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How to Spend Money Strategically for Self-Care

Money

Although I don’t believe self-care should be the commercialized money machine it has become, I do think there is a way to spend money strategically for self-care. I’ve written before about the importance of asking for help. Sometimes, we need to bite the bullet and pay for that help. So, let’s think about how we can spend money strategically for our own self-care.

I want to note that there is a lot of privilege involved in being able to pay for help as an act of self-care. Not all the ideas below will work for everyone. However, I’m including low- and no-cost options that might make some of these services more affordable.

Childcare

Sometimes, as moms, we just need a break from our kids. Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, there can be hang-ups to the idea of paying for childcare specifically so that you can rest. A working mom might feel guilty because her children are already in childcare while she works. A stay-at-home mom might struggle to justify the expense of childcare because she’s not earning an income, or because she chose to stay home with her children.

Low- and No-Cost Alternatives
  • Family members. If you have family nearby, they are an obvious choice to ask to babysit.
  • Childcare swap. Do you have a friend or neighbor who would be willing to trade childcare with you? This might work during the daytime, or for a weekend date night.
  • Playdates. My children are now old enough that I don’t have to supervise much when they have a friend over. A playdate for my children frees me almost as much as a babysitter!
  • Mother’s helpers. When my oldest was not quite two years old, I asked a homeschooling family from our church if their young daughter (who was 12 or 13 at the time) would be interested in caring for my toddler for a couple of hours once a week so that I could catch up on tasks at home. Because I was home and this was her first babysitting job, I started out paying her about $3/hour. Bonus: As our sitter grew up, she – and later her sister – became two beloved babysitters, and they were able to take on more and more responsibility, so that I could leave the house, confident my kids were in great hands.
  • Mother’s Day Out. Some churches offer this inexpensive childcare option for moms of young children who need a break.

Meals

Meal planning and food prep can be incredibly time-consuming! Spending money strategically for self-care in this area might be worth it for you. For most of us, hiring a personal chef is outside our budget. (Google tells me they cost $30-40/hour.) However, there are multiple ways to simplify meals so that you have more time to care for yourself.

Low- and No-Cost Alternatives
  • A meal delivery kit. There are so many options, from Hello Fresh to Blue Apron and beyond. Now there are kits for almost any way of eating (gluten-free, keto, etc.).
  • If you can’t find a meal delivery kit that works within your budget, a service like PrepDish might be a better option. PrepDish gives you a meal plan, shopping list, and a step-by-step plan to help you prep all your dinners for the week in just a couple of hours. If you don’t mind cooking, but hate meal planning, this would be a great option.
  • Dinner swap. If you have a friend whose family eats similarly to yours, you might try a dinner swap. There are so many ways to arrange this, but essentially, you’ll double your dinner one night, and deliver half to your friend’s house. She doesn’t have to cook that night! Later in the week, she’ll do the same for you. You could do this with several friends – if four of you quadruple one meal, you’ll cook once and get four night’s worth of meals! Or you and one friend could each double three meals. That means you’ll only have to prepare three dinners, and three others will be delivered to your door.
  • Grocery delivery or pickup is one way to skip the store and save time. I waxed poetic about my newfound love for Wal*Mart grocery pickup on my Instagram stories earlier this summer. It’s saved under the “Food Prep” highlight.

Counseling

I’m a huge fan of counseling. My counselor has helped me to untangle some challenging situations. Counseling, however, is not cheap. It’s an investment (of money, time, and emotional energy) that I believe is absolutely worth it, but I recognize that the cost can make it feel very inaccessible.

Low- and No-Cost Alternatives
  • Many counselors offer a sliding scale for fees based on your income. It’s worth asking about this because offices may offer it without advertising it.
  • Your counselor will probably have a recommendation for how frequently you visit, especially when you begin counseling. However, if you’re up front about your need to spread your visits out to save money, a counselor should be willing to work with you. Rather than visiting weekly, see if it works for you to stretch it out to two to three weeks between sessions.
  • Some people swear by Better Help or another online option for counseling.
  • Although most people go to counseling because they need professional help, sometimes a wise friend or mentor can help us think through a difficult situation.

Cleaning Service

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who hates cleaning more than me. It is literally my least favorite thing. A couple of years ago, we were able to afford a wonderful cleaning lady for a season. (COVID shut that down, and then I found a good rhythm and we continued without her.) We may soon be in a season where we ask her to return.

Low- and No-Cost Alternatives
  • Spreading out your cleaning lady’s visits will help you to maintain a baseline level of cleanliness in your home without breaking the bank.
  • Service swap with a friend or family member. As I mentioned, I hate cleaning. My sister doesn’t like to cook, but she doesn’t mind (or perhaps even…enjoys?) cleaning. Sadly, we don’t live in the same town, but we’ve dreamed about how great it would be, if we did, for her to clean my house while I cook her meals.
  • If cleaning is as abhorrent to you as it is to me, you might find a few systems helpful. Kendra Adachi, a.k.a. The Lazy Genius has several episodes that truly transformed the way I keep house: cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, and cleaning routines.

Exercise

You certainly don’t have to pay to exercise; movement is blessedly free. However, if movement is important to you, but you find yourself struggling to make it happen, perhaps investing in a gym membership will help you to prioritize this particular act of self-care. Exercise is important for my mental health as much as my physical health, so we have a line in the budget for our monthly YMCA membership. (And bonus – it includes childcare!)

Low- and No-Cost Alternatives
  • Planet Fitness is a local gym that offers $10/month membership, and there are usually a couple of times a year when they waive the joiner’s fee.
  • Some companies have a gym on-site or offer reduced membership rates at local fitness centers. Check with your HR department.
  • Some health insurance plans offer reduced rates or incentives for joining a gym.
  • There are lots of apps and subscriptions that help you work out at home for less than a monthly gym membership. (Peloton, for example, is $12.99/month. Of course, you do have to invest in a stationary bike! Other memberships wouldn’t require such pricey equipment to get started.)
  • YouTube is full of free workout videos. Yoga with Adriene is one of my favorite channels.

When to Spend Money for Self-Care

It can be hard to make the decision to invest in your own self-care. Thankfully, there are many ways to care for yourself that don’t cost a dime. However, when you do decide to invest in yourself, you can choose to spend money strategically for self-care.

Most of us can’t afford all these options all the time – and we don’t even need them all! But, in some seasons, we might need to give ourselves permission to invest so that we’re not carrying such a heavy burden. This summer, I’ve prioritized money spent on childcare so that I can spend eight (uninterrupted) hours a week writing. My husband and I are currently discussing if we should hire a cleaning lady this fall. In some seasons, counseling has been a vitally important self-care practice for me. A few years ago, we invested in a gym membership, and that has been a consistently valuable line item in our budget.

Whatever season you find yourself in, I hope you’ll find ways to prioritize yourself, and to spend money strategically for self-care.


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