In a month and a half, I’ll be 33 years old. I have a stripe of grey hair in my bangs; I’m starting to get some fine lines around my eyes; and one of my knees keeps making a disturbing sound when I bend it. I’m not old by any means — in fact, I’m still quite young — but my body is making it rather apparent that the carefree days of youth are long gone.
And yet, I still don’t feel like an adult.
I don’t know if this is because I haven’t reached any of the “milestones of adulthood” that society has been shoving down my throat since infancy, or if it’s because (spoiler alert) no one ever actually “feels” like an adult. No matter the reason behind this imposter syndrome, I’ve been seeking ways to become an “adultier” adult, and I’ve found a few I’d like to share with anyone who may be looking to do the same.
Set a Routine
I discussed some of the wonderful reasons why you should adopt a routine in my article on taking control of anxiety — it’s good for your brain, your body, and helps with decision making. However, even for people without anxiety, a routine can be incredibly beneficial.
A daily routine makes you efficient. When you block out chunks of your day for specific tasks, such as work, errands, and so on, you actually get things done. What’s more, it leaves you with a lot more free time — and that free time can be used to do whatever you want, whether that means hanging out with friends, engaging in your favorite hobby, or going on a full-scale Netflix binge. Finally, just as our day tends to go smoother with a schedule, so does your night. A proper bedtime ritual puts your body into a rhythm that results in much better sleep.
Keep Your House Clean
I shouldn’t need to tell you why it’s important to keep your living area clean, but just as a refresher: you’ll know where things are, you’ll be more creative and less distracted, and it’s good for both your physical and mental health.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that cleaning isn’t exactly the most exhilarating of activities. In fact, I actively hate it. However, there are three things I do to achieve a clean home without making myself miserable in the process.
- I make cleaning part of my routine. Saturday morning is the block of time in my week I set aside for cleaning the house. I pop out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and then get to work. Having house cleaning as part of my routine means it always gets done, and I don’t have to stress too much during the week about when I’ll have time to vacuum or do my laundry.
- I listen to a podcast while cleaning. Giving my brain something enjoyable to do while I’m working makes the process feel much shorter than it actually is. It’s like they say, “time flies when you’re having fun!”
- I reward myself when I’m done. Once I’ve finished cleaning, I usually have a little treat (mmmm, chocolate), do a short, relaxing activity like a jigsaw puzzle or reading a few chapters of a book, and then take a nice hot shower. These dopamine-inducing behaviors have trained my body to look at house cleaning as a rewarding activity.
To top it all off, once your house is clean, not only do you feel accomplished, you also feel good about the state of your humble abode — which means you’re more likely to invite people over. And spending a little time with loved ones is always good for the soul.
Maintain Your Calendar
I really love those fancy planners everyone seems to have nowadays. I actually know a couple of people that go all out with gel pens, washi tape, and calligraphy, and it makes me incredibly jealous of their talent. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the wherewithal to keep up with one of those things, let alone carry it everywhere with me, so I just use the calendar on my smartphone.
However you decide to keep your schedule, it’s important that you actually do it. Knowing when and where you need to be at any given time not only helps you maintain your daily routine, it also allows you to stay in good standing socially as you’ll never double-book.
Get Preventative Care
Look, I know going to the doctor for your yearly physical is a pain — at best it’s annoying, and at worst, it’s slightly invasive. However, preventative care is crucial to remaining healthy. Not only do these wellness visits provide a medical baseline for your doctor to compare against, they can also help you avoid potentially serious health conditions or obtain an early diagnosis and treatment. When it comes to your health, the sooner a serious illness or disease is identified and treated, the better the outcome. And, as it currently stands, the Affordable Care Act has made these yearly wellness visits completely free of charge! There are no excuses — get it done.
Baby Your Skin
Speaking of preventative care, now is a great time to start taking better care of your skin. Well, ideally, we should be taking care of our skin from childhood on, but … yeah, no one’s that good. Anyway, here are five things you can do every day to keep your skin healthy and glowing.
- Know your skin type, as different skin types have different needs.
