11 Guilt-Free Ways to Treat Yourself on a Budget

Look. We’re not disputing that you’re a boss who can take on the world. In fact, if you’re like the average American woman, you’re juggling far more each day than your resume reflects – career responsibilities, the vast majority of housework and childcare, care for aging parents, and the unpaid, often unrecognized emotional labor of supporting everyone around you. (Plus, you’ve got to stay fit and keep smiling through it all. Who’s got the time?)

So first of all, give yourself some kudos: Just by living your life, you’re a superhero. Own it.

But even superheroes need a night off. In fact, the harder you hustle, the more important it is for you to prioritize self-care to avoid burnout. Don't feel guilty for looking out for number one -- after all, you’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask first.

If balancing the checkbook is one item on your mighty to-do list, don’t worry – self-care doesn’t mean breaking the bank. So, put up your feet, let down your hair, and treat yo’self like the savings-savvy queen we know you are with these guilt-free tips.


1. Treat yo’self to a home mani-pedi

There’s little as lovely as having your hands and feet pampered with a manicure or pedicure – but those weekly trips add up to handfuls of cash. Don’t let your money slip through your fingers: Get salon-worthy nails on a budget with a mani-pedi at home!

Nail novice? Check out this complete home mani-pedi guide from Total Beauty. For extra you’re-worth-it dazzle, sign up for Nailed It ($9.95/mo) to receive monthly nail decals, stencils, stickers and more – think of it as your monthly reminder to sit down and treat yourself.

2. Soak your troubles away

Nothing says goodbye to stress like a hot bath. Take a moment at the end of a hard day to draw yourself one – and for good measure, add essential oils, DIY bath salts (less than $1 per bath), and bubble bath.


If you want all the spa benefits but don’t have time to hit the store for bath bombs and more, delegate with a monthly luxury bath subscription. L.A.-based Bath Blessing Box ($35.99/mo.) delivers 5-8 full-sized artisan bath and body treasures each month – a steal compared to the store. Start unwinding now.

3. Throw a guilt-free movie night

We actually don’t subscribe to the concept of a “guilty pleasure” movie, because you should frankly never apologize for loving the TV shows and films that make you happy. (Also, the whole idea is problematically rooted in misogyny.) So, chuck guilt out the window, dig into the Food Network’s 50 top gourmet popcorn recipes (under $1 per bowl), and queue up whatever the heck you want on Netflix (empowering, female-led binge list here). Girlfriends and family members invited; scoffers may crawl back to whatever hole they came from.


4. Have a mini spa day

Let’s face it – sometimes, you just want to be pampered. To add extra ahh to any of the spa activities listed above, open up a bottle of wine and pop on a face mask. Korean sheet masks are all the rage with celebrities and everyday superwomen alike, offering skin-plumping formulas sporting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, gentle glycolics and more. If you’re not already a mask aficionado, dip your toe in with a super affordable sampler pack from FaceTory (starting at $7.56/mo.) to see what works for you – everyone’s skin and chemistry is different, so it’s great to try a variety.


5. Practice simplicity with adult coloring books

For high-powered, overworked go-getters, one of the greatest – and most counter-intuitive! – gifts you can give yourself is the permission to do an activity that’s just for you. That’s why adult coloring books are trending. Think of it as a modern take on Tibetan sand mandalas – something you do for the sake of the thing itself, with no outside goal or expectations.

There are loads of adult coloring books on the market, but we especially love the ones from Coloring and Classics ($14/mo.), which pairs elegant coloring books with activity books and a new hardcover novel from a genre of your choosing (acclaimed fiction, romance, horror, sci-fi, etc) to treat your whole brain.


6. Unleash your inner goddess

Sometimes you just gotta worship you. Take sometime to deck out a DIY shrine; stock up on energy-charging crystals, natural beauty products and spiritual tools (Goddess Provisions starts at $27.75/mo.); and create your own self-celebrating rituals. You work hard, goddess. Time to acknowledge.

7. A downward dog is your best friend

Experts have been touting the health, flexibility, and mindfulness benefits of yoga for years – but if you’re not a practitioner, going to a yoga class of super-buff yogis can be intimidating (not to mention expensive). Get your vinyasas for free with the amazing online video series from Austin, Texas-based Yoga With Adriene – her videos are free and focused on having fun with yoga, so do what feels good.


8. Reboot your brain with coffee and a classic read

Who doesn’t love a latte? Alas, those fancy coffees add up fast – at an average of $4, a Starbucks latte a day will run you $120 per month. Also, commercial coffee drinks are often overloaded with sugar, which can be a sucker punch for your physical and mental health.

So double the brain benefits of coffee and save your budget by curling up with a cup of coffee and a classic novel (plus bath treat and other goodies) from Coffee and a Classic ($28.49/mo.) at home. For about a third of the cost, you get to flex your mind and receive an adorable new mug each month, too.


9. Unwind with a cup of tea

If you crave caffeine but aren’t into coffee, tap into true relaxation with a cup of hot tea. In addition to caffeine, black and green teas contain L-theanine, a naturally occurring chemical with proven relaxing effects on the brain. The benefits and varieties of different tea types are too lengthy to list here, so if you’re not sure where to get started, try a sampler to see what’s best for you. Simple Loose Leaf Tea ($9/mo.) delivers four hand-selected loose leaf teas (their sampler includes one black, one green, one herbal and one seasonal), plus cloth tea bags and more.


10. Dial in some therapist-curated self-care

If you’re feeling really exhausted, it’s time to call in the experts. In an ideal world, therapy would be within everyone’s financial reach – the benefits of taking the dedicated time to focus on yourself, with kindness and honesty, are overwhelming. But if it doesn’t fit your budget, you don’t have to skip the self-care. Mindwander (starting at $17.99/mo.) is a therapist-curated subscription box that delivers a monthly themed workbook with strategies for decreasing anxiety and stress, plus treat yo’self goodies like bath and body products, notebooks, tea, snacks, and more. Give yourself the gift of a serious commitment to self-care without breaking the bank.


11. Whip up a sweet treat

If you’re feeling really burned out, it’s easy to beeline for the freezer and pop the top of that pint of ice cream. Who are we kidding – we’ve all been there. But there’s something extra special in taking the time to make and savor something decadent – think of it as a Valentine from you to you, written in glitter: Baby, you’re worth it.

So, let’s indulge. If you’re comfortable around the kitchen, try one of Food and Wine’s 29 Insanely Decadent Desserts from their chef-kiss-worthy Leap Day roundup. If you’re a little shy around the oven, take a baby step toward sweet self-care with a step-by-step recipe kit from Whisk Takers, a monthly subscription that provides pre-measured ingredients for no-fail baking success. Subscriptions can be tailored for vegans, folks with nut allergies, chocolate lovers and more, so what are you waiting for?