I’m not saying I have my life together. I still have money problems, and I opt for the number five at Whataburger, but I have at least started to take steps into becoming a functional adult. And I didn’t necessarily do it the way my parents did. I realized my life was out of control and that I needed to stop complaining about it and do something to fix it, so I made a point to focus on the three important “healths” we all need to conquer: Physical, mental and financial.
I’m not a doctor, and obviously this isn't a professional opinion, but I feel I have made steps in the right direction, and I think you can, too.
1. Eat better.
I’m not telling you to cut all the junk food and sugary bites and start enjoying kale, but being more conscious of how you eat and taking the time to cook at home goes a long way. Start planning meals. You don’t have to prep for a whole week; just taking a moment and deciding what you are going to cook for the day is enough. If you have no idea where to start looking for some easy recipes, I suggest Tastemade on Facebook or The Domestic Geek on YouTube.
2. Start exercising.
My boyfriend will concur that I can be the worst when it comes to working out. I’m not one who actively seeks out the rec center at my university or even the gym in my apartment building. I will definitely be one of the first to go down in a zombie apocalypse because I have no endurance. So, if you're like me, start small. Google a monthly challenge and encourage a friend to do it with you. Make it a fun competition. I have yet to complete an entire challenge, but just moving more and working towards that goal to be able to do 50 sit ups has made a difference in my energy levels.
As a former psychology major, mental health is especially important to me. The brain is a vital organ that can get sick too. Too often, we ignore signs of mental health disorders because we are afraid of stereotypes that have been fed to us through the media. National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, reports that one in five adults in America will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. My first step in addressing mental health is to make sure to try and relieve as much stress as possible.
3. Get an agenda.
I am pro-agenda/planner all the way. I cannot live without one, and it honestly surprises me when someone I know doesn’t have one they use daily. For me, having an agenda is the perfect way to keep my stress levels in check and to properly plan my day so I have time to relax.
4. See a therapist.
If you are currently attending a university, there is a big chance you are paying for an on-campus counseling center. Even some community colleges have one! Take advantage of this resource and set yourself up for an appointment. It is good to just sit and talk to a third party. For example, when I took the time to go, I just discussed things like my workload for classes and just whatever was bugging me at the time. I didn’t have to have anything awful happen in my life, like get in a fight with my boyfriend, to feel the need to seek one out. It was just great to have someone who would listen to me complain and offer me solutions or simply acknowledge that what I was feeling was normal and understandable (or not).
5. Educate yourself.
Just because you graduated, whether from high school or college, or even if you didn’t and instead jumped right into the work force, doesn’t mean you should stop educating yourself. I have made a point to listen to the National Public Radio (NPR) a lot more because, honestly, you can’t adult unless you start being aware of adult topics. I don’t always think the topics are the best, though, so to make it easier on myself, I started to invest a little time into finding great podcasts. There are a ton of them that have content that speak to myself and my peers, but address serious issues. My favorite app to find podcasts that interest me is Stitcher.
6. Become fabulous.
So, I’ve laid a lot of things out that aren’t hard to do but take a ton of will power to do. From exercising, to writing my agenda, to eating right, it's all tedious work, and not to sound like an ad, but the app Fabulous has helped me to instill good habits in areas like concentration and physical health.
I’m not an expert when it comes to money, but since I began my journey I have been making an effort to invest and manage a little better.
7. Start reading more.
Since I am not an expert, I looked into who was. I was happy to stumble upon the book “Rich B*tch” by Nicole Lapin. Not only is it a great read, but I was able to download the book on Audible and listen to it whenever I had free time. Lapin provides resources and explanations that will help get any individual on track to financial success and more.
8. Invest your money.
After listening to Lapin’s book, I took the time to look into investing. I acted on my findings in two ways: a retirement fund and stocks. For my retirement, I started a Money Market IRA from my bank. It has only $100, but by leaving it alone, and adding whatever spare cash I have, it'll begin to grow my retirement fund. The second way I began to invest was into the market. I hopped onto Acorn, a great and seamless way to begin investing in stocks. It is customizable, so even a beginner like me can start investing. I started with $5 and so far have grown to $10 in a few months. Again, I'm not making a huge amount, but it's something, and it is getting me started on the right path.
9. Get a credit card.
The best way to build credit for a young person is to do so in a safe way. I didn’t start my credit with my bank. Instead I did it through a specific store: Victoria’s Secret. I highly encourage store-specific credit cards, and only one or two. By limiting its use range, it makes it easy for you to pay things off fast, and you won’t be tempted to use money you don’t have. My purchases would average $30-50, meaning at the end of the month I didn’t have a crazy high amount of debt, which increased my credit score since it was easy to pay off. You can also do this at other stores, such as Best Buy. A huge tip my family taught me was to always pay more than the minimum balance if you can’t afford the full amount due. So If I bought a TV at Best Buy that was $150 and my minimum was $25 a month, I’d pay $30 or $40. By doing so, you pay off the interest that accumulates and your minimum payment, bringing down your credit faster.
10. Start setting money goals.
When you are making money through work or have leftover money from financial aid, it is easy to go off and spend it all. That is why I’m thankful for my Simple Card. Simple is an online bank that works very similar to Bank of America or Wells Fargo, but by using its app, I can set goals for what I want to save my money for, such as summer vacation, a trip or a new TV. It automatically calculates what you have in your account and separates it into your goals, letting you know how much you need to save and how much you should put in each month to meet your goal. When you deposit, it automatically separates it into those goals, taking the guess work out of money management!
11. Manage bills properly.
Now that you have a credit card, rent, your savings and checking account, and probably recurring bills from your electric company, insurance company and YouTube Red, it can be tricky to remember when and how much is due. My favorite app in my money management kit is Mint Bills. Most companies work with Mint Bills, which means that my normal bank, Simple, my insurance and almost all credit card companies can sync with this one app. My app will notify me when each bill is due, two weeks in advance, and allows me to set up an automatic payment for it. It even saves my receipts and lets me know when the payments have been received. Best. App. Ever.
On the road to become a true, functioning adult, it is important that we take the time and steps to prepare ourselves. Even if we start off small, these healthy habits will strengthen and lay down the foundation to successful future. Good luck!