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Grown Children and Parents Cohabitating to Save Money

I know that by now you’re all familiar with my move to Texas [1]. But I’m not 100% sure that I mentioned that I’ve actually moved back in with my parents. Since my parents moved houses while I was in college, it’s not exactly the room that I grew up in – but it’s pretty close!

Making the Decision

I’ve always known that when I left DC I would probably move back home, if only temporarily. I’ve never really lived in my hometown as an adult, so I wasn’t sure what part of the city I would want to live in. It would be difficult to find and rent an apartment from across the country. Plus, the housing market here is such that I can probably afford to buy a place sooner than later – so I didn’t want to waste money renting unless it was absolutely necessary and/or an apartment that I loved for a great price.

My parents were always very gracious about allowing me to move home. They knew it would make the relocation easier, plus save me a ton of money both during and after the move. Since I wasn’t getting my own place, I could sell all my furniture [2] in DC, and avoid moving it OR buying replacements. In addition, I’m avoiding rent and utility bills – a huge savings given the DC rental market [3], and a big help since I needed to find the cash [4] to buy a car [5] and pay for related expenses.

The Boomerang Child

Over the past few years, lots [6] of websites and news articles have been buzzing about the phenomenon of the “boomerang child” –  a child that returns home after college or even some years of living on their own. This phenomenon has grown in the light of the recent recession – many children simply can’t find jobs that pay enough to support themselves, so they come back to mom and dad.

I don’t exactly consider myself a boomerang child, and I don’t think my parents do either. I make more than enough money to support myself – I’ve done so for four years in a much more expensive city. But we all recognize that I could save some mega cash by staying here for even a few months. While I know of at least one family friend who thinks I’m too old to live at home, it’s an arrangement that has so far worked out for all of us. I’m still working through things like how to fit a whole apartment’s worth of stuff into one bedroom (and, um, borrowing some space in my brother’s room – thanks bro!), but in general I’ve been thrilled with the decision and experienced a relatively easy transition.

Tips for Cohabitation

If you are a parent or a child considering cohabitation, consider the following:

  1. Set some ground rules. Part of the reason my living at home has worked out so well is because I’m a pretty low-key and generally responsible person. I save money diligently [7] so we won’t get into a situation where my parents are essentially subsidizing a lavish lifestyle [8]. I spend a lot of time with my family anyway, and would do so even if I wasn’t sleeping in my parents’ house every night. I don’t go out and party a lot (or…really ever), and never get home past 12 or so if I am out. I would imagine that adult children with an active social life and/or no job could cause a few more issues for their parents than I have for mine. If parents expect children home by a certain time, to save a certain amount of money or to contribute to household chores beyond keeping their own room/bathroom clean, that needs to be stated up front. Parents have the right to require pretty much anything of someone living in their home  – and children have the right to refuse to follow parental rules after a certain age, but only if they’re also willing to completely support themselves in a separate residence! One note on this: my personal opinion is that everyone should be entitled to a certain amount of privacy, even if they are living at home. But others disagree [9], which is a perfectly fair position, especially if the parents provide financial support to the child beyond a place to live.
  2. Work out space issues. If certain places need to be designated family space vs personal space, do so. Make sure everybody feels like they have enough physical and emotional space to keep their own life. Decide where the child’s things will go – if separate storage space is necessary, the child should pay for it if possible. For my part, I was glad to be able to keep things like kitchen wares in their boxes in a corner of our garage. I don’t need them here, but it’s nice to know they’re all packed up and ready whenever the time comes to move again!
  3. Work out the finances ahead of time. Living at home is saving me some money, but my hope was that it would also help my parents out a tiny bit – after all, taking on a renter or roommate is always a good way to save money on housing [10]!  My personal belief is that living together works out the best when the child can save money without costing the parents much (if any) money. As I  mentioned above saving money by lowering expenses should also translate to actually putting money into a savings account (or paying off debt or otherwise improving the child’s overall financial picture) – and the parents should feel free to make this a condition of the cohabitation if the child might otherwise spend it on nothing. The whole situation gets a lot trickier when parents are providing partial or full support. Adult children living at home should at least offer to pay a small amount of rent – even $100 or $200 a month can go a long way toward increasing the household budget without being a major burden on the child. At the very least, the child needs to cover increased utilities such as water. All parties should also agree on things like meals – will the child pay for all their own meals? Contribute to household grocery bills? Something else entirely? Whatever it is, it should be established up front and stuck to by both parties.
  4. Have some idea of an end-date. We all agreed that I would live at home for at least a few weeks when I first moved – long enough to figure out where I wanted to rent, if I did decide to do so. But we also agreed that I could stay here semi-indefinitely if it was working out for everyone. That being said, I know that I’d like to buy a house [11] sooner than later. Some work and life events are preventing me from doing so right this minute – I won’t know for at least a year if I’m going to settle in the city long term. But once those things are worked out, I will be moving to my own place, whether it’s a rental or something that I purchase. At the most, I plan to be home for two years – an amount of time that we’re all comfortable with. For others, a shared house might only be comfortable for a few months. Regardless, set expectations for everyone ahead of time. Parents should feel free to be firm with the children if they don’t move out within the agreed-upon time frame!
  5. Do what works for you. I got some raised eyebrows when I told friends I was moving home, and I’m sure my parents did too. We like being together and keep similar enough schedules that this works for us. So don’t worry about people will say or think, or the reasons behind your decision to have parents and adult children live together. In some cases it might be to help the child stay afloat, in others to take care of ailing parents or help them save money – whatever it is, the right living arrangement is the one that works for you.