If you combine the lousy job market with the high cost of student loans, getting established in a home or apartment is tougher than ever before. Economist Tom Lawler charted that the percentage of 24- to 34-year-olds living at home is higher than it’s been in decades, at one in eight.
Just because you don’t have your own home yet doesn't mean that you can’t be working on homeownership skills. Get into the mindset of a homeowner with these five tips, even if you’re temporarily bunking with Mom and Dad.
1. Organize Your Paperwork.
Homeowners need to keep lots of records: the original closing statement on the property, all the tax bills from the last year, information on insurance policies, the number for a repairman...the list goes on. Everyone has a different organizational system, whether it’s a bunch of papers thrown into a desk drawer, a three-ring binder (a personal favorite), or a couple of hanging files in a cabinet. Ask your parents where they put things, so when you have to set up a system, you’re not starting from scratch.
2. Get An Insurance (Lesson) Plan.
Many types of insurance, like homeowners, can be paid for via an installment plan so that multiple bills come throughout the year. (Flood insurance, in contrast, is usually paid annually.) Next time a bill comes, sit down with Mom or Dad and walk through it – what the policy is, and how much it costs. If you’re tech-savvy, take a handheld camera and walk through the house, making a photographic record of major possessions in case there’s a fire—and store the record somewhere outside the house. This will be good practice for when you need to keep your own place secure.
3. Flex Your Repair Muscles.
Whether it’s a leaky faucet, a clogged gutter, or an entire kitchen renovation, chances are that in the course of a year, something will break and your parents will need a handyman or a contractor to fix it. Next time that happens, fly alongside: How do they decide who to call? What negotiations take place over price? (Yes, it’s always okay to negotiate price, even if it’s something as simple as, “What will you charge to come out and take a look at it?”) How do they test that the repair was made? What guarantees do they ask for so that the problem doesn’t recur?
4. Conserve And Save.
Not the old turn-off-the-light-when-you-leave-the-room stuff, which you should, of course, be doing. Go beyond that by finding ways to trim energy use. Learn a little about appliances. Do you know which appliance uses more energy, a refrigerator or a freezer? Or whether it takes more energy to wash your dishes or your clothes? Knowing the answers – it’s the refrigerator and the washing machine that are the biggest energy hogs – will help you develop good habits such as not putting away hot food in the refrigerator (you should let it cool first) and washing only a full load of clothes. Your parents will appreciate it – and later, when you’re paying your own bills, you will too.
5. Fork Over Some Cash.
The circumstances keeping you at your parent’s place probably mean that you can’t pay market rent or even anything close to it. But, paying something on the first of the month, even if it’s just fifty bucks, will get you used to the concept of budgeting for your housing costs. Knowing when the first of the month is around the corner will help, because whether you’re paying rent or paying a mortgage, chances are that it will be due on the first.
Enjoy living at home while you can, and best of luck when the time comes to leave the nest!