10 Ways To Practice Self-Care When You’re On A Budget

Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

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We know: We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that self-care involves expensive spas, luxury body scrubs, weekend getaways, and one million dollar face cream from GOOP. Not so! Let’s be real: Most of us can’t afford any of these things. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a little self-care. And here’s the thing: Self-care can be anything. The point is that it’s something that feeds you that doesn’t involve work. It’s a time for you to replenish your body, mind, and soul—yes, it might sound lofty, but you don’t need big bucks to do it. Here are a few of my favorite ways to take care of myself on little cash:

1. Take a bath.

This is my #1 self-care strategy. I do it almost nightly (sorry, California drought). It’s my favorite way to unplug from the day, which means I don’t bring in any devices. (I’m also afraid of dropping an iPad in the water.) Pick up a favorite magazine or dig into a killer novel, pour yourself a glass of rosé, and let Calgon take you away.

2. Make your own yummy vat of chai (iced coffee, iced tea, etc.) that you can dip into for a day or two.

I often use coffee or tea as a self-soother—if I’m out and need a lift, I’ll pop into a café for a treat. But that adds up over time (and all those paper cups are awful for the environment). I’m always delighted when I think ahead and make myself a vat of chai that I can just pour first thing in the morning, either over ice or heated on the stove.

3. Practice yoga/pilates while following an online tutorial.

No money? No problem. Classes are always best (a teacher should be checking your alignment once in a while!), but sometimes you don’t have the cash or time to make a class. Check out an online tutorial instead. You can do it at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m.!

4. Go for a walk-and-talk with a friend.

Make exercise social. Or make exercise less exercise-y. I often meet a friend 30 minutes before preschool pickup and we do a couple of laps around the block, catch up on the day, and get our heart rates up a bit (the walking and talking helps with this!). Best of all: It’s completely free and usually full of laughs.

5. Meditate with an app.

There are loads to choose from, but my favorite is Headspace. There’s a guided meditation for whatever mood you’re in.

6. Go to one exercise class a week. Just one. Schedule your life around it.

I’ve started attending an 8 a.m. Pilates class in my neighborhood on Saturdays. It’s hard for me to get to classes during the week, and with a small kid, it’s tricky to do stuff by myself over the weekend. But slipping out first thing on Saturday for an hour seems doable. Put it in the schedule and alert your partner, family, or babysitter that this time is sacred and non-negotiable.

7. Go for a long walk/hike/run while listening to your favorite podcast.

It’s fine to listen to Forever 35 while doing dishes, but it’s even better to do it while running, hiking, biking, or walking.

8. Don’t text your friends—call them.

This one is especially important if you have moved far from home/college/friends/family. My BFF and I have started just calling each other at random—no more phone dates (those never work)—and hoping the other picks up. If your bestie isn’t free? Just leave a long, rambling message. It’s always a joy to hear her voice (even if it’s just on a machine), and I get a little caught up on her life.

9. Buy some of your favorite color polish and do your own nails.

Manis and pedis get expensive, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have beautiful nails! Buy your fave colors at the drugstore and go nuts.

10. Enjoy the subscriptions you have.

Netflix, Hulu, Spotify—enjoy! But make sure you are using all the ones you’re paying for. Binge watch away (that’s the self-care part), but make sure you aren’t paying for something you’re not using to stay under budget.

Abigail Rasminsky
Abigail Rasminsky has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Cut, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Marie Claire, among other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.