Updated: Oct 15, 2020
While practicing self-care is important, it’s often easier said than done. Many of us have busy schedules, which makes it more challenging to carve out time for self-care. Work deadlines looming? Kids need your attention? Behind on errands and household chores? You’re not alone.
Still, another factor you may be considering is how much it costs to provide quality self-care. If you’re on a budget, you may opt to put off your needs and wants lower on the priority spectrum. However, not budgeting your time and money for self-care can cause you to burn out eventually.
Luckily, providing self-care doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are also plenty of things you can do that fit right into your daily or weekly schedule as well. Here’s how to practice self-care without breaking the bank.
Define What Self-Care Means to You
This is the first and most crucial step in determining how you’ll provide affordable self-care consistently. Self-care is often not just about ordering Chinese takeout then downing a tub of ice cream while you watch Gilmore Girls after a long week.
It can be about dealing with much deeper issues that are not always present on the surface. Yes, you want to give yourself a much-needed break, but should also determine which activities fill your cup and which ones deplete you.
Self-care is about finding permanent ways to serve yourself and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Budget For Self-Care
If you want to prioritize something in your life, you’ll need to budget for it. Budget not only with your money but also your time. Your budget often determines what you value and find important.
Assess your daily schedule and find areas where you may have free time to focus on self-care. Consider whether you’d like to start the day with self-care even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Most of us have at least 10 minutes in the morning that can be redirected to self-care. If you don’t, challenge yourself to get up 10- 15 minutes earlier to do this.
Once you’ve determined what self-care means to you and which activities deplete you, then you can focus on eliminating or reducing your time spent on those tasks. For example, some people may enjoy cooking while others don’t consider it a form of self-care. If you don’t enjoy cooking, find ways to cut down the amount of time you spend in the kitchen so you can focus on providing self-care in other ways. This could involve switching to low-prep or one-pot meals that you can cook in batches. Or, you can challenge yourself to make 20-minute dinners most nights.
In terms of your finances, add a self-care category to your budget. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. Just dedicate something to self-care each month to give yourself permission to spend comfortably in this area.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mental and physical health. The best part is that you can often exercise for free at home or outdoors. Find an exercise routine that you’ll enjoy and choose the best time of day to commit to it.
You may like to run or walk outside for 30 minutes each day. If you’re not a runner, perhaps you like lifting weights or kickboxing. Other fun and creative ways to exercise include doing yoga, riding your bike, and jump roping for cardio.
Reading is a great way to relax and escape without even leaving your home. You can take turns between reading your favorite fiction books and self-help non-fiction books. Consider buying used books or renting books from the library to save money.
You can also sell some of your older books to provide you with more money to put into new reading opportunities. If you like audiobooks, consider signing up for Audible. Audible has tons of titles from popular authors. You get a free trial and a free e-book to start. Then, each month you pay just $14.95 for the subscription. This fee gives you one credit which is good to purchase one audiobook. Your credit can add up if you don’t use them each month.
Have Positive Conversations with Friends and Family
Sometimes laughing and talking can be the best form of self-care. Plus, it’s free! As humans, we thrive on social interaction and often crave it when we’re running low.
Set aside time to call friends on the weekend or meet up for coffee. Prioritize more meals at the kitchen table instead of in front of the T.V. That way, you can have more in-depth, positive conversations with loved ones.
When was the last time you took a nap? We’re sure some people can admit it’s been a few years. Sometimes, your body just needs that time to rest and re-energize.
If you can’t schedule in a nap during the week, try to take one during the weekends and it’s bound to be something you look forward to.
Also, aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. This is one of the best and easiest ways to provide self-care. Commit to being a person who gets up early or someone who stays up later at night but don’t try to do both. Downloading an app may help you prioritize your sleep time. Here are some of the best sleep apps to consider.
What you put into your body matters. Don’t fall for the myth that you can’t afford to eat healthy In fact, buying whole fresh produce and protein is often cheaper than buying junk food.
Try to manage your portions and add more greens and vegetables to each meal. Set a realistic meal plan that you can stick to that still allows you to indulge. For example, committing to eating healthy 85% of the time and having a few splurges the other 15% of the time can still do wonders for your overall health and wellbeing.
Eating the right things can help improve your mood and give you more energy.
Have an At-Home Spa Day
Self-care doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money to go to the spa every weekend. You can make your own at-home spa to save money. Get some bath bombs and lavender oils then have a nice long relaxing bath. You can also do your own nails, journal, and use a meditation app like Headspace and Calm to center your thoughts.
