Moving out of my parents' home: good or bad idea?
July 26, 2011 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Is moving out of my parents’ house a good or a bad idea? On the one hand if feels foolish to leave behind a rent-free, comfortable room in a loving home, but on the other hand the desire to feel more independent carries a lot more emotional weight for me.

So here is my situation: I am 19 and living at home. I dropped out of a four year university in the middle of my freshman year for depression related reasons. I failed all my courses first quarter and it looked like my grades were headed in the same direction in my second quarter. My parents were surprised by this, and sad that I was suffering, but overall supportive and glad to have me home. Since moving home, I have a new career goal about which I am passionate (nursing), and I have been going to therapy and taking medication. I will be starting school again in the fall at a local community college.

Things are going fairly well for me, but I cannot shake this burning desire to move out. I love my parents dearly, but I feel like I am stagnating my own personal development by living at home, and I can’t help but feel a bit smothered. I try to pull my own weight in the household, but it is not enough to make me feel like an adult. I waver hourly between thinking moving out is a great idea and believing that it is a huge mistake. Here are the pro and con viewpoints that wage a daily battle in my mind:

Pro: I need to learn to live as an independent adult. I have very little experience shopping or cooking for myself, budgeting or running my own household. These are skills I need to learn, and I fear as long as I have my parents to lean on, the impetus for learning them will not be there. I also simply have an emotional need for space from my parents. I feel like I am back in high school when I’m at home, and often feel stifled and uncomfortable.

Con: Moving out is financially irresponsible. Rent would easily take up 50-60% of my monthly income, while living at home would allow me to save up a nest egg. What if I fall back into my old patterns and am not able to sustain good performance at school or work? My parents have always been my emotional supports for dealing with my depression.

My parents do not think moving out is a good idea, and my therapist seems to think it would be wiser to stay at home and save. I just can't shake the desire to move out though, so I welcome any advice that can help me make this decision.
posted by efsrous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why do your parents and therapist think it's a bad idea? Do they think you are currently not very stable, or ... ?
posted by hungrytiger at 3:39 AM on July 26, 2011

Are you saving as much as you should be at home? Are you dutifully squirrelling away that 50% income? Anecdotal: when I moved back with my parents, working two part-time jobs, I still had barely enough to live on! The more money I had in my bank account, the more holidays I took in order to get out of the house.

I have every sympathy with your situation, and while you are very young to be so worried about your financial independence, I think you have sensible reasons to move out.

However, if you are saving, then hang on until college, and spend those savings on moving in with coursemates who you get along with.
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:49 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I say stay. You've been through a rough patch, you are picking yourself up with help, which is a very lucky lucky place to be. Plus, you've found a career passion! Concentrate on saving money and orienting yourself in school for at least a couple of semesters. You'll have a little cash in the bank, a sense of accomplishment, a safe place from which to create your moving plan ... and even more of a burning desire to go do it! Hang on just a bit longer -- 19 is still very young. Good luck!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:00 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you were 40 and asking the same question, I might wonder what you were doing living with your parents, but being at home at 19 isn't really going to stagnate your growth all that much. Plenty of commuter college students live with their parents until they graduate and still manage to not drag themselves into bankruptcy and social suicide by doing so.

It's important to actively sock away the money you're saving by living with your parents, for sure. Also, do try to take on more responsibilities while you're there. Perhaps you could be in charge of the grocery shopping, or making sure the bills get paid and the checkbooks are balanced. That would prepare you for independent living.

You have many years ahead of you where you'll have to be on your own. At 19, I wouldn't be too anxious about taking the help that's offered to you.
posted by xingcat at 4:02 AM on July 26, 2011

Can you compromise by taking on more responsibility at home and waiting to move out until you see how your first semester back at school goes? You say that you try to pull your own weight; does that mean paying rent and/or contributing to the household bills, or does that mean doing some chores? If you're already helping out, you can start helping out even more; shop, cook, do laundry, etc. separately from your parents. They'd probably be glad to help you practice these things.

Keep in mind that if you were already spending 50-60% of your income on rent, you wouldn't have much wiggle room to mess up on those responsibilities, such as by overspending on groceries and running out of money before your next pay day. Making those types of mistakes and dealing with them is part of growing up, but you can start laying groundwork now so you're better equipped in the future.
posted by neushoorn at 4:03 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

At a minimum you should be stable and successful at your existing responsibilities before taking on new ones. Do a semester or two of getting up on your own every day, going to class, doing homework on time, getting to therapy, taking your meds, going to work, meeting your savings goals, helping out at home, etc., and at that point, reevaluate this question. Be saving money the whole time.

