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How to practice self-care with a tight budget

We hear it all the time: “Make sure you’re taking time for self-care!”

It’s constantly out there. It’s on our social media, on TV. Coming out of our friends’ mouths. But there isn’t really any time left out of our days for self-care. And there’s even less money for it in the budget.

So, how do you manage to have a self-care budget when you … have a tight budget? First, it helps to know all of the different types of self-care. Then, you can find budget-friendly solutions to make it happen.

Self-care isn’t selfish! Photo by Madison Inouye

The six types of self-care


Emotional includes the things that help us connect, process and reflect.


This is the type of self-care that is probably the least exciting, but it’s also super important. This helps prevent future stress by making plans and strategies to meet future needs for our personal and professional lives.


Physical focuses on our health and wellbeing.


You want to make sure you’re taking time to clear your headspace, stimulate your mind and challenge your intellect.


This is what gets us nurturing those valued relationships with friends and romantic partners.


Here, we get to focus on things bigger than ourselves.

Emotional self-care practices that cost almost nothing

  1. For many people, this can take the form of therapy. But even with the rise of online therapy tools like BetterHelp and Talkspace, it can still be something that doesn’t fit into your monthly budget. You can check for therapists and counselors in your area that offer services on a sliding payment scale if you think therapy is something you can truly benefit from. Where I live, there is a service that even allows clients to do community service in exchange for free sessions.

  2. Journaling is the grown-up version of keeping a diary. If you’re like me and need to physically write things down, grab a notebook and turn it into a journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A 50-cent composition book will work. (Your kids probably have one or two that they half-used for school last year that’s just laying around!)

  3. Prefer digital? Open up a Google Doc page and start writing. Set up your own personal blog. It doesn’t have to be something that’s made public, so go ahead and let it out.

  4. Make something. Emotional self-care isn’t just talking about feelings. It’s doing something that just makes you feel good. Bake a cake. Cook a new recipe – or a family favorite. Learn to knit or crochet. Paint something. It can be a paint pour on canvas or just repainting your old dresser and brining it back to life.

  5. Play music. Pull out that flute that’s been in the back of your closet since high school. Pick up a guitar and try to play. Sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs! Or even just turn on your favorite playlist.

Practical ways to care for yourself

  1. Budgeting is not exciting for most of us. Spreadsheets don’t exactly scream “Treat yo’ self!” But they serve a purpose, and that purpose is keeping you from stressing out because you overspent … while treating yo’ self. You can do what I do and write out your budget on a piece of notebook paper. Or if you (or your other half) are Excel-savvy, you can set one up on your computer. (Don’t have Microsoft Office? Google Sheets is totally free to use.)

  2. Are you a meal planner or a meal pantser (aka just winging it)? I struggle to meal plan. But with our hectic schedule these days, I really need to make an effort. Knowing what you have planned for dinner each day of the week helps simplify grocery shopping and keeps you and your family from asking that question every day – “What’s for dinner?”

  3. Organizing your spaces has an amazing impact on you. It’s just making yourself get to that point that feels daunting. Do what I tell my youngest kid: focus on one area at a time. Is your office a hellscape of paperwork and craft supplies? Take one area and work on it, like the desktop, cabinet or drawers. Don’t be afraid to throw things away or donate it if you know you won’t use it. (If it’s been lurking at the back of a cabinet for the past few months or years, it’s safe to say you don’t need it.)

  4. Learn something that can help with your professional life. Websites like HubSpot Academy offer hundreds of free courses and certifications on everything from digital and content marketing to customer sales. Want something more for your personal growth? Check out Coursera, Udemy, or EDX for free or low-cost courses. Even Harvard and Stanford University offer free online courses to check out. Have a little money you can spend on classes like photography or writing? Invest in a Masterclass annual membership to learn from industry professionals.

Physical self-care

  1. Exercise is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. I’m not saying dive headfirst into an intense CrossFit program. It can be as simple as a quick walk around the neighborhood or the local park.

  2. Stay hydrated – and no, not with bottomless margaritas. We are at the age now where we know the importance of drinking water, and I actually have come to prefer it at home and at work. The general rule is that you should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day (i.e. if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.) The way I make this easy for me is to make sure I have cold water at all times. So yes, invest in an insulated cup if you need to! You don’t have to spend $40. The store brand versions of those cups can be found for as little as $10-$20.

  3. Get some sleep. I can’t get a full eight hours of sleep every night (or any night, really). My schedule won’t let it happen. But when I get to squeeze in a nap? Bliss.

Go mental (for self-care)

  1. Find ways to stimulate your brain – do a puzzle, play a game on your phone, visit a museum. Read! Book shopping isn’t something I get to do often, but I’m lucky that my local library is amazing. I go in and come back out with an arm full of books to read and it satisfies that need to stockpile books. It’s like shopping without spending (the legal way).

Socializing counts

  1. Plan a brunch or lunch date with your girlfriends. Or happy hour margaritas after work. Take time to talk and laugh with the girls who make you feel more like your true self.

  2. Go on a date with your partner. It’s easy for us to forget to set aside time for our loved ones. Make a point to set up a date night, even if it’s just running to the local burger spot without the kids, or dumping them with the grandparents so you can have a night at home … alone.

  3. Communicate with people in quick, easy ways like sending a text, sending a funny meme through Messenger, or sharing TikTok videos that made you laugh during your lunch break.

Spiritual self-care

  1. Spiritual doesn’t have to mean religious. But if taking care of your spiritual self involves going to a Sunday service or sitting down with your pastor over coffee, take time for it!

  2. Get out into nature. Go for a hike or visit a local park. Sit out in your front yard on a clear night and look up at the stars. Grab a camera and take some pictures of plants or animals that you see on your outings.

  3. Meditate. Do yoga. Find ways to go quiet inside your head. You can find apps and even YouTube channels that do free guided meditations that you can listen to in your office or zoning out in your bedroom after a long bath.

What are some of your favorite ways to focus on self-care?

*Originally posted to Jessica’s blog Mess and Memories Author: Jessica Neff is a mom, writer, photographer, born-again baker and failed housekeeper. She’s living the doublewide dream as a reporter down in Texas with her fiancé and two daughters. Jessica is also the Market Director for Cool Moms of Dallas-Fort Worth.


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