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He’s Agreed to Pay Rent. But Will It Really Happen?

When we share a home with a Loved One enduring substance use disorder, money is a challenge more often than not. Financial planning often takes a back seat to other issues, at least until the next bill is due. While we can’t do our Loved Ones’ learning for them, we can encourage that learning. Solid CRAFT communication skills can lead the way.

Hi. I want to know if there are any blog or videos available to help set up budget/financial goals for an adult son living at home? We planned to get rent—he agreed—but it has not happened, his pay is intermittent and he had tires & insurance last month, but we need to get some kind of better plan in place.

Hi Rangel,

This is actually a complicated question. It’s simple to say yes, there are videos and information out there on how to budget and set financial goals for people in recovery. But it is also important that you present your son with options for help in a CRAFT sort of way.

There are so many things to take into consideration when trying to help our Loved Ones (LOs) with their finances and budgeting. Just a couple to consider:

  1. How long has your son been in recovery? Has he only been working on recovery for a few months? Or has it been six or seven? Or more?

Remember, just getting out of bed and brushing your teeth for the day can be an accomplishment when someone is in early recovery. And recovery is never a straight-line process; there has to be room for trial and error. No one is perfect.

  1. Is your son asking for help, or indicating to you that he would like support with his finances? Or is this simply what you feel he needs?

In your post, you indicate that your son agreed to pay rent, and I suspect that at the time he thought he could and intended to do just that. But then life gets in the way, and it is not so simple. Just as you stated: insurance and tires, complications that would be difficult to anticipate. Even if he did anticipate such issues, it does not mean he can cover the costs completely if he’s digging himself out of a hole.

When he asks for help, be ready to give it

It’s important to give him the space and time to learn how to manage his finances, and to be understanding that it may take him a bit to get it all together. At the same time, be on the lookout for indications that he wants support. If he says things like, “I am having trouble making enough money, I need help” or “I can’t pay my rent this month; I have other things to cover,” these are opportunities for you to ask him if you can share some ideas that might help.

What you say might sound something like this: “We see you are really trying to get your money under control and that it’s difficult. We have some ideas that might help and were wondering if we could share them with you.” If you get a yes, then go ahead and present the information. But you might get a no. If so, then say, “OK, let me know if you change your mind.”

If he does say yes, you want your response to be ready, complete with specifics. For example: “Well, there are these videos online that might help with budgeting and setting goals. There are continuing education classes on budgeting at the local community center you could look into. Or there’s a center with recovery coaches who are there to help you with budgeting and financial support. You don’t have to do any of these, they’re just options. What do you think? Do any of these ideas sound like something you might consider?”

You do your own part. Only he can do his.

He might not take you up on any of these right away, but they will get him thinking about possible solutions. Again, the key thing is to have done some research and to be well prepared with information. Are there continuing education classes in your area? Is there a community college nearby? Google “recovery coaches” in your state and see if there is a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) nearby. Most recovery coaches’ services are free through RCOs.

Many of your suggestions do not have be addiction/recovery focused. It may be that the only thing necessary is a local class. On the other hand, some situations may require an addiction/recovery focused approach. For example, maybe your LO has legal issues. If so, a recovery coach with lived experience will have resources to help with the added complications.

To return to our list of considerations:

  1. Bear in mind that your son has a lot on his plate. He is not only trying to get his finances together; he is working on getting his whole life together. When people enter the recovery process, they often experience depression, anxiety, issues with the law, relationship issues, and a whirlwind of other complications all at once, and for a long time. Managing money is not going to be easy.

Make sure you notice what’s going well

Don’t overlook the positives in your situation, however. Your son has agreed to pay rent, and he is working! This is a big accomplishment. The more support and encouragement you can give him, the more likely he will be to continue to make progress (with some blips along the way. He is human after all).

Learning how you can best support him in gaining money-management skills may take time and flexibility. You’ll need patience and space for both of you to discover what works. Let him take the lead on the direction he wants to go with his learning process. You take the supportive passenger’s seat. That will help him take ownership of this effort. You want him to be clear that both the stumbles along the way and the achievements are his own.

Wishing only the best for you and your family. Stay with it, parents. You’re headed in a good direction!


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. It’s a good overview answer to start- and good reminders about the positives- and we’re all trying here -problem is if his check goes into his bank with no strings we can’t keep him from slipping up on random days and overspending at pub. He’s given us 230$ but made a little over $1300 last month
    He wants us to help with the full mouth teeth implants it’s a big loan/huge commitment and we’re hoping to pay /half to start and get Loan for half partly to get his name on co-sign to eventually build credit -so yes it’s a complicated issue. And we need to set that up soon as a health priority- Plus he needs to quit cut back smoking if he plans to have them work!
    I could move his $ to another account to assist the savings goals- he’s admitted to blowing it before – (dip/wish) but I’m sure he’d resent it hate it ,and not really fair – but need to make better plan.
    Thank you for sharing your answer