I recently turned 30 in September, and even though it’s only been a few months, my entire life seems to have changed. My views and wants are different, and I’m past the more “trial and error” part of my life and want to impart some wisdom on those of you just starting out in your 20s or who need a little help half way through.
Your 20s are a time to experiment with your life and figure out who you really are. There are going to be times where you need to hunker down and get things done, but otherwise, they should be some of the better times in your life.
If you like this post or know someone who might like this post, please give it a share! Shares, comments, and likes are what keep this blog running! Thank you! <3
Ultimate Guide to Getting Through Your 20s
These tips are things I did or wish I was able to do in my early and mid 20s that would have me in a better place than where I am today. I don’t regret any of my decisions, and a lot of them aren’t because I didn’t try.
Sometimes you’re stuck in a kind of crappy situation in your early 20s and you have to deal with it until you’ve grown, matured, or had the experience to get to where you want to be.
Don’t Stay in a Job You Hate
If for some reason or another, you absolutely hate your job, or even just the people at your job, not only will your mental health decline, but so will your productivity.
My first job was as a clerk at a law firm. I stood next to a copier for about 7.5 hours a day. It wasn’t a bad gig, but I did spend a lot of time on my feet. The work I was doing wasn’t anything spectacular, but what really did it for me was being afraid of some of the lawyers that worked there.
One had a bit of a habit of making his legal secretary cry. He had very similar traits to that of a family member when I was growing up that had anger issues. So any time I had to interact with him, I reverted back to that tiny little child with no self esteem. I spent my fair share of days crying at work due to mistakes I made because of that.
I had been contemplating looking for a new job, especially since the pay was abysmal, but before I was able to, I was let go.
This was the best thing that could have happened to my career.
I was putting myself through going to a job I didn’t necessarily like, the stress of being around people who made me feel small and unwanted, and I wasn’t really getting paid enough to deal with it all.
If you’re in a situation where you think changing jobs might be a good idea, I say go for it. However, try to make sure you have a new job lined up before leaving the old one. Oh, and get your resume up to date.
My previous idea of budgeting was to just try not to spend a lot of money on groceries. That’s where most of my money went anyway, so if I tried to cut back on that, I should be good, right?
That’s really not a great way to go financially.
I always said I was going to actually budget, and tried to many a time, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was able to do it and stick to it. I’m coming up on a year tracking my spending, and it’s been eye opening for sure.
I use the Mint app on my phone and computer to keep an overview of all the things I have going, my bank accounts, my investments, my work 401k, and my properties. I was able to set a budget through there, but sometimes charges come in with the wrong category so it throws things off balance.
By tracking every dollar I spend, it gives me a way to see exactly where my money is going. It shows me that I’m spending too much on snacking, or I may have gone a little overboard with my Christmas shopping.
I keep everything in a spreadsheet on Google Docs, that way I can update my budget no matter where I am. The spreadsheet comes with a tab for expenses, a tab for adding up the totals of the categories (food, income, utilities, rent, etc.) to see where I can cut back or potentially add an expense. I also have a third tab for keeping track of my income and general expenses so I have somewhat of a guideline of how much I have left over after bills and necessities paid for.
Get the LMSS Budget Tracking Spreadsheet
Contribute to Your 401k
When I worked at the law firm I was unable to contribute to my 401k.
Not being able to contribute to some kind of retirement/investment fund because you don’t make enough to pay your bills and also throw a little extra away for later is totally fine.
However, I would suggest tracking your budget before you completely give up on this idea. It’s very possible that you do have the funds to be able to contribute to an investment fund, but you’re just overspending in certain areas of life that you can cut back on.
If your employer provides a match program, take advantage of that! My current employer doesn’t do this, but I still contribute 5% to my 401k. If they did matching I would be all over that. It’s basically free money! My current employer uses a different system of end of the year profit sharing.
If your employer will throw money in without you contributing, take advantage of that. The law firm I worked at did that and it gave me an extra $200+ when I was unemployed.
Your 401k is the pension of this generation. It’s never too early to start thinking about retirement. My parents are living off a pension entirely, and I don’t think have much saved up. Investing was never something they did, so I’m trying my hardest to have money left over for when I want to retire so I can live a comfortable yet relaxing retirement.
Contribute to an Emergency Fund
My emergency fund has saved my butt on many occasions. Most recently in my year of hell, I needed it multiple times when I had car issues, including it being broken into and attempted to be stolen.
It’s also saved me when I need to put down a security deposit on a new apartment, when my HSA is low and I need to throw money in it in order to pay for my medication at the beginning of the year.
Without my emergency fund I would not be as secure as I am today, and my fund isn’t even where I want it to be. Most financial experts suggest having at least 3-6 months of money in an emergency fund. I’m on my way to that 3 month mark, but I want to have more towards the 6 months.
I’ve been unemployed before and it was for over a year. Benefits ran out and I had to crowdfund to pay my rent the final month. I don’t want to do that again.