The burning desire to move out isn't necessarily a sign of readiness for more responsibility and freedom, by the way.
posted by SMPA at 4:13 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think I understand your burning desire. You've put yourself back together and you want to get on with it and start living your own, independent life. The thing is, I think I can also understand the reluctance/hesitation of your parents and therapist.

You feel you're on the right track now. But you haven't actually started classes yet. This will be a stressor. On top of that, you will have the stressor(s) of dealing with "very little experience shopping or cooking for myself, budgeting or running my own household" on a day-to-day basis. And then there's the stressor of possibly building up debt. And all of these stressors will kick in at the same time if you move out now.

Part of being an adult is planning realistically and judging your own strength. Yes, some folks can become a bit too cautious, a bit too risk-averse, true enough. But maybe a little caution would be wise for now. You've dealt with a major setback (good for you!), but you are still dealing with a serious mental health issue. Depression can be a bit like an Achilles' heel: once you've had a major episode, it is not impossible that you might have another when subjected to multiple stressors. I know you want to declare yourself healed and prove this recovery to yourself and others, but I feel it might be a good idea to test the flexibility of your recovery before stretching it in all directions at once.

Would it be possible to start learning the skills you need while still living at home? Pay rent to your folks, buy your own groceries, cook your own meals, wash your own clothes? Your folks are there to give some guidance if absolutely necessary and only if asked, but basically they let you figure it out on your own and make mistakes. You'll make mistakes. But the stakes won't be as high as they would be if you were living alone.

How about giving this semi-independent life a trial run, and keeping it up for your first semester? This will help you to gage your strength and resiliancy, and prove to yourself and others that you'll be able to handle the real thing next semester?
posted by likeso at 4:19 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

On preview, very like neushoorn said. :)
posted by likeso at 4:24 AM on July 26, 2011

I completely understand the desire to move out and be on your own. It is a positive sign of your increasing maturity and emotional health. That said, you're 19 and have been through a rough patch. And, your parents sound supportive and caring, so you're not trying to escape an unhappy home.

What about finding a compromise for the next 6 months to a year? Get going with your studies and be spectacular. Plan a few weekends away to visit friends or discover a new city. Continue socking money away. Get involved with student activities or volunteer work that will enhance your resume and your experience. And have some fun!

Make it a goal that a year from now, when you're firmly on your feet at school and with your health, you'll find a place of your own. Otherwise it sounds like you're taking on a whole lot at once.

Good luck - you're doing all the right things and I think you're going to do just great.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:25 AM on July 26, 2011

Slow down, take your time and do this right. Given your history of depression, I would stay at home a bit longer until you are on your feet - financially, emotionally and education/career wise.

Don't know you to speak about the emotional or career/education part, but I have experience with the financial end of things. You can do long term financial damage if you take such an unprepared risk. I insisted on supporting myself after college, moving out on my own and wound up with a lot of debt and financial trouble; it got so bad, I was using the visa to pay the electric bill. (Trust me, that does not help with depression, when you can't pay your bills or go out with friends because you have no money.) I got in over my head because I insisted on living on my own and it took me over 10 years to pay it down and get on my feet financially. Looking back, even if I had sucked it up and lived at home for at least a year, I don't think I would have had that decade of financial trouble. YMMV

A little patience and planning now - because you have that luxury - are worth it. In the mean time, start doing more cooking at home and taking on more responsibilities around the house to get used to that. Suck it up and build up that nest egg until you are ready and do it right. You don't want to create more problems for yourself.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:34 AM on July 26, 2011

I would suggest that you prepare a budget for what you expect to spend while living alone (everything from rent to utilities to weekly shopping), then try a few months of "practice" while at home -- put the rent and utilities money in a savings account, go to the grocery store on your own and do your own shopping and cooking within the budget, etc.

Stick with that for 3-6 months, and take advantage of still living with your parents while you are "practicing" -- your parents can help you plan a weekly meal schedule (which saves time and money), can give budgeting advice, etc.

After your trial period, you'll have a good amount of money saved for the inevitable deposits and expenses of moving, plus a wee cushion to help reassure you and everyone else that you're taking a positive, responsible step forward.
posted by ukdanae at 4:40 AM on July 26, 2011

I actually think it sounds like you want to move out right now in order to set yourself up to fail, or to have an explanation if you do fail. You have a low income -- over 50% of it would have to go on rent alone. You are about to start a new program, and you do not know if you will have the time and energy to be successful in it while also working, not to mention while learning how to run a household. You don't know how to cook and have managed not to learn despite living at home for the past few months, when you presumably had time to learn -- you haven't done anything to get yourself prepared to move out yet, despite this desire you have.

