Our multigenerational home + our finances

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Before I start this post, my opinion on this subject may be harsh. Just warning you. For those of you who are new around here, we are four generations all living together under one roof. The question of how does your multigenerational home handle the finances and who pays the bills comes up frequently. I received a sweet email from a reader a couple weeks ago asking, “who does the grocery shopping in your home and who pays for all the food?” This is just one of several emails I get regarding money and who pays what around here. Sadly, many of the questions are coming from parents who have adult children and their families living with them and not contributing a dime.

multigenerational home + finances

Photo courtesy of Woman’s Day Magazine

Lets start from the beginning. We have always split the bills right down the middle. If you are living with your parents or your kids are living with you, there should be a monetary contribution from all adults. Period. Whatever the situation is financially, it needs to be determined and rules set in the beginning what the contribution will be. For us, it’s 50/50.

“Who does the grocery shopping and who pays for the food?”

multigenerational home + finances

Each family (me, my gram and my mom) do our own shopping and fill our own refrigerators. Period. I would never in a million years expect my parents to buy and pay for my families food. I mean seriously, if there are adult children living with their parents and you are not paying for your own food, then shame on you. Unless of course, you trade off other financial responsibilities and groceries happens to be one of them. Each family in our home, has their own refrigerator. Our motto, “pretend like you live in your own home by yourself”.  We also eat on our own schedule and prepare our own meals many of the nights. My mom hosts Saturday night dinner where we all eat together and my gram will also do this during the week a couple times a month. For instance, last night, my gram made dinner for everyone and the night before (Saturday night) my mom got takeout Chinese food for everyone. It was a good weekend for food! ha.

multigenerational home + finances

“How do you handle the utility bills?”

My grandparents have their own in-law setup in the converted garage so they have their own financial arrangement with my parents. My mom gives me a piece of paper at the end of the month that shows all the bills for the house (utilities ect.) and we split the cost down the middle. I give her a check and that’s it. Pretty simple.

“Who cleans the house?” 

This isn’t really a financial question but one that seems to be popular. The answer is really very simple. We are all responsible for our own sections of the house. I would never expect my mother or father to clean up after my son and clean our bathrooms. If you are an adult child living with your parents, again, shame on you if you leave the housework to your parents or vise versa. This of course is different if you have that arranged prior as a trade off and part of your agreement. Maybe someone doesn’t have the money to pay the bills so they clean the house. That definitely works if it’s agreed upon by everyone. The key is communication. When we shared a TV room, kitchen and bathrooms with my parents (the first year we lived here), we implemented a “bin” system. Because we were in tighter quarters (before the addition and renovated basement), the toys, food, personal items were everywhere. We bought bins for the kitchen cabinets where I could put my food that I would buy and same for my mom. It just helped keep things separate. We also designated “cabinets” for each family. We also lined the tv room with bins for toys and random things. It wasn’t pretty but it was temporary until we got the addition and basement finished. It kept thing organized. Of course we share food but we are all really good at replacing items we use so there isn’t a problem.

Tip on cleaning 

If you live with your grown child who is a slob or doesn’t clean up after your grandchildren, get some plastic bins and wipe the counters clean. Put all the dirty dishes and random items in the bin. Put the cover on and put the bin in their bedroom. Period. Out of sight right? This is what my mother did to me when I was a teenager. She threw everything in my bedroom and shut the door. Shhh, don’t tell anyone but this is what I do to my husband…..he has a cabinet in the kitchen with a bin, everything he leaves laying around goes in the bin or in his newly renovated bathroom. Shutting that bathroom door and not looking at the mess is a beautiful thing!

The subject of our multigenerational home and how we handle our finances is unique, I know. I am finding out though that many families are starting to live this way either for financial reasons, health issues or simply because they just want to live together. Multigenerational living isn’t for every family. I mean, you kind of need to like and respect each other to make it work. If one or two of those elements are missing, it may be a bumpy road.

PS. Be sure to check out our “how to live with your parents” post.

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Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.


  1. I always find your situation interesting and this post was enlighting. Was this a voluntary choice for you guys ? My parents live on our property ( guest house) for 6 months out of the year and I just love having them around.

    1. Hi laura, yes it was a voluntary move on our part. We originally had planned to purchase a new home and stay with my parents while we looked for another but decided to use the money to put on the addition and renovate at my parents home. That is great you have your parents on the same property. I’m sure you are making good memories πŸ™‚

  2. Nice post. I totally agree with you on all points. When our son moved back home after being out for a while we told him he needed to help out. Physically and monetarily. We gave him a sweet deal of only $50.00 a month. When he balked, I gave him a week, then helped him pack his stuff. He moved out. I had people tell me that was harsh. But hey, 15 years later he is married, with kids and is one of the most responsible men I know. When he got out of the service he and his family moved in with us for 3 months while they found a house. It was a sweet time. His wife and I shopped together every 2 weeks and traded cooking meals every other night. Our children are always welcome but they know it will not be a free ride. Having said all that…whew πŸ™‚ I love your blog. Your redo’s and reno’s are awesome.

