Treating Myself on a Limited Budget

by Katy on March 20, 2015 · 42 comments

Since I write about frugality, the subject matter can veer towards self-deprivation and austerity. I didn’t get that coffee I wanted, or look at this hair-tie I found on the ground or I have a less than ideal possession, but I’m keeping them going for as long as I can. But I don’t want to give the impression that a frugal life is one without joy and indulgences.

My current budget is extremely tight, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t treat myself.

  • I binge watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, not once but twice.
  • I drink multiple big hot sweet cups of Red Rose tea throughout my day, and always take it as an opportunity to plop down on the couch and goof around on the internet, thinking to myself “even the scullery maid gets to sit down with her tea at some point.”
  • I indulge my odd aesthetic and buy completely impractical scratchy vintage throw pillows.
  • I take lengthy hot showers. Even if they are every other day to save money.
  • I bake inexpensive treats for no reason whatsoever. And I don’t obsess about my weight.
  • I check out library books that I don’t end up reading, simply because the process of choosing is enjoyable.
  • I talk on the phone to my NYC sister at least three times per day.
  • I perk up dull chores by always having a library audiobook downloaded onto my phone.
  • I wear comfortable clothes, always.
  • I plan inexpensive trips that fit within my budget. I may never stay in a foreign resort, but I can still step away from my home routine now and then. We’ve even staycationed at my mother’s guest cottages, even though they’re just fifteen minutes from the house.
  • I socialize with my friends without spending money.
  • I give myself permission to take pleasure in what others would find ordinary.

I don’t pressure myself to keep up the Joneses, which frees me from making life choices based on how I seem to others. Having an extremely limited budget doesn’t mean that life’s little, or even medium pleasures need to go by the wayside.

Today I may be spending the day cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages, but later I’ll throw together a couple of homemade pizzas and snuggle up in front of the TV with my beautiful and healthy kids.

Which is the ultimate treat.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren March 20, 2015 at 9:44 am

I completely understand the process of library book choosing! My husband took one look at my towering stack and asked what the point was when I obviously couldn’t read all that in three weeks. I told him “it’s fun to pick at random and it costs me nothing.”


Katy March 20, 2015 at 10:05 am

I was afraid that came off as crazy, so I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one. It’s not that I choose books knowing I won’t read them, I just like to be able to have choices once I’m home.


Lisa March 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

I buy books for a library system, so I always have way way more books checked out than I could possibly read. I call it “aspirational holds placing.”


Lilypad March 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm

I check out lots of books based on various recommendations and end up taking some of them back unread. Reading library books exclusively (and never buying books) has given me the freedom to allow myself to STOP reading if a book turns out to be boring or not what I expected. I used to force myself to keep reading but now I don’t waste time on anything I’m not enjoying. Back at the library, there are plenty more fish (er, books) in the sea!


Joyce March 20, 2015 at 3:07 pm

I totally agree with the STOP reading method. Boring isn’t a good use of my time. And since they are free, I feel like I am saving money.

tonya March 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

I do the same. My thing is– I some how think “I possibly COULD read these 7 books and the other 4 I have at home if I renew enough times and…..” but it doesn’t matter, it’s nice to have them at the house in case I do want to read them!

I have to say–I’m and English professor and books are a real weakness for me. I do sometimes get some new books– down from “every book I want” to “the library doesn’t have it, it’s too new or academic for Goodwill, and it’s not on Scribd and I just cannot wait to have this book any longer” which, I have to say, is a remarkable savings.

Thank God for the library!


K D March 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

I have a new friend, that is here for a long term visit, from a foreign country. She just told me yesterday that I am different, that I am simple (in a good way).

Not spending much money is de facto for us most of the time. Even though we have more money now than we had when I was awakened to frugality (it was 1998 and I borrowed from the library Your Money or Your Life, The Millionaire Next Door, and The Tightwad Gazette). It is a comfortable way of life for us. Most of the people around us reinforce this behavior (not because they are frugal but because most of them are struggling due to the amount of money they waste). I love your blog because of the meeting of like minds.

“I give myself permission to take pleasure in what others would find ordinary.”, I love that, it totally resonates with me, as do so many of your other treats. I hope you have a great weekend.


Katy March 20, 2015 at 10:08 am

Yes, those are all great books!


Sabrina | Frugal Italian Family March 20, 2015 at 10:07 am

I love lengthy hot showers too and I can’t go without frugal trips, even if within my budget 🙂 . I am okay with a frugal life but I think we all need our little treats. 🙂


Marcia March 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

When I was a teenager, I always took out the maximum number of books allowed at the library. I read them all, usually within the week. It was a pretty good walk to the library from my house, until I started dating a boy who lived along the way. Then I could stop at his house and if he was home, he would carry my books and go with me. That made it even more fun.


Lilypad March 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm

That sounds perfect!


