Living with your parents as an adult is a savvy money move, but it's still awkward. We can't stop your mom from waiting up for you, but these steps can ease some of the stress of living at home.

Are you moving back in with your parents?

You’re not alone. Although money-related matters seem to be improving for Millennials lately, there are just as many 20-somethings (and some 30-somethings) living at home with their parents as there were during the lowest point of the Great Recession, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

There are a lot of different theories about what’s causing this phenomenon. Some blame student loans — it’s hard to afford rent when you have to shell out hundreds of dollars each month. Others say it’s too hard for Millennials to qualify for mortgages. (Or that we just aren’t as eager to buy homes as older generations).

For some, “boomeranging” is just good money management: Saving on rent for a few years can jump start your savings and be a big head start when you do get a place of your own.

Finally, for some, like the Italian Americans I grew up with, living at home with your parents until you get married (or at least until you’ve saved up thousands of dollars for a car and nice a apartment) is a cultural norm — even if you do have a good job.

Regardless of the causes, if living with parents after college is the new normal, how do you do it without going insane? Here are a few ideas for making it work:

Talk about expectations regarding food

When I lived with my parents after college, I resented having to eat dinner with them every night (in retrospect, I was an idiot — my mom is an amazing cook).

But it never occurred to me to just buy my own food. If I had, I wouldn’t have felt obligated to eat with them every night.

“If you want your parents to be like roommates, treat the house and the people living in it with all the respect that other people deserve,” says Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, L.M.F.T & L.C.P.C., and Founder of Sara Schwarzbaum & Associates. “That means cleaning up and sharing when it comes to buying and making food.”

According to Dr. Schwarzbaum, who is also a Professor and Coordinator for the Family Counseling Program at Northeastern Illinois University, it’s essential you have an adult conversation with your parents about food and household management.

Talk to your parents about what grocery items they expect you to purchase; if there are food items that you like but they don’t — buy those yourself.

Shop wisely. The more you save, the earlier you can move out. You can compare the cost of items at major retailers at MySupermarket.

Or, if you hate going to the store, try an online service like Boxed.com (an affiliate of our site) which will ship discount groceries right to your door.

If you use their car, contribute to keeping it running

Even if filling up the car occasionally feels expensive, imagine how much it would cost to pay rent each month. Paying for some of the gas on a car you share with your parents can be a nice gesture of gratitude — and it can help you get used to the types of expenses you won’t be able to avoid after you move out.

Financially, it’s not much more than a token expense. But it can help you use the car more often without feeling like a freeloader. Using the car more means getting out of the house more which, by itself, could be the key to happiness under your parents’ roof in your twenties.

If you’re dating, stay over at their place

Your dating habits will have a big effect on your parents regardless of where you live. If you’re sharing the same house as them, it’s going to have the biggest effect possible, especially since they’ll be aware of many more details than if you were a few states away.

“Think about it in the reverse: If you were divorced or single and you lived with your children, would you be bringing every date to your bedroom? Or will you be more selective in whom you introduce to your children?” Dr. Schwarzbaum says.

“Just as children don’t want to know if and when their parents are having sex, parents don’t need to know when their children do either.”

Make an exit plan

Living with your parents can be a great way to save up and prepare for the rest of your life — it can also be addictive. Saving on big expenses like rent and utilities can be so liberating that it’s hard to give up. But just like any addiction, even as you enjoy the payoff, your life can get waylaid indefinitely.

Stay focused on your exit plan, and remind yourself that living with your parents is a means to an end, not a permanent solution.

  • Develop a detailed plan about how much money you’ll need before moving out.
  • Check on your progress weekly.
  • As you approach your target, set a move-out date and tell people about it (this will help keep you honest).
  • When the day comes, stick to your decision and take the plunge.

And when you think you can’t stand another moment under your parents’ roof, take deep breaths and remember that you’re not alone. “Living under the same roof with another human being is always challenging, whether it is your parents or not,” Dr. Schwarzbaum says.

Summary

Although economic indicators for Millennials are improving, almost just as many young adults are living at home with their parents as there were during the Great Recession. If you want your parents to treat you like an adult, try the following:

  • Talk about what your parents expect from you, and about what you expect from them, especially when it comes to household chores and mealtimes.
  • Pay as much of your share as you can, especially if you are using their car and eating their food.
  • Keep your parents sheltered from your dating life as much as possible — for their sake and yours.
  • Develop, and stick to a plan, for moving out.

Read more:

If you’re living with your parents — or just considering it — use our resources to make the most of moving back home (who knows, you might actually enjoy it):

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About the author

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Patty Lamberti is a freelance writer and Professional-in-Residence at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches journalism and oversees the graduate program in digital media storytelling. If she doesn't know something about money, you can trust she'll track down the right people to find out. You can learn more about her at www.pattylamberti.com. And if you have any story ideas, or questions about money etiquette that you'd like her or an expert to answer, email her at [email protected]