At 32 years old, I had been living in apartments in the Boston area for over a decade. At 33, I was back home with my parents. It was one of the best moves I’ve ever made.
Rent isn’t cheap in Massachusetts, but I’ve always been able to find a job and a room in an apartment. More than that, I’d always had a deep enough social circle that I never had to resort to Craigslist to find a home or a roommate.
That changed in 2016. I was coming to my new (and astonishingly cheap) Somerville apartment. I had just picked up chicken wings around the corner. My new bed was all set up, I had just cleaned all my sheets, and I had Netflix queued up in my new room. I was really excited about these chicken wings.
When I got home, however, there was one of my new roommates, waiting at the door.
“We need to talk,” he said.
After having a back-and-forth with him to explain some interpersonal issues that came as a surprise to me, I decided that I needed to move out.
Moving back home
I had been living in Somerville for less than a month. It was the first time in my adult life that I was living with friends of friends of friends and not just, well, friends.
The real disappointing part, of course, was that finding the place was such a blessing. Because of the college population in Boston, many of the city’s leases are signed by the beginning of September. So when my old lease was expiring, and I found this place on August 30th, I thought I had hit the lottery.
A few weeks later, after the run-in with my roommate, I called my mother and asked if I could stay in my old room for a while.
While living rent-free is a surefire way to eliminate what’s most likely your biggest monthly expense, the arrangement can also create new money pits that you hadn’t considered before you put that Beastie Boys poster back on the wall.
The complications of living with your suburban parents
First of all, if you’re like me and you’ve been living and working in the city, living in the suburbs adds a lot of gas money and commuter rail tickets to your monthly expenses. Sure, you could work from home some days – but don’t expect Baby Boomers to believe for a second that you’re doing any actual work. Especially if Dad needs to move some stuff around the yard.
Dating is trickier, too. Not only do you do have to travel further to meet people (unless you’re looking to rekindle something with someone from high school), but there’s also the problem of justification.
I might not be the most traditional man when it comes to picking up the check – but once a woman knows I live with my parents, I make sure that she also knows I can afford to cover two movie tickets and popcorn.
It’s the classic trap of the broke American: If you feel poor, you might also feel like you have less to lose, so you spend what you don’t have and make yourself even more broke.
Living in the suburbs, you drive everywhere, so you better have your own car. Otherwise, you’ll be negotiating your schedule around doctor’s appointments, choir practice, the Rotary Club, and all those other things suburban retirees love to do.
For my parents, however, it was a decent arrangement. Now that they’re retired and have more time to wonder what I’m doing with my life, they wonder what I’m doing with my life. Sure, home-cooked meals are a nice perk (and cost-effective), but there are only so many recaps of “Dancing With the Stars” you can hear before you need to talk with someone your own age. So you drive 20 miles to spend $30 at a bar.
While I didn’t save as much as I probably could have during my six months in the suburbs, I certainly didn’t spend the amount that I used to pay in rent just by getting out of the house. But by the time I had a friend who needed a roommate in the city, I jumped at the chance. And now I can eat my chicken wings whenever I want – and I don’t have to burn much gas to get them.
Source: Business Insider
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