5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Self-Care

If your idea of “self-care” is a high-end spa, think again. We all need self-care. It’s not an indulgence. We’re all wired tightly these days, and anything we can do to improve our mindset, grow our resilience, and do what we need to do for our healthy aging is helpful. But when we think of “self-care,” we think of facials, massage, and one-to-one training. Here are some tips for budget-friendly self-care that will leave you feeling like a million bucks.

What is “self-care?”

First – what, exactly, is “self-care?” According to Dr. Jennette Berry, a family medicine physician, it’s “anything that helps you recharge and take care of yourself so, in turn, you’ll be well to take care of the people who count on you.”

Budget-friendly or free!


Exercise. Get moving! You think I’m a fitness nut because I recommend exercise at every turn? Maybe so, but exercise not only helps with your weight loss goals, it also gives you energy. Exercise helps you fight disease and boosts your immunity. It helps you sleep at night. It aids in our healthy aging goals. And exercise puts you in a better mood! So, go outside for a brisk walk. Or check out popular YouTube fitness videos. Many gyms offer complementary first-classes. See if you like one of those before you make a longer-term commitment.


Meditation is an extremely budget-griendly self-care process.
Meditating lets your brain go on vacation.

Check out for a few minutes. Sit comfortably and think of absolutely nothing. It’s like your brain going on vacation for a bit. If you can’t turn your mind off, do a guided meditation. Dr. Berry says that meditation helps lower stress, controls anxiety and improves sleep. Download my short guided Garden Walk meditation. Less than 5 minutes and you’ll feel more calm. 

Take a bath

Dr. Berry says that the hot water will help you sleep and is also beneficial for aches and pains. Why not try some aromatherapy with bath salts while you’re at it? Lavender is soothing and smells wonderful.


Writing in a journal daily can help track your moods and symptoms. It can also help track your triggers – the things that happen or people say that start your feelings of stress and anxiety. Journaling your gratitude can also improve your mindset and help you get happier. You can’t be unhappy if you’re grateful. And journaling about your day can also help your memory.

Read books

Exercise your mind. Books can take you on adventures you can’t even dream about. They help you learn about other people and other cultures. Public libraries now offer not only hard copies of books, but also digital and audio-books as well. Dr. Berry says that reading is not only relaxing, it can also slow the progression of dementia.

How many of these budget-friendly self-care steps do you do daily? Easy, soothing and painless – they all contribute to our resilience and healthy aging.

Engage your core for (pretty much) everything

My sister and I have been moving furniture lately – reorganizing the house. And some of that furniture was heavy. I wasn’t worried about being sore the next day, though. It’s not that I’m strong – I’m not. But I know how to lift things, and I also know that to do practically anything without pain you have to engage your core.

If you’ve ever taken a Pilates class, you’ve probably heard the instructor tell you to do that. Much of Pilates movement focuses on the core and in order to get any benefit, you have to engage the muscle you’re working.

What is the core?

Feel it when you engage your core
Feel your core muscles

Your core combines all of the stabilizing muscles surrounding your spine and pelvis. That’s basically everything from your rib cage down to your legs. Your transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of muscle. It wraps around your waist like a girdle, connecting the rib cage to the pelvis. Next are the internal and external obliques which criss-cross your abdomen. These muscles help with twisting and bending. Finally is the rectus abdominis, or what we recognize as a “six-pack.” This also helps with bending and control of the pelvis. As you can see, there’s a lot in your core.

Why engage your core?

Having a strong core helps keep us upright and without a curved spine.It also helps us breathe.

As I’ve described – engaging your core helps prevent pain and injury and is crucial for your healthy aging. I’m prone to lower back pain, as many people my age are. Making sure my core is engaged prevents that “twang!” that I used to be all too familiar with in my back. Feeling that extra control in my core gives me a sense of security. It’s like that big belt weight-lifters and professional movers wear on the outside of their clothes. But I take mine everywhere, and I can use it any time.

How do you engage your core?

Robin Long, Pilates instructor, suggests you start to feel your core by lying on your back on a mat. If you can, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Your transverse abdominis automatically engages when you exhale. So put your hands on your abdomen and feel the muscles as you breathe. Feel it more as you pull your abdomen toward your spine. Try to feel it tighten all the way around your waist. Try not to suck it in. Breathe normally. This will pull your stomach in a bit and you’ll sit taller. As you’re pulling in your transverse abdominis, try pulling your pelvic floor up and in. You’ve got core muscles there, too!

