When you’re looking through your monthly budget, you may feel like there is no room for anything extra in you life. You may feel like if it’s not essential it has to go. You may feel like life on a budget is tedious and boring, and if that’s the case, your budget will fail. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but living in a state of “no” is not sustainable. That’s where self-care comes in.
WHAT DOES SELF-CARE MEAN TO YOU?
Self-care is one of those buzz words these days that can mean different things to different people. For some it might be some quiet alone time. For others it may be heading out to a nice dinner with friends. When working with my clients on their budgets, one thing I may ask them to do is to look back at their spending to see where they may have spent money in order to fulfill themselves emotionally. For most people, this would look like shopping or eating out. Then we talk about the feeling that you may experience from these. Do you feel happier after spending money in these ways, and if so, how long does that happiness typically last? Is there ever guilt associated with this spending that negates that otherwise happy feeling?
The next step is to think outside your bank statements. What do you think would leave you feeling most restored? Is it a massage, traveling with your family, quietly reading a book for an hour without any interruptions? You may not even know because it’s been too long since you’ve actually stopped to think about what makes you a happier person. That’s completely ok… just pick something you think may boost your mood and give it a try. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can always try something else.
ARE THERE CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES?
Once you’ve found what you value in your self-care regimen, you can start to investigate cheaper alternatives. To make them more budget friendly, ask yourself what part of the experience is truly gratifying for you. For instance, if going out to dinner with a group of friends is something you want to keep as a form of self-care, is it trying a new restaurant that makes you feel better or is it the connection with your friends that makes you feel best. If it’s the latter, maybe you could schedule a wine and pizza night once a month. It will be cheaper on your budget and will still have the same positive impact on your mood. Another example is painting your nails. Is it the act of getting your nails painted by someone else or having painted nails and looking put together that makes you happy? There is almost always a cheaper alternative if your first preference doesn’t fit into your budget.
SCHEDULE YOUR SELF-CARE AHEAD OF TIME
Another step you can take to fit self-care into your budget is to pencil it into your calendar ahead of time. Look ahead at the next month and see where you can fit time for whatever it is that helps you recharge. Is it something you need to do once a month or twice a month? How much will you have to pay to make it happen? By planning it out ahead of time and making the plans finite, you can build it into your budget. You’re also more likely to stick to it from a budget perspective because if you’re having a really bad week you can remind yourself of your upcoming reward. Including it in your schedule gives you a bit of control and direction instead of struggling to reward yourself because you think you can’t afford it.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.