20 Basic Adulting Things to Do to Prepare for Navigating Adulthood 

In my 20s, I figured at some point that I would reach a finish line. There would be a red ribbon across the finish line with a big bow. And perhaps I would run across it, and thus begin adulthood.  

As it turns out, there is no finish line when it comes to transitioning to adulthood. In fact, there is a lot of gray area.  

Yet, no matter where you are on your adulting journey, this list of adulting things, skills, and habits will help you progress to adulthood with wisdom, grace, and a bit of your own flair.  

young white woman wearing headphones vacuuming the floor

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20 Adulting Skills and Responsibilities 

This adulting guide is not meant to discourage but to encourage. Adulting is hard, and you’re not going to get everything right the first time.   

The amazing and sometimes frustrating truth about adulting is that all adults “adult” differently. It’s as though God gave everyone a blank canvas and asked them to paint a beautiful painting.  

It’s no surprise that no two paintings will look the same. Even as adults, we’re in different stages of adulting and have different needs, strengths, weaknesses, and responsibilities. 

So before you get started on this adulting checklist, promise yourself not to compare yourself to other adults. Focus on the unique path God has you on and how these adulting skills can help you navigate the adulting struggle. 

What are the basics of adulting?  

Here is a list of responsibilities for adults, including adulting skills, adulting tasks, and other grown-up things. As you read through the adulting checklist, you’ll find helpful tips and reminders for the basics of adulting.   

  1. Get a job 
  2. Define your budget 
  3. Save money 
  4. Create an emergency fund 
  5. Rent an apartment / Own a home 
  6. Stick to a cleaning schedule 
  7. Organize important documents 
  8. Invest in retirement 
  9. Establish a will 
  10. Get a password manager 
  11. Vote after becoming informed 
  12. Do your taxes 
  13. Understand insurance coverages 
  14. Prioritize Rest 
  15. Join a Church 
  16. Serve your community 
  17. Keep challenging yourself 
  18. Learn from your mistakes 
  19. Say No 
  20. Have fun 

1 – Get a Job  

Part of adulting is having your own income, separate from parents, and using it to pay for your expenses and fund your fun. (Yes, there is still fun in adulting). I put this at the top of the list because most of the other adulting things stem directly from this.  

2– Define Your Budget  

Now that you have an income, the next item on the adulting checklist is to build a realistic budget. To build a budget, you need to record your monthly income (or estimate it if you’re a freelancer) and then estimate your expenses.   

Basically, the budget isn’t done until your expenses are less than your income. EveryDollar is a free budgeting app that I use to create a budget and track expenses.   

 

Here are more financial and budgeting resources to help with this adulting skill.  

3 – Save Money  

Unexpected expenses come up eventually for all adults. But surprisingly, most adults don’t save. Instead, they rely on borrowing and going into debt to pay for surprise expenses.  

But now that you’ve read this adulting checklist, you know that creating an emergency fund is a responsible alternative to debt.   

Otherwise, with debt, you’ll end up paying more for the expense because of interest. Also, too much debt impacts your ability to borrow in the future, such as for a car or a home.  

4 – Create an Emergency Fund  

Piggybacking off the previous adulting task, adults should have an emergency fund. An emergency fund a savings fund specifically for unexpected expenses.  

Here’s how to create an emergency fund.  

  • Start small. Have a savings goal of $100. From every paycheck you receive, set aside a portion for savings. A good earmark is 20%.  
  • Bump your savings goal to $1000. Next, you can build your $100 into a $1000 emergency fund.    
  • Save 4-3 months of income (or 5-6 months of expenses). A savings fund of this size is meant to help you with big life changes. For example, losing a job or being unable to work while taking care of a sick parent. While we hope these things won’t happen, as adults, we should still prepare with a savings buffer.  

5 – Rent an Apartment / Own a Home  

Having a place to live also tops the list of adulting things. Shelter is a necessity for all of us.  

So, whether your residence is temporary in an apartment or more permanent in a home, making a decision on where you’ll live is what adults do.  

Some resources to help with finding an apartment are:  

6 – Stick to a Cleaning Schedule   

Having your own apartment or home means that you’re responsible for keeping your house or apartment clean.  

If you’re a planner, creating a chore chart or cleaning schedule will help you maintain your house and keep things nice and tidy. For those of you who aren’t planners, have cleaning supplies on hand so it’s easy to clean whenever you notice dirt or untidiness piling up.   

7 – Organize Your Important Documents  

In college, my organization system was a folder shoved in the back of my closet. That definitely made it hard to find insurance documents, copies of bills, voter registration cards, and anything else  that had gone into the folder abyss.  

Opt for a nicely organized filing cabinets or binder instead. It’s a clean, neat place to find forms, files, and documents and sort them by year, category, and importance.   

8 – Invest in a 401(K) or Retirement Account   

Along with saving for an emergency fund, you should also build your savings in a 401(K) or retirement account. These retirement accounts include investments in stocks and bonds that increase your money over time.   

However, to fully grasp the benefits of gains over time, it’s important to invest early. Earlier than you think you need to start thinking about retirement.   

  

Bottom line, save early, invest, and investigate employer contribution matching programs to increase your investment.   

9 – Establish a Will  

Making a will might seem so unnecessary at this stage in your life, peeking your head into adulthood. But oftentimes when we need a will, it’s too late to create one.  

In your will, you specify who you want to be your beneficiaries, who will take care of your family, and how you wish your funds and/or business to be handled. You also appoint someone to be responsible for ensuring your will is carried out.  

Oftentimes, wills also include a healthcare directive, which gives someone authority to make medical decisions for you in case you can’t. It states your preferences for healthcare to guide that person in any medical decisions they make on your behalf.  