    1. Hi Nancy, thank you so much :). It always amazes me when grown children (like me) move in with their parents and expect them to pay for them. I suppose I would expect it more from maybe a younger adult (early 20’s) trying to figure out their way in the world but geesh, I’m 40 years old and cannot even imagine!

  3. ValenzMom aka Helen says:

    When our son moved out after college, he had a job with a video game co. & got an apt with his long-time girlfriend who was a pharmacy tech. After 3 yrs, the gaming co went out of business. He called one night, crying, begging me to let them BOTH move in with us in our 3 bdrm condo. Hubby balked, I gave in (because he was crying). I work for a law firm, so I decided to write up a lease for them stating a rent amount of $300/mo which included utilities and included one bedroom, one bathroom for their exclusive use, and a common office area for our son’s computer that we also shared, as well as the common areas of the kitchen, living room and laundry room.

    I also included a list of rules that they had to abide by. The rules included what hours of the day they could use the washer and dryer, what areas of the pantry and fridge where designated for their use, that the kitchen, their bathroom and bedroom were to be kept clean at all times and no guests after midnight Sunday-Thursday or after 2 am Friday and Saturday.

    His girlfriend did not like the idea of the rent or the rules to begin with. I told both of them that they did not have to live with us then, but that was they way it was going to be since both of us work full-time and the bills at the condo are expensive. I told her that she could always go back home and live with her Dad. She didn’t like that one bit. They moved in, but didn’t always abide by my rules so it was not easy. Our son’s girlfriend does not like housework or laundry, so many times I’d come home from work to dirty dishes – MY dishes that they had used during the day. Or I’d start to do laundry in the evening and there would be wet clothes in the washer that she’d forgotten about – HER clothes, not my son’s because she won’t wash his.

    Needless to say, this lasted a little over 2 yrs when I just had too much and one evening I called them downstairs for a meeting. I told them that they had to move out and that I was giving them 30 days notice in writing per the lease they had signed. By this time, my son was working again and the girlfriend had an even better job than she’d had when they’d moved in. But he couldn’t believe I was kicking them out. “How will we get a place we can afford?” I told them to call an apt locating service and get some free help. Within a week, they had an apt for only $150 more than I was charging them and were moving out.

    I was never so happy to be an empty nester again.

    1. Hi Helen. Sounds like it’s a good thing you are an empty nester again πŸ™‚ ha. Your situation sounds like so many of the emails I get. It’s amazing how many families are living together now.

  4. I read your posts with great interest because we are/will be in a similar situation. A little over six years ago one of our (then) teen age sons got sick, went into heart failure when the influenza virus entered his heart, had a stroke, became disabled and 5 years ago last December, had a heart transplant – whewwww…. that’s some run on sentence!

    When Jacob got sick we added 2400 square feet to the house, making it not only handicap accessible and adding an elevator, but also added a separate apt on the third floor for him and his twin. The idea is that this house is somewhere he can live the rest of his life – first with us downstairs, then when his twin gets married, he can live in the main house and we will move out to the guest house.

    I was raised in a sort of similar situation with the five homes on our street (country road) being all family. It was if I had one big back yard – aunts, uncles and grandmother – all in a row. My husband grew up with his grandparents in the house – originally a 2 family, then just living with them. We are Spanish (from Spain) and nothing about your lifestyle is weird to us. YET, we have gotten a lot of “grief” from outsiders about our choice to help our son. My mother had her sister and BiL live with them (added a suite) when they reached their 80s – they stayed for the rest of their lives (he was 93 and she lived another 10 years after him!). I would not hesitate to have my mother (recently widowed) here if she wanted to.

    Believe it or not, many have asked why we don’t just put him in a rehab type center! Mind you, the kid just graduated from college with a 4.0…. he is physically disabled and needs help with his every day care and of course needs to be careful with his precious new heart, but he is a wonderful young man and deserves all of our love and care! It’s an honor to care for our family and a privilege so many just don’t understand.

    I think your family set up is BRILLIANT and I hope it can continue, so that your children can benefit from the LOVE!

    thanks for sharing,


    1. Wow Gena, so sorry to hear that your son got sick and needed a new heart. Oh my goodness. Your living arrangement sounds so nice! I love that you choose to have your kids and family all under the same roof. My opinion for all the naysayers is, “if it works for us, why should it bother you?” I can see if a family is struggling with a family member that is taking advantage or something but seriously, if families like living together, then more power to them. It’s not always perfect but nothing in life is perfect. Sounds like you guys have a well thought out plan and the added space of your addition helps give everyone their own space and privacy that is needed. Congrats to your son for graduating with a superb GPA πŸ™‚ Keep in touch!

