self care budget

Self care. It’s such a loaded phrase. You know that you’re supposed to embrace it and yet maybe you’re not even quite sure what it means for you. And yet, taking care of yourself is really important. In fact, you should have a self care budget. Let’s explore what self care really means and why it matters.

“Self-Care Sunday” and the Problematic Buzz Around Self Care

Self care has taken off as a buzzword, so much so that it’s become something of a joke. Check social media and you’ll find thousands upon thousands of entries featuring hashtags like #selfcaresunday. The idea behind it is great: take time to take care of yourself. But the message has gotten lost. How did this happen?

The Marketing of Self Care

One problem has been that brands and businesses picked up on the concept of self care and began to market around it. So now there are all of these people trying to sell you products and services to help you better take care of yourself.

But spending a bunch of money doesn’t necessarily lead to self care. Sure, if you’re investing in your physical and mental wellbeing, then various products and services might add to your life. However, if you’re just lured in by the promise of abstractly feeling better, then you’re likely to end up disappointed. And this is how the concept of caring for yourself has practically turned into a joke when really it should be a critical priority.

The Pressure of Self Care

The other major problem with the marketing of self care is that it now comes loaded with a bunch of pressure, especially for busy women. Self care should be about how to truly take care of yourself, whatever that means. But all too often lately it ends up being just another thing on the To Do list. It’s another thing that people, especially women, beat themselves up about not doing, not doing well enough or not doing often enough. And that feeling is the exact opposite of self care.

So What Is Self Care?

So what exactly does it mean to take care of yourself? It’s probably not what you think. Sure, it can mean spa days if that’s your thing. But more than that it’s about taking the time to know yourself and then doing what you really need, regardless of how un-trendy that thing might be.

More than anything, self care means taking quiet time to really get in touch with yourself. It means that you turn off the devices, settle in, and listen to what your mind and body really need. The better you learn to hear your inner voice, the more you’ll know what you actually need in any given moment.

Self-care might include:

  • Taking time off of work – an afternoon, a long weekend, a vacation, a sabbatical
  • Reducing other obligations and expectations including those among family and friends
  • Starting a new project that you feel passionate about
  • Staying up late when you’re having a great time but then taking a nap the following day
  • Eating in a way that makes your body feel good
  • Making an appointment with a doctor, a therapist, a physical trainer or an acupuncturist
  • Being honest with your partner about your authentic feelings
  • Ignoring phone calls and listening to your favorite music for an hour
  • Signing up for classes to pursue an interest or new career path
  • Asking your friends to lunch when you need their support

Why You Need a Self Care Budget

So if self care isn’t about spending a lot of money on spas and trips to island getaways, then why do you need a self care budget? Sometimes self care does cost money. More than that, knowing that you have enough money to take care of whatever your needs may be allows you peace of mind.

Sometimes Self Care Costs Money

Even if you don’t spend a lot of money specifically on “treat yourself” items, self care can cost you some money in the following ways:

  • You might need time off of work. It’s important to have some money saved up in order to take the time that you need. If you have a self care budget then you can take any amount that’s left over within that budget each month and put it into a self care savings plan.
  • Certain things that are good for you do cost money. For example, in order to feel your best, you might need to eat higher quality food. Or you might want to pay for a gym membership, higher education, or, yes, a massage. If you have a self care budget, then you have accounted for those potential costs.
  • You can plan for impulse purchases. The fact is that sometimes you’ll set your self care aside. Then you’ll crash. Often this results in impulse spending. But if you’ve got a self care budget, then you’ve built in a cushion precisely for these times.

Knowing You Have Money for Self Care Helps Your Mental Health

Part of taking care of yourself is just giving yourself a little bit of ease. Knowing that you’ve set aside money each month for self care can go a long way towards allowing that ease in your life. Maybe you’ll spend the money. That’s great – that’s what you’ve set it aside for. But even if you don’t use it all, it helps to know that you could if you needed to. It relieves a burden. And that in and of itself is a form of self care.

How Much Money to Budget for Self Care

There are two ways to approach your self care budget.

The first is to look at what wiggle room you already have in your budget. Then use that to set a self care budget. For example, if you currently have $100 per month that is part of your “miscellaneous” budget then you might earmark all or part of that specifically for self care.

The second is to work with percentages. Try to aim for 5% of your budget to go to self care. If that doesn’t work for your finances, then what will? Be honest with yourself while still making this a priority. If you need to cut out expenses that aren’t helping your self care (streaming services for example) in order to make room for beneficial things, then do that.

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