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Dear Virgie: I Need Self-Care on a Budget
You seem to be the queen of self-care. What are your suggestions for self-care on a budget?
You have perceived correctly! I do love self-care more than most things.
Just last week I took some extra special self-care time out for myself. I had to go to the doctor, and seriously getting medical care while fat can be like da literal worst. God, fatphobia, do you have to be so predictable?
I had already prepared my short self-advocacy speech: “I just want to let you know before I remove my clothing so you can inspect my lady parts that I will absolutely end this appointment if something I feel uncomfortable about happens while I am here.” But I still had a real hard time fighting the urge to just cancel the appointment and pretend that this stupid abscess under my boob was going to drain itself when I knew full well that this thing was already turning into a third boob.
Like seriously, I was having Total Recall flashbacks.
I decided to deal with my anxiety by promising myself a romantic date with myself after I braved the knife.
It’s important to know what will incentivize you to take on daunting but necessary moments. For me, it’s those tiny dark chocolate TCHO cakes at Peet’s.
It’s hard to take time out for ourselves, to parent ourselves when we’re experiencing something difficult. Self-care is recognizing when you are working too much, being too hard on yourself, or not taking enough time to care for your wounded heart/demoralized spirit/tired body.
So, here are some of my fav tips for self-care:
- Give yourself the “you’re worth it” talk – often
Sometimes the most challenging part of self-care is the part where you overcome the sense that you don’t deserve it. If you’re an activist, a woman, come from an emotionally abusive family or are otherwise a person from a marginalized group, you may have to combat feelings of shame and guilt when you even think about giving yourself some TLC.
That voice in your head that says “you aren’t worth it” is a convincing liar but a liar nonetheless. It’s important to remember that just because you have those kinds of thoughts sometimes (all the time?), that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.
Last week my friend Ben gave me some really poignant advice: your inner critic isn’t going anywhere, but you need to learn to tell that girl to sit the fuck down.
2. Take yourself on one $6 date per week
You know what I hate? Those weird charts that tell you that if you skip the latte that you will save $____ per year! Girl, lattes and mental health are like milk and cookies sometimes. What about the value of the ritual of taking the time to drink something delicious and smoky and warm? Don’t fall for that boot-strapping propaganda. I mean, yes it’s important not to spend the emergency fund on coffee, but I just can’t get behind the idea of skipping more and more of the joyful parts of our lives.
So, I recommend that $6 date.
Things you can do with $6:
>Buy 6 things at the Dollar Store (ok 5 things if you live outside Oregon)
>Enjoy an excellent mocha (I recommend trying it hot – the flavor is richer, and the sipping makes the experience last longer)
>Pick up a copy of the New York Times, find a place to lounge and pair it with an iced tea and a macaron
>Shop for the perfect thing to add to your wardrobe at a thrift store (the budget limit adds to the challenge and feeling of ultimate triumph)
>Get some cute cupcake decorations and make cupcakes to give to friends
3. Go with the sparkly option whenever possible
I had this budget realization during Christmas when I was shopping for nail files. There were my usual boring-yet-efficient emery boards for $1.19 and right next to those was a tube filled with nail files that seemed to be made exclusively for my inner tacky princess; they were covered in bright pink glitter from top to bottom.
They were twice the cost of the emery boards, though.
My inner budget queen was like “just THINK of what you could do with that extra $1.19, girl!” but my inner self-care babe was like “imagine the smile that pink glitter is going to give you every time you file for the next 6 months.”
I went with the glitter-covered nail files, and my prediction came true: smile-saturated nail care = the best, boo.
I thought about it and realized that are lots of little upgrades that are super cheap, not strictly practical, but that bring a little bit of sparkle (over an extended period) to our lives. And I vaguely came up with a rule that if something will likely make an experience 200%+ better and the cost of the upgrade is less than $10/10% of the investment, then it’s worth it. Figure out the math that works for your budget on this one, but try it.
4. Make the mundane magical
This is kind of an addendum to #3, but worth its own bullet point. Last week I started shaving my legs with rose oil. Rose oil, girl. Yeah, it felt totes fancy. I got to experience the incredible smell of roses saturating my bathroom. My legs were moisturized. And because I loved the smell and feel, I took a little extra time for some self-massage focused on my calves and my thighs.
Needless to say, it took the shaving experience to the next level.
I got this bottle of rose oil at RiteAid for about $4, and it will last me probably 4 months. All this to say: finding little ways to make the mundane into something magical is self-care.
Other examples of how I do this: I spend about $2-3 extra every 3 months on the fancy dish soap. Not to sound like a 1950s commercial for the modern housewife, but it kind of makes the inevitable task of dish-washing a little more delightful. If you do a lot of driving, turn the car into your little getaway by preparing a playlist or downloading/streaming a new podcast (I spend hours in the car listening to Serial).
Start with these for now, and tell me how it goes.
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.