The more I share about my journey from shopaholic to debt free minimalist, the more I hear from a particular group of people who don’t believe this to be possible for them. People with ADHD. I hear a lot about how fighting impulses is not possible with ADHD or that debt payoff offers no instant gratification. While I can’t say I have ever been formally diagnosed with ADHD, I can say that a family history and a clear understanding of the symptoms leads me to believe I am merely undiagnosed. That being said, I took some time to think about what it was I did that allowed me to reign in on my impulses and actually manage to break my spending impulses and pay off debt.
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Signs of ADHD
As I read through the list of ADHD signs and symptoms, I can’t help but be transported back to a time in my life where I actively began working to silence the impulsive thoughts racing through my head when a friend would talk.
I wanted to listen to her, but I couldn’t fight this desire to share an idea or thought that came to my head. It was like I felt that every thought in my head was a top priority, and there was 8,000 of them. Believe me when I say that repeating your own thoughts in your head so you don’t forget them doesn’t make for a very good listener.
Then, with a deeper desire to be a better friend, one who truly heard and listened to other people, I began telling myself, “If it’s important enough, I will remember it later.” When those God-awful moments came where the conversation shifted so far past the thing I wanted to say, I forced myself to let the thought go. This is still something I struggle with — and something I have learned to make less painful, but I’ll share more on that later.
Adult ADHD Symptoms according to Mayo Clinic
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills
- Problems focusing on a task
- Trouble multitasking
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
- Trouble coping with stress
The more I look at these signs the more I see them in my family members who have been diagnosed, my immediate family members, and myself. I can see why having a diagnoses would feel so much better because things like hot temper and poor planning can feel like major character flaws. Being able to recognize them as part of an ADHD diagnoses would no doubt offer an explanation.
What if this isn’t a curse, but a blessing?
My biggest hang-up with an official ADHD diagnoses is that while having an answer for some of these habits (that are frowned upon in today’s society), I can’t help but think some might take a diagnosis as an absolute.
We hear stereotypical things like, we are impulsive, bad with money, scatter-brained and shrug our shoulders saying, “It’s the ADHD,” oh well.
But if these things are working against you living your best life, I want you to know that I will never be convinced that you or I need to play victim to a diagnosis like this.
ADHD is a blessing?
I once had a neurologist insist to me that his ability to become such a specialized pediatric neurologist was due to the fact that he had an (at the time) ADD diagnosis. He praised his hyper-focus and obsessive nature for the reason he had been able to grow so much in his respected field.
This changed the way I looked at ADHD forever and I can see clearly how it benefited me in many ways when it came to using my own creativity and interests. In life, whenever I have let my creativity be lead through hyper-focus, the results have been amazing. (Although I definitely struggled with that whole attention to detail thing for a while though.)
What I’m saying is, what if we began shifting our focus from seeing ADHD as a curse, and more as a blessing that we can use to our advantage?
I tricked my ADHD into ditching impulse spending
There are 5 major things I can think of that I inadvertently did to shift my previously impulsive spending habits toward becoming a debt free minimalist in hopes that sharing these things might help shed some light on how you can do the same in your own life.
Set your sights on the big picture
If you struggle with impulses, like I do, then you know that it’s usually just a lot of giving into, well, impulses. Things that feel fun, or good in the moment, but are usually short lived. This is where your hyper-fixation can come into play.
I wasn’t able to make any real changes in my life until I was able to begin to dream of a life bigger and better than the one impulsive living had brought me. Having struggled my way through school, and being told the only real way to success in life was through college, I had given up on pursuing my dreams around the ripe age of 16. Heartbreaking, for sure.
It wasn’t until I read a book about manifestation (a topic I knew nothing about at the time) that I was given a glimpse of hope that maybe, despite my lack of grades, I might be able to succeed at the life I dreamed about instead of suppressing it.
For the first time in my life I realized that a lot of my impulses were used as a way to keep me happy in a place where I really wasn’t comfortable at all. I wanted more for my life, but had stopped believing it was possible, so I tried to be happily complacent where I was.
What would life after debt look like?
By taking the time to dream about and plan out what life after debt (or after shopping addiction) would look like, you give yourself an image or an idea to hyper fixate on.
Most of us are driven by emotion, so get as emotional as you can about this. When you can tap your emotions into something so much bigger than your current financial woes or spending hang-ups, you activate that hyper-focus super power of yours. Now, time to give it even more attention.
