Essential life skills girl at desk

15 Essential Life Skills All Young Adults Should Have

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Adulting. *rolls eyes*

By now we all know that being an adult is not as glamorous as we thought it was when we were kids. I’m sure we are all familiar with the myth that adults stay up all night long and eat ice cream for dinner every single night.

If only things were that easy.

While we can obviously stay up late and eat whatever we want for dinner (as long as we are willing to accept the effect it has on our bodies), rarely does anyone warn children about paying bills, going to work, dealing with relationships, or having a good work-life balance.

I remember when I turned 21 an older friend of mine said that life goes downhill after your 21st birthday.

For years I let that bother me.

I actually became convinced that being an adult sucked and that nothing great happens after the age of 21. After all, I suddenly had tons of student loan debt, I worked full-time at a desk job, I was constantly tired, and I hardly had time for myself or my friends.

It took me a few years to deal with all of that. I had such a nostalgia for my childhood when life was easier.

Luckily, I no longer believe that 21 is where life peaks. But, a lot of people do believe that still!

What changed for me was not just my outlook on life, but I also added some essential life skills to my adulting toolbox. These skills aren’t necessarily lessons taught in junior high or high school. Rather, they are learned through experience and observation.

For maximum adulting success, I’ve put together a list of the top 15 essential life skills all young adults should know. Some of them might take a little practice or conscious effort, but all of these will make adult life easier.

Here are the 15 essential life skills everyone should know.


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1. Have a signature dish

For me, that signature dish is salmon.

I personally do not enjoy cooking. Dare I say I actually hate it. I find nothing exciting about spending hours in the kitchen. But, when I learned the value of having a signature dish, I suddenly became more open to the idea of going to dinner parties and get-togethers because I suddenly had food to bring for everyone.

Why exactly is it important to have a signature dish as an adult? For one, it shows that you can at least cook one homemade meal. Secondly, there’s something classy about being able to provide a meal for our friends, family, and even yourself.

When you’re figuring out what you want your signature dish to be, make sure it’s a food that you enjoy eating often. It might take a few tries to get your meal right so you’ll want to also consider picking and affordable.

If I could go back and create a different signature dish I definitely wouldn’t pick something expensive like salmon. However, my salmon is absolutely delicious.

2. Build Credit

Building credit doesn’t mean making purchases on a credit card.

While that obviously helps, there are plenty of ways to build an excellent credit score. If you want to take the credit card route, I recommend doing some shopping around to find the perfect credit card for you. As I always say, not all credit cards are created equally.

You’ll want to make sure that you select a credit card that either has a great reward system in place for cashback or for travel rewards. You’ll also want to select your credit card based on the APR and the limit that they approve you for.

If you’re looking to build credit without necessarily using the credit card route, there are plenty of ways to do so. Below are a few of the most popular ways to build good credit as a young adult.

  • Rent an apartment
  • Have your own phone plan
  • Work a full-time job
  • Make consistent payments on your student loans
  • Lease a car

3. Pay All Bills On Time

Paying your bills on time is an essential life skill everyone should know, not just young adults. Bad things happen when you don’t pay your bills on time.

By bad I mean it destroys your credit, you can lose property, families split apart, and so much more. Start today by getting into the habit of always paying your bills on time.

If you feel like you aren’t responsible enough or it’s hard for you to remember when your bills are due, there are ways to help ensure that you make all your payments on time:

  • Make a list of all your bills so there are no surprises
  • Automate your bills
  • Add payments to your personal calendar
  • Set a reminder in your phhone for non-automated bills
  • Lease a car

4. Make a regular cleaning schedule

No one likes a slob. But for some people, the slob life is extremely easy.

I know that when I first moved out I found it difficult to have to take out my own trash, keep on top of the dishes, make my bed every day without my mom having to ask me. I didn’t necessarily feel like a slob but from the outside looking in, I wasn’t as clean as it could’ve been.

That all changed when I made a regular cleaning schedule.

The thing with cleaning is that most people wait until everything is in shambles and then tries to clean up in one afternoon. That often leads to an overwhelming experience and the house not actually getting as clean as it should be.

I recommend that you take a little bit a time every day or every few days to make sure that everything is picked up in order. I’ve actually found that cleaning a little bit every day is a lot more productive than waiting until the house is a disaster.

Recommended: Simple and Productive Evening Routine for the Full-Time Person

5. Keep up with the world

There definitely seems to be more negative news than positive news.

But, it is important to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I’m not suggesting that you get obsessed with politics or economics or international trade, but I believe that it is an essential life skill to know how to hold a conversation about what’s going on in the world.

It’s also your personal right to have an opinion and a voice about the things that affect you and your nation. The news might not be the most exciting thing out there but it’s worth it to at least familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of politics.

6. Learn how to budget

Budgeting is an awesome skill to learn in your 20s. When you’re a young adult, you get to experience for the first time what it’s like to earn money and pay bills while also maintaining other financial responsibilities.

For some people, this goes very wrong.

