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Everyday Cheapskate: Tough Love for Financially Irresponsible Parents of Adult Children

Mary Hunt on

Dear Cheapskate: I read stories about parents with grown children who constantly need bailouts. What do you do when it's your 62-year-old mother who has the money problem? My mom has a job and makes enough money to support herself. In 2003, she bought a house for $95,000. She had little debt at the time. Since then, she's refinanced her home multiple times and now owes $227,000 on top of extensive credit card debt.

Recently, she called me saying she was $3,000 in the red. My husband and I sent her the money. This isn't the first time we've bailed her out. My brother and I are at our wits' ends. She is hanging on by a thread. I can't make her get a roommate or a second job, or take away her checkbook. What do you do with a person who cannot make good financial decisions? We don't want her to be homeless and live in her car, but we don't want her to move in with us, either. Please help! -- Anonymous, Idaho

Dear Anon: You are in a difficult situation. Giving her money is about the worst thing you can do. That only exacerbates the problem. You have already discovered that you cannot control her. Here's the problem, which I only know from having lived through my own dark financial past. Until the pain of her actions becomes greater than the pleasure she receives from spending, nothing will change. You may be shielding her from that kind of financial pain. If she will not agree to see a qualified family counselor with you and your brother, the two of you should speak with someone who will help you lay down ground rules. Then you both need to become united on how you will respond to her in the future.

You and your brother will need to exercise tough love with your mom. In the future, if she is truly in need of food, has the electricity turned off, or her personal safety is at risk, do not give her the money directly. That would be like handing a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic. Instead, pay the bill or supply the meal yourself.

Dear Cheapskate: Last summer, heat from the sun caused the red lettering from a plastic shopping bag to melt onto the gray leather front passenger seat in my car. I have been unable to remove the stain and hope you may have a solution. -- Toni, Florida

Dear Toni: This is a problem I wouldn't mess around with, because it will affect the resale value of your car. Because we don't know the content or type of ink that penetrated the leather, any attempts you make to remove it could set it permanently. You need a leather expert. Call a local dry cleaner to get a referral. Leather upholstery is not something you can easily (or cheaply) replace, but you need to get this stain removed to protect the resale value of your car. Good luck!

Dear Cheapskate: I have a 3-year-old daughter. Eventually, my husband and I plan to have more children. I have saved lots of baby things, clothing, toys and other items, but I am having trouble storing all of these things. They have taken over my guest room closet. I cannot take up any more space with these things. I have begun bags for donation and garage sales, but there are some things I need to keep for future children. I do not like the idea of paying for storage space elsewhere, but I am not sure what to do with these quickly accumulating things. Can you help? -- Becky, Wisconsin


Dear Becky: Do you have friends or relatives with garage, basement or attic space you could use for a few years? If not, I suggest you decide what items you really need to retain. For all the clothes, blankets and other soft items, get a few vacuum storage bags that are easily filled and compressed using your vacuum cleaner with a hose to suck out all the air. You can stash these under beds or in the tops of closets. As for equipment, get out your tools and disassemble them. Put all the pieces into compact boxes that you can tuck away. Take photos during the process so you'll remember how to put these items back together when the new babies arrive.

Dear Cheapskate: I have been a faithful reader of your articles for the last two years. Though I live in India, it has helped me a lot. I paid off my credit card completely, and I have not touched it in nearly 18 months! You are a great motivator for me. I thank God for you. I recently received one of your books from the USA through a relative of mine. Every day, I eagerly look forward to reading your articles. God bless you. Thank you once again. Keep it going. -- Laly, South India

Dear Laly: How great to hear from you across the miles. I am so proud of you to have paid off that credit card! Sadly, I believe credit card debt has become a globally unifying concept. It affects us in similar ways even though our cultures might be vastly different. I hope you enjoy that book. I look forward to hearing from you again.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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