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Open Relationship Benefit #5: Shared living expenses and chore load

According to a news release posted in mid-March, 2009 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American families spend nearly 60% of their budget on housing and transporation.  While transportation costs are a large household expense - partly due to rising fuel costs and people living in a different city than the one they work in - at most it takes up 20-25% of a household's total expenses (leaving housing to take up the remainder of that 60% chunk) If you take a look at the family budget calculator on (which uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics), the average household spends over 30% of their income on housing expenses. When banks determine how much mortgage a household can afford, they typically assume that no more than 28 percent of a household's pre-tax income should go towards the mortgage payment. In other words, we spend a LOT on housing costs.  The question is - do we need to?
The option of co-housing
If you are in a multi-partner relationship, one of the questions that you need to figure out is how to handle the housing issue. One option is for people to remain in their respective living quarters and pay their separate housing and utility bills.  Another option, if feasible, would be for everyone to live together under the same roof, and split the various bills accordingly. Before you sign on to the idea of communal living, let's take a moment to consider a couple of factors which may come into play:  
Personal space
People's needs for space and solitude differ based on the individual. Some people are cool with living in a crowded house 24/7. Other people need time to unwind and be by themselves on occasion. Others still consider their home to be their private sanctuary from the rest of the world. Before everyone moves in together, you need to determine what people's needs for space and privacy are, and see if there may be potential clashes with this in the future.  For instance, if several of the people like house parties, but one of the cohabitant likes having times of solitude, you may want to set certain times in which the parties could happen (or notify them ahead of time), or set up the house so that people can be left alone in their respective spaces while the parties still occur.  
The trash still needs to be taken out. The floors still need to be washed or vacuumed. The bath tub and toilet still need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The question is - who gets to do this?  If this is not set up ahead of time, you may end up with a pigsty of a home, annoyed cohabitants, or both. Chore schedules - who does which chore and how frequently - should be established early on. If the chore do'er is unable to do their share of the work (example: 60+ hour work weeks), they need to be able to communicate this to the rest of their living partners so that the workload can be re-negotiated.  Otherwise, you run the risk of people becoming resentful or antsy because the housework isn't done.  
Dividing costs
When determining the costs that need to be split among the various inhabitants, there's multiple expenses to consider:
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Home-owner's/Renter's insurance
  • Property taxes (for homeowners)
  • Property upkeep (for homeowners)
  • Utilities
  • Cable/Internet
  • Household stuff (cleaning supplies and toilet paper)
  • Food (unless you arrange for everyone to purchase their food on their own)
There's a couple of ways to handle these expenses.  You can have everyone contribute equally to an expense account that's used to pay the bills.  You can also arrange it so that some members of the household pay less into the shared account, but instead contribute through additional housework. There's also the option of having different household members handle different bills. The point is, there's no single right way of handling the household budget as long as the bills are paid. You will also want to make sure that at least one member of your household is numbers-savvy enough to be the bookkeeper :)   A word to the wise: Whatever you guys agree upon for space arrangements, chores, and expense division, make sure to put those agreements in writing.

Miss Polyamory (not verified) wrote:

Thu, 05/21/2009 - 19:47 Comment #: 1

These are some really good points for the poly-family-to-be to discuss. And, to be willing to negotiate or talk about changes when needed, since needs will probably change after time and after any children come. Ahhhh, how nice it would be to have 2 or 3 or more co-parents. Lucky kids! Lucky poly family (whether children or not) to have so much help to live your life, so more time for fun :-) ! Oh, and you can share various types of vehicles. So many positives. Thank you! xo Beki

Open Relationship Benefit #6: A more flexible life | Young M (not verified) wrote:

Sat, 05/23/2009 - 23:35 Comment #: 2

[...] network of adults can provide a loving and familiar environment.  Also, if everyone is currently cohabitating, there is the option for one or more members to choose to work part-time or to stop working [...]

Randy F (not verified) wrote:

Wed, 05/27/2009 - 11:13 Comment #: 3

I thought I would pipe in as someone living in a communal poly household. The house I live in is owned by my wife's girlfriend. I live here with my wife, her girlfriend and her girlfriend's husband (who is also one of my wife's partners). My wife and I pay in a set amount every month for "rent" which pays part of the mortgage and utilities. We split groceries and a family cell phone plan, and yes all of this is in writing. I have to say that with the economy being as shaky as it is, having a four income household makes things a whole lot less stressful.

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