ADHD and Money: Saying Good-Bye to a Heartache


We’re moving to Puerto Rico in October.  The rent vs. sell question has been gnawing at me, ever since we picked our destination.  I received news that helped seal the sell for me: our basement renters are moving out.  Trying to find renters for the basement and the upper level of the house would be serious work.  Even with 2 sets of renters, we’d barely clear $200 a month over the mortgage.  So, we’re selling.



House Poor

This house has been my prize and my pain since we’ve owned it.  We were very young when we purchased this home with neighbors 10 to 20 years older.  There’s a reason our neighbors waited to buy here, it’s expensive.  When all my teacher friends were buying in Germantown and Urbana, I picked West End Rockville.  This neighborhood was established in the 1890’s.  J Money has a blog post if you want to read about my neighborhood back then.

My husband has held down 2 jobs and I teach and tutor to stay afloat here.  It’s been a tough 10 years, financially.  For most of those years, the economy suffered so neither of us received raises.  My husband finally picked up his side business and teachers started receiving make-up step increases in 2014.  I imagined our home as a “starter” and then, with no raises followed by a second and third baby within 2 years of each other, it was obvious we had overreached. Frankly, we were house poor with little space to show for it but a damn good location.


ADHD and Money


The aspect of money doesn’t come up in a lot of the ADHD blogs I read and I think that’s a shame.  ADHDers are notoriously impulsive with decisions, even those about money and property.  My husband didn’t want this little, old ranch in an amazing neighborhood.  He wanted the big house farther out.  I didn’t want to commute for 2 hours and never see my kids, so I wanted to stay close.  I also wanted to live near scientists, lawyers, professors, and business owners.  I wanted to push myself further and have my kids attend a mixed school (there is a socioeconomic balance of backgrounds at our feeder elementary school).  




But, if I had evaluated our income and the mortgage better, I would’ve just said no to this house.  My husband and I lived on credit cards every summer for the first 5 years of living here because we still felt we deserved a summer vacation and neither of us makes much income in August.  But there was also an ADHD element.  We were immature to charge a vacation to Puerto Rico every summer, even if we did stay with family to offset costs.  We would pay our cards down by spring, but then summer would come and we’d charge 5 grand in August.




In the last 3 years, I found the FI community and finally started taking more control of finances.  We have retirement, yes, I didn’t miss that boat, but I also started to budget.  We began eating at home more often.  I went part-time at work to save money because daycare is so expensive.  


Tragedy and Job Loss




Then, the first year we were going to be in the black all summer, my 29-year-old brother-in-law passed away.  It was horrific, even the details surrounding his death.  We charged our life away sending my hubby and his immediate family to Texas to see what went wrong.  Then we helped pay funeral costs and flew some family members here from Puerto Rico to attend the services.  It was the first time I used credit cards without a sliver of doubt.  The joyous celebration we had for Danny made money a forgotten object, like coins in the couch cushions.  Because we were budgeting, we could actually charge these things without batting an eye.

Then, my husband parted ways with the marketing company where he worked for years.  That’s when our little house was a life-saver.  Without his second income, we would barely afford the mortgage.  So, we refinanced and made it through the summer.


Getting Back on Our Feet


This year we finally got smart about renting our space and have made ends meet even with 1 less job.  I look at things differently, when it comes to budgeting and money, I always put my values first.  That’s the number one rule of money.  MAKE IT SERVE YOU, not the other way around. I wish more ADHDers could earn a financial education and not the hard way like we did. If you want to learn more about controlling your life and your money I recommend:  Afford Anything, Montana Money Adventures and Budgets are Sexy.  I don’t enjoy financial books and charts (my eyes glaze over), but I can read success stories. These blogs which highlight the stories and money questions of regular people are more motivating than a spreadsheet ever could be.


Everything in Time




To sell this house is bittersweet for me.  It’s freedom from “house poverty.”  But, the home holds many beautiful memories with family and amazing neighbors.  We have clients, friends and a true village here.  That’s hard to give up.  But, when I think about the savings account I’ve dreamed of and the cost of living in Puerto Rico I realize we’ve finally “made it.”  This next year we will be financially comfortable after 10 years of living paycheck to paycheck.  That’s no way to live.  It’s stressful.  And, sadly, completely avoidable.  My mentor’s rules for buying a house:  If it couldn’t be a rental don’t buy.  And 2, there is no such thing as a forever house.  I couldn’t agree more.  Our little half a million dollar ranch house has served us well, but it’s not forever.  It’s time to move on.


Have you ever made a shitty financial decision?  How did you fix it?

Published by Family ADDventures

Nicole Santiago is a learning specialist, student advocate, and founder of Family ADDventures. As a specialist, she assesses and teaches clients (adults and adolescents) to manage and grow their executive functioning skills which include emotional regulation, task initiation, and time management. As an advocate (IEP coach), she is a member of COPAA and ensures inclusive (special) education students receive the most appropriate educational services possible. She often collaborates with OT's, SLP's and neuropsychologists all in the name of student improvement and success. Her practice is located in San Antonio, TX, and everywhere (virtually). The author grew up an army brat and spends time with her three ND children and husband in Puerto Rico whenever possible. She writes about mental health, parenting, education, and entrepreneurship on her blog:

5 thoughts on “ADHD and Money: Saying Good-Bye to a Heartache

  1. This was a fabulous and spot-on article! This is such an import topic. Living with ADHD and money management is such a challenge. Thanks for the links for support. I plan to share them with my children.


  2. Very well-written. But, I bet that half mil will go far in Puerto Rico if you buy outside (or at least on the outskirts) of San Juan. Hopefully that gives you a bit of catch up. Such an important ADHD topic!


    1. Thank you for your comment! We’re renting on the island. Not ready to buy after our 10-year mortgage saga. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. And yes, it’s much cheaper where we plan to live on the west side.


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