I just recently jumped to direct depositing 20% into my emergency fund. For me, that’s about $100 a month, maybe a little more. It’s big enough to make an impact on the fund, but small enough that it won’t compromise my budget and ability to pay my bills.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one today. Open a savings account and make it your emergency fund. Even if you can only put in a few dollars a month, start today. Those few dollars will eventually add up.
Learn to Make Friends
This is something I’m still learning. I currently only have 1 friend and I love her dearly, but having only 1 friend, even as an introvert, can be a bit lonely.
I made my friend in college and it was just by chance we were scheduled to room together on a trip and some how hit it off for that friendship to last throughout the past 10+ years.
However, I haven’t made any new friends since.
I don’t go many places, partially because most young adults hang out at bars and as a recovering alcoholic it’s not my favorite place to be, especially if I’m alone.
Unlike in college, I barely see people outside of my coworkers on the daily, and that’s not great for meeting new people.
I need to take the plunge and find a Meetup meeting near me that interests me and just go. Otherwise, I might be stuck with just one friend for a lot longer.
Don’t be like me, find friends, make friends, and go out. Being a homebody may be comfortable, but getting out of your comfort zone every once in a while is good for you. (And if you figure out where to find new friends, let me know!)
Care for Your Physical AND Mental Health
I spent years trying to take care of both my mental and physical health. I have a long list of doctors I have to go to and I hate it when I move because I have to keep changing my address with them all.
Making sure my physical health is at full strength is a lot easier to do, at least in my opinion. If you’re not feeling well, your body will let you know. Sometimes you might even look sick to let you know something is wrong.
However, for some reason, it’s a lot harder to care for your mental health in the same way.
Wake up with a cold on morning and don’t want to go into work? No problem making that call to stay home for the day. But wake up one morning and you’re just so overwhelmed with stress that you can’t really function properly? Well, you’re not physically sick so you can totally still go to work.
There have only been a few times, but that’s a few times too many, that I’ve had to leave work early due to the overwhelming feeling of stress because I didn’t listen to myself in the morning.
Taking care of your mental health is also about setting healthy boundaries with people. Sometimes people are toxic to our well being and we need to stand up for ourselves and either keep these people at arms length, or remove them from our lives entirely.
I also didn’t realize my mental health medication wasn’t actually working as well as it could until recently. I was given something to add to my medication routine to help boost the rest of the things I’m on, and man. I didn’t know what it was like to have energy and be productive! Though it came with the feelings of shame of needing to reply on more medication to function
Believe in Yourself
I’ve never been one to believe in myself. It’s taken years and I’m just getting to a point where I’m seeing myself in the positives.
But man do I wish I had come to this sooner.
Going through most of life not knowing what to do can be a frustrating process. Trust me, I’ve been there. But I recently came to the conclusion of what I want to do with at least the coming future, and it’s been a weight off my shoulders.
I know this is something that is going to take time. I wasn’t ready when I was younger to believe in myself. I had terrible self esteem, bad self image, and didn’t have much confidence.
Only with a combination of understanding where I want to see myself in life, along with the medication I mentioned above, I’ve been able to have more faith in myself.
Work on yourself when you’re younger so you’re not 30 and bitter.
It’s Okay to Not Know What to Do
Being in your 20s can be a confusing time. Depending on your social circle you can be surrounded by people getting married and staring families, or people who are still living it up and going out every weekend. You can fall in to either of these parties or you can fall in between somewhere.
It’s okay to not know what you’re really doing in life, however, you have to work on where you’re going in order to do well later in life. It’s okay to give things a try now. Hell, it’s okay to give things a try your whole life, but you can’t just give up. That’s the worst thing you could do. Life is going to be hard at times, and you might feel incredibly lost, but you have to push through it all.
It’s going to be a balancing act between making sure you’re still working towards figuring things out, but not going too overboard and into burnout territory. And remember, it’s okay if what you want to do isn’t a “normal” career. If you want to be a stay at home mom, that’s okay! Same for stay at home dads!
- Don’t spend time at a job you hate. If you don’t like the job, people, or environment, find a way to get yourself out. It will hurt your mental health and productivity if you don’t.
- Actually budget and track your spending. You have no idea how eye opening this will be.
- Contribute to any 401k or investment fund if you can. It will help you in the long run.
- Contribute to an emergency fund. This WILL save your life one day, whether that be literally or financially
- Learn to make friends. Keeping friends is great, but sometimes friendships run their course. After college it can be hard to keep friendships going.
- Care for your physical and mental health. And don’t feel bad for needing a mental health day from work.
- Believe in yourself. You are worth it. Find you way and find the ability to believe in yourself.
- Work towards figuring out yourself. But don’t over do it. Give things a try and if you’re lost, check out some of the posts I have on the subject.
Want to sign up for the LMSS newsletter? Click Here!