It’s hard to know these days when is the right time to kick your kids out. This may seem like a blunt sentiment but with many ‘children’ staying contentedly in the nest well into their twenties, it’s a reality that many parents are faced with. Obviously, there are extreme situations, but if you can maintain an open and supportive dialogue about the options, your child will feel much more enabled to move out. Often the lack of action is due to fear of the unknown, so helping them to see what the move will look like on a practical level will make the transition easier for everyone and hopefully, speed up the process.
1. Transition them to tenant status
There is no ideal age anymore for a child to leave home, but your instincts will tell you when it’s time. Sending them out into the rental market with no experience of managing their own expenses is a recipe for disaster. Just like you prepared them for school and puberty, you should also prepare them for the next stage of their life – young adulthood. Ideally as soon as your teenager starts earning income they should be giving some of it to you to establish habits for themselves about earning money and being responsible for expenses. You may choose to put it towards specific household expenses, or secretly save it for them to give back to them at a later stage – maybe for a bond or when they need money for furniture or other set-up expenses.
As they get older, you can start to shift responsibilities for some of their expenses back to them. Mobile phone bills, petrol, spending money and costs related to their pets can be gradually phased over, depending on their income. They can even contribute to shopping and cooking, or do their own. If they can’t afford to pay for their own costs while living with you, they certainly won’t be able to afford to move out, so this exercise not only prepares them, it also gives you a good indication of just how emotionally and financially ready they are to be out on their own.
2. Help them write a budget
If you have started transferring some of their expenses across to them and they keep ‘crying poor’, it’s time to sit down and write a budget. A great budget will include essential costs plus the good stuff – socialising, concerts, hair and beauty products, takeaway food and coffees. This will reflect the life they currently live, so therefore also clearly detail to them the one they will expect to keep on living. If their general social expenses add up to more than their income, not only can they not move out of home, they have to earn a lot more money to maintain the lifestyle they have been living so date - or change their habits.
The earlier teenagers are introduced to managing their own money, the better – even a 12-year old’s $5 pocket money can be budgeted to cover fish food, in-App purchases and lollies. Fostering an early understanding of budgeting will help them to continue to manage their own expenses as they get older and their costs increase. Once they turn 18, you can sit down together and start to do some research about moving costs and living out of home expenses. Start with their current expenses, then add in estimated costs of bond, rent, electricity, water, gas, internet, parking fees, shopping, spending money and so on. This gives them a final figure to work towards and gives you a sense of whether you are applying too much pressure too soon, or whether they’ve been sponging from you for way too long.
3. Give them a deadline
Once you have established the financial feasibility of them moving out, you can start to put time parameters around them actually leaving. It can be an anxious time for everyone, so having a period of time for everyone to prepare and adjust is useful. Once you know how much it will cost and that your child will be able to meet those expenses, the only hurdle may be that they need some time to save up for things like bond, utility connections, furniture and removalists. This can all be budgeted as well – help them calculate in their budget how much to save each week and what expenses you might be able to help with in the short time. Things like removalists and set up costs can all be minimised if family chips in to help with heavy lifting and donations of household things.
Once everyone is clear on the financial requirements, you can then set a date for them to move out by and they can start to research the rental property market. Decide on it together and confirm with them that they think that date gives them a reasonable time frame to save and prepare. Looking at properties without pressure will then give them a good idea of what they want and how realistic their chosen rent and budget actually is. They may come back to you and want to extend the time frame but at least you know the wheels are in motion and they will be out at some stage rather than not at all.
4. Renting a house for beginners
One of the biggest expenses, apart from bond, when moving out is set up costs. Everything from salt and pepper, to cleaning supplies, pots and pans to sofas, beds and TVs, add up to a small fortune if you have taken that stuff for granted for the past decade or two. In the lead up to their departure date, encourage them to make a list of the things they might need or want for their new house. There might be a shopping list for groceries, then another list for household things. You can add a few things to your groceries each time you shop and then give them a box of kitchen staples such as cooking oil, canned foods, pasta, rice, paper towel and dishwashing liquid as a gift on moving day.
To boost their household essentials, why not go through the family home to find things you no longer use, that might be useful to them – spare towels, old rugs rolled up in the shed, pots you were planning to replace, appliances you never use anymore -even camping equipment such as swags or sleeping bags will be useful until they can buy their own beds and linen. The key is to make the move as exciting and easy as possible and if they have to camp on the floor for a few days and cook on a sandwich maker, this can only add to the adventure – especially if it means they get into their new house faster.
Another great way to help them set up their home is to reach out to your community. Good friends and family will be delighted to have the chance to drop off a housewarming gift and share some pizza after the removalists have left. Scented candles, pot plants, salad bowls, toothbrush holders or even a nice clock, are all non-essentials that turn a house into a home and you can depend on your nearest and dearest to share in the excitement with you all.
5. Bring Champagne on moving day
All of these suggestions depend on you having a good relationship with your child. This is of course an idealistic set of suggestions, as the reality is that by the time many children are leaving home, everyone is more than happy to see the back of each other. Even if their departure was marked with you throwing their clothes in a garbage bag, shoving them into a taxi and changing the locks, the very least you can do to support your child is drop off a bottle of champagne to their new house on the day they move in. Being there to help them move, bringing the glasses and sharing it with them is the best-case scenario but if that is not your reality, a small gift of some kind on the doorstep may be the alternative. Order a pizza delivery for their first night’s dinner, or drop off a bunch of flowers and a cheap vase for their new kitchen. They are still your child after all and though the transition may be bumpy, in time you will find a new dynamic and hopefully be able to reconnect in a different way into the future.
It’s not only your child who is embarking on a new phase of their life – you will also experience changes during this time. All of the pre-departure strategies you will put in place for them, will also help you to adjust to them being gone. As they look for places to live, you can also start thinking about your next move. Will you downsize to something smaller? Will you sell your house now that the kids have moved out? Where will you live now that you don’t have to factor the needs of your children into the decision? It’s a tumultuous time, but also an exciting one so plan well, try to go through it in a united way and believe the best of your future is ahead for all of you.
DISCLAIMER: The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.