Consume content like a crazy person. Then output something.
If you have decided to put your focus toward paying off debt because you want to travel more, or so that you can retire early, start finding people on social media who are doing exactly that. The best place to get started on Instagram or TikTok is by searching the #debtfreecommunity.
Other ideas for consuming:
- Blogs on simplicity
- Podcasts about money
- YouTube tutorials on budgeting
- TikTok videos about shopping addiction (start with me, obv)
Finding your people – people who are living the life you want to live – allows your brain to start to see what is possible, and gives you something to obsessively consume. Let’s face it, there’s a good chance you are already consuming a ton of content on social media, why not make it something that is encouraging you to work toward a better life for yourself?
But, there’s a catch.
Take it in, then give it back
The biggest place people get hung up with this step is that they get so consumed by consumption of other people’s content that they never take any additional steps.
I know some of us can easily watch documentaries, social media posts, and read blogs all about how to eat a certain diet, live a certain lifestyle, or even pay off debt so much so that we become information experts.
The thing is, would you trust a sky diving instructor who had only read about skydiving? He knew every detail about skydiving, what to do, what all the equipment was, even where the safety latch is. The only problem was he had never actually tried it himself. Suddenly that expertise goes right out the window. You don’t care how much knowledge he has, he hasn’t done anything with it.
Don’t let that be you.
Once you’ve taken in a small amount of knowledge, start taking action on some part of it. Here are some ieas:
- When you learn something new, tell someone about it
- If you see a method for money, try it at home
- Share your results with others on social media
- Start a blog, podcast, at-home group, group chat for anyone who wants more information
Doing this can allow you to activate those impulses in a different way. I woke up and started writing this blog post first thing in the morning because it the idea came rushing to my mind and I wanted to take action through output.
By sharing what I know, I am allowing myself to hyper-fixate, feed my impulse, silent that voice in my head that says, “This is really important,” and hopefully inspire others with my results.
Shifting your impulses
The next thing I did, while holding my bigger vision in my mind, was to shift my impulses. Instead of giving into another shopping spree, I began getting my dopamine hit by decluttering my house.
I became a woman on a mission ready to get rid of and declutter anything that was not serving me or in alignment with my vision.
By this point I knew I wanted more time in my schedule, less clutter taking up my space, and more money in my life. I wanted all of this so that I could impulsively travel, have experiences and all around do big, giant, wonderful things with my life that I had previously not allowed myself to do.
In order to allow those big kinds of impulses to happen, I had to shift my desire to live impulsivity from destructive behaviors to something that was more serving toward my bigger goal. Read: 5 Steps to Declutter Your Space When You Have ADHD
Debt payoff impulse
I was even able to use my impulses during debt payoff. While we were in the midst of paying off our debt, I was side hustling with my blog and through dog sitting. Whenever unexpected money came in, I would get some instant gratification by deciding where that money would go.
When I was able to mark down that I had just paid another $200 toward our debt, it felt like a huge win, and then I wanted to find more ways to make money so I could pay off more debt.
I found new items that I could sell on Facebook Marketplace, I created a new digital product and promoted it on Instagram. Anything I could do to attempt to make debt payoff faster and more rewarding, I would do it. Read: How We Paid Off $6,000 of Debt in 6 Months
Ideas for shifting your impulses
- Instead of buying, try decluttering
- Instead of walking Target, walk the dog
- Instead of online shopping, try pinning favorite outfits
Learn a new form of instant gratification
Gone are the days when I would sit idly by letting my thoughts run rampant in my head. Instead I have learned how to get more instant gratification from those things or ideas that just won’t seem to leave me be.
When we are working toward a goal, it can be tough to stay focused when there isn’t any payoff. That’s why it’s beneficial to find a new form of payoff that is different from the ones you are currently used to.
Here are some ideas that I have applied…
- When you want to buy something, take a picture or a screen shot
- If you have a new idea, send yourself a text
- When you see an item you no longer use, put it in a donation bin
- Clean something and then spray room refreshing spray
- When an idea comes to your mind, share it with someone
I know this post was probably longer than a person with ADHD would prefer, however, I hope the highlighted points at least offered some insight and some new ideas into what you are capable of. Please don’t think a debt free life of financial bliss is only meant for those who are neuro-typical.