99 Free (Or Affordable) Self-Care Ideas For Your Wellness Routine
Do You Need More Self-Compassion?
After the year-that-shall-not-be-named, we find ourselves needing a hard reset, a re-focusing on our wellness. We’re all carrying something more tender than what we share on the stage of social media, but the performance of face masks and bubble baths won’t heal those deeper heartaches. We need real self-care.
Taking care of ourselves is hard work. Especially if we have other obligations: family, work, pets, bills, homes—the bare minimum can feel excruciatingly out of reach sometimes, and self-care just adds another thing to the list. But we can re-frame our perspective around taking good, true care of ourselves by remembering that self-care is as simple as self-respect. Going to bed early, saying “no” to that second beer, gazing upon something green and lush instead of a taunting cursor on an empty Google doc—these are all ways I personally practice caring for and respecting myself.
I’ve also learned to sit down on Sundays and plan self-care for the week ahead. For the days I have a lot going on, or know that I’ll be zonked from too many Zoom calls, I schedule something that I *already plan on doing* as self-care, like playing a video game, snuggling my rabbits, or drinking herbal tea. This is a powerful reminder that self-care doesn’t always look like one more thing, but rather it’s a framework that exists already in my daily routine.
Below, you’ll find 99 ideas for taking care of yourself on a budget, because so many of us, in our self-care deficit, are short on cash this year, too. As you pick a few of the below practices, remind yourself that they’re specifically meant to be caring and nurturing activities. (And when you’re done, be sure to hop to the comments and share what works for you!)
And it’s okay if you feel like you haven’t got it all “quite right.” Some days, I believe I’ve come a long way from self-loathing—and some days I’m right back inside it, engulfed by it. We’re human, and those days happen. Rest up, and try again tomorrow.
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—SELF-CARE AT HOME—
1. Wash your bedding, towels, robes, and curtains. Once you’ve re-fitted them in their proper places, breathe deeply. Remind yourself that stagnancy and sadness aren't permanent. We all just need a little tumble-dry sometimes.
2. Clear off every surface in your home, and wipe them down. Consider this a practice in clearing away mental clutter.
3. Reorganize your closet with this goal: I want to feel joy when I open this door. This isn’t a chore that needs begrudgingly crossed off your list; it’s engaging your creativity in order to enjoy your daily routines more thoroughly.
4. Change up the layout of your home, even if it's just nudging the couch a little to the left. Disrupt your flow in a positive and proactive way.
5. Clean out your purse or everyday bag.
6. Wipe the leaves of your houseplants to give them a lovely shine. Place them in the sunshine, and while you’re at it, sit in the sunlight with them. Soak it in.
8. Update some of your makeup and beauty products that are expired (here’s a guide to general use timelines), and recycle or refill old ones if possible.
9. List the tasks that have been weighing on you and get them done, one by one. You. Can. Do. It.
10. Dust your home. Underneath the gloom, so much is capable of shining.
11. Recycle your old newspapers, junk mail, magazines. Consider upcycling them into a low-pressure craft.
12. Add a bouquet to your home—you can purchase marked-down blooms at your supermarket, or forage one from flora already on the ground or from a few mindfully selected flowers. Even better? Upcycle old tissue paper into permanent floral fixtures.
13. Organize your finances and create an accessible and sustainable budget. Securing yourself financially, to the best of your ability, can remind you how valuable your time truly is.
14. Light a candle, burn some incense, or turn on an essential oil diffuser. Surround yourself with scents that evoke a memory or set an uplifting mood.
15. Make a blanket fort with your couch cushions. Read a book by flashlight under your covers. Remember what it’s like to be a kid again.
16. Polish your jewelry, clean your makeup brushes, wipe down your mirrors and clean your glasses. Replace the grime with a little shine.
17. Sort through your home library and organize your books by color or genre. Donate the ones you no longer love and consider lending a few favorites to neighbors or friends.
18. Create some art for your walls. Use what you have on hand, tack up some old photos, and decorate your space with what inspires you.
19. Organize your digital photos into folders on iCloud, Google Drive, or even on your desktop. Take your time with the activity reflecting on all your favorite moments and memories.
1. Give yourself an at-home mani-pedi. Soak your hands and your feet, trim your cuticles, apply multiple layers of nail polish—give yourself the gift of thoroughness.
2. Say no to “just one more episode” and swap in a gentle activity for twenty-five minutes—like stretching, reading, or just a prolonged bedtime routine.
3. Find a craft that works for you and schedule it ahead of time. Some soothing options are coloring, embroidering, crocheting, knitting, or needle punching.
4. Play a video game (here are some games that feel mindful and engaging.)
5. Make one thing better about what you already do during the day. For example, if you commute, try switching to music if the news is bringing you down. (You can catch up later!)
6. Switch up your morning routine and opt for coffee, breakfast, and a shower—all before you check your phone. Or, swap the morning Instagram scroll by subscribing to a thoughtful daily email newsletter.
