Affordable treats to counteract the stress of tough times

Affordable Personal Treats

by Joanne Guidoccio

How to Conquer Debt eBook

With four children under the age of ten and a husband who worked 50- to 60-hour weeks, Elsa's life could easily have spun out of control. But she managed to survive those stressful years by releasing expectations and treating herself on a daily basis. How did she treat herself?

Each evening, she completed a crossword puzzle while savoring the taste of a single chocolate truffle. Those 15 to 20 minutes were enough to replenish her energy and provide moments of pleasure in an otherwise challenging life.

Each of us could benefit from following Elsa's example by finding the right treat or combination of treats that serve as a "comfort food" for our brains. It is important, however, not to fall in the trap of selecting pleasures that come at a cost. For example, an hour of retail therapy may lift your mood, but if you spend too much money, you will put a strain on your finances. Eating that ice-cream cone or extra piece of cheesecake may calm jittery nerves, but will add the pounds if it becomes a daily habit. Instead, give yourself a proper break and implement treats that do not involve too much money, time, or energy.

Cinema Therapy

Plan for at least one movie break a week. In her book, Reel Fulfillment, psychologist Maria Grace says, "We've found certain films can work for patients as well as prescription drugs." For example, a romantic movie (Casablanca, Shakespeare In Love, Sleepless in Seattle) raises levels of progesterone by ten percent. This calming hormone can reduce anxiety and boost well-being. Watching funny movies (Legally Blonde, Mrs. Doubtfire , Airplane!) can cut tension by 61 percent and slash a blue mood by 98 percent. To boost family happiness and reduce overall stress, watch The Wizard of Oz, Shrek, Alvin & the Chipmunks or Finding Nemo. Many of the movies suggested by Grace can be obtained at the local library.

Quick Fixes

Carefully examine your daily routine and carve out small pockets of time. All you need is 20 minutes to soak in a bubble bath, read the first chapter in a book that has been sitting on your night stand, flip through your favorite glossy magazine, get out the yoga mat and do sun salutations, or plan your next holiday on If you can only find a five-minute break, light a scented candle, brew a cup of herbal tea, or rock in a rocking chair.

Survey Junkie

Creative Solutions

If you are musical, schedule two to three practice sessions per week on your instrument. Foodies could read that new recipe during one of their quick fixes and then spend time preparing it for a special weekend meal. Crafty people can start small knitting, quilting, or other projects that can be completed in less than three months' time. While on the computer, create and send e-mail cards to friends and relatives. Don't wait for a special occasion. Send "Just Because" cards and give someone else a special treat.

Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. Now take the first step to getting there.

Other Possibilities

  • Take your dog for a long walk.
  • Look at puppies and kittens in a pet store.
  • Get a complimentary makeover at a cosmetic counter.
  • Spend time at the public library.
  • Visit a botanical garden.
  • Look at art in a book, gallery, or museum.
  • Explore a new neighborhood.
  • Organize your photos in an album or scrapbook.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Try Sudoku.

Take the Next Step

  • Don't miss these 8 low cost ways to reduce stress.
  • Stop forgoing your favorite beauty treatments just because you're on a tight budget. Check out the TDS Guide to Beauty on a Budget and learn the tricks to pampering yourself for pennies.
  • Funding an emergency fund now can help prevent debt problems and even bankruptcy later. Start saving today with these 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma. Visit her website at

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