A few weeks ago I kicked off this five-part ‘Student Self-care’ series with my first four suggestions for self-care on a budget, inspired by my dwindling stipend and a need to tighten the purse strings. This second post in the series was meant to come a week after the first, but sadly data collection got in the way, and though it has been sat in my drafts for all that time, I haven’t managed to post it. BUT here it is, and I have five more suggestions for things that might be considered a day-to-day necessity for some, and a luxury for others. These are all things that I consider to be self-care, you may have other suggestions (or they may crop up in the next post – read on to see what that one will be!). Please do feel free to comment with your self-care on a budget tips!
I would not consider this a luxury, in fact it is a necessity for so many of us, but private therapy doesn’t come cheap. There are some ways around this.
- Counselling students are often required to deliver therapy at a reduced cost whilst they are training. They have to declare that they are a trainee and usually by the point of doing sessions with clients they have practiced with colleagues or supervisors and have had their own therapy for some time. I have found that by accessing therapy in this way, sessions can be free or at least half price.
- The same goes for newly qualified counsellors or therapists, sometimes they want to build a client base and get feedback on their practice, so will offer discounted sessions.
- Some therapists will offer concessions, these might be advertised (often in quite small writing) on their website, or you might just need to be brave and ask out right. If you explain that you are a student you may be offered discounted rates.
- Paying up front for a course of sessions can sometimes lead to a discount, again, this may or may not be advertised so it can be worth asking. You’ll usually get a small discount off each session for booking and paying for a number of sessions in advance.
- Charities and not for profit organisations sometimes offer free or means tested (pay what you can) therapy. These can be hard to find, but contacting and asking your local counselling training centre can sometimes lead to a find. Alternatively, your university student services may have some suggestions.
- If you are in need of money to fund private therapy, and you are at risk of not completing your studies, some student services offer bursaries and you may be able to find support through websites such as TurnToUs.org and The Alternative Funding Guide
With any therapies, it’s important to set boundaries and know what you are signing up for. A good therapist will tell you how long your sessions will be, how often they will be, where they will be and how many sessions they can offer you. If you get initial discounted or concessionary prices, ask whether this will continue or whether it is an ‘introductory offer’. You don’t want to start unpacking some deep emotional stuff only to realise six sessions in that you can no longer afford the support. This is something I feel strongly about and have a lot of experience around, so if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch or let me know if you’d like me to write a post specifically about this.
In recent years Meditation and Mindfulness have become all the rage and it can be fantastic to get to a class when you are just starting out, or when you want to commit to a regular practice. But meditation is becoming super accessible – for free!
- Use apps like Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm. These are all mostly free for the basic versions, but you can pay to upgrade. These apps offer a number of different meditation styles and Insight Timer in particular is my absolute favourite. It has literally thousands of meditations on there, for all situations, and you can see who you are meditating alongside. Meditations range from 3 minutes to over an hour – so there is something for any amount of time.
- Find a free meditation group. There are more and more of these popping up, and you can usually find them on Facebook or on websites like MeetUp. Some may ask for a small fee, others are donation and others are free. Find what suits you.
- If you can’t find a meditation group, you could always set one up in your faculty or department. Book a room, put up some posters to advertise and invite people to join together for 10/15/30 minutes of meditation. You might choose to meditate your own way or follow a guided meditation that you find on the apps (or again, youtube!).
- Ask your student services department whether there is any scope for an introductory mindfulness or meditation course. Often those working in student services have some knowledge or experience in mindfulness or meditation and might be willing to offer a series of classes if interest is expressed.
If your keen to develop skills, learn more about yourself or just explore a topic in more detail and expand your knowledge, sometimes signing up to an evening class, an expensive online course or buying lots of books can be tempting. But you can fuel your curiosity or introspection in more money savvy ways.
- Ted Talks are an amazing resource and often have a real impact in terms of inspiration. I always find the best Ted Talks are the ones that stay with me and I can remember quotes from. These are usually the same ones that make me question something about myself or make me go away and work on myself a little more.
- Online courses can cost a fortune, but they don’t need to! You can get access to courses for free on website like FutureLearn, OpenLearn and Coursera or you can access quality content for a fraction of the price on websites like Udemy. GroupOn also regularly has deals on for online courses but if you are looking to use your course knowledge in a professional way, it’s worth checking out who the course is run by and make sure it is of the quality you need.
- Podcasts are another fantastic way to soak up some knowledge whilst also relaxing. You can listen to them whilst walking, running, driving, on your commute, before bed, whilst getting ready in the morning or during your lunch break. There are so many amazing free podcasts out there which cover a variety of topics.
Eating out can feel like a real treat, and can actually be a real act of self-care when you’re not particularly feeling up to cooking or you want to socialise. However eating out is not cheap, particularly if you’re doing it on a regular basis, but this doesn’t always need to be the case!
- Voucher websites and discount apps can be a fantastic way to get meals cheap. Websites such as VoucherCodes, Unidays, VoucherCloud and Student Beans often offer a number of different deals whether it be 20% off or your second meal for £1. Though they are often for chain restaurants or establishments, if you don’t mind that, they can be a great way to save money.
- Once again, GroupOn is a great way to go to restaurants you might not usually be able to afford if you’re able to get one of their deals. If you do decide to do this, make sure you check the small print so you know how long you have to redeem, what your menu options will be and what days you can use the voucher on.
- Early diner menu’s, fixed menus and special events can be a great way to save money but still enjoy eating out. If you’re wanting to get back to your bed at a decent time, early birds are great, you can go straight from work and be home ready to be tucked up well before bed time. Fixed menus are good if you’re not a fussy eater and can actually be quite good for trying new things you might not normally go for. Finally, many restaurants, particularly independents, offer two for one meals on weekday evenings, a free starter with a main or something similar. It’s worth checking whether you need to book for these types of things.
- If all that fails and you still can’t quite afford eating out, consider a ‘Come Dine With Me’ style evening, where you get some friends together and each bring a course. This is a good way to spread the cost, have a really good meal and not have to do all the cooking (or all the washing up!).
Culture and exploring
For some people, getting out and about and exploring museums, art galleries or other attractions is something that fuels them and really feels them up. But going to something each week can soon end up being costly.
- If you are a regular to a certain museum or art gallery, consider getting a membership if they offer one. Be sure to ask about concessions if you are a student or you’re on a low-budget.
- Some attractions have locals only days, where you can enter for free or a highly discounted price, Check out their website, or send them an email/tweet to enquire. Usually you need to take proof of address with you to confirm you are indeed local.
- City explorer cards are something I have just made up the name of, because in most cities they each have a different name. Here in Bath it’s called the ‘Discovery Card’ and what it basically means is that those who live in or around this city have free or heavily discounted access to tourist attractions all year round. This is perfect if you do regularly visit places near to you, but is also great if you have friends or family visiting and don’t want to have to pay for yourself.
- If you’re more of an outdoorsy type person and you’d like to explore the big wide world, consider getting yourself a membership to something like the National Trust or English Heritage. Rates are extremely reasonable and usually on an annual basis, meaning you can explore until your little heart is content! Of course, there are also thousands of places you can explore for free with a little research online!
I’d like to end this post by making it clear that self-care doesn’t necessarily have to involve ‘big’ or ‘significant’ things like going to therapy or getting a massage. Sometimes the smaller, day-to-day acts of self-care can be equally as helpful, if not more so, especially when you’re struggling to keep up any routine at all. That’s why the next post is going to focus on exactly that – small, day-to-day, easy to integrate acts of self-care which when done regularly, or in combination with others, can add up to a big big difference in how you feel – in life and about yourself.
Until next time 🙂