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.
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?”
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.
“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.