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Self-Care on a Budget: Treat Yourself Without Breaking the Bank

By Nicole Bustamante

If there’s one thing we have all learned from living through a pandemic, it’s that you have to take care of your mental and physical health. But when “treating yourself” becomes synonymous with multiple overpriced lattes a week, it might be a good time to take a closer look at your self-care practices. 


It’s important to be intentional, not spontaneous, with these habits—and a lot of them don’t need to cost a pretty penny (like, shall we say, impulse shopping often does). Taking time out of your day to craft your self-care routine is an honorable and worthwhile task, and we’re here to help you do it all on a budget.


Here’s exactly how you can sculpt out your self-care routine so that those expensive “treat myself” moments are truly only every once in a while. 


1.Define your MVP (most valuable practice).


Shall we begin with a bit of prioritization? Deciding what your MVP self-care practice looks like is a great way to determine just how often you can indulge in it, whether it’s a quarterly massage, monthly fitness class membership, bi-weekly salon mani/pedi (or weekly latte). If these are the splurges you need to help re-center and maintain a good relationship with yourself, then so be it (within your budget, that is)


2.Clarify how often you need it.


Establishing how often you indulge in these splurges is equally as important as identifying what your MVP is. Deciding how often you are going to lean into this “treat” will help you set boundaries. Maybe it is a biweekly, monthly, or every-other-month kind of splurge—whatever the cadence is, you can now build it into your budget


3.Save for the splurges.


There is no worse feeling than the dread of facing your credit card bill (“ignorance is bliss” can only go so far). Creating a budget and then building a few worthy splurges into it is an absolute must, but there are other ways to stay fiscally responsible with your self-care. 


  • If your MVP of choice includes a salon or spa, there may be frequent shopper benefits or membership reward systems of which you can take advantage. 
  • Ask your workplace if they offer any corporate discounts on gym memberships or wellness treatments. 
  • Use Zip to split the purchase into 4 interest‑free installments over 6 weeks to keep your wallet in check and avoid all-at-once, large charges.


4.Lean into easy, low-cost self-care ideas for the “between time.”


You can 100% still take care of yourself in between your big splurges and treat moments. Taking care of yourself does not always have to come at a cost and can show up in your daily routine in meaningful (and free!) ways. Here are some ways to do just that.


  • Start your day with a morning meditation. There are free, guided audio tracks on Youtube and on apps like Headspace or Calm.
  • Go on a daily walk, whether it’s in the morning, on your lunch break, or at night. 
  • Create a routine of journaling out your thoughts and feelings. This can be a daily, weekly, or monthly practice to check in with yourself and create space for reflection.
  • Start a gratitude list by writing out a few bullets a day of the beautiful things in your life that you appreciate. 
  • Have an at-home spa night with a drug-store face mask, candles, and some new nail polish for a DIY mani/pedi.
  • Read a book for fun. Indulge in a coming-of-age novel or learn something new with a non-fiction book or autobiography.
  • Clean your space. Roll up your sleeves and let your inner neat-freak fly by taking some time to clean your home. Feeling like you’re in a refreshed physical space can translate to your mental space.
  • Play music. Turn on some soothing tunes or crank up the endorphin-packed hits that magically turn your hairbrush into a microphone. 
  • Go for a picnic in the park. You can plan this outing with friends and family or go by yourself accompanied by music or a good read! Either way, lounging in the sun has all the main character energy to feed into some quality “you” time. 
  • Lean into your creativity by painting, or really anything that works your left brain! Grab a canvas and let yourself go at it.
  • Get a good night’s rest. Getting true beauty sleep can positively affect your mentality and help you have a more productive day.
  • Turn off your phone. Unplug and tune into your surroundings and practice being present with those around you.
  • Volunteer for an organization you’re passionate about. Your work won’t be able to fulfill all of your passions and interests, so channel any extra energy into a cause that you love.
  • Go to the farmers market. Even if you don’t buy anything, there is something so revitalizing about being around fresh produce and homemade jams. 
  • Pick up some greenery like plants or flowers. Not only do they elevate your space, but they can also boost your serotonin.
  • Attend free, local events. Your neighborhood library or outdoor shopping plaza is underrated! There are often free events happening every night, right under your nose. 
  • Take a bubble bath. Who doesn’t love the decadence of soaking in warm water that’s beautifully scented? Bonus tip: ask your SO to “draw you a bath” for an added touch of drama. 
  • Put on your chef hat and step into the kitchen to decompress or expand your skill set. You can cook a comforting family favorite, or try out a new recipe to get your culinary creative juices flowing.


Finally, one of the most challenging tasks on the list: practice self-compassion and acceptance. This idea may be free, but it is not easy. Being kind and compassionate to yourself is something that takes repetition and commitment, but it is one of the most rewarding self-care ideas that you can enact in your day to day.


However you choose to scatter self-care throughout your days, weeks, months, and years, it is a worthwhile and imperative effort. Of course, we all love a little indulgence every now and then, so don’t beat yourself up for treating yourself—just plan accordingly so those lattes don’t end up breaking the bank.

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Zip’s editorial content is not written by a financial advisor. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

About the author
Nicole Bustamante

Nicole Bustamante is a writer and journalist passionate about storytelling and the art of fashion. She has written for The Zoe Report, Angeleno Magazine, Modern Luxury Interiors California, and more in addition to writing for her personal blog.