Four years of independence at college is more and more frequently ending in a return to "the nest" after graduation. According to the Pew Research Center, 36% of young adults ages 18 to 31 were living with their parents in 2012. At that time, I was blissfully entering my junior year of college living in an apartment with four other girls after spending the summer 20 hours away from home in Colorado.
In 2014, I am a graduate reluctantly but gratefully living with my parents in the bedroom I painted when I was 18, right before I left.
It's good to know that I am one of over 20 million young adults still living at home, and even better to know that 64% of my generation has managed to move out. Moving home is a temporary solution for me, but while I'm there I'd like it to go as smoothly as possible. I've come up with 3 steps so that everyone involved can maintain their sanity.
Step 1: Respect Your Parents
I know, it sounds cliché, but it's true! Things will go much smoother if you give your parents the credit they deserve for letting you move back in, whether it's rent-free or not. Here are a few easy ways to do this:
- Clean up after yourself. Try to contain your mess to your bedroom, if at all possible.
- Do chores around the house. Wash the dishes, vacuum the rug, clean the litter, do a load of laundry. Even cook dinner occasionally (since I'm a vegetarian, my mother won't touch anything I make, but my father loves it).
- Give your parents space to maintain their routines. If they watch the news every night at 10, don't claim the TV to watch The Walking Dead.
- Still be involved in their lives. If your dad has coffee every Saturday morning on the porch, join him with your tea and ask about his work week.
- Help out with home improvement projects. Has your mom always wanted a vegetable garden? Maybe your dad wants to build a fire pit. Find out what they want to do and help them out with it. It will make you feel more at home and the help will be appreciated.
- A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to treat your parents like you would a roommate. Your college roommate wouldn't wash your dishes or make your bed, so you shouldn't expect your parents to, either, even though they might have done those things for you growing up. You're an adult now, and you can have an adult relationship with your parents if you choose to. If you treat them with respect, you'll find they're more likely to respect you as the adult you've become.
Step 2: Don't Blow All Your Money
Just because you may not be paying rent doesn't mean your income is entirely disposable. Creating a budget and a savings plan is essential. Not just for the present, but also for moving out in the (hopefully very near) future.
- Create a budget: onlinecollege.org has a great infographic for college grads. You may need to adjust it (you probably won't need to use 40% of your income for housing and utilities), but you may be paying rent to your parents. Use the rest of that money for loans or saving.
- In six months if you have student loans, those will come due. You have the option to begin paying those back earlier, and if you have the income to do so, I would. That way you'll be used to paying them by the time you move out, and you'll have a head start on your payments.
- If you haven't already taken over cell phone bills or insurance payments, now is the time to do so. Take yourself off your parents' cell phone plan when it's up and begin making your own payments.
- If you're no longer on your parents — medical insurance or you no longer want to be (remember, you'll age out of your parents' plan at 26 anyway), you have other options. Short-term medical insurance can cover you for things like hospitalizations, surgeries, and emergency room visits. Read this article on our blog for more information on short-term medical insurance.
- *Note, however, short-term medical insurance is not minimum essential coverage required under the Affordable Care Act, and you may be subject to tax penalties if you do not acquire ACA-compliant coverage for at least nine months out of the year.
Step 3: Have a Plan
No one wants to live at home forever, and having a plan to move out is a great way to make sure you don't get too comfortable living at home. In addition to saving your money, here are a few other important things to remember:
- Regularly apply for jobs. You're never going to get a full-time job if you don't apply for one. Even if you have to work multiple part time jobs, or a string of internships, it all adds up to experience, networking opportunities, and a more impressive resume. If you need help figuring out where to look, check out this article on our blog.
- Make a timeline. Set a tentative date for when you would like to move out. Sticking to a plan and setting a date can help keep you accountable and will make moving out seem more like a realistic goal rather than just a far-off wish.
- Build a budget that will allow you to save enough and be making enough money to live on. A good guide for moving out — no matter what your budget is — can be found here.
- Don't get discouraged, and remember you are not alone — twenty million of your peers are in similar situations. You may not find your dream job right away, but remember, any job you have will help you build connections, grow your resume, and give you valuable life experience, if not experience in the field you want.