Money for the Distracted Book Review: Saving Money with The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese Art of decluttering and organizing

Clutter, stuff, things, what ever you like to call all of the items that magically multiply to fill every inch of your house, attic, garage, basement, shed, and storage units. Clutter eats your money like a hungry dog on a meat wagon. For people with ADD/ADHD clutter is a problem for several reasons. We struggle with decision making, we can always think of ways that said item could be useful, we have so many interests, hobbies, and things we are fascinated by, that we collect things at an alarming rate.
When we become distracted by the next thing, the items are still there from the first thing, or we buy everything we need for a project and then become distracted by another project and never get back to the first project.
Our powers of hyper-focus allow us to work in chaos that would shut most people down, but can lead to the kind of room that is ridiculously over stuffed. It can also be a constant source of friction for others that share our space.
Clutter costs money beyond the initial purchase as we spend money on storage containers for what we bought, re-purchase items that we can not find when we need them, and spend money for storage space for the excess in our lives. Kitchen clutter costs money when you throw out expired canned and packaged goods, and fresh food forgotten in the refrigerator. Clutter is a huge drain on your finances and causes stress. Many people, those with and without attention and impulse issues struggle with clutter.  De-cluttering is like dieting, we all know what we are supposed to do, but damn, it is hard to stick with it, and quick fixes do not work. So, what is the solution?

Enter Mari Kondo, her amazing book The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese Art of decluttering and organizing, and the “Konmari” method of tidying.  Her philosophy and word choice will feel odd to some, as this work is translated from Japanese, but her ideas about getting rid of everything that does not “spark joy” when you pick it up is bang on. She does not believe that following another person’s idea of what you should, or should not discard will ever stick, nor does she believe that rules such as “one in, one out, or one in two out” will work and that in the end you will go back to your cluttered ways.

As someone who has struggled with clutter and collections forever, this book was clear, easy to follow, and gave the best advice: No one but you can decide what is enough of any type of thing, but if it does not “spark joy” it does not belong in you space. As she rightly says, “only you can decide what is enough” and if you want to keep one hundred pairs of shoes it is okay as long as you genuinely love each pair. Unlike some methods of decluttering that have left me feeling like I was forced to discard things dear to me, this method made me feel like I was in control, and that in the end it was my choice and I was very happy and felt like a weight had been lifted when I donated clothes that no longer “sparked joy” to Goodwill.

Ms. Kondo has a set routine for discarding items, moving you from less difficult choices to more difficult ones, starting with clothes, moving to books, and finally everything else in the order she has listed in her book. Unlike other books that recommend that you have someone else touch and hold the item you are considering, she has the person touch and hold their item while asking themselves “Does this spark joy?”.
Her method may seem quirky, but by doing this, I was able to discard half of my wardrobe. Others I have talked to that are following the “Konmari” method have discarded even more. This may sound wasteful but most people only wear about twenty percent of the the clothes they own so this a way to have every outfit you pick up be one that you want to wear, not one that gets pulled out, looked at, and stuffed back in the drawer or closet.

She also has you discard by item, a grand way to see everything of that type you own. This was a little overwhelming but she argues that we have things stored all over and that we really do not know what we own until we get it all in one place.  This will be challenging, as you will need a space to work in that allows you to do this, but in the end it made the process much easier.

Ms. Kondo states that it takes about six months to complete the process of discarding but to the date of publication of her book, she has had no one that needed to repeat the course or who has slipped back into their old ways.

So are you ready to give it a go and start saving money? I started the process over the Memorial Day holiday, and will keep you posted as I progress.

 

ADHD and Money:The Slow-Cooker Method of Savings

Many ADD/ADHD people are visual people. We struggle with organization because if we loose sight of an object it might as well not exist. So what does that have to do with automatic savings? If you have the money deducted from your paycheck before you see it, you don’t miss it. I am not talking hundreds of dollars to start your savings project.  If you are struggling to pay your bills, I am sure right now that you think I have lost my mind, and that you could not possible squeeze another  dime out of your paycheck, or you have tried to save a fixed amount each month in the past but have ended up using it to pay bills because you started with too high an amount.

