How to Save Money in Sobriety

In early recovery and into long-term sobriety our finances are usually not in the best shape. We have wreaked havoc on our lives, especially our finances. When we come into sobriety, it can be difficult to start managing money. The biggest obstacles we face are how to save money, how to budget money and how not to let having money in your pocket send you back out to using and drinking. It seems like a huge task to accomplish, the most important thing to remember is that you must start somewhere, even if you start small.

How to Save Money in Recovery

When we were running, money is looked at as a means to an end. The end being how much we needed to get through the day and how much that would cost us. When we enter recovery, it can be hard not to spend every cent that we have because that’s how we were used to operating for so long. In order to save money, you have to learn the value of money again. When you start a job if you have a set amount you get paid or know about how much your paycheck should be you can put aside a certain amount.

It’s not just about how much money you make; you have to realize how much you’re spending. If you use primarily cash (which may be a trigger), write down what you’re spending money on. If you use a card, download your mobile banking app or another budgeting tool.

For an example of tracking your spending if you’re going to 6 meetings a week and get an energy drink before every meeting that’s anywhere between $2.49 – $4.00 a meeting, with a 7% sales tax that’s $2.66 – $4.28. Now, multiply that by 6 times a week. You’re spending $15.96 – $25.68 on energy drinks for meetings. That’s $63.84 – $102.72 a month, not counting the dollar or 2 in the basket every meeting. If you’re getting multiple energy drinks a day, the cost goes up. It may seem like an insignificant amount of money at each transaction, but it adds up.

If you continue to keep track of how much you spend, you get an idea to see where you can cut down on frivolous spending. Saving money starts with keeping track of your money. Keeping track of your money also allows you to begin budgeting.

How to Budget Money in Sobriety

How can you budget when you feel like you have so much to pay back? You make a financial plan. There are countless ways and methods of budgeting if you look up how to budget there will be millions of answers. The main thing necessary is to find a plan that works for you. If you have to write everything down or have someone you trust dole out your money to you, find a way that works for you in the beginning. After you’ve found out what works for you, you keep improving on how to budget. Some questions you should ask yourself when you’re determining a budget are:

  1. How much money do I make? Figure out your net pay, what you take home.
  2. What are my expenses?
    1. Rent
    2. Utilities
    3. Groceries
    4. Phone bill
    5. Car costs (gas, insurance, car payment)
    6. Debt payments (if you have a credit card, or are making financial amends every month)
    7. Additional expenses (entertainment, non-essential items)
  3. Budget the amount that you need for each of those expenses. Typically, rent and other bills like that they are a set amount. You can accurately calculate every month the amount you will spend on those bills.
  4. Is there anywhere that you can cut costs? If you go out to eat 4 times a week, can you cut it down to 1? If the costs are outside of your budget, you have to cut down on these things.
  5. SAVE MONEY – after calculating costs, where you can lower some expenses, you can determine how much to set aside from each check to save. Saving money should always be a part of your budget.

Trying to think about all these things can be overwhelming at first, the more you do it, the easier budgeting your money gets. Budgeting helps alleviate some of the stress associated with finances. You don’t want to have too much month at the end of your money. That puts you in dangerous territory.

Money: why can it be a Trigger?

For a long time, money was only viewed as a way to get more. If what you needed was 20 dollars, and you had 25 dollars but needed gas and food, you were only getting gas and what you needed. Out of personal experience, it was hard for me to not think of money in amounts of ‘how much I could get’ with the amount of money I had. If I needed food for the week, my brain calculator already thought well if I have 30 dollars for this, I could say forget the food and get something because then I won’t be worried about food at that point. It took some training to stop the stinking thinking.

For some people, having cash is a trigger. Cash was our only way to get what we needed. It’s easy to get tempted because we can come up with every excuse as to why we could get away with it or to “treat yo’self” it doesn’t always have to be drugs or alcohol that we spend recklessly on. When you buy things, it sets off the pleasure centers in your brain. Spending money and acquiring items makes us feel good, even if we don’t have the money to spend.

For some carrying an ATM/Debit card is a trigger. It gives ease of access to money which can mean overspending, or if something happens, you can go and pull money out at any gas station or bodega. Prepaid debit cards are handy if you only want to have a set amount of money on you, but don’t like using cash. This card isn’t for relapse prevention; it’s to teach you money management.

Money triggers aren’t always taking all your money and going on a vicious run. It can be things such as overspending, not saving any money, and having bad spending habits. Especially in early sobriety, money is something we struggle with. We have to learn how to save money, how to make a budget and the way we feel most comfortable with our money. Sobriety is learning a new way of life and becoming responsible adults, learning to manage our money is just one way we can do that.

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