20 Free and Fun Ways to Reward Yourself
I don't know about you, but I'm big on setting goals. I have fitness goals (run a 1:40 half marathon), professional goals (establish myself as a solid freelance writer), personal goals (join the local community orchestra), and financial goals (pay off my hefty student loans). Thing is, a lot of my goals involve incentives for motivation purposes. I'd love to give myself all sorts of treats, but I have to keep my budget in mind if I want to accomplish everything on my list. (See also: Frugal Ways to Reward Yourself)
Getting things done takes hard work, so at the heart of these rewards is our own need for some TLC and a mental or emotional break. Thankfully, there are many ways we can get those fuzzy feelings without heading to the store or spa. Here are 20 wonderful things you can do for yourself — today — for free.
1. Take a Day Off
Though we don't all have the luxury, one of my favorite rewards for a job well done is giving myself time. Even if it isn't an entire day, clearing my schedule and leaving chores to the next day can be such an indulgence. I spend my time reading, enjoying my favorite hobbies, and just relaxing. Now, I'm not suggesting you skip out on work; however, if you have some extra vacation time, a random day or two can be an excellent gift to give yourself.
2. Enjoy a Bath
During the week, my bathing routine is, well, very routine. I love turning off the bathroom lights, arranging a few candles around my bathtub, and using whatever suds I have around. I recently found this great tutorial for making thrifty bath bombs at home using simple, natural ingredients.
3. Create an At-Home Spa Treatment
A lot of my friends reward themselves with trips to the salon or spa for pedicures and other treatments. Instead of breaking the bank, I delve into my bathroom cabinets to find face masks, body scrubs, nail polish, etc., and give myself some pampering at home on the cheap. (See also: 10 DIY Spa Treatments)
4. Have a Movie Date
I subscribe to Netflix instead of paying an expensive cable bill each month, and I have quite a list of must-see movies. They aren't the same flicks I compromise on with my husband either. Instead, they're pure guilty pleasures. So, when I meet a goal, I like to pop some popcorn on my stovetop and cross my movies off my list.
5. Release Some Endorphins
This one might not work if you're rewarding yourself for, well, working out. However, if you actually enjoy exercise (I do!) you can make a morning of it. Head out on a long run or go to your gym for an extra long sweat session — and be sure to use all the amenities available to you.
6. Cook or Bake Something
I'm an avid at-home baker, so I usually have some basic ingredients on hand. When I complete some big task, I love to pull out my cookbooks or bookmarked recipes from blogs and bake something I've been wanting to try. It can even be as simple as baking the cookie recipe printed on the back of the bag of chocolate chips.
7. Host a No-Frills Game Night
Invite a few friends over for a low-key round of Monopoly, Scrabble, or basic cards. I'm sure we all have these games collecting dust in our attics or hallways closets — and spending time with friends can be an excellent boost and reward. Hosting need not be expensive. You can make some sort of snack using whatever you find in your kitchen and ask your friend to bring an inexpensive drink (boxed wine, anyone?). (See also: Quick Pantry Snacks)
8. Pay It Forward
If you've met some major milestone and want to keep those good vibes buzzing, consider volunteering. Sites like Volunteer Match and GiveGab are meant to match people up with great opportunities in their home areas. Not only will you make a difference, but you'll likely have fun and meet new friends while you're at it.
9. Start Saving
Though not technically free, if you reward yourself by placing anywhere from $1, $5, $10, and so on into a jar (or bank account) when you meet a goal, you may find yourself with some extra cash for a bigger award. Or perhaps you could take this whole thing a step farther and use that stashed money to pay off credit card or other debt you might have. Two birds with one stone!
10. Experience Something New
A lot of yoga studios, gyms, dance studios, and other establishments offer free trials or passes to try things out. If you're looking for a fun way to reward yourself, seeking out these freebies is a great idea. You may even find a new passion in the process. Many places have information about free trials and other promotions on their websites — so happy hunting! (See also: 25 New Things to Do)
11. Take a Hike
I don't know about you, but I never truly feel disconnected unless I'm in nature. Of course, it's always smart to bring your phone with you if you're planning to deviate from your normal daily activities, but consider heading into the great outdoors. Or at least take some baby steps by spending the bulk of your day soaking in some rays at a local park. You'll get some much-needed stress release and feel lifted quite naturally.
12. Use Your Perks
Have a few things coming to you? Why not enjoy them all at once? Cash in those loyalty cards or other coupons/freebies all in one day. I was surprised once to get a free coffee, free frozen yogurt, and free round of beer last July (my birthday month). If you're looking for freebies, check out our handy list.
13. Take a Nap
Do something great? Give your body and mind a total break! You might consider incorporating this hour or two of midday rest into a day off (as suggested above). Be sure to plan ahead — there's a science to taking perfect naps, and you deserve the very best.
14. Organize and Rearrange
Sometimes a reward can take the shape of more work to gain an even bigger reward. For example, a few extra hours spent cleaning up your apartment or house and moving around furniture can make your space feel brand new. This spring cleaning can be incredibly relaxing and possibly inspire you to do more great stuff. Anything to keep the positivity flowing. (See also: Spring Cleaning on a Budget)
15. Visit the Library
Need new reading material? Before you drive to the bookstore, reward yourself for free by using your library card instead. You can check out books, magazines, DVDs, and more. Most libraries keep current and have copies of brand new books, too, and you can check out multiple works if a few interest you. Don't yet have a library card? Call ahead. Some libraries require you bring ID and even mail addressed to your residence before issuing cards.
16. Ask for a Massage
Ask a friend or your significant other to work out the kinks in your back or knead those knots in your feet. It's incredible how even a short and simple massage can work wonders at melting the day's stress away. And be nice and return the favor!
17. Listen to or Make Music
When I've done something big, I love to crank the tunes. Sometimes I go a step further and look up chords to my favorite songs so I can jam along on my guitar. I sing unapologetically to anyone who will listen, even if it's just my cats. Dancing is optional, but highly recommended.
18. Sip Something Warm
Instead of going all out and getting the most expensive item on the menu, order a simple tea or coffee and sit at your favorite cafe for a while. To make this reward truly free, make your own beverage at home and then people-watch at your favorite beach or park or invite a friend along for a stroll.
19. Learn a New Craft
I'm sure many of you — like me — have thought of starting crafting or other hobbies from time to time. We have all the supplies, but the time just didn't present itself. Dig deep into your closets and grab those knitting needles or oil paints. You can find tutorials on YouTube or elsewhere online and slowly chip away at a new craft. (See also: Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects)
20. Connect With Someone You Love
Life surely gets away from us when we're busy crossing off items from our to-do lists. Write down the names of the people you love and — when you are in need of a boost — make a plan with one of these people. You can chat on the phone, connect via FaceTime, or otherwise do something together. I guarantee giving yourself the gift of time spent with loved ones will have you smiling for days.
How do you reward yourself when you accomplish something big or small? Please share in comments.