7. Sketch the things you see in the room around you. This is an exercise in presence, where you can let your mind unwind and practice gratitude for the here and now.
8. Write poetry. Whether your words are Shakespearean or angsty, embrace them. What do your poems tell you about yourself?
9. Borrow an audiobook from your local library and listen to it while you’re cooking, cleaning, crafting, or exercising.
10. Plan an intentional movie night in advance, instead of just winging it. Pick out what you will watch, when, and with whom. Prep your snacks and your cozy blankets.
11. Attend a virtual concert by yourself or with your cohabitants. Make a date of it. Or, watch an archived concert! Search "full concert" on YouTube, or watch a Tiny Desk Concert.
12. Mend your well-loved garments, or ask someone else to help you do so. This can be an easy way to feel more put together, and restore life into your wardrobe.
13. If you have turned one of your hobbies into a business, spend time participating in your hobby like the good ol’ days. For example, if you’re a professional photographer, go out on a meandering photo walk. If you’re in school, try learning or reading something new that isn’t on your syllabus.
14. Bake yourself some fresh bread. Embrace the slowness of the process, indulge in the physical presence that kneading requires, take in the smell of the dough as it rises. Making bread costs very little, but the reward is always luxurious.
15. Whip up your favorite meal. Set the table with full silverware, put out a bottle of wine, sparkling water, and crystal-clean glasses. Light a candle. Focus on presentation and remind yourself that you are worthy of beautiful, nourishing, and delicious food.
16. Make extra food for dinner and package leftovers into tupperware that you can easily access for lunch the next day. While you’re at it, prep some overnight oats. Any mom will tell you, breakfast is the most important part of your day.
17. Read a parenting book for and about yourself. Consider how you might approach your own self-care and self-talk in basic ways, and re-establish trust with yourself.
18. Lay out a blanket and stargaze or cloudgaze. There is no goal, other than stretching your eyes and succumbing to your imagination.
19. Plant something—gardening has immense mental and emotional benefits. If you don't have land, nurture a houseplant. If you don't have houseplants, go outside and gently touch the plants on a morning walk. Stop and smell the roses, and enjoy the odd stares from passersby.
—SELF-CARE FOR YOUR BODY—
1. Pause whatever it is that you're doing and drink a glass of water. Keep a full water bottle or cup with you at all times.
3. Brew your morning coffee slowly (we love a French press), and then use the used grounds to gently exfoliate your skin during your next shower.
4. Pour boiling water into a heat-safe bowl, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and put a towel over it. Carefully bring your face under the towel, and enjoy the scent and the sensation of the steam.
5. Adorn your body in your favorite jewelry. No matter how luxurious the pieces are (or aren’t), remind yourself that you are worthy of adornment and celebration.
6. Try our favorite DIY matcha face mask. (It's not a self-care list without a face mask, is it?)
7. Make yourself a fruit platter; cut up apples, peel oranges, wash raspberries and blackberries, make melon balls—whatever’s in season, decorate a luxurious tray with delicious and affordable fruits. Indulge in the vibrant flavors of all your favorites.
8. If you drink, try intentionally skipping the booze on Friday night. Face any confronting feelings that may arise, embrace them, recognize them, then sleep soundly knowing that you won't have a headache tomorrow.
9. Take five, ten, or fifteen minutes to stretch. Meet yourself wherever your body is at—there is no need to set flexibility goals, just to move your body within its limits and enjoy the embodied movement.
10. Practice self-massage—your hands are a great place to start. Here's a guided hand massage with Tracee Ellis Ross.
11. Stand up and fold forward to get your head below your heart. Cradle your elbows into one another and let your head dangle for a few moments. Or, scooch your bum to a wall, and rest your legs vertically on the wall while you breathe deeply.
12. Go on a walk, even if it’s just around the block (you can try a walking meditation). If you live in a city, do a "stoplight walk," where each time you come to a red light, you take a right turn. There are no stops, and you get to take an unusual and unpredictable route.
13. Give yourself a self-breast exam. Familiarize yourself with what’s normal and what isn’t normal for your body, checking for lumps, inconsistencies, and points of pain.
14. Don’t turn on a morning alarm on days you don’t have to wake up early. If you have kids and a support person, let them know that you’re taking a morning to sleep in and they’re on-duty.
15. Do something physically exerting: break down cardboard boxes for recycling, sprint to the end of the block, jump rope in your driveway. Imagine your stress exhausting itself and leaving your body.
17. Use a homemade sugar scrub to exfoliate your lips, then neatly apply your favorite lip color or balm. Smile in the mirror and tell yourself something lovely, because kindness on our lips is the ultimate topcoat.
18. Get a lotion in your favorite scent. (Here are some made using organic ingredients, but any lotion will do!) After your next shower, apply it generously and lovingly over every inch of your body. This body, with all its odd bits and bobs, is yours.
19. Schedule the appointments that support your wellbeing—you can do them all at once, or slowly add to your list throughout the coming weeks. Even if making calls is stressful, give that time as a gift to your future self.
