Budgeting for ADHD: Effective Strategies for Neurodivergent Individuals

April 8, 2024

One of the most common challenges that neurodivergent folks face when dealing with money is budgeting. Budgeting can be tricky as it is, but when your brain works a bit differently, it can be grueling and demoralizing especially whenever you get off track. But here’s the thing: traditional budgeting strategies were not designed for neurodivergent people in mind and often do not work for us. The good news is that there’s a better way to budget and we’re here to teach you how to do it.

Why Traditional Budgeting Is Hard if You Have ADHD

For us ADHDers, our brains don’t produce enough dopamine. As a reminder, dopamine is the chemical that our brain produces to give us that satisfying “I’ve done it!” feeling when we complete a task. Because ADHDers’ brains don’t generate enough of this, we struggle to start and complete seemingly simple tasks or ones that we are new to or not good at.

Traditional budgeting, or “zero-sum” budgeting aims to track every dollar that you make and every dollar that you spend. If you have ADHD and money is a source of stress, sitting down to track every dollar going in and out of your bank account can feel impossible. It’s also true that many people with ADHD work outside of the typical 9-5 work schedule; many of us are freelancers or self-employed and our income can be more inconsistent, making traditional budgeting even harder. So if zero-sum budgets don’t work for ADHDers, then what does? 

Bucket Budgeting Basics

Bucket budgeting is the practice of dividing up your money into separate buckets that you assign different purposes to and only giving yourself access to only some of those buckets. An easy example of this would be a spending bucket and an expenses bucket. Start by adding up all of your fixed expenses for the month–your rent or mortgage, average utilities cost, car payment, subscriptions, etc. Once you’ve done that, open a separate checking account (always read the fine print when it comes to fees or minimums before opening a new account). Each time you get paid or pay yourself, you’re going to put however much in your “Expenses” account to cover your monthly costs, and then the rest can go in your spending account.

Now here’s the trick that makes this method work: you’re only going to give yourself easy access to your spending account. When the bank sends you a debit card for your new (expenses) checking account, keep it tucked away safe at home and only use the debit card associated with your spending account. If you use credit cards, only pay off your card with your spending account. This way, you will know exactly how much money you have to afford all the “extras” in life.

Advanced Bucket Budgeting

Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can start to expand this practice using more accounts - just make sure to read the fine print when you open a new account and are sure that you’re able to maintain the minimum balance to avoid any penalties. Some examples of different accounts may include:

- Bills/fixed expenses

- Food

- Spending/fun stuff

 - Travel/transportation

If you have ADHD and are new to budgeting, this is one of the best methods for you to slowly start to dip your toe into a more active management of your money. While you can definitely do a bit of “setting and forgetting” with this method, we do recommend that you check in on your expenses consistently so you’re still putting in the right amounts in the right accounts. Remember, even though your brain may work a little differently, there are money management methods out there that can work! With consistency and accountability, you can slowly start to transform your financial landscape so that you can achieve true financial freedom.

get started! sign-up here for our

Free Guide: Roadmap to Financial Freedom

Thanks for subscribing! We just emailed you a welcome note.

There was an error with your subscription.