Managing Your Finances in Recovery

man in white shirt using his laptop
Addiction is expensive. Early in recovery, money can be difficult to manage: spent savings can lead to shame and guilt that make it hard to think too much about money. On the other hand, it can be hard to decide what to do with the money you’re now saving on sobriety — especially when relapse seems tempting.

At Roots Recovery, we help our clients learn about complete recovery. We will work with you to develop a personal financial plan that fits your income and needs — but in the meantime, we wanted to provide some helpful tips for getting started.

Start a Budget

Step one is assessing your finances: what you have, what you make, and what you owe. Step two is to make a budget. You need to cover your needs, of course, but also have money earmarked for savings and wants. It’s important for your budget to be flexible: ideally, you have wiggle room for everything from vacations to car troubles.

Want a good place to start? Financial experts often recommend the “50-30-20” method — 50 percent of your income goes to necessities, such as food, rent, and bills; 30 percent goes to wants, such as going out to dinner or on a vacation; and 20 percent towards savings and other financial goals.

Learn to Separate Your Needs and Wants

When you divide your budget by needs and wants, you need to decide what goes where. Some spends are obviously needs, such as rent and bills. But others may not be so clear cut: with clothes, you need work outfits, but want a new pair of pants. With food, you need groceries, but want to eat out.

It’s important to remember that a list of wants and needs isn’t a list of things that are “good” or “bad” to buy, it’s simply a way for you to decide where you can save if your budget needs to change.

Set Savings Goals

Where drugs or alcohol may have been a major spend in the past, your sobriety will free up space in your budget and make it easier to create savings. Instead of creating an ambiguous “savings” account, set aside money with the intention of using it towards something specific — a bigger living situation, a larger TV, or even just a nice trip.

Treat funds you’ve set aside as money you’ve “spent in advance”: you’re less likely to think about having spare cash for substance use if you think of it as “boat money”!

man and woman discussing some paperworks

Avoid ATM and Debit Cards

For some people, having access to money is a trigger that creates potential for relapse. One way to help curb these temptations, particularly in early recovery, is to not use a debit, ATM, or credit card.

Having to physically go out and withdraw money, and then spend physical cash from your wallet, will make you think twice about whether or not you actually want to spend it. Depending on your bank and how much you trust yourself, you can also set up withdrawal limits and other restrictions on the use of your funds, so you have just enough to cover your budgeted expenses.

Take Advantage of Financial Resources

You may not know this, but there are some excellent inexpensive, or even free, resources to help you get your finances on track. Banks usually offer free financial planning services, and advice for dealing with creditors or legal fees is usually available for free or reduced costs for those with lower incomes. There are even advocacy groups who help people in recovery handle financial issues for no cost.

Most of these services are easy to access and completely free, so there’s no downside to using them!

Use Roots Recovery’s Life Skills to Help Improve Your Finances After Rehab

Having newfound control over your finances can be exciting, but it can also be stressful, and at Roots Recovery, we work with you to find the financial practices that work best for your lifestyle.

During our Life Skills program, we train our clients in practical skills ranging from career development, such as resume building and practicing for job interviews, to financial independence: budgeting and spending in sustainable ways. Roots Recovery can help you learn how to lead a healthy and successful life in recovery — just contact us to learn more about what we can do for your future.