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Impulse Control, Retail Therapy, and Chronic Broke-ness

Admit it: we've all made impulse purchases, especially when we're in negative-ish moods. When I'm feeling down, my urge to engage in retail therapy is strong, nigh on impossible to ignore. I'll go on a spending spree, purchasing everything, necessary or not, that catches my eye. Does it elevate my mood? Sure... for a finite, and usually short, period of time.

As the high of impulse shopping wears off, I find myself in a bottomless pit of guilt, shame, and a ton of crap I don't have room for because my place is already epically cluttered. And, worst of all, I'm now broke.

Impulse control is a problem for most ADHDers, and when we're feeling frustrated, angry, depressed, or a combination thereof, we have a need to spend our way into a better headspace, a headspace that, as I said, does not last all that long, and, in most cases, inevitably make us feel worse, because now we're buried in piles of crap we don't really need. This leads to guilt, followed closely by shame and depression, and the acute feeling of being totally overwhelmed.

The internet in general, and social media specifically, are not only enablers, they are the drivers of our getting ourselves into debt because they force advertisements on us. You can't scroll through Facebook, Instagram, X, or whatever other social media you use without having ads every third post. Hell, I can't even escape ads when I'm in my email account.

It is extremely frustrating because, for me, I discover cool new things that I would love to try/eat/wear/have/do/etc., but when I'm totally honest and rational with myself (which can range anywhere from "Rationale? I'm down with that," "Rationale? Okay, fine, whatever," and "Rationale? LOLOL! What's that!?"), I can acknowledge that for every 100 ads thrown in my face, only 1-2 really apply to me, and I know I shouldn't get it anyway if I don't have a need for it as it inevitably leads to more clutter.

Yet here we are, buried in mountains of stuff we don't really need or have any particular use for, which, for me at least, triggers a sense of panic because now there's more stuff to organize, in addition to the current stuff that needs to be organized, and now I'm so overwhelmed and depressed, I just ignore it all and dick around on the internet. See where I'm going with this? It becomes a vicious cycle.

That's not even touching upon the real danger of impulse buying/retail therapy; it's that it's antithetical to saving money. You get income. Yay! You put some of it into savings. Go you, you responsible badass! Then, oops, you bought all the things, without keeping track of your purchases and how much you're actually spending (and we all know those little things add up fast). Suddenly you find out your checking account is empty. In order to remedy this, you have to pull money out of savings to put into checking so you don't overdraft, meaning you are spending your savings and therefore are not actually saving anything at all.

And then, to make matters even worse, come the overdraft fees. "You don't have enough money in this account to get groceries? We (the bank) will cover it and charge you a $35+ overdraft fee." And those fees add up lighting fast. Suddenly you realize that your account is at -$650, due, not to spending, but to the accumulation of all the overdraft fees.

This leads to greater guilt ("You can't even keep money in your account!") and deeper depression ("I got new thing/s and now I can't afford to pay rent/mortgage, bills, etc., or even feed myself... I am utterly worthless."). That's around the time you want to crawl into a dark hole and never come out. But let's face it, if you're -$XXX in the hole, you can't even afford the hole you're trying to hide in.

So what does it all mean? It means you need a way to track your expenses, minimize purchases, especially impulse purchases and retail therapy, and, if you can afford one, get a financial advisor. Or at least a financial buddy, someone you trust to teach you how to manage money without digging yourself further into debt. A financial buddy should be someone you trust, like a spouse, sibling, or BFF. It needs to be someone who has good financial management skills, patience, kindness, and a willingness to teach ADHDers with the full knowledge that, for ADHDers, financial management is a "three steps forward, two-and-a-half steps back" process until the ADHDer has created a ritual for it, making it a habit. Most importantly, it has to be someone who will not judge you, take advantage of you, or make you feel worse about yourself.

There are also countless apps for budgets and expense tracking, which can be very useful tools... when you find one you like, and remember to use it. But that's a topic for another time.


Feb 08

Excellent article!

Meredith DeFalco
Meredith DeFalco
Feb 21
Replying to

Thank you so much!

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