I am talking a small amount. How small? How about ten dollars a paycheck? Twenty dollars if you are paid once a month. Set it up to come out before you get your check. Most people are forced into automatic deposit, and it it very easy to set up a spilt deposit through your employer.
Ten dollars. That is all, less than the price of two fancy coffee drinks, less than two fast food meals, less than two lunches purchased at work.  If you have an bank already, but do not have a savings account, open one, make sure it does not have any fees that will eat away at your savings. You can even open an on-line savings account and set it up an automatic transfer to come out of your paycheck.

Now the next step is really important. Do not look at your balance for the next year. That’s right a whole year. If you are nervous about this, have a trusted friend look at your statements for you, or if your partner is more trustworthy about money have them keep track of the balance.  After one year, when you look at your balance you will be surprised at how quickly the money added up.

If you are like many ADHD people the impulse to spend it will be great. Do not do it! This is the start of your emergency fund. You know the extra money you are supposed to have sitting in the bank for emergencies? This is the seed. I know that some of you read about emergency fund recommendations that are so common in financial self-help books, stating that you should have three to six months of cash saved in a bank account for emergency needs, you stop reading and give up because you can not even imagine how that would happen when you just pay the bills now.

In one year you will have $10.00 X 26 = $260.00  that is if you get paid every two weeks and save $10.00 per pay period,  or $20.00 X 12 = $240.00  if you get paid once per month. It may seem like a small amount , but it is so much better than nothing. The balance will have also increased because of interest. Interest rates are pretty low right now for savings so I did not include them in the illustration, because the point of it is to prove to yourself that you can save money.  It is what I call the slow- cooker method of savings.You just set it up and forget it, and just like a warm home-cooked meal that magically happens when you use a slow-cooker, the money accumulates.  If you are feeling bold after the first year, increase the amount you save per month by five or ten dollars.

Many people are so deep in debt that they believe that there must be some great grand secret that everyone else but them heard at birth, and that they are never going to be able to handle their money, get out of debt, save money, or retire. This strategy also works for retirement accounts, set up as a pre-tax percentage.  I am sure that there are retirement advisers, and people way better at managing money than I am, screaming right now at this approach.  My guess is that they have never had the issues with impulse control, forgetfulness, or holding a steady job that many people with ADD/ADHD have to contend with on a daily basis.

Money issues come with an inner conversation of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and unworthiness about money. Setting up automatic savings can help break the pattern. Try this method, it does work. If you save anything, it is better than saving nothing. Never underestimate the ability of small steps toward a goal, or to prove to yourself that you can accomplish an project. Everyone has to start somewhere, and where you are is the best place to start.

Money for the Distracted: Getting Off the Paycheck to Paycheck Merry-Go-Round

The paycheck to paycheck merry-go-round is a soul sucking ride that leaves most people feeling like this when it comes to their money.
So, how to get off? The B word. That’s right a budget, spending plan, or what ever you want to call it that does not give you  hives. A plan for your money, so you can see where it goes. Before you stop reading know that I understand that accidents, unexpected illness, medical emergencies, veterinary emergencies, and other acts of nature can shoot the best made budget out of the sky. How do you try to get out of a deep hole of debt? Here are seven tips to get started:
1. Stop. Just stop and gather all of your financial documents in one place. Figure out where you are. The library is full of books that will show you how to budget. Turn off the TV, shut down Facebook or Twitter, get off Pinterest and take an evening and sit down with your partner and lay it all out. Do it together. If you are worried about having the conversation or talking about money with your partner, read my post here for tips on how to talk about money.
2. Commitment to improving your financial situation.  Forgetfulness, procrastination, impulse spending, late payments, and general inattention cause problems with money management. Folks with ADHD/ADD struggle with all of the above. I once found a tax return that I was supposed to mail in my raincoat pocket two years after I was supposed to mail it. Why? Because in the two block walk to the post office on my way to work, I forgot to mail the tax return. Set up systems to help you keep your commitment and remember important financial dates.
3. Understand that there is a difference between being underwater because of poor money management, and catastrophic / unplanned life events. Do not see your situation as a symptom of poor character development.
4. Spending to save money is not saving at all. Too many people have bought into the whole coupons-stockpiling madness. Having thousands of dollars of food and household products in storage that rot before you use them is a waste of time and money. Yes, you can save money by stocking up when things are on sale and you have a coupon but only buy what you need/will eat, and enough to last until the next sale.
5. Figure out if you have an outgo or income problem. Do you not make enough to cover your basic expenses? If you can not afford food, housing, utilities, transportation, and medication costs on your income you have an income problem. Do you spend more than you make on non-essentials? That is an outgo problem.  No blaming here, just figure out what you need to work on, or if you need to work on both.
6. Take advantage of free resources to get help. The library is a great place to start. There are many free on line money management tools also. Check them out. Mint is a great place to start, and no they do not pay me to say that.
7. Getting out of debt is like losing weight, we all know that we should, how is the problem. Everyone needs to find ways that work for them, there is no one way. The keys for ADD/ADHD individuals is that the system needs to be simple, easy to remember, and automated as much as possible. Complicated systems that require large investments of time will be difficult for most people but for those of us with the attention span of a goldfish they are impossible.
Find a way to start your journey towards a place of calmness with your money. Financial stress can kill relationships and contribute to depression. Start where you are, be kind yourself, and believe that you can get off the merry-go-round.

