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Help me get rid of the princess complex
June 4, 2012 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I have no idea how to be independent. I’m in my early twenties, working and living in a big metropolitan city, finally in my own apartment with roommates but I’m very reliant on my parents to get by. I was also very reliant on my ex-boyfriend, whom I still love dearly, to take care of things for me and I want to change that now that I’m single.

My parents have been helping me pay for my car, phone, and random necessities since I started living on my own (about 2 months ago). The bad part is that I could probably pay for these things myself if I could stick to a budget, but I am very bad with money and have a lot of student loans/a bit of credit card debt to pay off. When I was with him, my boyfriend was basically taking care of my car/computer troubles. I’ve since realized that part of the reason I was attracted to him was because he was competent at so many “adult” things and was a big proponent of self-learning, which I have never had the discipline for.

I had/have very low-self esteem and am trying to stake it out on my own so that I become confident in knowing I can take care of myself without the help of a boyfriend or parents. (By the way, the breakup was amicable – I initiated it because I realized couldn’t be functional in a relationship without knowing how to love/take care of myself.)

Relevant data: I’m ADHD and bipolar, which doesn’t help things. Currently being treated with medication and searching for a new therapist in the city.

Some ideas I have are:
- Make and stick to a budget/get myself financially comfortable
- Learning how to cook (got Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” and some starter groceries)
- Learning about car maintenance – enough to not get scammed by a mechanic
- Learning how to shoot a gun
- Learning emergency preparedness (planning on taking some classes on this)
- Getting CPR certified
- Making an emergency kit for my house and car
- Learning how to sew/repair clothing
- Learning self-defense – items to carry in my purse, how to use a switchblade, etc.
- Becoming more technologically proficient – reading a good book about computers?

I realize this is a huge undertaking (and somewhat of a lifelong process). My list is a bit on the extreme side but I like it that way.

Do you all have any more ideas on what I can do to challenge myself to become more independent, strong, and knowledgeable? Or any tips that might make my above list easier to tackle?

The wilder, the better. Seriously. I'm half-aspiring toward gun-toting-leather-wearing-chick-surviving-the-zombie apocalypse level of independence/competence, even. (It's silly, but motivating.) Thank you!
posted by themaskedwonder to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Make and stick to a budget/get myself financially comfortable

This is a major step, but it's one I think you can manage. Just keep in mind that there is no big secret to budgeting, that millions of people who are leagues stupider than you can still manage to make a budget.

Part of it is that you're still new to living on your own, so things like your food budget are in flux. Lock something down for this month (hey! It's the beginning of the month, a perfect time to start a new budget!), and if it's not enough, increase that portion of your budget for next month. Same goes for rent/utilities, loan payments, car payments/gas, and everything else.

One thing to consider - if you live in such a large metropolitan area, do you really need that car? Are you comfortable/able to take public transportation? That could save you on a lot of money and anxiety down the line.
posted by Think_Long at 12:24 PM on June 4, 2012


Re: budgeting

Get all your monthly bills into one binder, set up auto-pay, and then only use cash during the week. Review the binder every week, as well as your receipts, and chart your spending habits.

An electronic version of this strategy is You Need a Budget, but you could probably also use Mint or Excel.
posted by spunweb at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2012


Honestly, I think your big daunting list is big and daunting enough that you don't get anything done. I realize it's probably prioritized, but #1 and #2 are so far above everything else that you should really focus on those as "necessary life skills" and think of the rest as hobbies. (Unless you drive a ton and/or have an unreliable car, in which case add #3 to that list.) I mean, working on your emergency kit is hardly as valuable as learning to feed yourself or plan your finances, so you really shouldn't think, "Hey, I'm being an adult getting something done!" if you have candles but only mayo and beer in the fridge. I'm exaggerating, but when I look at that list, just saying "Prioritize!" doesn't seem strong enough.

For budgeting -- probably the most important item -- my wife was a big fan of this Suze Ormond book.
posted by supercres at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree with supercres, but it's important to keep some fun things on the list. Maybe you'll find budgeting fun, but probably not.

You can have fun learning how to cook! I think the most important part is not getting intimidated by complex thing and just learning the basics. You can make ramen? Great! You can boil water. Scrambled eggs? Great! You can fry things!

