Dear Diary: I live at home and I’m still broke — Part I

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Living at home post undergrad has many rewards.

If you were fortunate to have parents like mine, where rent-free is the name of their game, you might agree that it's like winning the lotto! After a contract I was working on changed due to mutual agreement, I ended a job with the hope of tackling personal and business ventures.

Technically, I wasn't broke because I had no job. I was broke because I was living rent-free and making poor money decisions. So there I was, suddenly back in the four sky-blue walls of the room where I'd spent the majority of my high-school years, trying to convince myself that, with more than $1,000 in my savings account, I could get by for six months and get my finances totally in order from the new gigs and business opportunities that would come my way.

The reality was, I was living in a space no larger than the size of a typical freshman dorm, and I found myself stressing over my new life of penny-pinching and cooking for plus one, twos, and threes.

So yes, I live at home. With my parents. Under one roof. And I was spending more money than necessary. But I learned a lot during my time at home — even though I fell, almost predictably, for many of the pitfalls of 20-somethings. Not “cutting your coat to your own size” was my primary downfall.


Related: 10 Money Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s


Little did I know that living at home can be a nightmare to your finances. But that's what unbridled, unconscious, unnecessary spending on things you think your bank account can handle can do to you. By Month 5, my accounts were crying. Literally. And it's only after all of that, that I came to grips with the fact that I had to do something.

Month 1: #Pridebelike

I immediately cancelled all the automatic weekly deposits to my savings accounts. No cash flow, so no savings. No savings, so spend it!

Wrong.

Young women out to lunch

Back at home in my room, confident as ever, I knew I would be able to support myself and my lifestyle with my cushiony savings account. The $10 lunches three times a week continued.

And it was okay, at first. Then I realized I can cook to save the $30 a week.

In my family, there's no names on food in our refrigerator. That's because of an unwritten rule that whoever cooks must cook for the family of four.

My parents would call for errands that involved gas, money, and time away from the hustle of trying to get a full-time gig or, at the least, a client meeting. Who likes going to the grocery store three times a week? I just knew it was okay because they would reimburse me, right?

Wrong again.

Pride wouldn't let me ask for my money back. #Pridebelike “We are at negative $350 at this point!” But never mind. I realized my parents were not the cause of my irresponsible spending.


Related: The benefits of paying yourself first


Months 2 and 3: Emotional Spending

The majority of my #Truelifeimbroke decisions came from emotion. Wanting to have lunch with old friends and venting to my girlfriends over $5 lattes at Starbucks made everything feel better for me. It can be rather satisfying to express your jobless woes to people who are close to you. One friend even suggested I apply for unemployment.

At first, pride wouldn't let me do it. Then I tried it and got denied.

I completely took out spending on clothes and shoes. No more trips to Macy's or Forever 21. With $650 left, what better way to spend it than by treating myself?

I still felt I deserved to enjoy the happiness of my newfound freedom. So what's a girl to do when her birthday is around the corner? Book a 4-star hotel room for two days, that's what! I put $313 toward my birthday peace and tranquility, in a room all by myself.

You can't have a hotel without room service, so food was ordered. And movies. And Internet. And gas. And… Yeah, a total of $370 blew by in 48 hours.

The thing about emotional spending is that instant gratification goes away very quickly. You aren't satisfied with your current situation, so you think spending will make it all better — when, in fact, you've just applied a temporary band-aid to your un-managed finances as if it would help stop the bleed. As I sat and ate my birthday meal and watched romantic comedies, I thought, “Well, at least I'm not at home spending for a family of four.”

Month 4: Spend in the Cause of … Taxes

Living in a suburban setting around swimming pools, private tennis courts and neighbors who vacation in Bora Bora makes your eyes bigger than your wallet. The folks I live around give so much money to charities and causes that are dear to them, and I decided to do the same. On a spiritual high one day, I donated money to a couple Go Fund Me campaigns. My sole intent was to seek my reward come tax season.

That was like hitting myself backwards. It doesn't make sense. When tax season came around, I was excited to let my tax lady know I had donated money. But come to find out, I donated under $1,000, so I wouldn't be getting the return on my investment that I expected.

This reminded me that my intention and priority for my money was out of order. Just as much as I loved giving to those campaigns, I equally enjoy good food and have refined taste for something new. As a self-proclaimed foodie and chef, I love to cook new dishes just as much as I like buying them. The time came for me to have a neighborly barbeque, which meant MONEY! I spent a cool $100 bucks buying barbeque food for a group of 10. I actually thought I was doing good. A hundred bucks isn't that bad. But when you have $280 bucks left in your account… Well, let's just say that every penny counts.


