When you think of self-care, you may initially think of things like treating yourself to a spa day, taking a big vacation, or going on a shopping spree—but doing any of those things can make an already precarious financial situation worse. That’s why it’s helpful to mentally reframe self-care as little things that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines self-care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.” When you make self-care practices a part of your everyday life, you have an emotional center to return to every time you begin to experience stress.
Acts of self-care that are easy to add into your routine might include:
- Regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and increase production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood elevators.
- Starting a hobby. Hobbies allow you to focus on something you enjoy instead of expending energy on entertaining negative thoughts.
- Writing down your thoughts. Keeping a journal is a great way to untangle a jumble of emotions, prioritize your problems, and identify negative patterns in your thoughts and behavior.
- Make regular plans with friends and/or family. Setting up a regular time to see your loved ones can introduce stability into your routine and give you something to look forward to.
Tip 3: Make a budget - and forgive yourself if you mess up
Okay, this might be an obvious one. But there’s a reason why people who find a way to budget their money wisely tend to be more successful in getting their finances under control!
You may have heard of different budgeting strategies like the 50/30/20 method, the “one number” budget, or the envelope budget. Each has its pros and cons, and you may have different levels of success with each one. Do some research on the different strategies online, at your local library, or just by asking your friends how they budget themselves. There are countless free resources out there built to help you keep track of your monthly spending.
There are lots of tools to keep track of your budget, too—spreadsheets, apps, print-out worksheets, etc. Choose something that’s practical and accessible to you. The goal is to keep it as simple and easy as possible.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be all about tightening your belt and depriving yourself of fun; rather, it can be a helpful way to envision a path forward and accomplish your money goals while still enjoying yourself.
It’s not a bad thing to spend money on things that you like. Keep your values in mind while you budget! If you love music and couldn’t imagine giving up concerts, for example, then find a way to pay for that $40 ticket each month. Maybe that means giving up that subscription service you don’t really use and buying store-brand food at the grocery store. If something's valuable to you, it’s not frivolous to budget for it.
Keep in mind that making a budget and sticking to it is not something that comes naturally to everyone. This is important to remember as you go through the process of learning how to allocate your money every month. It’s okay to make mistakes!
When you accidentally spend a little too much on one line of your budget, don’t beat yourself up about it. Take a moment to figure out what went wrong, and maybe rethink how much money you need to be allocating to that bucket next month. Your budget should be a flexible, living document that you revisit often.
Tip 4: Talk to someone about it