How to Budget When You Have ADHD

Jul 09

Quick Intro:  This article was co-written by June Silny (ADHD Coach) and me.  The story is hers, and the humour is mine.  Hope you enjoy ;).

For most people, budgeting is tough. And having ADHD makes it even tougher.

Believe me, I know all about it — I have ADHD, and in the past, a slew of financial problems.  I drove on bald tires because I couldn’t buy new ones.  At Trader Joe’s, I had to unload the Shreddies and salsa I couldn’t afford. And because of my money blunders, every month I’d overdraw my bank account, rack up the penalty fees, and feel miserable about myself.

It’s terrible when you don’t have money.  Oddly enough, you get used to it. Paycheck to paycheck living becomes the new norm. That’s when you know that you’ve hit rock bottom.

But there’s good news. Imagine paying your bills on schedule, not overdrawing your bank account, and having lots of money left over.  And no, you won’t have to eat bean burritos at Taco Bell for the rest of your life.  

Sounds unimaginable, right?  Let me tell you, it’s easier than you think.

THE MAGICAL SOLUTION

Recently, I came across a free eBook, Your Magic Number.  It’s a fun read with big letters, lots of pictures, and cheesy jokes — and yes, it’s a budgeting book. Most importantly, it lays out a simple way to budget that even an ADHDer can follow.

In a nutshell, Your Magic Number is a daily amount you can spend guilt-free.  Your fixed expenses, debts, and savings are all included. The only thing you have to worry about is how much money you spend each day.

Here’s how it works:  Imagine every day someone knocked on your door and gave you a wad of cash — let’s say $100. You can spend that money on anything you want: groceries, a flick, or a steak at Outback  — and if you don’t dig meat, go for the Spring Vegetable Paella. The point is, it’s your money and you can spend it on whatever you want.  

How about those Jimmy Choo shoes you’ve been eyeing?  They cost more than a $100.  No problem. You can save up your Magic Number and buy them too.  Remember, that person is going to drop off the same crisp hundred-dollar bill every single day. So whatever you don’t spend today gets added to tomorrow’s money.  Bottom line:  You could spend it all in a day or save up for something big, it’s your choice!

GETTING OVER THE 3 MONEY CHALLENGES OF ADHD

Before reading Your Magic Number, just hearing the word “budget” made me cringe.  As an ADHDer, I struggle with the three most important ingredients of successful money management: getting started, false money beliefs, and impulse spending.

FYI, I’m not a believer in money systems for ADHD.  I think most of them are too rigid and go against my brain patterns.  But Your Magic Number is so simple and easy-to-follow, I knew it could help me get over my challenges. And it also feels like a game which is why it works for ADHD.

Here’s how…

CHALLENGE #1: GETTING STARTED

If you’re like me, the first step is always the hardest. Instead of taking action, I feel overwhelmed and bombarded — especially when it comes to my finances. Instead of crunching numbers, I usually stare at a blank Excel spreadsheet with ten reasons why I shouldn’t start. To make things worse, I only take action when my back is against the wall.

SOLUTION #1:  KISS YOUR FINANCES

KISS is an acronym that stands for “Keep it simple, silly.”  The principal behind KISS is that most systems work better if they’re simple. If it’s complex, we’re not going to do it.

Your Magic Number is so easy-peasy, you’ll be up and running in less than an hour. It doesn’t get any quicker than that.

CHALLENGE #2: FALSE MONEY BELIEFS

We’ve got that constant voice telling us “you can’t hold onto money, you’re terrible at math.  You’ll never be able to do this.  You’ve never done it before, and you won’t be able to do it now.”

Sound familiar?

These distressing thoughts are called false beliefs. It’s true, for some people with ADHD, math is harder than it is for non-ADHDers.  For me, learning my multiplication tables in 2nd grade was a harrowing experience that is still fresh in my memory.

And the idea of sticking to a budget?  Forget about it!

SOLUTION #2:  POSITIVE SELF-TALK

There’s no doubt that our inner monologues shape us.

Henry Ford put it best when he said “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t.  You’re right.”

Maybe it’s true that you were bad with math and wasteful with your money.  But don’t beat yourself up over it.  

Stop telling yourself that you’re bad and change your mindset.  Give yourself permission to speak positively to yourself.

Start talking to yourself with confidence and love. Create your own positive mantra.  It could be as simple as “I’m capable” or “I’m going to nail this financial thing.”  Whatever it is, keep it upbeat and short.  

Positive self-talk is powerful.  It’ll give you the confidence to take the bull by the horns and get smart with your money.

CHALLENGE #3: IMPULSE SPENDING

Impulse control is a major problem when you have ADHD. The whole need versus want thing doesn’t fly with us.  We want what we want, and we want it now.

