Money & Budgets

How Do You Pay the “ADHD Tax?”

From impulse spending and late fees to rotting groceries and lost phones, ADHD has plenty of hidden costs, both financial and emotional. Here, ADDitude readers share their stories and experiences paying the price of their ADHD.

the ADHD Tax includes replacing spoiled food

You buy perfectly ripened peaches only to discover them in the fridge two weeks later, rotten to the core. You neglect to take your phone out of your pocket, so it falls into the toilet (again). Thanks to impulse spending, you buy an armload of clothes that seem irresistible in the shopping cart but are unnecessary a week later. If this sounds familiar, you’re far from the only one dealing with the burdens — financial and otherwise — that often accompany ADHD.

It’s what’s referred to as the “ADHD tax,” and though it looks different for everyone, the universal truth is that no one likes paying it.

Here, our readers talk about the hidden costs of their ADHD, from endless overdue library fees to serious credit card debt, and they share the emotional toll these costs exact. In what ways do you pay the ADHD tax? Share your stories in the Comments section below.

“The impulse spending on stuff that I lose interest in a week or month later is a big problem. I got into knitting — 10 huge crates of expensive wool yarn later, I lost my interest in knitting, and there it sits.” — Carla, Michigan

I have run into my garage door twice because I’ve forgotten to put my car in park before running inside to grab “that one thing I forgot.” One time, it was my toothbrush. Boom! The car was still in drive mode as I ran inside. It rolled from my driveway, and into my garage and kitchen wall, dislodging my heavy countertop. Now, I quadruple check that my car is in park before exiting the vehicle.” — Emily

“I pay the ADHD tax regularly; I just try to laugh it off as part of life. We recently cleaned out our fridge and found an unopened, expired package of hummus from exactly a year ago. I turned the lid into a magnet, and now it’s on the fridge to remind us to check items more frequently.” — Lauren, North Carolina

[Read: Financial Help for Adults with ADHD]

“I’m pretty sure I have paid the county library’s electric bills for years due to my late fees!”  — An ADDitude Reader

“I have thousands of dollars of dental work that needs to be done due to a combination of ADHD neglect, depression neglect, then shame because it got so bad.” — An ADDitude Reader

I filed bankruptcy at age 23, in large part because I just couldn’t call and work out payment plans.” — Natalie, Utah

“I tend to break things a lot because I’m careless; like when I accidentally dropped my phone in the toilet because I forgot it was in my back pocket, or when I forgot my sunglasses were on my head and jumped into the lake.” — Amy, Canada

[Stop Losing Things: Simple Rules for People with ADHD]

“When I moved, I found so many items bought to replace [lost] items… how many pairs of scissors does one person need?” — Joy, Wales

“Financially, it has been a constant battle. I am continually attempting to get bills paid on time or paid at all. Every time I pay the ‘ADHD tax,’ I feel so angry and frustrated and say to myself, ‘Here I go again? When will I ever learn?’” — An ADDitude Reader

I nearly got expelled from my university because I registered too late for the next term and didn’t check my emails until my account was locked up.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I sometimes buy the same item twice because I put the first one away out of sight and forget I have it. Because of poor organizational skills, I never know where all my things are unless they are out in the open.” — Lesley, Tennessee

“Literally, the ADHD tax is a big problem for me. I haven’t done a tax return for four years now. It is a combination of time blindness — four years have slipped by in the blink of an eye — and the frustration caused by having to use a non-user-friendly digital process.” — Robyn, Australia

The ADHD Tax: Next Steps

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