ADHD and How to Manage Money, Pay Bills
Managing money and paying bills can be stressful for people with ADHD. ADHD and money problems seem to go together. Symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity, disorganization, procrastination, inattention to detail, and difficulty focusing, make money management overwhelming both short- and long-term.
ADHD and money management are challenging at best because the ADHD brain is at odds with the very nature of financial planning. The work is detailed, tedious, and requires focus and concentration. Not only is it difficult to create a financial plan, it’s hard to stick to a budget or spending plan when you have ADHD.
ADHD and Money Problems
If you have ADHD and are having trouble managing money, you’re not alone. Many people with ADHD find themselves experiencing specific financial woes. Some of them include:
- Impulsive spending
- Not keeping track of checkbook balances, resulting in bounced checks
- Debt (ADHD and debt are a troubling pair)
- Paying bills late and incurring fees and interest
- Amassing, and keeping, huge credit card balances
- Disorganization with papers, receipts, and more that leads to lost checks, bills, etc.
- Problems saving for the future
Money troubles such as these can be distressing, especially if you feel like you’ve dug a hole out of which you’ll never be able to climb. That feeling is normal. It’s also an illusion. You can overcome ADHD and debt, and you can develop the necessary skills to create financial security now and for the future. There is financial help for adults with ADHD.
Financial Help, Tips for Adults with ADHD
Money management is a learned skill. Even if your adult ADHD symptoms have been interfering with your financial health, you can learn and use money management strategies. One concept to remember as you work on new skills: the ADHD brain needs things to be fun, visual, and rewarding. Keep this in mind as you tailor these money managing tips to your life.
- Intricate budgets are unnecessary and might keep you from moving forward
- Create a simple budget that lists and tracks income, regular expenses, and discretionary expenses (unplanned spending) monthly
- Use organizational tools such as accordion folders, color-coded folders, attractive and fun desk organizers, and large calendars to keep track of bills
- Visually track the increase in your savings so you see the rewards of your work (you might draw thermometer on a large piece of paper and write your target savings goal at the top. Color in the thermometer as your savings increase, and the positive reinforcement will motivate you to continue saving and budgeting)
- Outsource by hiring a financial adviser or turning over money management duties to your partner
These techniques for ADHD and money management are especially useful for medium- and long-range financial planning. There are tips for short-term management as well.
ADHD and Managing Money in the Moment
With ADHD, it’s equally important to manage your money in the present moment. One problem that gets people into financial debt is ADHD impulsive spending.
Many ADHD behaviors, including impulse buying, are driven by the brain’s dopamine system and need for immediate reward and gratification. With ADHD, there is almost a craving to buy something desirable the moment it blips onto your radar. The purchase releases a flood of dopamine, which the ADHD brain is short on; when this happens, you experience a rush that reinforces the impulsive spending habit.
Try these tips reducing impulse buying and managing your money in the moment:
- Reduce your credit card use by having just one and taking it with you only when you have planned a purchase that requires it
- Carry a limited amount of cash with you (and no check book, credit card, or debit card, either)
- Stick to a shopping list
- Delete promotional emails and recycle catalogs immediately
- Pause before buying and ask yourself if the purchase is something you want or something you need. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it right away
- Replace spending money with a different fun activity
The Most Powerful Way to Manage Money with ADHD
One of the many strengths of someone with ADHD is a tendency to be a great big-picture thinker. If this is you, put this strength to work for you in your financial planning.
Rather than thinking of reducing debt, shift your thoughts to your purpose. What are your personal visions and goals? Where are you now, and how do you want to manifest your vision?
Think, too, of your values and priorities. How does your spending align with your life values? Do your money habits move you toward that purpose, or are they holding you back?
Reflecting on your financial dreams and purpose will help you prioritize your spending and decrease impulse spending. When ADHD and money management team up to be positive and purposeful, ADHD and money problems decrease.
Last Updated: 01 November 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD