Image: @jimiburgYou may be one of the many people who struggle or have struggled with both an eating disorder and alcohol addiction. When you finally find the will to fight your alcohol addiction, your focus should be on giving up physical habits– drinking alcohol. Avoiding certain places, people, or situations is paramount to keeping away from temptation. Naturally a recovering alcoholic mostly concentrates on those important tasks.
A less talked about potential pitfall to consider is money management. From the musical Cabaret, we learn that “Money makes the world go round” Money is often a crucial aspect in reaching our goals. Without proper money management, we often cannot attain our aspirations. Almost every action in our modern world requires the use of money. An alcoholic who is recuperating can have additional stress placed upon them. One of the reasons why an alcoholic might relapse is because of financial anxiety.
Since managing money is vital to being successful in many areas of life, the recovering addict can benefit from a wise financial plan. Here are are six useful tips to manage your money while maintaining your sobriety.
1. Budget Your Money
The main point of a budget is learning to stay within the boundaries. First, determine how much you need for monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, food, transportation.
Second, calculate how much money you will make in a month. Then write down how much money you have in cash and bank accounts. Also, compute how many current and future debts you have to pay.
By adding up wages and cash/account balances, you will see how much is in your credit. Add up your real and potential expenses, and then subtract from your credit amount. By making these calculations, you should arrive at a balance that will set the guidelines for your budget.
2. Determine Optional or Mandatory
When I was recovering from alcohol abuse, I was tempted to shop instead of drink alcohol. For other people, their temptation may be going out to eat more frequently. At any rate, these distractions from alcohol can be expensive and outside of the budget you have already calculated.
A common practice is to substitute one addiction for a new one, but that new addiction can get expensive fast (or turn into another real issue). Reflect on what items are real NEEDS and which items are merely WANTS.
Things like food, shelter, and health insurance would be considered needs rather than wants. Create a T-list of your wants and needs on a piece of paper. In the middle of the paper, draw a line vertically with a horizontal line across the top. On one side, list your wants and on the other side, list your needs.
In the beginning of your recovery, try to stick with your needs and slowly add some of the wants. Gradually you can start adding costs which relate to friendship, dates, gifts, and social events.
3. Set Goals
Although you may now have extra money from not spending it on alcohol, you should be aware of other money traps. When I initially went sober, I forced myself to write down my short and long-term goals. Some of these goals were not financial, but most goals did require money.
For example, I decided to take an evening class at my local community college to learn Java Programming. The tuition would require setting aside some extra money.
So I spent less that month on non-essentials, like Pumpkin Spice Latte, to save in my college tuition piggy bank.
Paying off debts was also one of my goals. So, I started paying my credit card payments in full each month. With the goals directing my spending, I felt more in control of my alcohol-free future.
4. Ditch debit and credit cards
My grandparents never used debit or credit cards. Never. Yet they paid off their house in 10 years, raised five kids, bought cars, and took annual vacations. They learned to manage with checks and cash.
In today’s credit world, this is much more difficult but still possible. I remember my grandmother’s system of having different envelopes for different purposes, like groceries, movies, clothing. When there was no more money in the envelope for that month, the purchases stopped.
Although this system sounds archaic, it works. Debit cards have their place, such as online shopping or to withdraw money from an ATM.
The problem with credit cards is you are buying on future earnings, which is risky. If you own debit or credit cards, keep them stored at home to use only for emergency purchases.
5. Seek Help
If you are struggling, like I was, with financial discipline, then seek outside help. I have a friend who is an accountant, and she helped me to set up a workable budget.
Other recovering alcoholics may find a personal financial counselor to be beneficial. Family members may also be a resource, especially if they have learned to live on a budget like my grandparents did. If all else fails, a quick online search can provide you with a wide array of resources to help you set positive new financial patterns.
6. Reward Yourself
Once you start getting disciplined about both your recovery and finances, give yourself small rewards for staying on task.
These rewards do not have to be monetary or expensive. For example, if you have been especially diligent and have been waiting to watch a movie on TV or Netflix, indulge yourself. Or invite a friend over that you haven’t seen in awhile for tea or coffee. Plan a game night with family and friends to celebrate your dual emancipation from negative addiction and poor financial habits.
Now that you have conquered two important areas of your life, don’t slack off and give in to temptation. Continue applying these six useful tips for money management, even when you are 10 years or more into your sobriety and recovery.
By using a budget, establishing needs, setting goals, getting rid of cards, seeking help, and rewarding yourself, you can be the one in charge of your finances.