Kids are expensive in any circumstance, but when you are new to recovery, the costs can stack up quickly, especially when added to the cost of treatment, debt related to active addiction, and the day-to-day expenses that come with getting set up in your new sober life.
The good news is that there are a lot of hacks you can employ to keep costs down and still make sure that your kids have everything they need and you can cover the costs of life in recovery. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Choose small and safe. Your living expenses should be the largest item in your budget, and often, price correlates with safety. Because you have kids, it is essential to choose where you will live based on the quality of public schools and the safety of the area, and when you are on a tight budget, this generally means small. Small children and kids of the same gender can share a room, and if necessary, it may make sense for you to sleep on the couch until you can save up enough to move into a larger place.
- Seek out hand-me-downs. Kids go through clothes so fast that used versions are often in great shape. You can find high-quality items for far less than you would pay for brand-new items of lesser quality. Find the best consignment shops near you or look for “lots” of clothes in your child’s size on eBay. While you’re at it, take a look at what is available for you as well.
- Thrift it up. Thrift stores are a great place to find used clothes, but they are also a great place to find used toys, books, and movies for kids. Additionally, you can find housewares, furniture, and other items you will need as you set up your household.
- Skip presents for little kids. It may sound harsh, but if your kids are getting gifts from other family members, then they don’t really need to open even more presents from you. The under-5 set don’t have a valuation of how much is a lot or a little; they just love having some cake and opening what is given to them. If you don’t have other people who are gifting your kids with presents, then hit up the thrift store and Craigslist and see what you can find that is age-appropriate.
- DIY. You can buy pretty much anything you need or hire someone to do it for you, but when you are in recovery and struggling to make ends meet for you and your kids, it’s going to save you a ton of money if you try to do it yourself. This might mean buying used furniture on Craigslist and painting it yourself, making birthday cards and wrapping paper, and sewing ripped holes and lost buttons rather than throwing things out and getting new ones.
- Look for the words “free admission.” The library, city and county parks, and nonprofits always have an array of fun kid-friendly events that you can take the family to without having to reach into your pocket. For kids in preschool up to high school, the library offers a number of fun classes, story times, and reading contests to keep them entertained.
- Eat oatmeal. And beans, rice, pasta, and peanut butter – all the cheapest items in the grocery store. You can afford to pay higher prices for fresh fruit, vegetables, and milk when you are buying staples and protein that are inexpensive rather than processed foods or takeout. Because food is the second largest expense in households with kids, this is an area to concentrate on when trying to maintain a tight budget.
- Ask for help. If you are struggling with making ends meet, find out if you qualify for food stamps. This can help to loosen up your budget a bit and make sure that you and your kids are eating healthfully. You may also qualify for assistance with paying for childcare or afterschool care if you are working.
- Create a budget and track everything. Write down all your expenses and then write down how much you make as you project what your budget might look like in a given month. There are tons of free forms online, or you can use a free app to assist you. Then, track every single dollar you spend so you can now if you are actually spending what you think you are on food, household expenses, clothes, and other items. From there, you can make adjustments and eliminate expenses that are making things more difficult in order to make sure you have the money you need for treatment services in recovery and for your kids.
- Spend time, not money. Spending a lot of money on kids does not equate with love. If you are spending all your time working to buy them all “the stuff,” then you are not spending quality time with them, and that is what they need most. Choose instead to strive for a balanced schedule that allows you to work enough to manage the bills comfortably, save up a little after you’ve paid off debt, and also prioritizes your ability to spend time with them.
What are your favorite money management hacks when you have kids in recovery?