Self-care is often seen as something that has to cost a lot or be super luxurious. Though those things are fun and can definitely be forms of self-care, self-care does NOT have to break the bank.
I’m guessing you’re here because you’re looking for free or cheap self=care ideas. Well, I’ve got them for you! There are both free self-care ideas and affordable self-care ideas that are within the means of everyone to fit into their budget. Seriously! This list of “self-care on a budget” ideas will show you that you can still have a great self-care experience without spending an arm and a leg.
*This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the provided links to purchase any of the below products or services. Please check out my disclosure policy.*
Free Self-Care Ideas
The experiences in this category are all absolutely free self-care ideas, though other expenses could come into play depending on who you are, where you are, what you have, etc. You’ll see what I mean!
Read A Book
Reading is one of my favorite self-care activities. I talk more about my love of reading in this post. So sit back, relax, and crack open one of your favorite books or a book that has been sitting on your shelf for *cough* years *cough*. If you’re more of an ebook person, check out Kindle Unlimited, where you’ll have access to thousands of books for a low price. But with this link – you can get it FREE for a MONTH!
Take A Walk
Getting outside for a walk, run, or even riding a bike can do wonders for your mental health. Double up the fun with walking through a park or wildlife reserve and see how many cute animals you can find.
Do a Digital Detox
A digital detox is simply clearing out your digital life of things you don’t want or need. Digital detoxing will look different for everyone but here are some of my recommendations:
- Unfollow/unfriend/mute people you don’t like or who make you feel worse about yourself
- Delete apps that you no longer want or use
- Delete old emails that you no longer need
- Unsubscribe from newsletters that no longer serve your needs
Check out this awesome post about digital wellness if you’d like more information on how to do a digital detox.
Learn Something New
Try A Grounding Exercise
The grounding technique is a way for you to connect with yourself and the here and now. It can lessen the amount of stress that you are feeling by helping you fo focus and My favorite way is to use the 5 senses but the grounding technique can be done in a multitude of ways.
- Name 5 things you can touch
- Name 4 things that you can see
- Name 3 things that you can hear
- Name 2 things that you can smell (or two scents that you love)
- Name 1 thing you can taste (or one thing you like about yourself)
Call or Text A Friend
Sometimes the best way to self-care is to reach out to someone about how you’re feeling. Call or text a friend or family member. They may not be able to fix any problems that you’re having, but they can still lend a listening ear.
Write Down Your Worries
Take a pen and a couple of sheets of paper and write down everything that you’re worried about. Then, if you feel comfortable: destroy it. Rip it up, burn it with a candle, stomp on it, you get the idea. Let it out into the universe instead of keeping it inside.
Volunteering has an immense amount of benefits: from meeting new friends to boosting your resume, and learning something new (intellectual self-care!). But did you know that volunteering, can actually bring you happiness?
Meditation is a wonderful form a self-care and you can do it, no matter where you are. All you need is yourself. Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting in silence either.
You can hum to yourself, tap rhythmically on the floor or a wall, or say affirmations. You can even integrate sound! Check out my experience with gong meditation here.
One of my coaches told me that you can’t move forward until you have gotten rid of the things in your past. This is true for both mentally and in your environment. I’m the perfect example. I have a bed that’s not put together in my second bedroom because I have tons of boxes laying around.
“But Briana, it’s just a bed,” you say. Actually, it’s more than a bed. It’s a place for my sister to sleep when she visits. It’s a place for a friend to sleep when they come to town. When you clear out your physical space, you have room for more experiences.
Take A Nap
I am a nap QUEEN. I love taking naps and usually take a few naps a week. I feel like naps are the equivalent of a “reset” button. When I nap, I always feel better after I wake up.
Do A Silent Retreat
Having a silent was something that I learned about from my healing circle facilitator. Essentially, all you do is block off some time in your day and have NO distractions (no phone, no people, no television, etc). If you live with other people, you may want to inform that that you’re doing this. Then take that time and do with it what you want that is introspective: journaling, meditating, praying, etc.
YouTube is one of my favorite forms of self-care. There’s so much content on anything that you can imagine. You can check out some of my favorite YouTube channels.
Focus on Your Breathing
This technique (called square breathing or box breathing) helps you to be more aware of your body and your breathing.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Breathe out for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
Continue as needed.
Scratch Off A “To-Do”
This is very similar to declutter, but instead, you can choose whatever it is that you want to scratch off of your list. Send that email. Clean out your fridge. Donate that box of clothes sitting in your trunk. Do it and feel a little bit lighter and clear out the mental space that the task was taking up.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you probably have paper, pens, markers, tape, magazines, and related materials already at your house. I know I have them in abundance. Take some time out today and get a bit artistic. Draw your idea of the perfect day. Make a vision board. Work on your stick figures. You’re only limited to your imagination.
