Ready to learn how to manage your money when you have ADHD? You can make small changes that will have a big impact on your finances, starting with creating visual cues to keep your financial goals at the forefront of your mind.
Keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.
Research shows that having ADHD can make even harder for you to manage money than the average person. People with ADHD are also more likely to be in debt and live paycheck to paycheck.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at the ripe age of 33. I always struggled with inattention, especially when it came to organization. I thought it was just part of my personality and never suspected that it was actually a neurodivergence, like ADHD. That said, I can proudly say over the years I’ve been able to successfully manage my money and even pay off over $350,000 in student loan debt. So if I can do it, you certainly can too.
Money management and debt are tough for us folks with ADHD because we struggle with executive functioning. It’s hard for us to know where to start tasks. We get so overwhelmed by our list of “to-do’s” that we literally mentally exhaust ourselves just thinking about the things that need to get done. Which often results in not a lot of things getting done. Along those lines, it’s really hard for us to make long term plans, like a budget or other money management skills.
All it takes though, are a few small behavioral changes to make a big impact on your finances and set yourself up well for the future.
ARE PEOPLE WITH ADHD GOOD WITH MONEY?
People with ADHD often struggle with money. This is true for a number of reasons. First, people with ADHD tend to struggle with impulsivity. This can translate into a lot of overspending and making impulsive financial decisions. Paying off debt and creating savings are equally difficult because people with ADHD expect immediate results and get frustrated when things take time. But just because money management might not come naturally to someone with ADHD, doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be good with money. So let’s jump right in.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE MONEY IF YOU HAVE ADHD?
While money management might not come naturally to the average person with ADHD, you can master the skill of money management. Managing money for people with ADHD is similar to how other people manage money in that you’ll need to do things like track your spending, create a budget, and stick to your goals. But an important difference, and one that is key to successfully managing money when you have ADHD, is to create visual cues to keep your money goals at the forefront of your mind.
Use stickers or drawings.
One thing I love to do to help me manage my money better is to put visual cues anywhere I can. For example, I put a sticker of a graduate hat on my credit card to remind me of my goal to pay off student loan debt. This helps me avoid putting unnecessary expenses on my credit card because I want to pay off my student loans. It is a visual cue that is very apparent when I use my credit card. It reminds me that I can’t make extra payments on my student loans if I am constantly having to make big credit card payments.
You could put a visual cue like a sticker or drawing on your credit card and in other places, like on your bathroom mirror so you see it when you get ready in the morning, or on your door so you see it before you leave the house.
Get a body double to help you manage money when you have ADHD.
Have you heard of a body double? Likely the first thing that comes to your mind is a body double like they use in the movies, which is just a stand-in for an actor. An ADHD body double is another person who will sit with you while you are working on important tasks, like paying bills, creating your budget, or making debt payments. Simply the presence of the other person helps people with ADHD stay focused. Your body double could be a spouse, friend, roommate, or anyone else who you can find to help support you.
Create a money timeline.
Another thing you can do to help you manage money when you have ADHD is to create a timeline of money management tasks. You’ll write down each task you have ahead of you, but you’ll also include how many minutes each task will take. Seeing that each task will only take a few minutes helps you stay motivated to complete the task as you realize that each task actually doesn’t take that long.
On a similar note, physically seeing that you don’t have to perform the task or tasks that often will help not feel overwhelmed and keep you motivated to perform the task.
Here’s an example timeline that you could model yours after, adapted from one I found here.
- Open bills that come in the mail and write on top of them what day they are due. Add them to your financial calendar. (You’ll learn about your financial calendar in the next section) 1-2 minutes.
- Open bills that come in email or e-format. Write them on your financial calendar. 1-2 minutes.
- Track your spending for the day. 3-5 minutes.
Once a week:
- Have a sit down money meeting (with your partner if you share money with anyone) and review your weekly spending. 10 min.
- Pay bills that are due. 5 min.
- Go to the bank to deposit money (if you can’t do it via a mobile app) 10 min.
- Review your financial calendar so you remember upcoming bills that are due this week. 2 min.
Once a month:
- Double check any bank statements for errors or unexpected fees. 5-10min.
- Throw away bills that have been paid for the month. 1 min.
- Review your financial goals. 2-5 min.
- Make extra debt payments or put money towards savings if you have any money left over at the end of the month. 2-5 min.
Create a financial calendar.
