Students Can Save $11,451 Living at Home During College – But at What Cost?

A young woman is using a laptop comfortably in the living room at home.
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Room and board can be a major expense — sometimes as much or more than tuition itself. The average cost of in-state tuition at a four-year, public institution is $9,580, and the average cost of room and board ranges from $10,216 to live off campus to $11,945 to live on campus, according to EducationData.org. So clearly, living at home during college can be a big money-saver — at least upfront. But the longer-term costs of students remaining financially dependent on their parents may negate the savings benefits.

Find Out: Can You Afford Education in America at These Prices?
See: How Parents Should Invest Now to Pay for College Later

Here’s a look at some of the drawbacks that come along with adult children living at home during their college years.

Students Don’t Learn How To Budget and Spend Responsibly

“One of the greatest benefits of going away to college is learning to compromise and learning the value of a dollar, as well as budgeting,” said Tom Mingone, an advisor with Equitable Advisors.

Explore: The Cost of Education in the United States

Make Your Money Work for You

If students stay in their financial comfort zone by remaining at home, they don’t have to account for living expenses and can spend any money they make on discretionary costs.

Related: A Parents’ Guide To Saving for Education

“They can develop spending patterns that can plague them for the rest of their life,” Mignone said. “The challenge of living on your own as a young adult is learning to prioritize and make your money last. For example, if you want a great apartment but that means eating out less or going to fewer happy hours, the choice must be made. For an adult child living home, no such decisions present themselves.”

It Can Hamper Their Ability To Establish Good Credit

When students remain financially reliant on their parents throughout college, they are missing out on the ability to build credit during those years.

Discover: The Hidden Costs of Education at Every Level

“Paying bills on time to rental companies, utilities and credit card companies helps build a solid credit history,” said Joe Buhrmann, CFP, senior financial planning consultant at eMoney Advisor. “While there are benefits to living rent- and utility-free with parents, it does limit the ability to build a solid payment history with landlords and utility companies.”

This can end up hurting a student’s credit score, which will make it harder for them to eventually move out or even to land a job.

“A Credit Sesame survey found that of those with poor credit (scores between 300-549), 61% say they were never taught how to manage credit and 27% say they’re new to credit and just need time to build it,” said Shazia Virji, GM of credit services at Credit Sesame.

Vote: Should Teens Save for College or Retirement? Take Our Poll

The sooner students begin to build credit, the better their scores can potentially be upon graduation.

It Can Hurt Your Own Ability To Retire

Allowing your child to live at home during college not only affects your children’s financial future, but also your own.

Did You Know: What It Really Costs To Attend America’s Top 50 Colleges

“From the parent’s perspective, our clients do not realize how the expenses of adult children can add up, and for some, it could cripple their own ability to save for their retirement after shelling out a small fortune for college already,” Mignone said.

Make Your Money Work for You

The effects can be even more pronounced if your child extends their stay at home past graduation.

Read: How Much You Should Have in Your Retirement Fund at Ages 30, 40, 50 and 60

“The average stay-at-home adult child (that doesn’t contribute toward home expenses) costs their parents around $500 a month,” said Andrew Latham, certified personal finance counselor and managing editor at Supermoney.com. “That’s $100,000 less in your retirement fund if they stay home for 10 years, assuming a 10% annual return on investment.”

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Last updated: Aug. 12, 2021

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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