*curtsies* One of the things I really admire about you is your independence and I really need some advice about moving out for the first time. My best friend and I both got into the same MA program so we'll be roommates but it's the first time we're going to be living away from our parents. We're both quite introverted people and I'm the type of person that hates change. However, the reason I decided to move away was so I could experience adulthood. Do you have any advice for a starter adult??
*curtsies* Right, this started as a normal paragraph post but then it got too long so here’s a list.
Advice for Starter Adults
- Budget. Everything is more expensive than you think it is. Figure out what your monthly spending cap is, figure out what the necessities are going to be each month and how much you’ll have left over for pocket money. Then STICK TO YOUR BUDGET. There is nothing worse than your card getting declined because there’s no money in your account or not being able to pay your rent at the end of the month. Most importantly: (1) Leave yourself a cushion and a backup plan for emergencies. Things come up unexpectedly. You don’t want to be down to your last five dollars when your car breaks down on the side of the road. My advice is to put a chunk of money in a savings account and just pretend it’s not there until you’re in a tight spot and you need it. (2) Keep track of what you’re spending on what. Ask for receipts. This is a really good habit to get into and trust me, you will be much better off when you start doing your own taxes if you have an exact record of all your spending. (Also: Don’t use a credit card at the bar. Take cash out at the beginning of the night and when that runs out, stop. This is a great way to avoid the unpleasant surprise of an $80 bar tab in the morning and also keeps you from getting embarrassingly drunk.)
- Talk to your roommates. Turning from ‘friends’ to ‘roommates’ has wrecked a lot of friendships. It might sound ideal to live with your best friend but it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. The best way to avoid hating your best friend is to communicate. If they do something you’re not okay with, tell them instead of stewing about it. Encourage them to do the same. Talk to each other and establish ground rules even if you think you’ll never need them. Because you will.
- Talk to people besides your roommates. When you go off to college with a good friend it can be really tempting to use that person as a security blanket and only hang out with them. Don’t do that. The first risk you run is that you’ll get sick of each other and it will have a seriously negative impact on your friendship. The second is that you won’t meet anyone new and you’ll regret that down the road. A friendship is like any other relationship in that being conjoined at the hip isn’t healthy. Have other friends, pursue your own interests, and get back together to talk about it at the end of the day.
- Clean up after yourself. Especially in shared space, and don’t wait until three days later to do it. This goes not just for your house or dorm but for classrooms, libraries, etc. Nothing says “I’m still a child” like not cleaning up your own mess. But this goes for your own space, too. You will have a much easier time functioning if your room isn’t a wreck, so just keep it clean. It will do wonders for your mental health.
- Budget time for housework and errands. If you don’t make time to do laundry and go to the grocery store you’re going to be naked and hungry a lot. These things take time. So book hours into your schedule on days you don’t have class to get shit done.
- Budget time for work AND relaxation. A lot of people crash and burn in college and grad school because they don’t understand how to divide their time. Yes, schoolwork should be your priority, but you also need to make sure you’re spending time relaxing because if you don’t, you will wreck your mental health. Take your playtime seriously.
- Make lists. Make lists of what groceries you need to buy, what you need to get done before Monday, emails you need to send, whatever. Write shit down and cross it off as you get through it. This will greatly reduce stress because you know exactly what you need to get done in a given day and you’re not going to forget anything.
- Eat as healthy as you can. Trust me, I understand exactly how expensive produce is and how tempting it is to live on coffee and Cheerios because it’s cheap. But that kind of diet (or worse, a diet of Doritos and Aristocrat) will take a toll, believe me. Find a place to shop where you can get some reasonably healthy stuff at reasonable prices. Buy store-brand versions of name-brand stuff. (It’s a lot cheaper and it tastes exactly the same.) If your diet sucks it’s going to cause all kind of other problems: breakouts, weight gain, lethargy, etc. Learn how to feed yourself. Make lists for the store so you have the stuff to make actual meals at home. And if you have problems with junk food or overeating, here’s the most important tip: Just don’t buy that shit. Don’t keep beer or potato chips or chocolate in the house if you know you’ll end up eating it while you binge-watch The Crown at three in the morning. Buy healthy snacks instead and you’ll have no choice but to eat those when you have a craving, and save the chocolate for special occasions.
- Get more sleep than you think you need. The older you get, the more you will start to feel it when you don’t get enough sleep, so guess what? BUDGET YOUR SLEEP TIME INTO YOUR SCHEDULE. There are only 24 hours in a day and you need to use like at least seven of them for sleeping.
- Exercise. Look, being a teenager is great because you have an elastic metabolism, hangovers don’t exist, and you’re going to bounce back pretty quickly from eating a cheeseburger every day for a week. Once you hit about 23, the glory days are over and before you know it you’ll have gained fifteen pounds and be feeling pretty crappy. So nip that in the bud. Most universities have student health centers, and even if they don’t you can always exercise in the great outdoors for free. Find some kind of exercise you like and guess what? Budget it into your schedule. If you’re a person who’s never exercised in the past, don’t get me wrong, it will suck the first few weeks you do it. But after that it will start to feel really good and you will be much happier and healthier. (Not to mention, you will look better, and that’s always a plus.)
- Don’t put off doctor’s appointments. Dude, I am SO bad at this. It takes forever and it’s always awkward and it’s just easier not to think about it. But you know what? It’s even easier to plan it in advance instead of trying to shoehorn it in at the last moment because you need a prescription refilled.
- Don’t do dumb stuff just because you can. Getting out from under the parental eye can be exciting and very liberating. However. Most of the rules your parents have are to keep you from accidentally maiming or mortally embarrassing yourself. So take careful stock of decisions that seem reckless. Like, don’t go out and adopt an 80-pound dog because your parents never let you have a puppy. Don’t get wasted on a Tuesday and hook up with a random stranger twice your age just because nobody’s going to stop you. Being an adult is about having the freedom to make your own decisions but not being a dumbass about it.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small. Under-commit yourself at first because I promise things are going to come up that you didn’t expect. So don’t sign up for twice the recommended number of classes and three intramural teams at the same time. Start small and add to your workload if you find you have the time and energy to do more. You have much greater odds of success that way.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Adulting is hard. There is no instruction manual. If you need help, ask. Professional Adults understand that being an Amateur Adult is hard, because they had to do it once, too. Chances are they will be happy to help so long as you ask politely. So. No idea how to balance a checkbook? Ask your mom. No idea how to get grass stains out of your jeans? Ask your dad. No idea how to navigate the library? Ask. No idea how to format a college paper? Ask. Admitting you don’t know how to do stuff and then doing what you have to to learn is part of being an adult. Pretending you know how to do stuff you don’t and accidentally breaking your dishwasher is not.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you screw up. Look. Inevitably, it’s going to happen. You’re going to lock yourself out of the house or overdraw your bank account or hit a mailbox backing out of your parking lot. Shit like that is going to happen for the rest of your life regardless of how good at adulting you are. The most adult thing you can learn to do is deal with it reasonably. Melting down because you made a mistake is childish, so don’t do that. When you screw up, laugh it off if that’s appropriate, fix it if you can, and get on with your life.
Anyway, those are the basics. Good luck!