I knocked on the door of my sister’s apartment, trying hard not to drop a bag filled with Muji ceramics and a sansevieria trifasciata. She had recently begun adulting- graduating from university, moving our of our parents’ home and starting her career. The gifts in hand were a housewarming present to celebrate her new life milestones.
My sister opened the door, inviting me into her brightly lit apartment. The space was unfurnished, completely empty with the exception of 15 or so pairs of shoes lined up against a wall.
I laughed at the shoes – how silly they looked in the vacant room!
“What?! I am paying rent now. Can’t afford a furniture, let alone a shoe rack,” she joked.
She gave me the grand tour. Her bedroom, unlike the the rest of the apartment, was furnished. There was a bed! She caught me eyeing the bed curiously.
“I had to get one! The frame is from Ikea, the mattress is Casper. It’s my present to myself for growing up… I’m going to keep it forever and forever, so it’s more like an investment,” she explained.
I laughed again, remembering the same sentiment when I moved into my own place many years ago. The first thing Daniel and I bought for our new home was also a bed frame and mattress. At the time, I was hesitant to spend the money. Daniel had urged me to, emphasizing it was where we would spend a third of the day, or more– we were newlyweds after all. It was a good argument and I relented.
I fell in love with our mattress; it was so comfortable! We had had a running joke before bed where I would say to Daniel, “I love…Bed”. He would feign indignation and then tickle me until I told him I loved him too. Completely cheesy, but, again, we were newlyweds and I really loved my bed.
To celebrate my sister’s entrance to adulthood, I want to share five things, in addition to a quality mattress, that adults can sometimes overlook but make a worthy investment :
Despite living in different cities, my girlfriends from high school and I used to meet up at each other’s homes to discuss relationships and rant about work. It was a lighthearted time to, well, gab; there were many multi-hour conversation about The Bachelor, but when someone needed advice, we all provided solidarity and encouragement.
Meet new people, expand your network, connect with old friends, and build strong relationships; there are always those willing to help in your time of need. Good friends and close family are your pillar of support when adulting gets hard. The more you invest in your relationships, the stronger your foundation. Reach out to see how friends are doing and commit time to spend with them.
2. Self Care
The focus of self care is to identify your needs and to take the steps to meet them. For me, self care has meant setting aside the time to create. Post graduation, it was stressful searching for a job. To keep calm and carry on, I took on a waitressing job to earn money for art classes and supplies. I would search for jobs during the days, waitress a few hours in the evening, and paint, sew, bead, draw in between; it kept me sane and motivated.
Self-care is really a form of play; for adults, play may not be with toys (though for some it does), but it is simply time to nurture interests and passions to keep us young at heart.
3. Career Development
A year into his engineering career, Daniel took project management courses to develop new skills. When he decided to switch careers, the knowledge he gained through the courses helped secure a new job in a new industry with a nice salary bump.
Whether it’s additional certification or course in a field of interest, professional development can open opportunities and lead to the achievement of goals and aspirations. You are your greatest asset- put time, energy and money into improving yourself.
4. The Future
Whether you have your sights set on a down payment, wedding or travel, it’s important to set aside the funds to save for your dreams. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone regretting having taken the trip of a lifetime.
While you’re saving up to live a little, it’s important to keep in mind the need to set aside a something for retirement. We all know the earlier we start, the better off we’d end up- I wish we had started earlier. If you can, start now because the magic of compound interest will grow your money.
5. Some Stuff
When you’re just starting out, buying stuff can leave you in a pickle- like my sister and her shoe rack. As a guiding principle, start with the purchases that will improve your quality of life.
For those who work in a formal business environment, a dapper suit or work bag can be worth the expense. Athletes will spend on equipment that gives them a competitive edge. For those who love to cook, a proper knife or a pot improve the experience; I’ve been using my Le Creuset french oven daily for years and not once have I regretted spending the four bills. Daniel bought a fancy-schmancy router so we wouldn’t constantly be wasting time waiting for things to load.
While the stuff you value varies from person to person, the point is to spend on what makes a significant impact in your life and will grow with you. The new car, designer purse (or designer anything for that matter), and anything that will put you in debt, can wait until you can afford it, at the very least.
The Last Word
I had visions of grandeur for adulthood (shaped largely by the TV show, Friends), but in reality, the early years of my adulthood were much more modest. Although Daniel and I had bought our condo, we had a sizeable student loan to pay off. We dedicated our salaries to paying it off, and as a result, lived in a primarily unfurnished apartment, only ate home cooked meals, didn’t travel, and basically pinched pennies where it made sense.
It wasn’t a destitute life- on the contrary! We were happy and content; laughed at ourselves for being “young and poor” and found joy and accomplishment when we found discounts for concerts tickets. Our home may have been empty, but we filled our time with doing things we loved and spending it with family and friends. In those early years, we learned much about the difference between wants and needs, and it molded the way in which we would manage our money in our “older” years.
So new graduates, young adults, and my dear sister, do not be discouraged when you cannot afford the things you want or if it takes time to build up your wealth; this is just a rite of passage. You can have it all, just not at the same time. Instead, revel in the beauty of being young and not inundated by the responsibilities of life and all the physical things to be acquired with time. Do not worry about what you do not have, but spend the energy to invest in what matters: a good night’s rest; a hobby, course or project that gives you purpose; a relationship with friend who is willing to watch a very bad television with you; travel/retirement fund, and, maybe, a decent laptop with AC-wifi so you can read all the words of wisdom I have to bestow upon you.
(And in case you were wondering, we retired my beloved bed and upgraded to a King-sized Casper mattress to accommodate the kids. So if you’re in need of a comfy mattress and are looking to save a cool $65, let me know and I can share my referral code with you!)