Moving out is a fine goal. But you need to get there. Plan to move out in a year. Before that time save money, so you have a bit of a buffer. Figure out how to study and work at the same time. Insist to your parents that you want to make dinner for the whole family once a week, and do it, even when it is inconvenient. Clean up after dinner, including pots and pans. If you're not already doing this, do all your own laundry, and make your own breakfast and pack your own lunch every day. Learn how to do these things now, and then in a year, once you have successfully finished a year of school while holding a job and some home-based responsibilities, when you have some money saved up, then you will be set to move out.

Especially for the cooking, but in general, your parents can give you help and advice on the best ways to do things. Take their advice. You do not have to rediscover what techniques don't work all on your own.

(I know this probably sounds harsh. But I have done lots of things to set myself up to fail, and that's what this sounds like to me.)
posted by jeather at 4:43 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I dropped out of college a year ago and moved home, I also felt like I had moved to highschool. My solution was to work 65 hours a week in two jobs.

I now feel like a responsible adult.

It wont necessarily be the cure, but it sure helps to be so busy you don't have time to think, and also that there is a significant flow of income flowing inwards. Also, at some point soon you will learn how costs add up. If you plan on moving out you need to find a rent that you can afford. You arnt even close right now, especially if you hope to afford going back to school.

Good luck.
posted by Folk at 5:24 AM on July 26, 2011

I really think you should live with the 'rents until you finish nursing school and get a steady job. You're going to have your whole life to live on your own, and there's no need to rush. Often people do cause a lot of problems for themselves by being too quick on the draw when it comes getting into the next phase of life: being too quick to buy a house or a car, getting married or having kids before they are ready or with the wrong person. It winds up making them much poorer all their lives than they would be if they'd been more prudent.

You can learn to shop and cook and budget while living at home — there's nothing stopping you. And if you're going to school and working and seeing your friends, how much time are you going to spend at home anyway? Do your share of the cooking and house work. I'd recommend that you save at least half your income and enjoy spending the rest. Decorate your room with the kind of things you'll enjoy using in your bedroom in your own place in future. Take vacations. Spend time with your awesome parents and get to know them as people in their own right — they won't be around forever.

There's so much more to being an adult than just living on one's own. Quite often being an adult means doing dull or difficult things you don't really want to do because you know it's the best long-term decision.
posted by orange swan at 5:41 AM on July 26, 2011

Remember that most of your peers are home for the summer right now, too. Once classes start you'll have tons of time out of the house, more if you find a study spot on campus, even more if you work more, so on and so forth. You really only need to come home to prepare food, do housework, and sleep.
posted by anaelith at 5:50 AM on July 26, 2011

Learning how to live as a fully contributing adult and peaceful and happy participant in your parents' home is a *massive* life skill that will benefit you always in terms of: future relationship with parents; future ability to take care of yourself; future ability to live with roommates; future ability to make a home with a partner and/or kids, if applicable; and much much more.

Don't think of it as a cop-out, think of it as an opportunity to grow up and make a grown-up relationship with your parents in a way that lots of people are never given the opportunity to do.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:59 AM on July 26, 2011

As someone who was in a similar situation at your age (I'm 32 now), including the REALLY wanting to move out even though home was supportive and free, I say stay.

You say you have no experience cooking - no one's stopping you from cooking! Look up some food blogs, read some food mags, and learn to cook! I learned from Ina Garten and Rachael Ray (I know, I know, but it's TASTY) on Food Network. I'm sure whatever parent does the cooking will be happy to have a night off here and there. Start small, start simple, and clean up after yourself. It's not that hard :) Plus, it's nice to cook for people, and feels nice when they say how good it is.

Re: budgeting. Just because you don't have many expenses doesn't mean you can't budget. You can set up a faux budget where you put where the money you'd expect to spend on rent and utilities into a savings account or something. This way, you can build up an emergency fund and get used to having the kind of spending money that you'll have when you DO move out. Resist the urge to spend it. (I wish I had done this.) You'll probably never have an opportunity like this again.
posted by AlisonM at 6:03 AM on July 26, 2011

I would stay put! Nursing school is hard and can be very stressful, so why add that to trying to manage on your own?! Believe me, once school starts, you won't be at home that much anyway. But when you are, you'll appreciate a home-cooked meal from mom and dad way more than you think!

