A Beautiful, Chaotic Machine: ADHD & Money Management

Upsider Stories, How to Up, Spending and Budgeting, Saving

Ollie and a Zap brain

Hi, I’m Ollie. I’m 28 years old from Adelaide, I work in a pet store and I’m studying to be a zookeeper. I also make soap and play dungeons and dragons in my spare time. I have a cute mix-breed dog named Poppy and 6 gorgeous fish!

I also have ADHD. And I always tell people that Up has been the biggest game changer for me in this regard.

ADHD and money… stuff works differently.

ADHD is a neurological condition that affects many areas of a person’s life, including working memory (remembering what you’re doing), attention, focus, impulse control, sense of time, and emotional regulation, to name a few.

This happens because people with ADHD have a brain that struggles to move signals around, which makes it hard to feel a sense of reward, and also makes it hard for certain signals (like telling yourself to get up!) to move around the brain and turn into actions. It affects us all differently but it almost always comes with challenges in these areas, usually referred to collectively as “executive dysfunction”.

A really common problem with the condition is financial management. It ticks all of the boxes of “things that are hard to do with ADHD”. It’s boring. You have to hold on for delayed gratification. You need to remember and keep track of a lot of things (eek) and even worse, when you have an impulse you need to resist!

Before I was using Up I had a very hard time with money management. I paid a lot of money to subscriptions I wasn’t using and forgot I signed up for. I would forget to put money in savings, bills would be due faster than I thought and I ended up losing what little savings I had to late fees.

Impulse purchasing was a big problem. I often would only think about the money in my account when making purchases, not what fees were coming up or savings that I needed to put away.

I remember when I was looking to get a dog and my beautiful girl showed up on gumtree. I wanted her so badly and didn’t even think it through. She was at our house by the end of the next day, having spent almost all of my fortnightly pay on her adoption fee and supplies. I didn’t have food money (for myself, she was fed!) for two weeks after that and had to borrow money from my family.

Of course I don’t regret having her in my life, but the two-week struggle certainly was a bit of a wake-up call that I needed a better plan and a better system.

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My system: Up Savers + Spendable

When I discovered Up I could see straight away how I could use it differently.

I went ahead and made a Saver for everything I could possibly want to put money aside for, and set my pay to split across all of them. That’s bills, emergency funds, a home loan (not hopeful but🤞), present funds, and a ‘buffer’. That’s step one.

Then I just look at only my spendable amount. That’s how I know what I’m working with that week. This works so well with my ADHD because instead of forgetting that I need to put money into my Savers, I actually kind of forget what I have in there, so I don’t feel the temptation to use it.

Buffer Brilliance

You may have noticed one oddball Saver. My “buffer” account is my lifesaver. As I said, impulse control and working memory are difficult for me, my buffer is a big workaround for when I’m not winning any battles against my brain, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I put away a teeny bit a week, enough for like a few cheap meals, and because it happens automatically with Pay splitting, I forget about it.

Then when it’s only halfway through the week and I realise I’ve spent way more than I thought I have? Worst feeling, but when I desperately go searching for pennies I can pull out there’s my buffer, keeping me fed til payday. If I don’t end up using it, I either keep it there so that I can treat myself when my mental health is particularly bad later, or I can move it to emergency funds and slowly grow that.

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My Beautifully Chaotic Machine

Most of my financial life runs automatically now, and subscription services that used to be dangerously forgettable are now preferred because they can slot right into my beautifully chaotic machine.

This little way of flexing Up to meet my brain where it fits best, has made such a huge difference in my life. Being able to work independently, and with my mental health instead of against it, has been so empowering and freeing. Even when my income is a bit low and those savers go down, I’m no longer panicking because I know as long as the machine keeps moving it’ll be okay eventually.

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