How To Invest In Yourself (Without Breaking The Bank)
In 2017, I made a 2018 "resolution" that was really more of a phrase: listen to and trust your gut. I'll be sharing more on my progress there in a separate post but focusing on tuning into my body and my mind has been immensely helpful the first few months of the new year. As I've begun trusting my gut, another voice has been whispering-- "invest in yourself". This is a complicated phrase for me.
I tend to focus on trying to solve everyones problems before my own. I typically invest in myself in rigid ways related to my health-- eating on a schedule, working out regularly, going to this or that doctors appointment. I also usually truly invest in myself only when the situation becomes desperate. This past year, I'd been in a state of constant stress and anxiety-- desperately trying to care for myself and also be a functioning human being. But here's the thing I've finally realized--caring for yourself and investing in yourself are two totally different entities.
You care for yourself when you schedule that doctor's appointment. You invest in yourself when you finally schedule the therapist appointment you've been afraid to make.
You care for yourself when you eat a salad instead of ordering Chinese from Seamless. You invest in yourself when you do the hard work of understanding why you've labeled Chinese "bad" and salad "good".
You care for yourself when you take a bath or paint your nails at the end of a stressful week. You invest in yourself when you set five minutes aside to meditate every day--no matter how busy you are.
See the difference? Caring for yourself is in the moment. Investing in yourself takes more self-reflection and effects you in the long run.
So, here are a few suggestions for how to invest in yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and any other -lly you can think of, without going broke. I've included different investment levels here for whatever your financial situation will allow.
SPLURGE: GO ON VACATION
If you feel exhausted and like everything is just moving too fast, try to schedule a quick vacation. A few days in the sun, away from the daily stressors of life will do a world of good and provide a fresh perspective for when you return, allowing you to feel mentally ready to take on whatever challenges await. Can't do a few days? Try one night away, even if it's in a hotel or Airbnb. Getting out of the environment where your stress is can really help.
EXPLORE: INVEST IN A MENTAL CLEARING TOOLKIT
On the investment side, you can build a mental clearing toolkit at home for when you need to unwind. Mine consists of my essential oil diffuser, Himalayan salt lamp, cozy blanket, and Vata tea. The diffuser uplifts, the salt lamp eliminates negative energy, and the tea is grounding. And at least once a week, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Yes, I said it. To clear my head there's nothing better than the smell of sweet orange oil and the sound of Kourtney and Kim while sipping my tea.
SAVE: TAKE FIFTEEN MINUTES EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Every day, schedule fifteen minutes to clear your head. For me, that's writing freely in a journal, taking a bath, or reading. Whatever you can do to help you settle is well worth the time you'll spend not on your to do list.
SPLURGE: HIRE A TRAINER
- Start With a Free Session: Many gym trainers offer the first session for free with your membership--if not, it's worth the ask. So many people think that you need to use a trainer for a year or more, but really, you want them to show you a regular routine that you can do on your own. You shouldn't need more than a few months!
- Expand Your Definition of a Trainer: You don't need to go to the gym to get a trainer. Seriously. I have been absolutely floored by how amazing the Base Body Babes program is that I started in January. The trainers, who are located in Sydney, have created an online program for $35 a month where they create custom weekly workouts and optimize your training through a private Facebook group. (more on them in a later post)
EXPLORE: INVEST IN EQUIPMENT OR A MEMBERSHIP
- Become a Member For Cheap: If you're looking to get a gym membership, see if your office or your friend's offices have any deals--a lot of companies offer discounted rates to keep their workforce healthy. If not, head to a gym at the end of the month when salespeople are looking to meet month end numbers and more willing to negotiate.
- Invest in Equipment: Nick and I just invested in a "home gym" that cost us under $100 and is great for a home workout. We have a set of tiered weights, a foam roller, a pilates ring, some booty bands, and two mats (I got mine for free, thanks Samsung 837!). It eliminates any excuses to workout and saves you the gym membership. Plus if we can fit it in our 650 square foot NYC apartment, you can too.
SAVE: WORKOUT FOR FREE
You don't need money or space to get in shape. There is so much online for free that can help you get moving and you can always run or walk outside. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Blogilates: Pilates taught by Cassey Ho who is approachable, funny, and a great instructor. I especially love her bed stretching video.
- Tone It Up: The Tone It Up girls are amazing and I also love following their Instagram for healthy inspiration. Plenty of easy, no equipment needed workouts on their channel.
- POPSUGAR Fitness: For the girl who likes variety, POPSUGAR offers everything from Barre to Bollywood on their channel with plenty of different instructors to keep your workouts exciting.
SPLURGE: GO ON A RETREAT
My cousin and the women in her extended family go to Canyon Ranch every year for a long weekend to connect and get spiritual. While many of us can't afford a long weekend (or a retreat) there are some low cost ones worth exploring. A few to check out:
- Well + Good Retreats: With their inaugural trip to Palm Springs, one of my favorite health blogs is offering a new way to get in touch with their experts and learn about yourself in the process. Still a bit on the pricey side at $2,100-$3,000 but worth checking out if you can swing it.
