No, I’m not rich or well-known, but I do consider myself a somewhat successful adult. You know the dieting advice to eat healthy 85% of the time and then you can indulge 15% of the time? That’s kinda my approach to adulting. Usually, I’m on top of things and I enjoy that; however, sometimes, I slack and I’m okay with that too. Hence, the title of the post – I can be a somewhat reluctant adult even after so many years! 😉

I recently saw an article requesting adulting tips of things people wish they’d been told when they were younger. Most of the responses focused on financial knowledge. I was pretty fortunate in that my parents shared life advice including financial wisdom not just by telling me things but also by living it. I’ve applied their lessons and tweaked things to suit my personality and needs. That’s how I got the 10 Tips I’m sharing today.

  1. You can screw over your future self. I’ve actually blogged about this previously as mowing grass is sometimes the bane of my life – here’s that link. For now, I’ll leave this alone as self-explanatory as actions have consequences.
  2. Start saving as soon as you have a paycheck. You can request your employee split your direct deposit or set up auto-transfers to savings directly with the bank each paycheck which is what I do. Once the money is out of sight in your checking account, it’s easier to forget. Have you seen the charity efforts where you can round up a bill and donate that amount to the charity? Sometimes, it’s only a few pennies, but those add up if you do it all the time. There’s no shame in saving $1 a paycheck.
  3. Small changes can make a big impact. Is it a pain to put away a dish immediately after using it? Sure, sometimes. It’s also annoying to see a sink/ dishwasher full of dirty dishes with nothing clean to use. Start with small habits and build on them. Even just thinking about the future can change your actions in the present (see tip #1 though).
    *Bonus tip – When you take the time to think and make your daily choices, don’t just focus on what your worries. Take a moment to take a deep breath and think of just 1 small thing you are grateful for at that exact moment. I enjoy making things silly things somethings so it doesn’t need to be big and life-changing. Be grateful for a song, a chocolate treat, a friend’s tweet, etc.
  4. More money isn’t always the answer. I laughed when my mom first told me I’d spend whatever I made. I had just gotten my first job outside of customer service and almost doubled my minimum pay. I was sure all of my problems would be fixed…they weren’t and even worse my mom was right. I managed to spend all the money I was making and my life didn’t become all shiny and magical.
  5. Pay more than you owe. Again, even if you are only rounding up a little, pay more than your monthly payment on any debt. This helps pay off furniture, cars, and homes months and even years early. It doesn’t seem like a lot but car loans can be 5-7 years and a mortgage can be 30 years.
  6. A small monthly payment isn’t always a good deal. Car dealers can often get your payment at the number you want by extending the loan. Phone companies tack on a mere $10 to pay off that hot new phone. Just because you can afford that monthly payment doesn’t mean you got a good deal. Monthly payments on a $100,000 30-year mortgage at 3.25% interest are $435.21, but you’ll pay $56,674.27 in interest which is over half of your actual loan amount.
  7. There’s a difference in unsecured and secured debt. Sometimes, loan consolidation includes both types of debt. Unsecured debt refers medical bills, credit card payments, etc. Even if you file bankruptcy, this debt will only be partially paid back but it will be considered discharged (you won’t owe after the bankruptcy). Knowing this, these creditors may be receptive to other repayment options. Secured debt is money loaned for home and car purchases (it is secured by/ linked to property). If you can’t make the payments, the creditor has a right to start legal action to take back the property. Know what you’re getting into and consult an attorney as needed.
    *Bonus tip: When looking for an attorney, start with your state bar. The Virginia State Bar offers low priced consultations with attorney who do NOT have any disciplinary record. Yes, friends or co-workers can make recommendations, but the Bar has access to atty records and can make sure you start with an attorney without a record.
  8. You have to know your expenses to control/ change them. Take one month and record all money spent – even if it’s $1 in a vending machine. That’s what you use to create a budget. Do remember that some expenses differ through the year (gas heating in summer could be pennies while electric AC costs skyrocket and the reverse is true in winter). Sometimes, costs are outside of your control so round up. List your pay minus an automatic savings payment then prioritize expenses and subtract those first. You can include a cash payment to yourself as ‘free money’ so you don’t feel your budget is too restrictive. To again use a diet analogy, it’s tough to make a big change from 3000 daily calories to 1200 and when we feel too restricted we sometimes binge/ blow up.
  9. Ask for help and educate yourself. Start with your library and see if they offer direct you to local resources. There are websites that provide your credit rating and insights to improve it. Credit card companies also offer analysis and support. You can also Google and see what free options are available to suit your needs. If you aren’t spending money, often there’s a time cost so do what works for you.
    *Bonus tip: The library is a great resource to learn many things and it’s (usually) a free resource. Make that connection early and it can grow with you. There will always be new things to study and learn about (401k accounts, taxes, home maintenance, starting your own business, higher education, politics, etc).
  10. Adulting is a skill, not a gift. Skills can be learned, honed, and built on – gifts simply exist. Whether you want to learn to play a sport or a musical instrument, you expect to start with the basics and learn. Some people will start out ahead of you but don’t worry about them. Worry about improving your skills and being a better you tomorrow.