I am in nursing school now...I'm a married mom of one. I can't tell you how many times the younger students (the ones who are living at home) have said to me that they are so happy that they don't have to focus on anything else but school! Worrying about school, rent, bills, working, cooking, etc. is a lot! It's not that you can't do it, either...but if you have the choice to stay home, I would take it! Message me if you have any questions about school and GOOD LUCK!
posted by fresh-rn at 6:44 AM on July 26, 2011

I was in your shoes 2 years ago. Although, I didn't leave my university: I remained on campus throughout the entire year, and picked up student positions to cover living expenses. But I will give you some advice that I wish *I* had received back then:

Stay at home. Even if your feet itch to run elsewhere, even if you vacillate daily between the taste of freedom and being cooped up at home, stay. When you feel the itch, take a walk; do yoga; watch a movie; anything to get out of the house. If you can, fill up as much of your time with a job (or jobs) that you can tolerate. Depending on your medication, relapses are not 100% preventable unless your dosage is high; moving out on your own is extremely risky, especially if you don't have a tight and w i d e network of people to support you.

Not moving out will give you the advantage of, as others have suggested, creating a faux budget. Do your research on Craigslist - what is the average cost of rent for a 1-bedroom apartment, including utilities and groceries*? When you've figured that out, add $100-200 and start putting away that sum in an account. Your first deposit into the Account That Must Not Be Touched will probably eat up your entire paycheck - simulating the cost of moving into a new apartment (security + one month's rent). No matter what happens, do not touch that money! Keep doing this for a year, and you'll have created your nest egg.

Feel free to message me. I know how it feels, and wish you lots of luck.

*There are many websites (such as this one, this one and this one) that will help you cook on a budget. Start building a cookbook and practicing at home!
posted by Ashen at 6:48 AM on July 26, 2011

Stay. Stay for at least a few semesters at your new school. Going back to school is going to be a transition time, which will have an adjustment period. There's no need to add another major adjustment event like moving and figuring out how to cover the bills into the mix.
posted by smalls at 6:54 AM on July 26, 2011

I think you should stay at home for at least one semester. You just had a spectacular flameout and I think you need to ease into this. Also, it's stressful for your parents to pick up the pieces. They want you to be a whole adult which is probably why they want you home. But, if you are home, you need to make the most of it. Three challenges:

1. Get a job and keep it. Put as much money as you can in savings. Search diligently for scholarships and apply for them. Even small amounts add up.

2. Learn how to respect your parents as adults and yourself as an adult. Practice now and it will serve you well. You must clean up after yourself and even help out around the house. You should not get into petty arguments with your parents. You should help with food shopping and prep. I can't imagine why you don't have any cooking and shopping skills - do you never cook or shop for your parents?

3. Personal finance. Set up a budget and learn how to set financial goals for yourself. Look at the local community college, library or community center for classes on this if your parents are no help.

Lastly, stick to your therapy and keep your eyes on the prize.
posted by amanda at 8:12 AM on July 26, 2011

You're only 19, you have a health issue that requires support from your family and a professional, and you don't have very much money.

I get that you want to feel independent, but almost everyone experiences a time gap between wanting something and having that thing. (i.e.. I want to quit my job and start my own business, but i don't have enough money or experience, so i'm waiting, even though i want to do it now, because its the smarter choice.) If you want to feel like an adult, be an adult by making the decision to move out when you are actually ready to, rather than right now, when you just want to. Wait.
posted by Kololo at 8:39 AM on July 26, 2011

My suggestion would be to look to the future by more carefully considering the present. You are embarking on a long and stressful educational path to nursing. I would give yourself the very best chance of success at this by keeping in place the support system that is working for you, ie living at home. Start school with this in place and see how it goes. You can look at moving in with some room-mates in your second year - that option isn't going anywhere.

I totally, 100% understand the desire to live independently and you are 100% right to value the skills that will be gained by doing that. But there is no timeline on those skills - you can learn them at 16 or 21 or 26 or 38.

Those are all practical things. People might be able to help you more with the emotional aspects if you can be a bit more specific - you say you feel stifled, for example, but don't explain how.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:07 AM on July 26, 2011

If I were 19 and in school, I would absolutely live at home. You couldn't have convinced me this was a good idea back then, but hindsight is 20/20. You will be done with school and working full time before you know it. Live rent free for as long as possible. Money stress mixed with school stress is not a good combo. Focus on studying and know you have the rest of your life to be "independent."
posted by allnamesaretaken at 9:15 AM on July 26, 2011

Remember that most 18- and 19-year-olds who go away to college live in student housing, often with really a pretty significant amount of supervision and support (compared to living on one's own), and with very limited responsibilities (they don't pay rent/utility bills, most have meal plans, etc.). You are not behind your peers here.