Yoga is a wonderful way to practice self-care. I personally do yoga because I find it relaxing AND for the added benefit of it helping with my chronic pain. There are many FREE ways to get started with yoga. I love Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube.
Start a Journaling Practice
Journaling can do wonders for your mental health. I’ve been journaling off and on since middle school, but have cultivated a journaling practice in the past few years that has been incredibly helpful for you. Click here to learn more about starting a journaling practice.
Join A Facebook Group
I LOVE Facebook groups. They are my favorite way of meeting new people, especially new people that have similar interests to me. I’m in *cough* over 50 *cough* Facebook groups ranging from groups all about social work to groups about plus size clothing. If you’re looking for new friends, Facebook groups are an amazing place to start.
If you’d like to cultivate self-love while being in a community with like-minded people, join my Facebook group!
Praying is a wonderful way to connect with a higher power and practice spiritual self-care. It requires nothing but a few words and an open heart.
Read Your Favorite Blogs
Hopefully, my blog is among them 🥰 . If it’s been a while since you checked out your favorite blog, or even a blog that you loved years ago, take a few minutes and read a few posts.
Netflix (& Chill)
This doesn’t REQUIRE Netflix but you get the idea. Turn on whatever subscription service you have, TV service, or break out those old DVDs (I know you still have them) and get yourself some popcorn, ice cream, or another snack.
For even more fun and to get in some social self-care, have a Netflix Party with your friends and family.
There are plenty of ways to practice gratitude. One of the easiest ways for me to practice gratitude is to write down what I’m grateful for. I usually do this before going to bed every night. But you can also practice gratitude by telling someone that you’re thankful they’re in your life or doing a random act of kindness.
Keep A Love Note Journal
These aren’t love notes from your partner (though you could definitely put them in there). When I say “love notes” I mean compliments, warm gestures, or anything that someone has said or done for you. I put my “love notes” in my HeartSong journal. Some of them are things people have said to me in person that I wrote down and some are things I’ve printed out from Facebook or emails.
You can do this digitally by screenshotting these “love notes” and putting them in a folder.
Listen To A New Podcast
Listening to podcasts are an easy way to learn, grow, and have fun. Like YouTube, there are podcasts on every subject under the sun. You just have to find your jam.
Check me out on the podcast Compassion As My Compass, where I talk about burnout.
Inexpensive Self-Care Ideas
These inexpensive self-care ideas will leave you with money in your pocket. The majority of these affordable self-care ideas will cost you less than $20.
Get That Fancy Coffee or Tea
You know the one: with all the chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Head to Starbucks or favorite coffee shop and grab your favorite beverage. Treat yourself!
Take Yourself on a Date
This could be anything of your choice. Take yourself to the movies. Take yourself to a museum (see a few suggestions below). Take yourself out to lunch.
Use a Clay or Sheet Mask
My hall closet is absolutely full of sheet masks and clay masks. I *usually* use them before going on a date, but using them anytime you need a little pick me up is a great form of affordable self-care.
Buy Yourself New Exercise Equipment
Because exercise looks different for everyone, what exercise equipment you want or buy would look different. Personally, I only walk and do yoga. So a brand new yoga mat or straps may be in the works for me. Other people may get some weights, resistance bands, or protein shakes (does that count?)
Visit A Museum or Art Gallery or Zoo
Who else could get lost in a museum for hours? 🙋🏾♀️ Many museums, art galleries, and zoos offer discounted (and even FREE!) admission if you’re in a certain affinity group (seniors, students, military, residents of certain areas, etc). For example, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo lets residents of Cuyahoga County (where I live!) into the zoo for free on Mondays. Check your local museums to see how you can get in for a discount!
Start A Scrapbook
Starting a scrapbook can be a wonderful form of inexpensive self-care and a way to put memories to paper. I had a co-worker (who was honestly more like another mom to me) who would scrapbook all of her cruises. Here’s a link to some supplies to get you started with your scrapbooking.
Buy Some Stocks
Yes, I admit. Stocks can absolutely be expensive, but not always. Apps like Robinhood can make investing in the stock market, easy and much less expensive. Financial self-care is important and investing is one small way you can take care of your future self.
Grab a Puzzle, Crossword, or Wordsearch
These are all really great ways to get in some intellectual self-care and keep your brain stimulated and alert. Word searches are my preference out of these but puzzles, crosswords, and even sudoku (which I have never mastered), are fun too!
Grab the Self-Care Toolkit
The Self-Care Toolkit is my own self-care workbook! It is over 35 pages of exercises to help you get your juices following about what self-care looks like for you. Click here to get it!
