Money Management in Recovery

Recalibration Service, BreathalyserMoney management is an issue for many people but for those with substance abuse histories budgeting can present a significant challenge. For many recovering addicts, having money can be a trigger to relapse. While relapse prevention strategies are reviewed in all recovery programs, it can be hard to follow these strategies when presented with cold hard currency. Many recovering addicts use whatever money they are able to obtain to purchase drugs or alcohol rather than buy food or pay bills.

Counsellors within Employment Assistant Programs (EAPs) help employee effectively handle personal problems that my impact work performance, recovery, and overall well-being. For those employees who are having difficulty with money management, there are three methods by which persons in recovery can get a handle on their finance and reclaim fiscal responsibility.

  1. Develop a spending plan
  2. Provide referrals for additional help
  3. Create a savings plan

Develop a Spending Plan

Many persons in recovery are impulsive spenders so that they run out money for needed expenses before their next paycheck is due. Spending plans enable these them to prepare for expenses in advance and set aside the necessary funds.

The first step is to work with the employee to determine how exactly how much income will be earned with each pay check. This is easy when a regular schedule is involved but can be somewhat trickier when pay varies from week-to-week or for those who are self-employed. However, it is still possible to average out income over a monthly period.The next step is to help the employee write out monthly expenses, including rent, food, utility costs, transportation, and personal needs. Some funds will likely be set aside for discretionary spending (e.g. entertainment).

The final step is to create a spending plan that will serve as a guideline for expenditures and update it as needed. When all income and expenses are recoded in a spending journal, the employee will be able to determine how even a small impulse purchase affects their overall plan. It is important that the employee meets regularly with the EAP counsellor to review the plan and make suggestions for improvement. It is all too easy to revert back to old spending habits without consistent oversight.

Getting Help

For those employees that continue to have difficulties managing money despite the creation of a spending plan, EAP counsellors may refer the employee to a financial empowerment center for additional guidance and budgeting classes. Many nonprofit agencies have such centers as do substance abuse treatment facilities.

Create a Savings Plan

This would be the final step once money management is well in hand.  Here the concept of intrinsic reward will become important as many persons in recovery would rather spend today than save for tomorrow. They assume that it is going to take a very long time to accumulate savings of any magnitude which flies in the face of impulsiveness, a key personality trait of most substance abusers. Intrinsic reward is what the person will feel when s/he witnesses their ever-growing saving account and realize that they have a nest egg upon which to build.  The key to success with this person is to start small. Saving a little at a time makes the process seem less frustrating but over time will yield impressive results. One suggestion is to advise the employee to direct deposit a certain amount of their paycheck each time they are paid. This idea is based on the premise that what we never see we never miss. Direct deposit is especially beneficial if money has been a trigger for relapse.

It is important for supervisors to work closely with EAP counselors so that each can keep track of behavior. If supervisors finds than an employee are short of cash well before of payday and is asking colleagues for loans, this could be a warning of relapse and needs to be addressed immediately.  Aside from referral to the EAP counsellor the company should also initiate drug testing. Testing serves as its own warning bell notifying employees that the company is monitoring substance abuse in the workplace.  CMM technology offers some of the best drug and alcohol testing equipment on the market today such as Lion breathalyser tests and Oraline drug tests. We have experts available 24/7 to answer your questions and order testing equipment. We invite you to contact us today at (+61) 1300 79 70 30 to learn more about keeping a drug-free workplace and helping those with an alcohol problem obtain needed assistance.


Elbogen EBTiegreen JVaughan CBradford DW. Money management, mental health, and psychiatric disability: a recovery-oriented model for improving financial skills. Forensic Psychiatry Program, Department of Psychiatry, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.

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