- Wanderlust 108: Offering all the zen of a full Wanderlust festival in a condensed amount of time with some swag courtesy of Adidas, this one day festival offers running, yoga, and meditation and tours most major cities in the U.S. Tickets range from $20-$150 depending on what perks you choose.
EXPLORE: FIND YOUR ZEN IN A CLASS
Meditation and mindfulness have become so mainstream that people are now meditating together. Yoga is always a good place to find your zen but if you're like me and yoga doesn't really work with your body, there are pure meditation spots as well. Some of my favorite in NYC:
- Inscape: Guided meditations in the most futuristic space
- MNDFL: A chic space where you can "book your cushion" with a rotating schedule of all star meditation instructors to guide your chill
SAVE: MEDITATE THROUGH APPS
There are so many free meditation apps that you can use. Mine is a tiny bit of a splurge ($3) but I've been hooked for three years now. Buddhify provides custom meditations for all areas of your life and now even offers a custom wheel so you can pick and choose what meditations work best for you.
SPLURGE: GET A FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Seriously Sarah? I'm not even thirty, I don't need a financial advisor. Hear me out. It's actually pretty easy now with sites like ElleVest to have an advisor with paying so much for one. I've also heard good things about Betterment, LearnVest, and Wealthfront.
EXPLORE: USE ONLINE TOOLS
There are so many tools now that can help you budget and that offer new ways to look at your finances. Try Quicken or apps like Mint and Acorns to get started. You can also set up repeating transfers with your bank. I set up monthly transfers from my paycheck into savings so I'm saving but don't even have to think about it.
SAVE: EXCEL IS YOUR FRIEND
Nick is great at this one. Color coded with beautiful formulas and perfect labels, I've actually been envious of his Excel budget. But honestly, it doesn't need to be pretty to work. Keep track of your budget by using Excel to see what you spend each month. Learn what you're spending most on and where you need to save money or what you can cut. Here's a great tutorial on making a simple budget.
SPLURGE: GET A FULL WORKUP
This is my first year of paying my health insurance and man is it expensive. I totally understand not wanting to head to the doctor and pay for a full workup (beyond your yearly physical), but if you have the money, consider going to a place like Parsley Health which offers a full work up and access to a doctor and nutritionist as well as tons of other perks for $500. If you like it or find it helpful, you can also switch to a monthly rate.
EXPLORE: SWAP YOUR FOOD
I've said it before in many of my posts and I'll say it again--clean eating is the best approach to keeping yourself healthy. I understand that organic food is so expensive but if you can't afford to make the switch, just make small switches. Use the dirty dozen if you can only buy a few things organic, pick up some frozen veggies at Walmart to use in shakes and soups, or order an imperfect produce box to get whole foods inexpensively. Switch slowly--any move is progress!
SAVE: DO SOME RESEARCH
What's been bothering you? Migraines? Stomach aches? Back pain? Google "remedies", "stretches", or "solutions" to find some free and low cost options and invest the time in really digging into the research. So much of what has helped me I've found through relentless research so join the support groups, read the high-science articles, and look at holistic and non-holistic sites to determine what a few steps you can take in the coming months might be to getting yourself back on track.
SPLURGE: FIND A THERAPIST
Investing in a therapist is the single best health choice I've made for myself this year. At $150 a week, it doesn't come cheap, but health insurance does help and my physical and mental health are infinitely better because I've invested in working through my anxiety and depression week after week. I personally think everyone should try therapy at least once but also recognize it's incredibly expensive. So, if you're able to afford it and you feel you need some help mentally, this is definitely an investment I would highly recommend.
EXPLORE: TRY ONLINE THERAPY
It took me over a year to find a therapist in New York that I liked and that didn't cost half my paycheck. Still, therapy can get expensive fast. Online therapy offers a conscious option where you can still get the help you need through a professional online.
I honestly never listened to the advice of health bloggers when they explained how helpful journaling was. Then, my therapist asked me to start keeping a journal. I write down random thoughts in it when I'm feeling stressed, thoughts that I'd never say aloud but that release stress from my body once down on paper. I write down my dreams and work on interpreting them. Sometimes I write down silly thoughts or quotes I like or even random drawings. Magically, when I began doing this, I started to fall asleep much more easily and was able to sleep through the night. Don't believe me? Check out this article to see the proof.
SPLURGE: PIMP YOUR DESK
Ready to go next level at the office? It's time to ball out. Invest in a standing desk or swap your chair for a stability ball to get in an extra workout. Add a lamp with soft light for a break from the institutional lighting. Buy some beautiful coasters that you don't need to brighten up the space. Make it yours--if your paycheck allows of course. Mine does not :-)
EXPLORE: REFRESH YOUR SPACE
Did you know that employees with greenery around their work space are more efficient? Spruce up your space and make it your own. Buy a succulent, pin up your favorite motivational quotes, and pick up some beautiful desk accessories (Ban.do and Poppin are desk all stars). Coming into a beautiful space every morning, even if it's just your cubicle, can make the day better.