But if picking out a Leatherman to carry with you makes you feel awesome, then do that too.
posted by sawdustbear at 12:30 PM on June 4, 2012


Budgets almost never work for me and I used to be really bad with money. I found what makes an enormous difference is getting online and automating your finances. For example, if you decide you really need to pay down debt, set it up automatically so that it comes out the day you get paid. Same idea for establishing a savings account, the idea being that once it's set up it takes ZERO effort to save or pay down your debt. And most of the time you don't even realize that the money's gone.

If impulse shopping is an issue for you, try taking cash out for the day and leaving the debit card at home.

Mostly I like your list, but a word of caution with some of your ideas on self defense/weapons... I think you should only ever plan on carrying weapons that you are willing to actually use. Carrying a knife or a gun that you won't use is simply providing an attacker with a weapon to use against you. If you don't have the determination to actually pull the trigger when push comes to shove it will do you more harm than good.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 12:30 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure going from a princess complex to an Indiana Jones complex is really going to help you become an independent adult.

Separating the practical tasks from the romantic perspective seems like a useful step. It may be helpful I take a fanciful 'quest' approach to the banal chores of independence, and it's good to find room to indulge your hobbies, but if you haven't needed gun toting skills yet I think it's well left at the bottom of your to-do list - or at least clearly distinguished as an interest rather than a step towards meaningful independence.

I recommend Flylady for finding your balance as far as the everyday tasks that are really relevant to a person not living in a post apocalyptic outpost. I also recommend prioritizing and getting the kind of help that enables you rather than disempower you.

There's no magic trick to budgeting (unless you count using spreadsheets as magic, and you probably already know how to use them) and there's no magic trick to prevent impulsive overspending. If you have a friend who loves making plans, they might help you create one, but it's going to be up to you to follow through.

Given the amount of help you've had already, it sounds like you have room to fail. Set a goal of living off I your paycheck for 3 months and see where you end up. There's really no substitute for doing.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2012


I should mention that I'm in Los Angeles, work in entertainment and the car is pretty necessary, I'm afraid.
posted by themaskedwonder at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2012


Learning self-defense – items to carry in my purse, how to use a switchblade, etc.

Not this. Please, do yourself a favor and abandon any thought that carrying a knife will make you safer. It will not. If you are assaulted and attempt to pull out a knife to defend yourself the most likely outcome is that you will be injured more seriously than you would have been otherwise.

Think pepper spray, not knife.
posted by alms at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


If you can do half the things on your list, you're going to do well. You're already off to a AMAZING start by recognizing the need for change and making a list of goals, plus seeking advice of others. You're on a roll and with this attitude you're going to succeed.

My one caution is to not let the failures get you down. You're bound to make progress despite not hitting all of your goals--if you let that get you down, you won't go as far. Don't try to be a perfectionist, but take incremental steps making sure you're always doing better than you were last month, last year, etc. and you'll be beyond where you thought you could be in no time.
posted by brenton at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The wilder, the better
That's not what makes someone independent and self-sufficient outside of movies and comics.

You've mentioned you've ADHD. You've made a great big list and you want more items. But actually doing them is the hard part.

The big useful ones are: Budget, cooking, and maintanence. Maintanance includes the car, apartment repair (eg plumbing, normal household repairs) and sewing and computer use. An emergency kit is a good thing to make but shouldn't take more than one or two shopping trips.

This comic's been making the rounds lately: Poorcraft, a guide for frugal living. It's focused on city living, not country homesteading. It just got finished and it's $10 for real paper or $5 for PDF.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 12:37 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I live in LA and the best advice I can give you about your car is to get the regular maintenance done. Have your ex or a friend recommend a mechanic who you trust. Read the manual to see what is recommended at each mileage, besides regular oil changes of course. One thing I learned the hard way is to replace the battery after 10 years. It is no fun to be rushing to leave for work and have a dead battery.
posted by amapolaroja at 12:41 PM on June 4, 2012


1. Download You Need a Budget and use it. Take the advice above about autopaying bills and using cash during the week. Don't use your credit card for any discretionary purchases.
2. Get a friend to teach you a few simple recipes that you can whip up from things that are easy to keep around. (For instance, scrambled eggs with veggies. Fried rice. Spaghetti and meatballs with homemade sauce.) Master those.
3. Make a concrete plan to pay off your debt and stick to it.

