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Published: Jul 01, 2014 4 min read

You promised yourself the situation would be temporary. But now six months has rolled into a year, and the free rent, home-cooked meals, and regular laundry service make it tough to say goodbye. According to Pew Research, 36% of young adults (to age 31) were living with their parents last year—the highest percentage in at least four decades.

How do you cut the cord? View your time at home as an opportunity for a practice round of managing your money. Then get ready to ditch the training wheels.

Pay Part of Your Way

Living at home enables you to save money, but that doesn't mean you're entitled to a totally free ride. Once you find a job, start contributing a portion of your salary toward household expenses. It will help you get in the habit of setting aside money for rent. Plus, kicking in a little cash is only fair: Your parents are probably saving for retirement and may not have factored the cost of your coming home for an extended stay into their budget.

How much is reasonable? First, get an estimate of their household bills, from groceries to the mortgage. "Ask how much they pay for car and home insurance instead of just having a vague sense it's all being taken care of," says Vivian Diller, a family psychologist. Then figure out a fair percentage you can afford to pay. This exercise will give you a better idea of the costs involved with living on your own. Bonus: Having to pitch in for their bills might motivate you to move out sooner rather than later.

Get Your Finances in Order

Take advantage of your lower cost of living to build an emergency fund and pay down debt, especially credit cards (average balance of recent grads: $4,100). In addition to freeing up cash, paying off the plastic will help boost your credit score, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com, "so you'll be in a better position to get good rates on mortgages and car loans later on."

Plan an Exit Strategy

Set a deadline for your departure, then plot out the interim steps needed to meet it, suggests Elina Furman, author of Boomerang Nation. Say you're aiming to be out in six months. Calculate how much to save each month so that you'll have enough for furniture costs and the security deposit on an apartment. Then, three to four months in, start scouting for rentals.

Budget feeling tight? Maybe your parents can help with a short-term loan to pay some initial bills. If they're amenable, draft an agreement stating the terms, including when you'll start to repay and how much each month. It's good practice. "Once you're on your own, you'll deal with due dates and contracts all the time," says Detweiler. "Real-life creditors aren't as forgiving as Mom and Dad."


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