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Evading the ADHD Tax

Jan 6, 2023
There’s a sucker born every minute

P T Barnum (perhaps?)

I often feel like he’s talking about me there. One of my personality traits that is a hallmark of ADHD is that I get very enthusiastic about new ideas. I see an ad for a product that I am sure is going to transform my life and put my credit card in then and there. I’m the first to volunteer for new commitments. Sometimes this spontaneous approach to life can lead to fun and interesting adventures. Often it just leads to me paying the ADHD tax in its various forms.

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Table of Contents

What is the ADHD tax?

My understanding of the ADHD tax is that it is the cost of instant gratification and insufficient follow through. Here are some ways it shows up in my life:

  • I sign up for subscriptions to try them out and forget to cancel them
  • I RSVP for events in the future thinking I’ll have heaps of time and then find myself manically running from one event to the next
  • Someone tells me I should try web3 and I drop everything else to chase this exciting new shiny object
  • A guy I barely know spruiks a multi level marketing company and I dive right in without considering the consequences (read more about how I screwed up friendships and embarrassed myself)
  • I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I forget about the next appointment and then get fired from my job due to consistent poor punctuality
  • I see a clickbaity headline and emerge from the rabbithole two hours later

In some cases, the tax is self administered. In other cases, it feels like certain parts of the world are trying to exploit my cognitive weaknesses. Companies that require a credit card upfront and then automatically charge are probably on the exploity end of the spectrum.

Evading the tax

Normally taxes have some good to them. We all want better schools and hospitals. I’m not condoning evading government imposed taxes. But for the ADHD tax, I wholeheartedly endorse efforts to find every possible loophole.

Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Use virtual credit cards for services that require a card upfront and freeze the card immediately after putting the number in so they can’t actually charge you. You’ll get kicked off the service after the trial which is fair enough but you can opt back in by defrosting the card. I use for virtual cards though I don’t love it (you can only create a few cards and can’t name them). I hear has a better offering (though I haven’t used it myself).
  2. Adopt a 48hr commitment hold: don’t sign up for a new commitment that will take more than 30 minutes without waiting 48hrs first. It helps if you’ve got someone to discuss it with. One of my favourite lines is “That sounds good but I’ll have to discuss it with my wife first”.
  3. Use a distraction blocker: those clickbaity headlines can be avoided by using a distraction blocker with a strict allow list. I built Focus Bear for that purpose.
  4. Follow a “Scrum” approach to task management: Scrum is a form of agile project management where you work in short “sprints”. One of the key ideas is that you shouldn’t modify a sprint once it’s started. If someone tells me that I should store Focus Bear’s habit data on the blockchain, I’ll put it on my ideas to consider next sprint but I won’t change what I’m doing this week. Often when it comes to plan the next sprint, I realise it was a dumb idea and am not interested in it.
  5. Stay the hell away from MLM, gambling, day trading, CFDs and other get rich quick schemes: I’ve had enough exposure to get rich quick schemes in my early twenties to last me a lifetime. Anything that involves supercharged returns with a high level of risk is not going to work for my brain.

What companies can do to avoid stinging people with the ADHD tax

I don’t want to give the impression that any organisation that requires a credit card upfront is evil. There are legitimate reasons for asking for a CC upfront. Perhaps your service is being attacked by a botnet army and paywalling it is the only way to avoid a massive server bill. 

However, it doesn’t mean that you can stealthily charge someone 30 days later and hope they don’t notice. You’d better warn them that they’re going to be charged and make it easy for them to cancel. If they forget, make it easy for them to get a refund.

Being sneaky about it is an excellent way to ruin your reputation and end up with a massive churn problem on your hands.

Jan 6, 2023

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