This post is a part of our special personal finance series, Moving In or Out? Young people are faced with mounting student debt and high costs of living, which affects the decision to move out. This series of personal essays offers different perspectives on living situations, showing that no one choice is the same — or the right one for everyone.
My living situation over the last five years has involved a lot of back-and-forth. During my undergrad, I lived in an off-campus house with five roommates. I moved home and commuted during grad school to save cash, and ended up staying at home throughout my post-grad internship and first year of working. I then spent a year living in a rowhome in Philadelphia with two roommates before finally moving into another rowhome in Philly with my boyfriend. I’ve been living with him for the past year.
Moving back home for two years after college was a decision that, at the time, I made pretty grudgingly. It was a tough adjustment to move back in with my parents after living away for four years. After I graduated I thought of myself as so mature and independent, and moving back to my hometown felt like a big step backwards. I shouldn’t have felt so self-conscious about it, because nearly all of my friends (high school and college) were still living with their parents. I may have been unhappy, but at least I was in good company.
I shouldn’t have felt so self-conscious about it, because nearly all of my friends (high school and college) were still living with their parents.
Moving back home may not have appealed to my more independent side, but luckily I let my pragmatic side take the wheel on this one. My first job was a low-paying, entry-level position at a nonprofit in Center City Philadelphia, only a short train ride from my parents’ place in New Jersey. Though my salary wasn’t great, not having to pay rent meant that I could save nearly all of it. When I moved out a year after beginning my job, I had a nice little nest egg to fall back on.
Even with my savings, I knew I could never afford a place on my own. At least, not if I wanted to continue to have a savings account. I moved in with two girls I went to college with and, although we decided to live in a desirable part of the city, we chose to live in an older rowhome with a reasonable rent. It wasn’t fancy and it definitely didn’t look like what Friends convinced me a 20-something’s first apartment should look like, but it let me live away from home and still afford to have a social life. Best of all, I was still able to contribute to my savings account, a luxury I knew many of my friends (especially those living in more expensive cities like New York) didn’t have.
Although I pretended to have very practical reasons for moving out (living in the city would make my commute so much easier!), my main reason for moving in with roommates was more personal. My boyfriend and I were getting more serious, and at the time we both still lived at home. I knew we were approaching the point where we had to have the “moving in together” discussion, and I wanted to live on my own again first. Would it have been smarter, financially, to live at home for an extra year and then move in together? Maybe, but for once I let my emotions make a decision for me, and I don’t regret it. Moving in with roommates for a year rather than my boyfriend let me experience living in a city on my own and, corny as it sounds, helped me mature as a person. When the time came for us to move in together, I felt much more prepared to take the next step.
My boyfriend and I moved just a few blocks away from my first rowhome, and even though the neighborhood we’re in is pretty pricey, we managed to find an older home in a nice area that has a reasonable rent. We could have afforded something fancier (I now have a new job that pays significantly more), but we chose something more modest. We’re considering buying in the next few years, so every bit we save in rent helps.