For people with ADHD, shopping can quickly turn into buying. Unfortunately, too many impulsive purchases can lead to a financial fiasco. To help avoid a budget breakdown, we’ve put together this mindful shopping guide to help you avoid overspending.

ADHD and Impulsive Shopping

Why do some people with ADHD make impulsive purchases? The short answer is a lack of self-regulation. Contrary to what some people believe, that doesn’t mean that ADHD people just lack the willpower to control themselves while they’re shopping. Instead, the problems with self-regulation are tied to the different ways in which an ADHD brain works. Essentially, an ADHD brain isn’t as adept at controlling impulses as a neurotypical brain, so impulsive actions (like spending too much money while shopping) can happen before the brain is able to process the risk involved.

Another aspect affecting impulsivity is lower dopamine and serotonin levels. An ADHD brain has fewer dopamine and serotonin receptors, which makes it harder to resist impulses like overspending on fun purchases that create fleeting feelings of happiness and pleasure.

Keep in mind, however, that not all people with ADHD have trouble with impulsivity. Just because someone has ADHD doesn’t mean they’ll become an impulsive shopper. Those who do display impulsive tendencies won’t necessarily struggle with shopping, either. There are many different signs of impulsivity in adults with ADHD besides overspending, including substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, overindulging in foods and drinks, and emotional outbursts.

How to Shop Mindfully

Once the connection between ADHD and impulsivity is clear, it’s easier to see how it can quickly lead to making impulsive purchases. One way to counteract that impulse is to practice mindful shopping. Essentially, this is a method of shopping with intention in order to help resist the impulse to buy, buy, buy. It’s comparable to other practices like mindful eating which help to avoid the regret that comes after indulging in an activity in the moment that comes at a personal cost later on.

If you struggle with impulsive buying due to ADHD, use these tips for mindful shopping next time you’re browsing online or in stores. You may be surprised at how much less you spend.

Make a list

Before you shop, make a detailed list of exactly what you need to buy. This list needs to be easily accessible while you shop so you can stick to it. Go through your cart before checkout and remove any items that aren’t on the list.

Shop with cash only

Research has shown that people tend to spend more money when they make purchases with credit as opposed to cash. And with today’s technology (like contactless payments and cash apps like Venmo), physical credit cards are only one facet to consider. To keep your spending under control, decide how much you can spend before shopping and bring cash with you so you don’t exceed your budget.

Take your time

If you feel that urge to buy something on the spot, take that as a sign to stop, breathe, and wait. Take a picture of the item and commit to holding off for at least 48 hours before buying it. This can alleviate the impulse to buy and help you avoid making a purchase you might later regret. After a couple of days, you may find that you forgot about the item entirely. And if you do remember it, you’ll likely discover that the impulse that arose while shopping has passed, and you don’t want the item as badly as you thought.

Personal Finance Tips for ADHD

In addition to shopping mindfully, there are a few things you can do to help avoid excessive spending with ADHD. While it’s tougher for people with ADHD to save money, it can be done with some practice and dedication. Incorporate these personal finance tips into your life to help boost your financial security.

  • Set up automatic payments. Missing payments for your bills can cause interest and late fees to pile up. Automate the process to help keep your financial responsibilities in order.
  • Keep track of your spending. People with ADHD may struggle to keep track of their spending. Log your purchases using your own spreadsheet or a budgeting app to see where your money is going and make changes accordingly.
  • Get a financial adviser. It’s okay to recognize that you’re simply not great with managing money due to your ADHD. Consider working with an adviser you trust to help you get your finances in order