Hi all, have not posted in a long time. This past January my 89 year old Aunt found herself broke (she used her credit cards and social security payments to pay for her daughter and 2 grandsons.


My cousin (my Aunt's daughter) moved my Aunt to another state where rent was cheaper. My cousin also got married to a man who didn't have money. My Aunt (who I was always close to) had a difficult time using the stairs to get to her bedroom and does not get along with her new son-in-law.

My Aunt called me up and asked if she could live with my Mom (who has vascular dementia) and myself. Being I had a spare bedroom (which I used as my office) I thought about it and finally said yes, she could live rent free so she could pay off her credit cards. (Yes, it was a pain moving my office into my bedroom).

It didn't occur to me to make it clear that my Aunt would have to pay for her own food. I "assumed" that was a given. If I lived with a relative rent-free I would naturally pay for my own food.

I'm not good at confrontation but my anger has been building up. I finally talked to my Aunt yesterday and said that my Mom and I are on a limited income and can not afford to pay for her food. I asked her to contribute money every month (I asked her what she thought would be fair) and she became defensive which surprised me.

She first said she needs to do her own shopping. I replied that I go shopping 3 times a week in the morning and she sleeps until noon. During the winter months there is snow (and ice) outside and I don't want her falling down.

Then she said that this was never discussed when we talked about her moving in with us. Then I became nasty and said to her if I were living rent-free I would naturally pay for my own food "it's a given"....

I texted her "normal" grandson (her other grandson is a special needs person) as I am close with him and explained to him what transpired and he texted me that we will talk.

Now there is unwanted tension and I don't know what to do next.

On the bright side of the coin my Aunt helps with my Mom by getting her to play cards, watch tennis matches, chat about their childhood, gets my Mom to laugh which is a huge help to me. I also have more freedom as I can go out for the afternoon and not have to worry about my Mom.

What do you think?
Thanks in advance, Jenna

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I think you're doing a very nice thing by letting your Aunt move in with you to help her pay off her bills. I agree that it is not unreasonable for her to contribute to the grocery budget.
Yes, you probably should have discussed it with her in the beginning, but hopefully you can get it ironed out so all parties are happy.
Also, I think it is wonderful to have her there to help with your mom. This will allow you the freedom to get out when you need/want to and that is a huge thing. It will also make your Aunt feel needed, and everyone needs to have that feeling.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to 12LittlePaws
JennaRose May 7, 2019
I have very fond memories of my Aunt since I was a little girl (she was like a second mother to me) so we were always very close.  Whenever I needed advice or support she was always there for me.   Plus besides being my Mom's sister they have always been extremely close and best of friends.

Everything has worked out and my Aunt apologized to me and will start paying for her food.   So no more tension. 

Yes, it is huge that I have some freedom again to go out in the afternoons doing whatever I want without having to worry about my Mom.  Thank goodness my Aunt's mind is intact.  

My Aunt was miserable where she was living before and there was constant fighting which was bad for my Aunt's health (having a bad heart).   Now she is calmer and has less stress.   Everyone benefits.
I see no problem telling her she needs to buy her own food. Especially, if there are items you wouldn't normally buy. These should definitely be paid for by her. I would total the cost of the food that you all share. Divide it by 3. So if it costs 100 a week, then her share would be $33. Plus, the items she wants for her only. That would be about $5 a day. Who can eat 3 meals for $5?

If her not paying rent doesn't put a burden on you, then I would say her being there keeping Mom busy so you have time to yourself, offsets the rent. Think of how you approached the subject. I know sometimes I come off wrong. Maybe apologizing and then saying how much her being there has helped. But, in the months she has been there, you have found the food costs are higher and you really need her to pay her share.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to JoAnn29
JennaRose May 7, 2019
My Aunt not paying rent doesn't put any burden on me at all. 

Anyway, this morning my Aunt approached me and said to me that she was wrong and that she will pay for her food.  She seemed very upset and told me she has a lot on her mind worrying about her grandson's, the money she owes, etc.  She said to me she can't think of everything.

I was wrong because I should have made the arrangements clear before she moved in. 

Thanks for your advice!
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Ideally you should discuss all the "terms" before entering any agreement. I think you may have had a mis-communication because of associating a different meaning to the same terminology. "Rent free" with a family member is often considered by many people of the older generations as "bed and board"; a lot of this can also be determined by family tradition. For example my own parents provided "bed and board" so long as I was in school (including college) but if I wanted to drive the car, I had to pay the cost of adding me to their insurance policy. During college I worked to cover all my clothes and other personal expenses. When I began working I had to pay a $20/week token toward my "board" in addition to helping with household chores like some housework and all the yard work. In our family, rent free does not mean free board too.

I suggest you try to let go of your anger and approach your aunt again from a "I think we just had a misunderstanding" and try to get an agreement that she will pay some portion (1/3 would be nice but maybe 1/4 will do for now) of the grocery bill. If your aunt so desires, I would fix up a cabinet that allows her to buy some of "her" own food, but that would be above the portion of the household grocery bill. You do not want to get into separate meals in the same household, then this just becomes an ongoing sore spot. I would also get an agreement that after the CC bills are paid off, your aunt will start paying a reasonable rent.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to TNtechie
JennaRose May 7, 2019
Yes, I should have discussed the "terms" before my Aunt moved in.  I didn't think that older generations thought of "rent-free" as bed and board. 

As I posted above my Aunt approached me and told me she will pay for her food.   Now I need to come up with an amount (I have kept all the receipts from the grocery store).  My Aunt doesn't eat what my Mom eats.  My Aunt eats very simple such as steamed veggies, fruit, salad, cottage cheese, tuna macaroni salad (things she can help herself to). 

The other agreement which I agreed beforehand was when my Aunt pays off her CC bills she would start pre-paying her funeral.  She has a very serious heart problem and I don't know how much longer she will live.   She wants to be buried next to my Uncle (her husband).

That's a good idea to fix up a cabinet for her own food as well as re-organizing the refrigerator for her cold items so she could have her own shelf.  

Thanks for your input,
Nobody should live rent free imho.

If your aunt did not pay off her credit cards, the debt will build, but you would not be on the hook for it, or she could claim bankruptcy. As it is you are basically paying her CC bills by letting her live rent free.

Now as she is a help with your Mum, you may want to work up a spreadsheet. In one column show the basic rent she should be paying, including her share of the utilities. Food too. Keep your grocery receipts and divide them into three, she pays her share.

If you are driving her to appointments, then you charge her for that too.

Now think about how many hours a week Aunt minds Mum. What is minimum wage in your state? 'Pay' your aunt for minding Mum by deducting the hours you are out of the house x minimum wage and deduct that from her rent.

But here's the thing, she pays the rent/utilities at the beginning of the month and the food at the end. Then you calculate her 'wage' by deducting it off the next months rent or the balance she owes for food.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Tothill
JennaRose May 6, 2019
If you read my post I wrote that I agreed to let my Aunt live rent-free so she can pay off her credit cards which she has been doing.   She is no longer giving money to her daughter and 2 grandsons.

Again, that was the deal I agreed to and I'm not asking about that.

I am asking about how to handle her not paying for the food she eats.   I didn't expect my Aunt to get defensive and I'm upset about this. 

Should I have made myself clear in the beginning that she needed to pay for the food she eats?  I thought I didn't have to but looking back maybe I should have. 

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