Self-care is often synonymous with ditching your dinner plans to do a face mask, and while I do see the merit in that sometimes, it is a concept that could accomplish much more.
We talk a lot on TFD about how self-care need should be a little less about being selfishly unaware of those around you and acting in favor of what makes you feel temporarily happy, and more about doing things for yourself that actually enrich your life without damaging yourself or the world around you. (I.e. your self-care probably shouldn’t involve eating ice cream for dinner every day, or canceling a reunion with a long-lost bff last-minute because you decided you really needed to watch Netflix alone.)
There is a self-care sweet spot that actually enriches your life, giving you added benefits that help keep you happy and sane while actually being enjoyable in the moment. (Unlike non-fun things that enrich your life, like paying bills on time and like, vacuuming.)
In some cases, your self-care might even save you money.
My self-care routine is vague, but usually involves a lot of preparation. I’m not a person who likes surprises (at all — don’t ever throw me a surprise party, I’ll go into cardiac arrest) or last-minute things (I just really like to know what’s going on, okay?). Self-care for me usually means planning out my weeks ahead so I can accomplish all I need to without feeling frantic or scrambling, making sure I’m consistently eating healthy (and tasty) meals, and scheduling in activities that feed my soul. But in recent months, it has become increasingly important for my self-care to accomplish these things in a budget-friendly way that supports my financial and career goals while still helping me to feel overall balanced.
Here are six parts of my self-care routine that do double-duty for me — they make me feel good, and they save me money — so basically my two favorite things.
1. Regular personal maintenance.
I’ve tried living a very minimalist lifestyle when it came to personal maintenance before in an effort to save money, but for me, it actually seemed to cost a lot more. Doing things like paring down your shower routine to bare-bones bar soap and store brand shampoo, skipping regular haircuts, and reusing the same old makeup without ever updating my collection actually led to split ends that needed major repairing, and bad skin that took months to fix.
Figuring out what works for your body and keeps you feeling good and healthy and diligently sticking to those routines is something that saves you money in the long run. If I use a shampoo/conditioner combo that feels tailor-made for my hair (these are my fave), I can wash it less frequently and put less effort and money into styling it with heat and products. If I buy new foundation every few months instead of scraping the bottom of the bottle, my skin is less likely to react to it because it got old and gross, saving me money on pricey skincare treatments. Taking care of yourself, in general, is a good way to make sure things don’t get out of hand and expensive.
2. Scheduled and budgeted-for shopping.
As someone who honestly and truly loves clothes, shopping does feel like a shallow type of self-care to me. However, we all know that shopping as self-care can actually be the opposite of self-care if you’re doing it to the detriment of your finances. There are obviously times in your life when spending money on non-necessities is just not in the cards, and it is important to be keenly aware of that. But during the times when I know there is a bit of wiggle-room in my budget (post-bills and savings), I budget in a bit of clothes shopping, and usually make a detailed plan of what I want to buy and where I want to shop with that money. It gives me a bit of freedom to enjoy clothes as a hobby, since I do really love fashion -– but it also reigns me in and keeps me to a strict budget and plan so I don’t get carried away and go overboard.
3. Detailed meal planning and scheduling.
I love cooking and eating, so the act of making a home cooked meal feels like self-care to me. Additionally, it is a great act of self-care to feed your body delicious, healthful meals that provide the nutrients you need to…you know…live. I’m much less likely to come up with ideas on the fly and cook a healthy, yummy meal every night if I haven’t put some effort into planning my weekly or monthly grocery shopping and created at least a loose outline of what I’m going to cook with the ingredients I purchase, and when. Drew and I keep a chalkboard menu up on the refrigerator where we write down what we’re going to cook every day. If something comes up and we need to adjust the schedule a bit, it is easy enough to erase and rewrite. But in general, planning ahead enough to make sure I’m cooking consistently throughout the week saves me money and makes me feel happy, since it is an activity I actually love.
4. Library sessions.
Going to the library is a leisurely “me-time” activity that feels like giving my brain a spa-day. The best part about it is that it actually saves me money that I’d normally spend on things like books, movies, and music, because I can get it all for free at the library. (My jam back in the day was to get free CDs from the library and put them on my computer so I could put all the free music on to my iPod. I don’t really know if this is ethical (or if people still use iPods) but it was pretty cool.)
If you’re the type who thinks you can live without Netflix, it may be worth exploring the option of getting your TV-and-movie fix for totally free at the local library — I’ve found that mine keeps a pretty up-to-date and wide selection of DVDs and Blu-Rays, and charges nothing for you to borrow them.
If nothing else, it is a great place to get books (obviously) so you’re not dropping tons at a store where hardcovers are $25 each. And, walking down the street to the library with a cup of coffee and quietly browsing through is one of the most enjoyable, relaxing activities I’ve ever found — especially considering the fact that it is free!
5. Days off.
It is easy in your ~young-adult years~ to feel like you need to apologize for skipping brunch or spending Friday night in catching up on episodes of Shark Tank, but allowing myself to say no -– without being a flaky jerk about it, of course -– helps me to save money that I would have otherwise spent on a less-than-memorable evening that I didn’t really care to attend in the first place. Let’s be real –- if you want to be a decent person and friend, you obviously shouldn’t become a rude hermit that smugly talks about how much they haaaaate going out and seeing people while constantly turning down or last-minute canceling plans. But seriously –- if you genuinely don’t want to do something, don’t. You’ll regret spending the time and money on something that you didn’t even want.
Additionally, I find it nice to sometimes give myself days off from going anywhere. It is normal to want to enjoy days when you don’t have any work obligations, but once in a while, it is nice to know that today is going to be an entirely at-home day — no grocery shopping, no errands, no stopping at the mall, no going for food or coffee — just a totally-free, at-home day of relaxing and spending nothing.
6. Fun, enjoyable exercise.
It is no secret that fancy gym memberships can get super expensive, and it is also no secret that going to the gym freaking sucks. I love being fit and healthy, but I don’t love the price tag that comes with it sometimes — almost as much as I don’t like dragging my ass to painful, expensive personal training sessions. To keep my exercise budget low and the benefits high, I strive to keep enjoyable exercise a part of my everyday routine.
This means spending very little on a basic, no-frills gym membership (that I really only use for treadmill running in the morning) that costs under $20/month, doing yoga for free every day (via YouTube videos, books, and just general knowledge since I am a certified teacher), and taking frequent walks or hikes (which are a total win-win, because they serve as both exercise and a fun, completely-free activity). My fitness routine costs around the same as a coffee date, keeps me in shape, and makes me feel happy and healthy every day.
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