ADHD Money: The Top 10 Things You Definitely Should Not Do

The tightening up of our purse strings has been at the forefront of my ADHD-fueled hyperfocus this week, and I’d like to share some of the best things I’ve found along this journey. ADHD can have serious negative effects on a person’s financial security due to poor impulse control and emotional regulation. These, paired with easy access to cash or credit, can make it really hard to resist that expensive equipment for a new hobby, house renovation, outfit, or other material item that isn’t actually needed. Since Brett and I just opened our first joint account, I want to make sure that we are doing all we can to ensure our financial future, security, and freedom.

Figure 1. The car I bought by increasing my Mastercard limit to $3,000 then taking it out cash, taking a one-way bus trip to Nova Scotia, and driving it home without having ever seen it prior. 22% cash advance interest rates are real.

I’m definitely not perfect, but I think that’s why I’m in a good place to share with you today! Figure 1 is definitely one of my poorest financial decisions, but I learned from the experience and want to help you avoid similar pitfalls in the future. It’s easy to blame the disorder for a poor credit rating and no savings, but in reality, we’re pretty capable people and there are lots of things we (and anyone without ADHD) can do to set ourselves up for success.

Here’s my Top 10 Things You Definitely Should Not Do Regarding Money:

1. Have No Idea What You Owe: Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to managing your money. If you have no idea what you owe, when you owe, or how much you owe, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

*Action Items: It might be tough, but sit down and take a look at your financial situation as it is. Credit Karma is a fantastic online tool that tells you your credit rating and gives a list of your credit product history (including closed accounts). It’s free and doesn’t hurt your score. It’s also useful to look through online banking/credit card statements so you can write down when recurring bills are withdrawn each month and in what amount. Keep that information handy.

2. Live Without a Budget: This goes without saying. You need to know how much you have to spend, and where it absolutely needs to be spent before you can start looking at your “wants”.

*Action Item: Check out myMoneyCoach to learn about budgets, download free budget templates, and find online support. I find it helpful to look at 2-3 months of past spending habits on my online banking statements- this will also give you accurate numbers for your budget for recurring bills like your cell phone, internet, or insurance.

3. Be Accountable Only to Yourself: This is dangerous because if you have no one to report to about your finances, it’s really easy to make impulse purchases that eat away at your savings and financial stability.

*Action Item: Get yourself a budget buddy that you can communicate with at least once a month to go over your purchases. This way, you are externally accountable, and may deter you from impulse spending if you know you’ll have to justify the purchase to someone else.

4. Not Paying Credit Cards Off in Full Each Month: My dad taught me that credit card debt is like a forest fire- if it’s small you can easily manage it, but if you let it get out of hand, it can grow out of control. 

*Action Item: Pay off your credit balances right away. Some credit cards only have 21-day grace periods too, meaning that interest will start accumulating on the 22nd day, so you don’t even have the full month like you might have otherwise thought. If you have a lot of debt across several products (e.g. different credit cards, line of credit, loans), consider going to your bank to consolidate. One debt re-payment is easier than juggling several.

5. Not Making Use of Rewards Programs: Some credit cards will offer you rewards for spending their money on things you have budgeted for. For example, if you have $200 budgeted in gas each month and are paying with your debit card, you could be losing out on a 2% cash back reward if you used the Scotia Momentum VISA (so long as you pay it back right away). That’s $4 cash back each month, or $48 per year by simply switching how you pay. Caveat: if you let the debt rack up and owe interest, rewards programs aren’t worth it anymore.

*Action Item: Rate Hub is an excellent resource for comparing credit card rewards programs. This tool can help you find the rewards program that will most benefit your budget (e.g. points towards travel, movies, groceries, or cash back).

6. Not Having an Emergency Fund: Sh*t happens, and money is the only real tool you have at your disposal to help yourself out of a jam. At minimum, you should have three months’ worth of living expenses savings in a not-impossibly but not-easily accessible account like a Tax Free Savings Account. This way, you can’t immediately transfer money to your spending account if you’re tempted. Anything could happen, and if you can’t afford to ensure you have a roof over your head and food to eat in the event of an emergency, then you can’t afford the thing that you want right now.

*Action Item: Set up a TSFA or other savings account that automatically takes money out of your main spending account each month. This should be the priority before thinking about investments, vacations, etc.

7. Not Finding Support and Inspiration: There are an absolute TON of resources available online that will educate and inspire you to make the most of your money. 

*Action Item: Think about your financial priorities and try to find online communities that will help you reach those goals. I really like The Financial Diet on Youtube, and the Young and Thrifty blog.

8. Blindly Paying Bank Fees: Bank fees are sneaky arseholes that will erode your savings each month. If you are taking cash out of an ATM that isn’t associated with your bank, you’re likely paying both an ATM fee and an extra bank fee for the withdrawal- that could mean up to $5 just to get $20 cash out! Not cool.

*Action Items: Look into no fee banking options like PC Financial and Tangerine (Young and Thrifty has a great post on this here). By scrapping the $15 monthly banking fee, you can save $180/year! And as mentioned above, avoid unnecessary cash withdrawal fees at all costs. Plan ahead or have a small cash reserve on hand at home. Rate Hub also has some excellent comparisons.

9. Investing in Quantity Over Quality: This one’s tough in our day and age where fast fashion and disposable everything is the norm. When it comes to purchasing those material things that you’ve identified as needs, it’s worth looking into high quality items that will stand the test of time. Instead of buying a new pair of cheap winter boots each year, it’s likely less expensive in the long run to pay more upfront for something that will last 2+ years. Purchasing fewer items that are of a higher quality is also better for the environment.

*Action Item: Make a list of the bare minimum things that you need for a good quality of life (e.g. seasonally appropriate clothing, transportation, household items). Then, make another list that inventories most of what you already own. See if there are any gaps, and where there may be excess. This could help you identify where you might need to save some money (e.g. your skillet handle is loose) to prepare for higher quality replacements. You’ll likely be surprised at your abundance, and be less likely to buy things that will ultimately clutter your home. Check out Marie Kondo‘s popular take on organization, and learn about Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ take on minimalism.

10. Worshiping Money: Money is a tool, plain and simple. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. Either situation is okay, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t everything. Take stock of your life and what you want from it, and use money to help you reach your personal goals.

*Action Item: Do some soul searching. This will help focus your financial efforts so you aren’t spending your time reaching someone else’s definition of success. Do you want to travel, start a family, open a business, or take a break? Set 1-, 5-, 10-, and 25-year goals for yourself. See where money is needed to help you succeed, then plan accordingly (and realistically).

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