By Christine Hill
I remember being a little disappointed by my High School graduation. It might have been how much longer it was than I was expecting, or how there wasn’t a “Can’t Hardly Wait” -esque party afterward… but I think mostly it was that feeling of “are you sure you can give me this?” as I got my diploma. Graduation always seemed like such a grown up thing to do, and here I was, a supposed adult. And feeling completely unable to take care of myself.
You might blame it on the entitled culture of the Millenial generation, or the lack of home skills courses in modern High Schools, but there’s a sad lack happening here. While us kids can navigate YouTube and JSTOR better than any baby boomer, we’re at a loss when it comes to basic car maintenance or cooking skills.
I can’t fix that in one post. But here are some things that I’ve had to teach myself since graduation in order to act like a functional adult. Hopefully they can help you too.
I still can’t believe they don’t teach us basics about taxes in High School. After all, every single American adult needs to deal with it every year by law… In any case, public schooling fails to address this necessity, so you’re going to have to learn how to do it yourself.
For most of us who don’t own a house or business, have kids, or diversified investment portfolios, taxes will usually be pretty straightforward. Now that there’s easy online filing, you can pretty much just sit down with your W-2 form and fill in the blanks.
A few important things to know:
- Deadlines and W-2’s: As you probably know well, April 15th is Tax Day, the day by which you must file your taxes for the previous year. Before you file, you’ll need a W-2 form from your employer (or employers, if you had multiple jobs that year). W-2 forms will be sent out at the beginning of the year, so if you don’t have yours in hand by February, it might be smart to contact your work and check up on it.
- Filing Software: You do have the option of going to the IRS’s website and downloading a tax form which you can physically print off and submit. However, e-filing is usually the easiest option nowadays. The IRS has a page where you can find filing software for the best price. Although TurboTax and H&R Block are the most commonly used, there are other options as well. Some software will offer free filing for federal taxes, but make you pay more for state. Make sure you check out all the cost options before choosing a service.
- Itemized vs. Standard Deduction: While filing your taxes, you’ll have the option of choosing a standard deduction, or itemized. An itemized deduction allow you to include deductions to your taxes for charitable contributions, medical expenses, and home mortgage interest payments. For most of us with simple finances, a standard deduction will give us the biggest break. However, if you’re going to file using itemized deductions, make sure that you keep track of all applicable spending, along with receipts and proof, and that you have it handy when you’re ready to file.
Taking Care of Your Car
Unless you live right in the middle of a city, it’s hard to be a functioning adult without a car. Since your car is your way to and from work, your first haven away from family and roommates, and your means of accessing a social life, it’s important to take good care of it. Now, if you believe that “taking care of it” only extends to washing it now and then, you’re sorely mistaken. Cars need regular maintenance and tune-ups in order to keep running their best, and prevent major problems that could hit at the worst possible time. Check out this run-down of regular maintenance items that you’ll need to keep track of on your car.
Unclogging a Drain
When drains aren’t taken care of, it’s easy to get a clog that will slow down the drainage in your sink, or stop it altogether. Nothing is more gross than dirty, slow-draining water in your kitchen or bathroom, so it’s important to know how to deal with it before it becomes a health hazard for your house.
The first step in maintaining your drains is simply to be wise about what you let drain, installing a hair catcher, and clearing the drains regularly. If you end up having something clogging your drain, grab some drain cleaner like Drano and follow the instructions to the letter. Overuse can do unnecessary damage to your pipes and fixtures.
Cooking a Fancy Meal
If you’re getting by on Spagetti-ohs and Top Ramen, most of the time no one will know or care. However, there will come a moment every now and then when you’ll need to show off some cooking skills. This could be for friends or family visiting from out of town, or it could be a romantic night with a significant other. In any case, all those of us who have been surprised by one of these situations knows that making a really good meal is harder than it seems. Luckily, there are a million cooking shows and tutorials and recipes available. All it takes is a little practice. Keep these tips in mind:
- Make sure it’s well-rounded. That means that it shouldn’t be just some roast meat and that’s all. Incorporate some steamed veggies on the side and some fluffy rolls
- There are quite a few dishes that have a big wow factor, but really aren’t that hard to make. For example, salmon cooks up quickly in the oven and is hard to get really wrong. A slow-cooked roast, as long as you plan ahead, is really low-maintenance and doesn’t have as exact of a “ready to eat” time as many other forms of cooked meat, so it’s easier to coordinate cook time.
Okay, once you’ve mastered these 4 skills, you are by no means done learning everything necessary for adulthood, but you’ll probably be well ahead of everyone else in their early 20’s, so well done!