How to Talk about Money: Ten Tips for Calm Conversation

Talking about money is one of the most difficult conversations that couples have. Statistics indicate that money problems are a primary reason for divorce. I have talked about the issues that make it difficult for ADHD individuals to manage their money here and here. Trying to explain to your partner some wacky impulse purchase that made total sense at the time is a set up for bad feelings, accusations, and disagreements.

Talking about how to spend money can be fraught with judgement, and if one partner has a higher income the conversation can be very uncomfortable. If you are going to survive as a couple, you have to find a way to talk about your money, how to spend it, what to save for, and how to handle debt. This is important even if you keep your money separately. Here are my top ten tips for a constructive money conversation.

1. Have the conversation in a neutral environment where each of you feels safe. Ideally the environment will not include children if you have them. You want to be able to focus and really hear each other.

2. Listen! Listen to each other without judgement. Listen, without forming your response in your head. The moment you start thinking of your answer/rebuttal you stop hearing what the other person is saying.

3. Keep the discussion in “I” phrases. For example : “I am worried that we are not saving enough to retire.” Do not blame. It is pointless. Focus on the now, not the past.

4.  Bring all the numbers with you. Make a list of everything you owe and all your resources so that your are not talking about nebulous numbers. This is most important if one of you is the only one who pays bills and handles the banking.

5.  Remember that no one is a bad person because they have poor money management skills.

6.  If impulse spending is the root cause of your problems, create cooling off mechanisms and spending agreements. For example: No one spends more than $100.00 on non-food items without discussing it with the other person first.

7. Agree to have regular meetings to discuss your money. Yelling at each other as you pass in the kitchen does not count.

8. If you find that no matter what you can not have a civil discussion about money, you may need to involve an outside party. This could be clergy, an accountant, or similar, non-family, neutral party. It is essential to have an individual present to help facilitate the discussion who is not invested in how you spend your money.

9. Remember to breathe. We do not come into this world automatically knowing how to manage money. It is a process. Take advantage of resources, many of them free, that are available to learn how to manage your money. Learn together.

10. The best way to start any money meeting is to remember why you became partners/spouses in the first place.

 

 

Money for the Distracted: 10 Ways to Curb Impulse Spending

 

 

This is my second post in the money series. In my first post about money and ADD/ADHD, which you can read here if you missed it, I talked about how managing finances is difficult for people with ADD/ADHD.  A disclaimer, I am not an accountant, financial advisor, or economist, these are just some basic suggestions to organize your money life so you can feel more stable in how you handle money.

Many people struggle with impulse spending. It is even more difficult for people with ADD/ADHD, because we can jump into extravagant spending sprees, all in the name of a project related to house, food, kids, hobby, new job, etc. and be in debt up to our eyeballs before we know what the hell just happened.
I am not talking about a candy bar at the check out.  I’m talking about an entire library of books, a workshop full of tools, a new work-out wardrobe, a new house, kind of impulse spending. I talked about how hard yard-sales are for the distracted here.

So here are ten things you can do to stop impulsive spending:
1. Have a plan before you go shopping. Make a list. This is the hardest part: IF IT IS NOT ON THE LIST DO NOT BUY IT.  Really, do not buy it. Even if it is a great deal. Walk away. It is not a great deal if it was not on the list. This the only way to stick to your plan.

2. Take one-click shopping off of your phone. While you are at it, take the shopping apps off your phone. Randomly scrolling through shopping apps because your are bored, tired or can’t sleep is bad. It is the new version of infomercials that convince you that you NEED to spend $500.00 to loose weight/be a millionaire/ grow hair/ juice/ have a beach body, etc.  If you have to actually log in to a desk top computer or tablet to shop it will slow you down.

