Life in a Crowded Nest

Everyday Cheapskate


August 2021 Issue
Everyday Cheapskate by Mary Hunt

It used to be that kids reaching adulthood could not wait to
leave home and be on their own. That worked out well
because their parents longed for an empty nest and quieter lives.
But these days, young people are spoiling these plans.

Estimates out there indicate that, currently, some 50% of U.S. college graduates plan to move back home with their parents after graduation. It’s possible the other 50% never moved out.

Many American homes have become very crowded nests. While parents are asking themselves what went wrong, the “boomerang” kids seem to be adjusting quite nicely. And why not? For lots of boomerangs, they get a boarding house without the rent, a laundromat with no slots for coins and a mini-storage facility—otherwise known as your garage.

No one’s doubting that current economic conditions are making it nearly impossible for kids to make it out of the nest for good on the first try. That’s fine. Just remember you want to make this a short-term layover. Eventually, you want leaving to be easier than staying. And I’m talking about them, not you.

Above all, take care of yourself. That means first in the shower. It means securing your own retirement before you take on their student debt. It means paying off your mortgage before helping with theirs.


Insist that adult children pay rent, or make some other form of financial contribution. At the very least, they are buying groceries, paying utilities, or paying a third of the rent. This is, after all, the real world.


Boomerangs have to respect the parents and their rules. Period. Yes, they are adults, but in your house at this time, they are refugees. They need to know their position as subordinates.


This should be a one-time event with both a start and an end date, and not subject to renewal.

Resist all temptation to do the boomerang’s laundry. No. Matter. What.

Boomerangs will undoubtedly arrive with bills. Do not pay these. Do not even think about it. Boomerangs must take full responsibility for all bills and debts, even if that requires a second minimum wage job.

Living privileges should not extend to your car. Nor should you drive said boomerang around the way you did many years ago. Boomerangs are on their own to get around.

Make it very clear what the parking arrangements are. Boomerangs, by all rights, should park on the street—not occupy the primo garage or driveway space if that requires the parents to park on the street.

Do not leave this matter undiscussed. While the “crowded nest diet” (wherein no matter how much you spend on food, it disappears faster than a tax refund) has been known to result in weight loss for the host parents, it does nothing to encourage boomerangs to move along to a better pasture.

Boomerangs need to be involved in the house. When determining who does what and when, err on the side of being too detailed and specific.


Transfer your house rules to a simple contract that everyone signs. Remember: This is the same kid who was the master at finding loopholes, and not so many years ago.

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living. (C) 2021

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