Also, as a community college part-time prof, I can tell you that my 18-20 year old students who do live independently, rather than with family or in student housing (we have a small amount of student housing), tend to struggle more in class. It's very doable to work AND to go class -- many of my students do it -- but it also takes a LOT of maturity to manage both. Young students who add to that the stress of housing (rent, utilities, cooking) often struggle quite a bit because they're distracted by the pressures of that life. There is a reason that college traditionally meant living in managed housing with someone else providing food; it takes a lot of attention. Most of my students have emotional, financial, and general life support -- either from birth family (at home with parents), student housing and related services, or from a spouse. Very, very few, even the 40-year-olds, are flying solo.

"I need to learn to live as an independent adult. I have very little experience shopping or cooking for myself, budgeting or running my own household. These are skills I need to learn, and I fear as long as I have my parents to lean on, the impetus for learning them will not be there."

As a functioning and independent adult, I did not start feeding myself (or budgeting or running my own household) until I was 22 and graduated college -- I lived in the dorms all four years, with an on-campus meal plan. And "feeding myself" when I got my first apartment consisted of buying frozen food in boxes and microwaving them. When I was 24 I was finally like, Okay, this is becoming embarrassing, I have to learn how to make something other than spaghetti and food with printed instructions on the box. You have plenty of time to learn these skills and still be an independent adult. And really, being at home you can take advantage of your parents' know-how and start learning how to cook, food budget, change furnace filters, etc. I wish I'd taken advantage of learning-by-observing-and-doing when I still lived at home!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:08 AM on July 26, 2011

Rent would easily take up 50-60% of my monthly income,

Are you saving 50-60% of your income right now? If not then you're wasting your time at your parents. Move out.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:10 AM on July 26, 2011

If you're really very unhappy then of course move out. But it doesn't really sound like you are and really, age 19 is not at all a weird age to be living at home. Many people live at home (or at least, their parent's home is their "home base") until they finish college, in their early 20's.

And realistically speaking, if your income is such that rent alone will take up 50-60% of it, it'd be extremely difficult if not impossible for you to live on your own in a safe and healthy manner. Your rent and housing should really only take up about 30-40% of your income in order for you to have money for everything else you need (food, clothing, utilities, etc.).

As for responsibility, there are things you can do now, even living at home to help yourself learn these skills. First consider giving your parents some rent/board money, even if it's far less than what an actual rent payment would be. If they won't take any, you can instead take that amount and save it. Count your savings (or rent/board) as an expense, and factor in all your other expenses. Do you pay for your own vehicle/transportation? Personal items? Entertainment? Clothing? (Hint: yes you should be.) There's a perfect excuse to learn to make a budget right there. You could also ask your parents if for one week every month you could be responsible for both shopping for food and cooking.

Your other option is to look out for a roommate. Often when you are just learning to be on your own, you are ready to learn the skills, but lack the funds to really be on your own. In this situation roommates are ideal. My first moving out of my parent's house situation was renting a house with four other college friends. It was a great way to learn adult skills like budgeting, shopping, cooking, etc. but without the abject fear of poverty, loneliness, and starvation.
posted by katyggls at 1:38 PM on July 26, 2011

Shooting from the hip here. Being depressed is no fun, yet working your way through it while running your life independently is also a good lesson in life. Your parent's safety net can be a way of avoiding those kinds of lessons and perhaps that is depressing in itself. Economics is a hard nut to crack, though. Many cultures would see nothing wrong with someone living at home and extended families are the norm rather than seeming like some kind of aberration in the US. Perhaps you should check out the stories you are telling yourself and make them more positive. There are lots of ways to gain independence even while living at home, you just need to reboot your outlook and find some ways to express your unique qualities. Getting out of nursing school with a nest egg will create a far greater potential for a successful transition into independence than struggling with finances. If you need life lessons, find them outside the home. Do charitable works, study kung fu, go backpacking somewhere far away. Get some experiences under your belt and do it on your own without the parental units looking over your shoulder. My two cents worth. Remember to have fun too.
posted by diode at 9:26 PM on July 26, 2011

I was miserable while still living at home. Did it make more sense on paper? Absolutely. Was I saving money? Sure. Was I happier? Absolutely not. Moving out was the best thing I ever did in terms of my mental health. I didn't need my mom to help me through my depression, I needed to get away from her so I could fuck up and not feel guilty and get back on my feet by myself.

YMMV but if you want to move out and you believe it will be better for your mental health, I say try it. Maybe just do it for a semester and then go from there (maybe a winter semester so you're in your educational groove). I was forced out of home by a bus strike and am eternally grateful for it as I haven't moved back home since and feel so much better.
posted by buteo at 10:17 PM on July 27, 2011

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