Related: Money Moves For Graduates: How To Set Up A Budget


Month 5: #Desperatehousegirl

The time came to have a heart-to-heart moment with myself. I had $180 left in my account, a couple gigs in sight, but still no steady cash flow. As if I hadn't learned a single lesson from the previous months, I took another stab at eating out no questions asked.

My debit card had rewards credited back to me if I spent at local food vendors. Spending $10 at Corner Bakery to get $1.00 back in credit made so much sense! And I did that every week. By this time, living at home and being broke wasn't cute anymore. So I finally froze my spending … at $16.89.

Five months of money mishaps actually taught me a lot. For one, really understanding the value of money is becoming increasingly important to me. Having to penny-pinch taught me how to establish boundaries and set priorities effectively. Even saying NO! to a request that involves money has been emotionally freeing for me. Money woes are real for 20-somethings, and I'd love to hear your experiences … similar or otherwise.

What are some other pitfalls to look out for when trying to manage your finances? How do you tackle your emotional relationship with money?

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Jerome
Jerome
3 years ago

Imagine how much you would have learned if your parents had not taken you in! And you having to actually live your own life, instead of dreaming about “business ventures”.
Three months of that and you would know enough to start a real business. So move out, rent a cheap place or even share, start working in ANY job you can get your hands on, learn to cook and live cheaply. Stop having “a refined taste” for something new. And use that REAL experience to restart your life.

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jerome

Agreed Jerome! Sounds like you might be a business owner yourself? Stay tuned for lessons- a part 2! 😉

Jerome
Jerome
3 years ago
Reply to  Fatia K.

No I am no business-owner. I was lucky enough that in the early 90s I had to very strictly plan my finances. We had emigrated and had a very tight financial situation for 9 months or so. And in addition I wanted to pay of a debt in my home-country as fast as possible. While playing with my plan-spreadsheet I realised to my surprise that if I continued being frugal and learned how to invest that it was realistic to become financially independent. And that actually worked out fine. I am now 51 years old and a ‘man of leisure’… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing. It would have been great to include examples supporting that you learned your lesson from the earlier mistakes. Did you get your savings back up? Or did you learn your lesson by default simply because you had no more money to spend? Did you track how much money you spent on the “family of four”. You mentioned the family several times so it must have been an important factor for you; hopefully you have an idea of how much you were actually spending. I also live at home while renting my house out (and lived at… Read more »

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Wow! You really hit it home here! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment. I took note of the getting the job, any job to support myself, build up a great chunk of money and still pursue my endeavors. Thank you thank you thank you! Stay tuned for a part 2 😉

G
G
3 years ago

I think mine was that I had all the time in the world to make money so why stress about it now. Of course by the time I was 30 reality hit me hard, but late in all aspects. I lost 10 years of potential savings and earnings. I made up to it thank God but not many would be able to to.

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  G

Thanks for your comment! Glad you came to the realization. Stay tuned for part 2 😉

stellamarina
stellamarina
3 years ago

Speaking as an older parent….even if parents give you a free place to stay you would certainly be expected to contribute financially to the cost of living…..after all….you are an adult and do have a job. I think it would be best to have some certain boundaries on it so everybody understands and you are staying in budget….eg….you cook and buy the meat etc for two days a week or you buy the milk and bread etc.

kiki
kiki
3 years ago

Maybe you could consider putting aside being an entrepreneur and just get a job, any job. CVS? McDonalds? The grocery store? When I was in your position, I’d never worked retail or restaurant, so I got temp office jobs. At one point, I was juggling four jobs. While none were my dream job, I got to taste a lot of different businesses, and learned a lot about running a business from the people I worked for. All while getting paid. Eventually, I got a full-time job not in my degree area, but they had these new machines called computers. No… Read more »

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  kiki

Great story! Thanks for sharing.

Savenospend
Savenospend
3 years ago

Stunningly entitled. I’ve worked a full time job and ran two side businesses. Did indeed have to pay the landlord and grew up. One business became a full time job and I sold it about 15 years ago. I am amazed at how people just expect to pad their own pockets on their parent’s backs until they “figure it out”. If you qualify for unemployment, take it. It’s patently stupid not to and to shift the burden onto your parents. Honestly. This site has winnowed down to a vapor of information and laughable millennial nonsensical horse manure. You should have… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
3 years ago
Reply to  Savenospend

“If you qualify for unemployment, take it. It’s patently stupid not to and to shift the burden onto your parents” I agree with a lot of your post, but I don’t agree here. If family is willing and able to help, then people should allow them to and not burden the government as a first resort in every situation. The decision should be on the family if they will continue assistance, and their willingness to help doesn’t indicate “stupidity” in the beneficiary. Sometimes pride can make you stupid. Even though taking unemployment no longer has the stigma it used to,… Read more »

BD
BD
3 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

“If family is willing and able to help, then people should allow them to and not burden the government as a first resort in every situation.”

