Managing Your Money When You Have ADHD

Here is a link to a good article that was recently released about money management tips when you have ADHD.  It provides some solid statistics about the challenges plus a solid list of good ideas to improve things.  Go to this link...  I would be delighted if people wanted to start a thread about money management with this post.


I found the statistics

I found the statistics interesting, but I have to say the last two sentences were very frustrating for me: "But what really got his finances in order was his new marriage. Now his wife handles the bills." As the wife of an ADHD sufferer I am really burnt out from having to take over things to make sure they get done. When I initially took over all of our bills it seemed to be a good solution to better managing our finances and it stopped the missed/late payments problem. But now I'm wondering if it is actually enabling my husband's impulsivity around spending because he is removed from the nitty-gritty of bills and bank statements. Instead of conflict around late fees now we seem to have more conflict around the amount of money he is spending. I'd love to hear if anyone else has found this and if they know of a better way.


I started taking care of the bills the first year of our marriage because dh just ignored them.  We were at a point where we could not afford the interest on our credit cards.  I went to work full time and  got us back on track...I took care of budgeting and bill paying from then on.  While he made enough money in those years it worked OK.  As we got older, he got the attitude that what he didn't know didn't hurt him and slacked off on work because the bills were getting paid (magically, I guess, by me).  He would not step it up until I gave him sole responsibility to pay the electric bills.  When the electricity was turned off in 0° weather, I left him to figure it out.  Then he was outraged that I did not help him out...he didn't have the money.   He sat in the cold until he HAD to look at the finances and not assume I would take care of it.  DON'T TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING!!!!!.   What astounds me is the lack of pride and self respect.  Doesn't a man want to be able to support his family? Why does it take personal pain or embarrassment or someone leaving (as in divorce) for them to understand that they have to contribute enough and talk about things? 

Why does it take personal

Why does it take personal pain or embarrassment or someone leaving (as in divorce) for them to understand that they have to contribute enough and talk about things?

And sometimes even this isn't enough.  My husband still hasn't offered an opinion about our situation (possible legal separation) even though I told him about it four months ago and he has been living away from our house for two weeks now.


I totally relate

I've done the bills for our whole marriage and I think I enable my husband. He overspends and I accommodate it (I'll cut my own spending or return my items for cash). It's easier than fighting. (He can justify every purchase.) He also does these weird "voodoo economics" things that I don't like. For example, he'll buy his friend something with our debit card and then his friend pays him back in cash. Then he spends the cash (instead of returning it to the joint coffer). He doesn't think this is deceptive, but it feels real shady to me.

He feels really bad when he sees me make sacrifices (like foregoing haircuts or returning stuff to the store), but he can't offer an alternative solution. He doesn't consider curbing his own spending.

What's really hard for me to understand is that he is a brilliant computer programmer. He works with math and algebra all day long. But, he can't seem to understand the basic math facts when it comes to money. I have a finite view of money. His view is much more elastic. 

He is aware of his money problems and he feels bad about it, but I don't know if he will ever be able to live within a budget. In the past couple of years, since he started making medication, he has done a lot better with money, but it is still not great and very stressful. He makes a good salary, but we still live month-to-month. We make too much money to be broke.

The only thing I know for sure is don't use credit cards.

My ADD dh is actually

My ADD dh is actually excellent with his money management, to the point of obsessiveness. I have not been allowed to make any financial decision for a very long time now, unless he "OKs" it -- however, the OK doesn't come as he's paralyzed when a decision actually has to be made outside of himself. The ADHD response has made it seem as if there is financial abuse going on towards the non-ADHD spouse.

One thing that helps my dh think calmly without going into a rage when bills come in is the fact that we have arranged it so that all bills are due on the same day (same billing cycle). He goes to the bank and pays everything in full. He refuses to use a tickler system or any tracking system, it all has to be in his head, so he was always stressed to the point of disrupting the entire household. Now he doesn't have to think (over-think the bills) until the day of the month comes around.

I am the ADHD spouse

I am the one with the ADHD/anxiety/OCD, but my husband has had depression issues throughout our marriage. We used to stress and argue about money, but when his depression kicked in I took over the bill paying and kept everything on time, our credit is excellent. However, I also spent all of our savings and some credit lines to keep up the facade of all being well. Now we are working together with Quicken and more frequent, open money communications, but I still have not been able to get a grip on my part of controlling spending, keeping track of receipts and accounts, etc. It is so frustrating for him, and leaves me feeling like the failure I already felt I was all along. We are committed to doing this together but it is so hard. I have a lot of guilt for not being able to do this right, and for causing us financial stress. Fortunately, we are both employed and at least in theory, make enough money to pay off debt and continue to support our family, and at some point, if we stay on track, we should be able to actually rebuild the savings, take another vacation, etc.

