What “ADHD Tax” Means – And How to Avoid Paying It

“ADHD tax” is a term that refers to costs incurred due to symptoms of ADHD. That tax can cost people with ADHD to spend more money, resources, and mental effort on life than people without ADHD. And the more ADHD tax you have to pay, the more challenges can compound, increasing those costs further.

In this article, we cover some of the most common forms of ADHD tax with a focus on financial challenges, along with tips on how you can avoid paying up.

Published: November 2, 2023
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Table of contents

    Losing things

    People with ADHD tend to struggle with organization and memory, making losing things a more common occurrence. The DSM-5 — the reference book used by health professionals to define and assess different mental health conditions — even lists losing things as a symptom of ADHD. Losing valuables, paying to replace them, and facing increased challenges and stress due to lost items are all ways that ADHD tax can manifest in one’s life.


    • Try to keep items that you frequently want to leave the house with — such as your phone, keys and wallet — in an organized space nearby each other at home.

    • Create simple checklists for trips or events to help you ensure you have everything you need before leaving.

    Interest from debt

    People with ADHD are more likely to carry a balance on their credit card, or to take on high-interest debt from payday lenders. Impulsiveness is a common symptom of ADHD, meaning that people with ADHD are more prone to impulsive spending, even beyond their means. ADHD also causes people to value immediate gratification over long-term benefits, making it difficult to perceive the future consequences of overspending before it’s too late.


    • Explore options for consolidating debt under lower interest rates. Talk to your bank or an independent financial advisor about what your options look like!

    • Going shopping? Make a list of the things you need and, if possible, leave your credit card at home — use cash or your debit card to pay for things instead.

    Late fees

    Forgetfulness is a common symptom of ADHD, meaning people with ADHD are more likely to forget to pay a bill and incur late fees as a result. Or, they may not have the money to pay bills on time due to other circumstances common in those with ADHD, such as reduced income or a lack of budgeting.


    • Set up automated payments for bills whenever possible, which will help you avoid late fees for bills while giving you a clearer picture of what your available budget actually looks like.

    • If automated billing isn’t available, set up recurring reminders in a digital calendar that will notify you when it’s time to pay.

    Missed reimbursements

    Ever forget to submit a business expense or a health insurance claim and miss out on money as a result? Forgetfulness and procrastination, common symptoms of ADHD, can cause us to delay applying for reimbursements until the opportunity has passed.


    • Firstly: try just doing it as soon as you think of it. Submitting expense reports or health insurance claims are a type of task that can initially seem tedious or difficult, but in practice are typically quite quick and easy to complete.

    • Mark one day a month in a digital calendar to submit any expenses or claims, at a time when you’re typically free.

    Employment challenges

    Research has shown that people with ADHD earn about 17% less than people who don’t have ADHD. Additionally, people with ADHD are more likely to be unemployed, and to receive disability benefits due to their inability to work.

    It’s not hard to imagine why — the symptoms of ADHD can apply huge strain to one’s professional life. ADHD can make it more difficult to stay on task, manage deadlines, and get along with colleagues, increasing the risk of losing one’s job.


    • Check out our guide to Succeeding at Work With ADHD, where we cover the most common challenges people with ADHD face in the workplace and provide real strategies you can use to improve productivity and decrease stress.

    Hyperfixating on hobbies/interests

    People with ADHD are very familiar with the experience of discovering a new hobby or interest and it suddenly becoming the most important thing in the world to them. Combine hyperfixation — an obsessive but often temporary fixation on something — with impulsive spending, and you have a recipe for financial trouble.

    Rarely does that intense level of interest hold, but you don’t get back the money spent once an obsession fades. A post on the r/ADHD community on Reddit, titled “Do you guys also spend a bunch of money on new obsessions because ‘this time it'll last’ but then it doesn't and you feel really guilty?”, has nearly 300 responses from people sharing their stories of investing deeply into hobbies they eventually (and often quickly) lost interest in.


    • Resist the urge to go all-in financially on new hobbies. Find ways to engage your interests with minimal spending, and see if that interest is sustained over a long period of time.

    • Even if you have a sustained, genuine interest in something, set a budget for how much you’re able to spend on your hobbies and interests every month.

    Substance use

    Studies show that people with ADHD are more prone to substance abuse — alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana in particular. Beyond the impact that substance abuse can have on one’s health and wellbeing, the simple truth is that substance use is an expensive habit.


    • Substance abuse is a serious challenge to overcome. Consider talking to a medical professional about your substance use, or joining a support group. Visit the Government of Canada’s website on substance use help to find resources near you.

    • Try to understand what draws you to substance use. For example, are you more likely to drink or smoke during times of great stress? Are there other outlets you can use to replace substance use in those situations?

    ADHD treatment can help you avoid the ADHD tax

    For each type of ADHD tax listed above, we shared some simple tips that can help you avoid having to pay it. But at the root of ADHD tax is, of course, having ADHD. ADHD makes it more difficult to take action even if you want to, and even when you know exactly what you want to do.

    The best thing you can do to reduce your ADHD tax is by effectively treating and managing your ADHD. Getting treatment for ADHD can be a challenge in itself — but at Frida, we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible. Frida provides fully virtual ADHD care to over 30,000 Canadians, covering everything from the initial diagnosis to prescription delivery and ongoing support. 80% of Frida patients report a significant increase in hopefulness and feelings of self-worth after 6 weeks.

    New to Frida? Complete our quick self-assessment to see if Frida is a good fit for you.

    Already have a Frida account? Log in to book your appointment with one of our ADHD-expert clinicians.

    Frida Care Team

    We are a group of clinicians, continuous care support, writers, and creators who care deeply about patient care and ADHD. Together, we write content that we hope sheds light on ADHD and the health care space at large. You can reach us at support@talkwithfrida.com if you have any questions!