That will be more than enough to get you started. As others have said, if you have money and food under control, you've got the essentials. You don't have to change your own oil to be a grown-up, but you do have to feed yourself and live within your means.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:43 PM on June 4, 2012


While it's awesome and useful to know how to fix cars and computers, neither make you an adult. I know many adults, even some I admire for their maturity, who have no car or computer repair skills.

Being an adult, or at least a mature individual, is managing your finances and your obligations, and knowing what to do to get things done. This doesn't mean doing everything yourself, but it involves a lot of problem solving. Understand that the first answer you get might not be the best. Have the confidence to question a suggestion, or at least look for a second opinion or get another offer. If a repair estimate seems unrealistic, ask for an explanation, and if you don't understand it, at least make a note and get a second estimate, and ask for their description of the work to be done.

On the computer side, you can do a lot for yourself with critical thinking, internet research, and trying things out. If your computer is your means for income, you might be better served by turning to a professional, but over time, you can learn to do it all yourself. I'm sure the same is true for cars, home repairs, and a hundred other "adult" things.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:44 PM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, there are plenty of places in LA that sell ready made emergency kits for home and car. I wouldn't worry about self-defense. Concentrate on budgets and cooking.
posted by amapolaroja at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2012


Or any tips that might make my above list easier to tackle?

The biggest thing would be to focus on only one of the long term projects you listed at a time and don't give up (even when it gets hard and/or boring). It all sounds great and adventurous now but when you are missing out on fun things because they cost too much money or are slogging through cooking yourself a meal when you're tired you still need to keep the momentum going and follow through.

Make and stick to a budget/get myself financially comfortable

I like to look at a budget as less of a hard and fast "this is exactly how much you are going to spend" type of thing and more of a sort of guide to whether or not I'm overspending. From your description, it sounds like you're overspending on non-essential things. The first step is to figure out where most of your money is going, and figure out ways to cut down the biggest things you spend money on. You can use an online system like Mint to track your spending or an offline method but either way knowing exactly how much you are spending is key. Then once you come up with reasonable amounts that you should be spending, you can plan around a budget. At any rate those are all just strategies for planning how to reduce spending, the key part is actually reducing your spending, and that requires a lot more of just having the willpower to live within your means rather than overspend, rather than having a great plan.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2012


I'm actually not crazy about some of these things on your list. They seem very pie-in-the-sky, and based on your current mood. But, they're listed right alongside things that are very necessary, and should carry greater weight.

- Learning how to shoot a gun
- Learning emergency preparedness (planning on taking some classes on this)
- Getting CPR certified
- Making an emergency kit for my house and car
- Learning how to sew/repair clothing
- Learning self-defense – items to carry in my purse, how to use a switchblade, etc.


I put all these things together, and I see fear. Do you have a reason for needing to know how to use a gun, and carry a knife, in LA?

I think that a lot of your items could be replaced by one, written as, "Deal with my fears."


As to what you can do: A recent trick I read involved leveraging the "Pareto Principle", suggesting that only 10%-20% of the things you do actually matter, and the rest is window dressing. So, you take this list that you have written, try to break each item down into tasks that you can complete in less than one day. Put them in priority order by asking what's really important. Then, each day, you look at this list of things and just cross off the bottom 80%. You're not going to get to that today. But, the list you have - These are things you can DO. Today! Repeat the next day, but with the things you've already done omitted.

I can tell you this: Learning how a car works, and how to tinker with and fix it, is harder than you think. It's worth doing if you really want to, but there aren't that many resources to help you as you'd expect. It's kind of a head-scratcher, really. If you really want the full treatment, you might have to pay to go to mechanic's trade school. I'm not sure that kind of thing is for you.

Computers, on the other hand, have guides, answers, and documentation all over the internet. I would recommend that you make that your "hobby project" first. Concentrate the rest of your energy on your budget, food, clothing (what you need), and shelter.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


My parents have been helping me pay for my car, phone, and random necessities since I started living on my own (about 2 months ago). The bad part is that I could probably pay for these things myself if I could stick to a budget, but I am very bad with money and have a lot of student loans/a bit of credit card debt to pay off.

