Bravely questioning your actual cash flow — the money that comes in and goes out — is the only way to take control of your budget. That takes an ADHD-friendly written budget — and adherence to all other budgeting tips that work for the minds of ADHD people.
A lot of people with ADHD don’t want to look at their finances for one basic reason: it’s always not good news. Even if they know better scientifically, they want to believe that all is going to work out — the fingers get crossed. The issue is that they missed the very first rule of managing money: money loves the attention!
Many people with ADHD are skilled at avoiding direct interaction with their finances. They disregard financial records or let the mailbox pile up for months in a Russian financial roulette game: “If we don’t see the bills, they don’t really exist, so we don’t have to deal with them.”
Budgeting tips for the brain of ADHD
1. Rethink the way you describe budgeting
The word “budget” raises a stigma for many people with ADHD; it creates images of rigidity and scarcity. But the budget is just a prediction of what you plan to earn and invest. The power comes from comparing your forecasts to the real money that comes and flows every month.
Coming up with a budget means:
- Knowing your monthly home payment
- Calculation of critical monthly expenditures (housing, electricity, grocery, loans, etc.)
Deduct Step 2 from Step 1 for an indication of how much expenditures you have every month.
Recognizing final payment date
The more frequently you check in on your development, the more likely you are to note when you get off the rails. Yeah, the lure of a new car or a stand-up desk. But do you have the extra money for this month?
Tracking your account balances every few days, however, is not the same thing as budgeting. This is, after all, tracking your expenses. Even looking at your bank balance is a post-spending job. Paying attention to money is all about timing, so pay attention to cash flow every week. If you just wonder if you get an overdraft warning, it’s too late!
2. Separating expense categories in ways that work for you and your brain
ADHD folk are “pile people.” They like to differentiate their cost groups so they don’t get confused.
One alternative is the “jam jar” system for monitoring expenses. Under normal circumstances, this is a cash system: cash is placed in different jars or envelopes for each budget category (think petrol, phone, energy , water, etc.). It’s visual and visceral, always a plus for people with ADHD.
If you choose not to deal with cash, there are software programs that simulate jam jar budgeting like mvelopes.com, which uses virtual envelopes, and mint.com, a free budgeting app.
Some people open several bank accounts to keep their expense categories separate: one for holidays, savings, household and emergency spending. If this concept sounds appealing to you, make sure that the bank does not charge the service or the minimum balance fee on each account.
The pencil-paper budget is sometimes best for the brain of ADHD. We suggest The Too Busy to Budget Financial Organization System (# CommissionsEarned) by Kathy Miller. It has full pages for revenue and expenditure, plus a calendar for recording the real and the planned figures.
The new mantra for ADHD-friendly budgets is “simple.” Some complex online systems or methods have a steep learning curve. If you find yourself bogged down, you will be less likely to continue paying much attention to your money and budget.