When you’re working on a budget, how often do you cut down or eliminate ‘frivolous’ expenses- things you may want but don’t necessarily need.
Sometimes though, it may actually be a good idea to invest in yourself, though. This doesn’t mean getting a large coffee with whipped cream every morning before work or putting a down payment on that sports car you’ve always wanted. Those are splurges that will make you temporarily happy, but don’t contribute to your quality of life over a longer period of time. Since investing in yourself may mean that you don’t see the return right away, it’s an exercise in delayed gratification.
How do you factor self improvement and self care into your budget? Brian Tracy, author of “No Excuses” suggests setting aside 3% of your annual income toward self improvement. This article from John Meese explains how you can use this formula for self improvement on any budget, but it primarily focuses on the business growth/startup perspective.
For some, however, personal growth doesn’t involve attending conferences or creating annual goals. Here are some non entrepreneurial self improvement and self care ideas for your budget:
Health. One of the best self investments you can make is in your health. Considering the benefits of health vs. illness, most investments in health are fairly small prices to pay. Health care items such as an annual checkup, flu shot, and other routine visits may already be part of your budget. As part of health, diet can be a self care investment. Perhaps you set aside some of your budget to invest in new kitchen equipment such as a food processor or spiralizer, or maybe you decide to get healthy home delivery meals or lessons from a chef to prepare healthy food.
Fitness. Similar to health, fitness is another area where you will always benefit from making the investment. Whether your goal is weight loss, building muscle, or simply to be more active, it’s a great way to invest in self care and improvement. Your monthly budget could go to a personal trainer, gym membership, gear, race registration, etc.
In Chicago, there are plenty of fitness resources to be found. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for in a workout, here are some places to consider:
- Chicago Fitness Center
- Fleet Feet Chicago (Running club and race discounts)
- Fitness Formula Clubs
- Lateral Fitness
- Right Fit Personal Training
- Transform Personal Training
Education. A lot of people have interests outside of their current jobs. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take a painting class, or have always been interested in learning a foreign language or writing your own book. Perhaps you’re even considering an advanced degree or certificate. Each of these is an example of self improvement, regardless of the interest you choose to pursue. Of course, one course is less expensive than going back to school (even part time) to get a degree, but many employers often offer some sort of tuition assistance as an employee benefit so it may be worth asking if this is true in your workplace.
Some locations that offer adult education include:
- Loyola University School of Continuing and Professional Studies
- City Colleges of Chicago Adult Education
- The University of Chicago Graham School
- Northwestern School of Professional Studies
Vacation. Although this typically gets filed under “frivolous expenses,” we all need a break once in awhile. Recharging can actually be beneficial to you, your loved ones, and your business. Perhaps this is an annual vacation, or just part of your budget being set aside for smaller acts of self care like a monthly massage and “relax” day where you unplug. Before you dismiss a strictly self-care item from your budget, think about the long term benefits on your mental well-being and consider the return you’ll be getting on this investment.
Chores. Most of us have way too much to do and too little time to do it. Websites like TaskRabbit and services like grocery delivery mean you can spend a little money to get some of your chores done, freeing up your energy to work on that project or spend time with your kids. Getting a cleaning person may not seem like a form of self investment but if you use the time freed up to do more, it can be.
It’s important to note that even though our examples talk about investing your money in yourself, just about every example also asks you to invest time as well. Investing in yourself requires both to be truly successful.
Even if you aren’t planning, starting, or running your own business, you can still benefit from setting aside part of your budget for self improvement and self care. These are just a few areas to inspire growth. You may find other ways you’d like to grow and improve, and as long as you’re moving forward and not spending more than you should be, it’s worth the investment.