College to career: my first six months of “adulting”

My college graduation day was over in a matter of hours. The day I’d been working toward for four years had come and gone just like that. And now it was time (in my father’s words) to become a productive member of society.

So, I went out on my own, landed a job, signed a lease on an apartment, and started the next chapter of my life in downtown Des Moines. To say I’ve learned a lot in the first six months of adulting would be a comical understatement.

My two biggest learnings have been around budgeting and balancing. Once you get those figured out, being a productive member of society becomes a little easier!

Budgeting? Sure …

A known fact of life is that everything in this world costs money. Transitioning from always being a “poor college student” to a salaried employee made it all the more tempting to start spending that money before it even hit my bank account. Since I was just starting out, I knew I wouldn’t have money to burn. However, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have to be as restrictive as I thought. Sure, the first few weeks were hard – I was buying the necessities for a new apartment. But I didn’t feel like I HAD to give up the occasional coffee or other simple luxuries. Nonetheless, I still had to be mindful of my budget.

The most beneficial thing I’ve done is to make sure the money I want to put into savings and the money I want to contribute toward retirement never touches my checking account. It immediately goes to the appropriate accounts, and that’s exactly where it stays. Depending on a company’s pay period, you’ll also discover when you have wiggle room to spend and when you have to tell yourself you don’t need those new Bluetooth headphones.

Personally, I dedicate the beginning of the month to necessary expenses like rent, phone, and car bills. Thrilling, I know. But the middle of the month brings more freedom to grab a new shirt, join friends for happy hour, or treat myself to some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream even though it definitely wasn’t on the grocery list. It might take awhile, but once you find a rhythm that works for you, the concept of budgeting becomes much less daunting.

Balance? Never heard of her.

As a new “adult,” I realized the magnitude of work and life I was now expected to balance on a daily basis. Work, cleaning, family, cooking, friends, hobbies, working out, the list goes on and on and I. was. spinning. In college you can blame a messy room on the exam you have the next morning. You have no time for dishes because you’re bouncing from class to club meeting to committee planning session. Fresh into the working world you have…work. Aka nothing to blame those dirty dishes on.

I wish I could say after six months I’ve found the perfect solution, but I’m still taking it day by day. I’ve accepted that there’s no such thing as balance. Cleaning is always going to be a chore and impossible to keep up with. My family and friends aren’t always going to be happy with me prioritizing one over the other. The book I’ve started three times may or may not get finished. I have to be content with telling myself, “Lauren, you did your best today and that’s OK.” Essentially, I’m still a human being that doesn’t get everything right despite being a real “adult.” Shocking, I know.

Other “fun” revelations:

  1. Remember thinking, “Ugh, I can’t WAIT until I’m an adult and I don’t have to deal with zits anymore.”? Plot twist: 22-year-olds still get zits sometimes.
  2. Sitting at a desk all day with your brain constantly on is JUST as tiring as school.
  3. Your co-workers are no longer 22 and younger in a college town. Therefore, when someone asks if you have an Amazon Prime account, refrain from instinctually responding, “I don’t, but my mom has one!”
  4. You’re going to need to buy bandages. Opening new apartment furniture is a dangerous business.
  5. Everyone is always learning. Just because you’re the new kid on the block doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable insights to share.

If you’re looking for a great place to begin your “adulting” journey, check out our openings!