Betty Winslow March 20, 2015 at 10:43 am

Good for you – frugality is one thing, unnecessary martyrdom is another. I do the same thing with library books! And that’s on top of many many (many) unread books at home. I never know what I’ll be in the mood for until I get time to read…..


Lynette March 20, 2015 at 10:45 am

The greatest part of my day is getting all my kids home from school and then sitting around the table eating snacks while my boys share the most obscene things with me simply because they like talking to me. I love that I am close with my teens And my 3 year old, and truly the greatest joy is making them snacks and surprising them with them.


Katy March 20, 2015 at 10:51 am

That sounds like perfection.


AnnW March 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

Yeah, that’s the attitude! But your “extremely limited budget” in many ways is self imposed. Also, you could make more money sometimes, but you choose to work part time. Which is very smart while your kids are still home. Once you cut out the bs in your life, the stress is reduced and the importance of money and all that entails is lessened.


Katy March 20, 2015 at 11:03 am

It is, and it isn’t.


Diane March 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

Now that my years of living on a wing and a prayer are winding down as my debt is getting lower and lower, I reward myself with small luxuries once in awhile…a treat from a local bakery, a bottle of wine, a thrifted name brand piece of clothing or a lunch out with friends. It feels so good to be good to myself.


Isabelle March 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

What I like -and relate – about your blog is that it always comes across to me as if your frugality is a choice and that you are enjoying the process. I might be wrong, but this is how I receive it. It’s light, not gut wrenching.


Sarah March 20, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Well said!


cathy March 20, 2015 at 11:39 am

Thank you SO much for this refreshing post. I tend to approach my life in much the same way, allowing myself small indulgences and savoring them for what they are (like a fat stack of library books or snuggling on the couch with kids).

It gets tiresome to read blogs (in particular) focused on frugality and get the sense that readers who comment are competing to be the biggest frugal martyr. It’s as if the greater the deprivation, the greater the badge of honor. We are frugal for many reasons, but have always felt that our ultimate goal is to live the nicest life we can within our means.


gepee March 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I’m sooooo with you on this. In the end, no matter how frugal or not frugal one lives, life is always better if one can really enjoy the small, “normal” good things, like a hot shower.
I have the luxury to have a library very nearby, so I always have more books at home than I can read. So I can start reading a book and then decide if I really want to read it all the way through – and if I don’t like it, no money wasted. That way, I try out subjects and authors I would never buy. And I also always have a library audiobook downloaded for dull chores.

I also like dressing comfortably and enjoying a good homecooked meal without obsessing too much about weight


Jean March 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm

I love choosing books at the library too – and having a stack of them to read at home. The library “grounds” me and I love going there, it is my safe haven, I also love returning books so I don’t have as much clutter in my house. I think it is important to treat oneself too…..often. It does not have to be “over the top” to be a treat.


tonya March 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Um, yes to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! Tina fey is a genius.


Katy March 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm



laura avery April 1, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Yep !! Love this program, Can’t wait for the next season, I hope there is one.


Lilypad March 20, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Comfortable clothes, homemade treats, snuggling with my kid: I’m right there with you, sister! One of my son’s friends came over to hang out today, the boys were roaring with laughter upstairs while his mom and I had a cup of tea and chatted. It was perfectly delightful!


Marie-Josée March 20, 2015 at 3:11 pm

So lucky that you speak to your sister daily – what a testimony to your relationship.


Trish March 20, 2015 at 4:12 pm

where did you watch Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt? I have heard it is good. netflix streaming?


Katy March 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Yes, it’s only on Netflix.


Isabelle March 20, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Netflix indeed


Roopa March 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

A big hug to you! U hv really changed my outlook! While i still hv a very long way to go…the big brands dont attract me any longer


Katy March 20, 2015 at 6:25 pm



Hobart Chic March 21, 2015 at 4:12 am

Things that make me happy, and cost little:
*knitted tea cosy
*tea pots (I only have two, BUT I WANT them ALL)
*a good de-clutter which prevents me collecting tea pots
*new cheap frilly bed linen for mix and matching purposes from the op-shop (second hand charity shop)
*herbal tea
*sunshine and spectacular summer sunrises
*alliteration! 😀


st March 21, 2015 at 4:19 am

One of the things that I love most about being frugal is the freedom that it gives you! I love the feeling of not yearning for what society tells you that you need or must have. It really allows you to be more creative with every choice that you make and make your life more individualized to you. Ex. clothing made or redesigned, furniture found and painted. Fun!