- Use gentle cleansers so as not to upset your skin. Wash your face and body daily.
- Moisturizing is key! It’s best to use moisturizer directly after washing your face, as it replaces any oils the soap may have washed away and locks in the water left on your skin.
- It doesn’t matter what the season, USE SUNSCREEN ON EXPOSED AREAS!
- Don’t smoke. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, decreasing blood flow and oxygen. It also damages collagen and elastin, both of which give your skin strength and elasticity. To put it plainly, smoking makes you look older and contributes to wrinkles.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
I only started budgeting at the beginning of 2017, so I’m no expert on the matter. However, I have noticed a rapid increase in my financial responsibility this year — not to mention I actually have savings for the first time in my adult life.
There are a lot of good reasons to keep a budget, but the most important ones that come to mind are these:
- You know exactly where your money is going.
- It will help you pay off debt.
- It makes it possible to save money and achieve financial security.
If you want to make the most out of the money you work so hard to earn, it’s time to set up a budget. Here’s how:
- Start by tracking your expenses. Look through bank account and credit card statements to determine exactly what you’re spending your money on. Then, group these expenditures into the following categories:
- Fixed expenses (these are the same amount every month) — e.g. rent, cell phone, or student loan payments
- Flexible expenses (these vary from month to month) — e.g. food, clothing, and entertainment
- Semi-annual expenses (these occur infrequently throughout the year) — e.g. taxes, insurance, vehicle registration
- Next, you’ll need to make a plan. Assign each category a spending amount and stick to it. Remember, your expenses should be less than or equal to your income. If your income does not cover your expenses, you’ll have to adjust your budget by reducing flexible expenses.
- Finally, set savings goals and start saving. First, you’ll want to create an emergency fund that equals 3 to 6 months of your net pay (just in case you lose your job.). Once you have that, you can start saving for other goals, such as paying off debts, retirement, and even setting money aside for vacation.
You can document your budget and savings goals in whatever way that works best for you, whether it be an online budget-tracking program, a smartphone app, or an old-school Excel spreadsheet. As long as you keep on top of it, everything will be gold!
Learn How to Do Your Taxes
I remember the first year I did my taxes. I called my mom multiple times, and I think I may have actually cried. It was daunting, and I was terrified of screwing up and getting audited. However, I just didn’t have enough money to go to an accountant, so I was forced to do it myself.
Fortunately, things have changed significantly since then, and e-filing has made life so much easier. As digital natives, millennials should have no problem navigating the multiple e-filing programs available — and you can take my word on that, as I’ve used a number of different programs, and they’re all incredibly user-friendly. If you make under $60,000 a year, e-filing your federal income taxes is free. However, depending on which program you choose, filing your state taxes can cost anywhere from $13 — $100.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding tax refunds. If you get a tax refund, it means that you overpaid on your payroll withholding throughout the year, and essentially granted an interest-free loan to the government. Many people are shamed for this and told to adjust their withholding immediately. After all, that money could be earning interest in a savings account. Plus, most people spend their tax returns on so-called “frivolous” purchases, whereas if that money came in their paycheck, they’d be more responsible with it.
While the above may be true, you needn’t feel bad about getting a tax refund, and here’s why: A lot of us have fluctuating incomes, and even though we may be paying too much, we feel better knowing that won’t owe more in taxes at the end of the year. Owing taxes is a scary thought when you don’t make much money to begin with. Furthermore, for some people, extra tax withholding is literally the only way they can save any money — and that’s OK.
No matter how you adjust your withholding, it’s OK. It’s your money, and you can do with it what you please.
A lot of millennials make jokes about “adulting” because we’re unsure of our place in the world. We’ve been told that being an adult means getting married, having children, and owning a home — but many of us are bucking these traditions because we either can’t afford them or we simply choose not to live our lives by society’s playbook. Like so many other things we’ve already gotten our hooks into, I think it’s time we redefine what adulthood really means. So go out there and adult however you want to, whether it means establishing a daily routine and taking care of your skin, or living out of a backpack and traveling the world.
Adulthood is what you want it to be.
What milestones have you set for yourself in the coming year?
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