Another thing to help manage money when you have ADHD is to create a financial calendar. On your calendar, you’ll write down what days you get paid and you’ll also include any bills you have coming up. Place your calendar in a place where you’ll regularly see it and be sure to update it at least once a month.
Take advantage of tech to help manage money when you have ADHD.
Finances can feel overwhelming for people with ADHD. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there to help streamline your finances– from budgeting to debt payoff. Here are a few I recommend:
For tracking spending, you can use an app like Mint.
For debt management, Paidback.
For savings, Digit.
I also really like Ally bank for checking and savings accounts and really enjoy their “bucket” system.
Keep everything simple.
Your success with money management when you have ADHD will largely be determined by how simple you make your money management processes. From creating a budget to opening a savings account, always remember that less is more.
The more categories you have in your budget, the more likely you are to feel overwhelmed and not stick to it. [Related: The Easiest Budgeting Method Ever]
The more savings accounts you have opened, the less likely you are to succeed. I once heard an influencer promoting that she had up to 11 savings accounts– 1 account for each of her savings goals. That is an actual financial nightmare for a person with ADHD. Do the opposite of that. Keep as few accounts as possible so you don’t get overwhelmed.
HOW DO I STOP SPENDING MONEY WITH ADHD
One thing that is difficult for people with ADHD is overspending. Impulse purchases can completely devastate your budget and keep you from reaching your financial goals, like establishing savings and paying off debt. Here are some tips to stop spending money with ADHD:
Manually track spending for a period of time to help stop spending with ADHD.
One thing that will help you curb spending is to manually track your spending for a period of time, such as a week. Pull up the Notes app (or any other way you can make a quick note) and type in every single time you spend any money at all during the day, no matter how small the transaction. This will make you more conscious and careful with spending.
Make a list and stick to it.
Another way you can stop spending money with ADHD is to always create a list for any sort of shopping you do, and never buy anything that isn’t on the list. Not even things that you might really need, but forgot to put on your list. This will train you to make sure you create a good list and keep you from overspending when you are out shopping. I make lists for groceries, back to school clothes, back to school supplies, Christmas shopping, birthday shopping– really any sort of shopping I do.
Automate your bills.
People with ADHD can have a hard time keeping track of bills and we often lack the executive functioning to get ourselves to actually pay our bills. We can psych ourselves out really easy which leads to procrastination of paying bills, which often leads to unnecessary late fees. That’s why automating any bill you possibly can will help you when it comes to spending– it will save you from racking up late fees and keep your spending in check.
Use cash to stop spending money with ADHD.
If you are struggling with impulsivity, carrying only cash will keep you from overspending when you are out. That said, you might be like me and find handling cash to be a bit overwhelming. I tend to lose cash easily and have a hard time keeping it organized. But, when it comes to impulsivity, you literally cannot overspend if you don’t have a credit card or enough cash on you, so it is a good way to curb that.
Wait it out.
Establish a “wait it out” period for yourself for those times when you are tempted to make an impulsive purchase. It might be a day or two or even a few hours. That waiting period will help you figure out whether you actually really want whatever it is you were going to buy on a whim. More often than not, you’ll realize you don’t need to spend the money. And for those times when you do, you’ll have confidence that it wasn’t a waste.
Be accountable to stop spending money with ADHD.
Sharing financial information with another person can help you stop spending with ADHD. Being accountable to others (as well as yourself) will help you stay motivated and curb your spending.
ADHD AND DEBT.
Some final quick tips regarding ADHD and debt. Creating visual cues will help you manage your money, pay off debt, and curb your spending. Take time to create financial goals and then place visual cues around your home. You can use a debt tracker app so that you can see your progress which will help keep it at the forefront of your mind. You could also make a debt or savings chart, like a thermometer, to color in when you reach certain milestones.
When you set a budget to pay off debt, be sure to include room in your budget for impulsive purchases. That way, if something does come up, and it passes the “Wait it Out’ test above, you’ll have room in your budget to purchase it without wrecking your budget for the month.
If you’re just getting started paying off debt, be sure to check out other helpful debt related posts here.
You can also get a copy of my free Debt Payoff Starter Kit here. It does the executive functioning of getting started paying off debt for you. I’ll send you one email a day for the next four days, which will help you fill out each section of this simple kit. All you do is fill it out, stick to it, and crush your goals.
Managing money with ADHD can feel overwhelming, but by creating visual cues (like stickers, a financial timeline, and financial calendar) you will be able to master your money and reach your financial goals.
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