The COVID-19 outbreak and nationwide quarantine have hit a lot of people — and their finances — hard. With all non-essential workers being asked to stay home, many businesses are letting employees go, and millions of workers have lost their jobs over the past month or so.
Financial issues cause stress and anxiety for everyone, and so many people are figuring out new ways to manage their money. Others are wondering how their financial needs will be met. Sober people in recovery are no exception. We wanted to see how people in recovery were dealing with their finances during the pandemic so we spoke with a number of them.
Some, like Brook, are navigating new territory.
“I’ll receive my last paycheck from employment, right before my layoff due to COVID-19, tomorrow,” said Brook. “I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of unemployment. I’ve never filed before.”
Others, like Morgan K., are figuring out how to strategize and regroup.
“I have been furloughed until May, so I applied for unemployment,” said Morgan K. “During this time, I have been focusing on paying my bills first and getting creative with making food. When I receive my unemployment check, I will pay my utility bills ahead of time to make sure I am all set.”
Many people are simply taking this time to save money by not spending on anything but the essentials.
“Honestly, [I’m managing my finances] by not spending,” said a member of a 12-step program who prefers to remain anonymous. “This was a huge wake-up call for me. I had to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to work, since I had recently been out of the country, and I wasn’t going to get paid for it. I realized that I hadn’t been taking my savings seriously, and I need to. So right now, it’s all about the necessities. Not to mention, I don’t feel that now is the time to buy things I just want. Even if it’s online, I’m putting people’s health at risk just to have it delivered.”
Even those who are still working, like Michelle L., understand that COVID-19 has thrown our world into instability, and things are changing moment by moment.
“I’m fortunate enough to still be working at this time, but I am limiting purchases of things to only the necessities, because I don’t know what the future might hold,” said Michelle L.
Budgets have long been a tried and true method to manage finances, and that is something sober people like S.R. are still relying on in the midst of the pandemic.
“I always do a monthly budget, so that’s stayed consistent,” said S.R. “I have put more money into groceries, home care, and online entertainment and less into transportation, dining out and other types of shopping and entertainment. We always put a good amount into savings, but this month, I’ve put more money towards savings.”
Stress and anxiety can trigger unnecessary spending for some, but using an app and being accountable to someone else, Morgan K., said, is helping keep things in perspective.
“I use an app called EveryDollar that I manage finances with,” said Morgan K. “I definitely notice I have urges to online shop and buy nonessentials. That is one of my go-to behaviors. Thankfully, I have a partner who helps me with making those decisions. I am really good at budgeting, and he is really good at follow-through, so we balance each other out!”
For most sober people, a solid recovery practice and/or working a 12-step program has drastically changed the way that they spend and save their money.
“When I was actively drinking, I would spend a lot of money on things like overpriced drinks [and] Uber rides and not care about the amount of money I was just washing away on useless things,” said Michelle L. “Being sober and clear-minded has allowed me to be responsible and understand the consequences for my actions, and that includes financial. I no longer want to spend $100 on one night on drinks, because I want to save money for the future and be prepared.”
“Having clarity around money has been one of the most liberating things I’ve experienced in recovery,” said S.R., a member of 12-step recovery group. “I’ve been planning and tracking [my money for years now… I encourage everyone to spend some time looking honestly and clearly into their finances and learn to get sober about them. It’s another layer of freedom in recovery.”
“Because of my current sobriety and working a program, I’ve been able to save a substantial amount of money that if I’m careful, which I have been, will allow me to pay all my bills for at least a year,” said Brook, who has been sober for over three and a half years. “I’m always grateful for my recovery, especially at a time like this.”
This time that we’re in can definitely feel difficult and isolating for everyone but especially for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. If you’re looking for ways to better manage your finances during the quarantine, there are many ways to get started. Consider creating a monthly budget, cutting out all non-essential expenses or trying a personal finance app like EveryDollar, Mint, or You Need a Budget. You can also reach out to a friend who is more experienced in managing finances. So much of what’s going on right now is out of our control, but finances don’t have to be.