When do you start considering yourself an adult? Is it when you move out for college? If you’re eating Ramen out of a dirty bowl and staying up until 4 AM, probably not. Is it when you have kids? Just wait until that first diaper explosion and see how in control you feel. The real mark of an adult is not how adult you feel, but how responsible you act. Sometimes a little help, or a guide to adulting, can be a huge boon to your confidence in your responsibility.
Pay Attention, At Least Once In Awhile
You don’t have to stress or focus on your finances all the time. But look at your income and your spending at least once a week. Did you spend more than you made? Might want to cut back a little next week. Have a little left over? Put it in your savings; it could mean a big vacation or a down payment on a house later on. As long as you’re smart about it, and don’t ignore your accounts, you’ll stay on top of your finances and avoid debt later on in life.
Time to suck it up, Junior. The word budget might induce a nervous tick in young adults, or adult adults, or even older adults, but it’s an important word, and it could make the rest of your life a whole lot easier. Start with your fixed expenses, like rent and your phone bill. Subtract them from your income, average it if it’s not consistent but be realistic. What’s left is what you have to spend for the month. It’s really that easy. You can get more specific with it if you want to make a category for groceries, parties, etc., but at the very least learn to use a simple budget for each month. It could end up stopping a headache before it starts.
Consider The Big Picture
It can be tough to picture, but you too will have gray hair and wrinkles someday - probably sooner than you realize! Even if you can’t fully grasp that (and who can?), it’s important to start planning now. Even if you don’t put money aside for retirement right away, at the very least put a little bit away just in case you need, say, a car repair. Or if you suddenly have a job interview in a city halfway across the country. Being an adult means being responsible, and any guide to adulting will tell you that being responsible means being prepared.
It’s easy when you’re young to ignore reality and procrastinate or use your age as an excuse to make poor financial decisions. The part of this that’s essential in any guide to adulting is facing reality and accepting it. There’s no one telling you what to do now, so it’s important for you to tell yourself. Yes, that leather jacket looks awesome, but should you be throwing $500 on your credit card willy nilly? Tell yourself “no” sometimes, and you’ll feel the surge of adulting all over.
Set Your Priorities
Now I’m not saying you have to cut all of the fun things out of your budget. But it is time to decide what’s more important and to put those more important things first. Is it really more important to go to that party this weekend than to have enough money for lunch next week? If you can look in the mirror and honestly answer “yes” then more power to you, party it up. But if you’re a rational human being, maybe take it easy for a weekend and have a salad or something, huh? A guide to adulting will tell you that making small decisions about your finances is one of the first responsibilities you have when living on your own, and it makes great practice for bigger financial decisions later on.
A guide to adulting won’t be complicated, and it won’t solve all your problems. Just be smart about the decisions you make. Don’t ignore your finances or use your age as an excuse. Most importantly, abstract as it may be, try to remember the long term ramifications. Even just six months down the road, you’ll be glad you did.
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