How to Adult: Five Steps to Take After Graduation

how to adult

You graduated! Whee! Your current self might be broke, but your future self is going to be a fabulously wealthy and successful adult. Right?

That depends on what you do right now, after graduation. The biggest temptation is to live it up and count on your future self to solve any problems that arise. Student loan payments? Future self will take care of them. Car breaks down? Surely future self will have enough cash to fix it.

Instead, try the opposite approach. The trick to adulting after graduation is to always make choices that will help your future self. Here’s how!

How to Adult, Step 1: Keep living like a college student.

Wait. That can’t be right. You graduated, remember? Once you’re an adult, you’re supposed to get a nice apartment, buy a professional wardrobe and upgrade your beater car.

Nope. Once you upgrade your lifestyle, and your spending, it’s really hard to go back to your thriftier habits. But right now, you’re accustomed to buying Manager’s Special soymilk and driving your ’03 Camry. So stick with it for a while and save money, so you can…

How to Adult, Step 2: Establish your Freedom Fund.

Writer Paulette Perhach calls it an eff-off fund, which we admit is a lot catchier. Whatever you call it, you need one — because the difference between having money and having debt is the difference between being free and feeling stuck. If you don’t have at least a few grand in the bank, you can easily become trapped in a bad relationship, a bad job or a bad situation.

But where’s this money going to come from? You can find a way. Use an app like Acorns, which automatically rounds up your card transactions and invests the change. Scrutinize your spending history, and cancel any subscriptions you don’t need. Use to get free quotes on car insurance, then once you switch to a cheaper insurer, put aside the money you save each month. In a year’s time, you’ll have your fund.

How to Adult, Step 3: Learn how to take care of your stuff.

We live in a society where almost everything is disposable. Rug gets dirty? Throw it out. Shirt gets a stain? Get a new one. But you’re an adult now, which means it’s time to take better care of your possessions, like:

  • Your car. Even if your car is old, you can still drive it with pride if you keep it looking good. Wash the exterior regularly, and don’t let junk pile up inside. Use this car cleaning checklist.
  • Your clothes. As unsexy as it sounds, laundry is a big part of adulting. Learn how to iron, or take your shirts to a nearby cleaner’s. Wash your clothes on a regular schedule, and treat stains before they’re set in forever. Here’s an amazing stain-removal guide for everything from airplane glue to Worcestershire sauce.adulting
  • Your place. If you look around your apartment and you feel a little grossed out, the solution is not dimming the lights and going out to buy a bunch of scented candles. You’re an adult now. Learn how to clean like a boss. Instead of letting things get filthy, set a timer each morning or evening and tidy up for one hour. In a crunch? Here’s the HGTV guide to cleaning your whole house in 45 minutes.

How to Adult, Step 4: Go to the doctor.

Your body’s a lot like your bank account; if you invest in it now, it’ll pay off later. That means  you have to see your doctor on a regular basis. Going to the Minute Clinic when you have a sore throat doesn’t count. Every year you need to see a primary care provider for yearly physicals; a dermatologist if you’re at risk for skin cancer; an OB/GYN, if you’re a woman; and any other specialists if you have a chronic condition. We won’t nag you about exercising and eating right — your doctor (or your mom) can do that.

How to Adult, Step 5: Enjoy your post-graduation life.

You’re young, you’re smart, and you have a degree. So if you’re wondering what to do after graduation, the real answer is: Whatever you want. As long as you take care of your finances and yourself, now’s the time to take risks. Move to a new city. Work overseas. Join a start-up. Invent something. Volunteer for a cause you love. Say “yes” to adventures. Your future self will be glad you did.

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