The ADHD Tax

The Hidden Costs: Understanding the 'ADHD Tax'

The 'ADHD Tax' refers to the financial burden often incurred due to unmanaged ADHD symptoms. This can manifest in various ways, such as late fees due to forgetfulness, impulsive spending, or costs from disorganization and lost items. While not a literal tax, these expenses can significantly impact one's finances. Recognizing these patterns is the first step towards mitigating them. Strategies like automating bill payments, budgeting for impulsive buys, and implementing organizational systems can greatly reduce these indirect costs. Effectively managing ADHD symptoms is key to minimizing this 'tax' and achieving better financial stability.

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Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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A word form our expert

How Much Will Your ADHD Traits Cost You?

I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for almost three years now 3️⃣ and have been slowly adapting to everything thrown at me by this neurodivergent disorder. Day by day, I am learning new things and developing coping mechanisms to survive all the struggle that comes with it. Sometimes, I think I'm being successful at managing my symptoms, but there are still days when I can't contain my ADHD and commit costly mistakes 🤦.

Every day, I have to do my best to manage my ADHD, especially in this environment where a few mistakes can drive some people to judge you quickly. The challenges we face always seem impossible: our impulsivity behaviors leading to errors, being hyperactive, and the inattention that makes us forget details😅.

The ADHD Tax: Variety of Challenges

The way we manage ADHD relies mainly on our willingness to do it. However, the drive to overcome the challenges is not always there. And I think it's entirely okay because ADHD is a life-long condition and we cannot expect to be motivated in managing it each day of our life. The lack of willingness is okay from time to time, but we must still persevere because ADHD can be costly 💸  and can cause a couple of headaches when not managed well. 

We call these costly repercussions the ADHD Tax, but more on that later. 

Having ADHD Can Sometimes Be Expensive

When I was still questioning the possibility of having any neurodivergent disorder, I always struggled with saving up in my bank 🏦 and putting up enough investments for the future. I always have difficulty grasping the reality of planning partly because I have trouble being aware of time⌚. For me, the future shouldn't be designed as they are still too distant to think about. Time Blindness can significantly affect our planning skills, as well as  time management and scheduling abilities.

The ADHD Tax: Struggles end up costing us Money

Whenever I have a new hobby to splurge my attention to, I spend most of my time and income on it. Do I need a new musical instrument for my new hobby of playing the guitar? I'll buy it 🎸. There's a new game to be released on my console? I'll not let the opportunity pass by me. My favorite restaurant offers a new menu? Then, I'll order them 😋! Impulsivity is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD that can affect how we handle our finances. 

But I think there's more to it than that.

Aside from being impulsive and having time blindness, many people with ADHD can also have difficulty understanding the value of money. When I was still in denial of my disorder, I always had trouble conceptualizing how much things cost. Whenever I see an item I want, I can only think about how happy it would make me feel to have it now and not worry about anything else. These are a few instances that can cause us to live from paycheck to paycheck. We often lack proper strategies for handling those finances 💵.

The Hidden Costs the People with ADHD Pay

Did you know that aside from the struggles listed above, there is a far more concerning issue that can significantly affect our financial accounts? We mainly pay for these things because we cannot manage our ADHD traits well😭. This is the ADHD tax we briefly mentioned earlier. 

The ADHD community further describes ADHD tax as the "costs associated with the need to overcompensate for ADHD symptoms." In other words, this is money we spend because we are not able to manage our symptoms well.  For example, we might buy a second pair of sunglasses 😎 because we forgot where we placed the first one. We might also immediately buy a new shirt out of impulsivity even though we have dozens of unused shirts at home👚. 

That's what the community calls "The ADHD Tax"

ADHD taxes can either be a big or small amount which can add up over time. It can be something like a higher electric bill because we frequently forget to turn off the lights or the TV. In other words, these ADHD taxes come in different forms.

Even though we try our best in managing ADHD traits that we have, there'll always be an instance when we'll have to pay extra. Here are some of the most common experiences where ADHD tax gets the better of my bank account. 😅

During Unplanned Grocery Shopping

I just remembered that I need to purchase a couple of toilet paper 🧻 at the nearest convenience store. While walking toward the aisle that serves all the toiletries, I passed by the fresh produce section and immediately noticed the bright red cherries 🍒 that seemed freshly picked. Without hesitation and letting my impulse control my ADHD brain, I grabbed a bag full of it and added them to my cart.

The ADHD Tax: Letting food perish in your fridge

After getting the supplies I needed and the reason I went there in the first place (toilet paper), I paid my bill without knowing how much everything was. To my surprise, I bought the cherries at almost thrice the regular price 💰. As I didn't want to cause inconvenience, I gobbled up the shame and accepted that I paid for something that I don’t even frequently eat!