Thank you Imoot! I’m glad someone sees that the government is not to be used as a first-option handout. If everyone just relied on the government instead of exhausting all other options first, then the people who really need the help probably won’t get it.

Savenospend
Savenospend
3 years ago
Reply to  BD

Uh, no. All this knee jerk about “guvmint” spending is wrong. The company pays insurance. It IS there to help people. Instead of mooching off the parents, she should be grabbing temp jobs, flipping burgers, and doing any number of cost cutting things instead of investing in GoFundMe crap. I don’t know why people don’t accept that unemployment insurance is there for a reason. This short reasoned mentality gives up to robber barons who think it’s ok to not pay people living wages and not pay unemployment insurance. I don’t believe that people comprehend how they kowtow to corporate interests… Read more »

Jenn
Jenn
3 years ago
Reply to  Savenospend

Wow – you said it! I held back since I’m no longer 20-something. I thought maybe a LOT of wisdom came to me over the years since I couldn’t relate.

But wait! This is only ‘part 1’! You get to look forward to part 2.

Kate
Kate
3 years ago
Reply to  Jenn

I wonder, was this article meant to be humorous? Maybe we are all taking it too literally??

Rail
Rail
3 years ago
Reply to  Savenospend

It’s been a long time since I have posted anything but Savenospend is spot on. It’s hard to believe that Gen-X is middle age now and we are getting to be “Fogeys” but the original poster just makes no sense to me. I thought this site was about how to be frugal and wise with money, not carping about how tough it is finding a job that pays 200K a year typing blogs at 23 years old. Here is my advice on how to get back on your feet while living with ma & pa. Get a job, (ya’ know,… Read more »

RetirementBuff
RetirementBuff
3 years ago

I don’t wish to be harsh but this is a poorly structured piece of writing. It is hard to imagine that such ineffective communication would get a person through a graduate education and/or gain one steady freelance work. It would benefit from revising the organization and argument. This sentence demonstrates much of what is wrong with the author’s analysis. “Technically, I wasn’t broke because I had no job. I was broke because I was living rent-free and making poor money decisions.” There is nothing technical about this assertion and a lot that is incredibly skewed. Quitting a job and living… Read more »

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  RetirementBuff

Thank you for your analysis.

Latoya @ Femme Frugality
Latoya @ Femme Frugality
3 years ago

This is where a good accountability partner might have been helpful. As long as someone is holding us accountable to do better, we seem to have better results than we would otherwise.

TMak
TMak
3 years ago

I think this piece was very bold to put out there by the author who is in her 20s and isnt afraid to confront her mistakes and areas where she can do better. i think back to when i was in my 20s, i was so much worse than what was put out here. Keep seeking ways to better yourself…often times lack of a job leads to some of the best entrepreneurship out there. Take the constructive criticism from some of the previous responses, and simply ignore some of the overly harsh responses. Dont let anybody ever try to put… Read more »

Fatia K.
Fatia K.
3 years ago
Reply to  TMak

Thank You for your kind words! I appreciate it.

Tom F 75
Tom F 75
3 years ago
Reply to  TMak

As a former 20-something who wasn’t able to move out until 27, I feel the author’s pain. My situation was also compounded by growing up in one of the most expensive metro areas in the country (Long Island). I know for me personally the situation contributed to some added depression and the feeling of being on a treadmill I couldn’t escape. I was making reasonable money ($32K in the late 90’s) but subtract $150 for student loans, $175 for car pmt, $125 for phone/cable, 6% for 401k, helping out w/the family grocery bill and reasonable expenses for clothing, going out… Read more »

Raymond Mills
Raymond Mills
3 years ago

You’ll please forgive me if I have a hard time having sympathy for someone living at home complaining about money. I’ve got 2 kids sitting near me in the office with well over $100k in student loans and their own apartments…

Them I’d listen too…

Wasiu
Wasiu
3 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experience with finances.For me,the key to financial stability is discipline.Obvioulsy, cooking at home is more economical than eating out.If you had strategised around eating at home more, you would have saved more money while you keep searching for another job.More so,living rent-free with one’s parent takes away the sense of responsibility.I hope you get a great job soonest.
Cheers

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