ADHD brains and YNAB-ing

Good morning YNABers!

The reason I’m starting this thread is because too many times I just seem to have a hard time grasping what I am sure is a simple concept for non-ADHD YNABers. If you have seen the movie It’s a Bug’s Life, when the ants are marching along and all of the sudden a giant leaf falls in the middle of their marching path. The ants go into a panic without having any idea what to do next. A simple task like walk around the leaf can be overwhelming to an ant, and likewise many seemingly simple budgeting tasks can be overwhelming for ADHDers. 

so let’s not be afraid to ask for help! Let’s not worry about whether stupid questions really are only the unasked questions. In fact, let’s revel in our stupid questions.  Let’s get over that there might indeed be some stupid questions, but lets applaud each other for not understanding something and daring to ask even the simple questions. 

who are my ADHD brains out there with  nagging questions or stumbling blocks with YNAB? I’ll go first and introduce myself below.

Later I’ll post my first ADHD brick wall — a basic concept that I bet most YNAB users never thought you could get wrong, but I did and have for about 3 years now!


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  • Hi! I’m Orchid Panther, I love using YNAB and I’m 52 yrs old with ADHD

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  • Continuing with this thread's theme, my first big ADHD/YNAB stumbling block I want to address is my confusion about what to do when I start overspending in budget categories throughout the month. Should I just add more money to the category? Should I rob from another category to keep it fully funded (whack-a-mole)? Should I transfer money from some rainy day funds categories like my annual life insurance policy?  

    I know I've seen all these ideas used by others in the help forums and in the video guides, but these great ideas quickly become information overload for me, and then my ADHD brain just goes KABOOM !!!! --And then I end up just dumping money into my ever increasing categories, because "we want all the categories to be green" right? -- Wrong! I was unknowingly creating a budget fantasy world for myself that never really helped me make a real budget. 

    One of the many great YNAB help videos cleared this topic up for me,  so as of this month, I WILL NOT keep throwing money into my budget categories! I WILL stick to my budget instead! This means I can either: 1. rob from other categories, or 2. Just not spend any money once i've hit my category limit.

    REALITY CHECK: since sometimes sh#&t happens, I do have a contingency plan for when I end up spending more than I have budgeted. (like right now, by the way!) I have done everything I can do to prevent overspending -- I have transferred all available funds from my other categories and I'm just going to end the month overspending by $17.95 in my Home Maintenance category. I will let this category remain underfunded and show a red/underfunded amount for the rest of the month, which will be a nagging visual clue for me. This will allow me to better evaluate my budget at the end of the month for future budget adjustments, and it will spur me to tighten the belt a bit more next month! I realize that the overspending will not be a free ride, that the overspending will be coming out of the TBB available funds for the next month -- I will have less funds available and I'll have to plan for it.

    It's a big picture thing. It may be a simple picture for most, but sometimes with my ADHD brain, big pictures remain big fuzzy pictures. I'm thrilled that this one finally came into focus! And I hope this helps someone else's big picture come into focus too.

    So remain calm, wash your hands, and Budget On!

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 6 mths ago
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      • Reported - view

      Orchid Panther Handling overspending is tied to your understanding of your priorities. Money SHOULD flow to important categories that need it. It's very helpful to move funds from the lower priority category BEFORE incurring overspending.

      Knowing the consequences before committing makes it far easier to say no as well as give peace of mind to say yes.

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    • dakinemaui , great idea. I’ll start anticipating low funds and moving beforehand. Thanks. 

  • Orchid Panther said:
    I will let this category remain underfunded and show a red/underfunded amount for the rest of the month, which will be a nagging visual clue for me

    I really don't think this is a good idea. The reason the category is red is because you used money that is earmarked in some other category. That means the Available value in some other category is now misleading!

    Having categories lie to you when you rely on them for spending decisions is a bad idea in my book.

    • dakinemaui , I am following what you are saying about the overspent funds are really not going to be available in some other category because I just spent it on this category. Reality in my case is I don’t have any more category funds to pull from, and I know that this overspending is being covered by next month’s TBB available funds. So for me and my ADHD brain, this month is going to be an experiment to see if an end of the month report with glaring red negative overspent categories will alert me that the coming budgetwill have that much less off the top AND I need to rethink my spending. 

      I take it normally isn’t typically so hard for YNABers to recognize their overspending, but it has proven to be very difficult for me. So I’m trying to find something that might grab the attention of my wandering ADHD brain a bit more. (Squirrel! 🐶)

  • Orchid Panther said:
    Reality in my case is I don’t have any more category funds to pull from

    The reality is you have ALREADY pulled from somewhere.

    In my admittedly limited understanding of ADHD, I would think it be preferable to be able to rely on the truth of something at a glance, as you may be focused on something else very soon. Best wishes to you! 🙂

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