Eight Frugal Ways to Unwind

In the crazy, fast-paced world we live in, it’s important to find ways to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, some of the most enjoyable ways to reach peak relaxation aren’t all that cheap.

For example, when I think of pure relaxation, I envision myself enjoying a hot stone massage somewhere on the beach. Meanwhile, others relax the most during pricey spa treatments, expensive yoga sessions, or boozy drink fests with friends.

Nothing is wrong with any of those methods, but the costs can add up quick. And if you want to save money for a new home, build an emergency fund, or pay down debt, it might be wise to cut out any “extras” until you reach your goals.

Eight Frugal Ways to Unwind

Still, having financial goals doesn’t make you any less human, and you still need to find ways to relax and improve your mood. Here are a few ideas that can help you de-stress without breaking the bank:

Read a good book.

If you have access to a library or have a small collection of books at home, you can relax with a good book without spending a dime. If not, you could easily pick up a book or two at a secondhand store, yard sale, or estate sale – or you can even trade books with friends. Sites like PaperBackSwap.com also let you trade books with strangers for a small fee. PaperBackSwap alone offers more than 4 million titles!

Work out with a good meditation or yoga DVD.

Although it’s hard to recreate a yoga class at home, you could accomplish something similar with a good yoga DVD and the right environment. Pop in your DVD, turn down the lights, and fire up your favorite candles before you get started. There are also a slew of meditation videos offering relaxing music and how-to guides for free on sites like YouTube.com.

Work in your yard or garden.

Not everyone finds gardening or yardwork relaxing, but many people do. It’s simple, satisfying work that yields tangible results — a crop of tomatoes, or a noticeably nicer lawn. For some, gardening provides an enjoyable way to work off energy and clear the mind while accomplishing an important household task.

If you truly enjoy gardening, planting vegetables, and mowing the grass, you’ll also save a bundle by taking care of these chores yourself and growing fresh produce for next to nothing. Me? I like pulling weeds.

Take a steaming hot bath.

A hot bath won’t always replace the “spa experience,” but it’s certainly more affordable. And if you can get a few quiet minutes alone, you might find it more relaxing than you think. Turn on some quiet music, add some bubbles, and don’t be afraid to lock the door to keep the kids out.

Exercise your stress away.

When you’re frazzled and busy with life or kids, a walk alone around the block can sound like heaven. And if you can step it up a notch to a bike ride or slow jog, you could even get a really good workout and unwind at the same time. Plus, exercise can lift your mood and ease anxiety — isn’t that the whole point of unwinding?

A good workout video can also work wonders for your mental health (without the added stress of a costly gym membership). If you don’t have one, you can usually pick them up at garage sales or online resale sites. Wal-Mart also offers some cheap workout titles for less than $10 each.

Exercise your mind with crossword puzzles.

One of the most important parts of unwinding — and sometimes one of the biggest obstacles to doing so — is getting your mind to stop churning through work tasks, deadlines, to-do lists, and other stressors you might dwell upon. If you want to relax while also stimulating your brain and diverting its attention from these stressors, spend some time doing crosswords or Sudoku puzzles.

While you can buy crossword and Sudoku books, both types of puzzles are easily found in newspapers and magazines or free online sites. My dad does Sudoku like it’s his part-time job, and I consider him a pretty relaxed guy.

Get out a pen and paper and start writing.

If you’ve never thought of writing as a means of relaxation, you might want to try it. It doesn’t matter whether you want to write in a specific style; putting your thoughts on paper can sometimes put your mind at ease. If you don’t feel you have a lot to say about the world at large, you can start with poetry or a love letter to your spouse or partner.

Watch your favorite movies.

When I’m bored or stressed out, an excellent movie from my past almost always does the trick. Personally, I relax most during long, violent epics like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy or “Gladiator.” My husband, on the other hand, likes old documentaries about World War II.

No matter your taste, watching an old favorite you already own is one way to relax and unwind on the cheap. If you don’t own any movies, you can also try borrowing from a friend or renting one from the library.

Relaxing shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. After all, there’s nothing relaxing about spending money you can’t truly afford to spend. So next time you’re in need of some quiet time, try one of these frugal relaxation strategies instead. You never know; the money you save might just put you in the mood to truly relax – once and for all.

How do you relax on a budget? Do any methods on this list work for you?

Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.