Dear Prudence

Help! Mom Keeps Donating Money to Charity Instead of Paying Her Mortgage.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

An older woman doles out money from her wallet. Background: a house.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Resource anxiety: My husband and I are paying the mortgage on a house for my mother to help her make ends meet after she unexpectedly lost her housing some time back. It is not an easy thing for us due to two sets of student loans, our housing costs, and other debts. I tend to feel anxious about having enough resources (money, time, food, etc.) when I am dealing with my family in general. I am filled with irritation and resentment every time family members, including my mother, mention large purchases my mother makes that seem frivolous, or when Facebook announces to me that she donated to a cause (three times this past week).


I know it is unfair to expect her not to donate or buy anything large, but I often feel like she is redistributing our money to areas that don’t help her get out of debt or improve her standing. I feel like I am going to have to take care of her forever while she cares for everyone else. Do I discuss this with her, or is this something I have to get over? Can I ask her to start helping with the mortgage since she seems to have enough to help others? How do I separate these things?


A: Of course you can discuss this! You can’t go through her checkbook and micromanage every penny she spends, but if you’re stretching your own budget thin in order to help her through a crisis, it’s fair to bring this up. “Mom, I don’t want to make you feel like you have to explain everything you buy to me, but I know you’ve been making a lot of donations and big-ticket purchases over the last few weeks. If you’ve got some money to set aside for taking over your mortgage payments, I’d prefer you do that, because I can’t go on indefinitely making them for you. Let’s talk about an end date so that we’re both on the same page as to when you’ll start taking responsibility for part—and eventually the full amount—of your monthly mortgage.”