If you’re going to be “adulting,” you need to master this set of essential life skills.
Balance a budget
The old advice used to be that everybody had to learn how to balance their checkbook, but due to digital banking and credit cards, check registers appear to have gone the way of a woolly mammoth. But that doesn’t mean that budgeting, perhaps the most critical household skill there is, should too. Instead of physical accounting, make sure you know how to manage your income and expenses. You can create your own spreadsheet at home or use an app like You Need a Budget, but whatever you do, make sure you do that.
Cook a meal
Okay, spaghetti counts. And so does chicken and rice. But I’m sorry to inform you that frozen pizza doesn’t count. Learning to prepare a meal, selecting a recipe to shop for ingredients, cooking, and cleaning up after, is an essential life skill for anyone who likes to eat. That’s everyone. You don’t have to be a chef or even make it with more than five ingredients, but you’ll be surprised at how inspiring and enjoyable it can be to play around in the kitchen.
Know when to say “no”
It’s crazy how many of us have a hard time saying this word. But learning how to say “no” graciously but still firmly— without using excuses or white lies— is a vital skill in life. If you’re one of those people who constantly says “yes” when someone asks you to do something and you feel guilty to say “no,” try to say “I need to think about it” instead.
That’s going to give you time to think about your plans and determine if it’s actually something you can do without the burden of the person’s pleading eyes boring into you. And remember: every time you say “yes” to one thing (like working late), you always say “no” to something else (like a gym, a family dinner, and a decent bedtime).
Shop for groceries
He’s making a list and checking it twice — but we’re not talking about Santa, we ‘re actually talking about you. Walking in a supermarket without a plan is the fastest way to blow your budget and end up at home with three boxes of doughnuts and no milk. Making an effort to prepare your meals, write a structured list, and shop on that list will save you money, time, and disappointment.
To make things easier, keep a list throughout the week, add items as you go. Many pro shoppers consider it helpful to create categories like produce, dairy, and frozen— so you don’t have to search through the store to find all the items on your list.
Boil an egg
Eggs are a cheap source of high-quality protein, and when you boil them you add portable to their list of great qualities. However, boiling the perfect egg can be tricky — too short, and you end up with gross gooey whites, too long, and you’ve got a bouncy ball that crumbles when you try to bite into it. Listen up: it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Write a resume
Having a job makes you assess everything from where you live to what you eat and how happy you are, so choose a good one.
Have you done something wrong? Congratulations, you ‘re a human being! Unfortunately, we frequently view errors as personal failures, which make them disturbing (to put it mildly) to hear about them, so when people want to give feedback, it may trigger the inner Hulk. But if you can teach yourself to see mistakes as learning opportunities instead, it makes them— and the unavoidable criticism that comes with them— so much easier to deal with.
Have good table manners
Always chew with your mouth closed. Know what kind of fork the dish is for. Make sure to put a cloth napkin on your lap. Don’t pick the food with your hands. Don’t slurp the soup. Serve food from shared dishes to your plate, not to your mouth. Yeah, and did we mention chewing your mouth closed? Make your mother proud and show your good manners at the table, whether you’re dining at home, at the local restaurant, or at a four-star restaurant.
Drill a hole
Simple home repairs like drilling a hole, leveling a picture, unclogging a toilet, fixing a leaking faucet, repairing small drywall holes, and other household items can make your life easier and save your hard-earned cash.
Sew on a button
Clothing quality has declined significantly over the years and, sadly, so have sewing skills. This means that not only is a pop-up button, a hanging hem, or a hole in a sweater inevitable (thank you for fast fashion!) but you’re forced to buy a new item or relying on safety pins in unusual places instead of doing what should be a fixable problem. Learn the easy DIY clothing repairs, like sewing on a button that fell off, and never get poked in the chest again.
Navigating public transit
Cars are awesome, but public buses, trains, and subways are a necessary trait for many urban residents, so learning how to use them effectively is a handy skill. Even if you don’t live in a region where public transportation is a thing, knowing how to navigate public transport can be a lifesaver when you travel, particularly in foreign countries.
Understand the consequences
Want to drink, but don’t to wake up with a hangover? Stuff yourself with a cake, but won’t you gain weight? Take off every Friday, but you still have a job on Monday? Speed but don’t you ever get a ticket? Yeah, we ‘re sorry to be the ones to break this for you, but this isn’t the way things work. (Usually.) We all understand this on an intellectual level, yet we anger against it on an emotional level, living as if we don’t understand the unchangeable law of consequences.
So here you go: when you make a decision to do something, you choose the consequences as well. This is a package deal. Nonetheless, you should know how to stop making the consequences worse than they have to be— like hangovers, for example.
Change a tire
AAA and roadside service are definitely a godsend, but it only takes one time to get your car tire going flat on a mountain road two hours away from the nearest town to make you understand how important it is to know how to change a tire. You won’t have to use this skill too much (we hope!), but it’s worth the time you’ve spent learning it for a handful of occasions. After all, the mountain roads are nice to drive! If you need a tire tutorial, the DMV has you covered.
Brew a perfect pot of coffee
Love coffee? You could invest in Starbucks, or you might wanna learn how to make your own perfect cup of coffee. Even if you’re not a big coffee drinker yourself, knowing how to make the world’s most popular drink is guaranteed to be useful at the office, with friends, or when your family visits you.
Have a face-to-face conversation
Have a face with anyone else by looking at them in the eye might be the oldest ability of humanity, yet in the era of FaceTime, texting, and email, we are rapidly losing the capacity for meaningful communication. And nothing demonstrates your interest and dedication more than actually talking to someone in person. Once the discussion is flowing, remember the golden ratio: 51% listening, 49% talking.
