Top 10 Adulting Tips my 35 year old self would tell my 17 year old self.

I grew up with my grandmother who was diabetic, had heart disease, and cancer. I didn’t have anyone to teach me life skills. I had to learn them all on my own the hard way or through observation. I guess I haven’t done too bad for myself, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and earn an MBA. I’ve won awards and am one of a small percentage of people I know who’ve left my home town, let alone the country. So I think I’m going to share this in a very unique way and am interested in what other thoughts people have about Adulting.

It’s amazing what 18 years of being on your own can teach you. I’m in a unique position as I had to start from ground zero, so I’ve had lots of lumps and bumps along the way. Even now, I’m paying for mistakes of the past and if someone were to tell me this when I was 17, I would most likely not have listened or thought I have so much time to get it right, so a little procrastination doesn’t hurt. LOL. Well one thing is for sure, a little adds up to a lot over time.

I’m guessing this is why I’m so passionate about our app Stretch which empowers people to find recipes according to their budget. Meal planning is the one thing that I’m still trying to get down to the best science. It’s not just because I cry or feel bad when I waste or spill food — although it is literally throwing money in the trash — it’s because I know the bit of change spent on extra food adds up to a lot over time. I also know that when a lot of us waste food collectively, it adds up to over a $164 billion dollars per year. I mean, seriously, what would you do with $164 billion dollars? Wait, don’t answer that… We’ve heard what some of you would do.

But seriously, it’s not just about the money. It’s about the change that we can make. Imagine putting those dollars to work to feed others, imagine reducing food waste to have a positive impact on the planet, and imagine improving your health by cooking at home at least 4 days per week. It may seem like something small if an individual choses to act or not act, but collectively, it can mean a major change in the improvment of lives and the sustainability of our home — Earth.

So here are the Top 10 Adulting Tips I would have given myself at 17:

