7 Cringe-Worthy (But Common) Mistakes to Avoid When You Move Back Home

Two parents and their adult daughter smile at the camera outside of there home.
Getty Images

These past nine months have been weird.

No, I didn’t have a baby — I moved back home with my folks.

My decision was easy: I’d secured my first full-time job with benefits. And it was a writing job — amazing. The office was situated less than five miles from my childhood home.

Additionally, I’m really close with my parents. After venturing out on my own for six years, the move back was welcomed — might I say, encouraged.

Plus, I’m saving a ton of money.

Rent for a decent one-bedroom apartment in my quickly-growing hometown starts around $900 a month. Pocketing that money over the past year has been a blessing. I’m now building a financial foundation for my future rather than living paycheck to paycheck.

I’m thankful for my parents, for my home, for my decision. However, if you’re considering this move, it’s not as simple as decluttering your room of high school belongings.

7 Mistakes We Made When We Moved Back Home — and How to Avoid Them

Take my word for it: Mistakes will be made. On your end, on your parents’ end, on everyone’s end.

So if you’re considering the move back in with your parents — or are already there, reading this from your brightly-painted childhood room — take notes.

Luckily, I haven’t committed all of these mistakes. I also polled my friends, my coworkers and our Facebook community group to ask: What mistakes did you make when you moved back home and how can they be avoided?

Mistake No. 1: Thinking you’re the only one who’s miserable

Chances are, your folks probably are, too.

Whenever I got caught up in fits of angst and frustration, my mom would remind me: “You’re not the only one having to deal with this change.”

My parents hailed over an empty nest for two years. It took a while for them to adjust after my little brother moved out, but they ultimately loved the carefree lifestyle.

Then I came back home.

“You must remember that not only are you adjusting to living with your parents again; your dad and I are adjusting to losing our empty nest,” my mom recently told me.

How to avoid this mistake: One of my best friends from college has lived back at home for two years. In the beginning, she joked her parents were her new roommates.

Really, that’s a great way to think about them. They’re no longer your caretakers. They’re more like roommates, and you have to be respectful.

Mistake No. 2: Not establishing the house rules beforehand

Oh, you’re going running? Get back before dark, is something my dad would say.

Dadddd. You do realize I lived downtown in a major U.S. city without knowing anyone, and somehow survived, right? And I worked at a magazine with 2 a.m. deadlines. Then, I walked home… by myself.

Your parents might forget you’ve been out growing up and doing adult stuff, and settling back into your old room doesn’t really help make you feel like an adult.

How to avoid this mistake: It’s important to establish ground rules before moving back in. Yes, you’re invading your parents’ space; you need to be respectful.

But that 11 p.m. curfew you had senior year probably isn’t relevant any more. And no alcohol? Well, I’m 24 now, and wine is nice.

Mistake No. 3: Disregarding rent or a payment plan

My parents don’t make me pay for rent. Yeah, boo, hiss; I’m a spoiled millennial.

But also this is something they can easily hold over my head. For example, my mom ate my beloved guac the other day (on accident). I made a comment about it — probably a little sassy — then she reminded me she’d bought the chips I’d been using to eat the guac. And that I’m living in her space.

Luckily, this isn’t a common occurrence in our house. But I’ve been in plenty of households with adult children where the most common retaliation to any type of argument is, “Do you wanna start paying rent?”

How to avoid this mistake: Even if your parents don’t ask for rent, be sure to do your part around the house.

I know my mom hates unloading the dishwasher, so I try to do that as often as possible. I help with laundry. I keep my room clean. I squeegee the shower doors — a weird thing she really likes having done.

One of my coworkers says she negotiated a more concrete plan when she moved back in with her parents for a few months. Rather than paying rent, she promised to keep the fridge stocked and have dinner prepared.

Unfortunately, it didn’t all come out in the wash. “I ended up spending way more on the food bill for three people and two dogs than I would have spent on modest rent,” she says.

So be smart about it.

Mistake No. 4: Spending all your time at home

When I lived on my own, my apartment was my sanctuary. After 12-hour days in graduate school, I came home — and usually stayed there throughout the weekend. A veggie.

But doing this while living at home can bubble up the feelings I mentioned above: angst, frustration…

How to avoid this mistake: Make plans. Get out of the house. Or seclude yourself, whichever you prefer.

My boyfriend lives in Orlando, so I make trips to see him at least twice a month.

However, if I’m not traveling one weekend, I enjoy staying at home. But I realize my parents are not there to entertain me. Instead, I do my own thing. I stay out of their way, and they stay out of mine.

But if you work from home, this adds special, complicated layer to the situation.

My coworker, Dana Sitar, moved back with her parents one summer while she was a freelance writer. “That meant I was around way too much,” she says. “And they also generally didn’t understand when I was working or not.”

On my work-from-home days, I’m sure to establish my boundaries.

Mistake No. 5: Forgetting you’re an adult

Do not forget you’re a functioning adult.

I’m 24. I have a full-time job with awesome benefits. I have a serious boyfriend. I have two higher education degrees.

I still have a lot to learn, but I’d say I’ve earned my “adult” patch.

However, it’s really easy to forget this. You see your cohorts doing exotic things on social media, you’re dealing with this “lazy millennial” stigma people seem to have and you’re in the same space you lived in when you were an actual child…

But you can’t lose sight that you’re an adult.

How to avoid this mistake: Remember, you’ve done things. You’re doing things. Just because you’re saving money or have found yourself in a rut doesn’t mean you deserved to be looked down upon.

So establish your own roots.

I find I can quell this feeling with a schedule: I work 9-5, come home, go on a run (sometimes), have dinner, take care of chores. I budget, and I keep my eye on new apartment listings. I also enjoy hanging out with my coworkers.

Mistake No. 6: Not setting an end goal (or move-out date)

I moved back home somewhat willy nilly. Sure, this will be nice for a while.

I told myself I’d save money for about six months and be out around Christmas. However, I didn’t set any end goal — or hard deadline. And look at me now. It’s been nine months, and I’m still here.

And I really don’t have any proactive plans to pack up soon, either.

How to avoid this mistake: Set some goals.

If you want to build up a savings account or emergency fund before hitting the road, calculate six months’ worth of living expenses.

You’ll want to break out your rusty math skills to do this — perhaps build a budget. Bring your paycheck and expenses (including potential ones) expenses into the picture.

Either way, having a hard deadline or tangible goals is a lot better than saying, “Eh, it’ll happen when I’m ready.” Because you might get a little too comfortable…

Mistake No. 7: Thinking about all the money you’re saving — and spending it on other stuff

I’ve saved the biggest, most cringe-worthy mistake for last.

Like I said, I moved back home to save money — avoid rent. And, at first, I was really good at saving — especially because I didn’t have much to work with. But now that I’ve stashed away a little, it’s easy to slip and spend too much here and there. Even on a paycheck-sized football ticket.

How to avoid this mistake: One of my family friends responded to my Facebook query with a stellar piece of advice: “Pretend that you’re paying rent, and put that money in a savings account,” she wrote. “When you’re ready to live on your own, you’ll have a great downpayment for a house!”

Another Facebook friend reached out to tell me she wish she’d used the money she’s saved to pay off her car. Now, she’s shopping for an apartment but has to narrow her budget to account for her monthly payment.

Now that I’ve written about these mistakes, I’m wondering: Who the heck would move back home?

But I don’t regret my decision — so long as I can continue to budget and squirrel away money.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d like to add Mistake No. 8: Moving back in during an election year when you don’t totally agree with your parents’ views. Yikes.