DIY Your Own Spa Day
Block off half of your day (or your entire day!) and have your own spa day at home. Grab those face masks that I mentioned earlier, get some bath bombs (or shower steamers if you’re not a bath person) and a glass of wine.
Learn to Sew, Knit, Or Crochet
I kind of know how to sew but have yet to master the art of crocheting or knitting. Both my mother and my sister are amazing are crocheting. All you need for this fun intellectual self-care idea is needles, thread, fabric, and/or yarn.
Buy Yourself A Piece of Meaningful Jewelry
As much as I love it, I don’t wear much jewelry, but the jewelry that I do wear often is very significant to me. The only piece of jewelry that I currently wear is a bracelet from MyIntent. With this, you can put a word or phrase that you’d like to remember.
Send A Letter or Postcard
In the same vein as volunteering, doing kind acts for others makes us feel better about ourselves. And that’s exactly what self-care is in a nutshell, doing things that will increase our happiness and decrease our discomfort.
All you need to do is get some paper (postcards), envelopes, and postage. All in all, it shouldn’t cost you much and absolutely will make someone else’s day brighter. If you want to get fancy, here’s some super cute stationary.
Buy A New Piece of Clothing
A brand new piece of clothing that you look amazing is can definitely fit in the category of “self-care on a budget”. All brand new means is that it’s new to you. Check out thrift stores and sites like eBay or thredUP for new looks for less. I’ve definitely sent (and bought) clothes with the tags still on them to thredUP (and eBay!).
Eat Some High-Quality Chocolate
No Hershey’s bars here (though those are quite delicious too). Head to your local grocery store and get the best chocolate you can find. If you want to splurge, even more, see if there is a local chocolate company that you can support. Don’t want to leave the house? Here are a few chocolates you can get on Amazon:
See A Play, Musical, or Comedy Show
Like with the museums, there are MANY ways that you can see performances on the cheap, including matinees, student or senior discounts, and loyalty programs. Another way to see a show on the cheap: look for smaller local productions. A college near me has productions every year and tickets are around $15 and I’m just as entertained as a big-budget production.
Get A Massage
There are plenty of ways to get a great massage without paying a premium price. One of my favorite ways to do this is to use Groupon. You can also look for massage therapy schools or buy your own personal massager (I love this one).
Therapy or Counseling
Yes, I know. Therapy is usually pretty expensive BUT there are many services that you can use that can provide low cost (or even free!) counseling if you qualify.
Check out this post for more therapy options!
Find A Support Group
In addition to (or instead of) traditional therapy, a support group may be a helpful addition to your self-care routine. There are many support groups both paid and FREE. It just depends on what you’re looking for and what works best for you. You can find support groups that are online or in person. Try using Psychology Today or 211 to find support groups in your area.
Buy A Couple of Crystals
Crystals are beautiful to look at and hold properties that can help you mentally, physically, and emotionally. I started learning about crystals about a year ago and love to use them in my meditation and yoga practice. Nice and big crystals can be expensive, but I recommend going to Etsy to find some smaller, inexpensive crystals.
Learn (and Cook) A New Recipe
I love trying new recipes, especially since I started doing keto. The reason that this is in the inexpensive self-care category is you will need to buy the ingredients (if you don’t have them)! Find a new recipe that you love, gather the ingredients, and see how it turns out!
Find A Healing Circle
I learned about healing circles or sister circles late last year after seeing a Facebook ad for one. I joined almost immediately. Healing circles are places where people who identify as women can come together, learn, share, support, and grow with each other. Healing circles can be in person or online, be a one-time event or on-going. My healing circle, in particular, is 9 months long. I recommend looking for them on Instagram or FaceBook.
Take An Online Course
Buy Yourself Flowers
Or another plant of your choice. I personally love succulents and Marimo Moss Balls (I have two I named Thor and Loki). I love my moss balls because they’re incredibly adorable but also super low maintenance – just a few drops of food every couple of days and changing the water a few times a month.
Get A Manicure or Pedicure
Like with the massage, this doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can also use Groupon for this, as well as nail schools/cosmetology schools. I had a friend who was in cosmetology school and she was always looking for people to practice on.
What did you think of these affordable self-care ideas? Are there any that you are thinking about doing? What are your favorite cheap self-care ideas? Let me know in the comments 🙂
Briana Hollis is a licensed social worker and self-care coach. She earned her Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in 2014 and her Master of Education from Tiffin University in 2019. She has spent the last 5 years working in crisis intervention. Her passion for serving others is the heart of this site. She started Learning To Be Free to assist others in bringing freedom to their lives.
Briana is also the author of The Self-Care Journal for Young Adults.