Self-Care Costs $143,280 in a Lifetime—Here's How to Do It for Free This Fall

A few weeks ago, Byrdie's editorial director, Faith Xue, forwarded me an email. Not a groundbreaking occurrence since it happens daily, but groundbreaking in regard to what the email contained—a startling statistic that's had kind of a profound impact on my life ever since I left-clicked.

"The average American spends $143,280 in a lifetime to treat themselves," it read. And then my eyes proceeded to bug out of their sockets. Yours too?

As reported to Byrdie from SWNS and according to new research that was conducted by OnePoll and Eventbrite, when 2000 Americans were recently surveyed about their spending habits, on average, it was found they spend $199 a month (or roughly 22% of their disposable income) on "non-essentials" for ourselves—from typical self-care "treats" (think a fancy dessert or an impromptu manicure) to more luxurious experiences like concerts, vacations, the like. And while that initial dollar amount of $143,280 felt rather jarring, the monthly $199 (to the horror of my always depleted bank account) didn't.

For instance, if you count a 120-minute deep-tissue massage, an evening showing of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and a $30 dance cardio workout class as self-care, I spent exactly that (eek, or more) in just one Saturday sitting recently. Fun? Yes. Relaxing? Yes. Expensive and ultimately guilt-provoking? Double yes. And apparently, I'm not alone when it comes to that post–expensive self-care remorse. (PESCR—should I officially coin that?)

Interestingly, 75% of those surveyed said they also feel guilty after spending on themselves, yet 62% feel they want or need to treat themselves more often. What's more, survey participants 25 and younger spend an average of 33% of their disposable income on various forms of self-care, while that percentage significantly declines with age. Those who were 55 and older had whittled self-care expenses to 13% of their disposable income.

So as it turns out, self-care can serve as a stealthy double-edged sword. On one hand, it's vitally important to our well-being. On the other, it can also leave our bank accounts (and mindsets) depleted and overworked. Not surprisingly, if we perpetuate that splurge-shame tail-chase, it becomes a stressful dynamic that only makes us more uptight—and in want of recuperative self-care. See where I'm going with this? Luckily—and we know you know this—self-care doesn't have to be expensive. But since we can't easily escape a co-worker dishing about their recent trip to Hawaii or an IG feed brimming with freshly blown-out bobs and foaming, adaptogenic, CBD- and collagen-infused $15 cappuccinos (I'm not being dramatic—I live in L.A.), it can be easy to forget the limits of our paychecks and the infinite (and free) alternatives for self-care—especially come fall.

Sure, January typically takes home the gold when it comes to well-contrived fresh starts, but honestly, and maybe it's the childish nature in us, the nostalgic back-to-school ambiance of fall feels far more appropriate for fresh invigoration. And this year, our mission is to do it for free. If you're keen on it, keep scrolling for our top tips and practices for indulging in some much-needed self-care this season—no cash or card required.