Self-Care on a Budget: 25 Things You can do Today

By: Jessica Nappi, MS, LPCA


If you’re like me, you’re struggling with the current inflation, too. With gas, groceries, rent, and utilities climbing their way to record highs, you’re running out of money to meet the necessities. In this current economic state, there is little wiggle room in the budget for our wants. What is left of that disposable income is now spent taking care of your family. Prioritizing our partner’s or children’s needs always seems to be at the forefront of our minds. How can we fathom spending money on ourselves when our growing babies need new clothes?

That emotion we’re trying to avoid is guilt. Guilt is uncomfortable and lingering. We tend to ruminate on actions that lead to guilt. We have a greater sense of agency in correcting our mistakes to alleviate that uncomfortable feeling. When we believe we can’t rectify the situation, our brain triggers a fear response to protect us from further negative emotions. Subsequently, surges of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) are sent out to motivate us to employ safety strategies. These safety strategies can look like blaming, denying, justifying, submission, or avoidance (Lickel et al., 2014).

So, how can we prioritize ourselves when we aren’t a financial priority? The simple answer is: intentionality. By this I mean, living our best self-care lives doesn’t have to be expensive. The biggest cost is your time. Being intentional about how you’re spending your time is a key to success. Self-care is anything you want it to be as long as it energizes you. I often hear people say that they like to come home from work and sit down to scroll through social media for a few hours. This could absolutely be self-care, but I’m willing to bet that for most people it isn’t. Social media can have a draining effect on our energy levels. The constant scrolling can deplete our attention span and can suck us into a comparison mindset.

How do we know if something is energizing? Let’s start by analyzing how you spend your time. If you’re like the average American, you probably work a nine to five. Your mornings probably feel a little rushed, your lunch breaks may be short, and your drive home is filled with traffic. Ask yourself- What would it do for me if I woke up 30 minutes early to sit and enjoy my breakfast before I left? What kind of music do I listen to on my way to work? Is it uplifting? Do I multitask at lunch just to get more work done? What emotions do I feel on my drive home? If we’re able to be mindful of our presence and our emotional state, we can begin to understand what areas of our lives need the most attention and self-care.

Now let’s discuss how to implement self-care. This can look a few different ways. This can be setting boundaries for one hour a day to complete your self-care ritual. It can look like a full self-care day where you intentionally take care of your needs at the end of the week in lieu of a short daily approach. It could also look like short, intentional, bursts of self-care throughout the whole day. Figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.

Below I have compiled a list of 25 self-care activities you can do on a budget.

1.       Feel Good Movie Night

Whether it’s a family night or a night to yourself. Pop yourself some popcorn and pull up a streaming service. Select your favorite feel-good movie and enjoy!

2.       Take a Nap

From siestas in Spain to a riposo in Italy, there’s a reason so many cultures value midday napping. It’s good for you!

3.       Visit a Family Member

While you may be able to keep up with family through social media, being able to sit and share coffee while talking to family is a wonderful way to fulfil your need for genuine connection. 

4.       Pick Up a Book and Read It

If you’re like me, you have dozens of unread books you just haven’t got to. I’m sure you have one laying around that must still interest you.

5.       Meditate

Guided meditations are a great place to start. I suggest doing a search for “Leaves on a Stream”, a concept from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to help alleviate anxiety. 

6.       Create a Playlist

Take a moment to create two playlists- Roots & Wings. Your Roots playlist will be full of songs that help keep you grounded and mindful. Your Wings playlist will help energize your mood. 

7.       Take a Bubble Bath

Light some candles, add your favorite bath salts, bombs, or oils. 

8.       Find Free Community Events

If you’re energized by socializing, look for locally hosted events to meet new people in your community. 

9.       Fill Out a Mood Tracker

You can find lots of mood trackers online or you can even create your own! Mood trackers can be beneficial to helping assess when you’re feeling at your best and when you’re needing more of that self-care time. They can additionally assist in recognizing patterns and themes. 

10.   Skin Care Routine

This is a great nighttime ritual to help you ease into bed. Find what products you like best and utilize prior to slipping into bed or first thing in the morning. 

11.   Exercise

From dance cardio to weightlifting, find the exercise that fits your needs. Please make sure that you are medically cleared to engage in exercise prior to doing so. For those with eating disorders, please consult with your treatment team regarding appropriate recommended exercise. 

12.   Create an Affirmation Calendar

Program an affirmation into each day on your phone calendar. It’s a great reminder to get throughout the day. 

13.   Sip Your Favorite Warm Beverage

My personal favorite is hot chocolate on a cold morning.

14.   Mall Makeover

Hit up stores you like and search for new products. 

15.   Take a Walk without Your Phone

Take a minute to enjoy nature without feeling a buzz in your pocket. 

16.   Write in Your Journal

Gratitude journaling is a great place to start. There are many benefits of journal writing and giving yourself the space and time to get to know more about yourself. 

17.   Have Sex

It can lower cortisol levels and increase endorphins. 

18.   Declutter

Start with 10 items. Go through your entire house and purge items that no longer serve you. 

19.   Volunteer

Finding purpose can help create a sense of pride and success in your life. 

20.   Color

Even if you don’t have coloring books or crayons, there are coloring apps that are just as fun! 

21.   Get Outside with Your Kids or Pets

Go for a walk, splash in the puddles, watch clouds passing by. 

22.   Call a Friend

Call, chat, connect! 

23.   Wash Your Bedding

Who doesn’t like snuggling into warm fresh blankets after a long day? 

24.   Yoga

There are many local yoga classes and videos online that can help you get started. Again, please consult with your medical provider or treatment team before integrating yoga into your routine. 

25.   Create a Vision Board

What are you manifesting this year? You can utilize websites to pin things to your vision board or you can create this in your journal or with a poster board, markers and printed photos.



Lickel, B., Kushlev, K., Savalei, V., Matta, S., & Schmader, T. (2014). Shame and the motivation to change the self. Emotion (Washington, D.C.)14(6), 1049–1061.