If you see adulting as a skill or even a job, you can take pride in your efforts and can cut yourself some slack when you stumble. And we do all stumble. I love the analogy that no one tells a child to stop trying to walk just because the child falls. Even adults fall – don’t stop trying to learn and improve.

Tweak the tips above to work for you. I’m not big on having the latest technology but I love to travel so I started saving with specific trips/ costs as the goal. I am a bit of a control freak so I do organize my financial info in spreadsheets. I also clean when stressed out as I love seeing things in order when it feels like my life is out of control. I’ve developed some good habits and some bad ones. Again, I’m going for that 85/15 rule.

For that 85%, I do get a rush from marking adulting responsibilities off my To Do list – sometimes, that’s researching candidates to vote and sometimes it’s going to the dentist. I have my regular daily chores that I typically do at specific times. I like waking to a clean house so I try to put things away throughout the day or straighten up at night. And yes, I do clean before a trip as I also like coming home to a clean space. I’m more likely to do weekly chores like laundry and cleaning on Saturday/ Sunday mornings so I can do fun things in the afternoon/ evenings. I also save special projects like home improvement projects for the weekends but do limit them to one a month.

That 15% portion means laundry can pile up and the fridge may be empty when I sleep late or take a full day to binge watch/ read something fun. Just like the ‘free money’ I mentioned above, I think ‘free time’ is necessary. It’s not something I feel guilty about either. Instead, I see it as part of the process or even a job perk! 😉

Being an adult isn’t just paying the bills and gaining financial security. It’s being the best version of yourself and that includes your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Being an adult isn’t just your right, it’s also your responsibility.

This is again something I’ve blogged about previously (links below) as I stumble and try to correct my own course. As a writer, I process life by writing it out and I share those ramblings here. I always hope someone gains inspiration or ideas, but regardless, it is how I help myself along my path. Martial arts are another tool I’ve used to understand and help myself. I’ve also blogged about taking lessons ‘off the mats’ and I want to mention that here too.

Saving even $1 can have a big impact just as putting away that one dish again. Taking that lesson further, helping one person can have a big impact. The world can feel overwhelming and we can get lost in it. Look at yourself – your house – your neighborhood – and see what one small change can be made. You weren’t meant to bear the burdens of the entire world, but your actions can have a meaningful impact.

Paying more than owe can also be interpreted as give more than you take. It’s not about what others or the world owes you. Give freely and joyously without the expectation of getting something in return.

You have to know your expense to control/ change them. You also have to know yourself. What are your buttons? Where are your blind spots? Take the time to evaluate yourself and see if there are things you want to control or change.

Being an adult isn’t just paying the bills and gaining financial security. It’s being the best version of yourself and that includes your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Being an adult isn’t just your right, it’s also your responsibility.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough so it’s up to you (and to me) to embrace adulting today and see if we can make the world a better place by being better ourselves. Get a snack while you’re at it!

Take care, my friends.

Links to related blog posts:
Mental Self-Defense
A New Leaf is Still a Leaf
3 Resolutions You Can Do Today
Worldview: What’s your prescription?
Pandemic survival: Lessons from martial arts [Part 6]
Awareness is exhausting.
Be the Wave – Part 1
New Year, New Others?

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