Amanda March 21, 2015 at 6:41 am

Great point. Frugality is about not overindulging in everything so you can indulge in the things you really do love.
For me it’s:
-travel. We home exchange so we can afford places like Bali.
-I allow myself one name brand can of Pepsi per day. It’s not good for my wallet or health, but I feel indulged when that carbonated sugar is dancing on my tongue.
-As a grad student studying history I can easily spend $500 on books a semester. I’ll make my lunch forever if it means I can afford to just order all the books I need. Nothing is more fun that getting a box of books in the mail!
-We almost always cook at home, so I feel justified buying and cooking pretty much whatever I want. Luckily I like frugal foods, but I also love salmon and asparagus.
-My most expensive indulgence is probably quiting a great job to go back to grad school where my stipend is about a third of what I used to earn. But what’s the use of being wealthy if you are miserable.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post!


Ellen March 21, 2015 at 8:32 am

I’m so happy to read that other people stop reading a book if it isn’t hitting the mark. Lately I have been wanting to read “happy” books – not a lot of angst, violence, or just completely insane characters. If the story gets too depressing (and for me it seems like a lot of modern literature is) I just put it down. Library books are great because there’s no guilt if you don’t like it. I also check out a lot of how-to books. Even if I get just one idea it’s still worth carting the book home. Thanks for all the ideas on how to give ourselves little treats!


Maureen March 21, 2015 at 10:50 pm

I love this post. I was raised in a decidedly non frugal home and slowly came to leading a frugal life. I want to gift this to my children. Frugality is an important part of living with intent- being aware of how each choice we make affects us and others, but I want them to do this joyously, in every part of their lives. Splurging isn’t necessarily about spending money, it’s more about generosity, to ourselves and to others. That doesn’t have to cost a dime and I appreciate how this post captures that.


Vickie March 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Ha! I do the same with clothes!
I buy khaki and black pants for work, but only the ones with an elastic waist and pockets. My tops cover the waist and the pockets I use to keep my University ID card in, since we have to swipe in and out of our office.
I could careless about being fashionable, comfort is my intention in mid-life.

I didn’t think about downloading ebooks to my iphone. thanks for including that! I see more ebooks listed on the Library website now than what they have audio CD books listed.
Hubby and I watch our local NBA Team as part of our entertainment. I read a lot and buy DVDs at the Goodwill store, which I can resell to Vintage Video or get in-store credit.
I do eat lunch out with my friends once or twice a month, but I consider that a treat for myself and there are always frugal choices on the lunch menus.
I LOVE good cheese, so I would rather spend money buying gourmet cheese than packaged processed cheese.

I splurge occasionally and buy a 40# bag of sunflowers for my feeders, when it’s on sale at the feed store. One of my guilty pleasures is watching the birds out my kitchen window while I do dishes and cook.

As a grandmother I love to find things for my grandkids. However, it’s rarely “new” stuff. Kids grow so quick, it’s easy to find good clothes for them at the thrift store. I have a monthly subscription for my grandson to Gamefly, he loves video games, but even used ones can be expensive. This gives him a way to enjoy video games and earn points/game bucks. I can get used games for just a few dollars for him, for birthdays and Christmas, by using the game bucks earned.

A frugal life can be fun and rich, without spending a lot of bucks! I have to say, I am NOT and extreme cheapskate, but I also don’t consider myself a spend thrift.


Loretta March 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Katy, I have read every single one of your blog posts and this is my absolute favourite! I read around 150 books a year (and my 2 kids are huge readers als0). If we bought every book we read we’d be bankrupt! Love, love, love the library, and op shops for cheap books we ‘have’ to own (I keep a list). Nothing gives me a rush like finding a brand-new trade paperback for $1!!

The multiple cups of tea is key for me too, and I just donated 2 pairs of incredibly uncomfortable, but very fashionable high heels to the Salvo’s. My Uggs and Birkis are my everyday shoes:-)

I do love to travel, but have tried to go as local as possible (hard, when I live in Australia but adore Europe and my sister lives there!) This year my sister and I are planning a bike riding/winery tour in South Australia, which is only a 6 hour road trip, instead of a hideously expensive version in Italy or France (not that I’d be able to afford it anyway!!) Plus, Aussie wines are the best.


Ronnica, Striving Stewardess March 22, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I’m with you on comfortable clothes! I don’t get why you would wear uncomfortable ones if there’s a choice. That’s why I switched to wearing skirts and dresses most of the time…they’re easy and comfortable!


Jenny L. March 23, 2015 at 8:56 am

I haven’t been to a library in a long time and I love going! I don’t really have one close by any more, so I have been downloading free Kindle books to my phone and reading that. If it doesn’t catch my attention, I delete it and since it’s free, I don’t feel bad about doing that.


Jill March 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

I try to buy used whenever I can, but twice a year, I treat myself to brand spanking new running shoes. I am a runner, so I wear them until they wear out. Once I can no longer run in them, I donate them or downgrade them to yard shoes.

I also just “treated” myself to new glasses. Because my eyes are so terrible, I “got” to “treat” myself to lenses that were about $170 a piece! Still totally worth it, because now I can see to work and drive and walk and stuff!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: