'I give my mum money so she can buy whatever she wants'

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Like a quarter of millennials living in the UK, Sonya Barlow, 26, lives with her parents. For the majority of the 'boomerang generation,' living at home is a financial necessity. But there are other factors at play when it comes to Sonya’s decision not to fly the nest.

As Sonya explains is common in Pakistani families, the Barlows see their children’s earnings as family money, and Sonya and her siblings all contribute financially towards the family home. As well as paying towards household costs like food and bills, Sonya lets her mum use her bank cards to buy things for herself.

Sonya earns £30,000 a year working as a delivery manager at a tech company, while running a women’s networking business called Like Minded Females on the side. We chat to Sonya about living with her parents and how her culture impacts the way money works in her family.

How has your background impacted the way you manage your money?

Coming from a Pakistani background, it’s common to help your parents and family. My mum buys what she wants with my money, or I’ll transfer money onto her own card. It’s like her pocket money.

It’s quite normal in Pakistani and Indian families. If you do something, you’re doing it with your family and for your family. You’re doing it all together. That’s just how I’ve been raised.

My brother works now too, so he gives to the house and to our mum. If she needs something, she can go get stuff. You call it “my money”, but culturally, my money is my mum’s money.

"...culturally, my money is my mum’s money."

What kind of stuff does she spend it on?

She’s bought her laser appointments, goes to the cinema twice a week, gets her hair done, has dinner with friends and we also send her on holiday. If she wants to go on a three day break, we’ll pay for her ticket and give her spending money. I only get annoyed when she buys something on Amazon and doesn’t tell me!

If she spends more than £100 she’ll tell me there’s something she wants and I’ll tell her that’s fine. She doesn’t take advantage. You have to have that trust with your parents and I have that trust with her.

Sonya with her mum
Sonya's mum has raised four children and is volunteering in a charity shop to build up her work experience.

Did you think of your money as “family money” as soon as you started working?

I’ve been working since I was 17 in retail and I’ve always given money to the family house, to put towards bills and groceries. If we go out for dinner and I pay, I never expect them to give me the money back. If we go on holiday and we need extra money, I’ll take it out. It’s never been a mine and yours thing.

My mother has never worked, she’s always been a housewife. She had her first child at 20 and had four kids. She’s never had time to work, she’s constantly been a mum. Now my younger brother is 15 and old enough, she’s looking for a job. But because she doesn’t have any experience, she’s doing voluntary work in a charity shop at the moment.

The way I see it, your mother has invested a lot of time and effort in you. From school duty, to making us to food to helping with our homework, she never had time off. My mum invested in me, so now I want her to enjoy herself as much as she can. She’s living her best teenage life and we’re letting her! It’s the least we can do.

"My mum invested in me, so now I want her to enjoy herself as much as she can. She’s living her best teenage life and we’re letting her!"

How do you manage your money?

I’m on £30,000. So after paying tax and my student loan, my take home is £1,900. Here’s how I spend it:

  • £300 family home contribution

  • £100 treat money for my mother

  • £300 car (on finance)

  • £200 petrol

  • £100 commute (public transport)

  • £200 ISA

  • £500 other savings

  • £200 treat yourself allowance for going out with friends

Does living at home save you money?

The cost of my commute into London and contribution to the family adds up to about what I’d pay living in London on rent, so I don’t save there. But I do have my washing done for me and there is food in the house! And my TV, Netflix and internet is paid for.

I don't want to move out because I love living with my family and spending time with them after work and during the weekends. Though the commute can be costly, there's a comfort to coming home and knowing your income can better your lifestyle and be enjoyed by many. I’d rather this than trying to create a life for myself in a shared house with people I may not enjoy.

"I don’t want to move out because I love living with my family and spending time with them after work and during the weekends."
Sonya sets aside £300 a month to contribute to her family's costs, and gives her mum £100 to treat herself.

If you weren’t living at home, would you still contribute?

I’d still give my mum something, but I’d probably give her less. If I had disposable income, even if it was only £50 a month, I’d give her something.

What things do you do to save money?

I limit the amount I eat out for breakfast and have oats every morning. A bag costs 90p from Tesco and lasts a month. During lunchtime I get a £3 Tesco Meal Deal. I carry tea bags around with me as it only costs 20p for a cup of hot water. I don’t have a gym membership, so I go on runs or do exercise at home. I also get model haircuts, which is when you get a student to cut your hair, so it costs £10 to £20.

When I was at uni I worked part time and I got a student loan. If I had been smart enough I would have paid off my student loan with the money I earned part time. But I wanted to enjoy the money and thought, you only live once.

Then when I got to my final year of uni I realised that I needed to grow up a bit, because I don’t want to live in my parents house my whole life, or feel like my boyfriend has to pay for me all the time. I don't want him or any man to pay for me!

Also when I’m working really hard, 40 or 50 hours a week, I should be able to enjoy myself when I’m holiday and not worry too much. Plus I want to do a PhD, so it’s about being able to afford that.

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