In a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation was deemed more likely to live at home for an extended stay, with 15% of 25- to 35-year-olds currently residing with their parents.
While some studies suggest that this percentage is due to the current labor market, cost of living and a high amount of student loan debt, others conclude that it stems from a lack of basic life skills, like money management and personal care.
It’s been addressed, both satirically and realistically, that they were never taught basic life skills to begin with. However, this doesn’t mean that millennials can’t find independence.
If you’re looking to move out on your own and don’t know exactly what to expect or where to start, we’ve broken down the 10 most basic life skills you should know before venturing out on your own.
Grocery Shopping and Cooking
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you need to be able to fulfill the most basic needs (food and water) in order to survive. It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that in order to achieve those needs, you need to learn how to grocery shop.
Luckily, we live in a day and age that makes this pretty simple and inexpensive. There are free grocery store apps that help you make lists, manage your money and store your coupons.
If you don’t have the time to go grocery shopping, and you have a little extra money to pay for delivery, grocery subscription services are a great way to save time and bring the grocery store to your door.
However, when you first move out on your own, you’ll find that grocery shopping is the easy part. Cooking becomes the tricky task when you’re short on time, but even if you only have a few hours and basic organizational skills, you can try meal prepping.
At the beginning or end of the week, think about how many meals you’ll need for the coming days and prepare them ahead of time, storing your prepared meals inside your fridge in microwavable-safe plastic containers or glassware. On the day you’ll need that meal, all you need to do is pull it out of the fridge and heat it up.
Cleaning and Organization
You might have hoped that moving out on your own meant an end to the dreaded chore list. Unfortunately, having your own place means that you’re on your own when it comes to cleaning and organization.
There’s no secret to making cleaning easier or more enjoyable, but you can make it doable. If you make it point to clean up after yourself after cooking, using the bathroom or even hosting a gathering, it won’t be as big of a mess as it would be if you only cleaned biweekly.
When the time comes to clean, go room by room and outdoors (if you have an outdoor living space). If you’re looking for inexpensive and less harmful products to clean your home with, you can use natural home cleaners – some you can even make using ingredients found in your own cupboards.
One way you can achieve a more organized home is by living a minimalistic lifestyle. Besides eliminating clutter, it can benefit your finances and even lower your stress levels. However, if minimalism isn’t your cup of tea and you have the budget to buy new furniture, you can always buy furniture that doubles as storage, allowing you to organize some of the free-floating clutter in your home. We’ll discuss furniture options later in the post.
Doing Your Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Laundry is another one of those chores that’s inescapable and you may find unenjoyable, no matter how you spin it. However, there are a few things you can do to make laundry easier, and a few involve a little extra reading on the clothing labels.
First, check to see how often your clothing needs to be washed because you might be over-washing. For example, some experts suggest that you only need to wash jeans and other outer clothes, like dress shirts and khakis, every two – three wears. Additionally, bed sheets can go up to two weeks in between washes.
You also need to make sure you’re reading clothing tags to make sure you’re washing things correctly. There are several symbols that explain the temperature, cycle and special washing instructions for your clothes that can save them from being ruined.
Regardless of what your parents may have told you, you might not need to sort your lights from your darks. Modern fabrics are made to be colorfast, meaning the dye won’t bleed in the wash. While you might want to watch your newly purchased items (like blue jeans), most of the time you can combine your laundry into one load, saving on time, money and energy.
Lastly, you should also know when to call in the professionals – the dry cleaners, that is. If the label reads “dry-clean only,” don’t leave it up to chance, especially if the fabric is silk, acetate, velvet, wool or taffeta.
Taking Care of Yourself
Living on your own can be exciting, but it can also be stressful: financially, physically and emotionally. While it’s important to learn to take care of your space, it’s more important to learn how to take care of yourself.
Part of this means looking out for your physical health by scheduling regular doctor appointments. Even if you’re still on your parents’ health insurance, you need to make sure you’re scheduling your routine dental and medical appointments.
If you’re on your own insurance, make sure you first check your health care benefits to see what they cover and how much your copays are. You’ll also want to check to see if your doctors take your insurance and are in your network. Knowing this ahead of time will help eliminate any surprise costs.
On top of scheduling and keeping your health care appointments, you can also stay on top of your health and wellness by eating healthily and exercise regularly. Make healthy choices daily, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator as often as you can.
Lastly, make sure you’re also taking care of your mental health and wellness. Getting enough sleep, eating well and living an active lifestyle can positively impact your mood, but if you still find that you need help, it’s best to talk to your health care professional about your mental health. They’ll be able to give you advice and help you live a mentally healthy lifestyle.
Managing Your Time
So much goes into living alone, and we haven’t touched on working and managing your money yet! Whether you’re balancing your personal life with work or school, time management is an important life skill to master.
The basics of time management boil down to keeping an organized schedule. If you’re in school, keep a calendar of your classes, assignment due dates and major exam dates. If you have a job, keep a log of major meetings and projects. Additionally, if you have a job with a variable schedule, make sure you’re keeping a log of the days and times you work.
The key is to sit down on a daily or weekly basis and schedule your time on a calendar or to-do list. By doing this, you’ll be able to see open time slots to designate for doing laundry, cleaning your space, going grocery shopping and scheduling doctor’s appointments.
Enter the 21st century by keeping an electronic calendar either on your smartphone or computer. Google Calendar is a great way to organize and share your schedule with others, if needed, and it has an app.
Getting a Job
If you don’t already have a part-time or full-time job, you’ll likely want to get one in order to have a source of income to pay your living expenses. And whether you’re in college applying part-time at a coffee shop or looking to start your career, the ideas of job hunting and applying are pretty consistent across the board.
