A full-blown Treat Yourself Day doesn’t have to be expensive. See for yourself with these frugal but effective ways to treat yourself.

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You don’t have to be a Parks and Rec fan to appreciate the idea of a Treat Yourself Day.

However, while Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford go all out in indulging themselves, treating yourself doesn’t need to mean exorbitant spending. 

In fact, if you play your cards right, celebrating your very own Treat Yourself Day can be frugal—and what’s more, if you stay on the inexpensive side, you don’t need to reserve this special treatment for just one day of the year. 

For some inspiration, below are 12 ways to treat yourself without going bankrupt.

1. Make your own cake in a mug

Ever make cake in a mug? It requires just a handful of ingredients and a microwave—making it the perfect single serving treat when you’re craving something sweet and homemade but not willing to go all out with baking.

There are plenty of cake-in-a-mug recipes online, but for starters, try out one of the following:

2. Bake yourself a treat

If you’re not content with cake in a mug, consider treating yourself to another baked good instead—and making it yourself.

Generic boxed cake and cookie mixes are a steal at most grocery stores, and you can always modify the recipe to add a homemade spin. Of course, if you’d rather, you can also just bake something from scratch.

3. Indulge in happy hour deals

“I love to find the really, really good restaurants with great happy hour food deals,” Tami Wolf, a nonprofit program manager, shares. 

“I’m not much of a drinker these days, but scoring a delicious meal at a great restaurant for (at least, comparatively) cheap is one of the best ways to catch up with friends! For example, my boyfriend and I celebrated my new job with happy hour at Nobu. It might have been a limited selection, but we got food for half the cost of its usual price.”

Wolf has a great point here—operating on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing all of your favorite luxuries just to save. In other words, you can still enjoy going out to eat, especially if you take advantage of happy hour menus.

4. Color your nerves and frustrations away

There’s a reason adult coloring books became trendy in 2015: they’re creative outlets as well as major sources of stress relief. And while the popularity of coloring books for adults has simmered down in the years since, their therapeutic benefits remain. 

If coloring geometric, whimsical, or silly designs sounds soothing to you, then make a small investment in a coloring book. Some books run 50 pages long, making them fairly long-lasting if you only work on one page a week. 

5. DIY mani-pedis at home

The average salon manicure costs $20 to $25 (not including tip), while the average pedicure runs between $35 to $40.

Fortunately, you can get around these costs by opting for DIY mani-pedis at home.

Yes, there’s the upfront cost of buying nail polish, but these bottles are good for many, many uses. Alternatively, you could invite friends over to your DIY mani-pedi night and encourage them to bring their own polish for a greater selection to choose from.

6. Browse your local dollar store

“No matter how broke I am, if I need a pick-me-up, I go to the Dollar Tree and treat myself,” says Kim Heckman Beasley, an administrative professional.

Don’t let the cheapness of dollar stores deceive you—there’s certainly quality stuff worth buying, including socks, decor, and some arts and crafts supplies. Give yourself a limit, like $10, and then explore your dollar store’s treasure trove of goods for something that will spark joy, however small.null

7. Light some scented candles

“I love treating myself to fresh smelling rooms… especially because I love to host,” Megan Smolen, Director of Community at Fairygodboss, shares. “So either buying candles or Bath & Body Works scented wallflowers are simple yet impactful ways to brighten my own day.”

It’s the simple things in life, after all—so go ahead and light a scented candle (or two) to transform your home’s atmosphere. Research even shows that because our brains connect smell with the memories they evoke, your favorite scents can boost your mood.

8. Wander around an art gallery

Art galleries tend to be free, making them the perfect opportunity to enjoy and get your mind off of work or other sources of stress. Look up some local artists near you, and then schedule some time to check out their exhibits. 

If the idea of looking at art intimidates you, know that you don’t need any background or specialist knowledge to appreciate it. And even if you don’t particularly like or understand the art on display, consider your stroll as an opportunity to just break out of your normal environment at work or home.

9. Follow an exercise video on YouTube or Instagram

If you’re a fitness fanatic but don’t want to splurge on any pricey gym classes or memberships, rest assured: you can get your exercise fix through social media.

There’s no shortage of free workout videos with all of the fitness influencers on YouTube or Instagram. Find a workout that you like, and then sweat out the negative energy when it’s time to treat yourself.

Here are a few options to start out with:

10. Get your favorite candy bar

Treating yourself doesn’t have to be glamorous. For a tasty respite, buy one of your favorite candy bars. 

Or better yet, keep a bag of your favorite chocolates in your pantry so that you can indulge your sweet tooth whenever you need a pick-me-up.

11. Go to the library

Freelance optimizer Brooke Beatty shares, “When I put in my two weeks notice almost two years ago and had no money to pop on anything extra, I found that going through the self-checkout at the library made the same noise as a self-checkout at the grocery store and somehow created the same effect in me—of acquiring something but without losing anything (money, in this case).”

Beatty’s powerful observation is reminiscent of Pavlovian conditioning, although in her case, she’s replaced one stimulus (a store checkout’s noise) with another (a library checkout) for the same response (happiness at getting something).

However, unlike shopping, going to the library comes without a cost. Because of this, Beatty says she feels great whenever she’s “scored a written masterpiece and not had to drop a single dime on it. Such a treat!”

12. Relax with a face mask

Want to dedicate your leisure time to self-care? Unwind by sitting back and using a face mask. 

Try a gel/clay one or one of the sheet variety. Either way, you’re generally supposed to use these masks for 15 to 20 minutes—the perfect amount of time to meditate, watch some TV, or even lightly snooze.

2 Replies to “How to Treat Yourself on a Budget: 12 Affordable Ways”

  • Jay @ dopedollar.com says:

    Happy hour meals are a frugal person’s best friend to justify eating out when you can cook at home!!