Taking control of your finances.

Keeping control of finances can be difficult when you have an Autistic Spectrum Condition or ADHD. It may be down to your impulsive nature and need to complete and add to collections, or money and what it achieves for you may be a complete mystery that you need someone else to deal with.

There was a time when I knew every penny I had (or rather didn’t have perhaps!) My mother had bought me up to go faithfully through my bank statements marking off everything that went in and out every month so I knew exactly what I had left.

It’s so much easier now with online banking and spreadsheets, such as Excel, to keep track of absolutely everything and also have the calculations made for you to both track and extrapolate over months and years to see just where you will end up if you stay on your current track, or to make adjustments to see the effects that these changes would have in real life if you carried them through.

Whatever your relationship with your money, there are some simple tips and strategies you can use to make sure you keep control of it rather than allowing it to take control of you.

Track your finances – Money management requires budgeting, planning, and organisation. You can set up a paperwork system if that suits you best, or learn how to use Excel or other spreadsheets either by trial and error or by enrolling on a short course at a local college. Tracking can make sure you know exactly what bills you have every month and when they have to be paid.

Make full use of your bank – Make sure you have online banking so you can log in and see where you are at any time. You can pay bills, set up and cancel Standing Orders and Direct Debits. Use Direct Debit to get discounts on bills, spread payments and ensure bills are paid on time to avoid penalties for missed deadlines. Go in to speak to advisors at least once a year to make sure you are managing your money in the best way for you and that any savings you do have are making you maximum interest. They will also have tips for you to make your money go further.

Assess your financial situation – Keep track of every expense, no matter how small, for a month. This will help you to analyse where your money is going. You may be surprised just how much you are spending on unnecessary items and impulse purchases. You can then use this information to help you to create a monthly budget based on your income and needs.

Cut out unnecessary spending – Work out a budget and also what you can do to avoid straying from it. For example, are you are buying coffee as you go out to work, popping out for a sandwich at lunchtime, eating at restaurants or buying take aways or ready meals? Buy a kettle! Plan ahead and make your lunch to take with you in the morning. Make a weekly eating plan and build time into your daily diary for grocery shopping and meal preparation. Shop for groceries online so you have a list of favourites and don’t impulse buy when you see offers in store. It saves time too because it is delivered for you and you can be doing something else other than shopping. Buy a recipe book and learn to cook – it’s relaxing and fun and you get to show off as you get better and better.

Put a stop to impulse shopping – Shop with cash, cash card that you put money onto, or a debit card. Either leave your credit cards at home or, better still, cut them up. If you can’t afford it, then don’t buy it until you can. You may have to start making decisions when you feel the need to impulse buy. Those new clothes or the electricity bill! When you shop, make a list of what you need and stick to it. Buy online if necessary to avoid temptation (and noise, lights and crowds – added bonus!) If you are out and about, use a calculator to keep a running total of what you buy so you don’t forget later. Stay away from places where you’re likely to spend too much money. Throw away tempting catalogues as they arrive – especially if they offer credit. It’s lovely to have lots of things now, but remember it’s not so much fun later when you can’t buy anything because you are still paying for things long forgotten and used.

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