5 Ways to Relieve Stress on a Budget

by on Jun 27 2013 - 35 Comments

Stressed Out

Life is stressful. Whether it’s your job, school, living situation, or something else, there are an endless things that make us stressed out. There are also an endless number of (expensive) ways to relieve stress: vacations, a new home entertainment system, or a night at an expensive restaurants. If you’re stressed out but trying to save money, there are ways to relieve stress on a budget.

1) Plan ahead and Get Organized

Planning ahead can be a great way to reduce stress before it starts. There are a number of ways to work this into your life including maintaining a calendar and planning your day and week ahead of time so that you can visualize how it will play out and maintaining various “to do” lists on paper or on your phone/computer that allow you to free your brain from the task of trying to retain all that information. Organizing, whether it’s your house/apartment, files on your computer, or time, will help you to make more efficient use of your time and get the clutter out. It’s also a good way to realize your limitiations. There are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t get everything done or meet every demand.

If you are stressed out about finances, you can start by taking simple steps to start moving in the right direction. Again, there is only so much you can do in one day, week, or month. If you are stressed about demands on your time from various commitments, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate which commitments to keep and which to let go of.

2) Get More Sleep

Yes I know it’s a bit ironic that I’m recommending getting more sleep as a way of relieving stress; usually it’s stress that keeps us awake. If you used step one, though, to help relieve your mind of some of your anxiety about all the stuff you have to get done you should be able to at least attempt getting more sleep. Even if it’s just anohter half hour or hour, the time you spend sleeping is an investment in your sanity.

Some things that can help you get more sleep is not drinking caffeine after a certain time of the day and reading before bed instead of sitting on your laptop or watching TV. I also find it helpful to get ready for the day the night before, as much as is possible. Picking out what you will wear, packing your bag, preparing your lunch, and generally just being prepared for the next day should help you sleep better.

3) Exercise

Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Not only does exercising help blow off steam, it’s beneficial for your physical health, effectively killing two birds with one stone. Working out can be done at home, outside, or at a gym. If you are crunched for time, consider an in-home workout that you can fit into your schedule. Even a jog around the block a few days a week can make a big impact on your health.

I personally opt for the gym option. I love getting in a routine and going to the gym takes away distractions and gives me time for myself away from the daily demands of life. If you’re worried about the high costs of gym memberships, read my post 5 ways to get the most value out of a gym membership for some advice on how to make the best use of your membership.

4) Find ways to relax at home

For some people, home can be a source of stress. Perhaps your roommates have been driving you insane or your kids are always being loud and running around. Relaxing at home may not be an option for everyone, but for some people relaxing at home can be a great frugal option. A few ideas are:

  • Watch a movie or TV show (get them from the library to save money)
  • Read a book (ditto on the library)
  • Listen to music
  • Play a game (video game, board game, online game, etc.)
  • Have friends over (only if it relieves stress and doesn’t cause it!)

If you’re home isn’t the most relaxing place, it could take some “pre work” to get it set up in a way that is conducive to relaxing. Making cleaning and removal of clutter a priority is one way that can help. Investing in paint, furniture, and lighting that sets the mood for relaxation can help as well.

5) Take advantage of low-cost activities outside the house

If you’re like me sometimes you just want to “get out” and get your mind off of things. Thankfully there are plenty of options available outside the home for people who are on a budget:

  • Movies on weeknights – Up to 1/2 half (or more) compared to Friday-Sunday
  • Shopping – For discount/clearance items (one of my favorite shirts was $3 on the clearance rack)
  • Parks, Beaches, and other free outdoor spaces – Play frisbee, grill, have a picnic, etc.
  • Happy Hour – My wife and I love going to happy hour with friends because the prices are usually really affordable

Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to stay in every night, especially if you are stressed out! Getting out of the house and work place can really help take your mind off of the day-to-day stressors you experience.

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What do you do to relieve stress?
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Photo by William Brawley
 

35 comments
RFIndependence
RFIndependence

I love to swim in the lake, and I know I am so lucky to have one at my disposal to swim almost any day. I am getting slowly into running and have to admit after feeling like crap at the beginning it does start to feel good!

LindseyatCents
LindseyatCents

I am pretty religious about my sleep but I definitely need to work on that exercise thing. Decluttering always makes me happy - you're right about its effect on your stress levels!

criticalfinancial
criticalfinancial

Great points David, I might add in finding a low stress hobby.  I am into gardening and I have to tell you that is a great stress reliever.  My problem is finding the time to actually get to do it.  Great ideas though!!

girlmeetsdebt
girlmeetsdebt

Getting more sleep is something I really need to work on, but when your days consist of getting up at 6am and not getting home until at least 6pm 5 times a week, there just doesn't seem like enough waking hours in a day to get things done. I guess this is where #1 and #4 come into play. On weekends we try to make the most out of #5 :)

JourneytoSaving
JourneytoSaving

Listening to music is probably the most relaxing to me, aside from reading, watching tv and playing games. Though sometimes video games can be a source of frustration if you keep dying in them! I really need to work on getting more sleep as being tired all day is not fun.

