How Living at Home at 31 Taught Me Nothing and Everything About Saving

by Brianne Hogan

The first time I moved back home with my folks, I was a 26-year-old with only two suitcases, a deferred NYU student loan, and bank account that was overdrafted by $800 (thanks to a sketchy Vancouver landlord who peaced out with my rent deposit) to my name.

I was at chez ‘rents for two-and-half years, working as a part-time wine salesperson and picking up some freelance writing gigs to get back in the black. Fortunately, in my case, I didn’t have to pay rent. The only bills that I was responsible for were my own.

Within a few months, I was earning money again. Without having to spend a ton of money on bills, I found myself quickly hoarding a bunch of extra cash into my bank account. Finally, everything and anything seemed possible — and affordable! So naturally, I splurged on a two-week vacation to New England in July to visit friends from college. A four-day weekend in Chicago at Halloween was also a must-do. And so was spending New Year’s in Boston.

My freelance gigs soon paved way to a full-time editorial position, which meant I needed a car because public transportation from the ‘burbs to the city was practically non-existent. Within weeks a (slightly used) red VW Beetle appeared on my parents’ driveway. Six weeks before I turned 30, I treated myself to an all-inclusive trip to the Bahamas.

It’s important to note that I wasn’t being totally irresponsible with my money. I was paying my bills, including my student loan, on time. Believe it or not, I was also saving. I even opened up an investment account because saving for my future was something I felt I ought to do since, god forbid, I break a hip and become a burden to my future kids/cats. I was saving to move out, too, of course. Who wants to be 30 and living with her parents?

The second time I moved back home with my parents, I was 30. I brought with me an entire apartment’s worth of stuff (yes, I had successfully moved out — for a year), my student loan debt, and the biggest debt of them all: unemployment. I had quit my full-time job to freelance again, and to focus on screenwriting (which I majored in during college).

I’m still living here, and it’s been 15 months. I have less shame in admitting that this second time around because here’s the deal: staying at home is sweet. Yes, even at 30 (okay, 32).
I feel like I’m living more in the moment now than I am for the future, and I’m okay with that. If I want to go to New York for a weekend, I can go. If I want to spend some serious cash on floor seats at the Taylor Swift concert, I do it. I recognize that my moving back home has allotted me more financial freedom to experience things that I wouldn’t be able to if I was living on my own and paying all the bills. I realize that I’ve probably turned more into a fancy spendthrift than those of my peers who have greater responsibilities than me (well, meaning those people who are actually responsible with their money), and I am grateful for that. Sure, I may be sleeping next door to my parents (which isn’t conducive for adult relations), but I feel lucky to work and live for me right now rather than working just to make ends meet.

Admittedly, I do feel a tinge of envy and FOMO whenever I visit the friends who’ve bought a home around the corner from my parents, or just even the friends who don’t live with their parents (honestly, what’s that like?). At times it feels like my friends are “getting ahead,” while I’m still stuck in second gear (cue the “Friends” theme song). I have savings, including my investment savings account, but it’s not like I’m banking serious dough (I am a freelance writer/aspiring screenwriter, after all).

But what does getting ahead mean when I’m able to pay my bills on time, have a savings account and am able to travel at least once a year? Isn’t that “getting ahead” too?

Yes. At least I think so. The thing is, living at home has redefined my idea of success. I’ve realized that success looks and feels differently to everyone; the only important thing to remember about success is how it looks and feels like to me. And right now that means working on projects that excite me, going out to nice restaurants, socking away money for that inevitable broken hip (or other rainy day emergencies), and not having a collector’s agency on my back.

I will eventually move out of my parents’ house. That’s just common sense, or the law of physics or … the result of an additional savings account that I opened after moving here again, which is aptly-titled, “I’m Movin’ Out.”

It’ll happen. I have faith that it will.

Maybe in a year, or two. I want to travel through Europe first.

Brianne Hogan lives in Toronto and misses the crispness of a new American $1 bill.

Photo: Jereme Rauckman

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