If you can’t control your spending urges, the ramifications can be severe.  You’ll end up with bills you can’t pay, calls from collection agencies, and a horrible credit score.

But it’s hard to see the consequences when those Dsquared2 jeans are calling your name.  With retail therapy, it’s a lot easier to say “yes” than “no.”  You tell yourself everything will work out by the end of the month, but it never does, does it?

SOLUTION #3: MAKE IT A GAME

One of the coolest things about having a Magic Number is watching it grow. The leftovers from the day can build up quick — $20 left over from this day, $18 from that day, next thing you know you got a few hundred dollars stashed away.  Cha-Ching!

It’s fun to see how much you can save. The excitement of seeing your savings increase can stop you from unnecessary impulse buys. The mentality of “I’ve got to have it” is replaced by “I don’t want to spend my money on that.”

JUST DO IT

Budgeting and managing money responsibly with ADHD doesn’t have to be hard. There are simple and straightforward solutions.  With the right mindset and formula, it’s possible — and easier than you think — to take control of your finances.

P.S.  CLICK HERE to download a free copy of Your Magic Number.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…

Do you or someone you know have ADHD and a tough time managing money?

Are there any tactics you’ve used that have worked for you?

TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS BELOW…

About The Author

Hi, I'm Avraham (pronounced Av-Rum.) I'm a reformed spender, financial coach, and the founder of Avraham Byers Financial (I'm better with money than coming up with company names.) In a funny and non-preachy way, I teach people how to take control of their finances without giving up their smoked butterscotch lattes.

16 Comments

  1. Mike
    July 11, 2017 at 10:50 am · Reply

    Avraham, I have ADHD and been struggling with my finances for years. Thank you for this great article. It makes me feel like there’s hope for me. I’m going to check out your book.

    • Avraham Byers
      July 11, 2017 at 11:02 am · Reply

      Awesome Mike! Glad you enjoyed. For sure there’s hope. Follow Your Magic Number and you’ll be set!

  2. Jonah B.
    July 11, 2017 at 12:23 pm · Reply

    Love your blog, Avraham. Is the magic number thing only for people who have ADHD?

    • Avraham Byers
      July 11, 2017 at 1:19 am · Reply

      Great Q Jonah. Your Magic Number is for everyone. June — the ADHD coach — found that it really works well with people with ADD/ADHD because it’s simple and easy to follow. So if you’re looking for an easy and exciting way to budget, Your Magic Number — in my biased opinion — is the best.

      • Erin
        July 11, 2017 at 7:36 pm · Reply

        I have ADHD and my husband doesn’t. We BOTH love using the magic number system! All the arguments have ended around money.

        • Avraham Byers
          July 11, 2017 at 7:37 pm · Reply

          Nice Erin! Soooooo happy for you and your hubby ;).

  3. Art
    July 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm · Reply

    In general I don’t think that I have ADHD, but when it comes to money… I experience ADD very often.

    I just don’t want to deal with it.

    I avoid paying Attention to keeping track of my Magic Number.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to build a habit around keeping track of the Magic Number on a daily basis?

    • Avraham Byers
      July 12, 2017 at 9:15 pm · Reply

      Great question Art.

      Two things are important when you’re creating a new habit with tracking.

      1) Make sure you do it early. Ideally when you get home from work is best — before you unwind with a glass of Dom Perignon ;). If you leave it too late, you’ll be pooped and won’t want to do it.

      2) Put your binder in a visible place that you’ll see as a reminder. Kitchen table, the counter, etc. are all great choices. FYI, the stairs are a bad choice. One time, I had a client wipe out because they didn’t see their binder on their stairs. Those glossy binders on carpet are as slick as oil. Whomp!

      Hope that helps Art.

  4. Lilly
    July 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm · Reply

    Great article. I like the idea of positive self-talk. I have been doing it for years and it has helped me tremendously. Thanks.

  5. Marcy
    July 13, 2017 at 8:15 pm · Reply

    Avraham and June, thanks for this article! It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

    • Avraham Byers
      July 13, 2017 at 8:17 pm · Reply

      Aw Marcy, you’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed ;).

  6. Silvia Silberberg
    July 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm · Reply

    Great article. This should work for simply everybody. Thank you.

  7. Fiona
    September 20, 2017 at 5:59 am · Reply

    Hi Avraham
    I stumbled across your blog post by accident. I have always struggled with budgeting as sticking to any regime in the long (or short) term is difficult for my ADHD brain to deal with.
    Your magic number concept seems to make sense though so I am giving it a go. I hope it works as I am so tired of never getting on top of my finances.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    • Avraham Byers
      September 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm · Reply

      You’re welcome, Fiona! I love it when “good” accidents happen. Let me know how the Magic Number goes. 😉

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