3. Delete your credit card information from the sites that are weaknesses, whatever that is, shoes, clothes, books, or the everything store. Again this will make require that you locate your credit card and then enter the information to make your purchase. This will buy some time for you to THINK about the purchase.

4. Before you spend anything that is not food or essential, ask yourself: Is this moving me closer to my goals? If the answer is no, the complete collection of the Crocodile Hunter on DVD is not going to get you closer, do not buy it. If your goal is to save money for a trip/vacation/emergency fund/house, etc, impulsively spending money will not get you there.

5. Find free alternatives to feed the need to acquire objects. Get a library card. Use it. Filling up a bag with books, Cd’s, and DVDs can feel like shopping.  The best part? You can take them back and do it all over again, for free!

6. Although some folks advocate cutting up all your credit cards, and going to a cash only system, I live in the real world, and I like to travel. Having a credit card makes it so much easier to travel. To curb impulse spending with your credit card, leave it home, (in a safe place where you can find it) when you are in your hometown. If you want whatever it is that you were going to buy bad enough to go all the way back home, find your credit card and then drive back to the store to buy the item, then you have given yourself some time to really think about the purchase.

7. Set a monetary limit for purchases that have to be discussed with another person. This person will need to be someone who will not get on the impulse train with you. It may seem silly for a grown person to have to talk to someone about their purchases but having to explain why you NEED the complete DVD collection of  the Golden Girls will make you think about twice about buying it.

8. Avoid the trigger stores. You know what they are. Bookstores, hardware stores, shoe stores, clothes stores, anywhere you could spend all day and your next paycheck. Do not go. If you do visit one of theses money-suck stores leave everything but cash you can spend behind. No debit card. No credit cards.

9. Write the word Think! on a sticky note. Place it on your credit card. Alternatively you could put a picture that represents you money goal on the front of your credit card, use whatever will remind you to stop and think before you spend.

10. Have someone else shop. This will not work for everything and every purchase but if your weakness is the grocery store, make a list and send someone else. Use an on-line service if you do not have a partner or friend who would do this for you.  if you are someone who routinely overspends at the grocery store, the money you would spend on the service will be off-set by the money you spend on impulse purchases.

I hope these help. The key in all of this is to find a way to give yourself time to think and decisions that support your money goals.  I have used each of these tips at one time or another. They do work. Remember to be kind to yourself. If you get discouraged go back and read the first post in this series.

 

Money Changes Everything: ADHD and Money

Money. The topic everyone wants to talk about and no one wants to talk about. There are many, many books on the market telling you how to handle, invest, save, spend and bank your money. Most of them assume that the individual reading the book has an attention span longer than a goldfish. Indivduals who have ADHD struggle with money managment for a number of reasons. Under-employment, inability to maintain a job/career, creative careers that pay irregularly, academic struggles that lead to low paying work, impulsive spending, forgetting to pay bills, lack of organization, and procrastination. This year on the blog I will feature one post a month about money. Money is difficult to discuss because so so many people equate their self-worth with their bank account. If you don’t get anything else out of this series know this: You are Not Your Money.  In an environment where we are constantly bombarded by messages to the contrary, it is often hard to remember this. Money is a tool, it provides opportunities and access. Money can not buy you happiness, or love.Money management is possible and it means you being in control of your money. I have been so broke I couch surfed before it was a thing, lived out of my car for six months, and ate a hell of a lot of rice and ramen noodles. When I finally was making money, I impulsively misspent and then spent 10 years paying it off. Did being broke make me bitter? Nope. I know that it won’t kill me. I know how to survive. I also know that it is so much better to be in control of money.If you are struggling with money management, I encourage you to take a deep breath, know that you can get it together about money, and that it is worth it. The first book that I recommend that you read is Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieveing Financial Independance by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominquez. Get it from the libray, borrow a copy, or buy it used, but read it. Some of it may seem dated but the exercises will help you get a handle on where you are right now in your relationship with money. My favorite exercise from this book is figuring out how much of your time you trade for things in your life. You will never look at material goods the same way after figuring out how much of your life you trade for things.I will leave you with my favorite  quote about money: “To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don’t have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?”Henry Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1939)