Side note: The topic of personal finances can be layered with confusion, pain, or trauma. If you find yourself stirring up overwhelming memories or feelings, please take care of yourself.
Tell someone you trust, and know that you're not alone.
Your relationship to money is not part of your identity.
If you didn't learn how to manage finances from someone who knew what they were doing, then chances are you struggle doing it on your own. How would you know how?!
Your money story is the bigger picture of what you were taught about money, what you current believe about it, and how it does or does not align to your current values and needs.
Often we operate out of defaults from the past that no longer work for us, or we haven't thought about finances as a relationship to manage. The patterns our primary caregivers modeled can manifest in adult behaviors we don't realize are out of sync with what matters most to us.
Aligning our finances to our values and needs can make purchasing decisions easier and increase our self-control on impulse spending.
A client story about impulse buying
One of my clients has a dog she adores and enjoys adorning with the latest puppy t-shirts and accessories. Recently, a limited edition shirt was released and available for one week. The previous week we began unpacking her values around ethical shopping and reducing her impulse spending.
When she saw the dog shirt sale, she remembered she recently bought new clothes for the dog. She paused and sat on the fence all week. When we met on Friday, she told me she still needed to decide.
Instead of focusing on the idea of excessive spending and setting goals to white knuckle through avoiding purchases, I asked her how she could spend her money in a way that makes her feel proud. It shifted her perspective on some things.
Like so many of us, this client likes to shop online. She hates returning things, but wishes she spent less. She told me she feels really proud of spending on dog training from a business owner who identifies as trans and neurodivergent.
This aligns with her values.
We focused on how she feels during and after purchases, her values, and how she can utilize her money in ways that feel good. This is the perspective that resulted in less spending during the week.
Taking a reflective pause gave room for her to remember what she really wanted. In the end, she missed the deadline for the puppy shirts, but she wasn't upset. I asked her to think of options for this kind of feel good spending the next time she felt the urge to spend forty dollars.
Again, the focus is aligning to values and not asking or creating shame around the impulse buys.
Here are some common finance challenges for Neurodivergent folks.
Budgeting and investing require us to think ahead and know what's important to us. That's hard with grind culture and an over-extended and exhausted brain.
We may not know what matters most, and that makes managing finances overwhelming.
We can forget what didn't work and get stuck in the moment.
Marketers know how to reach us with messages of urgency and NEED. We struggle to not give into our impulses.
We get fixated on something, and sometimes in an effort to end the spinning, we will just make the purchase and move on or ignore the pile of mail. Engaging or avoiding can feel like the only way out of ruminating.
Comparing ourselves to others fuels distrust of ourselves. Rather than knowing we'll be okay if we don't have the exact "right" shoes, we buy them based on what others are doing.
Relationships are sometimes tricky, and we can find ourselves being overly generous, grabbing the bill when out with friends, without considering the impact on our personal finances. For some of us, this could be related to a desire to fit in, others may just be doing what they saw their caregivers do. The emotional dysregulation of ADHD makes it hard to know if you're excited or feeling like you 'should' treat, or if you're really wanting to show care or appreciation for the person.
Your Money Story
The following questions are meant to help you reflect and brainstorm.
Remember: everyone has a unique, personal story. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
What did you learn about money growing up? Did your caregivers tell you anything, never talk about it with you, or make decisions that communicated contradictions?
Did you learned how to pay bills, save, or invest? If so, how did that happen?
What do you want in your relationship with money?
How much time do you want to spend each week managing your money? What help do you need to set up and manage things?
What do you want to spend money on? What's important to you—mental health, eating out, travel, clothes?
What's one thing you want to do/accomplish regarding finances?