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The ABCs of ADHD & Money


Having ADHD is like a view askew – you don’t quite see things the way other people do. When it’s good, it’s like watching fireworks from a convertible with the seats way back. You’re with your favorite person, and it’s a warm summer night. When it’s bad, it’s a spiral of chaos, shame, and self-recrimination. It’s hard to find a way of being with all that going on.

What is ADHD?

World-renowned brain expert Dr. John Ratey compares living with untreated ADHD to “driving in the rain with really bad windshield wipers.” Sometimes things come into clear focus, but it’s a blur of colors and shapes most of the time. Neurologically, ADHD is a result of the dysregulation of the reward system, primarily dopamine. Consequently, many of us struggle with impulse control, distraction, and poor time conceptualization which translates into real struggles with relationships and activities of daily living – including money.

My Life on ADHD

For me, I collect passions like some people collect baseball cards or banana stickers. One day, I decided that I wanted to check out dragon-boating. I lived and breathed that sport until I discovered a roller derby league in my home city. Then I thought skiing would be fun. The professionals call this hyperfocus – a process of intense fixation or interest in an activity for an extended duration. When it’s like this, every fiber of my being is intensely focused on this one thing, which is intoxicating.

Hyperfocus is a way of self-medicating; endorphins flood my brain, and I am rewarded.  Unfortunately, it’s expensive to focus that hard. Sometimes, I’m too distracted to pay bills on time, I’m spending too much on costly hobbies, or I’m neglecting my career because I feel bored and unfulfilled. Combine this with my ability to use charm, humor, and occasional brilliance to sidestep most of the usual consequences for being flaky, and it’s a problem. When I figured out how ADHD impacted my life, I was able to start fixing it.

My Money on ADHD

For example, my ADHD leads to particular problem areas with money. I’m disorganized and easily overwhelmed by financial processes that require multiple steps. So, something like signing up for e-filing with Revenue Canada requires me to sign up online, locate several documents to verify my identity, and then wait for a code to be mailed out to input that and complete setting up my account. God, just typing that almost puts me in a coma.

One of the first things I did was collect all the random stacks of stuff I threw onto side tables and put them in an accordion file. I hated this with the fierce intensity of a thousand suns because each abandoned tax form, unopened envelope, and leftover bill represented more problems. Nonetheless, it went into the folder so I can organize it a couple of days later. I wanted to gather first and arrange later, so it wasn’t overwhelming. It works better this way.

Another challenge of mine is the amount of impulsive spending I do – especially when I am stressed. I know we all do this to an extent, but it’s easy to cross a line, and I do it too freely. In this case, I tapped into my love for all things bright and shiny and turned to the budgeting app YNAB to help me tame my wild money. If you know anything about this YNAB, you know there is a bit of a learning curve that goes into using it. I love technology, and this gave me the inspiration I needed to get myself unstuck.

Setting Goals on ADHD

Something I’m constantly working on is goal-sticking. I can do goal-setting until Christmas comes in July, but following it through is a whole other story. My constant need to engage in the new and exciting is a barrier to success with the old and boring. This is a hard one for me because I don’t know what I want. Do I want to buy another house? Do I want to have another career or to go back to school?  It’s hard to plan when there’s no goal guiding the process. I’ll figure it out, but I’m just not there yet.

In Conclusion

Probably the most important thing about managing money with ADHD is to treat the condition properly. That might include a doctor-supervised medication regimen, talk therapy, and behavioral strategies, but unique to each person. Interestingly, Clinical psychologist Russell Barkley posited that 80 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed with a coexisting disorder (learning, psychiatric, or developmental). So, getting a complete mental health assessment and treatment is key to your success.

*Yes, the reference to Kevin Smith’s production company is entirely intentional.

Photo by Clay LeConey on Unsplash

Looking back one year


As I was sitting around Friday night awaiting Princess arrival for the weekend. I thought it might be interesting to look back to this time last year. You have to admit the last year and a half have been one for the history books…for everyone!

Last August, I was…

  1. Focused on paying off Student Loan #1 – I did it too. Last year, the first of my student loans was closed out. And here I am just picking back up in paying the minimum on student loan #2.
  2. Dreaming of my Post Kids Time – Boy, that dream has changed. No more RV’ing or upcycling a bus type dreams here. Now I own my home and am creating the perfect place to live out my olden days. No regrets in how this dream has changed.
  3. Planning for the Fall – the state fair was cancelled last year – thanks COVID. So our fall was pretty boring. But I am hoping the girls and I can go this year. Gymnast will be going to Texas for his fall break. (My dad purchased his airline ticket.)

This year looks very different.

From 5 at home to 1

I knew my post kids time was coming. Although Gymnast is still home, I don’t really see him much. Between work, school and friends…I am home alone ALOT. I am keeping myself busy with home projects and training my new puppy.

Food continues to be a challenge for me. I love my kitchen, but cooking for one is not fun. And I really don’t like left overs. (I ate the same meal 3 times this week.) There are lots of nights when I settle for a sandwich or just raw veggies and dip.

This months money is planned and spent. So I’m coasting through this month, sticking to the plan and working on next month.