When adjusting a budget to make room for debt payments, the first things to go are often expendables like eating out and shopping.
Gym memberships and therapy sessions also tend to be on the chopping block.
Big mistake. According to research done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, people with debt were more likely to feel depressed—and being depressed can make it harder to make good decisions about money, continuing the cycle of debt and depression. In other words, self-care is vital when dealing with debt.
Luckily, I’ve discovered that there are some ways to pay off debt and soothe the mind at the same time.
This is how I’ve achieved that balance:
1. Find free or cheap ways to work up a sweat.
When I was broke, many people suggested that working out would make me feel better about my life. At first, I ignored their suggestions, saying that I didn’t want another reason to spend money.
But then, I found that many yoga studios offer free or “pay what you can” days. I also took advantage of Groupon and Living Social deals, where I could buy a month-long pass for 50 percent off or more.
“It’s vital that you take care of yourself both mentally and physically, because being frugal and/or working your way out of debt takes a lot of effort,” says Abigail Perry, author of Frugality for Depressives. “If you’re sick, depressed or generally burned out, you have less energy to devote to staying on the financial straight and narrow.”
Biking, running and aerobics are just a few more workout programs that anyone can do at home for minimal cost.
2. Get into the phone zone.
For a long time, my smartphone seemed like nothing more than a serious source of stress. Work emails, social media and calls from debt collectors made me want to throw the device out the window. However, I learned how to transform my phone into a relaxation device.
The first step was learning how to “unplug” the phone. This can be as simple as putting it in airplane mode or turning on the “do not disturb” setting, only allowing calls and texts from a select few people. I’ve also used apps like Clearlock, which temporarily blocks distracting apps, and Offtime, which actually tracks how much time you spend using various apps to help you keep your habits in check.
Then, I downloaded a few apps that benefit my mental health. Meditation apps like Headspace offer guided and unguided sessions as short as 10 minutes and as long as several hours. I’ve also found some in-depth yoga apps that are almost like going to a private class.
3. Simplify workout wear.
As much as I’d love to buy those 100 dollar leggings at Lululemon, I’ve accepted that my budget can’t afford them. Luckily, I don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to work up a sweat. A few pairs of gym shorts, T-shirts and sports bras are enough for me.
I’ve found great brands at my local Goodwill, where I can stock up for a few bucks per item. I’ve bought running shoes at DSW on clearance, where I can snag them for less than 50 dollars a pair.
4. Save on therapy sessions.
Many people assume that they can’t afford therapy services, especially if they’re struggling with debt payments. According to GoodTherapy, the average counseling session can cost upwards of 100 dollars.
I’ve learned that universities with psychology departments usually have discounted counseling services. I went from paying more than 40 dollars a session at a low-income clinic to 20 dollars. My clinic offers a sliding scale based on your income, starting at five dollars a session. Not only do I save money, but I also get to see my therapist once a week, instead of once a month.
Group therapy sessions are another way to save money without sacrificing mental health. Most sessions cost between 35-90 dollars and last 90 minutes. Many therapists also have a sliding scale for those who can’t afford their regular prices.
“If you’re concerned about depression, I personally think counseling is key,” Perry says. “You need someone with an outside perspective who can point out when you’re being too hard on yourself or perhaps not making the healthiest choices.”
Sometimes financial struggles are due to much more serious issues than poor money management—they can be linked to deeper psychological issues and emotional triggers. Luckily, there are therapists who specialize in helping people work through financial problems.
Whatever its root cause, debt can feel debilitating, but self-care has helped me stay healthy and happy as I’ve worked toward financial stability.
Author: Zina Kumok
Image: Britt-knee / Flickr
Editor: Sara Kärpänen