Ditching booze has taught me so many lessons. One of which was realizing how little I knew about money or finances. As a party girl, I bartended and binge drank often to the point of blacking out several nights a week, spending my money frivolously. I spent it as fast as I earned it. 

In sobriety, I quickly discovered that I had more cash because I was no longer spending hours in a bar and racking up $60 tabs. Though it was not intentional, I was passively saving money just by being sober — a new concept for me. In addition to having more cash, I also found that I had time to do the activities I always wanted to do but was “too busy” (read: too drunk) to prioritize actually doing them. 

Though it was not intentional, I was passively saving money just by being sober — a new concept for me.

Being in recovery, I’ve gained some financial assets that I didn’t have before: a steady job with quality health insurance and a 401k, investments and a Roth IRA. I’m aware that many folks — especially folks seeking recovery — don’t have this luxury. There are people in recovery on all sides of the financial spectrum and this list is meant to serve the whole spectrum of financial diversity. The beauty is that in recovery, we have the ability to make great changes. The things that seemed impossible, especially with our finances, become possible.

Invest in Your Hobbies

I now take several classes a year that cover various topics. 2017 (AKA 1 year sober) was what I sometimes refer to as “my year of studying comedy”. I studied improv at Upright Citizens Brigade and The PIT to help with public speaking. I took satire, sketch comedy, and humor writing workshops at Catapult, Magnet, and The PIT, to learn how to write about mental health and addiction in a lighthearted, funny way. I took Spanish classes for two years through Fluent City. I always wanted to learn Spanish to connect with the Mexican side of my family history, but “never had the time”.

Each of these endeavors cost about $450 for 6 weeks of classes. That’s $75 for one night a week — far less than I was spending each week on booze! There are also free enrichment classes available both online and IRL. Now is the time to invest in the hobbies and interests that were difficult to prioritize while living in a boozy haze. 

“Once I stopped spending money on alcohol and stopped spending time at parties, I had more money to buy fabric and more time to make clothes. A drink at a club in NYC is usually between $15-$18 and a yard of fabric is between $6-$13. So instead of buying a drink I can get enough fabric to make a leotard or a corset. If I don’t get two drinks I can make a catsuit or a simple gown or buy 3 packs of rhinestones.” – Heidi N. Dix, an NYC drag queen who makes all of her own clothes.

Invest in Your Future

Sometimes I think about how much money I made in my 20’s as a bartender. Literally hundreds of dollars per night. Yet I was somehow always “broke.” If I had invested even the smallest amount back then, it would be a decent-sized chunk of money today. Aside from drinking, a big part of what kept me from investing was feeling overwhelmed by finance jargon. Hearing folks talk about stocks and bonds and mutual funds and IRAs felt like overhearing someone speak in a foreign language. That feeling kept me in the dark for years. I now have a financial advisor who helps me with all of this. I also met with a financial planner for some solid advice. I even enjoy listening to finance podcasts now.

“People think they need a huge lump sum to start investing or that they need to be able to understand all the jargon. None of that is true. The most important thing is to watch out for hidden fees and never, ever be afraid to ask questions. – Lindsay Goldwert, host of the finance podcast, Spent, and author of Bow Down.

Invest in Your Past

Getting sober means dealing with reality. A big part of reality for many people is credit card debt. I made countless, unnecessary purchases using a piece of plastic and then promised I’d pay it off “one day”. I also learned the hard truths about what a cash advance on a credit card meant (major facepalm moment). At age 20, I got a cash advance from my credit card while on vacation thinking it was like transferring from savings to checking. It’s not. I eventually paid off my credit card debt, but getting rid of those bad spending habits is still challenging. I’m learning how to leverage the benefits of credit cards — points or cashback deals — while paying them off each month and avoiding interest fees.

Getting sober means dealing with reality. 

“Now that I’m sober, I’m finally paying off my credit card debt. I’m paying for all those beers I bought for friends when I was blacked out — plus interest.” – Anonymous

Invest in Your Home

When I was in my party girl phase, I moved every year or two so I rarely decorated. Sobriety taught me the value of respecting my home. I became a cleaner, tidier person. I decorated my walls. I’ve even become a nester! And it feels kinda good. Buying plants for my apartment brightened my space. Investing in a soda stream for the kitchen makes my seltzer consumption a little more affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly. Some folks have saved so much money in sobriety that they’ve bought new homes. 

“According to my Quit That! App. I’ve saved over $60k by giving up booze. I bought an apartment, an investment property, and paid off my student loans. I’m someone that drunk me would have been jealous of. I’m able to buy my friends and family dinner when they come to visit and I can finally bail myself out when life gets expensive.” – Kate Zander, co-host of Seltzer Squad podcast.

Invest in Experiences

People often ask me if it’s challenging to be sober in a place like New York City. I actually think it’s easier because there are so many ways to be entertained here that have nothing to do with booze. I’ve grown to appreciate the value that experiences can provide instead of collecting “things”. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely could shop less or Marie Kondo my closets, but my splurging funds tend to go toward entertainment. Living in New York City means I get to see Broadway shows. There’s also an abundance of live music options, drag shows, and cabarets. 

“I used to make sure I had at least $200 on me every time I went out. It’s sad to think about all the years I spent living paycheck to paycheck simply because of alcohol. I just factored drinking money into my budget like rent or bills – which is really scary to think about. In just under two years of not drinking, I have upgraded my living quarters twice, opened my own business, got a nicer car, and have savings.” Jess Valentine, co-host of Seltzer Squad podcast.

Invest in Self-Care

Sobriety can be challenging no matter how long you’re in recovery. Now’s the time to indulge in major self-care. Your body and mind will thank you! My self-care routine can range from a full-on spa treatment to staying in and ordering Thai food for the third time that week while rewatching Parks & Rec with my cat. Splurging on takeout three times a week is about $60 total. That’s what I spent on a single bar tab back in the day. Self-care can also mean avoiding unnecessary stress by paying your bills on time or opening your mail. 

“Before I got sober my finances were a mess. For years I kept old bank statements just to remind myself that I once had money. Even once I quit meth I still carried an alcohol addiction that cost me probably $12-$16 dollars a day. Things are much different now. I actually have a savings and checking account with a credit card attached. I love paying my bills on time and not just when I receive the disconnection notice.” – Shari Hampton, founder of Served Up Sober

It’s hard to believe that giving up booze has countless, unintended positive side effects, like improved finances. I’m grateful that I finally woke up to the fact that I don’t need booze and that I deserve to live a life where I can be in control of my finances, instead of letting my finances control me in the same way that alcohol did.