Happy Labor Day to all my fellow Americans! Hopefully, you’re reading this as you prepare to go visit your extended family and indulge in a nice, end of the summer picnic. It’s Labor Day, the perfect time to take a break from your labors.
Of course, not all of us currently have jobs we need a break from; given nearly ten percent unemployment, there’s a fairly large possibility that you’re currently in between jobs, yourself. If you’re a fairly recent graduate, you’ve probably come out into the world and found few, if any, people willing to hire you right out of the gate, especially with older, more experienced workers willing to take your place for the same pay due to their own situations. If you’re young and just getting out of college, the thought of moving back in with your parents has probably already crossed your mind a time or two.
Well, good news and bad news on that front. The good news is that you’re not alone; a sizable portion of today’s twenty-somethings have ‘boomeranged‘, returning to live with their parents. (Although, as that link indicates, it’s not as unprecedented or widespread an event as some media figures, including those who dubbed Generation Y as the ‘Boomerang Generation’, would have you believe.) It’s not considered evidence that you are horribly socially defective anymore, at least by most of your fellow Gen Yers. (Myself included, as I ‘boomeranged’ for over three years after I graduated from my undergraduate institution.)
Now the bad news: that still doesn’t make it an ideal living arrangement, particularly when it comes to dating. However understanding both your significant other and your parents might be, living with Mom and/or Dad is bound to add a snag to your social life and ability to romance the boy or girl of your dreams. Not to mention that fact that the stereotypes and mockery of those who are still living with their parent(s) continue to exist; check out the tongue-in-cheek dating guide from the Financial Samurai to see some of the images the phrase ‘I live with my parents’ can conjure up while you’re at the bar.
Making Yourself More Date-able
So, what’s the solution? Give up, throw yourself into the ‘living with my parents’ stereotypes, and start sewing your costume for the next comic book convention? Not necessarily; there are ways to make yourself a more attractive romantic partner, even when you’re rocking your Mom’s basement. (Although, if you still want to go to a comic book convention, go right ahead; I’ve been to a few, and they’re a blast if you’re in a geeky mood.) If you want to make yourself a more attractive potential date, and gain some financial independence and confidence in the process, you should:
-Get a Job: “But,” you argue, “I’ve been trying to get a job since I first graduated; what more can I do?” A complete guide to job hunting is outside the scope of this article (check my previous thoughts on the issue), but here’s the take-away for today: take a crummy, part-time, ‘just to put money in my pocket’ job if that’s all you can get. You can (and should) continue to search for something more permanent, hopefully where you can put your formal education to work (although, if you have a degree in something like ’18th century French Romanticists’, I’ll warn you now that your only real chance for a job in that field will be to continue your education and get a position as a professor), but you should be willing to take a crummy job just to have some money coming in. Because you’re going to need money in order to…
-Pay Your Own Bills: Your parents are letting you live with them; don’t stretch their generosity even further by having them foot your bills. Pay them yourself, and get a taste of what it’s like to truly be a responsible adult in the world. Your student loans will be a big one (how big depends on how much you borrowed to pay for your classes and other, hopefully academic related, expenses), but don’t forget to chip in for things like your share of the phone bill and groceries. If you still have a sizable amount of money left after all that (or perhaps even if you don’t), you should also…
-Pay Rent: Even if your parents (or grandparents, or other relatives) don’t expect you to pay rent while staying in your old bedroom, you’d be wise to do so, anyway. Not only will paying rent to your parents help to cover all the expenses you aren’t chipping in for above, doing so helps you to get in the habit of setting aside a sizable portion of your income for housing expenses. It’ll also help change you from ‘freeloading mooch’ to ‘hard-working, potential date material’ in the eyes of would-be romantic partners. (At least, it worked that way for me with my fiancee.)
If your parents refuse to take any rent money, try to make this deal with them (consider making this deal anyway; it’s a pretty good one): suggest that your parents take the money and put it aside, in a special saving account for you. When you leave their house, the money will be yours again to help pay the down payment on a new house, or to cover the first few payments on an apartment that’s not in their basement. You’ll still develop discipline as you keep paying them (discipline that will come in handy with your eventual housing payments), plus you’ll have a nice chunk of change when you’re ready to move out on your own. Speaking of which…
-Make a Plan to Move Out: Living with your parents has lost of some of the sting, at least if you’re a Gen Yer, but it’s still easy to overstay your welcome. Make a plan to move out after a certain period of time or after you’ve achieved some basic financial goals (like ‘building up a three month emergency fund’ or ‘earning at least $500 a month’) that you’re working towards steadily. Having such a plan will let your parents, your dates, and even yourself know that you’re serious about not staying in your parents’ house forever, and should motivate you to work even harder to make it a reality.
There; a simple plan to get you from Chateau de Mom to a place of your own, and make you look less like a loser and more like a dedicated, driven person while you get there. With luck, all of that should be enough to convince your date(s) that you’re a keeper. Again, it’s worked for me, why not for you?