Self-care has been a topic that has come up again and again throughout the past few years, in everything from my social work education to articles on my favourite cooking blog. If you search for it, you can find a zillion articles on what self-care is and tips on how to practice it. My problem with a lot of these tips though is that they encourage you to spend more money, especially if you’re a woman. The other problem that I have with these is the idea that self-care has to be an indulgence all of the time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like my indulgences (I was eating a cookie for breakfast while I drafted this post!), but it’s often expensive indulgences that are promoted. So many people recommend things like getting a pedicure or going on a pricey meditation retreat for self-care. The “treat yo-self” idea has become a huge self-care phenomenon. These ideas are huge problems for me, as a person who believes that people should aim to be more intentional, purposeful, and hopefully even frugal with their money.
Now that I am more into frugality, I am seeing more and more aspects of my life through a frugal lens. The more I thought about my problems with a lot of the common conceptions of self care, I realized that my frugality – not my spending – was one of the best self-care methods I employed.
Why? First of all, frugality limits my options (in a good way!) by limiting the choices I have to make every day, which reduces my stress. For example, I don’t have to choose what to buy for lunch every day; I just eat the food I brought from home. This frees up my mental energy for other things, like focusing on doing well at my job. Choosing to go for a hike for a date with J., rather than eating out at an expensive restaurant, is good for my health and my wallet.
Secondly, frugality has helped me to prioritize what’s important in my life and cut out what’s not. This means that my focus is on the things that are important to me – my relationships and health – rather than things that are not. I’m spending money on time with my friends and family, not frivolous stuff. This makes me happier and healthier because I focus on enjoying my life and the people in it.
Finally, frugality helps me prepare for the unexpected. Knowing that I have an emergency fund and savings in the bank means that I know that we have the resources to deal with the unexpected twists and turns of life. If our car breaks, we can afford to fix it. If one of us loses our jobs, we can still afford to live. I don’t have to worry about being one step away from the edge of the proverbial financial cliff. Instead, we’re several steps back and can take time to enjoy the view.
How about you? Do you find that frugality has decreased your stress and helped you take care of yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!