So... start paying for what you can now. Next time your phone bill comes due, pay it. Next time you have a "random necessity", take care of it yourself without even discussing it with your parents. Start working to be better about money -- "I'm not good with money" isn't an excuse. I suck at money and have no impulse control, and yet I'm able to pay my rent and bills from month to month without too much drama.

my boyfriend was basically taking care of my car/computer troubles

You know what I do when I have a technical problem that I lack the capacity/interest/patience to fix? I call a professional.

I happen to be relatively computer savvy, so usually I just google around till I figure it out. But if I can't figure it out, I sign up for a slot at the genius bar, or call someone I know is good at computers (it's totally fine if this person is your ex, btw -- but you should get to a point where you're calling because you've tried to solve a problem yourself and failed, rather than calling because "OMG I got the beachball of doom what oh god I mean I don't even HALP!!!!!").

I'm pretty hopeless with home repair, so if the plumbing starts doing weird stuff, I call building maintenance. Same with tailoring: can't sew worth a shit, so when the button falls off my jacket I drop it at the tailor and pay the $3 to have it fixed properly. Being self-sufficient doesn't mean you have to do every little thing yourself. But it does mean being able to call a plumber, describe the problem, be at home to meet the guy, and pay for it. As opposed to calling Boyfriend and saying, "OMG TOILET NO WORK GROSS GROSS MAKE IT STOP" or whatever.

All this stuff is a gradual process, and it's pretty normal to not have it all figured out in your early 20's. And for what it's worth, you don't have to know all the stuff on your list. I'm 31, and I feel like I have my shit together for the most part. And yet:

I've never fired a gun in my life, and have no immediate plans to.

I think cooking is super important, but I have a hectic work schedule and allow myself to order takeout or just graze on snacks as needed.

I could probably stand to know more about emergency preparedness (get bottled water and batteries for the flashlight are the extent of my knowledge right now). Emergency kit = bottled water, batteries, maybe some non-perishable food? Which, let's not kid ourselves, is the mac & cheese and granola bars I happen to have on hand. And, shit, the mac would be useless in an emergency, wouldn't it?

I'm not CPR certified. Is that a thing? Are we all supposed to know that?

Self Defense? Using a switchblade? WHAT? Frankly I think Self Defense courses are B. S. unless you tend bar for a living and routinely walk home alone at 3AM.

Seriously, it's OK not to have some of this stuff down pat.
posted by Sara C. at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


As much as I am a pro-gun ownership kind of guy let me say this: Your situation may not be the best one for firearm training/ownership right now.

You mention that you're bipolar and on meds. I have no idea how well your meds are handling your condition, nor how long you've been on them, but let's just say that for your own saftey and for that of others: strike one. I also get the impression from your post that you have no prior experience with firearms and you didn't mention having anyone close to you that can gently introduce you to them, nor do you really have money to burn for an instructor. That's strike two. Strike three is that, while firearms can be a great stress reliever and confidence booster, it just probably isn't the best use of your time right now.

On preview: What Citrus said is basically how I read some of your comments as well. Not trying to be mean, but fear is the problem. A gun isn't the solution I thin you need right now.

Someone above said pepper spray should be your choice over a knife for self defense. I truly believe this is good advice for a lot of people, yourself included. If you're feeling insecure or in danger while in public then pepper spray should make you feel, rightfully so, alot safer without putting yourself or others at risk.

Focus on the budget problems you have (I'd recommend a envelope system with pre-allocated funds at the start of each pay period and no credit cards allowed) and work on staying sane, getting healthy, and then go to a shooting range once you're feeling caught up and a bit better.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


omission: "but fear" should be "but if fear". I don't want to suppose/project overmuch here. Apologies.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2012


Re: the emergency kits. Buy two emergency kits on Amazon today; put one in the house and one in the car. Done. Easy. You don't have to make them. Throw some bottled water in there, and also maybe some old tennis shoes and VOILA: You are now prepared for an emergency.

