I recently turned 28, and it caused me to pause and reflect over the last few years. If I were to sum my 20s up in a sentence, I would say, “I’ve been learning how to be an adult.” and adulting has been interesting.
It hasn’t always been fun, or easy, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. And today, I’m passing some of my hard-won experience on to you, in the form of 5 skills that will make you feel like an adult and shortcuts you can take to develop them. None of these are recommendations — just strategies that worked well for me!
When I was a kid, running out of money was annoying — but not a big deal. It just meant I couldn’t buy anything until I got more. But now, as an adult, with a mortgage, a baby, and a grocery bill, running out of money is a serious problem.
That’s why my wife and I started budgeting.
We don’t use any fancy or expensive tools. We simply:
- Open a spreadsheet in Google docs
- Create columns for our big expense categories (and an extra column for unexpected expenses).
- Set monthly allowances for each category
- Fill in the spreadsheet rows with each transaction that hits our credit card
Growing my credit
Having great credit allowed me to buy my first house when I was roughly 24 years old. But growing that credit took time.
After getting rejected when I applied for my first credit card (even though they sent me the application), I got a “secured credit card” from my bank. It’s like a credit card with training wheels, where your bank locks a certain amount of money in your account so you can’t accidentally run out.
Using that card responsibly, along with some other steps I took, allowed me to grow my credit. Roughly a year later, I went back to the credit card company that rejected me and got approved.
I’ve never had credit problems since.
Learning how to cook
From eating healthier to making it easier to entertain guests, learning how to cook has really made me feel like an adult.
My interest in cooking began when the non-profit where I worked held a guacamole-making competition. I had never made guacamole (or really anything) before, but I gave it a try and ended up winning! After that, I was hooked.
If learning to cook is a goal of yours, I recommend starting with something simple that uses lots of ingredients you love. That way, even if you make a mistake, it will probably still taste pretty good.
Personally, I take this approach to the extreme. I buy a bunch of ingredients I like and experiment with crazy combinations (How else could I have discovered my legendary Green Bean Alfredo Pizza?).
But if you’d rather learn how to cook with more structure, meal delivery kits like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron are great because they send you pre-portioned ingredients and clear instructions. You can learn how to cook, discover meals you like, and buy the ingredients at your grocery store the next time you want the meal.
Getting out of bed on time
I’ve never been good at getting out of bed. I literally slept through my calculus midterm in college (can you blame me?). But with a paying job on the line, I had to figure out a solution when I reached my 20s.
I’m still not perfect, but a few strategies that have helped me are:
- Going to sleep earlier (so I wake up less tired)
- Cooling the house down before I get in bed (which seems to help me sleep more soundly)
- Spending some time exercising during the day (which seems to help me fall asleep faster)
Managing my inbox
Even in college, I could get away with not checking my inbox for a few days at a time. Not anymore.
Email is somehow boring and stressful at the same time — not to mention a massive time-suck.
Here are a few strategies I use to get through my inbox quickly:
- I unsubscribe from marketing emails to reduce clutter
- I’ve made sure to log into my inbox with a goal of getting caught up quickly
- When I’m not sure how to respond to an email, I star it or put it in a folder before it slips into the abyss of page 2 (where it will be forgotten forever)
- I save time with a tool called Grammarly that reviews my emails for spelling and grammar mistakes and offers easy suggestions for fixing them
And I also pause my inbox when I’m working on important projects or taking time off so I don’t get distracted (Boomerang is what I use because it works with Gmail).
I wish one of my college classes had been called “Adulting 101.” It would have saved me a lot of time and frustration. But thankfully, I’m starting to get the hang of adulting thanks to the school of trial and error.
Hopefully, this post will help you avoid a few of my mistakes and inspire you with a few ways you can accelerate your transition into adulthood. (It’s not as bad as you think. You can eat candy whenever you want!)