Many couples have stepped up the cutty-buddy status of their relationship to full-time cohabitants. With the spike in the number of couples living together—from 6.7 million to 7.5 in the first seven months of 2010—The Census Bureau goes on to report that the increase is less about romance, and more about surviving the struggling economy. It’s no longer just about playing house. For some, the move may be a good one, as far as personal economics goes, and may even result in more relationship upgrading. For others—not so much! If your relationship is at a serious enough level, merging living spaces can be a smart and even fun option to surviving the worst economic time reported since the Great Depression.

Just be sure that you have weighed your choice wisely. Consider the following before putting your full bed on Craigslist with visions of upgrading the sheets on his queen:

-How long you’ve been together and how much time you spend in the house together should be considered. No matter how natural and wonderful it feels, three weeks of dating do not an appropriate cohabitation situation make. Even if you’ve dated for a year, if you haven’t spent much time in a domestic space alone, you may also be ill-prepared for what the reality of living with your boo will bring. You should be good and used to waking up near each other, cooking dinner together, grocery shopping, dividing bathroom time…

-Money matters must be discussed in great detail beforehand. Both parties must understand the importance of coming up with whatever percentage of the rent and other bills that they have obligated themselves to contribute. If you fear that your partner is poised to leave you hanging moneywise…don’t even think about living together. If you go into it knowing that you have to put out a little extra money, be sure that you can handle that without losing respect for your honey (and that you all have discussed the amount of time that this arraingement will go on as such).

-How is this house running? Is dinner a joint project, one person’s obligation or every man for himself? What about laundry? Bathroom cleaning? Discuss this before or regret it later.

-Is this a long-term thing? Do you expect to get married at some point? You need to be honest and upfront with your intentions; if you think this is a test for marriage and he thinks its a fun way to save $400 a month, y’all might not be going into this with the same needs.

Say you weigh everything…it still could turn out to be a bad move. These three tips will help you easily BOUNCE when and if the time comes.

-Fund the opportunity to be out! Times are still tough, and funds are still scarce, but if you’re going to be sharing an apartment with your boo, you need to continue (or start) putting away as much money as you can for when that golden plan of moving-in together starts to lack-luster. While he might be gung-ho at the idea of living with you initially, you don’t know if he’ll start to feel that his style is a little cramped down the road. Living together, may free-up more of your money to do more of the things you want to do, but it’s best to be smart from the start on this. Besides, saving money was the number one reason for the move in the first place. Don’t play yourself.

-Hide ya keys! If there’s one thing I’ve seen too much of for one lifetime is a woman letting her man run her car into the ground! If you let dude dog your car, when it’s time to go, you may not be going anywhere. If he must use your car regularly, see to it that he contributes—significantly—to the care and maintenance of it as well.

-Sign a cohabitation agreement. Also known as the prenuptial agreement for non-married couples, a cohabitation agreement, a legal, binding document, protects you financially just like a prenuptial agreement in case the relationship ends. View a sample cohabitation agreement form here.   

*Additional contributions by Jamilah Lemieux







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