I think one of the pieces of this that is so frustrating is that I know I am an intelligent person. It seems like it should not be this difficult. I am searching for the tools to keep myself focused on the goals, to make the changes I need in order to move this in the right direction....

Rosber's picture

I am the ADHD spouse and this

I am the ADHD spouse and this is what we now do.

My wife and I have started going over our finances weekly together. My wife has all the bills and income written out by a weekly chart. I keep track of our gas spending, food spending, clothing, house items ( such as repair items or paint ), misc spending (like a new case for phone, or something like that. I also made a receipt box and we both put every receipt in it and I check the box daily and add any receipt to my chart. I put a check on each receipt I enter. On the first monday of each month we go over the previous month total spending and see if we could have spent less on gas or something else.

My wife had been paying all the bills for years now and wanted to sit down and talk about our finances once a month. I did it now and then but rarely would. Now we do it weekly and it actually has taken the stress of our finances off both of us now that we share discussing them. I came up with a bunch of the new things we are now using for our weekly meetings myself. So not only does my wife feel better I am actually contributing by sitting down and discussing finances.  We both actually feel good about it because I actually contribute to the planning and handling now. We also set up one bill for me to be responsible for monthly, my car payment.

So to also add to this response I will share what I have done to turn my spending impulses into something better. When I get the impulses and yes I get them a few times a week still. What I do is turn the impulse around into saving money. I real example of what I do happened a few weeks ago. I was at walmart for groceries and I saw a new game had come out for the PS3 that my son and I could play together. I really wanted to buy that game but instead of buying it, I told myself that saving that money for my son's future would be better for my son than buying the game. It works for me. It makes me get a better feeling then spending money ever did. I also tell myself that saving money to be used for a family vacation or outing would be better than buying an impulse spending item as well.

This has really worked for me and I really have a handle on impulse spending now.

One thing that my wife and I did was go to a non profit debt management company when our debt got really big from paying for years of our son's autism therapies and special schools. That has helped us get our debt almost completely paid off.


Rosber, this is so great to read

I really like it that you and your wife have set up habits of communicating and sharing purchase and bill pay, and have found common goals.

 What you and your wife have worked out (after seeing the need to get counseling on debt management) really stands out as different from what some people on this site report happens when only one of the two spouses takes responsibility for bills and meeting financial obligations.   That leaves the money manager spouse holding the bag.

So the big thing that stands out to me is that the two of you are working with, not against, each other, managing your expenses and debt.  

Another thing seems to me to be going on between the two of you that frankly iin some cases reported here, is not going on in some other couples, is that you both understand that regardless of whose paycheck it is, money coming into a family is shared money, for the use of the whole family, not just for the person who gets the paycheck.   If you've read around on the site about how couples are handling money and what problems there can be, you will have read some stories of people with ADHD being so stuck in self centeredness, that they think it's OK to spend their spouse's money on themselves,  but it's in their "rights" to keep their own money and not contribute it to shared life.   Whether or not ADHD is in the couple, I don't like that at all.  It's cheap and goes beyond self centered ness into selfishness and using other people.    So it was a breath of fresh air to read in your report that you and your wife are using income and assets to cover everyone's needs in the family.

You've cheered me up this morning.  

You wrote:

My wife had been paying all the bills for years now and wanted to sit down and talk about our finances once a month. I did it now and then but rarely would.

I'm the money manager for most things in my marriage.  From the beginning, I've done a monthly report to my husband, after I had finished paying our obligations for the month and taken a look at all our outstanding credit accounts.  I often do it by email, so that he can attend to that information when he wants, and if he needs, can reread it if he's forgotten the content...  And I don't have to keep repeating details because he forgot them....

I do agree with you that a monthly check in with each other is very helpful in reaching longer term goals.   But I'm so aware that most people come on this site and mention finances because there's only one caretaker, while the other partner has checked out, is spending selfishly, or, worse, is running up debt hidden from the money caretaker.   I've lived on my own, hand to mouth a couple times in my adult life, so those stories are upsetting to me to read.   So much very basic wellbeing depends on handling money well.

