It’s easy to justify that mid-day blended smoothie, let alone upgrading it to the large size for a measly extra dollar. After all, your back is aching, your head is throbbing and you’ve spent all day slaving away at your job. You’ve done your work and you deserve a treat. That’s often the state of mind we’re in when we make some of our worst decisions.
But that’s exactly the issue—we’re basing our facts on our emotions. We’re basing our purchases on wants rather than needs. Anyone who’s overcome addiction to dangerous substances already knows that struggle all too well. Sometimes, your body is screaming at you from within. It won’t hurt it says, you deserve it, just this once! People both who have experienced financial ruin and those who still have resources can associate the exhilaration of spending money with the rush of getting high, which turns money into a trigger.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t ever treat ourselves to a nice coffee or a dinner out… it’s just that we need to understand what our limits are. This is amplified exponentially when we find ourselves in a situation where we have others who are depending on us, such as a child. This is why budgets are extremely important!
Some of us are new to budgets, or we might have never used them in our personal lives, especially for those of us who are just overcoming a serious substance addiction. The American Psychological Association (APA) even states that “money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007”. Simply put: budgets save lives, and they’re not very difficult if you have the tools—and that’s precisely what we’re about to provide you.
Pick your best tool. If you like computers, you can use Microsoft Excel or a free program like Google Docs or Google Sheets. These programs make setting up a budget as easy as plotting a simple table.
If you prefer to write it out on a piece of paper, then simply get a piece of paper and label it with the current month. At the top, put your income, or however much money you expect to make for that month. Beneath that, create a small list of the most obvious recurring payments you will have. Rent, mortgage, car payments, water and electricity bills. Add all these up and subtract from your income.
Next, give yourself a rough estimate on how much you expect to spend on necessities, such as groceries, laundry, gas, and other expenses. Many banks will have these calculations prepared for you in bank statements or on your online profile, so use these tools to measure your current spending patterns.
Finally, take what money you have left from the above sections, and split the rest into two sections: savings, and expenses. Savings will be your “no touch” division of money. Preferably, put it into a savings account where it can grow on its own. In time, you can use some of this to pay for your child’s schooling or to buy a home, or fulfill another long-term goal. Your expenses will be your “fun money,” or what you use to buy gifts or dinners and movies out with your loved ones. If you want to be more diligent, also create a “rainy day” fund. This is a small, second savings amount that you use specifically for an urgent need—such as a parking ticket or car repair, or other emergency. This will help keep you from pulling money out of your main savings, letting that main account keep growing. For a more in-depth guide to budgeting, we recommend visiting expert sites like Investopedia to learn more. Likewise, if you are overcoming addiction and need help budgeting, we highly recommend seeking help from the care staff in your recovery program. Many organizations, like New Directions for Women, focus on helping their women in recovery develop skills like this to help them live a full and happy life beyond recovery.