Improve Your Finances

Financial problems are a common source of chronic stress, and they can cause feelings of deep insecurity if you’re always unsure of how you’re going to pay the rent or buy groceries. This kind of stress dramatically reduces your quality of life, and it’s a major trigger for relapse.

High quality treatment programs offer financial counseling to help clients get their money situation under control so that they can focus on recovery and restoring their life rather than on how they’re going to survive until payday. Even if you have a very small income, there are a number of things you can do to improve your financial situation.

Change Your Spending Habits

During your addiction, you probably spent more money than you intended on your substance of choice. Managing your finances probably wasn’t a high priority, and you may not have learned to save, budget or spend wisely.

In recovery, some people spend a great deal of money on non-essentials in order to satisfy urges that drugs or alcohol once filled. Changing your spending habits is a matter of being mindful of where your money is going and making choices that leave more money in your pocket.

Consider keeping a spending diary for a month or two to determine where you can cut out unnecessary spending. If you buy an expensive coffee drink each day, consider splurging just twice a week instead. If you spend a lot of money on clothes, consider thrifting instead of buying new. You don’t want to deprive yourself of little pleasures, but you don’t want to go broke, either. Finding balance is important.

Develop a Budget

Budgeting your money ensures you have enough for the essentials, like rent, food and gas. What’s left over should last until payday, and it should cover everything else you need and allow you to put a little away in savings.

The 50/30/20 budget plan works well for many. In this plan, 50 percent of your income goes toward bills and living expenses, 30 percent goes toward spending and 20 percent is put in savings. If you have trouble managing your budget with your debit card, consider the cash envelope method. Each month, put cash in separate envelopes labeled with your expenses. For example, if you enjoy dining out, decide how much you can afford on restaurants, and put that amount in its own envelope. When the money’s gone, you’ll have to dine in until the next pay cycle.

Set Up Direct Deposit

If you normally cash a paycheck and then find that you spend the cash too quickly, have your paycheck deposited directly into your bank account. Most employers allow you to split your check between a savings and a checking account, which makes it easier to save money.

Use a Budgeting App

Budgeting apps help you track your spending. A budgeting app like Mint lets you see your saving and spending patterns over time to give you a big picture of where your money is going. You can pay your bills from the app, get alerts when a bill is due, and create a personalized budget that works for you.

Improve Your Credit Score

If your addiction led you into debt, you may have a low credit score. Working to improve your credit opens doors down the road, such as enabling you to buy a car or a home or take out a student loan. A reputable credit counselor can help you evaluate your credit standing and make a personalized plan to repair it.

These simple tips can help you improve your credit rating:

Pay all of your bills on time, especially loans and credit cards.
Order your credit report and make sure it’s accurate. Dispute any incorrect information, including wrong addresses, with the credit bureau.
Get current with any past-due accounts.
Keep your credit card balances low.
Don’t open too many lines of credit in a short period of time.

Find Employment

Having a job in recovery is one of the best ways to prevent a relapse. Employment offers a number of benefits to people recovering from addiction, according to an article published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs:(3)

It fills the time with productive activities.
It reduces stress related to finances.
It gives your life purpose.
It offers the opportunity to develop healthy relationships.
It improves your self-esteem and self-confidence.

But finding a job isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in recovery. You may have large gaps in your employment history, or you may have a poor track record with previous employers. You may not have the skills you need to get the kind of job you want, and you may have legal issues that can work against you when you’re trying to find employment.

These tips can help you find a job in recovery.

Decide What Type of Employment You Want

The first step in looking for a job in recovery is to decide what you want to do, based on your qualifications, skills, education and experience. Finding a job you enjoy will go a long way toward improved life satisfaction. To help you narrow down your choices:

Write down your goals for the future.
Make a list of your inherent strengths and values.
Make a list of the kinds of jobs you think you would enjoy.

Create a Resume

A good resume improves your chances of being considered for a position. Your resume should be professional, concise and free of typos. It should present you in the best possible light. Enlist the help of a friend or family member if you’re not sure how to create a resume, or hire a professional. Once your resume is done, make a stack of copies on high quality paper and keep them in a file so that you have them on hand when a position you want opens up.

Use the Resources at Your Disposal

Finding a job requires knowing where to look. Websites like CareerBuilder and Monster let you search for employment by location, type, salary and other criteria. City, state and federal job boards are constantly updated with new opportunities. Networking with friends, family, former colleagues, your social media community and others can lead to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Be Honest About Your Recovery

You’re not under any obligation to mention to potential employers that you’re in recovery, but it’s important to be honest if it comes up. For example, if an employer wants to know why you have a large gap in employment, you can simply let them know that you struggled with addiction but sought help, and now you’re in recovery. Stay positive and matter-of-fact, and know your rights concerning discrimination. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a publication for people in recovery to help them understand their rights under the law.(4)

Keep an Open Mind

If a job opportunity arises that doesn’t align with your original intentions, keep an open mind. In some cases, an undesirable job is better than unemployment. Even if a particular position isn’t your first choice, consider whether there’s room to advance, transfer, or apply for another job within the same company. Sometimes, a foot in the door can lead to better opportunities down the road.