In early recovery, how best to manage meager – or nonexistent – finances is a major concern. It’s tough to come up with money when you are straight out of active addiction, but the good news is that there are a number of simple ways to save money as you start to move toward the financial balance that will help you get set up in recovery.
1. Quit smoking. Whether you smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or vape, it’s expensive in addition to being horrible for your health. Most people in early recovery are heavy nicotine users, and one of the quickest ways to maximize whatever income you have is to stop spending it on yet another substance that will kill you.
2. Make coffee at home. Getting together for coffee before or after a meeting is one of the most common ways to build a community in recovery, but if you are hitting up multiple meetings a day and have nowhere to go other than that because you are still looking for a job, the cost of coffee can add up. Defray these costs by drinking free coffee served at meetings or making coffee at home and bringing it with you in a travel mug. If you have nowhere to make coffee or if there is a policy that you must purchase something at the coffee shop where people are meeting up, then stick to a small plain coffee or tea rather than a fancier, more expensive drink.
3. Find out what services are available. There are a number of nonprofits dedicated to helping people transition into independent living no matter what their circumstances are. There may be food banks that can assist you, programs to help you lower your electric or phone bill, organizations that provide dress clothes for interviews, and nonprofits dedicated to helping you gain the job skills and life skills you need to manage your life in recovery. Take the time to explore what is available and get the most out of the services that are there to help you.
4. Cook at home. Even if you don’t have a kitchen, you can avoid the high costs of eating fast food by preparing some of your meals at home. A loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly are all shelf stable, and they will cover your lunch for a week for under $10. Dry cereal and fresh fruit can be a good breakfast. If you have access to a microwave, you can buy a frozen meal at the grocery store and heat it up, make oatmeal, or prep pasta. If you are on food stamps, it will make your money last all month long.
5. Stop loaning people money. You probably have some friends who are right where you are or struggling even more than you to make ends meet, but you are not in the position to hand them any money, as a loan or as a gift. When you are more stable financially, you can choose to give back to your community in a way that is more meaningful, and in the meantime, you need that $5 or the cost of a cup of coffee to get back on your feet.
6. Buy used. If you need a suit to go to an interview, a backpack, or houseware items to get you set up in a new place, you can save a ton of money when you hit the thrift store first. The prices will be lower than even big box stores like Walmart and Target, and you may find the quality is far better as well.
7. Get a side job. One of the best ways to save money is to make money. Idle time can often lead you to extra expenditures, so if you are busy helping a friend with her cleaning business, or picking up a side job babysitting or landscaping during the summer, you are keeping yourself busy while also earning a little bit of money to get you started in recovery.
8. Stop trying to buy forgiveness. It is normal to feel indebted to family members and close friends after addiction. You may feel that you have to bend over backward in order to make up for some of the choices that hurt people, taking every opportunity to pay your way or give them gifts. Do not feel that you have to buy your way back into people’s good graces, show up with big hostess gifts to parties, or spend lots of money on family members you haven’t been around due to addiction – even your kids. Instead, make something small and funnel your money into getting stable so you can provide consistent support to the people you love.
9. Share. Do you and a friend like the same books? Wear the same size? Do you have an extra of something they need, and they have an extra of something you need? Sharing and trading can help you to keep costs down and allow you to focus your money on paying bills and building financial stability.
10. Stay sober. It is impossible to keep your finances or anything else under control when you are drinking and getting high again. Put your energy into staying sober rather than worrying about how much you do or don’t have in the bank. When you are sober, the things you need will eventually fall into place.
How are you balancing your finances in recovery?