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Life Skills For Adults | 21 Essential Things You Need to Know Before Moving Out on Your Own

When I moved into my first apartment, I had no real cleaning supplies (or plans to clean), no established budget, and a credit card in each hand. I felt like the first adult thing to do was to have friends over for a nice dinner.

So I pan-seared steaks to a dry, shriveled crisp, and served them up with boxed mashed potatoes, canned corn, and slice-and-bake cookies. No butter or seasoning anywhere…not even salt or pepper.

My poor, poor friends. When it came to life skills for adults, I had zero.

Before you move out on your own, or before you send your kids out to live on their own, there are a certain set of skills you need to have under your belt.

Learn them from your parents or the internet. But for heavens sake, learn them if you want a safer, cheaper, smarter, smoother transition to adulthood.

Homemaking Life Skills For Adults

  • How to shop for groceries. You’ll want a plan for keeping a running list of what you need, meal planning, and comparing prices at the grocery store.
  • How to cook several meals. Pinterest is jam-packed with recipes with step-by-step tutorials. Try to master at least five basic recipes, like spaghetti, tacos, or meatloaf. Want to keep meals as simple as it gets? Then download our free collection of 40 stupid easy recipes, all with minimal ingredients and prep work.
  • How to do laundry. Learn how to read care instructions on clothing labels, separate clothes appropriately, and set correct washer/dryer settings.
  • How to keep your home clean. Make a plan for dusting, wiping down surfaces, vacuuming, washing dishes, and throwing away old food. Download our weekly cleaning plan to keep things simple and manageable, by spacing out cleaning to just one or two tasks a day.
  • Basic sewing. You can either learn how to sew on a button, mend a hole, or hem your pants now, or you can kick yourself for paying someone to complete such a simple task later.
  • First aid safety. Not especially homemakey, but you’ll want to learn how to wash and bandage a cut, when to apply ice versus heat, and how to care for minor burns. You also never know when you’ll need to use CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.

Home Maintenance Life Skills For Adults

  • How to set up utilities. Because chances are good that you’ll move lots as an adult. And every time you move, you’ll need to set up utilities in your new home. Learn how to find who services your home, contact them before your move, and plan to pay a deposit.
  • Basic home maintenance. You don’t have to know how to patch a roof. (Although that would be fantastic!) But changing lightbulbs, fixing a running toilet, and knowing what to do in the event you lose power, are all skills that you’ll no doubt need and use often.
  • Basic home repairs. You’ll want to learn how to tighten loose screws on cabinets and furniture, and how to read the troubleshooting section of the refrigerator manual to repair the ice machine. Become comfortable with a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and other basic tools.

Money Life Skills For Adults

  • How to create (and follow) a budget. I don’t mean understanding the basics of a budget, or completing an example budget. Write down your actual income and expenses. Don’t forget to include rent, utilities, internet, phone, loans, credit cards, insurance, gym memberships, and any other monthly charges, as well as gas, groceries, toiletries, household items, pet supplies, entertainment, and savings. Subtract your expenses from your income, and have a healthy expectation of, and plan for, what’s left. Dave Ramsey has some outstanding resources for building a healthy budget.
  • How to pay bills. It’s a terrible surprise to forget to pay a bill and incur obscene late charges, or to have three large bills show up at once. So write down due dates and amounts in one place, and set a regular day/time to sit down and pay those bills.
  • The dangers of credit cards. My mom, like Bobby Boucher’s, taught me that everything was the devil, including credit cards. One year and $15,000 later, I realized I should have listened to my mama. Sure, lots of cards come with cash back and other perks, but those perks are only useful if you pay your full balance every month.
  • How to save money. Unexpected car repairs don’t seem so life-altering when you have healthy savings to fall back on. Set aside money (ideally 10-20% of your income) every month into a savings account. And set it aside before you pay bills or go out to eat with friends. Future-you will thank you.
  • How to invest for retirement. Our grandparents may be enjoying Social Security, but those benefits will be long gone before we retire. And time is on your side if you start investing at a young age. For example, if you were to start investing $100 every month at the age of 18, and you earned an average return of 8% per year, your investment would grow to nearly $600,000 by your 65th birthday. Sock away $200 per month, and you could retire a millionaire. So start now!
  • Insurance needs. This includes health, car, renters, and life insurance. You’ll need to balance what premium you can afford to pay now against what you could afford to pay in the case of an ER visit, car accident, or burglary.
  • How to read a lease and other legal documents. This won’t seem important until you move out of your apartment and are fined $500 for painting a wall. Knowing what you’re signing your name to now, will save you money and headaches in the future.

Car Maintenance Life Skills For Adults

  • Basic maintenance. Learn how to fill your wiper fluid, replace windshield wipers and headlights, and change your oil, and how often to do those things.
  • How to change a flat tire. Because roadside assistance can get expensive, and will take time to get to you.
  • How to jumpstart a car. For the same reasons as above.
  • How to get your car repaired. For those things you can’t repair yourself, learn what shops do what work, and how to compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
  • How to buy a car. You won’t need this skill as often, but when you do, you’ll save yourself from overpaying or buying a lemon. So learn where to shop, how to compare prices, and how to run a CARFAX on used cars.

So don’t cook dry steaks for your friends. Don’t rack up $15,000 in credit card debt.

Don’t leave your car horn stuck on for four hours in the middle of the night because you don’t know how to disconnect the battery. (That made me super popular with my neighbors!)

You are totally capable of moving out on your own! You just need a few key life skills for adults, in the areas of homemaking, home maintenance, money, and car maintenance. So go out there and show us whatcha got!

P.S. Miss those helpful free downloads in the post? No worries! Nab ’em here!

*This post was last updated October 14, 2022.

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Sunday 3rd of April 2022

Did school prepare you for life? Didn’t your parents teach you anything? Did you ask anyone for advice?


Tuesday 5th of April 2022

I feel as if school prepared me by teaching me science, algebra, etc. as well as discipline and hard work. My parents taught me discipline and responsibility, to know God, and to be a kind and overall good person. While these are all important contributions, and probably the most important, I could have also used more practical tips to add windshield wiper fluid to my car or how to make 4-5 meals. And while I currently turn to the internet for those tips, I was in college at a time that you weren't conditioned to turn to the internet for every question - it was still a somewhat novel concept - so I tried to pick up tips from friends and coworkers where I lived.