I have (rather, had) a really bad habit. Whenever I felt like I had accomplished something (whether it was meeting a huge goal at work, receiving a major compliment from a boss on a project I’d worked on, or even just getting a paycheck), I’d immediately go online shopping because I deserved it. I just got paid and I deserve this pair of $108 joggers. I met a really tight deadline, so I should totally order myself a gigantic platter of sushi I probably won’t finish. And on, and on.
I think it’s totally healthy to splurge every once in a while if you have the means. If you’re being responsible, putting money away, and generally abiding by a budget that makes sense for you, you shouldn’t feel guilty about purchasing something you’ve been wanting as a way to reward yourself.
But making yourself feel appreciated for your accomplishments doesn’t have to come with a price tag. A few months ago, I got laid off from a high-paying job. I realized I could no longer spend money the way I had been able to spend money. Saving money was, and has been, a huge priority since the pandemic started, since my household income was slashed probably close to 150%. I had to get creative in how I “rewarded” myself for a job well done.
At first it was hard. I’d longingly scroll through my Instagram and visualize myself wearing a cute pair of new shoes — but then I realized, I’m not even going anywhere. I don’t need shoes. In fact I don’t need things right now (let alone I couldn’t afford things for the sake of owning things anymore). But I slowly began to find moments of joy in the small, super free things.
The common denominator was that I allotted time for myself. I let myself feel indulged in small ways that made me feel pampered and relaxed — without actually spending any money. Since many of us have been grappling with financial struggles (while simultaneously working several gigs to make ends meet), it can be hard to find time for ourselves ourselves, but it’s also really important to do so.
To avoid burnout (as much as I possibly can) and to remind myself that I’m valuable and deserve to be happy and that it’s okay to take breaks, I’ve adopted a few activities and rituals into my week that help me slow down and appreciate myself and what I’m capable of.
1. Taking the time to do a step-by-step skincare routine.
2. Making a really easy and comforting meal that’s free and reminds me of childhood (like Kraft mac ‘n cheese).
3. Deciding I’m going to take a nap in the middle of the day (after making sure I have no obligations or outstanding deadlines).
4. Shutting my laptop and leaving my phone somewhere I can’t see it and doing something relaxing, like reading a book or watching a scripted unscripted TV show of some sort.
5. Calling a friend and having a long conversation, like how we used to back in middle school.
6. Creating a dream vacation itinerary for when it’s safe to vacation again. Just going through hotel and Airbnb photos temporarily puts my brain into vacation mode and distracts me from all of the bullshit I might be dealing with.
7. Getting deep into curating a feel-good playlist on Spotify — something I normally never get the chance to do.
8. Taking the infinite bottles of lotion and scrubs I have and *actually* using them. Like, really, mindfully pampering my parched AF skin.
9. Taking the dog on a walk at night with my headphones on, listening to my new playlist.
10. Driving to the beach and dedicating a full beach day that encompasses packing a picnic, magazines, and doing absolutely nothing with the waves crashing in the background. (If you do this, obvs wear a mask.)
11. Lighting a candle and cracking open a new book. Yes it’s basic. No, I don’t care.
12. Writing down all the reasons why I’m proud of myself.
13. Eating ice cream and popcorn for dinner like my six-year-old self always envisioned for herself.
14. Hitting up the dog park. There is nothing more happiness-inducing than watching flocks of dogs happily roam around in the grass, chasing balls.
15. Allowing myself to call it a night and go to sleep early — and sleep in the next morning. This almost never happens, so when it does, it feels like the ultimate treat.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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