Natasha sent me a very distressed email about her living situation last week. She's still sharing an apartment with her former boyfriend, and, according to her, it's not in the safest area, so understandably she feels the need to move out as soon as possible. She knows she can't afford the higher rent, but wants to know if there's any way to "cut a lot to make it happen."
On first glance, I don't think so. I had emailed her my latest "budget," but, since she's never managed to track her spending for more than about a week, it's not based on real information and I have no idea if it's feasible (but I suspect not). Based on those numbers, she would have had to make spending cuts just to generate sufficient cash flow to pay her large credit card obligations, let alone taking on a higher rent on her own. I assume Zak would be obligated to pay child support, but, even under the best conditions, I fear that such support might be slow to arrive. I don't know how to help her.
It's a classic case of multiple financial objectives competing for limited resources: Paying off debt versus moving. Going into this project, I had hoped to help Natasha learn to manage her cash flow to address the first objective (getting on a debt payment plan) and maybe, over time, have the chance to strive toward the latter goal (moving to a better neighborhood). But the second objective may have become a higher priority in Natasha's mind.
Natasha has struggled mightily to engage in the process with me, and, as it currently stands, I don't believe she has learned to manage her cash flow. So I can give her a "budget" hard coded to fit the higher rent, but in my opinion, it will be completely unrealistic and doomed for failure. Asking or expecting her to handle substantial additional theoretical spending cuts without having learned this skill is probably wishful thinking.
But I must keep trying to work with her and hope that something good can happen. I understand that she has very large tax refunds coming to her, somewhere between $9,000 and $12,000 by her count (though I haven't seen the tax documents). Maybe if I can get her to live within a budget in order to enter a debt management arrangement, she can take some of the refund money to fund a move. But even if she does this, the very real risk is that she will continue to be unable to live within her means, and now have a much higher rent obligation along with it.
But then again, maybe changing her living situation will give her a fresh start and optimism to take more control of her financial life. I don't know, but maybe it's worth a try?