While you may want to shrug this off and disregard, creating a will should relieve your worries about “what happens if I die?” because it’s been laid out clearly for your loved ones.   

And, while some people go to a lawyer’s office to create a will, they can be made easily and inexpensively online. One tool I recommend is the Ramsey+ will creator. It’s all online and only $159 for one person.  

10 – Get a Better Password System  

Managing your passwords and protecting your personal information are adulting tasks that often get overlooked. But it can be as simple as using complex passwords to make yourself less susceptible to hacking. Also never use the same password twice. 

I suggest finding a password managing program, such as 1Pass or Apple Keychain, to store your complex passwords. You only need to remember 1 password to unlock the others. And of course, this 1 password needs to be complex and hard to guess.   

11 – Vote After Becoming Informed   

If you live in a nation where elections are held, make sure to vote when you reach the legal voting age.  

You have been given the privilege to vote and have a say in what happens in your community. I encourage you not to take that likely as many people in our world lack that privilege.    

Before voting, become informed about the election (big and small). Do your best to understand the core issues and each candidate’s stance. Now, you can vote for your preferred candidate or policy from an informed standpoint.   

12 – Do Your Taxes   

Personally, doing taxes is one of those adulting skills. I have not mastered yet. Thankfully, I have great support from family to help me out when Tax Day rolls around.  

For those in the US, tax software such as TurboTax make the process easier by walking you through the process online. On the other hand, reading the tax code and instructions on the IRS website and filling out the form by hand is also a viable option.   

My only advice for filing for taxes is not to wait until the last minute. :] 

13 – Understand Your Insurance Coverages   

Deductibles, premiums, copays, coinsurance, health savings accounts, claims, collision…how familiar are you with these terms?   

Understanding your insurance coverage for health, dental, car, rental, house, and life insurance coverages is important for a couple of reasons.   

  • You can fully take advantage of your benefits. If you’re unsure what’s included—ask!   
  • You could save some money. When you fully understand your policy coverage, you may find coverage or services that you don’t need. By eliminating those policies, your bill could shrink.   
  • You will know what is covered when something unfortunate happens. When emergencies happen, it’s too late to look up your insurance and make changes.  

14 – Find Time for Rest  

Moving on from the less fun adulting stuff, here are basic adulting skills to nourish your mind, body, soul, and community. The first adulting task is prioritizing rest. 

Living in a busy world, sometimes we forget the words “stop” and “still.” Yet, everyone needs breaks to prevent burn out and allow our body and minds time to heal and recover.  

If you’re a Christian, start by practicing the Sabbath on Sundays. Don’t do work for your job and focus on resting, spending time with others, and reconnecting with God.  

Here are more ideas on how to take time for yourself and practice self-care.   

15 – Join a Church   

You’ve probably heard it said that “the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone.” And I couldn’t agree more! Having lived in a country with only one English-speaking church, I cannot stress enough the importance of connecting with your local church.   

Hebrews 10: 24-25 warns us not to forgo meeting together with other Christians, fellowshipping and loving each other. Part of worshiping God and loving others is joining a church and small group / Bible study.   

Go farther than just attending on Sunday. Serve in the church ministries and look for ways to build and love the Christian community God has placed you in.   

16 – Serve Your Community   

Spend some time thinking about how you can volunteer and love your community. Whether it’s coaching your son’s soccer team for free, donating diapers to a pregnancy center, or planting trees in neighborhoods. Think about how you can impact and love your community well.   

17 – Keep Challenging Yourself  

Just because the days of sitting in school are behind you doesn’t mean that learning should also be a thing of the past.  

Be open to learning more and exploring topics that you know little about. Who knows? You may discover a new passion, interest, or productive hobby.  

Instead of getting frustrated by what you don’t know, challenge yourself to learn something new every day.   

18 – Learn from Your Mistakes 

When you become an adult, you (sadly) don’t receive a sudden transfer of ultimate knowledge and wisdom, so you never make a mistake again. 

However, just like a kid who learns their lesson, adults, too, must learn from their mistakes. Because adults are no more perfect than they were when they were teenagers.   

Don’t beat yourself up about making the mistake when you reflect on it. But you can commit to not repeating your mistake by assessing what went wrong and what you want to do in the future.   

19 – Say No   

Being an adult means making tough decisions and sometimes, saying no to ourselves. For example, after setting your budget, it would be unwise to continue eating out once you surpass your “eating out” budget. 

Saying no to yourself applies in other areas of your life, too. Burnout and overcommitment are common plagues in our world. Guard against them by establishing a good work life balance and recognizing your limits.    

Instead of saying yes to everything, say no so that you can spend more energy and time doing well what you do commit to.   

 

20 – Have Fun & Live in the Moment  

Adulting has a bad reputation of being a “sentence” to a joyless life. Adults have to worry about finances, take care of children, climb the career ladder, and be exhausted. All the time.  

But that doesn’t have to be all that exists in your adulting life. Adults also have a lot of freedom, too, for example, to travel.  

Be sure to set some time aside for doing fun adulting things, too. We’ve included 5 bucket lists on this adulting checklist to encourage you to enjoy every moment. No matter the season!  

30-Day Adulting Checklist Challenge   

We’ve taken this list of adulting responsibilities and condensed them to a 30-day checklist you can complete in a month. Every day, you’ll have an adulting task to complete or start to sharpen your adulting skills.    

Download the 30-day adulting checklist pdf below.  

This adulting guide is meant to prompt you to take on some adulting responsibilities you may have shrugged off in the past. It is not meant to discourage you or guilt you into doing something.    

As you progress into adulthood, remember 2 things. 1) Give grace to yourself—adulting things are hard—and 2) leave room for joy. 

What would you add to this list of responsibilities for adults? 

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts in the Living & Adulting Category

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