Every poly home will handle saving for the future differently. For my money, here are two things every poly group home needs to save for.
(excerpted from the draft of The Polyamorous Home)
One critical fact of life is that nothing is static–including relationships. Many poly households eventually face the need for someone to move out. This might be a practical move–someone got their dream job offer in another city. It might be a relationship move–living together just isn’t working, or maybe a relationship is ending entirely. These things happen. They are rarely enjoyable, and the challenges associated with moving out and starting over can make the whole situation even more painful for everyone involved.
The moving cushion is a savings fund for when members of the polycule need to move out. Depending on your polycule’s local support network, financial situation, and alternative living options, you might:
Save up enough to make a security deposit and first month’s rent on a small apartment and cover basic expenses for a couple of months while a former housemate gets their feet under them.
Or you might have $100 set aside to cover the cost of a u-Haul truck rental and pizza for all the friends that will help with the move.
It’s whatever A) you can manage to set aside without hurting your day-to-day finances and B) you feel is necessary to make the move as financially painless as possible.
Having a moving cushion doesn’t just benefit the person moving, but the people staying. Being stuck living together when you really don’t want isn’t good for anyone. And you never know who will need that cushion. Sure, you may think that since your name is on the lease you’ll be staying put, but anything from a job offer to a long distance relationship that’s ready to become local as soon as you can move might lead you to leave your group home.
The larger the moving cushion you can gather, the easier it will be for someone to move out and the less tension and drama a move can create. My suggestion is to initially set a savings goal that your polycule can reach within six months. Whether that’s enough to buy a house or rent a u-Haul, it’s a place to start. Then discuss whether you want to keep saving, or whether what you have is enough for everyone to be comfortable if they need to move out.
Shit happens. This is the first rule of life. The second rule is: being prepared reduces the shit. Part of being prepared is having a pile of money somewhere that you can use when shit gets expensive.
Being poly doesn’t reduce the amount of shit life throws at us. It does, in theory, give us more resources for dealing with the shit. Unfortunately, many polycules who choose to handle their finances separately never think ahead to the shit that can impact all of them.
Say you and your quad have an apartment together. You’ve each agreed to pay ¼ of all rent and utilities and otherwise keep personal expenses separate. As long as everything with the apartment is good, you’re good.
But one day your landlord drops by and says he is really sorry, but he is kicking you out. His house burned down and his family will be moving into your apartment[This happene to my famiy once at a time when had no savings. Scary as shit. We ended up in a room at a boarding house.]. See, there is this little-known law in some places that the landlord can kick you out with next-to-no notice and without an eviction if he intends to take up residence in your apartment. So now you need to find a new place to live by the end of the week. How are you going to cover moving expenses, security deposit and first months rent on no notice? Sure, your landlord should be refunding your security deposit and rent for your interrupted month. But in my experience landlords tend to mail you a check two weeks after you move out. That doesn’t help you right now.
If you don’t have an emergency savings fund for your polycule (or possibly a large enough moving fund), you will likely end up frantically getting in touch with friends and family for a place to crash. Anyone with individual savings is going to need to dip into that. Anyone without individual savings is either relying on the rest of the polycule (which may be against financial independence boundaries for some people) or out of luck. If things get really bad, someone may end up in a homeless shelter. The chances of all of you getting a new place together in that short a time period is not going to be good unless you are all very well off financially.
On a less extreme level: it’s the middle of summer. Your window air conditioner breaks and your home is quickly approaching triple digit temperatures. If members of your polycule are financially well off, replacing it won’t be a problem. For a lot of families, coming up with several hundred dollars on short notice isn’t easy–or even possible.
The best way to prevent problems like this is to create a household emergency fund. Like the rent and utilities, everyone in the polycule will contribute to the emergency fund each month. Set a savings goal. You probably don’t need the “three months expenses” that a lot of US economists like to recommend. And you probably wouldn’t be able to save up that much in a reasonable amount of time anyway. As with the moving cushion, set a reasonable savings goal, and a reasonable time limit to meet that goal in. What is reasonable will depend on typical expenses in your area, your polycule’s financial situation, and other factors. Once you reach your goal, you can discuss if you want to keep saving more, or stop saving until you need to spend from the fund.