Yes, this post is about budget-friendly self-care ideas, but first, let’s talk a bit about the commodification of self-care.
The public discussion around self-care, especially on social media really has been cannibalized by spending money. Self-care on social media is now almost exclusively defined as treating yourself and spending money on yourself. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional treat, but I think exclusively defining self-care in this way, is hurting all of us. It’s a very shallow form of self-care that ultimately does not lead us to the habits and lifestyles that are actually best for us.
I’m talking about the get that Botox for you, or the let’s go spend $50 on brunch, and then go shopping, and then get our nails done and call it “self-care” narrative. The narrative says, in order to feel good, you need to spend money.
Sometimes spending on self-care is healthy
Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying that no version of self-care should ever cost any money. Of course, I believe that there are many things that really are self-care, that will require us to spend a little bit of money and I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is this exclusive narrative that the only way to care for yourself is to spend frequently and consistently. I think that narrative is training ourselves to become numb and to require spending money to find joy. And I think that’s really harmful, because this kind of narrative makes it much much harder for us to see and also actively participate in the types of self-care that are much more ultimately helpful, such as building community, seeing friends and family, exercising, making healthy choices for our body and our mind.
Therapy is a good example on healthy self-care spending
Let’s take for example, the idea that therapy is self-care. If you’re going through something difficult, or you just want to check in, you’re gonna want to go to therapy, and I think you should pay your therapist. I think therapists do a lot of good work, and they deserve to be paid well for that. That’s an example of spending money on self-care that I think makes sense. As you learn things like your emotional triggers, that gives you tools to have a more fulfilling and more calming day-to-day life. As opposed to simply going out and buying 50 new face masks. Learning those coping tools, actually contribute to a more healthy life for you in the long run.
Zoom out for a second, think about the things in your life that are most meaningful to you or that you are really, really proud of. I’m willing to bet that they involve a degree of hardship in order for you to reach them. I know that when I think about my life, the things that I’m most proud of are some of the most challenging things in my life, not just the things that I was able to walk into CVS or double click on Amazon and purchase.
Spending as self-care is isolating
I also think this idea of spending as self-care is isolating us from others because this type of self-care is really centered on our selves. Now I know that sounds a little silly, because we’re talking about self-care. Obviously, we’re going to be talking about the self. It’s focused on the self in a way that excludes us from others. But this kind of spending encourages us to remove ourselves from others because other people are the problem.
Is it really self-care to say to everyone around you: you’re too draining, you’re too exhausting, I cannot go out of my way for you ever. Is that really self-care? Nothing happens in a vacuum. When we are constantly told that self-care is nothing, but girls trips or bottles of wine, or skincare, we have to take a step back and ask who is telling me this? And who benefits from this advertising?
So how can we combat this? Well, I think the first thing is to not only ask what feels good, but ask yourself: what do I need? What is meaningful? What is going to bring me closer to who I really want to be and how I really want to move in this world. I think we should be thinking about self-care on a larger timeframe than the next 30 minutes.
Budgeting may not be fun, but it’s quality self-care
Think about it from a financial perspective. Is sitting down and doing your budgeting over the next 20 minutes, something that feels good right now? Maybe not. Maybe you think that’s annoying or boring. But that is a form of self-care. Because finding a way to manage your money day to day and month to month is going to lead you to hitting savings goals, to hitting investing goals, to paying off your debt, and ultimately becoming more financially stable.
The short form version of doing the budget feels uncomfortable. Reframing the timeframe that we see these actions allows us to see that sometimes self-care is hard work in the short term. But that short-term hard work leads us to those long-term rewards that we genuinely want. (If you need help with your budget, our Values Based Budgeting workbook is a good place to start!)
Before spending as self-care, I ask myself: Is this a gift for my future self? Is this a gift for my best self? Is this a step down the path to being the person that I want to be? And is it restorative in a way that makes me feel good both right now and in the future? Or is this simply a hangover stomachache or credit card debt that I’m going to have to deal with tomorrow?
Self-care ideas that are budget-friendly:
Start your day with a nutritious breakfast
Workout two to three times a week.
Learn a new cooking technique or a new recipe.
Invite your friends over to play board games.
Have a themed gathering, a trashy TV viewing party or Halloween party.
Go see a therapist.
Take your medicine.
Set aside 15 minutes and do your budget.
Brush your teeth and floss.
Go take a walk when you’re bored instead of hopping on social media.
Unfollow people who make you feel competitive or bad about yourself.
Replace sugar with some sweetener.
Meal prep for the week.
Buy reusable water bottle and have it next to you in case you get thirsty.
Set up a just because date with a friend.
Set up a get shit done date with a friend and knock things off your to do list.
Deep clean your bathroom.
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