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When you’ve landed a steady job, whether it’s full or part time, it’s very exciting to make and have your own money. Managing that money, though, can often be challenging. You may have held small jobs like babysitting or dog-walking before, but perhaps you’re unsure of how to use a bank account, write a check and keep track of your funds. Many folks use debit cards without understanding how to monitor accurately what they’re spending and overdraw their accounts quickly. This is especially true for teens and young adults with ADHD who really need to learn about life-long money management and budgets now for ongoing financial stability.
Sadly, I’ve worked with many adults with ADHD who struggle mightily with their money. They don’t know how to make a simple budget or stop overdrawing their account. As kids, either they didn’t want to rely on their parents for this advice or didn’t have dependable adults to ask. Because they didn’t learn how to manage their money, they now live with stressful issues such as credit card debt, unpaid taxes or recurring poverty.
Managing money effectively is directly related to executive functioning skills. You have to plan, prioritize, organize; you have to exert self-control around frivolous spending and motivate yourself to save for a rainy day. For many teens and young adults with ADHD, this process seems overwhelming and intimidating. Sometimes it’s best to figure things out with the help of a trusted adult, caring friend or helpful bank employee.
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Here’s how you can get started:
1. Create a monthly budget: Make a list of all of your expenses for a given month with no shame attached to any item. Make sure to include spending on food, drinks, health insurance, cable tv, internet, concerts, subway or bus pass, movies, trips to the drugstore, car payments and/or insurance, cigarettes/vaping/etc. EVERYTHING. Subtract this total from your paycheck. Is this number negative or positive? If it’s negative, then you need to make some adjustments on your spending. If it’s positive, this is your extra money for saving.
2. Open up both a checking and a savings account: Deposit your paycheck into your checking account first. Your checking account serves as the basis for the money you live on every day. Your savings account helps you accrue funds for the future—whether it’s fun stuff like a trip with friends or that new car you’re hoping for. When you are able to put away some portion of your earnings, it teaches you how to delay gratification while nurturing your independence.
3. Decide if you want direct deposit for your paycheck and electronic billing: These can be very helpful for ADHD brains. You don’t have to worry about going to the bank to deposit your money or remember to pay essential bills. I have one client who’s arranged to have her rent, health insurance, car payment, auto insurance, cable and internet bill and student loan payback taken directly out of her bank account. She doesn’t forget to pay the bills anymore and she has a clearer sense of her spending and saving funds.
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4. Forget debit cards: Live in a cash world for a while. This way you can grasp how much money you actually have to spend each week and what you are spending it on. The budget your created above will show you what sum to take out each week.
Revise your plan along the way as needed. After three months, meet again with whoever helped you to set it up and discuss how things have been going. If you are struggling with the plan, ask for assistance. Managing money can be challenging for everyone—with or without ADHD!