When you’ve got the feeling of a tight core on your back, try it on all fours.

And work on feeling your core during other exercises and your everyday life! The balance exercises we do in the Facebook Group Balance for Fitness Balance for Life also focus on the core. (And you can get that download today!)

You’ll be able to lift furniture without fear of pain when your core is engaged. But don’t unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Mix it up for less pain

Mix up your workouts for less pain
Mix up your workouts for less pain

Your doctor and your friends have all told you that you need to exercise. So, you’ve decided to start an exercise program for your healthy aging. But now what? What to do? You have pain in your hips and you don’t want to make it worse. Here’s a simple solution: mix it up for less pain! Fitness pros call it cross training. I call it the key. 

Benefits of cross training

When you mix it up and cross train, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, you’ll work practically every muscle in your body. You’ll work your muscles in different ways too, reducing the risk of overuse injuries also helping you to adapt to new activities. And since you’re doing different exercises on different days, you won’t get bored. When you’re not bored, you’ll look forward to your workouts. An extra added bit of motivation! 

Less pain when you mix several types of exercise

Dr. Sarkis Bedikian, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Trinity Hospital, says that if we’re not careful, our repetitive exercise routines and everyday behaviors could cause long-term damage to our hips and increase our risk of needing joint replacement surgeries later in life. Dr. Bedikian says to minimize wear and tear from repetitive motion by mixing several types of exercise into your routine. 

What is cross training?

Cross training combines different aspects of exercise. You’ll do cardio conditioning, strength training and flexibility work all in one week. For example, you’ll do 3 days of aerobics (cardio conditioning – get your heart rate up), 2 days of strength training (for muscle and bone strength) and 1 day of flexibility work in a single week.

Get that heart rate up!

If you love music and you like to dance, here’s a 30 minute aerobics routine from YouTube that’s great for all levels. You may have to practice some of the moves a few times to get the choreography – I sure did. But it’s lively and fun and gets you moving. For your cardio work, you can also walk / run – make sure it’s intense enough for your fitness level. 

Strength training

I’ve written before about the importance of adding strength training to your exercise regimen. Remember that you don’t need weights for your strength training – your body weight can be put to good use. Plank variations and push-ups can be incredibly intense too. It’s amazing how much sweat drips off of me when I’m holding a plank!


So that I can easily stand up and sit down, lean over and pet my dogs, I do a flexibility workout once a week (usually Pilates). I also incorporate some into every other routine during the week. It seems to keep my joints lubricated, important for my healthy aging. 

You’ll not only have less pain when you mix up your exercise routine, you’ll feel better, be stronger and more flexible.

Start with kindness

I started the New Year with kindness to myself and ignored the calendar.
I started the New Year with kindness to myself and ignored the calendar.

The New Year started for me with an unwelcome guest: food poisoning. I think it was from a bag of organic spring mix. It looked beautiful, tasted great, and we used it well before the “best by” date, but… You never know. New Year’s Day is usually a day for planning, goal-setting, scheduling with different colored pens. It makes my want-to-be-organized soul happy to see my little planner book all marked up. But that didn’t happen this year. I just didn’t have the energy. Instead of feeling guilty about not doing what I normally would do, I actively decided to start with kindness. Kindness to myself.

Sense of freedom

And by not going crazy with my colored pens, I felt a sense of freedom, despite feeling physically terrible. Obviously there were still things that had to get done, like caring for the dogs, but aside from that, I just relaxed, read my book, and drank water and ginger ale. 

Starting the year with kindness, making that conscious effort to be kind, has done wonders for my mindset. More peace, looking both outward and inward. And knowing that everything that has to get done will get done. I’ll make time for important things and try to let go of other, less crucial items.

Healthy aging depends on a positive mindset.

Generally happier people live longer than unhappy people or those who look on the negative side of things. Happy people have greater resilience and are more able to bounce back from hardship. So, perhaps, my conscious decision to start with kindness this year will increase my resilience!

Get the important stuff done

Starting with kindness, though, does not mean that important activities will be left undone, though. Exercise is important to my physical and mental well-being, and makes me a better person to be with, so my regular workouts will certainly continue. I’ll still prepare my lessons and craft my articles with care. 

By starting with kindness, perhaps I’ll be less focused on getting things done and be happier on the journey.