8 Tips for Money Management from an Autism Life Coach
Money management is not easy, but it is achievable. Autistic adults are no different from any other young people starting out in life, needing to learn how to manage their money themselves for the first time. With some attention to your income and outgo, you can master your own money. Most people would rather spend money now than plan for the future, even if the future is as close as the end of the month. No one likes having to decide whether to spend your last few dollars on gasoline or groceries. It’s better to manage your money in advance, so you needn’t worry about making ends meet at the end of the month.
UPS & DOWNS
When it comes to money management a Life Coach will tell you that there are UPS and DOWNS that can help you get a handle on your finances.
The UPS to remember are Understand, Plan, and Save.
The DOWNS to avoid are Denial, Overspending, Wishful thinking, Negativity, and Splurging.
UPS to Remember
U is for Understand
It’s important to understand how much money is coming in, and how much needs to go out. The very word “budget” sounds stressful, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Dave Ramsey, financial author, defines a budget as “telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” It’s being the boss of your bucks.
Be the Boss of Your Bucks.
Whether you use a budget planning worksheet or an app, having a visual image of money flow is helpful. This can be as simple as two columns, income and outgo. You’ll need to know your monthly income, your fixed bills and due dates, other expenses like groceries and transport. Seeing your income and outgo written down is a vital first step to understanding money management.
P is for Plan
Now that you understand how much money is coming in and going out every month, it’s time to plan how you’re going to control it. Your bank probably has an app to make it easy to track your money. Plan to use the automatic bill pay feature. Schedule your bills to be paid automatically right after your income has been deposited, and you can stop worrying; your bank will take it from there.
Once your regular bills are taken care of, you’ll see what’s left to spend on groceries and transportation. When planning how to spend your grocery money, think about the foods you eat regularly. What’s your favorite nourishing breakfast food, lunch, and dinner? Keep non-perishable food on hand so you won’t find yourself hungry and your cupboards bare right before payday. It can be tempting to spend your food budget on cookies and chips, but don’t go crazy with power. People need healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables. Now that you’re an adult you can choose, but seek nourishment rather than empty calories. Don’t forget toilet paper, tissues, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, detergent, and personal hygiene products. Any time you can buy in bulk, do it. Just put a sticky note on the next-to-the-last item on your shelf reminding you to restock before you run out.
After your basic bills, groceries, and transportation needs are taken care of, if you have money left, plan what you’ll spend on clothes, books, eating out, and entertainment. If you have friends who like to go to expensive places, suggest an evening at home cooking and watching a film on TV instead of dinner and a movie. You can have fun without blowing your budget, and have money to save.
S is for Save
Now that you understand your income and outgo, and you have a plan to meet your needs, it’s important to save money. It may not be a lot, but adding to your savings every payday is smart. Your banking app can transfer money from checking to savings.
You can save for a rainy day, like your car breaking down, or an illness that keeps you away from work. Having money set aside can keep you from panicking when these things happen. You can also save for something fun: a vacation, a new phone, a computer, or a car. If it helps you stay on course, try putting a picture of what you’re saving up for where you can see it. A photo of that new computer taped to your coffee machine can remind you that every time you make coffee at home instead of getting a fancy latte, you’re saving for your laptop.
Once you manage the UPS of money management, it’s time to avoid the DOWNS on your road to money mastery.
DOWNS to Avoid
D is for Denial
Being in denial about money is a common downfall. It’s easy to close our eyes, cover our ears, and sing, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you!” when the topic of money comes up. People in denial tend to write checks without making sure they have enough to cover it. They’re often surprised when their card’s declined, or when they find a bunch of overdraft charges on their statement. This leads to anxiety and financial uncertainty. Don’t be in denial about your own money. Keep your eyes wide open and know exactly how much you have and what you can afford to spend. If you’re not in denial about your money, you can better avoid the pitfall of overspending.
O is for Overspending
Overspending is easy to do, and many autistic adults, as well as those in the neuromajority, fall into this trap. Credit cards are especially dangerous. It’s too easy to buy all the books, games and collectibles that catch your eye; just put it on the card. But remember, everything you charge will end up costing more due to interest. People who pay only the minimum find themselves over their heads in debt before long, with interest piling up and up and up. It’s better to budget so that you know how many books or deluxe pizzas you can buy each month.
W is for Wishful Thinking
Those who spend lots of money on lotto tickets are indulging in wishful thinking rather than rational thinking. Very few people will win the lottery, and the deck is stacked against you. Don’t let wishful thinking guide your daily spending. The same goes for writers, artists, actors, and others who could have a big break at any moment. While it is certainly possible for a creative artist to make the big time, don’t live life as if it’s already happened. If you’re offered a contract, wonderful! Just don’t spend the money until you have it in the bank.
N is for Negativity
Few people start out making the big bucks. Entry level positions come with entry salaries. Many struggle to find work and live on a shoestring budget. Whatever your situation, try not to get bogged down in negative thinking. Sometimes the thoughts pop up on their own, intruding on your happiness. These are called Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs.
Recognizing you’re having these ANTs is the first step to stopping them. If you find yourself having negative thoughts about your money management, like, “I’m so poor! I’ll never be able to afford the things I want!” tell yourself, “Stop.”
Stomp Those ANTs!
After you stomp on an ANT, think of a positive thought to replace it. For instance, instead of telling yourself how poor you are, tell yourself, “I spend and save money wisely.” Some people find it helpful to write their negative thought on paper, and then crumple, tear up, or (safely) burn the paper. The be sure to write the opposite, positive message and post it where you can see it. By avoiding negativity you can avoid falling into the trap of retail therapy, also known as splurging.
S is for Splurging
Everyone gets the urge to splurge. If you find you’ve charged something you can’t really afford, you can always return it before using it. If it can’t be returned, it needs to be paid off over time, and that may mean cutting back on other expenses to cover it. Use your creativity to find ways to treat yourself without breaking the budget or depleting your savings.
Treat Yourself, Don’t Deplete Yourself
Be smart when you spend. What seemed like a necessity at 3:00 AM may not seem quite as important at 3:00 PM. If a website is trying to pressure you to BUY NOW or you’ll miss out, remember that’s their way of getting your money. Don’t let FOMO convince you to buy something you don’t need and can’t afford. You’re the boss, not the internet advertisers. Those who splurge must pay the price, and the price is much higher with interest.
Whether you work with an Autism Life Coach to help you get control of your spending, or take the reins yourself and make your own plan to increase your UPS and eliminate your DOWNS, you have the power to be mindful of your money matters. It’s all a question of who is to be the master, your negative, splurging, overspending side, or your smart planning and saving self.
Be the Master of Your Money.
This post is based on portions of chapter 12 in Independent Living with Autism by Wendela Whitcomb Marsh. Find out more about the book here. Learn how to get a free consultation regarding money management at Adult Autism Assessment by emailing [email protected]. Where you can discuss your needs and goals with a Life Coach.
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