If you’ve ever mapped out a budget before, you know that one of the first steps is plotting out all your necessary expenses. These are the “must haves” in your life, like rent/mortgage, utilities, debt/loans, a cell phone, and other essential bills. After those are taken care of, it’s time to set aside cash that will be essential to you later in life — for an emergency fund, savings goals and retirement. Last of all will be spending money for the fun and technically-not-necessary-but-still wonderful things in life. This category of your budget includes things like dining out, vacations, gifts, accessories, cosmetics, and more.
But it’s this last category of our budgets that can run away from us if we’re not careful. It’s oh-so-easy to look back on a months’ worth of spending and wonder to yourself, “Where did all my dollars go?” or “Could my money have been better spent?” This is why you might want to add a new and important “wellness” category to your budget before you overspend on the non-essentials.
The truth is, not enough of us prioritize our health. And we can’t think of a better use for our money than to put our physical and mental wellbeing first. Items in this category can include: therapy, exercise classes or gym memberships, a nutritionist, yoga or meditation programs, vitamins and supplements, and so much more. As herbalist Rachelle Robinett explains, these types of activities can exponentially improve our quality of life and overall health. “From simple daily routines to subtle lifestyle shifts, wellness supports overall mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Not only does investing in health make each day more enjoyable, but it can support our being better at everything else we do.”
Best of all, what you spend on staying well doesn’t need to be super-expensive or fancy. Sometimes it can even be free — it just needs to make you feel better. We checked in with wellness experts for their best advice on how to weave these new habits into your budget.
Write A Dream List, Then Prioritize
Think about what types of activities would improve your lifestyle. To do this, write a list of everything your “best self” would do regularly if finances were not an issue, suggests Danielle Gray, a certified personal trainer. Don’t censor yourself while you’re going through this practice — just let it all out on paper. “If you would take dance classes two times per week, get your nails done once a month, and a massage every other week, then write down what each of those costs,” she continues. “You do not have to commit to doing all of these things. This is simply to brainstorm and help you get a sense of what your budget would be.”
Once you’ve got all this down, it’s time to decide on a realistic number that makes sense for your current income and expenses. “Total up your monthly theoretical expenditures, and edit down to what you believe would bring you the most joy. You can either do this in categories, by time, or by convenience,” she says.
Figure Out Where to Cut Back + Keep An Eye Out For Freebies
Do you consider wellness an essential expense? If not, it’s time to start, Gray says. For some reason, many people don’t find wellness activities essential, even though they 100% are in order to ensure a long, healthy life.
Once you have an idea of how much you’d like to spend, think about how you can get creative with your income and expenses to make it a reality. “Maybe it’s combining one less delivery meal order with selling some clothes you never wear, or automatically depositing a certain amount from each paycheck into an account that’s only used for your health and wellness, mixed with dropping a streaming service you never use,” Gray continues. “The possibilities are endless when you begin to think strategically.”
Most communities have low-cost gyms (New York City, for example, has super-cheap gyms run by the Parks Department) and some athletic retailers (like Lululemon and Athleta) regularly have free yoga classes in their stores. Start by hitting up Google, Eventbrite, and Facebook to see where freebies may be hiding in your neighborhood.
Time Is Money
Rather than winging it every month on where you’re going to “squeeze in” wellness activities, look into creating a four-week game plan that holds you accountable, recommends Michelle Berlin, the senior vice president of people and culture at Mindbody.
“Carve out five or ten minutes to plan the one thing you’ll do in a given day to support your wellness,” Berlin says. “Taking care of yourself is one way to give back to your community, whether that’s with your time, energy or providing help to others. Make sure that you prioritize yourself so that you can be there for others too.”
If you’re unsure where to start, try brainstorming with friends and family about what rituals they benefit from most, and see what intrigues you. (Yes, cooking classes or art classes that will help you relax and reconnect with yourself definitely count as a wellness activity!)
Ask For What You Want
About to have a birthday? What are you asking for as a Christmas or holiday present? It’s okay to encourage your friends and loved ones to help you reach your wellness goals. The next time time it comes up, consider asking for a gift subscription to a wellness service, recommends Amaya Weddle, the chief product officer at bande Fitness. “Many services offer gift cards. Or you might ask someone for fitness gear, like hand weights, bands, or a yoga mat,” she says. “It’s definitely going to help your well-being more than another ugly scarf or pumpkin spice pillar candle.”
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