In my opinion, part of being a grown-up is knowing when to call in a professional and having a stable of those professionals in your virtual Rolodex. I have a lawyer, an accountant, a tailor, a plumber, and a mechanic. Those contacts -- who will be better doing their jobs for me than I would ever be at doing them for myself -- are way more valuable than my, say, learning how to fix my own broken down car. You can find them easily by crowd-sourcing your friends on Facebook. People who have a good mechanic or accountant or whatever love to talk them up. There is no need to make busywork for yourself, especially when there is actually a really really important item on your list that you need to tackle yourself and should not farm out: the budgeting. If your parents are helping you financially at the moment, I bet they would be happy to help also if you went to them and said, "can you teach me how to make a budget so I can start doing this myself?"

I suspect your anxiety will dissipate once your financial affairs are in order; mine definitely does. Good luck!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:02 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're still doing it, by coming to a site and hoping we'll provide The Answer to your problems. This is all willpower. You are the only thing stopping you from doing that list. Get off the internet, generate inertia by doing one thing, no matter the size, that will move you in that direction. Let it gather momentum and you'll be flying through the list. Externalize your willpower if you're too weak- tell your parents you don't want them paying for x anymore, and then figure out how you're going to do it, because now you have to. Tell the ex to start dating and stop holding your hand, no matter how you beg.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as your parents are helping you financially, they're facilitating your lack of independence. So, ask them to stop paying your bills.

Also, get rid of your credit cards so you don't just default to accumulating on debt once you're responsible for your own stuff (and by "get rid of," this could mean giving your card to your parents so you can't use it unless you call them and get it from them first, or freezing it in a block of ice, or something--there are too many good reasons to have a credit card that you should have one...just not one you can charge stuff on because it's convenient and you're not used to living within your means).

If your parents balk at your request, you could provide them an alternative way to give you money that might still help you meet your goals of being self-sufficient. You could ask them to send you on a really great vacation next winter, or have them contribute to a Roth IRA for you (actually, you have to make the contributions from your earned income, but you would set up an automatic withdrawal from your bank account for, say, $300/mo on the 14th of the month, and then they would set up an autodeposit to your account for the same amount on the 13th, or something like that). But saving for retirement should really ultimately be your responsbility, but this might be a good way for them to feel like they're helping you and also make them feel safe not paying your bills/bailing you out like they've been accustomed to.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:07 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Independence is an attitude and a philosophy. Your list looks daunting, but life conveniently hands you opportunities to practice (most) of these things every day. You can get all of these things done in a short amount of time if you approach every opportunity as a learning experience. Maintaining these habits is a lifelong process, but learning the basics is just a question of practice and openness towards learning from your mistakes.

Also, cultivate friendships with other knowledgable DIY types and ask questions! They love to share knowledge. Just keep in mind that sometimes people who are bad at explaining how to do something will take over, leaving you with no knowledge of how to do anything. Don't let them take over. If you sense that they're about to, thank them for their time and tell them you want to do it yourself. Come up with more specific questions that they can answer, and then implement the solution yourself.

Cultivate curiosity and be rigorous in your requirements for the answers. When you encounter a problem, don't just look for the solution and consider the problem solved. Make sure you understand why it works and how it fits into the overall system i.e; why this solution is good for this particular situation, but may not be good in other situations.

Get your budget in order first and foremost. When you have that down, you can afford to take classes in the things you have difficulty teaching yourself.

Finally, there is no hurry. Take your time! You do not have to do all of these things at once. I promise you, you are going to reach a point one day where you realize that you know how to take care of yourself, and you are going to have to take care of yourself for another fifty years even though you are sick to death of taking care of yourself. And then you'll go visit your parents and be deeply thankful that someone else is doing the cooking, for once. Appreciate this time in your life when people are still willing to help you and teach you. The older you get, the more people assume you already know how to do these things.
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:11 PM on June 4, 2012


I came in here to post what moonorb just said - as long as your parents and boyfriends are willing to enable your lifestyle, it might be really difficult to change.

I disagree with rhythm and booze, independence is not an attitude and philosophy. Just like many other things in life, it is about actions. Will you take the actions to pay your own bills? Or will you take no action and let mom and dad pay your bills?

“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions."
posted by seesom at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2012


This may go against your instincts for independence, but doing this process with a friend might be really helpful to you.

