The end of the year is almost here, and for many of you, that means convocation and the transition to the non-student variety of adult life. So, congratulations! If you’ve been reading my column throughout the year, you may have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way on the topics of DIY, self-sufficiency and budget-friendly living, but just in case you need a refresher, I wanted to give you a quick and easy summary of the basic things you should know in order to function as an independent adult.
1. How to balance a budget:
In my very first post as the DIY columnist, I talked about financial advice for the newly independent. If you want an in-depth refresher, I’d recommend re-reading that. However, if you want the abridged version, the most important skill for money management is the ability to balance a budget—the rest comes later. Modern technology can handle a lot of the labour involved in this for you. Mint.com is an online financial management database that is incredibly user-friendly, and probably the best (did I mention free?) system out there for getting your finances organized. Even better, they now have a Canadian version of Mint. You can link Mint to all of your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc, and it will track all of your spending for you. You can then create a budget, and it will track that for you as well, even giving you the option of receiving an email or text notification if you overspend in one of your budget categories. I highly recommend a system like this for keeping your finances in order.
2. How to cook:
I talk about cooking a lot in my columns, and that’s because as far as DIY and self-sufficiency goes, the ability to cook ranks pretty high on the list of necessary skills. You don’t need to be a master chef, but everyone should have at least four or five affordable, reliable meals that they know how to make from scratch, and ideally at least one fancier meal for impressing guests, dates, parents, etc. Some good options to have in your arsenal include some sort of recipe involving beans and rice, a good vegetarian or meat-based sauce that you can whip up and serve with pasta, one reliable slow cooker recipe that makes a large quantity of food for very little money (such as chili, pulled pork, or stew), and something involving eggs that can pass as an acceptable meal at any time of the day (like a veggie-heavy omelette). That will at least get you started, until you decide to become a tad more adventurous.
3. How to do basic repairs:
You don’t need to be a master seamstress, carpenter, or plumber in order to handle the basic repairs that inevitably pop up in day-to-day life. Some basic skills you should be able to handle on your own include sewing on a button (or related simple sewing projects such as fixing a small hole on a seam), stabilizing a wobbly table or chair, unclogging a blocked toilet or drain, and cleaning stains out of clothing, carpets and furniture. These very basic skills will extend the life of the things you own, and save you a lot of money that you’d otherwise be shelling out to professionals. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the tailor laughing at you behind your back as you pay them $10 to fix something you could have done yourself in about three minutes.
There’s obviously a multitude of other life skills that are handy to have when entering the adult world—far more than I could ever touch on in a short column. But these basics should be enough to keep you functioning independently and relatively on track financially. That’s all anyone can ask of the newly independent, and you’ll pick up all kinds of fun new skills and abilities through trial and error as you manoeuvre through adulthood. Have fun with it!