  5. My mother has lived with me since 1998 – with really helped me since I’m a single mom! I pay the bills, buy the food, and household supplies – but my mother gives me a set amountof $$ for each month to pay her portion of the bills. The only thing that gives us trouble is Ebay – my mother has become addicted to shopping on Ebay! LOL

    I advocate parents living with adult children (if they get along) – especially if you’re an only child like I am. Since my mother already lives with me, I can keep track of her health, and any health issues that may come up. πŸ™‚

    1. Ebay! ha. You just made me bust out laughing πŸ™‚ That is great your mom is with you and you guys seem to have a good working plan. You’ll have to disconnect the internet πŸ™‚ haha.

  6. I just happened upon your blog and love it! My husband and I invited our (then) 18 year-old only son and his 18 year-old wife to live with us while they went to university on full academic scholarships. They finished school a month before their first child was born and as a family, committed to living together permanently. We were fortunate to be financially able to build a duplex home, connected by a shared laundry room. They recently had their fourth child and our extended family is complete! When my husband and I married ( at 18 and 21) we chose to stay living with my widowed mother, buying her house when we could afford it. She later moved to take care of my grandmother a couple blocks away. All this to say that what goes around, comes around. This lifestyle was the norm for my son…although it is considerably more complicated at times than living separate lives, the advantages are abundantly clear in the sense of security and happiness shown by our grandchildren.

    1. That is great that your son grew up that way and now he is raising his kids with you. I hope my son is always around and living with me πŸ™‚ Sounds like you guys have a great setup and is working for everyone. I love stories like this πŸ™‚

  7. Great post on the practicalities of living in a multigenerational home. Setting the game rules up front seems really important. I imagine the conversation is hard for some~especially if one party or another may be struggling financially. Great insights!

    1. You are right Nancy, most of the emails I get about multigen living are from families who are struggling with one or two of the members who are out of work or choosing to not work. Yes, that would make life a lot more difficult living together. Hopefully I never have to deal with that. Hope you are doing well πŸ™‚

  8. I am loving your blog! My hubby, two kids, and me live with my grandfather-in-law and can relate to your family in many ways. We moved in with him for many reasons, and ones that benefit both sides. I agree that it is so important not to be a burden, but rather to share responsibilities, financial and otherwise. Because our finances are really tight right now, our financial contribution is just the groceries, but we try to off-set that in other areas – I do all the cooking and cleaning, and my husband does all the yard work. Sure there have been some bumps along the road as we settle in to this new lifestyle, but we all seem to really love the arrangement (grandpa included!), and I certainly wouldn’t trade having his influence in our home for anything!

    1. That is great Courtney that you have this opportunity. I have so many friends that have minimal family still alive so I count my blessings every day that I have this opportunity. It’s great for kids as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I always love hearing about other stories and multigenerational living:).

  9. Love the post… it’s something people wonder about I think because many people are uncomfortable discussing money to begin with. My husband and I live with his parents and right now all four of us are shopping for a house together. It’s working wonderfully for us!
    I take issue with your last statement though about liking and respecting each other. It’s a whole lot more than that… I would at least add trust and communication to those two. Living in a house together for a long time also means trusting that the other half of the equation is going to come up with their part of the mortgage, that they are saving enough in their emergency fund for the unexpected, that they have enough life insurance in place to take care of small children, that they are saving for retirement, that their will and trust have clear instructions on who gets the house and how assets would be divided… It goes on and on. Living together means a certain amount of relying on each other and if your parents/kids aren’t securing their own future in that situation then they are risking yours.
    I love and respect my own parents, but I could not live with them because we do not communicate well about money. I think that if you’re going to live together it requires you to be open about discussing specific amounts, interest rates, etc. It’s easy to move in, it’s another thing to sit down and hash out who owns/owes what with the other party sitting directly across from you.

  10. We have a similar way that we set up financial arrangements around here too. We split all utilities and the mortgage 50/50. I used to feel badly about that since we are a family of 6 and use more electric, water, etc than my mom does but she explained that she comes out still paying less than she would if she was out in her own place so it works out OK. We buy our own groceries (my mom has her own full kitchen) but we prefer to eat dinner together every night instead of my mom making dinner for just herself. And since she works every day and is usually exhausted when she gets home I make dinner during the week and then she’ll cook on the weekends or she’ll call on her way home and say “Hey I’m gonna pick up burgers on my way home!” Those are nice nights! πŸ™‚ Because we are food hoarders (my mom has always been one who likes to see a full freezer/pantry shelves) we usually do a monthly big buying trip to GFS to stock up on bulk items. She buys what she wants to contribute (asking me what we need) and I buy what I want/need. She is very generous with her money when it comes to us!! We, of course take care of our own vehicle maintenance, car payments, gas, insurance, etc. My husband takes care of the yard during the spring/summer/fall. I clean our part of the house (upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms) as well as the shared main floor space (after all, my mom does still work a full time job!) and then she takes care of her basement apartment. Anyone considering this kind of arrangement really needs to make sure they talk about this kind of stuff ahead of time. It took us a while to get our groove and it was very hard during that transition period!