How are your roommates at "doing what needs to be done"? Watch and learn! Tell your friends who cook that you want to learn - ask if you can help them make dinner (bribe with groceries). Think about how much your roommates earn, and see where they spend their money; look around at co-workers' lifestyles and see if you can identify someone who really seems to be living happily within their means. One thing that might help is to try to mold your roommate life into a positive role-model: if none of the other three of them have these practical skills you want, they will drag you down with them, but if you can convince them to cook at home with you, keep on top of the household bills, clean the bathroom on a regular basis, and generally be the kind of responsible adult that you want to become, you will learn all sorts of good habits.
posted by aimedwander at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't agree with his politics but Dave Ramsey has a very simple method for budgeting, using envelopes to manage your cash.

It's okay to let your parents help, if they can afford it. As you get more settled and more money in your emergency fund, you can take the training wheels off, but for now, you're cool. You're doing better than a lot of folks your age!

As for personal protection, knives and guns are not a good idea. Perhaps a martial arts class will help you feel safer and more in control of your surroundings.

I took the Advanced Lifesaving Course at work and it was AWESOME. Ask around at work, if someone at your job is a safety person, check with him or her about volunteering. That will check the emergency kits for the car/home thing off your list. You can start by carrying around chewable baby asprin for people who might be having heart attacks.

One other thing I'd advise is to stop saying that you're bad with money. That's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just say, I'm learning to handle my money well. It's more positive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:24 PM on June 4, 2012


i agree with those emphasizing to learn to prioritize. learning to budget is a big deal if you have always been terrible with money and/or never had to deal with it. only in the last several years have i learned how to do it—and i still have some slip ups—but it's well worth it. others here have covered how to go about that.

so i think these things are good starters and will take you some time to get a handle on:

these you can learn sometime down the line once you feel more comfortable and confident on your own:

- Learning emergency preparedness (planning on taking some classes on this)
- Getting CPR certified
- Making an emergency kit for my house and car
- Learning how to sew/repair clothing
- Becoming more technologically proficient – reading a good book about computers?


but these:

Learning how to shoot a gun
- Learning self-defense – items to carry in my purse, how to use a switchblade, etc.


i lived in LA for over seven years (pasadena, hermosa beach, long beach, and silverlake) and i, 5'2" and <120lbs, have never ever felt that i needed to know how to shoot a gun or use a switchblade for protection (not that that would have really protected me). sure, there are some sketchy neighborhoods, but you generally know where they are and there's really never a reason to be in them.
posted by violetk at 1:28 PM on June 4, 2012


You started living on your own two months ago and you're worried about not being sufficiently independent? I think you should cut yourself some slack and realize that it takes time to become self sufficient.

As others have suggested, I think that you should focus exclusively on money and finances - that's really the most important thing you need to be independent.
posted by medusa at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe I was unclear; your attitude should inform your actions. You want to be independent; that means you can't by definition be someone who relies on other people. It would be inconsistent. So I essentially agree with seesom. Look at the parts of your life where you are reliant and ignorant, and cut out the parts that make it easy for you to be that way.

I could have written your list when I was in my early 20s. My parents could and did take care of everything for me, but I insisted on paying for everything myself and learning how to do things. I'm not good with lists or grand plans, but having a simple set of rules about independence, being my own worst critic, and being open-minded eventually taught me how to take care of myself. The only thing I haven't hit on your list, at 27, are the emergency preparedness/CPR/self-defense courses. For what it's worth, learning to shoot a gun was interesting, but did not make me grow as much as traveling in a country where I did not speak the language did.
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2012


Don't take this the wrong way--but you seem to be totally approaching this like a person with ADHD. It's like you want to become an awesome adult RIGHT NOW, THIS INSTANT and make plans and lists and become THE MOST AWESOME ADULT EVER! But you're going to get overwhelmed if you approach it this way...so maybe start with one or two things.

I really like Mint.com for tracking my finances. I don't have to enter anything, and it syncs with a smartphone app so I can check it before I make a purchase, or decide if I have enough money to go out.

