My husband and I enjoyed the first several years of our marriage without many obstacles. We went out for expensive dinners, partied with friends, traveled, and didn't worry about much except from which adventure we'd embark on next. We owned a home, had some money saved, and worked good jobs, helping us build our retirement accounts. Then, out of nowhere, came a life-altering medical diagnosis, whose treatment came with a hefty price tag not covered by our insurance. Suddenly, our bank account was depleted. Four years and one baby later, we moved in with my parents to build back up our emergency fund and save for a new house.
Our story isn't unique. For the past several years, studies and surveys about millennials moving back home have been recurring headlines. Having done it myself and lived to tell the tale, I can say it's just what we needed. Moving back home after eight years of marriage was one of the hardest things we've ever done, but it was also one of the best. Here are four things I learned from that experience.
1. How to set goals and stick to them.
Thanks to my parents' generosity (I'm lucky; they wouldn't take any money toward rent or utilities), we were able to devise an aggressive saving plan. We gave ourselves one year and vowed to put away a minimum of 50 percent of our monthly income to meet our saving goals. Immediately after moving in, we created and hung a chart on our bedroom wall to track our progress. That chart served as a reminder each time we were tempted to veer off course (which was often) and allowed us to actually see the progress we were making each month.
2. How to budget like a grown-up.
Once upon a time, I thought paying all of my bills on time was basically the same as budgeting. Oh, to be young and stupid! Having to meet a large goal in a short amount of time required a no-nonsense budget and major changes to our spending habits. After we sat down and created an actual monthly budget, we swapped our credit and debit cards for cash. It made for a few embarrassing scenes during checkout at the grocery store, but we eventually got the hang of it and still use cash almost exclusively.
3. How to say no.
Sticking to a tight budget didn't allow for a whole lot of extras, so we had to learn to prioritize our social life as well as learn how to say no. That meant that instead of saying yes to every wedding, birthday party, and out-of-state family function, we started saying yes only to events for our closest friends or relatives. In the beginning, we felt guilty and even a little anxious every time we declined an invitation, but that eventually stopped as we watched our savings grow each month.
4. How to pick my battles.
We had been married for eight years before moving in with my parents, so we were no strangers to compromise. But after years of doing things our way, we were guests in my parents' house, where they did things their way. Some compromises were easy. I was the only one in the house not working full-time, so I took over a lot of the cooking, cleaning, and running errands that needed to be taken care of during the week. Other compromises were more difficult, if not altogether impossible — like parking arrangements and 4 a.m. wake-up calls courtesy of the garage door that was directly below our bedroom — but we made it work. And when we couldn't compromise, we looked at the progress we were making, learned to tolerate the intolerable, and mastered the art of biting our tongues.
Moving back in with my parents gave us the chance to get back on track. We have now been in our forever home for five months and couldn't be happier. As for the relationship between us and my parents after living together for a year? They're at our house for dinner or grandbaby snuggles just about every day.