Throughout my life I can remember family members coming to live with my mother, sister and I. In fact, there were quite a few who all had their own reasons for doing so. Relocation was the biggest reason as an uncle of mine moved to the U.S. from Singapore and an older cousin came up to Baltimore from Atlanta. I was too young to remember why they came to our home, but always seemed to find myself without a room for a period of time — typically six months to a year.
This has also been a common practice for my husband and his family. Whether his parents took in family members’ children during their years in Panama, or allowed family to stay with them once they became established in the United States, their door was always open to those who needed help.
As wonderful as it is for people to help those in their lives who need a place to stay, it really does require some thought before saying yes. Making the decision to have a long-term houseguest shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It can oftentimes take a turn for the worst, or head in an unexpected direction. I’ve heard horror stories about folks with great intentions who no longer talk to the very people who stayed in their home.
If you’re entertaining the idea, here are a few things you might want to consider first.
Think about your space. Let’s get real here, if you live in a single-bedroom apartment, it’s probably not the best idea to take in someone with multiple children. Kudos to you if you can make it work, but you have to think about your space and whether or not you even have any to house additional people. Remember, this is going to be long term.
Think about your finances. Another important consideration before you say yes is to think about your own finances. No matter how you slice it, your household expenses are going to increase with extra people under your roof. Can you afford taking on additional financial obligations? Have you paid down your own debts to free up the necessary income? Do you have an emergency savings established in the event you lose your job or find yourself on hard times?
Consider your current household dynamic. As much as you want to jump to say yes, you also need to consider how a long-term houseguest will affect your household dynamic. For example, those with little children or someone with special needs should think about their current demands — and whether or not they can introduce extra into the mix. It’s probably not the best idea to have someone under your roof if your spouse doesn’t get along with them.
Be real about the person asking. Just because someone needs help doesn’t mean you’re the right person to assist them. Truly give some thought to the person asking for your hospitality. If you know they’re bad with money or continue making the same bad financial mistakes without care, you could be in for a rude awakening.
Prepare for longer than expected. A month can quickly turn into three. Sometimes it takes longer than expected for people to land back on their feet. It doesn’t mean they aren’t trying but you should prepare yourself to have a houseguest longer than expected.
No matter what you do, make sure you set some ground rules before anyone moves in. The last thing you need is to be on different pages when it comes to expectations and household contributions.