Whether you’re seeking more autonomy — or your parents are just sick of having you around — it’s time to learn how to take care of yourself.
But it’s not easy to just jump out of the nest and fly successfully into adulthood. You should create a plan and prepare as far ahead as you can.
Here are 13 things you need to do to help you cut the financial cord and get on with your adult life.
1. Start With Prevention
Start earning, saving and managing your own money in high school or college.
Whether or not you can land your dream job or something in your degree field after college, start working to build income, grow your network and gain experience.
Don’t consider moving back in with your parents a “fall-back” option if you don’t have to.
If you live with your parents part- or full-time while you’re in college or starting your first job, start contributing to the household. This is a simple, safe way to begin to understand living expenses and budgeting for them.
Work your way up to equally contributing for rent, food and utilities, just like you’re living with roommates.
Your parents might not actually be sick of supporting you or unable to afford it anymore. Even if they’re more than happy to help you out, you should still contribute.
Most likely, you’ll eventually have to move out and fend for yourself. Help your parents help you learn how to do that by paying your fair share now.
2. Set Goals
Don’t let adulthood catch you by surprise. Set financial goals, and share them with your parents so they can help you meet them.
By what age do you want to be financially independent? And by what age do they want to be independent of you?
How much money do you want to have saved — or be earning — before you take on full financial responsibility?
3. Understand the Drawbacks of Financial Dependence
Yeah, it’s great to have your bills paid for you. It’s nice to go to school or look for your dream job without worrying about bringing in money.
But this freedom comes with a huge drawback you might not realize until it’s too late: You won’t build any credit without bills, credit cards or loans in your own name.
Aside from the obvious difficulties of getting loans for a home or car, bad or no credit can make it difficult to even rent an apartment.
And it’ll mean higher deposits when you rent or lease anything — from a car to your next iPhone.
4. Start Building Credit While You Have a Safety Net
A smart way to start building credit while you’re still living at home is signing up for a secured credit card.
It’s “like a credit card with training wheels,” according to Money Girl at Quick and Dirty Tips.
With a secured credit card, you’ll pay a deposit that determines your card limit.
You’ll receive a monthly bill, just like with any credit card, and you can build positive credit if you pay at least the minimum amount due each month.
5. Stop Taking an Allowance
If you’re still being paid an allowance for basic household chores, tell your parents to stop.
Learn to do chores like laundry and dishes for the sake of keeping a clean house — that’s adulthood (don’t worry, it’s not all bad).
Instead, negotiate with your parents to do the kinds of chores they’d pay other people to do, Money Girl recommends. If they need someone to paint the house, landscape the yard or clean the pool, apply for the job!
6. Start Adulting With Good Financial Habits
Get in the habit of managing your money wisely, even when you don’t have a lot to manage.
Start tracking your income and expenses as soon as they become regular.
And start saving money with your first job, even if it’s only a little bit.
Automate your savings wherever you can, so you don’t even have to think about them. Allocate parts of your paycheck to separate bank savings accounts, or through digital savings apps like Acorns and Digit.
Contribute to your workplace 401(k) if you have one, or open an IRA to start saving on your own.
7. Cut the Cord(s) One by One
If you plan ahead and address financial issues honestly with your parents, you can move steadily toward financial independence, rather than immediately lose all support when they can no longer afford you.
Make a list of all the ways you rely on your parents for money. Then ask them to contribute to the list — they’ll probably think of a few more you missed.
Work with them to set goals and create a plan for slowly taking over your expenses.
8. Save for Mortgage/Rent Payments in Advance
The cost of housing is probably one of the biggest slaps to the face in adulthood.
All that freedom you’ve been itching for comes with one gigantic price tag.
If you can, start saving before you need it. When you get your first job in high school or college, start setting aside small amounts of money from each paycheck.
Ideally, save up two to three months’ living expenses before you have to move out. (See below for what to include on top of rent.)
9. Budget for (ALL the) Utilities
When you move into your first apartment, it’s easy to look at the rental price when deciding what you can afford.
Next to that, everything else seems miniscule, so you probably think you can swing it.
But every little expense adds up, and you have to account for all of it. Ask your parents which bills they pay each month — you might be surprised by what you’ve overlooked!
In addition to rent, housing costs usually include:
- heat (in regions where this isn’t included with electricity)
- trash/recycling/compost pickup
- cable and/or Internet
- (cell) phone
10. Learn the Real Cost of Food
While you’re living at home, start buying your own groceries.
This isn’t a matter of whether your parents can afford to feed you. It’s a matter of learning to fend for yourself.
Buying your own groceries will force you to budget for them and learn how much your staple foods cost.
This is also a good area to start paying your own way, a smart step towards fully supporting yourself.
11. Budget for Car Maintenance Before You Need It
Your parents may have covered the cost of your first car, but you’ll eventually have to take over the financial burden.
Work your way up to taking over loan and/or insurance payments, and set aside money for future maintenance.
It’s an extremely boring thing to think about, but you’ll be happy for your emergency fund when you’re faced with unexpected car trouble.
If you don’t have a car, budget for public transportation. A $2-$3 fare at a time might not seem like much, but paying it twice each day can eat away at your wallet.
12. Pay for Your Own Entertainment
Are you on a family plan for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, Pandora and your cell phone?
Do you ever think about the cost of these services?
They each seem like a killer deal at $8 to $15 a month, but they pile up. If you suddenly have to cover the cost of all of your entertainment, you might find a huge hole in your monthly budget.
It’s also not fair to leave the house and stick your parents with the bill for all your subscriptions you still use.
Negotiate with family members to split the cost of any subscriptions you want to share. (Also note the restrictions on the number of devices for the plans you’re using.)
13. Figure Out Health Insurance Now
If you’re in your 20s, health insurance may be one of the last financial cords you cut with your parents.
If their insurance plan covers dependents, you can usually stay on or be added to it until you’re 26.
If that’s not an option and you don’t have a workplace health insurance plan, Healthcare.gov offers tons of information on how to sign up for health insurance.
It’s more than “Obamacare” or whatever you’ve heard in various media about the ill-fated government website.
Here’s a walkthrough on how to get insurance specifically for people under 30.
Your Turn: Do you struggle to gain financial independence from your parents? What do you wish you could do? If you’ve worked through it, what tips would you add?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.