Budget Student Self-Care: Self-Care Series Part 1

As the end of my PhD funding gets closer and closer I’m beginning to tighten the purse strings a little. Cutting back on the things that I can do without, the things that I don’t really need or that are a little indulgent. But ironically, this time of needing to keep every penny a prisoner coincides with a time during my PhD when I will perhaps most need to feel indulgent every now and again. To treat myself and to up the self-care to optimum levels.

For me, when trying to save time or money, my mind instinctively starts chopping away at my self-care activities. One less yoga class a week, eating a little less well than normal or cancelling appointments or therapies that I could really do with. I’m gradually training my mind to look at other areas that I can scale back on, rather than just immediately gunning for self-care. I think this is a bit of a hangover from my ‘I don’t deserve self-care’ or ‘self-care is indulgent and I totally don’t need it’ phase.

But it got me thinking about ways to bring in self-care activities in a cost-effective way and I realised I actually have a ton of ideas, so I thought I’d share them. I have so many self-care ideas that I want to share, that I’ve created a five-part series. The first two post of this series focus on low or no budget self-care options, and you’ll just have to either keep your eyes open or sign up for updates to make sure that you receive the rest of the series direct to your inbox.

Some of these suggestions are pretty run of the mill, others could be seen as a bit more ‘luxurious’ and ‘indulgent’. Let me know if you try any or whether you have any other suggestions – I’d love to keep this resource updated!

Without further a do here are the first four suggestions!

Working out

Exercise is SO good for us, we don’t need to be told that, but if you’re just starting out on an exercise regime or you want to switch things up, it can feel hard to do without needing to get a gym membership or going to a class, which isn’t always an affordable option when money is tight. But there are ways to be active and keep things exciting without paying a fortune.

  1. Nowadays, youtube is over run with fitness videos, whether it’s HIIT workouts, cardio or strength training sessions. Many of them require no or minimal equipment, and you can even make your own weights (bag of your textbooks or bag of sugar anyone?).
  2. It’s also worth checking out whether your university offers any access to sports and leisure facilities included in your membership. For example payment of my tuition fees gives me access to the swimming pool on my campus.
  3. Of course you can always make good use of the great outdoors with running, walking, wild swimming or cycling!


You may wonder why this one isn’t up there with working out, but for me personally, yoga isn’t about a workout, it’s a practice and it can have a huge number of benefits. But it isn’t cheap to get to class. For a one hour guided class in a yoga studio in the city I live in, I can expect to pay anything between £11 and £16. Not ideal if you want to be doing a few classes a week. Of course there are passes and memberships that can work out cheaper, but if you’re not fussed about the studio, in person teacher experience there are any options.

  1. Again, Youtube is a goldmine of guided yoga videos, YogaWithAdrienne is extremely popular and provides a huge variety of different types of yoga, along with videos by ailment or body area – ideal if you need to stretch out your back and shoulders after a long day of writing.
  2. There are also websites like DoYogaWithMe – which has videos of teachers leading a class, with a HUGE range to choose from. All you need is an internet connection and some space at home. If you’re on a limited internet speed or have limited data, you can buffer the video whilst at work or out and about and then have access to it later on.
  3. In a similar vein to DoYogaWithMe, there are also other websites which offer 100’s of pre-filmed (and sometimes live streamed) yoga classes for a monthly subscription fee. In some cases these amount to the cost of single in person yoga session, so can work out as really good value – if you use it enough.
  4. Despite all these options, it can still be really nice to get to a yoga class that is led by a teacher every now and again, but if money is tight it’s worth looking out for ‘pay what you can’ or ‘pay what you feel’ classes. These are usually run by someone either new to teaching yoga or someone who is passionate about making yoga accessible to all.


Reading is a really great way to relax, it’s definitely a self-care activity for me and I love getting stuck into a good book on a rainy afternoon or whilst lying in the sun. Buying brand new books every time you need a new read will soon break your budget but there are LOADS of options to fuel your habit at little to no cost.

  1. You could set up a book swap among friends, or colleagues by setting up a Wiki page, shared google document or group on Facebook. You can list books that you have and are willing to give away, and you can mention ones that you’re looking out for and would gratefully receive.
  2. Libraries – yes! They still exist and are usually free to join. You might be little limited in terms of new titles, but you’ll be spoilt for choice. I love going to the library when I discover a new author who has already written a lot of books and I know they will be stocked. Libraries are also great for audiobooks and DVD’s – if reading is the last thing you want to be doing at the end of the day!
  3. One of the best places to get low-cost books is charity shops. It’s unlikely you’ll find an exact title if you are looking for one, unless you go to a charity shop that is specifically dedicated to books. But charity shops can be great for finding new books you’ve never heard of, or picking up books by an author you like. A bonus is that they are usually super cheap and you are also contributing to a good cause – win win.

Beauty/Massage/Alternative therapies

I absolutely LOVE a good massage, facial or manicure, but in the city I live in, they don’t come cheap. I’ve learnt a number of ways to get access to these little luxuries for a fraction of the cost.

  1. Going to beauty colleges where new beauticians or therapists are getting trained is an excellent way to get discounted treatments. Sometimes they can be hit and miss, especially if you go towards the beginning of the academic year, but from the New Year onwards students usually have some good experience under their belt and can deliver a decent treatment. You’re not going to be getting high-end spa style service, but sometimes it can just be nice to be looked after in an attentive way and receive some relaxation.
  2. In a similar vein to the above, you might also benefit from contacting professional bodies who train people in alternative or complementary therapies. I’ve been very fortunate during my PhD to have a good friend who has trained in three different modalities of massage and has been required to do ‘case studies’ as part of her qualification. In exchange for some honest feedback during and after the treatment, I get a lush massage and am looked after for an hour or so.
  3. There are a number of online videos, again Youtube is coming up trumps, which guide you through a self massage process, many of them focus on head, face and hands and are pretty simple to follow. If you have a close friend, you might also consider doing massage swaps for each other!
  4. If Christmas is coming, or you have a birthday or other celebration on its way, you could ask for a voucher for a treatment. Most therapists and organisations do this and they can be paid for from afar and given to you via an email voucher or posted to you. It can feel like a real treat to receive a treatment as a gift, and I know that personally I love giving them too, knowing that the person receiving it is in for a lovely, relaxing treatment that chances are they either couldn’t afford or wouldn’t ‘let’ themselves have it.

I’ve got five more suggestions coming for you in the next post and the third, fourth and fifth posts of these series are my absolute favourites – so stay tuned!

Until next time 🙂

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