12 Frugal Ways to End a Bad Day on a Good Note

When a friend of mine got laid off, she told me she was resorting to retail therapy to make herself feel better. Turns out that shopping when you're down can make you feel better. A recent study by Northwestern University found that retail therapy actually works, and if you do it before a stressful event, it can even help to insulate you from the negative effects.

RELATED: Cheap Ways to Treat Yourself

Although I'm all for indulging in activities to boost your mood, retail therapy is definitely a pricey way to do it. And it might make you feel worse in the long run if your shopping expedition makes a dent in your bank account. Here are some wallet-friendly ways to turn around a bad day:

Start Planning a Trip

Make a plan to take some days off and start researching destination ideas. Research has shown that planning and anticipating a trip has an even greater effect on happiness than the actual trip itself.

Make Yourself a Happy Meal

No, you don't have to re-create an artery-clogging meal from McDonald's. A happy meal is basically comfort food you can make at home that will help you feel better. Perhaps it's a childhood favorite like Oreos and milk or maybe a secret family recipe.

Set a Goal and Accomplish It

Set a small and reasonable goal and complete it before the end of the night. It can be simple tasks like washing the dishes or finishing up two chapters of a mystery novel. You'll feel better when you're getting things done.

Do Something Nice for Someone

Doing a nice act for someone can make you feel better, studies have shown. They can be small acts like sending an email to your best friend telling her how much you appreciate her, or making dinner for your partner. Here's a list of ideas for nice things to do for people.

Remember the Good

Write out a gratitude list of things that you're grateful for. Noting down a list of things that you are grateful for can renew your appreciation in things that you've been taking for granted. Writing a gratitude list will cause you to put more focus on the positive and less on the negative.

Remind Yourself That This Is Temporary

I really love the mantra "This too shall pass" because it reminds us that everything — including positive and negative events — is temporary. In a few days, weeks, or years, you will probably get over it. All that matters is knowing that there is a day you will move on and to not invest so much energy in thinking about an event that's temporary.

Sleep Early

Sometimes all you can do after a stressful event is to give it time and sleep on it. Head to bed early tonight so that you'll wake up well rested and ready to tackle the next day with gusto. Not getting enough sleep can cause you to be more cranky and sensitive, so you should definitely get a full night's rest after a bad day.

SOS a Friend

Tell your friend you need an emergency hangout to get your mind off of things. Having someone else around can get you out of the negative rut. It's always nice to have an understanding ear and someone to distract you.

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy will beat retail therapy any day. Many studies have shown that owning a pet is related to lower rates of depression and blood pressure. If you don't have a pet, perhaps play with a neighbor's furry friend or visit a shelter to coo over the cute puppies.


Close your eyes, take a few breaths, and mentally release all that is bothering you. Meditation will give your brain a break from the stress and it will maybe even help you put things into perspective and help you realize that your situation isn't so dire after all.


As we all know, exercise produces endorphins, chemicals that make you feel good. Go to the gym and play your favorite workout songs and get a good workout. You'll be feeling better in no time.

Watch a Comedy

Laughter is the best medicine and watching a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video can distract you from the negative events in your life.

Still feeling glum? Here's how to banish your negative thoughts.


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Guest's picture

Thanks for putting all these mood elevating tactics in one place. I've lived long enough to have tried almost all of them and they all work, especially Doing Something Nice. Planning a trip is also very powerful. After my mother died from a long illness, I was watching a documentary with my husband about Saint Paul's Cathedral in London with my husband and blurted out "we could go there." From that moment, I began planning a two-week trip to England. I spent 8 months researching the places to go and making all the arrangements. I produced a tour book with plans day-by-day, with choices of activities for morning, afternoon and evening, historic pubs and good restaurants near by, and fun facts. We had a wonderful two-weeks, but the I still relish the 8 months I spent in another world planning a trip that would delight my husband.

Guest's picture

I talk to my wife or with friends.

Guest's picture

These are indeed excellent ideas to help turn around bad days. Best of all, they are simple, cheap to implement and yet bring fabulous results. Thank you.

At the same time, I will add one more tip to the list: instead of waiting to the end of the day (and suffer in the meantime!), why not start the day with a bang? I read a tip some twenty years ago: it’s hard to have a bad day if you have a good breakfast. I tried it and found out that it is true. Since then, I made sure to have a good breakfast before starting the day. After that, even when problems appear, they don’t look so bad.

As I’ve been smiling for the past twenty years, I reckon this tip works!

Guest's picture

This is a really great list! And not just for days when something horrible (like getting laid off) happens, but simply for those not-so-great days that you don't want to go to bed miserable. The ones that always work for me is doing something nice for someone else, hanging out with a friend and exercising. The last one is my favorite for boosting my mood; listening to awesome music, getting your mind off of everything, feeling good about yourself, and raising endorphins all help put me in a MUCH better mood when I'm down.