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10 Things I Spend My Money on Now That Isn’t Drugs or Alcohol

This February I celebrated five years sober. There were many things I thought would happen to me after I got sober in 2018. I thought I would lose my ability to write. I thought I would lose all my friends. I thought I would lose some weight (the opposite happened lol), and so much more. What did happen is that some of that stuff came true. I did lose some friends. I started writing in a different way. Started telling the truth more in my writing and in my life in general.

It’s been a difficult yet beautiful journey with lots to learn on the path. When I first got sober, I downloaded an app where you can track days sober but the app also asked you to track how much you were spending on drinking or drugs. My drinking habit outsized my yearly income by a long shot. I often relied on friends to give me money for my drinking, or hung around people in the service industry that got drinks for free at the bars they or their friends worked at. I would say (on the conservative side) I spent around $20 daily on drinking. Whether that was literally going out and spending $20-$40 drinks at the bar, or loading up at my local Wine and Spirits a couple times a week.

(I also did drugs at this time, but to be quite honest I never really had to buy my own. The people around me were always willing to share and when I did buy it was rare and discounted so I don’t factor it in here.)

$20 a day is around $140 a week. I made roughly $400 a week at the height of my drinking so that’s a pretty sizable chunk out of my budget. I’m tired of doing math already so I’m going to stop now and say that when I got sober, I also thought I would be saving so much money. What happened instead is that I found different ways to spend my money. Here are a few:

1. Sparkling Bevvies

Seltzer Water from Aura Bora and Good & Gather

I love a fun bev. I recently wrote about my new obsession which is prebiotic sodas, so I drink those quite a bit now. I also love a sparkling grape or apple juice. Even better, a sparkling lemonade. What I mostly spend my money on in this category is sparkling water. Whether it’s unflavored, (or my new favorite drink the Aura Bora Lavender Cucumber sparkling water), I’ve got a taste for the finer flavors. I’m bougie. When I am budgeting, I get the Yuzu Mandarin flavor from Target which is about $4 for a pack of 8. I love Yuzu, so this one is an easy winner for me.

The Aura Bora sparkling water is $10 for a pack of 6 which is like… it’s water babes. But guess who’s spending that money?? ME!

2. Makeup

Sometime during the pandemic, I decided I wanted to get into doing a full face of makeup that wasn’t just eyeshadow and a lip. When I moved to South Carolina in the fall, I filled a large makeup bag and a smaller one with my new collection. Most of it is lipstick. I have around 60 shades of lipstick. Some of them are old and need to be thrown out but I can’t let go of Bite Beauty just yet! I also love a good eyeshadow palette. I have fewer of them now and use one pretty regularly (the Makeup by Mario Ethereal Eyes palette). I have a couple of Pat McGrath palettes now that I make more money and I recently bought an eyeshadow pot from Kulfi Beauty that was a whopping $30 for ONE color.

The thing about makeup is I love looking pretty. I love how bronzer adds sun to the face and snatches it. I like how blush adds color back. I love having big juicy lips swathed in a bright color and a shiny gloss. It’s just fun! Don’t judge me! For every luxury item I have there are two more products from e.l.f. or some other drugstore product. I have restraint sometimes!

3. Skincare

A variety of skincare products, left to right: serum by cocking, cleanser by e.l.f., toner by Thayers, moisturizer by Versed, and ginger tonic by Sweet Chef
I only recently started caring about skincare very deeply. I used to have horrible acne, but then I got on ProActiv and most of it cleared up. Getting off ProActiv was harder than most things I’ve ever done because those motherfuckers really don’t want you to leave once you start.

My skincare routine now consists of some things you’ve probably heard of. Products from e.l.f., Versed, Cocokind, Thayers, and Sweet Chef line my sink. I also have one splurge item: a moisturizer from Tatcha that I find really hydrates me. I have mostly oily skin, so I used to think I didn’t have to worry about hydration, but I know that’s wrong now.

Now that I’m thirty I’m told that I should be worrying about anti-aging ingredients, but I don’t buy it. You think I give a fuck about a wrinkle?!

My greatest skincare concern is dark spots from acne scarring that I have now and keeping the oils in control. I’m still working on those dark spots so, if you have any suggestions please sound off in the comments. Please don’t say chemical peel. I’m scared.

4. Coffee

I still have my trusty espresso machine, but I’ve recently gotten into making or buying syrups to make even fancier lattes. I used to get a pistachio latte from Redstart Roasters in Pittsburgh (shout out to the homies there!), but I haven’t found a pistachio syrup I like as much yet.

Sometimes I go to the Starbucks near me — which I believe is the first one that was unionized here where I live now, so I don’t feel as bad supporting them. But I did find a very cute independent shop here that I’ve gone to once and plan on going to again very soon.

I wished that I was a wine snob when I drank and now I’m definitely a coffee snob. I found my trusted roaster in Pittsburgh and haven’t strayed from them since.

5. Clothing

Left to Right: A red two piece crop top and skirt set, a pink linen romper, a dark green t-shirt, light greed wide legged linen pants, and a two-piece cow print denim jacket and jeans.

Left to Right: Ayana Top by Curator SF, Linen Shorts by Wear Consciously, Easy Relaxed Tee by Mien Studios, Freddie Trousers by Lucy and Yak, and Garden Jacket in Cow Denim by Field Day

I try to only support sustainable, ethically made clothing now and that comes with a hefty price tag sometimes. After gaining weight because of meds and being less active during the pandemic, I started to rethink my wardrobe. I used to dress to cover my body and my fatness, but then I swung in the opposite direction and was desperately worried about being sexy to other people. Now, I wear things that I find cute, sexy, or comfortable. Sometimes that is very high femme looks and sometimes it’s more middle-of-the-road looks. Either way, I love to look good and feel good about my purchases.

