This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune”

I was chatting with some friends recently when the topic of expensive coffee drinks came up. I calculated that I fork over, on average, $12 a week for fancy beverages in white paper cups. Over the course of a year, that amounts to $624 – which is enough to buy a lot of things. For about as much as I spend on coffee, I could get a new phone, a laptop, a bike, or some very nice jewelry. I could revamp my wardrobe or treat myself to a luxurious spa weekend. I could buy a plane ticket to Europe. I could donate all of what I spend on coffee to a charitable cause.

Or, I could keep on drinking my overpriced coffee and be a happy person.

For those of you thinking, “What a wasteful, privileged snob!” I understand your judgment. There was a time – single, pre-babies and unemployed – when I was taking classes downtown and would literally walk into a coffee shop and ask for a cup of hot water. I’d then pour in a packet of instant coffee that I’d brought from home. I couldn’t understand how anyone could waste so much money on a stupid drink.

And then, life got complicated. Kids happened. Work happened. Working crazy hours with crabby kids while feeling sleep deprived and underprivileged happened. White paper cups with my name on them happened.

These cups, some of them costing upwards of $6, have been vital to my livelihood, happiness and general functioning. Maybe you can relate …

1. The complete lack of self-control, desperation drink

“Give me a venti caramel cinnamon almond latteccino and nobody gets hurt!” Sometimes you are fully aware of your reckless caffeine-seeking behavior, and yet you truly don’t give a #$&^. Like the other day when I was surviving (barely) on four hours of sleep and driving my 2-year-old to the doctor, on day five of his fever (day 10 of fevers in our house overall). And then I saw a Starbucks drive-thru. With zero restraint or care about calories or cost, I pulled up and ordered the fancy drink pictured on the sign. And for a moment, everything was OK.

2. The ‘I deserve this’ drink

A miracle happened a few weeks ago. I found myself at the mall, sans kids, with an hour to spare. If solely for the experience of holding a beverage without having to keep one hand on a stroller or a runaway child, I knew I needed to seize the opportunity. I bought myself a latte. And sipped it slowly and mindfully as I traipsed through the mall and pretended for the next half hour that this was my life.

3. The socially/professionally obligatory drink

It’s not even that you necessarily want it. It’s the time and the place and the people that warrant ordering something. If you’re gonna meet a colleague/friend/fellow mama over coffee, you might as well splurge on a beverage you can’t get at home. It’s funny – my running group often meets at local coffee shops for morning runs. I should probably be chasing my miles with water and not espresso, but I almost always find myself buying a drink. Because all the cool kids are doing it.

4. The wake-up drink

Sometimes it’s just a matter of caffeine. As I sit at my computer, trying not to face-plant into my keyboard, I know that serious times call for serious amounts of caffeine. Like a wilting plant making its comeback in a summer shower, I sip my triple shot, grows-hair-on-your-chest Americano and spring back to life. Note: I’m not recommending you do this. Sleep is a much better solution if you can obtain it.

5. The I’m cold/I’m hot seasonally required drink

Don’t tell me you’ve never bought a drink because of the weather. A pumpkin spice latte on the first crisp, autumn day. A cold brew because it’s 70 degrees in March. Some kind of peppermint or gingerbread mocha/latte/cappuccino because it’s freaking cold out and you need something to boost your spirits. Yes, if I can use the weather as an excuse to spend money on coffee, I’m pretty sure I could use just about anything.

Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at