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5 Strict Rules the First Family Has to Follow in the White House

Written by Sean Smith

Even though to some people it might seem like the President of the United States and his family can do anything they want in the privacy of the White House, this is not true. There are very specific rules that all first families have to follow. Here are five of the more interesting rules:


#1 They have to pay for personal items and meals:  As of 2016, the President of the United States earns a salary of $400,000 per year, “along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment.” Even though the President and his family have this income and live in the White House for free, not everything is included.  Aside from personal items and designer clothing they must purchase from their own money, the first family must also pay for every meal they eat at the White House and Camp David. Many of the meals can be very expensive or elaborate, so the personal amount of money spent can quickly add up during a four-year term.

#2 They’re advised not to use their personal cell phones: The President along with his family members, are at a great risk for their personal cellphones being hacked for messages, emails, and locations. If they become victims of a cellphone security breach, the entire country could be at risk depending upon the information found. To avoid this threat, the President is issued a mobile phone by the White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency. This is the only cellphone he is allowed to use.

#3 No gifts are allowed:   As proper protocol, the first family often exchanges gifts with foreign dignitaries, but these gifts aren’t for the first family to keep, even after leaving office. “These gifts are a sign of respect and reflection of the relationship between the gifting country and United States.” Even if it seems as if the gift is specifically for the President or his family, it is not. It is usually something that has more than minimal value, but is to be “accepted on behalf of and property of the United States.”

#4 Moving day begins at 11 a.m. As soon as the incoming President and his family leave for the Inauguration at 11 a.m., 95 staff members are hurried in to “flip the White House” just in time for the new first family when they return later that evening. “Furniture gets swapped, walls repainted and artwork replaced, all in accordance with the wishes of the incoming first family.” It is a very chaotic, but organized event, and everything is in order when the family arrives that night.

#5 No changes to the Oval Office: Even though the first family is allowed some personal touches and can hire an interior designer to make some alterations, the actual changes are very small compared to the size of the White House. Family members are allowed to “repaint the rooms to their liking” and choose their own bedding, but they can only make changes “on the second and third floors of the White House. The Lincoln Room and the Yellow Oval Room will always continue to remain off-limits because those two rooms are considered historic areas. These two rooms “belong to the American people, not to the families who live there.”


The President of the United States and his family do live a more luxurious lifestyle than most people; however, it comes with a lot of rules and restrictions that most Americans don’t have to follow.

About the author

Sean Smith