As soon as I got home, I prepped my dinner and added a bunch of cherries to it just to appease my guilt. I enjoyed (as I would like to believe) having additional flavor to my meal. However, there's still a bag left in my fridge, and I still have no inspiration on how I will cook them the next time. Guess what? I never had the chance to eat them again as they eventually got spoiled and were thrown away. That's quite an expensive ADHD tax.

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Fines and Late Fees

Sometimes, our ADHD brain cannot function well. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects our working memory, which is the part of our brain that helps us remember things for a short period. We often ask people to repeat what they've said, as we might've not heard them correctly or have already forgotten what they just told us. The same goes for remembering deadlines and other important dates 📆.

The ADHD Tax: Getting fines because you forgot to return books to the library.

I hope we already know the consequences of forgetting to pay on time. Especially when it is bank-related services, like credit card bills, utilities, and other subscriptions 💳. They may usually come with a grace period, but going beyond that will add up to our expenses. Sometimes, having poor memory may cause us to empty our resources paying for something that could have been avoided. If only we remembered our dues, we wouldn't need to pay the ADHD tax for it.

My Experience with the Return and Refund Policy

I was in a hurry when I bought a dress 👗in an outlet store in town. I was so amazed by how it looked, so I immediately bought it. I didn't have the chance to see how it fits me because I was running late for my meeting with a friend, and I was struggling to process if I still had enough time. I bought the dress because I thought it would haunt me if I let my chance pass.

A few days passed, and I was invited to dinner and saw the chance to wear what I had bought. But when I was about to unzip it, I noticed something off with the clothes and realized that a part of it was missing. So I called the store and told them what had happened. They advised me that they were offering a return or refund policy and I should bring the garment over so that they could replace it for free. They told me the details, but I was too gobbled by my emotions because I could not wear what I had bought.

The ADHD Tax: Forgetting to return clothes or items on time.

Fast forward to the day that I finally had the chance to go to the mall and have compensation for my clothes. I went straight ahead to the manager on duty and told them I bought the item and needed it replaced. However, I forgot to bring my receipt as proof of purchase 🧾, and it's a required step they need to have for verification purposes. So I went back home and decided to just go back tomorrow with the freakin' piece of paper. (Sorry, up until now, I'm still frustrated)

When I returned to the store the next day, I presented them with the receipt and the item I had bought. I thought it would be smooth to do the transaction, but the store can only process refunds and replacements within a certain period. And that lucky day was yesterday when I presented the clothes I bought without the receipt. I had no choice but to burst into tears 😭 and accept that I paid an extra ADHD tax because of it.

How to Reduce the Chance of Paying Extra ADHD Tax?

If the trend of our unnecessary expenses continues, we may spend more than what we earn and owe money to other people. We don't want to go deep into debt 💸.

Here's some life advice and tips about saving and spending. I know that adults with ADHD can't be the most trusted advisor regarding finances, but from my experience, we can still help each other by sharing what we've been through and our current situation. So here it goes:

The ADHD Tax: My Tips
  • Make an initial list 📝of all your expenses and income. Include every detail you can think of:  when you will receive your salary, the deadline for your bills, and any other comment about your account. Visualizing your finances may help you understand your status more. Have easy access to this document in case you'll need to.
  • Set as many alarms and reminders as possible. Procrastination can sometimes affect our urge to do things immediately and put activities, like paying bills or replacing items, on hold. Setting reminders and alarms ⏰ can help us pay our dues on time, avoiding late fees. 
  • Make automated payments on your bills and regular purchases. Some credit card companies or banking applications can automatically settle your accounts for you when you want them to. This can save us from waiting in line or forgetting to pay the bills at all! Create a scheduled payment for your credit card and other bills so you don't have to worry about it.
  • Look for other ways to diversify your investments. Knowing how to save appropriately can help us not to spend recklessly. Try looking for a financial advisor or do your research about it to have additional knowledge of how to grow your money 💲 without overspending.

The last and most important piece of advice I can share is that it is okay to make mistakes and have a little ADHD tax. We are still humans, after all. We create errors, and sometimes that's how life works. You don't have to feel bad about it. Learn from it and move forward.

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The Concept of ADHD Tax: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is ADHD Tax?

ADHD Tax is not an actual tax you have to pay to the government for having ADHD. It is the expenses you have to shell out because of not managing your symptoms well.

Does having ADHD qualify as a disability?

In the United States, ADHD qualifies as a disability, so a person with this neurodivergent condition may be entitled to some benefits provided that the disorder has caused them inability to do substantial gainful activity that have lasted for at least a year.

How can you avoid paying ADHD Taxes?

‍The best way to avoid ADHD Taxes is to manage your symptoms well. For instance, if you’re forgetful, you might want to set alarms and reminders so you’ll pay your dues on time. 

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