Self-care is incredibly important in helping manage and prevent depression.However, as those of us who struggle with poor mental health are more likely to have financial problems – especially if we are unable to work –  there are often real limitations in the amount we can ‘budget’ to look after ourselves.

But while spa days and shopping sprees are undoubtedly expensive, there are many other acts of self-care that cost very little or are in fact free.

Self-care on a budget - ten things to try


Being even the tiniest bit dehydrated can have a negative impact on our mood, so ensuring we drink enough water is one of the simplest ways we can look after ourselves. Normal tap water is fine.

If you’re not fussed about water, herbal teas (the non-caffeinated kind) also count, and you can pick up boxes relatively inexpensively – especially if you choose own-brand over premium labels.  As an added bonus, some herbs (such as chamomile) can soothe symptoms of depression and anxiety. As a few herbs can impact on the efficacy of drugs, do check the information sheet/talk to your doctor if you are on medication.


We’ve talked about the benefits of healthy eating before, and contrary to popular belief, eating well doesn’t have to be expensive.

Yes goji berries and superfood salads are good for us, but so are baked beans and tinned fish!  Our podcast on food and mental health shares several low-cost nutrition ideas, and there are plenty of blogs out there where you can find inspiration: for example Cooking on a Bootstrap.


Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves, and better still it’s completely free.   However, as depression often comes hand-in-hand with sleep problems, we know that can be easier said than done.

You can improve your chances of getting a good night’s kip by limiting caffeine after 2pm and implementing a ‘bedtime routine’ – a series of calming activities you do every night to tell your body and your brain it’s time for bed. Limiting screen time in the evenings can also be really helpful, as the light given off by your devices can be disruptive.  Our podcast on sleep explains more.


Although it’s often the last thing we feel like doing – especially when we’re depressed – getting moving is a great way to show ourselves self-care.  Exercise has innumerable health benefits, and even a short burst of movement triggers endorphins and gives us that feel good glow.

You don’t need a pricey gym membership to exercise either.  You can dance to in your bedroom to your favourite tunes, follow along with free fitness videos on YouTube,  or you can simply pop some trainers on and head out for a walk or run.  Exercising outside has additional benefits too.


We love our blanket forts and duvet days (sometimes they are much needed), but we also know how important it is to get outside.

Sunlight and fresh air are instant mood-boosters – and are available to us all, completely free.  Research suggests that exposure to natural surroundings is beneficial to physical and psychological wellbeing, so if you can get out into green space (even if it’s just your local park) all the better.


Engaging in creative activities is a fantastic – and fun – way to integrate self-care into your day, and it needn’t be expensive.

We are all innately creative (even those of us who may think otherwise!) and there are so many different ways we can express our creativity. Writing, knitting, sewing, singing, cooking, painting, sculpting, gardening, restoring furniture, playing with make-up, writing computer code… activities like these are beneficial for our wellbeing: they bring us into the present moment, boost feel-good chemicals in our brain, and give us a sense of achievement.


There is a bit of a trend for decluttering at the moment, and with good reason.  The environment in which we live can have a real impact on our mood.  If our surroundings stress us out, take up headspace, or make day-to-day living harder than it needs to be, we can definitely benefit from clearing up. (And if we sell any of the stuff that we declutter, our wallets can benefit too!)

As well as decluttering physical items (the contents of our wardrobe, the random drawer of junk in the kitchen, the piles of paper lying about), we can also declutter digitally: think unwanted software that slows the computer down, unread emails or even facebook friends.


While clearing up can be undoubtedly helpful, there *is* something lovely about having new things (that’s why we created the BuddyBox!). Of course when we’re on a budget, it’s not wise to buy stuff willy nilly, but there are ways to get new things on the cheap.

Libraries are a good starting point: if you can’t concentrate on books (we struggle to read when we’re unwell), there are audio books and DVDs. Plus some local libraries reduce fees for those with disabilities – worth looking into if that applies to you.  Then there are charity shops: you’ll be surprised by some of the awesome things you can find, and you can treat yourself while helping others. There are also bargains and freebies to be found online: look at sites like  freecycle or community Facebook groups.


Those of us who struggle with depression often have issues with low self-esteem, and look externally for approval and validation.  If you find yourself regularly putting other people’s needs before your own -saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’, exhausting yourself to fulfil other’s expectations – you may benefit from working on your boundaries.

You are most important person in your life (yes, really!), so you need to learn to make your needs a priority.  Addressing wonky boundaries can feel like a scary task but you’ll feel the benefits almost immediately.  And of course looking after yourself in this way doesn’t cost financially.


Many of us have high expectations of ourselves, and feel like we should always be productive: always giving, always doing.  Continually putting stress on ourselves in this way is a sure fire road to burnout.

As hard as it might feel sometimes, one of the best things you can do for yourself is STOP. Really. Allow yourself to just be. Run yourself a lovely bath, lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling, watch some nonsense on TV.  Letting yourself rest is a fantastic act of self-care, and it doesn’t cost a penny.


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