First, you’ll need a winning résumé, with optimized information that’s applicable to the job you’re applying for. Share your previous work experience, your education and your skills sets in a clean and concise manner. Make sure to have someone look it over before you start submitting it to open positions.
Next, make sure your social media is clean and professional. Update your LinkedIn profile with your most up-to-date information, and, if necessary, clean up your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. More often than not, your potential employer will look at your social media before extending a job offer; an unprofessional social media scene could be a road block that prevents you from receiving an offer.
Get ready for the in-person interview by printing multiple copies of your résumé, researching the company history and culture, and dressing in professional attire.
First impressions are important in a job interview, so make sure you make eye contact, maintain a good posture and listen intently to the employers in the room, asking questions to show you’re genuinely interested in the company and the position.
After the interview, type up a professional, thank-you email to the people who interviewed you. It goes a long way in the hiring process!
Managing Your Money
If you have a job, learning how to manage your money is must when it comes to paying bills, managing your credit and even saving money. It all boils down to learning how to budget.
One method you can use is the 50/20/30 rule, with 50% going to essentials (such as rent, utilities, transportation costs and groceries), 20% going to your savings and debt obligations (such as student loans or credit card debt), and the remaining 30% for entertainment or other non-essentials. While this method might not work for everyone, it’s best to learn to live within your means, not spend more than you make.
This is especially important when it comes to building good credit. You want to show a history of responsible borrowing and repayment, so using more than 10% – 30% of your credit utilization ratio, or making a late payment, will reflect poorly on your credit score.
Building good credit is important when it comes to your financial future. For example, without a good credit score, it might make it more difficult to get a loan for a mortgage or automobile, as it could affect your interest rate. It could even affect your ability to rent an apartment.
It can be hard to achieve independence without a credit card. If you’re wary about owning one, try starting out with a secured credit card.
If you’re just starting out in your job or your career, and paying off debt, you might find it hard to save. But even putting aside a few dollars each paycheck will eventually add up. Put your focus first on saving for emergencies (a job loss, a car issue) so that an unforeseen event won’t knock you off your financial foothold.
Renting vs. Buying
When you’re financially ready (you’ve built up your savings and have a decent credit score) to move out, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether you’re renting or ready to buy a home.
Sometimes it’s financially feasible to start by renting a home. If you’re moving out on your own for the first time, you might only need a small amount of space, and an apartment is more manageable. It’s also a good option for those who might want to build up their credit or save money for a down payment or even for those who might move a lot and don’t want to go through the process of selling a home.
Starting out in an apartment is a normal first step of independence. However, if you start to find that you’re overpaying on rent, it may make more financial sense to buy a home.
Home buying is a major milestone and can be an exciting step to independence; however, it’s a serious decision with some factors to take into consideration. For example, you might be able to get a lower monthly mortgage payment than what you might be paying rent-wise, but remember that there are additional costs of homeownership, like home repairs, property taxes, homeowners insurance and general maintenance that you might not experience when renting.
Not to mention, the down payment alone can require some serious saving. You could go for the traditional 20% down, but there are other low down payment options, such as 3.5% down on an FHA loan, that you can pursue. Either way, saving for a down payment requires a little discipline and time.
Buying a home makes sense for those who want to invest in their home. By making your mortgage payments, you’re building equity in your home, which can come in handy later for home improvement projects or selling your home.
Making the decision to rent or buy a home ultimately comes down to your finances. If you find you’re in a place where you need to save money and get comfortable with budgeting and paying bills, start with renting. If you’re ready to make the leap into homeownership, talk to a lender about your goals and needs.
Buying Home Furnishings
Furniture is one of the hidden costs of moving out on your own. Sure, you may have a bed and maybe a few dressers you can use in your new space, but you might not have a few other necessities.
You want to make sure you have the finances to purchase the bare necessities of furniture, such as a table, chairs and some sort of alternative seating area (e.g., a sofa or chaise). This allows you to have a space to relax outside of your bedroom.
In addition to furniture, you’ll also need other living necessities that might not come to mind right away, like dishware, kitchen cookware and dining utensils, as well as cleaning supplies and garbage cans. They may not sound like a lot, but these little things can add up. The best way to prepare is by making a checklist of items you use on a daily or weekly basis and use it during your new shopping trip.
Start by financing these needs before getting into decorations and other non-essentials. If you don’t have the budget to buy new furniture, consider a cost-effective alternative by buying pre-owned furniture. Thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales can come in handy to furbish your new space.
It might not be your style, but you can always buy new, more-trendy furniture down the road when you have the financial means to do so. If you’re nervous about buying used, there’s always decent places for new, affordable home décor.
No matter what, make sure you’re prioritizing the essentials both financially and in the rooms you use the most to ensure you’re able to fill your new space in a budget-friendly way.
Mastering Basic Home Maintenance
If you’re renting your first place, maintenance is a little more lax on your end. Your property owner should take care of the most major repairs, at no extra cost to you, depending on your rental agreement. This includes electrical, plumbing, utility malfunctions and basic lawn care.
Make sure you read your rental agreement thoroughly before signing and ask what, if anything, you’ll be financially responsible for fixing.
If you’re a homeowner, the responsibility falls solely into your hands.
If you’re living on your own, you should learn how to perform basic household tasks like unclogging a toilet or drain, tackling a flooded basement and what to do if you lose power. You’ll also want to make sure you own some basic home maintenance tools to get any job done.
You can also call a professional for help, but be prepared to pay out of pocket (this is where the emergency savings comes in handy!). But if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease and watch a YouTube tutorial or two, some tasks can be handled DIY-style.
Deciding to move out on your own can be exciting, but it also comes with a lot of financial, physical and mental preparation and dedication. By following this guide, you could be on your way to independence with the confidence of understanding basic life skills.
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