Money can’t buy you happiness in recovery, but when you have your finances in order and a budget that is working to help you not only get out of debt but also save for a rainy day, it can give you the peace of mind that will help you stay strong in sobriety.
Additionally, it is important to note that money can buy you choices in terms of your recovery as well. If you have some money in the bank for first and last months’ deposit, you can move if your current home life is not helping you to stay sober. If you have a budget that is well managed, you can make sure that your food budget covers healthy food that keeps you functioning at your best. If you have health insurance and enough money to cover copays, you can choose to take part in alternative and holistic therapies as well as traditional groups and talk therapy, or you can return to treatment if you find you are having a hard time staying sober on your own.
In short, making financial resolutions in 2018 is a great way to make your life in recovery stronger. Here are just a few that are sure to help you get to where you want to be with your finances so you can stay focused on the work of recovery.
1. Make and keep a budget.
It may be easier said than done, but making a budget and adjusting it over the first couple of months is an essential first step to getting yourself set up financially in recovery. There are a number of free worksheets online that can help you to figure out the bills you need to pay each month and what you will have left from your paychecks, but you can essentially make a list of all the bills you pay each week, including an estimate for food, gas, utilities, and other variable bills, to get started.
Next, you will need to write down every dollar you spend in each of those categories. You may have estimated that you will spend $500 on food every month, but if you are spending $20 a day on fast food and coffee before you stock the pantry with snacks, you are going to blow that budget pretty quickly.
Making adjustments does not mean upping the limits for your expenses unless they are unavoidably higher than you had first thought. It means making changes to your expenditures so you are living within your means. That is, avoid eating out and skip unneeded purchases to trim down your budget to something that is stress-free and functional for your recovery.
2. Pay off debt.
If you have debt stacked up due to court and legal fees, rehab costs, and/or credit card bills and outstanding debts to old landlords or family members, now is the time to start the process of working through them, one by one. As far as your recovery is concerned, this is a great way to respond to the 9th Step and make amends in a way that is demonstrable. The easiest way to do it is to make a list of your debts from the smallest to largest. Then, take all the “extra” cash you have left at the end of the month after paying bills to pay the smallest one off first.
If you have a minimum payment for that bill, once it is paid off, you can roll it into the minimum payment for the next bill, adding the extra you have each month until it is paid off, and so on. Called the “snowball method,” it is a great way to see quick results from your hard work and efforts.
3. Build an emergency fund.
When you have worked through your debt, your budget should have a lot more room in it, so building an emergency fund can be a relatively quick and easy process. How much you need in an emergency fund will depend on what you need to live each month, how risky your current job situation is, and your own level of comfort with risk-taking.
4. Start saving.
With an emergency fund to back you up, all your debt paid off, and your income yours to use as you please, you can start saving for retirement or other big expenses (e.g., kids’ college tuition) and put the rest toward enjoying your new life in recovery. Ready to travel the world? Go back to school? Adopt a child? Start a restaurant? Build a business? You will now be able to rapidly stack up the funds you need to turn those dreams for your life in recovery into a reality.