I love to treat myself. I’m all about working hard and playing hard, and I definitely enjoy relaxing by getting my hair or nails done after a busy week. My wallet, however? Not so much. Growing up in a single-income household for the majority of my childhood, I learned from my mom that looking and feeling great didn’t have to cost a lot of money. It’s a lesson that I’ve carried with me into my (mostly) frugal adulthood. Over the years, I’ve found a few ways to get that same pampered feeling and experience, but without the expense that typically comes along with it.
1. Pick up samples and have an at-home spa night
Places like Lush, Sephora, The Body Shop, and Aveda give out tons of free samples. A sample of a face mask from Lush will usually last me at least two uses. I often pop by and grab a sample to throw on my face while I take a bath and light some candles in the evening. That being said, if you find something you like, don’t take advantage of the system by never actually paying for it. Try some samples of it once or twice, then buy the real version for $10.
2. Get a hair treatment at a teaching salon
Sometimes I just want a salon blowout without the price tag. If you look into local salons that teach students, you can often score a treatment or blowout at less than half the cost, and they’re generally pretty safe procedures. There is always professional staff around to supervise, and students are required to be at least a few months into the program before working with the public. I also sometimes get my hair cut at these places, but treatments are a safer option if you don’t want to trust a newbie with your permanent look.
3. Go for a “polish change” rather than a full-blown manicure
I love getting my nails done. It’s the one guilty pleasure that I indulge in every other week (don’t judge, I don’t even drink coffee!) and even though I’ve found a fairly affordable salon, I still cringe sometimes at the price tag. However, I found that by opting for a “polish change” rather than a full-blown manicure, I was saving about $10 each time. The main difference is that you don’t soak your hands first and there’s less cuticle work done (although my lady will still touch mine up if I have a bad cuticle). That’s an extra $20 in your pocket each month, and I promise you’ll barely notice a difference.
4. Raid my cupboard
Recently I’ve gotten into DIY skincare, and it’s amazing. Pull up Pinterest and see what you can make with whatever you have on hand. I bet you can make a killer mug cake and a basic face mask, at least.
5. Get creative and reinvent my wardrobe
This one may not be for everyone, but often I get bored with my clothes and style them the same way over and over. Rather than shelling out for new stuff each time you want to treat yourself, do some Googling and see what inspiration you can pull for re-styling items you already own. Try typing in keywords such as “white button up” or “black tulle skirt” and you’ll be amazed at what you can find. I do this fairly regularly just to spice things up, and it’s a nice way to refresh your wardrobe and your imagination without having to spend a dime.
6. Cash in on my loyalty points
If I’m feeling like picking up a book, magazine, or beauty product to treat myself with, the first place I go is to my loyalty cards. I check to see how much I have on each and what I can get with it. Usually, I have enough Scene points for a movie, enough drugstore points for a free magazine, and enough Sephora points for a deluxe sample or two. Bam — free treat-yo-self night!
7. Host a potluck night or sleepover
I usually like to eat when I treat myself, but generally hate to cook (again, don’t judge). One way to get some yummy food and bonus socialization is to throw a potluck night with some friends. Everyone can bring something to share, and then you get to eat things that you didn’t have to cook. Win-win!
8. Look for free events in my city
This might sound like the last thing you want to do if you’re having a bad day or just want to chill. However, do a quick Google search or check out Instagram to see what’s going on and you might be surprised. I live in Toronto and keep my eye on Blog TO, a site that posts lots of free events happening in the city. I’ve seen free 15 minute massages, free wine tastings, free pop-up manicure bars, and free dessert pop-ups.
9. Take some time in Nature
A total classic, but it’s classic for a reason. I find an evening hiking or driving in the country to be almost as relaxing as going to the spa. If you live in a city, you might feel the same way. Sometimes we become super accustomed to the noise of traffic and construction and forget what peace and quiet actually sound like. If you can, get out of the city for a bit and just breathe in the fresh air. If you can’t, try going to a park or listening to nature sounds on Spotify. It’s not exactly the same, but you do what you gotta do.
10. Get a free mini-service
If you’re craving a true someone-does-it-for-you type of pampering, there are still some ways to achieve it without having to spend much (if any!) money. Check around your local beauty stores and see if any of them offer mini-services for free. Sephora will do a free single item tutorial on you and will do a full makeover or 15-minute facial if you’re spending over $50 on products. If you were planning on spending that money there anyway, you might as well get some free pampering on top. Other stores might offer a free scalp massage (Aveda) or hand massage if you listen to their brief spiel about the product. You can always let them know that you’re just looking around for the moment so you don’t feel bad. But as with the first point, make sure you don’t abuse this — these people work hard for their money, so make sure you actually buy something from them if you plan on stopping by more than once or twice.
And there you have it! I use these different techniques whenever I want to have a relaxing experience but don’t want to spend a lot of money. I always end up feeling a lot more ~Zen~, and I don’t have to cope with the day-after financial guilt. That’s a solid win in my books!
Devin is trying to figure out post-university life while simultaneously living fashionably and frugally. She has an unhealthy obsession with chicken fingers, ice cream sandwiches, and photogenic dogs on Instagram. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada in a shoebox with her fiancé and rescue pup, Pippin.
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