Are you struggling to juggle your expenses, debt, and savings? Does the temptation to spend come knocking the moment you set a new financial goal?
Whether it’s the urge to get your hands on the latest iPhone or take full advantage of the biggest sale of the year – attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make it challenging to stop impulse buying, stick to budgets, and build your savings for a rainy day.
But if you’re reading this article, you’ve already made the first and most important step to getting your finances back on track. And that’s recognizing the need for change.
The next step is to learn and practice implementing different money management strategies. With effort and time, you can regain control over your finances and save for a secure future.
Originally published on April 3rd, 2019, this article was updated and republished on November 17th, 2023.
Understanding Executive Function in ADHD
This refers to the set of mental processes that allows a person to focus, plan, remember important details, and control their impulses.
Research also suggests that ADHDers tend to use avoidant and spontaneous decision-making styles. This means they either postpone and avoid making financial decisions or make them on a whim.
ADHD can change how you manage your money in the following ways:
- Forgetting bills and incurring extra charges due to late or missed payments
- Choosing short-term rewards over longer-term benefits (like saving for retirement)
- Trouble organizing paperwork, such as tax statements, bills, and checks
- Hyperfixating on money, causing stress even for simple decisions
- Struggling to focus when building a budget or savings plan
- Losing track of your spending, expenses, and debts
- Impulse buying items you don’t need or won’t use
If you’re facing any of these issues, you might feel too ashamed, guilty, or anxious to take a good look at your current financial status and savings.
That said, it’s essential to be kind and patient with yourself. After all, ignoring money issues won’t make them go away. Plus, it’s never too late to start building the habit of saving and spending wisely.
Myths About ADHD and Your Finances
Learning how to manage your money may seem impossible with ADHD. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s explore the truth behind some of the most common misconceptions about ADHD and money.
You Are NOT Incapable.
Do you know those drawings where you see one image at first, but then suddenly, the image flips into something else? Those drawings contain a profound truth. You cannot see both images at the same time. Try it.
This is important because everyone has been trained to think the same way. (And it’s NOT your way!) They’re convinced it’s all about the math. It isn’t. While important, math isn’t the primary factor in financial well-being.
It’s Not About the Math.
If simple math concepts and flawed budgeting are at the root of your money problems, why do your financial issues recur and persist?
You could probably add, subtract, and budget better than hundreds of thousands of people who are doing better financially. If it’s all about budgets, math, and spreadsheets, that would make no sense.
If losing weight were as simple as eating fewer calories and burning more, why do so many people struggle with weight issues for their entire lives? If most people believe going to the doctor for regular checkups is a good thing, why do so many people neglect this simple task?
It’s not about logic. And your financial struggles aren’t about the math.
It’s about learning to manage your emotions and impulses. A tool like Rena-fi can help you do this. Designed for ADHDers, Rena-fi enables you to reshape the narrative you’ve built around money and make better and more rational financial choices.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Your Character.
What do eating more calories than you burn or neglecting your finances to spend more than you planned have in common? Viewed from a distance, they all appear to be character issues. After all, if you’re not stupid and it’s not the math, you must be lazy, right?
ADHD does not make you a lazy or irresponsible person. And when we internalize ADHD symptoms, we may start feeling confused, anxious, and even depressed.
These emotions can demotivate us from making positive changes to get our finances back in check.
Ultimately, it’s important to realize that “laziness” or “irresponsibility” don’t cause your money issues. By overcoming this shame and guilt, it may be less daunting for you to reach out for help.
Building the Foundation: Goal Setting and Management Strategies
The key to finding something that works is pinpointing what you struggle with the most.
Do you always make and lose track of small purchases? Maybe spontaneous purchases often eat up a chunk of your savings.
Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, you can pick from the following strategies and experiment to see which works best:
- Try body doubling. Is it difficult to focus on setting monthly budgets, calculating your expenses, and paying off bills? If you constantly put these tasks off, find a friend who will sit alongside you (either physically or virtually) as you both attend to your own things. This can keep you accountable, focused, and motivated.
- Use technology to your advantage. Do you often lose track of your expenses, especially if the purchase is small? Having budgeting apps, like YNAB or PocketGuard, on your smartphone can make it easier to log your expenditures on the go.
- Schedule payments in advance. Late fees and snowballing debts can send your finances off track quickly. You can schedule recurring payments or set monthly reminders to pay off your bills.
- Have separate accounts. If possible, have separate accounts for savings, expenses, and spontaneous or lifestyle purchases. You might also find that labeling your savings account with a more definitive goal, like “car funds” or “hospital funds,” may deter you from taking money out unnecessarily.
- Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. You can set up a recurring monthly direct deposit on payday that sends money to your savings account without you having to remember.
- Create shopping lists. Create grocery or shopping lists to take with you, and only bring a fixed amount of cash that’s just enough so you don’t overspend.
- Join a money management support group. This gives you plenty of opportunities to learn money-management strategies from other ADHDers.
Start with one or two of the above small steps and implement them. Even these simple changes can have a significant positive effect on your finances.
Role of a Financial Advisor or Planner
There’s no shame in needing assistance to get your finances back on track. Different types of professionals can help you get back on your feet.
A financial advisor can provide advice around critical financial decisions, including tax planning and investments. Meanwhile, a financial planner helps you create a plan to meet your financial goals.
Some ADHD coaches also specialize in helping adult ADHDers pick up the skills, tools, and knowledge needed to save, budget, track expenses, and pay off debts.
ADHD Money Management: Common Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about ADHD and managing money.
Do people with ADHD have trouble managing money?
Yes, adults with ADHD often face issues with managing money, as ADHD affects their planning, memory, focus, and impulse control. ADHDers may also favor immediate rewards (like an impulsive purchase) over the long-term gains of saving.
How do you manage money when you have ADHD?
Some ways to manage your money include using an expense and money-tracking app and scheduling recurring payments to avoid late bill charges. Having a separate account for savings and expenses can also help to reduce impulse buying.
Why is budgeting hard with ADHD?
Budgeting can be difficult with ADHD because it requires sustained focus and motivation to track your spending and build a suitable budget. Impulsivity in ADHD can also cause you to exceed your budget.
Are people with ADHD good at saving money?
Many ADHDers struggle with saving money. However, some ADHDers are good at money management because of the tools and strategies they use to track their expenses, set budgets, and plan for the future.
ADHD Does Not Have to Be a Financial Roadblock
At the end of the day, you can have ADHD and be good at saving and managing money.
The right mindset is key. After all, financial well-being doesn’t evolve from budgets, math, and spreadsheets. Those things evolve from a healthy financial mindset.
So, don’t shy away from making financial decisions. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, and take the time to understand how your emotions affect your choices.
ADDA’s Money Matters support group offers financial help for adults with ADHD. If you’d like to understand more about adult ADHD, ADDA+ offers 200+ webinars, peer support groups, work groups, and much more.
 El Wafa, H. E. A., Ghobashy, S. A. E. L., & Hamza, A. M. (2020). A comparative study of executive functions among children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and those with learning disabilities. Middle East Current Psychiatry, 27(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43045-020-00071-8
 Bangma, D. F., Tucha, L., Fuermaier, A. B. M., Tucha, O., & Koerts, J. (2020). Financial decision-making in a community sample of adults with and without current symptoms of ADHD. PloS One, 15(10), e0239343. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239343