With college graduation coming, it’s time to get serious — about life. That means hello to a full-time job and paying your own way and goodbye to playing hooky to have some fun. Yes, in some ways, adulting is a total sham. But you can get through it. Keep believing the best is yet to come. In the meantime, get to know the basics of running your own life, so you can leave plenty of space to enjoy it.
Money stuff: Learn to manage your biggest resource: your income. Years from now (okay, make that weeks), you’ll need to rely on it to cover unexpected expenses. Do your future self a favor and break away from a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality:
- Pay bills on time. That can improve your credit score, which can make you eligible for lower interest rates in the future.
- Set up a monthly budget, and look for places to trim the fat.
- Redirect what you’ve saved toward long-term goals, such as paying off debt or filling your rainy-day fund.
Good apartment: For most college grads, the starting point in the apartment search is cost. Ideally, rent should be no more than 30 percent of your monthly take-home pay. Let’s say you make $50,000 a year. However, taxes, health premiums and retirement savings will roll back your take-home pay to, say, $42,000. That leaves you with $1,050 a month to pay toward housing.
Good roommate: Being an adult means being straightforward with all your dealings with people. When it comes time to choose a roommate, be honest about your lifestyles and preferences before you sign the lease. It may feel awkward now, but that can spare you both an angry confrontation later.
Keep an eye on your car: Your car is your biggest investment. Take time to make sure your car is in good shape. Know the fluids in your car and how to check them. Taking care of the underlying causes of low fluids early can save you from an expensive problem later.
Tire know-how: Savvy adults keep their eye on the air level of their tires, because a blown tire when you’re barreling down the highway can really get ugly. Before you get in, cast your gaze on all four wheels. Also, learn to use a tire gauge, and set a monthly reminder to check the pressure and treads.
A snazzy outfit: It’s transition time, meaning you’re moving away from college casual to pulled-together professional. Gather up some foundation pieces for your work wardrobe, opting for classic colors, simple lines and a tailored fit.
Cooking and sharing: Not everyone likes cooking, but true masters of adulthood have a slate of go-to dishes they can whip up for any situation. If you’re a kitchen novice, don’t worry. Just find easy and delicious recipes within your ability for the following categories: potluck entree, party nibbles, sweet treats, emergency dinner and a romantic dinner for two. (Don’t forget the tacos. Everyone should take time to master the art of making the perfect filling for tacos.)
Get social: Back in college, socializing was easy because the place was just teeming with friends. In the world of adults, however, jobs, and eventually families and houses, can seriously cut into your free time. It’s good to give your social muscles regular workouts, so keep up your habit of inviting potential new friends to do something fun.
Get involved: Someday, sooner than you’d ever expect, your generation will be in charge. When that day comes, what do you want your world to be like? Jump in, volunteer and join others in their efforts to make things better.
Keep it in perspective: If you listened to Grandpa’s stories, you might see a theme emerging. Life is long and nothing lasts forever. You can be up one year and down the next. If something’s not going the way you like it, keep striving and hang in there! Your moment may be right around the corner.
Adulting can be hard to get the hang of, but use these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a successful adulthood.