If you have money to spend or want to splurge once, some shops I like are Mien Studios, Curator SF, Field Day, Lucy and Yak (UK based so the shipping can take a while), and Wear Consciously — which is a storefront that sells products from a few different shops.

6. Food

I eat out more than I’d like to admit. And I spend lots of money on groceries because I mostly get them delivered to me. I’m trying to shift into cooking for myself more and I love really rich, decadent, umami flavors so I can spend quite a bit on something that will be excreted from my body eventually.

I found the cutest vegan bakery in town and they have the best cakes and these things called Doozies: chocolate chip cookies with a buttercream frosting in the middle. They can be made gluten-free too which is cool.

I’m also a sorbet slut so I like eating mango sorbet on hot days or any other vegan ice cream alternative. Van Leeuwen makes some of the weirdest flavors that I can only enjoy a couple of bites of before I get overwhelmed. I also have my tried and true Oatly brand or So Delicious that I go to when I’m craving something cold and sweet.

7. Dog Treats

A dog eating Bocce's dog food out of a bowl.

I haven’t written about it yet, but I’m a new dog mom. My dog (now named Cashew) has an expensive taste like me. He loves the Bocce’s Bakery treats, but especially the brushy sticks. They have mint and spirulina in them so I’m like… ya sure buddy? Do you like that flavor? But he practically jumps into the air when I pull the package out.

8. Art Supplies

I’m into watercolor now, so I spend a bit on paint and paper. I plan on taking a watercolor class in the future at a community museum in hopes of meeting some cool people so that is in the works.

9. Homewares

A stacked bowl and plate set in neutral colors of shades of brown, white, and grey.

Bowls and plates set from Our Place

Up until a couple of months ago, I was still using the same Target Room Essentials bowls and plates that I bought in college, so I decided I just needed an upgrade now that I’m 30. I bought new bowls and plates from Our Place and they are to die for. I think they are so pretty and cute. I also have new drinking glasses and cookware from places like Crate and Barrel. My apartment still isn’t where I want it to be decor-wise, so I’m looking for a few things like a coffee table, lamps, and plants to brighten up the place.

I spent most of the money on upgrading my kitchen and getting new bedding, so every other room is like “Pay attention to me!” Hell, I still don’t have a dining room table or chairs! But that will soon be rectified.

10. Rent

Before I got sober my rent was around $400. Then I upgraded to a one-bedroom that was inexplicably only $600 a month. In my four years there, my landlord raised the rent once to $625. I’ve never paid more than that for rent, but I do now. Granted, I have more space and amenities but damn does the South love some big ass bugs as well! I don’t mind paying as much as I do for what I get, but I’ll probably move again when my lease is up.

I entertained Zillow for a hot second and then laughed and laughed and laughed. I’m not buying a house, not yet. I watch my brother, who lives here, go through things like a flooding basement and a leaky roof and I’m like “I’m just a single woman I can’t handle that by myself!”

Maybe I could? Who knows? But I know I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility.

I may not always have the money I have at this moment to spend and save, so I’m living it up for now. Responsibly. What do you spend your money on now that you are sober? Let me know!

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Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 157 articles for us.


  1. Just wanted to see how excited I am to see a Lucy and Yak shout out! They are my favourite clothes and my city is the second in the UK to have a shop and they are very popular here. I especially recommend them to other fat people!

  2. the Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand (along with retinol from a derm) helped lighten my acne dark spots. I recommend buying the mini size of the wand because it has a short shelf life. maybe slightly less cost effective to not buy in ‘bulk’ but if I’m paying for skin care I’d like for it to be effective-effective

  3. Mazel tov on your sobriety! I’m six years sober and I spend my money on: gardening supplies (just bought two plum trees and I’m going to rent a jackhammer so I can make space for a fig tree), snacks from the halal market (especially halva and aloe juice with basil seeds, which is very helpful when I’m craving alcohol bc it gives my mouth something safe to do), and a membership to a rock climbing gym. The highest I get now is ten feet up on the bouldering wall.

  4. Just came here to say MY DOG IS ALSO NAMED CASHEW 🥺 and I also spend more of my money on her than I like to think about.

    It’s a very cute dog name imho, would love to read more about your experience as a new dog parent!

  5. Retinoids for dark spots, safe for deeper skin tones too. If you have a dermatologist who will prescribe you something, great. Outside of medical offerings, there are quite a few products on the market that have retinoids in them. Start with a smaller % and work your way up if needed.

    And you MUST wear sunscreen DAILY when using retinoids. There are many that are good for sensitive skin. I like Shiseido’s in the little blue squeeze bottle ($25 for a travel sized amount, but it lasts!)

  6. I love sparkling water too! I had no clue Target had the Yuzu flavor, I definitely am going to try that. I really like the Peppermint Watermelon Aura Bora, but I thought some of their other flavors were hit or miss

  7. Fuck, this article landed at the perfect time for me. I’m making that awkward shuffle into sobriety and you just effortlessly made it sound kinda… doable. Thank you.
    Autostraddle has been a big part of my life since it’s inception, and finally, today I’m gonna go all in and get that A+ membership. Xxx

  8. I am going to be 5 years sober this weekend!! I celebrate each birthday by buying myself something i feel is waaay too much money to spend on something. In past years ive bought blundstones and le wand haha! This year money is a bjt more tight so i might buybtears of the kingdom!

  9. Discovering healthier outlets for my finances has been a game-changer. From enriching experiences like travel and quality meals to practical investments in self-improvement courses, I’ve redirected funds towards meaningful pursuits. Still, navigating the world of investments can be daunting. Exploring forums like https://icoholder.com/en/ico-forums provides valuable insights and fosters understanding, aiding in wise financial choices beyond the realm of substances.

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