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Adulting 101: Money Management for 30-Somethings

Group of Millennials Near River

A lot of things happen when you hit your thirties. Most are great, some are sobering, and all of them make you aware of the fact that you’re aging, for better or worse.

Disclaimer: This isn’t going to be one of those blogs from some preachy millennial offering “wise” words for how to be a “real adult.” The first thing my thirties taught me was that I really don’t know anything. In fact, I feel like I’m play-acting at being an adult most of the time. So, I do not, in fact, know better than anyone else. I’m just passing along the lessons I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made.

Luckily, we live in a world where it’s no longer taboo to talk about uncomfortable topics like messing up, money, and self-esteem, so I can share the financial tips and tricks I’ve learned to help deal with the 30-something-year-old life lessons.


Life Lesson #1:

You don’t have “Oh, that’s just typical twenty-something-year-old behavior” as an excuse anymore.

  • Financial Tip: Now that you’re growing up, it’s time for your credit score to grow up, too. If you don’t know what your score is, bite the bullet and find out. There are many free online tools that give you your credit score, and they can show you the areas where you can help it improve. Your ability to buy a house, rent an apartment, or maybe even get a job, will be impacted by your score.


Life Lesson #2:

You’re expected to “know better than to __________.” That blank covers just about any “childlike” behavior, which can range from “overdraw your checking account” to “wash mixed loads of laundry with hot water” to “still not know what you want to do with your life.”

  • Financial Tip: Know better than to let your credit card debt get, or stay, out of control.
    • If you have credit card debt on a bunch of different cards, go to your financial institution and consolidate that debt onto one card. There may be a small fee associated with doing that, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid the headaches caused by endless bills reminding you that you owe.
    • Pay your credit card bill in full every month, if you can. The longer you carry over debt, the more you pay in interest. If you can’t pay it off in full, definitely pay more than the minimum.
    • If you don’t have a credit card yet, get one ASAP. Use it only for monthly expenses, like cell phone bills, electric bills, etc., which you’d be paying anyway. Then pay your credit card off in full every month. Your credit score will thank you.



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Life Lesson #3:

Money starts to matter in a very real way (example: “You should know better than to not already be saving for retirement!”)

  • Financial Tip: Start saving now. Everyone will have an unexpected emergency at some point, whether it’s a car breaking down or a visit to the emergency room or the hundreds of other things that surprise us. Even if it’s just $5 a week, transfer money into your savings account on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is: If you’re thinking about buying something just for fun, automatically transfer that same amount of money to your savings account. If you can afford to think about buying it, you can afford to save that money instead.


Life Lesson #4:

You can’t eat the way you did in your twenties. Your body and waistline will punish you for it.

  • Financial Tip: Learn to cook, and start with recipes you know you’ll like. It’ll save you a boatload of money and it’s also a lot of fun. Check out yard sales for the pots and pans you don’t have; no need to spend a fortune. Sidebar tip: If you have time and can afford it, a class in knife skills is a good investment. A lot of cooking supply stores offer these workshops, and it’ll save you time – and fingers – in the kitchen (true story).
  • Financial Tip: Make your own coffee at home instead of buying it in the morning. Coffee makers are easy to find at yard sales, and yard sale season is almost upon us. Prefer cold brew? Invest in a $30 cold brew pitcher, or just put finely ground coffee beans into a mason jar of cold water, leave it in the fridge overnight, and strain the grounds out in the morning. This will save you up to $40 every week.


Life Lesson #5:

You develop some of the aches and pains that used to seem hilarious when your “older” family and friends complained of them. You don’t find this even mildly hilarious now.

  • Financial Tip: Invest in yourself. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, get one now. Preventive visits are less costly than emergency visits. And if you aren’t going to the dentist regularly, start that now. A dental cleaning without insurance will cost about $100. That’s money well spent, because the longer you wait to take care of your teeth, the more expensive and frequent the work will be. Plus, the more you go to the dentist, the less you’ll hate it – it feels good to be told you’re making progress!


Other things you may notice when you hit your thirties:

  • Your friend group shrinks. It’s natural. You’ll start to realize that all the Facebook “hearts” and “thumbs up” in the world don’t mean anything. It’s the person who shows up at your door, or calls you, who counts.
  • You start to understand, and be part of, the griping about “kids today.” Yes, the music was better when we were younger. And we were more respectful. And we also didn’t have iPhones.


The friends, and the kids today, well, those are personal matters for each of us to deal with in our own ways, and there isn’t really much to do about it financially. However, there is one financial tip for dealing with “kids today”: If you live in an apartment building with college students or twenty-somethings, ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones are wise investments.


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Rachel Feldman

About Rachel Feldman

Rachel is VSECU's communications specialist, which has her doing everything from working with the press to researching cannabis-related legislation to building internal team spirit. She has a background in print and broadcast journalism and state government and serves on a number of nonprofit boards and state commissions. When not at work, Rachel spends much of her time reading, gardening, or cooking with her partner and their two dogs.
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