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Treat Yo’ Self - Luxury on Tight Budgets

I like to think I’m something of an expert on low to no budget self-care.

We are bombarded on a daily basis with images of celebrities cradled in the lap of luxury. We open up Instagram only to flick through reminders of the gourmet meals we aren’t eating, the tropical beaches we aren’t on, the designer clothes and latest technology we can’t afford.

It can get a little disheartening—draining, even. You can’t help but compare your homemade cup of coffee to the picture of an enormous, frothy cappuccino a celebrity you’ve never even heard of shared from a posh cafe somewhere in London.

Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford from NBC’s Parks and Recreation had the right idea with their annual “Treat Yo’self” tradition. You don’t have to go as big as they did, but you can find ways to reward yourself regularly without ruining your budget. And you should! Donna and Tom set aside one day of the year to treat themselves. If that works for you, follow in their footsteps!

If you’re like me, though, you probably can’t justify the financial hurricane of a tradition like that. Here’s where what I like to call Accessible Luxury comes in.

First, let me remind you that luxury can describe a feeling rather than material, tangible things. If you can separate the feeling of luxury from the (expensive) things companies try to sell you to make you feel luxurious, you’ll begin to recognize the feelings of overwhelming happiness, relaxation, and contentment that are always available to you. Luxury and high price tags do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Here are some of my favourite ways to experience that lavish, all-consuming feeling of calm and contentment, without drying up my bank account.

DIY Float Therapy

You might be familiar with float therapy, or sensory deprivation tanks. But you don’t have to shell out $100 just to lay in a capsule of salt water in total darkness to reap the benefits. Water is naturally calming to humans, so find a way to interact with it that calms you. DIY your own float therapy by adding whatever essential oils you have around the house to a hot bath. Use bubbles, salts, bath bombs, whatever makes you feel relaxed. Personally, I love spooning in a few generous tablespoons of coconut oil into my baths. Put on your favourite calming music playlist, leave your phone outside the bathroom, and shut off all the lights. (Consider lighting a candle for some extra aromatherapy, and as a safety precaution when you need to get out of the tub!) Stay as long as you like, or set a timer you’ll be able to hear so you don’t totally lose track of time. Even a 20 minute soak will do.

If you’re not much for the sensory deprivation aspect, pour yourself a glass of wine or iced tea to sip on while you relax in the bath. Bring a book and a few munchies. Slather on a face mask or finish up by using a DIY sugar scrub. As long as you keep the lights low and your phone far, far away, this is a low-cost, luxe way to wind down from your day.

Thrift Shopping

If you’re feeling a little bit spendy, skip the mall and head straight for your closest thrift shop. People truly do not realize what a treasure trove of brand-name, designer pieces these places are. You can find some absolutely stunning pieces of clothing, furniture, homeware, and kitchenware at these places. Plus, the rush you get when you stumble upon that perfect something that you weren’t even looking for is incomparable. You won’t have to worry about whether or not you can afford both of the designer label sweaters you fell in love with and that cool vintage concert tee shirt, because chances are, you can. This is a great place to feel like you’re splurging without doing major damage to your wallet.

Entirely optional, but before you set out on your grand shopping spree, think about giving your closet a clean-out. Bag everything up and donate it all before you start shopping. You’re killing so many birds with the same stone, you’ll lose count; you’re cleaning up your space, donating to those in need, and reducing your environmental impact by buying used clothes.

Art Galleries & Museums

So you can’t jet off first-class to Paris to see The Louvre. They may not have original Picassos or Monets, but the art galleries and museums in your area have art and artifacts that are probably brand new to you. At least for me, it’s way more interesting and fulfilling to be exposed to art and history that I’m unfamiliar with. Even if you aren’t contemplating the Mona Lisa’s smile, you’ll still get a healthy dose of that lavish artistic culture as you walk among both historical and contemporary art. Most museums and galleries offer discounted or even free admission on certain days or evenings during the month, so use those to your advantage. Get dressed up a little fancier than usual, grab a friend if you want to, and drink in the unique art and culture of your own pocket of the world.

Animal Therapy

Most people are aware of the long list of positive effects animals have on humans - it’s why so many of us keep pets. For a lot of people, though, having a pet is not possible. The cost alone is substantial, to say nothing of the time and responsibility they demand. If you’re an animal lover, consider calling up your local animal shelter and ask about volunteer opportunities to walk, play, and spend time with the animals there. Many animal shelters house many more types of animals than just cats and dogs, you can often find reptiles, rodents, and birds. Spend a few hours tossing a ball around with an energetic pup, cuddling a cat, or learn how to hold a snake.

Not only will time spent relaxing and having fun with animals make you feel calmer and happier, but you’ll get the extra benefit of knowing you are making a difference to animals that don’t have families yet. What feels better than that?

Time Crunch? No Problem

Whether it’s a shortage of money or time, you can, and should, make your own happiness a priority. If you’re finding it hard to squeeze in time to indulge yourself,

With only so many hours in the day and only so many dollars in the bank, it’s really easy to put yourself and your happiness on the backburner. Sometimes, finding the energy to do the things that make you happy gets lost or depleted in the daily grind. Remind yourself that sometimes, the dishes in the sink can wait a day. Paint your nails, pick up that book you haven’t touched in a month, re-open that meditation app you only ever used once.

  • Buy yourself a bunch of daisies or tulips from the supermarket while you’re getting groceries;
  • Throw a batch of pre-made cookies into the oven while you’re cooking dinner to enjoy after your meal;
  • Sing, loudly and dramatically, when a song you like comes on the radio while you’re in the car;
  • Change your bedsheets (or even just your pillowcases) so future-you can climb into a fresh, clean bed — you’d have to wash them eventually anyway!
  • Take a nap. Give yourself permission to knock out for just a half hour. Or, head to bed half an hour earlier.

Everyone is different, so try not to compare luxuries in your life to someone else’s. It’s not a competition, even though social media makes it feel like that sometimes. Self care and indulgence should serve to detox your mind, so it is in fact a deeply personal experience.

What’s your favourite inexpensive way to treat yourself? Let me know!

Natasha Dawn

Natasha Dawn

Natasha is the Content Coordinator and in-house Editor for Daily Life. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alberta, where she majored in English and minored in Women's and Gender Studies. Although you won't see her name as often as the other writers on the Daily Life... Read More

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