How to treat yourself, even on a budget


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Who doesn’t like to hear the words “Good job!” or “I’ve got a little treat for you”? Almost no one. And the fun part is, you can be the person bestowing good will upon yourself.

As recognition for wrangling a tough work project, getting through a stressful week, being a good friend, or finishing a home-repair project, it’s important to pat yourself on the back. And there’s room in almost any budget for a little reward. Low-cost and free treats can serve as positive reinforcement without launching you on that slippery slope of overspending.

Recommended: Guide to Practicing Financial Self-Care


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Why Treating Yourself Is Essential

Treating yourself is a form of self-care, which is a way of showing yourself kindness by engaging in acts that make you feel good. Studies on self-care have found it can help reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, manage stress, and increase happiness.

Treats or self-rewards are a pat on the back; a way of recognizing that you’re doing a good job and meeting goals. Fortunately, there’s room in almost any budget for them. Whether an occasional bouquet of supermarket roses or a TGIF beer with friends, these purchases are unlikely to wreak havoc on your finances or trigger a situation in which you can’t stop overspending.

Maybe you asked for and got a raise at work, buckled down on your budget, finally cleaned out your closets, or just feel you need a lift after a draining week. It’s time to treat yourself. Consider these free or low-cost rewards.

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1. Drop in for a Single Yoga Class

Yoga provides a plethora of physical and mental benefits, such as helping to relieve back and neck pain, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress. Many yoga studios offer drop-in classes, with the average price about $16 a class. If that’s a bit steep, YouTube features an array of free yoga videos led by experienced instructors.

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2. Get a Cup of Fancy Coffee

Making coffee at home saves tons of money, but there’s nothing like the occasional barista-made cappuccino or flat white from your favorite coffee shop. Whether you have one as Monday motivation to start your week off right or reward yourself on a weekend AM, it can be a low-cost bit of self-care.

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3. Pick up a Bouquet of Flowers

Treat yourself to some colorful blooms from your local grocery store. Research  has shown flowers can improve mood and increase happiness.

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4. Buy Yourself Your Favorite Ice Cream

Many of us have cheered up a kid with an ice cream cone. Why not do the same thing for yourself? Mint chip, strawberry, and good old vanilla just begin to describe the possibilities.

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5. Go for an Inexpensive Mani-Pedi

Many nail salons offer weekly specials that include a manicure, pedicure, and perhaps a short massage. It can be an affordable way to help you look and feel good. Go ahead and pamper yourself on a budget.

Recommended: 15 Creative Ways to Save Money

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6. Take a Nap

Few things feel as good as a power nap. If you work from home, schedule one as you see fit; office workers can squeeze one in on weekends. A snooze of 30 to 60 minutes can refresh you, improve your mood, and increase alertness. It’s a great way to treat yourself without spending money. Just beware of sleeping more than an hour though; it can leave you feeling groggy and interfere with your nighttime slumber.

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7. Stream Some Shows

Streaming channels such as Hulu, Apple TV+ and Paramount+ offer free trial periods ranging from a week to a month. That could be enough time to binge-watch those shows you’ve been hearing about without necessarily signing up for a monthly subscription.

Recommended: 7 Ways to Achieve Financial Self-Discipline

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8. Camp Out

Camping for a night or two is typically an inexpensive pursuit. Being out in nature, taking a walk in the woods, and looking up at the constellations at night can be a wonderful treat and spirit-reviver. Not for you? How about an afternoon of forest bathing near your home? All that means is spending time in nature, focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods.

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9. Visit a Local Museum

Whether you look at Old Masters art or challenging avant-garde works, a museum visit can immerse you in beauty and share refreshing new perspectives. Most museums either have specific days or times when entry fees are free or reduced.

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10. Get Crafty

Having a creative outlet is not only a way to relieve stress, it’s also fun. A good self-reward can be to spark your creativity with anything from an adult coloring book to a ceramics lesson.

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11. Have a Nice Lunch or Dinner Out

Most of us grab takeout now and then, but a special self-reward can be to plan a meal at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try or sampling a type of food you don’t usually eat. Invite a friend you’d like to catch up with; that can make it more memorable. Tip: Check out special offers, like a prix fixe menu, to make your outing even more affordable.

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12. Spend a Day at the Beach

Sun, sand, and surf have a way of restoring one’s spirits, as does the sound of seagulls. It’s a terrific way to spend a day, even off-season. You might have to pay for parking, but otherwise, this outing can be a very low-cost way to treat yourself.

Recommended: Sticking to a Summer Budget

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13. Visit a Thrift Shop or Flea Market

Shopping second-hand, especially one where the proceeds go to a charitable organization, is a great way to reward yourself with inexpensive clothing, jewelry, books, cookware, and maybe even the perfect acoustic guitar. You’re also helping the environment since thrifting keeps items out of landfills and incinerators.

Recommended: A Guide to Ethical Shopping

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14. Take a Mental Health Day

It may take some planning and organization, but gifting yourself a day off to rest and recharge can help prevent burnout and reduce stress. Spend it however you like: Lazing on the couch, out taking photos, or visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

Recommended: Making Money Through Social Media

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15. Listen to Live Music

Sure, you could splurge on a major concert, but local bars, beer gardens, and other spots often have live music without any sticker-shock tickets. Whether it’s folk, Zydeco, or classic-rock covers, you’re likely to feel better for it. Music has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve one’s mood.

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16. Buy a Good Book

A good story can transport you away from daily life. Why not treat yourself to one? You can stop by the bookstore and purchase that book you’ve been wanting or listen to it while you’re taking a walk, driving, or relaxing at home. Borrow an audiobook from the library or enjoy a 30-day free trial at

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The Takeaway


Everyone needs and deserves a treat now and then: a reward for saving money, getting kudos at work, or finally organizing your coat closet. Self-care can boost your mental health and keep you motivated with your goals. There are endless ways to treat yourself, and plenty of ways to do so without busting your budget. With the ideas described here, you can reward yourself and stay on track money-wise, which is a win-win.

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