  1. Cook at home at least 4 times per week: If you want to get your adult on, there is no better confidence builder than preparing your own home cooked meal and no better satisfaction than having a fridge with adult things in them. Vegetables, Meat, & Potatoes are so adult. If you’ve opened it up to discover condiments and that’s about it, your inner 9 year old is making your meal decisions and when you were 9, the only thing you didn’t have right was your diet.
  2. Create a budget and stick to it for at least a year: If you are a working adult, your only excuse for living check to check is that you live in San Francisco, London, or Singapore…. We’ll get to that later. The best money tips I’ve learned is that you should automatically know that $0.30 for every dollar is not yours. Taxes and Investment/Savings are the first accounts to be paid. After that, your Food, Housing, Transportation. Anything after that should be split between Investing if you’re under 30 and Fun money if you’re under 35. When you learn how to manage your money, you will find pretty quickly as you earn more, you will actually have more. ;-)
  3. Your first and sometimes first few apartments are meant to suck and/or have roommates: I know, this is painful to hear. When you were younger, you thought you’d live in a sitcom or an apartment that looked like that one TV show’s, but you look at your first paycheck and the classifieds and reality sets in. Learn to say no to over extending yourself for the sake of glamour. Old apartments are not supposed to be bug or rodent infested, they are supposed to be clean and safe. As long as they are clean and safe, know that it’s your starter place. Just like a starter car or a starter purse. You’ll eventually build up to the BMW’s or the Louis Vuitton, but right now, you have to secure your foundation. The sacrifices made in your younger years will shape who you are today and many times, forsaking to Keep up with the Jones’ will make you one of them in just a few years time with careful planning.
  4. Travel! You will learn a lot about yourself and just how small the world truly is: There are places to go and people to see. Experience it! Learn languages, try new foods, grow wiser from experiencing new cultures, make friends, see and touch (don’t lick) things that have been around for thousands of years.
  5. Invest in your well-being: Do what makes you smile, read, learn, work out, spend time with people whether it’s one-on-one (introvert style) or with groups of people (extrovert style). Your happiness is important to your health and the best way to safeguard it is to invest in yourself. One thing that I learned rather late in life was that people are only doing the best they can with what they have. It took the practice of gratitude and forgiveness to understand, but the best way to get there is investing your your well-being by focusing on the positive and taking action to improve what you see needs improving in the world. Be the Change you wish to see in the world. Spend time with others who feel the same as you so that together, you can make wonderful things happen.
  6. Love yourself first: The first time I heard someone say, “You can’t love someone else, if you do not love yourself.” I had no clue what the heck they meant. It sounded like it was crap. My heart had been broken so many times by boys that didn’t feel the same way about me that I did about them. Then, when I stopped dating and focused on what I wanted to do in life, what I needed, wanted, and who I was, I discovered what that meant. I mean, it took a lot of grace and gratitude to see and understand it first, but pretty much, what I thought was love in my younger years was me seeking to find love, comfort and normalcy within myself by being with someone else. So I put up with guys treating me certain ways or failing to treat me certain ways because there was longing and hormones at play accompanied by the need for acceptance. Now, that I’m older, I know who I am, what I want and most importantly, I love me and understand me. When it comes time to bring someone else into my life, whether it be a relationship or simply friendship, I am now capable of loving them because my heart is authentic and not seeking to fill a void.
  7. You don’t need an extensive wardrobe: Seriously, quality over quantity. You’re better off owning 2 pairs of jeans priced at $250 than 10 pairs priced at $25. You’re better off owning 5 pairs of quality shoes than 50 pairs. Stretching your wardrobe allows for timeless looks, but also helps to prevent slave and unfair labor practices.
  8. Walk or take the bus!: Try to live as close to work as possible and walk or take the bus. We love our independence so I get the appeal and the freedom of having a car. Nothing says adulting like having your own wheels, but if you can avoid the pressures of getting behind the wheel for the first 4 years you finish college or the first 4 years you are adulting, it will pay off tremendously! I loved having my own car because I could get up and go whenever I chose and most importantly I had the excitement of going to the grocery store and leaving out to put them in my spacious new trunk and avoid carrying what felt like 80 pounds to the bus stop and from the bus stop home. Now, with cool grocery delivery services like Burpy or Instacart, you can have your groceries delivered and not going to kid about this, it’s so worth the fees when you meal plan!!! The best benefit of taking public transportation is that you’ve turned a potentially variable depreciating cost into a fixed cost, whatever your monthly bus pass costs is all you have to set aside. You no longer have to worry about the cost of repairs, insurance, or the debt. I know my cold weather friends are thinking, but it’s soooo cold. Well, it hasn’t killed you in the first 17 years, you can live another 4 without it. LOL. In 4 years time, if you’re post collegiate, you can use the money you would have spent on the car, paying down if not off your student loans and/or saving for the purchase of a home.
  9. If you only do it one time per year, Volunteer -or- Donate: And preferably, not during the holidays. Organizations need help all year round and one day can considerably further their missions. Most people will tell you that you should volunteer because you find yourself in the service of others, or that you make the world a better place. I’m not going to tell you that because while it’s true, now that you’re officially adulting, you deserve to hear it in a way that has never been told to you. When we complain about the world being a bad place or bitch about the inconveniences of the homeless person asking for money or stinking up our streets… When we think what we do on a day to day doesn’t affect others… When we fail to invest in our own communities or the empowerment of others… We become culpable for the problem. We must act and while it is not always the full answer or the best answer, it is action and when everyone acts, we can move mountains.
  10. Get a hobby: Hobbies are so underated. Whether it’s crocheting or playing golf, get out there and make sure you’re doing something to keep a smile on your face and bring a smile to others.

So there you go! Top 10 tips for Adulting I would tell my 17 year old self now that I’m 35. It’s not too late to start any of these now if you already haven’t! You can most certainly correct the ship’s course.

What would your Adulting tips be if you had a time machine to take you back 18 years? Chime in below or tweet us @StretchRecipes #AdultingTips