Money & Budgets

How to Curb Your Spouse’s ADHD Impulse Spending

Impulse buying and a disinterest in organization can cause a great deal of frustration (and financial turmoil) in ADHD marriages. This strategy may help.

Impulse Buying Stops Here: Spending Help for ADHD Adults

Q: “My husband, who has ADHD, and I have been married 21 years. I’ve always had trouble dealing with his messy habits. I used to organize his clothing drawers, but they become disorderly in two days. I have given up now, and just toss his things in the drawers. I can’t keep him organized. He has too much stuff, and he continues to buy more. Can you help?”

A: Choose your battles. If your husband doesn’t care if his drawers are organized, why should you? Angels never wept over messy drawers. However, they do lament impulse spending, which is the real danger here.

Shopping lights up the receptors in our brain like those of a hunter seeking prey. It is addictive. Unneeded acquisitions clutter our homes, stress our marriage, and ruin our financial health. When an individual is prone to impulse purchases, but can’t organize what he buys, it is particularly challenging. So you have to find a way to give your ADHD husband his “fix” while avoiding his purchasing items he doesn’t need. You must change the family culture without nagging your husband.

I suggest a three-month experiment in which both of you shop only from a list. Groceries, pharmacy, and hardware store needs are on the list, and everyone stops buying clothing or extracurricular items during this period. Purchases outside these parameters are researched first and subject to spousal approval. There may be occasional exceptions; if anyone wants something he or she believes is vitally needed, but isn’t on the list, the spouse decides whether the item is necessary. If it has already been bought but she decides it was unnecessary, the purchaser agrees to return the item that same day. This experiment applies only to objects, not experiences, so use the time and money you will save by going out to restaurants, sporting events, and concerts.

[Self-Test: Do I Have Adult Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD?]

Susan C. Pinsky is a professional organizer specializing in ADHD. The mother of a child with ADHD, Susan lectures frequently on organizational issues on TV, on the radio, and in print. She is the author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD (#CommissionsEarned) and The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution (#CommissionsEarned).

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