  11. Love you post. My husband and I have two of our sons, their wives and each have two children living with us. Totaling 10 in all. We all buy grocery’s together and cook together but have a time figuring out what everyone will eat. Some of the kids and adults are picky eaters but all in all it works. My one and only rule that keeps things going smoothly is: If you get mad at anyone you have exactly 15 minutes to get over it. I will not allow anyone to be mad any longer and they all know and abide by this rule and for 2 years now it’s worked pretty good.

    1. Sounds like you guys have a great thing going πŸ™‚ That 15 minute rule is a good thing! Sometimes it takes me longer than 15 minutes but usually ok within a few hours πŸ™‚ ha.

  12. Just found your blog. Awesome setup and great rules! I stayed at home until I was 27 and when I was ready to move out, I had saved enough to buy a condo… well, my parents realized they were going to be empty nesters with no real need for a large home, so they started looking for a condo, too. The one they loved the most happened to be in the same building where I was buying mine, so even though we don’t “live together,” I still get to have a close relationship with them. My parents are awesome people, so my husband loves it, too. Nice to see your family setup. How wonderful for your children!

    BTW, when we first bought our condos, my mom and I shopped together A LOT, so we wound up having almost everything in our condos exactly the same! That has changed a lot over time since I love Anthropologie, but it was really funny in the beginning when people would come over to both of our condos.

    1. Thank you Rita! So happy you found our blog and sounds like you have a great relationship with your parents too πŸ™‚ My style use to be very similar to my mom’s but now that I’ve grown up a bit, it has changed dramatically. Isn’t it funny how that happens πŸ™‚ Stay in touch!

  13. I can completely agree with you on all this. Our set up is a little different. We don’t have as much space. So we take turns making meals and doing dishes but we all chip in. Cleaning is shared, except for our own rooms. We split groceries 50/50 and we pay “rent”. We also pay utilities because us living with my in laws shouldn’t be costing them anything!

  14. This is a great post! My husband’s sister and her 3 boys moved in with mom and dad almost a year ago while her house was being built. Her husband did not move in but stayed in the town where he was working and visits on weekends. She is the biggest slob and does not control her kids. My poor parent in laws are stuck raising her kids, buying all the food and taking care of her mess and the house. My father in law has put off retiring because of the unexpected expense of basically taking in 5 people. It makes me crazy to watch it. I told my husband from the beginning he should have a talk with his mom to make sure she set boundries, knowing his sister would take advantage of the situation but they never did. I’m happy to read your post and know it can work out! Love your blog and all your projects!

  15. Thanks for sharing this. My husband, myself, and 5 yr old daughter all live with my mother. She has parkinsons, dementia, and a bunch of other medical issues. Once she started to really go down hill with parkinsons and dementia I left my job to take care of her full time. My husband, unfortunately, does not make enough to support all of us on his salary. However, we still stick to the same agreement of paying bills we always have. My mom pays the rent. My husband and I are responsible for the utilities, food, prescriptions and any other extra’s that come up or we need. It’s different now because I am power of attorney for my mother but not by much. Now I just handle her finances where she used to herself. This is the agreement we’ve had for a long time and it’s worked for us. It was the same arrangement from before she got sick. Until our situation changes and I’m able to go back to work we will keep it this way. We are blessed to have my mother to help with the rent and blessed that it affords me to stay home and care for her. Otherwise she would need to be in a nursing home and probably wouldn’t thrive for very long. If it means cutting back on other things to allow her to stay home for as long as possible it’s worth the sacrifice.

  16. Shelby Murphy says:

    In three weeks My Husband, two children (7&3), and I will be moving in with my widowed mother in law and widowed grandmother in law. This will be a permanent move as my husband will inherit the house in the event of his mother’s passing. As of right now the house is a 3 bedroom one bath kitchen laundry room and den. Grandmother lives in den, mother in law in master, kids in bedroom together and, husband and I in his childhood bedroom. Small home, and yes we are building on a mother in-law suit. First few months are going to be very cramped and he’d to get use to but we are all looking forward to the move. After the passing of my father in-law finances and house work have become difficult for mother in-law. After thinking and talking it through with mother in-law, husband and I decided to move in permanent.

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