 52, before multiplying again by the cost of your go-to order.  Don’t round down! Most people are shocked at how much these small daily purchases add up to in a year.

Instead, try cutting down these costs by (*shudder*) easing up on your coffee intake, bringing a thermos of homebrewed java, or using a re-fillable water bottle.

2) Stay away from consumer traps when you’re vulnerable

Wanting to reward yourself for a hard study session is perfectly normal – but it’s something to really watch out for as things can quickly snowball out of control once we are in a shopping mecca and our senses are inundated with crafty marketing schemes.

Allowing yourself to enjoy the purchase of a small treat online or at your favorite store is fine, but, as always, it’s important to emphasize moderation.  Aimlessly shopping when your brain is tired and when you’re stressed, severely lowers the protective mental walls you might usually put up while shopping.

Suddenly, those deals are just too good to pass up as you chase the adrenaline rush to offset some of the stress you’re dealing with.  Of course, in the long run these purchases can just compound your academic anxiety by adding financial worries on top.

3) Plan ahead during exam time

When your body is rebelling and your brain is exhausted, it is so easy to give into purchasing expensive processed options or junk food.

Academic studies have proven that when our brains are occupied with several different tasks our willpower is not functioning at peak efficiency.  This means that during times of intense stress and focus – such as final exams – we need to protect ourselves from unhealthy temptations by planning ahead.

Making healthy snacks and meals, as well as scheduling meal breaks, can help alleviate the tendency to put off dealing with lunch or supper until your growling stomach demands attention. Instead of trying to grit your teeth and power through these temptations, try heading them off before you reach your weakest moments.  Your wallet will thank you!

Controlling temptation and embracing healthy alternatives are never the easiest decisions to make – especially during exam time, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze!  Remember that the road to excellent grades and a balanced lifestyle is a paved with solid planning – not last-ditch heroic efforts.  Stride confidently through your semester’s finish line with a shining GPA and glowing bank account.

Kyle Prevost

Kyle is a teacher by day and personal finance blogger by night. When he isn't limping up and down a basketball court, you can catch him on his soapbox at Birtle Collegiate or providing the answers to Gen Y’s questions over at and He is also the co-author of a critically-acclaimed book for Canadian students: More Money for Beer and Textbooks and has written for several of Canada's premier publications including the National Post, Globe and Mail, and Metro News.

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