Where my husband and I check in more often, is when we're running short of cash on the month.  Then we do a lot of talking from day to day about spending, as we do it, because our "game" is not to go in the red for the month, and I can't do that all by myself, nor can he, if we don't keep looking at the balance going down.  

Given the now/not now feature of ADHD, I am so grateful that my husband will do this with me.  There are a lot of non ADHD adults who are too "special" or something to submit to scrimping when scrimping is needed.    I don't know what we'd do, if my husband willfully spent what he wanted with no care to whether or not we had enough at the moment to keep payments from bouncing or being blocked due to insufficient funds.  We live close enough to the bone that a whole lot of things would collapse on us, if we blew each other off, monetarily, when money was tight in a month...

Now we do it weekly and it actually has taken the stress of our finances off both of us now that we share discussing them.

The greatest thing that takes stress off of me (non ADHD and the financial caretaker, of the two) is that my husband is willing to limit his spending (as you do, making your decisions why), when in fact we're short, and is willing to do some delaying needed expenditures, so I can pace us so that we don't throw our general balance out of whack.   Because he is, I've been able to peck away at paying off a handful of his credit cards on which he had balances, coming into the marriage.    It keeps coming down to two people working and talking together toward common goals.

I think I see that our regular habits of touching base and planning have lowered his stress, too.  For one thing, month by month, he hears taht working with me on this, in a shared set of habits, his old premarital debt (which is still his responsibility in my state, not ours), has slowly been shrinking.  He hears that success, month by month.  Before we married, he didn't know how much debt he had, how much debt service he was paying (it was a LOT), or what a monthly budget was at all.   So he gets the boost, with my monthly reports, of him knowing, in figures, that he is, because we are, killing off his premarital debt.  It's a very big win.  Especially at our age

I came up with a bunch of the new things we are now using for our weekly meetings myself.

This is great, Rosber. So you and your wife are co-inventing this system that you have and are modifying it as you go, to accommodate your changing situation and needs.  I'm glad she's responding to your ideas, and that you're putting them into practice

So not only does my wife feel better I am actually contributing by sitting down and discussing finances. 

I occasionally tell my ADHD husband that I go through periods of feeling lonely in the relation.  I don't think this is easy for him to notice, at all.  Some of it is because I don't have ADHD, and demographically most of my friends, coworkers and acquaintances are from the 98% of the world population that doesn't have ADHD and talk about shared life more than than he and I do. I'm used to sharing and co-solving problems, and miss it sometimes.

 Some of my periods of loneliness in my marriage is that there are parts of this relationship that are my job to do, and so my husband (quite happily) wipes them out of his life, doesn't think about them or inquire about them; these parts of our shared life that I do, he doesn't  "just get done".  No praise from him for my successes, because he doesn't attend to my successes, no inbuilt willingness to think about a problem that is not his problem that I don't know how to solve, to lend me his mind on it....Rosber people who don't have ADHD do think together on one or another person's problem...actually quite a lot.  Whole strategies of employee managment in business are based on the principle that most people (not all, most) rather naturally tend to communicate with each other about work that is not their own special assignment.  

I'm working on my loneliness of this kind, in my marriage.  Me getting used to him having ADHD will not solve my own need to be sharing with him and communicating with him.  

 I sure can believe what you say that your wife feels better for being able to work WITH you on shared debt and expenses.   Again, good for you two!

We both actually feel good about it because I actually contribute to the planning and handling now. We also set up one bill for me to be responsible for monthly, my car payment.

I believe this.   And if you were my husband...I know you're not, but you do have ADHD as he does...he'd feel good because he could see that the burdens weren't all his.   Things would be more defined, so he'd be released from globalized worry about money matters....over time, he'd fell better that financial problems of the usual kind weren't lurking in the dark to fall on his head.  He'd know he was doing his part, and be happy to be recognized by me as having done his part.  Not the least, once he does his part he can put it out of his mind, because he trusts that I'm doing my part.  

I've said it in this post about 5 times already, but I am really cheered up to read your description of what you and your wife have invented for yourself and are co-executing, and it's working for you two.  Both of you   

Oh, the last and then I'll let it thing about your success that seems obvious to me is that neither of you are hiding money, or hiding spending from each other.   Financial truthfulness.  


Yes, it is so frustrating.  I

Yes, it is so frustrating.  I have the same problem.  Feel I'm being taken advantage of in this respect and don't know what to do about it.  HE WILL NOT talk about it and tells me I have no right to tell him how to spend his money.  Yet he makes NO financial contribution to the household.