Nowadays so many recent grads move back in with Mom and Dad after college that the trend has a catchy name: the Boomerang Generation.
Some grads move back into their childhood bedrooms to pay down student loan debt more quickly, while others do it while they search for a job or save money for grad school, a house purchase, or other goals. Often, it’s a combination of all these factors.
Whatever the reason, going from independent living back to your childhood bedroom and your parents’ rules isn’t easy. We talked to several grads who’ve successfully navigated this transition to get their insights from the trenches.
Value your time with family
After burning through her savings in New York City, Kelly swallowed her pride and moved back in with her parents in Texas several years ago. “I invested a lot in college trying to build up a prestigious resume, only to fall hard once I hit the real world,” she says.
Initially, Kelly felt like a failure, but eventually she saw the silver lining. “It was embarrassing to be living at home again, but once I set that aside, I could reframe the situation and think about the positives,” she says. “For me it was I got to spend more time with family.”
Now that she’s moved away and has less time to visit, Kelly treasures the months-long stint she had with her parents.
Contribute to the household
Although none of the Boomerang Generation we spoke to paid rent to their parents, some parents do charge rent to their working young adults so they don’t take the arrangement for granted.
Even if you’re not paying for rent or utilities so you can pay off debt, make sure you’re contributing in other ways. Kirstin initially felt guilty about moving home after graduating from UCSB, so she volunteered to cook dinner for the three of them.
“I would buy food and cook dinner at least three nights a week and they’d be really great dinners,” she says. “It taught me how to cook for when I moved out.”
Mary moved in with her mother two different times and she would treat her mother to groceries or lunch when she could. Now that she’s moved out and is more financially independent, she treats her mom to spa days for her birthday to show appreciation for living at home.
Save money like you mean it
When your expenses are low and you’re bummed out about living at home, it’s tempting to splurge on bar tabs, trips, or new clothes.
Kelly got a discount at the bookstore where she worked while living at home, so buying books and eating out were her weaknesses. She urges others to “use this opportunity to save as much as you can. Eat at home and take advantage of that opportunity.”
However much money you would have spent on rent and utilities, put that towards student loans or savings before you have a chance to spend it. The more you save, the sooner you can move out. If you travel for work as Kirstin does, use that opportunity to itch the travel bug instead of spending your own money on travel.
Respect their rules
Some parents relax their rules about curfews and guests for Boomerang Kids, but others will always view their kids as kids. If you want to reap the benefits of living at home, you may just have to play by their rules.
“It didn’t matter that I was 23 and I got a job; I was still living under her rules,” Mary says. She recalls one night when she arrived home at 5 a.m. following a farewell party for a friend who was moving to Europe. Mary’s mother had waited up all night and asked her, “Do you think this is a responsible hour to be walking in?”
Mary and her mom clashed about rules several times, but despite the tension, Mary says her mom is still her best friend. In fact, Mary started dating her now-husband while living with her mother, and her mom knew he was the one even before Mary did.
He’d drive an hour to see her, says Mary, adding, “My mom would say to me, ‘This guy’s making an awful lot of effort.’ She didn’t particularly like anyone I brought home, but in him she saw infinite amounts of goodness.”
Don’t get too comfy
For much of the Boomerang Generation, meeting a romantic partner motivates them to move out. “The very thought of getting intimate in one of my mom’s bedrooms seemed so wrong,” Mary says. “The doilies! The doilies!”
After college, Lauren lived with her parents in New Jersey for three years (even sleeping on the bunk bed she’d once shared with her sister). Once she’d paid off her student loans, her parents announced that they were thinking about charging her rent. That gave her the impetus to move out because she figured if she was paying rent, she might as well enjoy her independence.
If you have a timeline of when your debt will be under control or when you’ll have enough saved up, that can make the rules more tolerable rather than feeling like a life sentence.
“It was worth dealing with that inconvenience to be debt-free today,” Lauren says. “I’ve bought a house because I was able to pay off my student loans so soon, and I have friends that are still paying them off.”
On the fence about moving home? Check out this guide to see if moving in with your parents is the right choice for you.
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