Sobriety is about more than putting the substances down. It is about getting your life in order – and this includes money. Managing finances is difficult, but it can be especially challenging in early sobriety.
When I was released from treatment and landed my first job in sobriety, it was an exhilarating feeling to have a paycheck that wasn’t going to be blown on the drugs that fed my addiction for so many years.
Despite paying nearly $300 a week to the landlord of my halfway house, I wanted to purchase everything – makeup, clothes, and junk food.
I had previously accumulated some serious credit card debt and didn’t have a savings account, but I didn’t think about any of this for a long time. Having money was foreign and exciting. After all, I had spent the last four months in treatment and wasn’t allowed to carry money.
A year later I was still trying to get my finances in order due to my reckless spending habits. I struggled to find a landlord to rent my own place from because my credit score was very poor and I was living paycheck to paycheck.
Had I practiced these money management skills from the very beginning, the financial aspect of my first year in sobriety would have been easier.
Optional vs. Mandatory Purchases
When you first get out of treatment, chances are there are more important things you need to spend your money on rather than a flashy wardrobe or a million tattoos, like shampoo, housing, and food.
You should be sure to meet your needs before throwing money at things that will only bring you momentary happiness.
One addiction can be easily replaced with another, and shopping can definitely be an addiction. Before irrationally grabbing an item to purchase, ask yourself whether that item is a necessity or not.
At the beginning of your sobriety, focus on buying things that you need first. Otherwise, you will spend your money on things that make you feel good at the moment, then be forced to eat ramen noodles for weeks on end.
Creating a Budget
The transition from rehab to sober living can be intimidating because it comes with a lot of responsibility. As addicts, we are impulsive individuals who push our boundaries and have a tendency to run from unwanted responsibilities.
Budgeting means learning how to remain within your spending boundaries. Since money management is an essential responsibility, try putting your finances on paper. Sometimes, writing things down makes them simple and clear to understand.
Make a list of your expenses. This means allocating funds for rent, bills, food, and transportation. Then, calculate your monthly income. The remaining balance after your expenses shouldn’t be primarily spent on treating yourself.
Try and put at least half of your remaining balance into savings, or make an extra credit card payment. You will be glad you did when it is time to lease an apartment or buy a new car.
Seeking Outside Help
Hopefully, you have begun to build some amazing relationships with reliable, trustworthy people in sobriety by the time you leave treatment.
If you are struggling to maintain the budget you have developed, ask a trusted friend to place your money into a secure bank account. In doing this, you are implementing accountability upon yourself. Your trusted friend can help you manage your budget, save money, and stay on the right track.
If you are skeptical about trusting another person with your finances, there are other resources that can help you.
Try speaking with an accountant or find a financial counselor. This can help teach you how to budget your money while still enforcing additional accountability.
There are endless future opportunities waiting for you in your recovery journey.
Make a list of short and long term goals. Set a goal of what you want your credit score to be in a year, and monitor it to see your progress. If you want to go back to school or take an online class, figure out how much that will cost and when you want to do it. If you want to move out of your halfway house in 6 months or buy a car, write that down too.
When you begin to save money for these goals you will anticipate them more and more. As your goals begin to materialize and become reality, you can start crossing things off the list. The rewards you will reap from these achievements will be plentiful as they will be a direct result of self-discipline and hard work.
If you are able to successfully follow your budget and begin accomplishing your goals, you deserve to treat yourself. This doesn’t have to be an extravagant or expensive reward, but make sure it is something that makes you happy. Follow these suggestions and managing your money in early recovery should be a breeze!