In principle, we all understand how to handle money. We need to be sure that we have more dollars coming in than we have going out. It sounds so simple to budget.
But of course, it often is not simple at all.
There are plenty of day-to-day expenses to be covered. There are the all too frequent surprise expenses to address. And sometimes, we just want to buy something because…well…we want to.
All of that is just fine—as long as there is sufficient money coming in and you are keeping track of it. But for many of us, our expenses are constantly bumping up against our income. One sudden unexpected expense or unwise purchase can put us behind. And it can be devilishly difficult to catch up.
These sorts of financial issues can really increase the amount of stress a person is experiencing. And if things get dire—you can’t pay the rent, you have ongoing medical expenses, you suddenly find your hours cut or you get laid off—the stress level can rocket up in a hurry.
That scenario is all too common, and it challenges every person who finds themselves in a tough financial situation. But for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, the problem is amplified. That’s because added stress (no matter the source) can threaten your sobriety.
Short of becoming independently wealthy (and even then, folks find themselves having money trouble), most people are going to encounter financial stress from time to time. But there is a way to minimize the issue.
You can make—and stick to—a budget.
The Basics of Budgeting
You may be worried that creating a budget will actually add more stress to your life once you see the true details of your income and expenses. You may be abiding by an “ignorance is bliss” approach to managing your money.
We get it. But we are also confident that having an accurate understanding of your true situation lowers stress in the long run.
So how do you get started? The first step is an easy one: Write down how much money you take home each month (note: don’t take your yearly salary and divide by 12 because that doesn’t take into account the taxes and other deductions that come out of each of your checks).
Next: Add up your monthly recurring bills. How much for rent or mortgage, utilities (water, electricity, gas), your car payment (if you have one), and the like. Some of these recurring expenses might have some fluctuation—like what you spend on groceries each month—but try to arrive at a solid representation of what you have to spend each month.
Ideally, your expenses are less than your income. When that is the case, you can add a regular payment to yourself—money you put in a savings account. This money can help you fend off emergency expenses. It can also help you reach specific goals like a more reliable car, a dream vacation, a college fund, or a comfortable retirement.
What’s left at this point? Whatever dollars remain after you have paid your bills and paid yourself can be used at your discretion for things and activities you enjoy. Finding ways to increase this number (packing a lunch instead of eating out each day, for example) can be like giving yourself a “quality of life” raise.
There Will Likely Be Bumps in the Road
Sticking to a budget is not always easy—especially when the space between your income and your experience is tight (not to mention if you discover you are upside down and need to significantly cut expenses one way or another).
But the benefits are real. You can get yourself on firmer financial footing while reducing your stress levels by creating a budget and using it to guide your money decisions. Accomplishing those things has the added benefit of shoring up your recovery and making it less likely you will relapse.
Getting Help Adds Up to Sobriety
If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you probably don’t have budgeting on your mind (and there is a good chance you are spending lots of money—maybe well more than you can afford—acquiring drugs and alcohol). What should be on your mind, however, is getting sober—and getting the help you need to accomplish that.
At The Aviary Recovery Center near St. Louis, Missouri, we can help you get sober and give you the resources, strategies, and support you need to stay sober. There is no doubt that money is valuable, but sobriety has even more value for your life. You can bank on us and our ability to help you acquire, maintain, and build your sobriety.