SAVE: CLEAN HOUSE
You spend so long at your desk five or more days a week--can you imagine all the dirt that piles up? Not to mention all the binders, folders, papers, and pretty much everything else. Set time once a week to clean your desk (and your inbox). It is amazing how much more organized you'll feel with a clear desk--you'll have a clear head too! I physically put time on my calendar to do this weekly.
SPLURGE: GIFT WITH PURPOSE
My family is the best gift giving family pretty much ever. Gifts are always extremely thoughtful and touching. I'm not going to lie, I love getting gifts, but I think I love giving them more. While I don't have the bank account to truly splurge on large "gifts with purpose" such as sending my parents on a vacation, buying all the books for my sister's new classroom (shout out to Stac for her new job as a high school English teacher), or investing in the perfect allergy sensitive nut-free bar for my older sister, you can still gift with purpose by spending a bit more. My dad grew up in London so one birthday I ordered all his favorite things from the UK--the shipping was expensive but he was so excited about it all. Think about what would be most meaningful rather than just spending a bunch of money on a fancy watch!
EXPLORE: CREATE SOMETHING
When is the last time your family cooked a meal together? Played a board game? Drew a family tree for your grandparents? Doing an activity that goes beyond watching a movie together where you're not only talking but actually engaged in accomplishing something together (no matter how silly that something is) can be an awesome way to hang out and do something out of the ordinary--helping you feel closer to your family.
SAVE: GIVE TIME
How often do you multitask while on the phone with your family? How often do you go home and shut the door? It seems simple, but providing uninterrupted time, eye contact, and actually engaging in a conversation with your family will help you to bond and make you feel more connected. I am so guilty of talking about myself more than I ask questions or listen, so I'm trying this year to ask more questions to my family about their lives and listen to the answers instead of interrupting with my point of view.
SPLURGE: GIRLS WEEKEND
You can take this one as crazy as you want. My sorority family (yes, I am a sorority girl and proud) takes a girls trip once a year. I love it because we're all incredibly budget conscious but we end up having an amazing time and being really choiceful about what we do. We stay in Airbnbs so we can cook food using local ingredients, take plenty of hikes, and choose one or two splurge events. So far, we've been to Big Sur, LA, and San Francisco. Even if it's just taking the car to get out of the city for the day, taking some time with your friends away from the every day is a great way to make new memories and destress too.
EXPLORE: WEEKLY POTLUCK DINNERS
In the Jewish religion, Friday nights are for Shabbat, the day of rest. Depending on how religious you are this could mean no cell phones, opening doors, or doing work. For those of us who are reform (hello!), it usually means a TV free dinner with some candles and challah. No matter what though, the point is to sit around the table with friends and family with good food to kick off the weekend. If you (like me) can't afford to make dinners every week for your friends, ask them to bring one thing and rotate houses/apartments. Setting the time to connect every week and add in some friend time to your routine will help you destress and having set time away from your phone and with people you love is an investment in your friends yes, and, you guessed it, an investment in yourself too.
SAVE: HAVE A SPA NIGHT
Spas are expensive. Spa nights are the answer to your cost-saving dreams. Cut up some lemons and throw them in water, light a few candles, and break out the nail polish to make your own spa night. You don't need fancy sheet masks or hair treatments either. Below are a few of my favorite DIY treatments:
- Hair: Mix 1/3 cup melted coconut oil with 2 drops of tea tree and a little bit of your regular conditioner for a deep conditioner that will leave your hair silky soft. Just remember to shampoo twice as the coconut oil tends to take a bit to wash out.
- Body: Use old coffee grounds or olive oil and sea salt for a scrub that will leave your body smooth and polished.
- Face: Yogurt, honey, and turmeric will make your skin glow (okay maybe that is an over exaggeration but it feels good!) Mix together and leave on for 10-15 minutes and follow up with moisturizer.
In A Relationship
SPLURGE: GO ON AN EXTENDED ADVENTURE
You don't need to spend money on fancy hotels where they make towel swans and a heart made from rose petals on your bed (though we have accidentally done that once and it was hilarious). Get out and hike for the day, escape to a nearby city for the weekend, or plan an adventure further out. Did you know that sometimes the anticipation of vacation can make you happy for a longer period of time than the vacation itself? Book flights on points. Get airbnbs. You can make it relatively inexpensive and still have a blast.
EXPLORE: MAKING A DATE
It's easy, especially when you've been living with your significant other for awhile, to forget you used to actually have to go out to hang out. Break from routine and go on a date. Not out to dinner. A real date. Pick a new place to adventure, have him/her pick you up (or you pick him/her up), go exploring and enjoy each other's company away from distractions. Investing time in each other will make you feel loved and get butterflies for him (or her) which is a feeling always worth having.
This is about investing in yourself right? Why do you have to focus on listening to others? That's just it. Have you ever come home from work and unloaded the whole day on your significant other? Nope? Just me? K..well, if that's you, try asking about their day next time and just listening. It will get you out of your own head and you'll actually be connected vs. firing verbal bullets.
Questions? Did I miss something? Do you have a suggestion? Let me know in the comments below!