When Hellen Yuan decided to lead a less stressful life, she made a financial decision: She would start to set aside money specifically to relieve stress from her role in fashion design consulting. Yuan designated $50 to $100 per week to anything from a massage to yoga sessions; at the end of each season, Yuan would save for a pricier wellness experience to offset her busy consulting gigs. She’d combine it with self-care rituals that were free including meditation or soaking in her bath at home.
“When I do this, I have a centered way of standing in the world and can be in a head space that thinks clearer,” Yuan explains. “In my professional life, I make better decisions from a place of what is best for all as I am not depleted.”
Yuan is not alone in building wellness spending into her weekly budget. Between meditation apps, boutique exercise spots, spa treatments and plenty of supplements, some people are making wellness spending a priority. The industry grew nearly 13 percent between 2017 and 2015, and is estimated to be $4.2 trillion globally, according to data from the Global Wellness Institute. While in some circles, self-care still elicits a few eye rolls specifically designating their spending on ways to feel less stressed is gaining steam.
“The way we allocate our resources reveals what’s important to us,” says Lara Devgan, a plastic surgeon and chief medical officer at RealSelf.com, a review site for plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments. Being specific about how much to allocate each month “is a way to remember the importance of wellness and quality of life in a real tangible manner,” she adds.
Adding self-care to the budget
For those just starting out, figuring out how to save money without the negative feelings associated with spending on oneself is priority. Understanding the need for a self-care fund can ease feelings of guilt that may arise if you’re spending money that was earmarked for elsewhere in your budget. People wrongly assume that prioritizing their own health can make them seem selfish, Yuan explains. Creating a way to earmark saving specifically for wellness also serves as a reminder of its importance, she adds.
For Yuan, the most important way to make sure it fit into her budget was separating it from her emergency fund or the monthly savings she put away each month. “Your savings is the emergency fund for unexpected surprises, but self care should be looked at as a fixed cost in your budget as it’s on the necessity list,” she says.
Devgan says that allocating part of her family’s budget to wellness makes it easier to keep up with the home’s budget as a whole. Creating these separate buckets make it easy to set financial priorities each month, she says. “It's hard to put a price tag on physical and mental health, but allocating a small sum to this realm is a way for me to remember to prioritize it,” says Devgan. “I'm mindful of my family's overall financial health, including college funds, retirement, and recurring expenses first.”
Re-focusing your schedule
In many instances, the key is finding pockets of time within the week to de-stress. The basics for self-care include making time for quality sleep, nutritious eating and exercise, can be easily done for free or at a low cost, according to therapist Tracey Cleantis, author of The Invitation to Self-Care. For instance saying no when you’re busy, planning healthy weeks at the beginning of the week and making time for regular sleep can be a way to feel your best without shelling out much cash, she adds.
Regardless of the wellness activities you choose, studies show its worth the investment. In a 2018 study, medical students who participated in self-care rituals as a way to reduce stress during demanding workweeks reported better physical and psychological quality of life. “US medical students who report high engagement in a wide array of self-care activities may experience a protective effect on the negative relationship between stress and quality of life,” according to the research.
In Yuan’s case, she turned her love for self-care into an opportunity for others. This year, she launched a line of bath mixes with ingredients such as flower essential oils, bath salts and crystals that customers can dissolve while taking a bath to focus on their own wellness challenges. The decision, places “self care at the center of my life,” she says.