I know so many people who got deep into credit card debt all because they didn’t know how to properly budget their money.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding the word budget. For some reason, people tend to hear the word budget and they freak out. I’ve even heard people who say that a budget restricts there free-minded lifestyle and creativity.

That’s not true. A budget is one of the most helpful things that you can do for yourself. Regardless if you want to save money or just have a better grip on where you’re spending your income, everyone needs a budget. Your 20s is a perfect time to learn.

To learn how to put together a super simple budget read The 7 Step Guide to Create an Easy to Follow Budget + Free Template.

7. Learn How to Spend Time Alone

We live in a society that is always on the go.

And now, we have access to everything at our fingertips from texting, to video chats, to social media, to phone calls. It is so easy to always be surrounded by noise.

What happens if you take all that noise away?

Most people would say that you’re suddenly alone. Being alone is not always great. However, I think it’s an essential life skill to learn how to be alone. Chances are you’ll feel a lot better inside and out when you can learn to spend quality time on your own.

Related: How to Spend Time With Yourself

8. Know what to do in case of car troubles

Last summer, my car broke down on the freeway.

I was on my way to work and this incident put me in extreme panic. I ended up needing to get my car towed and I had to pay to replace the car alternator and the battery.

After that, I learned to pay more attention to my various car insurance policies. I also organized my documents in my glove compartment so that I can easily find phone numbers in case of an emergency.

Although we can’t prepare entirely for emergencies, we can be prepared to know who to call and what to do if something happens to our car.

Cars are an essential part of our everyday life so it’s important to know how to handle an emergency when things go wrong.

9. Learn appropriate tip amounts

There is definitely a debate going on about what percentage is the proper amount to tip.

A good rule of thumb is to tip between 15% to 20%. An easy trick to make sure that you always tip between 18% – 20% is to move the decimal point to the right of your bill by one.

For example, if your bill total is $65.47, move the decimal point to the right to make it 6.547. Then, round to make the tip $6.50. Easy as that!

10. Figure out how to travel on a budget

In my opinion, traveling is a necessity. Personally, I love to travel but it’s not always easy since traveling can be expensive. That’s why it’s an essential life skill to learn how to travel affordably.

The trick to traveling is to get the most bang for your buck. It takes a little bit of time and practice to know when you’re getting a good deal and when you should wait. You have to watch flights a little more closely and you have to search around for the best deals on hotels.

However, taking the time to do this can make your money stretch even further when you get to your destinations.

Recommended: Travel Seattle on a Tight Budget and Have the Time of Your Life

11. Send professional emails

Perhaps this is a pet peeve of mine since my day job revolves around replying to emails, but the amount of young adults who cannot send a professional email is shocking.

I have received emails addressing me as bro and dude followed by text type talk.

This is extremely unprofessional and can actually be detrimental to your educational and professional career. Well it might not seem like learning how to send a professional email is an essential life skill, I believe that any time you can show professionalism, in or out of the workplace, is a bonus.

12. Make a professional resume or CV

Another part of my day job is looking at resumes.

As someone who sits on the hiring committee, I’ve seen unprofessional resumes get set aside. It doesn’t matter what field of work you’re going into, a resume is the first impression you make with an employer.

It is so important to be able to provide a professional resume and cover letter for any job you apply to. The good thing about this is that as soon as you learn how to make a really good looking resume, all you have to do is keep adding to it. A resume is also something that you can sit down and make in a couple of hours so that a huge bonus.

13. Learn basic home repairs

When you live on your own and you don’t have your parents to do things for you, you need to know how to complete basic home repairs.

By basic repairs, I mean things that can be fixed with a screwdriver, a hammer, and maybe even some strong duct tape.

The last thing you want to do is spend tons of money hiring a handyman to fix something you can easily do if you invested in a drill or a good toolset.

I’ve listed below some of my recommendations that have personally helped me with my basic home repairs:

Command hooks
Command strips
Tool kit
Cordless drill

14. Learn how to invest

Investing can feel like a scary thing to do but when you know what you’re doing it really isn’t all that bad.

The reason I think investing is an essential life skill all young adults should know is because it is a natural part of finances in the economy. A lot of times people think that investing has to be something big or cost a lot of money, but the reality is investing can be small and simple.

The sooner you learn how to invest, the sooner you’ll see your money begin to grow.

15. Personal hygiene

This might seem like a common-sense essential life skill but you’d be surprised (or maybe you aren’t) at how many people aren’t great with their personal hygiene.

The thing about hygiene is that there are so many products available at an affordable price there really isn’t an excuse not to have clean and proper hygiene.

And, hygiene doesn’t have to be a 10th step process. It really requires a few staple products and a consistent routine.

Another reason to have good personal hygiene is to protect yourself and others from harmful germs. Being clean is a necessity that we all value and appreciate. There’s no better time than right now to really learn how to have great personal hygiene.

I hope you have enjoyed this list of essential life skills that everyone should know. While some of them might be common sense, others will take a little bit of practice.

Essential life skills group of young adults

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