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What ‘Broke Millennial’ Says About Living With Parents

Here's the advice this popular Gen Y blogger gives her cohort


(Excerpted from BROKE MILLENNIAL by Erin Lowry with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2017 by Erin Lowry.)

Instead of relishing my last days of college in 2011, I started to panic and applied for any job in decent driving distance from my parents’ house. An off-hand comment from my dad during a trip over winter break kept playing on a loop in my head: “Well, you’ll have to pay rent if you return to living at home after graduating.”

My dad put my overanxious mind slightly at ease with an offer to give me a three-month runway before beginning to charge me rent in September, when I normally would’ve been returning to school. He also assured me that rent would not be market price, but a small stipend based on an affordable ratio of whatever salary I started earning.

I never wound up having to pay rent, because I got a job in New York, though you can bet that threat motivated me to get myself employed fast. Other Millennials, however, do wind up back home temporarily. If you’re the parent of one, here’s the advice I give my fellow Gen Y’ers:

I genuinely believe that your parents don’t owe you a place to crash, especially after you turn 18 and are legally an adult.

Don’t take advantage of your parents’ kindness. “I offered to help in any way I could, whether it be shuttling my youngest sister around, running errands, or performing other miscellaneous tasks,” Emelia Patterson, who wasn’t asked to pay rent, emphasized. She also assumed financial responsibility for her cell phone, insurance, and pet cat while living at home.

Bryan Clark, who returned to his parents’ home and has wound up there for nearly three years, also looks for options in which he can contribute to the household in non-financial ways. He does chores, never asks for spending money, and gets up at a reasonable hour each day so as to be a productive member of the household.

If you’re not paying rent, do every favor that’s asked of you. I genuinely believe that your parents don’t owe you a place to crash, especially after you turn 18 and are legally an adult. I encourage parents to charge boomerang Millennials rent (a reasonable $100 a month or less if the child is working part-time) and I urge my fellow Gen Y’ers to pay up without complaint.

But if you’re not paying rent, proactively handle errands your parents would be more than happy to offload, such as: walking the dogs; cooking family meals a few times a week; doing the laundry; cleaning the house and driving your siblings to activities

Keep your room clean, if that’s your parents’ preference.

Respect your parents’ schedules. Don’t make a ton of noise when they’re trying to sleep.

Don’t ask for entertainment money.

Pay for the bills you can afford to cover. That could be your own groceries, your cell phone, your Netflix subscription, your car payment and your car insurance.

Be nice! Don’t revert back to being a sullen teenager.

Follow Their Rules

Their house, their rules. It’s an obnoxious expression that feels like something a preacher in an ’80s rom-com should be yelling at his daughter who just wants to dance. Yeah, that may be the plot of Footloose, but the sentiment is valid. If you’re living back at home, then you’re subject to the laws your parents see fit to dictate.

However, you should have an open dialogue with your parents about treating you as an adult instead of a high school kid. That is, of course, if you’re acting like one.

Should you have a curfew? Hopefully not. But perhaps you negotiate no curfew if you check in at certain times to prevent your mom from lying awake at night wondering if you’ve flipped your car into a ditch.

My Action List for Making the Most of Living at Home

Now here’s my five-point Action List for making the most of living at home:

1. This isn’t an excuse for mindless spending. It’s easy to get into that trap when you don’t have many expenses. Instead, you could do what one Millennial I know did and direct deposit 50 percent of every paycheck into savings and use the other 50 percent to pay your bills and have fun.

2. Finding a job is your job. “I’m usually awake, dressed, and working on job applications and work-search activities no later than 9 a.m.,” said Clark, who also likes that this routine keeps his body accustomed to traditional working hours.

3. Say “Yes” to every favor. It could be picking up your sibling from soccer practice or helping to paint the house — just do it. If you have more of a tenant situation worked out, well, that might change the relationship to a landlord-renter dynamic. You could just decide to help your parents anyway.

4. You can still date. But it takes a lot of the awkwardness out if you understand and respect your parents’ rules. Don’t try to be sneaking people in and out of your childhood bedroom if that’s not cool with your roommates — aka your parents. You should probably also mention to your dates relative early on in a relationship that you live at home.

5. Have a plan and talk it over with your parents. Walk your parents through your career strategy, your anticipated timeline for leaving, and the proactive steps you’re taking to strike out on your own. Keeping them in the loop from the beginning will help keep the nagging during family dinners at bay, especially if you have a younger sibling who’s showing you up.

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By Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry is a personal finance blogger known as Broke Millennial and author of the new book, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. She specializes in helping Millennials get their financial life together.

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