Conversations about self-care often revolve around massages, mani/pedis, and fancy spa days, but what do you do if you don’t have the money to afford those things? Let’s discuss a few ways you can make your wallet and your soul happy and practice self-care on a budget.
Nowadays, there’s such a push for us women (especially mothers) to prioritize our self-care and take some time to rejuvenate, relax and really focus on ourselves for once.
Yet somewhere along the way, it seems we’ve picked up this perception that self-care has to mean retail therapy, spa days, going to the hairdresser, or getting regular facials. And yep, sure, all of those things are wonderful forms of self-care, but what do you do when your budget is tight?
Does that mean you don’t have the money to take care of yourself? Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so if you are feeling exhausted and worn out, that is a clear sign you need to take better care of yourself.
Self-Care on a Budget
Self-care doesn’t have to be an entire day dedicated to pampering yourself. Sometimes self-care looks like setting aside a few minutes to do something that really brings you joy, or it might mean doing something small for yourself every. single. day. that really makes you feel good. Let’s explore some easy and affordable self-care ideas you can incorporate even while on a budget.
Treat Yourself Daily
Many of us enjoy indulging in daily coffee. Have hot coffee in the winter, iced in the summer… coffee is an adult equivalent of hot chocolate (of course, you could have hot chocolate or tea instead of coffee if you’d prefer) for adults.
Taking a few minutes to sit with your cozy cup of coffee is a great way to treat yourself and take a pause to enjoy its yummy goodness. But, of course, a latte a day can definitely add up, so if your Starbucks budget is running low, ditch the coffee house and make it yourself for a fraction of the cost.
I make my own home-brew on the daily, and as much as I love Starbucks, I enjoy my at-home coffee even more because I can make it exactly how I like it, and I can control what ingredients I use.
Now don’t misunderstand – I still love to treat myself to a Starbucks now and again, but it can really take a toll on your budget. I only go to Starbucks when I cash in my Ibotta points for free Starbucks gift cards.
So if you’re on a tight budget, find a recipe you love, put your kids in for a nap, make your coffee, and sit outside and enjoy it and some peace and quiet while you get some fresh air.
Move Your Body
Prioritizing some time to work out and move your body is one of the most important self-care practices on this list. It’s no secret that exercise is a huge stress reliever, but if you don’t have money for a gym membership, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a consistent workout routine.
Grab your laptop or phone and browse fitness channels on YouTube where you’ll find a TON of free workout videos available to you – no membership required.
Try out a few different channels and find someone you really love…someone whose workouts and commentary you enjoy. Taking 20-30 minutes for yourself each day just to work up a sweat is a great form of self-care.
Hobbies for the Win
What are you passionate about? What do you love to do when you have some spare time?
Carving out some time in your day or week for that hobby is also a form of self-care. Maybe you enjoy baking. Maybe you enjoy sewing or crafting, or painting? Taking some time to focus on that hobby can do wonders for your state of mind.
Do it Yourself
Perhaps, for you, getting your nails done really does embody self-care, and that’s okay. I agree. Getting a manicure and pedicure in a nice salon feels like a wonderful treat to me, but it’s not something I can do often since my budget does not allow for it at this time.
And while a mani/pedi at a salon might not be in your budget either, giving yourself a DIY treatment at home is perfect for any budget.
Since I love getting my nails done so much I started looking online for a kit to do them myself at home and found this one. I go into my room, close the door and take some time for myself. I usually turn on some music and really enjoy the experience.
Relaxation at its Finest
Taking a bubble bath sounds really simple but because we have such chaotic lives, so many of us don’t actually take the time to do this and it’s so relaxing and a perfect example of self-care on a budget (since it’s free).
I like to light a couple of candles and read a good book. One time I dropped my book in the tub so I usually stick with audiobooks.
I have a really cool little Bluetooth speaker that I use sometimes when I’m in the shower or taking a bath. Audiobooks are awesome because you can take your phone, turn on your speaker or headphones (I’m totally obsessed with these) and just listen so I don’t have to worry about ruining my book by getting the pages wet.
The cheapest way I’ve found to listen to audiobooks is on the Hoopla app. It’s free and it works great but does have a limited selection so when I can’t find the books I want on Hoopla I use Audible! While Audible is not free, it has every single book you could possibly imagine.
Switch it Up
Do you have a space in your home that just makes you feel good? As soon as you walk in it makes you feel relaxed and the stress seems to melt away? If you don’t, then you need to create a sanctuary.
I am a huge homebody and spend a lot of time in my home, plus I work from home the majority of the time so I am home more than most people, which is great because I enjoy it but I also get bored easily and it makes you want to go spend money to redecorate.
Something I really enjoy doing is “shopping my house”. This means I walk around my home and shop for “new” items for one room from another room.
Moving home decor items and picture frames around can give your home a fresh new vibe and a whole new feel and if you’re anything like me those feelings are pleasing and comforting to you. I absolutely love to redecorate, but my budget does not…shopping my house allows me to do something I enjoy and makes me feel good without spending a lot of money.
Try finding older items you may have stored in a basement or attic, mixing up the order of your frames or bookshelf decor, or even swapping plants from room to room.
If you’re someone who feels as though shopping is a form of self-care but can’t afford to go to the mall each week definitely give this a try! You’ll get the same endorphins without any of the guilt.
Sometimes just going to your favorite store and walking around can be just as rewarding as actually purchasing things. Hear me out here…I love Target, and while, of course, I would rather be able to go on a shopping spree and purchase all the things…unfortunately, that is not an option for me.
But because I love Target so much, a wonderful feeling comes over me just by walking through the door (YES, I’m for real).
Try going to your favorite store without your kids, maybe even grab yourself a fancy coffee or tea to bring along, and just enjoy walking the aisles aimlessly and alone.
This feels so calming and relaxing especially if you’re usually dragging your little ones along or are in a constant rush every time you’re there.
If you build personal money into your budget (and if you don’t, you totally should) bring it along and you won’t feel deprived. If you see something you simply must have you can purchase it guilt-free using your personal money.
Go when you have time to stroll at a leisurely pace and really enjoy looking at things and practicing self-control. I promise, that teaching yourself the skill of being in your favorite store and not splurging will make you so proud of yourself.
Now there’s one caveat here – if you cannot control yourself and you cannot stick to a budget, and be too tempted than skip right over this tip.
Just Get Out
There is something about being one with nature that just makes you feel good.
Getting outside alone for hike or taking your dogs on a walk is a great form of cheap self-care! Pop in your headphones and listen to some upbeat music or your favorite podcast. You’ll be getting fresh air and exercise, plus it’s completely free… it’s a win-win.
Clear Your Head
Meditating is one of the best forms of free self-care there is. Taking some quiet time to sit with your thoughts can help clear your mind and give you some inner peace to handle everything the day may throw at you.
If you find your mind wandering too much you might try guided meditation where someone walks you through the process with specific prompts usually set to relaxing music.
YouTube is a wonderful source for finding any type of guided meditation you could ever want, whether it be for energy, meditation for stress relief, or even meditation to help you manifest money.
Find one you like and head to a quiet space where you can really maximize the benefits.
Write it Down
Making journaling a part of your daily routine can do wonders for your mental health. There are different types of journaling you could do but using a gratitude journal has proven to be an effective form of self-care for me.
I’ve been using a gratitude journal for a few years now and the process of sitting down and actively practicing gratitude in the form of journaling each day has been a necessary part of my self-care routine.
Not only will it do wonders for your stress levels but over time it will make you acutely aware of your abundant blessings and help you gain a new perspective on your life (yes, it really does).
Another great thing about writing in a gratitude journal is that it is time-adaptive (not sure that is a real word). What I mean by that is that on days when I’m short on time I’ll quickly jot down 3-5 things I’m grateful for, taking me only a few minutes.
Yet on the days I have more time I’ll write out all the things I’m feeling grateful for at that moment and maybe even a few sentences explaining why or how I’m feeling that day, etc.
Sometimes the day feels too overwhelming and you just need to get away for a few minutes, but what if you can’t? When I can’t leave because my kids are here but I’m feeling in desperate need of some recharging I will simply hide away. Not in the closet or the basement, but mostly in my bed.
If you feel like you need to catch your breath simply stop everything you’re doing at the moment and just walk away. I mean, make sure the stove is off and all that, but then just walk away.
Sometimes I’ll even leave the dinner plates on the table, the dishes in the sink, and I curl up in my bed and watch some trashy reality tv on my phone (hellloo, Bravo).
Maybe I’ll just take a few minutes and lose myself in the Instagram explore page coveting allllll the farmhouse decor I can find.
This is the self-care I find myself practicing most often, especially when I’m in a season of life where my anxiety feels extra high.
I hope some of these ideas made you see how easy it is to practice self-care on a budget. You officially have no more excuses to not prioritize your self-care on a regular basis.
Kristin Stones is the owner of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.