20. Take the medicine, the vitamins, the supplements that serve you. Go off the medicines when you feel it's time, and if/when you have the proper support from your healthcare team.
21. Take exactly the type of shower you want to take. Long, short, hot, cold, filled with luxurious products or affordable bar soap; bathe and refresh the body that helps you face the world.
22. During your morning or evening routine, take a few extra moments to brush your hair slowly or massage your scalp. Brush a few more times than you need to; this, too, can be self-care.
23. Ask for a hug or for physical touch that soothes you.
24. Change your underwear—and choose the comfiest clean pair you can find. Wash your bras. For those who are in a rut or are experiencing depression, this can be a powerful reminder that you deserve care, cleanliness, and comfy ultra high-rise cotton briefs.
25. Go outside. Just put on your shoes and get outside; let your body decide on the rest. Maybe you only get so far as standing in the sunlight. That's enough.
26. Swap coffee for tea, and lots of it. Tea is hydrating and nourishing, and can be easier on our stomachs (especially if you opt for herbal).
27. Surround yourself with sensory experiences—smell, sight, taste, touch, sound. Smell, taste, and touch are particularly good at connecting me back with my body.
—SELF-CARE FOR YOUR MIND—
1. Find a quiet space to pray; you don't have to be of a specific religious persuasion to converse with the universe.
2. Spend twenty minutes unfollowing accounts on social media that make you feel less-than. If you can’t unfollow, consider muting them—they’ll never know! You’ll feel lighter afterwards.
3. Learn to meditate, even if it's only ten minutes a day, even if you're "bad" at it. Create time and space to just exist.
4. Make a Spotify playlist of all your favorite songs. Disappear into it, and allow the memories associated with each song to wash over you.
5. Create or join a book club, or a spiritual support and discussion group.
6. Practice good phone hygiene! Clean your phone and update your OS. Turn off all the red notification bubbles that you don’t need.
7. Take pictures of everything you’re grateful for, wherever you are in the moment. Maybe start a private photo album of these pictures to revisit on difficult days, or try using Instagram as a gratitude diary.
8. Make yourself a cup of tea and unsubscribe to every unnecessary email list. Clear your inbox so future you can clear their mind.
10. Snuggle your pets. Seriously, it releases dopamine and relaxes a stressed brain.
11. Create a Pinterest mood board full of things that stir you and inspire you.
12. Allow yourself to indulge in a daydream while you’re walking, listening to music, cleaning the house. When a strange idea or memory comes to mind, don’t push it away. Follow the story.
13. Take an online class via one of these free (and affordable) online education platforms.
14. Organize your Google Drive, desktop, and/or phone home screen. Set your background to an image or quote that inspires and supports you.
15. Set a reminder of a positive affirmation for yourself somewhere in the future—a week, a month, a year from now. ("Hey Siri, remind me in twenty days that everything will be okay.")
16. Update your passwords, and keep yourself safe online.
17. Re-read one of your favorite books from when you were younger, re-watch your favorite movie, eat your favorite childhood snacks. Remember what entertainment brought you joy as a kid!
18. Have a park day without your phone (I love to bring a craft, a book of poetry, and plenty of tasty snacks).
19. Plan something in advance—whether it’s the kind of takeout you’ll order on Friday, or it’s a two-week vacation five years from now. Having something to look forward to can help you stay motivated and optimistic.
20. Practice generosity by donating or volunteering. Whatever it is, do it quietly and intentionally for a cause that is meaningful to you.
21. Say no to answering questions that are easily answered with a Google search. Your time and energy are worthy of boundaries.
22. Engage in some self-directed art therapy.
23. Develop positive affirmations that work for you, and find visible or memorable ways to use them daily.
24. Journal honestly. Here's a list of writing prompts for whatever emotion you may be feeling right now.
25. Write down your biggest aspirations and hope for yourself—the BIGGEST ones, this means no holds barred. No one needs to see this.
26. Find your Enneagram number, read up on your birth chart, take a Meyers-Briggs assessment; engage mindfully in these things to connect more deeply with yourself (remember, these aren’t meant to “tell you who you are”, rather they’re meant to help you learn more about the way you move about in this world).
27. Write a letter to your younger self. What do you know now that younger you would be amazed by?
28. Handwrite a note to your present self. What is it that you want to remember? Could be to pick up coffee at the store, or it could be that you are worthy and loved.
29. If positive self-talk is difficult for you, consider practicing neutral self-talk. Take the small steps that work for you.
30. Write out your values. What is most important to you, and how can you more deeply prioritize these things in your daily life?
31. Remind yourself of who you are, beyond what you are in relation to others. Maybe you're a parent or a child—but who are you outside of that label?
32. Track your moods for a day, or for several days. Put names to what you're feeling every two hours or so, and reflect on the ways your moods fluctuate, and what impacts them positively or negatively.
33. Text a trusted friend how you’re feeling. It's okay to be direct about what you need—a listening ear, a loving word, or tender advice.
34. Forgive someone, even if it’s yourself.
Emily Torres is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.