Financial considerations

Home finance

Finances are always a touchy subject, and sometimes unfortunate situations do happen to the best of us. Someone financially stable can lose that stability unexpectedly, even within a day from unexpected layoffs or medical complications. COVID-19 caused hundreds of thousands of Canadians to lose their jobs and left wondering how they could afford basic living costs. Companion housing is already one of the most affordable rent options. However, financial hardship can still be a real concern. 

Each person in a companion home is required to manage their finances. However, people tend to have different spending habits and financial responsibilities. Conflicts often occur if one person is unable to pay their full rent or is constantly late. Conflicts can also occur if there is a large mismatch between people’s spending habits in the home. Suppose you are a saver and your housing companion is a big spender. In that case, it may always feel awkward when you want to do activities together. 

We often talk about physical and mental health; however, financial health is an often avoided topic. Common examples of related financial conflicts include consistently paying rent or utilities late or spending money on luxuries such as going out to restaurants when money is tight.

Suppose a housing companion that you appreciate is struggling with rent. In that case, it is often best to negotiate a compromise between everyone.  For example, you could allow for partial or deferred rent payments until they have regained employment or full income.  It is usually better to have a loyal housing companion who might make partial payments than letting the room sit vacant for several months after kicking them out. By helping each other out, you will become a more resilient household unit and develop a deeper connection.

Conflicts over shared expenses

What should you do if someone wants premium TV channels and you don’t even watch TV? Sharing costs can create great tension if some household members feel they are being taken advantage of. As a general rule, basic utilities should be part of monthly rent (electricity, gas, and water). If anyone wants extras, they will be responsible for the cost, such as premium internet or TV channels. If everyone in the home agrees to share these premium services, then it is fair to split the cost.

If you find that the price of utilities is constantly going up, discuss with your housing companions how you can collectively conserve more energy. Simple changes like taking shorter showers, turning down the thermostat at night, and remembering to turn off the lights when leaving a room can make a big difference. Everyone wins, even the environment!

Spending habits

If you like to shop and spend all the time, you may make others in your home who are thrifty savers feel uncomfortable. Likewise, the opposite is quite true! Having fun and doing activities with your housing companions does not need to involve spending money. You should not feel pressured by others to do expensive activities or outings. If you feel a difference in views, you can suggest activities that everyone will feel comfortable with. Communicating your concerns about staying within your monthly budget will earn you respect. It takes discipline to be financially responsible, set your boundaries and stick to them.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse means using another person’s money or property without permission or in a fraudulent manner. This is of particular concern for seniors who have a housing companion shopping or performing other financial transactions on their behalf. As a general rule, never share your credit card, bank card, or provide access to any of your accounts. 

  • Set up automatic bill payments
  • If you lend money to someone, write down their name, date, amount, and when they will pay it back
  • If you use a communal money jar for shared groceries, keep all receipts and keep a notepad beside it to keep tabs
  • Avoid giving cash. Instead, send an electronic bank transfer so you have a paper trail
  • Do not sign any contracts or documents you do not understand

Important point: If someone doesn’t feel right tell a trusted family member and call your regional Elder Abuse Line.