Change a diaper
Babies are tiny, fragile human beings who literally have holes in their skulls, so it makes sense that a lot of people are nervous about being left alone with them. But newborns, not as fragile as they first appear, and learning a few basics, like changing the diaper, will go a long way to making you look and sound like a professional caregiver. Even if you don’t have children, learning how to change the diaper can still be helpful in case of an emergency babysitting. Luckily, modern diapers make this a fairly painless process.
Use your oven
Ovens are one of the greatest modern conveniences we have, and yet so many of us are relying on the microwave. But if you’re sick of mushy, unequally warmed food, give your kitchen oven a chance. Ovens can look overwhelming with all the knobs, buttons, and timers, but once you figure it out, it’ll become part of the routine.
Pay a bill
Paying your bills is Adult 101, but it’s not as easy as handing over your money. You have to read through the bill and make sure it’s accurate, check your bank balance for sufficient funds, make sure you pay it in a timely manner, use the correct method, and make sure it’s received and correctly applied to your account.
Do a load of laundry
Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly washed sheets? And the looks of white fresh socks? Or the comfort of clean underwear? No one, that’s for sure! The value of learning how to correctly use your washer (pro tip: do not use regular detergent in a high-efficiency machine) and dryer cannot be underestimated.
A good work ethic
In every young person’s life comes a day when no one kicks them out of bed in the morning and tells them where to be and when to be. It’s a breakthrough moment when you remember that it’s all up to you to make sure you get to work, do all your work, and not do too much work—and then get ‘er done.
Understand a lease agreement
Your parents probably didn’t make you sign a lease to live at home, but it’s possible that anyone you stay with will have some paperwork waiting for your John Hancock. Unfortunately, leases can be full of legal and difficult reading, sometimes with ironclad clauses that can come back to bite you in the ass later if you don’t understand what you’re signing.
Do you want to understand someone? Walk a mile in their shoes — or so the old saying goes. However, generally speaking, how to display empathy in the real world doesn’t involve shoes. All this means is learning how to be a good listener and how to support and encourage others without being uncomfortable or patronizing.
Finish a project
It’s easy and fun to start a new project! However, finishing it is another story. But having the perseverance, the will, and the understanding to take on a project — whether it’s for the job, school, or a hobby — from beginning to end is what separates the wannabes from the winners.
Do your own taxes
Taxes have a bad rep for being hair-pulling, pillow-screaming, frustration papers. And for a good cause. But just because they’re complicated, boring, and complex, you don’t get a pass on doing them. So why don’t you skip the suffering and pay someone else to do it for you? Doing your own taxes, even if it’s only one year, gives you a valuable insight into how your own finances work and a deeper understanding of how the government operates.
Yeah, you might do it all on your own, but should you? Understanding where your time is best spent and where it makes sense to get outside support is one of the secrets to business and personal success.
Deep clean a bathroom
Break out your toothbrushes— and we’re not thinking about your teeth! Knowing how to wash every nook and cranny of a toilet is the first step in having a clean, sparkling bathroom. Then wipe the counters down, wipe the floor, windex the mirror, rinse the bathtub, and clean all the random toothpaste splatters off the surface (how does that happen?).
But it’s just half the battle to learn how to clean it. Knowing why getting a clean bathroom is necessary, and doing it on a regular basis, is a real achievement.
Load the dishwasher
Think of it as 3-D Tetris for adults. Rinsing off the dinner dishes and place them in the dishwasher in such a way that it can be filled to the full capacity while still keeping it clean is as much an art as a science.
Understand your health insurance policy
Insurance claims and medical bills can be so overwhelming that it’s appealing to just throw your hands up and promise never to get sick ever again. But no matter how healthy you are, you will still need health care, so that means finding out what all these costs, statistics, and networks mean. Taking the time to get through your policy and bills can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Drive a stick shift
You may not own one, but the cars with a manual transmission are definitely not extinct. If you have to borrow a friend’s car in a pinch or if you happen to end up with a BMW M5 on your hands, learning how to drive a clutch can save you. Never had the chance to drive stick? Buddy up with a friend who has a manual car and work through the simple steps in using a stick shift. Within no time you will be a pro.
Cope with change
You know what they’re saying: change is the only constant. Yet many of us still live our lives like they’re always going to stay the same, so when major changes come, they can rock the very foundation of our lives. But you don’t need to think about change, you just need to be prepared for it. Come up with a clear strategy for big contingencies, and you’re going to save yourself a lot of stress.
Open a savings account
Getting a credit card is a no-brainer. Heck, you don’t even have to pay for one; they ‘re only going to give you one in the mail, making saving money much simpler than it already is. Yet saving money is a real skill, and it starts with creating your own savings account. Know the various forms of savings accounts, pick one that’s perfect for you, and start socking cash away on a regular basis.
Basic first aid
If someone collapsed at work, would you know what to do? If your child began to choke at dinner? If you sprained your ankle on a hike? Learning CPR and basic first aid skills fall into the category of skills that you hope you will never have to use, but still, it’s important to know them. But in an emergency situation, first aid training will help keep you calm, stay safe, and even save your life.
Choose your own happiness
Despite what politicians might suggest, getting offended is a choice, and choosing to keep you cool is a real ability. Give someone the benefit of doubt (even if they don’t deserve it), don’t take it seriously, forgive, and refuse to take the bait in the debate, and you’ll have full control of your own happiness. It’s not what happens to you that really matters, but how you respond to it.
Write a thank-you note
Nothing is more beautiful or valued than genuine appreciation. Hand write it on beautiful stationery— a rarity in our tech-obsessed culture — and it is a precious token, often cherished for years to come.