Adulting skills. While that word may seem absurd to your parents’ generation, it could have come about at a more appropriate time. This word has inspired adulting memes, adulting TV shows, books, classes, podcasts, and even an HBO special on adulting by Bill Maher. But we won’t get into any of that today.
Today we’ll cover some basic frugality and adulting skills that will save you money and help you build wealth. Let’s do it!
Table of Contents
1. Home Repair And Car Maintenance
I don’t mind paying people for things I need, especially when their service frees up my time. I’ll pay house cleaners, tutors, and babysitters because they can get the job done faster and better than me (except for babysitters, obviously.)
I can’t bring myself to pay for a simple oil change for my car or a small handyman job for my home. I just don’t feel like going through the motions of finding the right person to do it, explaining what I need done, waiting for them to get around to it, checking that they did it properly, and then paying them.
It’s just such a waste of time and money.
Instead, I’ve built up a set of basic skills and knowledge related to car and home maintenance through forums, YouTube, and asking around, and I just do most things for myself.
Investing isn’t so much a frugal skill as it is a necessary step to build your wealth for your future. That said, there’s a way to invest frugally and a way to waste a whole bunch of your money.
Don’t just walk into your big bank and tell them you want to open an investing account. (And don’t let them talk you into one either.) The big banks are guaranteed to charge absurd service fees – especially if they “manage” your assets for you.
Instead, find a low-fee trading platform, and just start with simple index funds. I write all about choosing a trading platform in “Best Trading Platform USA – Start Investing in Stocks” but spoiler alert my favorite investing platform is M1 Finance for the low fees (and Questrade if you live in Canada.)
By the way, while stocks and index funds are what you’d typically think of when you hear “investing,” there are actually more appropriate places to start depending on your wealth level. We cover this in A LOT more detail in “How to Invest: At every wealth level + 2 HUGE myths!“
You probably think of negotiation as an executive-level skill that you can only dream of mastering. But really, negotiation is a frugal skill, and it’s all about getting a better deal.
Challenge yourself to always ask for something “extra” in both big and small purchases. For example, next time you order a pizza, you can ask if there are any free upgrades you could get. When you’re buying groceries that are close to expiry – ask if they can give you a discount. And if you’re buying your first car, ask if they can throw in free oil changes or car washes.
Practicing these skills on a smaller scale will really serve you when you’re negotiating your salary following your next promotion, or trying to get the best deal for your next investment property.
Big or small, negotiation is a crucial adulting skill for both building and protecting your wealth.
4. Energy Efficiency
After your first glance at your utility bills, you’ll understand why your parents were always yelling at you about leaving the lights on, running the shower for too long, or messing with the thermostat.
Respect your hard-earned money by respecting the rules of energy efficiency. They’re all pretty self-explanatory – don’t use more than you need – but I’ll give you a couple of insider tips.
- LED lightbulbs use WAY LESS energy than all other styles.
- Read Recommended Thermostat Settings For Summer And Winter (Filled or Vacant)
I feel like today’s young adults treat not knowing how to cook as a badge of honor. And it’s kind of funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Going out to eat went from being a luxury to a daily necessity (hello lifestyle inflation?) but it’s a huge waste of both time and money.
Learn one or two go-to meals and go from there (or better yet, cook in batches on Sundays!) Treat cooking as an investment in your skills and it will pay dividends in protecting your wealth.
Bonus Adulting and Frugal Skills
While the five skills above are musts when it comes to adulting, the four skills below will take you to the next level.
6. Alternative Transportation
If you expect a new car as soon as you start your adult lifestyle, I challenge you to reconsider. Treat it like a challenge: how long can I go without buying a car?
I’ve spent years just biking to work while my wife relied on public transit. We later found a car rental place that let us rent for $20 a weekend if we had to go away. (Yes, our negotiation skills came in handy.)
Not having a car set us on a path of homeownership much earlier than any of our friends. So it’s a huge lesson in frugality and delayed gratification. Just because everyone has a car, doesn’t mean you need one too.
Okay, a little Mr.FIREescape secret for you: I’m obsessed with gardening.
I wouldn’t call it a frugality hack by any means, BUT there are a few advantages. I always have the exact right amount of lettuce for a barbecue without having to buy a full package AND I can “surprise” my wife with a bunch of flowers after I forget to do something she asked.
8. Comparison Shopping
I still can’t bring myself to do price-matching at the grocery store, but comparison shopping has come a long way since I was a teen. Back then, if you needed an electronic thing, you’d go to Best Buy. If you needed clothing, you’d go to the mall. Comparison shopping was a major hassle.
Now, there are so many options, you can choose when and where to be frugal. For example, I can buy my HDMI cables from Amazon on Prime Day and my phone charger from the dollar store. Oh, and when comes to clothing, I’m all about Frugal Male Fashion – 11 Ways to Look Good and Spend Less on Clothing (With Examples).
Comparison shopping shouldn’t stop at shopping though. Use those frugal skills in banking, investing, and choosing a city to live in.
This one kind of goes with comparison shopping – don’t assume you need to buy things new!
I always check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace before buying something for my hobbies or if I need a piece of furniture.
I also can’t think of a single new thing I’ve bought for my kids.
The key is deciding when it’s worth it or when it will be more hassle than it’s worth. It’s a bit of a trial-and-error sort of thing, but it’s also a great lesson in frugality. BONUS BONUS – you’ll get to practice your negotiation skills!
Final Word on Adulting and Frugality Skills
Mastering the 9 skills will set you on a path toward financial freedom. Let me know if I’ve missed any crucial “adulting” skills!
Bill Maher – Adulting
In case you wanted to see it: