A lot of Gen Z kids moved back home in 2020. Whether you’ve heard about it or experienced it for yourself, it’s a fact backed by statistics. A recent survey by GOBankingRates found that half of Gen Zers at least considered moving back home for the pandemic. Thirty-three percent actually did move back, and around 14% have since moved out again.
I was one of those kids. When I packed up a UHAUL and drove down to Los Angeles at the age of 19, I thought: This is it. The last time I’ll ever live with my mom. She was crying as I drove away, and I cried a bit too. The hallmark of adulthood known as “rent” was quickly descending upon me, and I was prepared to pay it in exchange for an independence I’d never known before. Totally exhilarating. I couldn’t have known I’d be making that same drive — this time, back to my mom’s — just a year later.
It’s not that uncommon to have your independence card revoked, especially in your 20s. Whether it’s unwilling unemployment or a quarter-life crisis that gets you, people who have the option to move back in with their parents often do so. But it rarely happens en masse in the way that it did in 2020. With many schools and workplaces going remote, it made a lot more fiscal sense to live with family, where you could save money on housing and quarantine in a ‘bubble.’ The gig and service economies, where many Gen Zers were earning their cash, were also hit hard. Internships and study abroad were canceled. Just as everyone’s life was put on hold, these hallmarks of young adulthood — graduating, first jobs, living away from home — were suddenly postponed or taken away entirely.
It’s obvious that this event shaped everyone psychologically and emotionally. More than that, it shaped us financially. A year and a half after the pandemic, like many of my generation, I’m now reestablishing my independence. Here are some of the ways I’ve prepared to leave the nest for the second — and hopefully final — time.
1. Working More
If you’re not working at all, your No. 1 priority should be finding employment. That’s easier said than done, but steady income is key to establishing your independence. Focus on building a winning resume and reaching out to your network of past co-workers or peers. If you’re still early in your career, try not to be too picky about which jobs you apply for — you can always find a better one later.
If you already have a job, consider taking on another one. You don’t want to burn yourself out, but freelancing, working part time or even starting your own small business are all great ways to stock up extra cash. Moving out costs money — usually first and last month’s rent, a deposit and transportation costs at the very least — so the more you work, the faster you’ll have that money in hand.
2. Estimating a New Budget
It’s always good to have a budget, but it’ll be critical when you move out and start paying the big-ticket bills like rent and utilities. In order to find an apartment — or house, spare room, etc. — you need to know how much you can afford. This starts with creating a budget based on your income and your estimated expenses.
The ‘income’ category should be only the income you can guarantee. So, if you work varying hours, you need to establish the minimum amount you know you’ll be netting each month. Then, tally up your expenses. This includes current expenses and any you’ll be tacking on once you move out, such as your car insurance, phone bill, subscriptions and more. This should help give you an idea of what money you’ll have left over for rent, utilities and savings. Make sure there’s wiggle room; having $1,500 left over after your necessary expenses does not mean you can afford a $1,500 apartment.
3. Saving. A Lot.
The biggest perk of living with your parents is affordability. Whether they’re charging you rent or not, you’re likely paying less than you would be out on your own.
If you’re working more than one job, consider putting one income entirely into savings. For example, if you work a 9-to-5 job as a writer but do some freelancing on the side, automatically deposit all of your freelancing cash into your savings account. If you’re operating on one income, try saving a set percentage of every paycheck, such as 30%. This rate should be higher if you’re living rent-free.
Before you make the plunge and move out, make sure you have enough money saved to cover all your moving expenses, including everything you’ll need to buy during that first month. Household necessities like toilet paper and dish soap can add up. And if you want to be really smart about it, you should have three to six months’ worth of emergency savings stocked up in case of, well, emergency.
4. Opening More Than One Bank Account
Different bank accounts serve different purposes. A high-yield savings account, for example, is great for long-term savings that you know you won’t be touching for years. A standard checking account is great for bill pay. And opening an account for a credit card is great for earning cash-back rewards on purchases like gas, as well as building your credit score.
Before moving out, it’s important to have distinctions between the money you’re using for bills and the money you’re saving. It’s also a good idea to establish a credit history if you don’t already have one, and improve your credit score if it’s below 700. A good credit score allows you to sign an apartment lease without a co-signer and make other big purchases like a car.
If you’re unsure where to start, check out GOBankingRates’ Best Banks page for the best banking institutions and accounts to open.
5. Avoiding Frivolous Spending
Living rent-free or with low rent probably means you have more cash, and that can lead to some interesting purchases (I would know). But you should always treat your money with the end-game in mind. If a PlayStation 5 keeps you in your parents’ house for another three months, it probably wasn’t worth it.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t enjoy your money. If you can afford it, incorporate an ‘unnecessary spending’ category into your budget. After all, it is your money — you earned it.
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Last updated: Sept. 14, 2021
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I Moved Home During the Pandemic — Here Are the Financial Steps I’m Taking To Move Back Out