Managing money poses a challenge to most adults with ADHD. Their characteristic impulsivity, inattention to detail, disorganization and procrastination can make balancing a checkbook or saving for retirement a daunting task.
Research shows that adults with ADHD tend to make purchases they can’t afford, have high credit card balances and exceed their credit limits. Bills are a problem, too, and are often paid late or not at all.
Tax time is even worse. Important documents may be scattered throughout the house or totally AWOL. Receipts that could substantiate important deductions are regularly nowhere to be found.
Fortunately, there are strategies and resources to help keep money matters under control. Whether you’re going shopping or paying off debt, these steps will guide you down the right financial path:
Identify problem areas.
Do you bounce checks? Lose bills? Purchase things you don’t need? Honestly assess your spending demons so you can focus energies where they belong.
Curb impulsive shopping.
Never go to the mall or department store when you don’t need something. Avoid the temptation to shop online. Everything on Amazon.com may look appealing, but you’ll regret your moment of weakness when the bill shows up on your card. Do yourself a favor and drive around those potholes before you fall in them.
Cut up your credit cards.
Credit cards encourage impulsive spending and can leave your bank account choking for air. Start living on a cash-only basis. Withdraw small amounts of money from your checking account so you’re not tempted to spend it all at once. If you must keep one general card for use in emergencies, stick a label on it that reads “For Emergencies Only” so mischievous urges are kept at bay.
Pay off your debts.
Make a list of all your debts, including credit cards and outstanding payments to doctors, family and loans from your 401(k) plans. Call each creditor and request a lower percentage rate or reduced late fees. Then arrange regular payments to each creditor and stick with your plan. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. The key is to get out of debt, not sink further into the mire.
Make a budget and stick to it.
Prepare a list of all your monthly expenses, including debts that you are currently paying off. Divide annual expenses such as insurance or property taxes by 12 and add them to your budget. Your monthly total should be less than your income, including a cushion for unplanned expenses. Keep this budget in plain sight and refer to it often. It spells out exactly how much you can spend.
Live within your means.
Sift through all your expenses and get rid of anything you can’t afford. Perhaps you must cancel the cable TV subscription or your tweens’ cell phones. These might seem like drastic measures. But you simply cannot spend more than you earn.
Track your spending.
Purchase a small notebook or use an electronic organizer to record every dime you spend. This is challenging task for anyone with ADHD. But the process will slow down your spending and make you more attuned with what you buy.
Pay bills online.
It’s an ADHD-friendly technology you can use to your advantage. Bills can be paid automatically so there are no envelopes to lose or late fees to pay. You can also avoid home filing hassles because past bills are stored in your online account.
Balance your checkbook.
Get in the habit of balancing your account so you know exactly how much money you have. Your online bank account records every deposit, electronic payment or check fee so you don’t have to worry about lost ATM withdrawal receipts. Pick the same day to balance it every month. You’re setting the groundwork for instilling a good habit.
Don’t lend money.
You want to be helpful and you want others to think you’re a pal. Still, odds are good you’ll never see that money again. You might even be played for a fool. Make it a policy to keep your money to yourself and encourage others to do the same.
Gambling and ADHD dance a particularly lethal pas de deux. The activity’s inherent risk and drama is oh-so-appealing. Yet the participant’s poor self-control and inattention can have disastrous financial results. Do your bank account a favor and erase all gambling behaviors from your emotional playlist.
Let someone else be in charge.
If you’ve done your best but still find finances beyond your grasp, consider handing them over to someone with better skills. A spouse, a parent or a trusted financial advisor can relieve you of the burden while keeping everything in check.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com