Get a Quarterly Massage
Say you do want to treat yourself to a spa day every now and then at a professional spa. Add this to your budget and consider getting a relaxing massage each quarter. This gives you plenty of time to set aside money and look forward to your experience. At the same time, you won’t be spending money each week or month so it shouldn’t break the bank.
Consider Using Coupons
Finally, don’t forget about coupons and discount sites. Sites like Groupon and Local Flavor may help you save money on self-care by giving your discounts to user services at local businesses. For example, if you want to plan your quarterly spa day, you may find a discount on Groupon for a local spa.
You can also use coupon sites to find out about new fun things and hobbies that you may enjoy doing so you can continue to prioritize self-care long-term without breaking the bank.
Shifting Your Focus Away From Financial Goals and Toward Financial
Setting a new goal can seem fun and exciting. You may find that you feel super motivated in the beginning stages. However, reality hits and like most people, you may fall off track.
Each year people set new goals with financial goals being one of the most common categories. According to the University of Scranton, only 8% of people actually reach the goals they set. That’s a remarkably low number especially when it comes to reaching some crucial financial goals that could improve your overall life.
If you’ve failed at reaching financial goals in the past, you may not feel as hopefully about meeting certain money goals in the future. However, the solution is to just change your approach. Shift your focus away from the goal and more toward your habits.
The Importance of Habits
A habit is a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and may even tend to occur subconsciously. What’s most important is that habits often add up to help us meet a goal.
Think about a habit as simple as brushing your teeth. You get up each day and do this almost without thinking. The goal you’re working toward - while it may seem small - is to improve your dental health. In order to reach that goal, you need to implement healthy dental hygiene habits.
Consider how developing certain habits will help you reach your financial goals. Habits are those small decisions and actions that we take each day that add up to big results later on.
If you want to save more, pay off debt, or plan for a large future purchase, here are some important habits to develop to reach your financial goals.
Adopt a Positive Money Mindset
Your mindset is important when it comes to reaching any goal. Changing your mindset is actually a habit that you must work on regularly.
Change the way you think and feel about money to go from a perspective of scarcity to abundance. If you think that money is hard to manage or that you won’t reach your goal, odds are your actions and results will reflect these beliefs.
Instead, you can choose to focus on what you’re grateful for and stay motivated when it comes to hitting your goals.
Track Your Budget
Creating a budget and letting it sit is not good enough. You need to track your budget and make adjustments throughout the month. Develop a system that allows you to come back and cross off when certain bills have been paid or to remind yourself about saving a particular amount.
Just like if you were setting a goal to get healthier, you may track your food and workouts. Holding yourself accountable for sticking to your budget is a key habit to develop in order to reach your financial goals.
Pay Bills On Time
This is a great habit to develop because paying your bills on time will help you avoid late fees and cash flow issues in the future. With credit card debt, paying your bill on-time can help you avoid late fees up to $35.
Consider lumping some of your bills together so you can make payments around the same time. You can also track due dates for your bills and set reminders either in Google Calendar or on your phone. Setting up automatic bill pay is always an option too so long as you budget for this.
Automate Your Savings
Saving a large amount of money may seem like a daunting task. Realize that you can always break it down into more reasonable chunks and automate your savings.
Saving money is not just all about having a certain amount of money to set aside. It’s more about developing a solid savings habit that you can keep up with consistently.
If you are always contributing money to savings, you will often reach more financial goals even if there are setbacks. Most banks allow you to set up automatic transfers to take advance of this. Set the transfer up to take place right after you get paid. That way, you don’t even have to think about spending the money you meant to set aside.
Start Cooking More Meals at Home
There is nothing wrong with dining out. However, if you have a specific financial goal to meet, going to restaurants often may mean that you’re simply eating up the money that could have went toward that goal.
Just like dining out often is a habit, so is cooking more meals at home. Instead of just going cold turkey with takeout start by changing your ratio of home-cooked meals vs. takeout meals. For example, if you dine out 3 to 4 times per week, try to cut it down to 1 to 2 times per week to start.
Plan your meals out in advance and look up tasty recipes to try online. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you may even start to think less and less about dining out as an option most days. Also, imagine how much you’ll save when you develop the habit of cooking at home.
Shop Around For Better Deals
If you’re trying to get out of credit card debt or have personal loans, one of the best habits to develop is shopping around for better deals and discounts. If you can spend less on some products and services, this may allow you to avoid borrowing money to pay for them.
Stay Focused No Matter What
It takes time to develop solid money habits so be sure to take it easy on yourself during the beginning stages. Prioritize the habits that are easier to develop first, and continue to stick it out even if you fall off the wagon from time to time.
Know that the more you do something, the easier it will become and that’s why habits are so crucial in terms of meeting financial goals.