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Last fall I wrote about my MIL's refusal to let us know and help manage her cash flow. We had been giving her money monthly, which was not always easy. I still have one in college, and my husband's income fluctuates and is not predictable. She had me help her with some financial aid forms, and through this I found out that although her finances were tight, she could, if things were carefully managed, pay her bills with much fewer dollars from us. I discussed this with her, she did not want me helping her manage her finance or knowing what her cash flow was like. I didn't like writing a blank check either, particularly when tuition bills were due. We stopped giving her monthly money, and wrote out a suggested budget plan for her (which I don't think she paid any attention to). We gave her cash for Christmas and her birthday. Recently her real estate taxes came due, and she could not pay them. We were going to try to help pay them, and then she told my husband that she was going to need help at the end of the month too. I got together with her earlier this week, and she told me she needed to pay back a cousin, who had helped her with some expenses (we were not aware of this). The cousin did not want her to pay her back, MIL did not feel good about this, I suggested that since she was low on funds right now to give her a small amount. (50). Yesterday she told me she paid her back 150. This is so totally frustrating because now she is going to need even more help from us. I talked to her again that if she was going to need help from us, we really need to be in on the finances and help her manage the cash flow. I understand the resistance to loss of independence but at this point if she is going to need continued assistance...this is the way it has to be. After our conversation, she called another relative (whom she had said she would never ask for help from) and asked for help - they are going to give her the money for the taxes. That's all well and good but it feels to me that she wants the help without addressing the real problem: the money situation needs to be managed more closely or this is just going to happen again with the next big bill. My husband and I are in agreement, that when she brings up the need for help at the end of the month, we are revisiting the issue of knowing what's going on and helping manage it. Part of me feels selfish for not wanting to give her money without knowing the cash flow, but in the lean months I don't want to have to face a choice between helping her or helping my daughter. One thing I thought of, was creating a separate account. 1/4 of her income goes into what essentially is reserved for groceries, cash, incidentals - whatever she wants to spend it on, we don't care. 3/4 would go into an account used strictly for the bills, which we would help manage. That 3/4 would not always cover all the bills, but the shortfall would be more manageable for us. Anybody tried anything like this?

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thanks for your replies. I just got back from a frustrating hour, running errands with her, and discussing this again with her. I didn't bring it up, she did. I don't know if she was purposely trying to throw me a guilt trip or not. She started out with how she's not going to ask us for any money any more. (For this month, she asked the relative who is helping her with the taxes for more than she actually needs for the taxes.) I said very little the whole time, incredibly frustrated that she sees this as a "solution". Finally she said "Gee, you're very quiet are you mad." I can be very stoic and talk about difficult topics without raising my voice, and keeping an even keel, but I am a terrible liar, my face shows everything. So I expressed to her, that this is just going to keep happening every month. So I went over my idea of dividing her monthly check into 2 piles, one that we would manage for paying bills, the other that would be for groceries and everything else, that we would not see or direct. She is doubtful, but I do need to show it to her on paper. Essentially, what its coming down to, I think, is that she wants more "discretionary" dollars than her income allows. So let me ask the group this. What sounds like a reasonable amount of "discretionary" dollars per week? This is to cover groceries for just her, incidentals and a little spending money. I am looking at a figure between 115 and 125 dollars per week. This plan would still require a monthly contribution from us, but it would be a comfortable amount even in a low pay month for my husband, and if the bill paying account was managed by us, we would be able to put aside a little each month for the real estate taxes next spring. Oh, and on top of that weekly amount, she gets 100 dollars per month from the state for food assistance.
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Why should she be careful? She has a "get out of debt free" card -- it is you. As long as you feel obligated to rescue her whenever she overspends, why should she stop overspending? Spending is fun!

Either resign yourself to enabling her to overspend with you picking up the tab, or decide on your limits, help her figure out how to live within her income, and firmly let her experience the consequences. I think you have already tried limiting your help and showing her how she can live within her means. It is the part about being firm you don't seem to have mastered.

It is hard -- very hard -- to take a firm stand with our parents, even when it is for their own good. I think the solution to your frustration is obvious, but I don't think it is easy. I wish you strength (and luck) in handling this.
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There's a saying: The one who pays the piper is the one who calls the tune. Which means if you and your husband are giving her money then you have every right to know where her money goes. If she doesn't want to discuss where her money goes, then you don't help her. Especially since you put her finances down on paper and could see that if she lived within her means she could swing it. It's not selfish to want to know her cash flow if you're contributing to her upkeep. It's good business.
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