Aside from these great tips, leaving work at work is probably the thing I need to work on the most. I tend to vent about work to my boyfriend but that really doesn't de-stress me most of the time. Instead, I should be enjoying the time AWAY from work!

TheHeavyPurse
TheHeavyPurse

#3 is my biggest stress buster. Beyond the health benefits, I workout my stress and solve the world's problems during my workouts. It also helps me feel in control, so that I don't let stress rule me. :) Relaxing with the family is also key. Our weekends our busy but I try to keep them focused on family and not work or other obligations.

TacklingOurDebt
TacklingOurDebt

Excellent post DC ! We all need to deal with stress at some point unfortunately. All of the tips you suggest are very helpful.  Getting enough sleep allows our body time to repair and heal itself. Our doctor said that our bodies are at their highest point of stress levels first thing in the morning. Weird, huh? My husband did a 12 hour saliva stress test once so that she could show him how high his cortisol levels were. 

ayoungpro
ayoungpro

Reading is my stress release of choice. There is nothing quite like losing yourself in another world and forgetting the cares of your for a time. To that end, video games are also a good stress release for me.

YourDailyFin
YourDailyFin

Nice tips I really enjoy reading at home or just heading out to the beach.  Stress can really mess with you if you let it but you have to find ways to cope.  Happy hour used to be on of my favorites.

Ca$hFunny
Ca$hFunny

These are awesome tips.  I really like the excercising point.  It serves so many purposes and just about all of them are good.  Plus, it turns into a hobby which takes up some time where you may have spent money doing something else.  I know Cara and I eat out a lot less because we're working out over normal dinner time. 

BorrowedCents
BorrowedCents

I am a procrastinator so it's really hard for me to plan ahead. I like exercising but I have recently slacked but when I am in a roll it always feels good.The home relaxation ones comes in handy for me too.


IdanMelamed
IdanMelamed

Hi David,

I recently combined 3 and 5 when I invited friends for my birthday to play basketball outside. Those who didn't play sat together and ate some fruits and pastries...

Beachbudget
Beachbudget

I do all of those things plus meditate, talk/hang out with friends. Also I sometimes find doing something proactive can help take your mind off serious things, but at the same time get things done, like cleaning, getting rid of clutter, and organizing. 

SenseofCents
SenseofCents

Exercising always helps me relive stress. Feels awesome!

AverageJoeMoney
AverageJoeMoney

Your #2 and #3 are huge for me. I also find that planning out my day removes stress. Once I quit stressing about how much has to get done and instead have a plan of attack, my stress tends to evaporate.

Holly at ClubThrifty
Holly at ClubThrifty

I always feel like exercising regularly allows me to be less stressed in general,

Laurie TheFrugalFarmer
Laurie TheFrugalFarmer

David, LOVE this, and love that you mentioned some often overlooked things like exercise, sleep and relaxation.  I totally agree about the planning ahead too.  I totally blow our budget when I work without a plan. 

Matt @ Mom and Dad Money
Matt @ Mom and Dad Money

We've got a bunch of parks and beaches near us and those are really great (and free!) activities. Our son loves them, we get to be outside, and we meet new people in our neighborhood. My wife actually found the play group she any our son go to at one of the nearby parks, and that group has been an awesome experience. It can be so refreshing to get outside and play, even if it's only for 15-30 minutes at a time.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@JourneytoSavingI have the same problem. I vent at home but really I should just forget about it and enjoy my time outside of work.  There's no point in talking and venting about it when you can be relaxing and taking advantage of things outside of work.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@TheHeavyPurseWeekends are always a challenge for me.  On the one hand, there is plenty of time to get work done on the site and to get things done around the house, but on the other hand I really need time to relax!  Always a struggle for me.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@ayoungpro Very nice!  Video games work well, I used to play Madden all the time it was a really good stress reliever after work.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@IdanMelamedNice, killing two birds with one stone is always a good thing, and you hopefully reduced your stress level in the process.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@BeachbudgetAwesome! One thing I really want to start doing more is reading the Bible and meditating/reflecting on what I read.  I think it would be a huge stress reliever.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@Laurie TheFrugalFarmerI constantly have plans and to-do lists.  It helps me prioritize and visualize how the day/week/etc. is going to go.  Yes, things change, but it helps me to be less stressed about everything I have to do.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@Matt @ Mom and Dad MoneyMy neighbors have a 5 year old and a one year old, and we have a park across the street from our house.  They absolutely love going there and have met other parents by hanging out at the park.

Beachbudget
Beachbudget

@DC @ Young Adult Money @Beachbudget Yeah any of that kind of stuff is great! Just have to find what works for you. I also find running to be very reflective. It's hard to convince non-runners (I used to be one of them) how awesome it can be! :)