The last time Lori and I talked about her bills, I suggested that she start regular payments to her mom as a contribution to the shared expenses of the household. It would be a strong signal that she respected her mom's added financial burden, and it would be empowering for Lori. I knew that her mom was reluctant to talk about the financial aspects of Lori returning home with the kids, but I still felt it was important for them to have an explicit agreement. If Lori reached out and her mom expressed no interest in discussing it, then Lori would have at least made a sincere effort to show her mom her willingness to contribute. Lori agreed.
I also asked Lori how she was making time for herself, and how that showed up in the budget. Cash was tight, but Lori needed to be taking time -- and money -- to maintain friendships as well as her physical and emotional fitness. She was concerned about the expense but understood the benefit, so we talked about finding a monthly fixed amount that she could spend as she wanted -- on lunch, coffee with a friend, or a movie -- and when that money was spent she would be done until the next month. I suggested keeping this money separate, even putting the cash in an envelope at the beginning of the month (a popular method -- Frugal Dad recommended it as well). Lori thought this would work really well, and after our meeting emailed me to say she had decided on amount: $25.
However, now that Lori has been laid off, she'll be applying for unemployment, with even less money coming in. She doesn't have any cash reserve built up, so at our meeting next week we'll have to get good handle on all her expenses and income as well as the timing of both -- we don't want Lori to run out of cash during the month. She is already looking for full time work, but now we need to talk about what expenses we can reduce until she gets another job.