Relax... It's Only $2


I have been feeling more stressed out than usual. My first instinct is to call up my massage therapist and schedule a one-hour Swedish massage and order some take-out peanut butter chicken from my local Chinese place. After doing the math, however, I figure that between the $80 massage, $18 tip, $10 takeout, and $8 in gas, I will have a spent a whopping $116 in unjustified indulgences. It would take an entire day of hard-earned freelance work to get all of that money back, and I would probably end up MORE stressed out and guilty than before my very expensive TLC. So what’s a girl to do? Here are 7 of my favorite ways to relax, and they all cost less than a $2 bill!

1. Take a shower – This seems cheesy, but it really works for me. While some people swear by a bubble bath, I am a clean, running water freak. The right shower head and a $1.45 bottle of Suave Exhale body wash (cheap but sooo luxurious) gives me a nice escape from the hectic world.

2. Tea and a movie – I won’t name-drop on my tea of choice, but any natural variety with a little chamomile or a nice oolong can put you into instant relax mode. Sipping a cup or two while watching Adrenaline Drive (think campy comedy – not action flick), can put me in the right frame of mind again. And before you wonder how you can do the movie thing for less than $1.50, my favorites are always in the bargain bin. Always.

3. Run – As far and as fast as you can. This one should be free, as long as you own a pair of running shoes. Just get going long enough for your heart to work overtime and then slither home for a repeat of tip #1.

4. Sing – If you can’t stand the sound of your own voice, throw on a pair of headphones. You can pick up a cheap pair to plug into your PC or stereo for less than a buck at the local dollar store. Sing something soulful but not depressing (Amy Winehouse, Fiona Apple, Etta James, or Alvin and the Chipmunks will do fine.)

5. Bake Bread – Between the kneading and the rolling, you will have worked your hand and arm muscles into a state of forced relaxation. The carbs contained in a loaf of your very own bread will help to feed both your body and your self-esteem!

6. Paint – Art is a great way to express your self and let the bad out. Give yourself an excuse to be crazy, and DON’T use paint. Instead, grab a sheet of wax paper and go crazy finger painting with ketchup, salad dressing, or pudding. You’ll feel like a kid again in no time.

7. Nap Outside – Just 20 minutes on a blanket in the yard, suspended in a hammock, or even in a lounge chair on your apartment deck will allow you to totally unwind. Don’t set the alarm and be sure to wear sun protection in case you conk out for longer than planned.

Feeling better? Good. Now think of all the money you saved by being great to yourself and your wallet.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

I'm a huge fan of the outside nap. Of course up here in the boondocks I need to make sure that's after major blackfly season and before it gets to be below freezing. But I still dig it.

Valerian tea is a great one. Or, just pop a couple of valerian capsules and pick whatever other tea you like.

My friend swears by bread baking as well. I love my machine, but since the movers have it still, I may need to take up the practice.

Great post, Linsey.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Those nasty flies draw blood in a bad way... yech!

Guest's picture

Thanks for making the monetary correlation between the cost of luxury / indulgence and time spent on the job. We need to attain the means to pay for these things. Sometimes the cost of indulgence is worthwhile. Sometimes finding the frugal substitute is very much part of the reward to self, the luxury. Good ideas. Bravo.

For relaxation, I like to pull up a good cat. In the absence of a good cat, though, I'll often substitute one from our house. Any port in a storm. Ha ha.

Guest's picture

For the guys, we can add a box of ammo to the list (and a safe place to discharge it, of course).

Guest's picture

I love salt scrubs and they are dead easy to make at home.

Put some fine sea salt in the palm of your hand and add an equal amount of olive oil.

Scrub it on damp skin and then rise off with warm water.

Be careful though...the olive oil can make the tub slippery!

It costs maybe $0.10 for the salt and oil, but it makes me feel like a million bucks.

Guest's picture
Atticus Fryst

Sip a glass of cheap cabernet, plug into your ipod, and watch flickr interesting - last 7 days slideshow.

Jessica Okon's picture

A bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" Charles Shaw wine from Trader Joe's

I also recommend:

1. Watching "Cheaters," "Wife Swap" and "Sunset Tan" because nothing is more relaxing than some bellylaughs!

2. Reading. It is probably the only thing that truly relaxes me, unless I'm reading a bank statement.

3. You Tube. I can, and have spent hours on there without realizing it. It is beyond relaxing for me. I  looking up old bands I love or bands I've been curious about, tv shows of my youth, movies. 

Linsey Knerl's picture


 Have you checked out Toontracker ? My kids make fun of me because I spent all day on there listening to old "Pole Position" and "Foofur" theme songs.. I am now also sporting the coolest "Jem" screensaver.

Guest's picture

Yoga can be done at home and is a great stress reliever.

Hitting the health club during their slow time when nobody else is there and boil yourself in the hot tub uninterrupted.

Guest's picture

Xanax is about a dollar for a half-milligram. Yeah, I know. I should be drinking tea and taking hot baths. I'm waiting for it to cool off outside, or I'll end up spending an extra five on additional air-conditioning. How do you people run in this weather?!?

Linsey Knerl's picture

Yeah, that is a good one too... I have been using Hyland's Calms' Forte as a weak but doable substitute for antidepressants with fairly good results.  The valerian works OK in a pinch as well.

Myscha Theriault's picture

One thing we splurged on one year was a really nice professional massage table from Costco.  It's really nice at the end of the week to be able to whip up massage oil for cheap and get / give a back rub. And really, it pays for itself in just 2-3 massages. Because we are both nearing 40 (very near, actually), getting proper neck allignment is more important than it used to be, so we felt this particular purchase was justified and spent time saving for it. Obviously, the initial investment was way more than 2 bucks, but once that's been recovered, you can easily make your own oils for under your two dollar suggested limit.

I LOVED the comment about the pull up a good cat or grab one of her own when none were available. I have felt that way about our pups on occasion, particularly with the most recent skunk incident. Yuk! 


Guest's picture

I've been doing the tea-and-a-movie one ever since reading this post. Thanks a lot for that tip; I have NEEDED it.

Guest's picture

Nature is a great universal stress reliever, one that is close to everyone. I go for a walk as often as I can. At work I watch relaxation videos (here).

Guest's picture

The smell of bread baking is fabulous; so is the smell of chocolate chip cookie baking.