How Much of Your Budget Should You Devote to Self-Care?

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Self-care is a commonly heard term that means different things to different people. It can range from simply taking care of your basic physical and mental health to spending big money on luxury items and spa days. However you define it, it’s helpful to get perspective on just how much of your budget you should allocate to this undeniably important area of life. Not enough, and you might not be taking the best care of yourself possible; too much, and you might stress yourself out by overspending or going into debt. Experts weigh in on how much of your budget you should devote to self-care.

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What Is Self-Care?

The definition of self-care will change depending upon who you ask. Caio Bersot, editor with Ran-it.ca, a product review site, said, “I define self-care as part of the things I want, not the things I need.”

Bersot suggests that for some people it may be simply watching movies regularly or having multiple subscriptions. For others it may be going to a fancy restaurant.

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“I see it as anything that fulfills you, makes you feel happy and rewarded by yourself,” Bersot said.

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Nikki Kirimi, CPA, CMA and founder of Money World Basics, offers that “[s]elf-care is about taking an active role in your health, relationships, and overall well-being.” This might be a massage after a stressful week or an expensive dinner. But it also includes “routine things such as maintaining good hygiene and nutrition, getting regular physical exercise, and seeking medical care when needed.”

Only you can determine what self-care looks like for you, and how you’ll implement it. Your budget should play a role in how much you spend on it.

How Much Should You Spend?

Kirimi favors a “value-based budgeting approach.” This means creating a spending plan that prioritizes those aspects of your life that are most important and will provide “maximum value or fulfillment,” she said.

That still might be a little vague when we’re talking dollars, however. Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer recommends aiming for between 5% and 10% of after-tax income. “If you have permission to spend some money, you’re less likely to over-indulge,” he said.

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Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, allots a slightly more generous amount, between 10% and 20% of your income, but he casts a pretty wide net, including such things as gym memberships, book clubs, eating out, hobbies, face and body products and more in the self-care bucket. Each month you can vary up what aspects of self-care you spend money on, so long as you stick to the amount you’ve budgeted for it.

Brian Meiggs, founder of Smarts, a personal finance website, abides by the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent is for your essential needs, 30% for your wants and 20% for savings and investments. “The allocation can change depending on your financial situation and goals, but generally, your self-care budget should fall under the 5% to 10% range,” Meiggs said.

A Self-Care Budget Shouldn’t Threaten Other Essentials

Make Your Money Work for You

While no one will argue that self-care is important, L.J. Jones, a financial planner and founder of Developing Financial, LLC, points out that it should not come at the cost of other important bills and financial planning. “As long as you have an emergency fund, contributed to your retirement accounts, and paid for your essentials like rent, groceries, utilities, and debt payments, the rest can go towards self-care.”

Self-Care Doesn’t Have To Cost Money

Remember, too, that there are plenty of free ways to take care of yourself, from walks in nature to meditation.

“Instead of looking outside, look inside your home,” said Francis Locknear, founder of TheCostGuys.com. “Avoid paying for a monthly gym membership; exercise at home instead. Steer clear from nail shops and beauty salons and do your own hair or manicure and pedicure,” Locknear said.

Additionally, Locknear recommends avoiding buying expensive name brands or luxury items. “Find the cheapest available option for you to still feel good without making your budget feel bad.”

Sometimes, self-care is a matter of taking care of the basics, Locknear said. “Check if you’ve taken care of yourself properly, such as eating on time, drinking plenty of water, or sleeping at least eight hours a night. Create a list of the most basic self care tasks, put it somewhere you can easily see every day, and remind yourself to follow the list religiously.”

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Last updated: Sept. 27, 2021 

About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

 

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