Knowing how to ask for help when you need it--whether it's finding a therapist, a friend to talk to when you need support, a doctor when your sick--is a big part of being an adult, too.
posted by inertia at 1:43 PM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't ask your parents to cut you off cold turkey, but I would suggest that you talk to them about your wishes to be less financially reliant on them. It's not unusual for people in their early twenties to have help from their parents, but it should diminish over time with the ultimate goal for them to be only an emergency source. For example, whatever they contribute to your car payment, have them lower it by fifty bucks every six months until they are not helping you at all. Of course, if you were suddenly hit with a large repair bill and they were able to help, they still could.
posted by soelo at 2:05 PM on June 4, 2012


Have you ever tried spending a holiday all by yourself in a country that has a language that you don't speak? Just a couple of days. A quick way to experience what it is to rely on yourself.
posted by ouke at 2:15 PM on June 4, 2012


I'm half-aspiring toward gun-toting-leather-wearing-chick-surviving-the-zombie apocalypse level of independence/competence, even.

I'm all for responsible gun ownership, but you really need to understand that learning to shoot a gun, deciding to own a gun, and deciding to carry a gun are three very distinct things. By all means, learn to shoot, if you are genuinely interested (I learned here), but owning a gun is NOT a decision to be taken lightly, and certainly not because of some Hollywood-style fantasy of being a badass leather chick. There are plenty of stupid, unsafe gun owners out there (many of them driven by the idea that having a gun will make them safe or alleviate their fears). Please do not set yourself up to be one of them.

As to budgeting: personally, I could never create or stick to a detailed budget myself when I was getting my financial shit in order. Instead, I took the approach outlined here, which basically breaks down to spending 50% of your income on essentials, 20% on savings, and 30% on non-essentials.
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay..... Just reading this initially, not knowing that list of things you've written does NOT make someone a "princess". I think step one might be removing a negative self-image of yourself, "if I'm not packing heat, I'm just a frail little thing!"
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2012


Lots of good advice above about taking it slow and focusing on essentials like budgeting and cooking.

Regarding emergency preparedness, I have found the City of Seattle's guidance to be really helpful. Seattle has shifted to talking about 7-10 days, but FEMA still has the 3 day kit lists. Their key message used to be to break it down into manageable steps. Do a little every month and you'll be sorted in a year.

Adulthood is a long time. You don't have to get it all right in the first 5 years.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2012


Trying to figure things out on your own / with the internets is a good step towards being independent. Princesses expect help first, the rest of us ask for help when we know we need it.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


scody beat me to it - I love the 50/20/30 Balanced Money Formula.

Really, get the MONEY under control and the rest of the stuff will get a lot easier. Having enough MONEY is the easiest way to be independent (I mean, you can be incredibly independent without any MONEY at all, but that means learning a lot of skills).

And I agree, most of the stuff on your list is... inessential at best. Even the car maintenance. If you have a Thousand Dollar Car then yeah, I guess that becomes more important, but my car rarely gives me any trouble (knock wood etc etc) partly because I spend MONEY on preventive maintenance and also because I spent MONEY when I bought it.

TL;DR MONEY. MONEY MONEY MONEY.
posted by mskyle at 3:24 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's also good to realize that just because you're an adult, that doesn't mean you have to be completely self-reliant at all times. Your parents will always be there to turn to for advice. Your friends and lovers will always be a support system. And sometimes two or five or nine heads are better than one.

So last year a hurricane was predicted in New York City! Emergency preparedness time! I grew up in Louisiana and have lived through some hurricanes, so I knew a little. As above, water, nonperishable food, flashlights, candles, etc. I also know that it's good to know where vital documents are in case you need to evacuate from home. But the rest? No idea. There's a reason I left the swamp for the big city! Do I need to board up my apartment windows? How much cash is good to have on hand in a situation like that? What about my car, which is part of a rental fleet used by my company and not owned by me? Is there anything else I need to know that I wouldn't have known as a teenager?

So I called my mom. She sorted me out. It was fine. The grownup police didn't come over and fine me for not having taken an emergency preparedness course.
posted by Sara C. at 3:35 PM on June 4, 2012


31 year old former princess here.

Don't worry so much about all of this. You are pretty awesome for trying to make this kind of growth...

I had a credit card on my dad's account till i was 27 and a very doting ex willing to bail me out.

But ittle by little, over the years I've needed less support. I've grown up and not needed them so much.

The biggest thing I can say that made me independent is that I told myself I would only ask for help if I needed it. And that meant not buying an expensive sweater while expecting my dad to float my oil change.

I've taken jobs I hated because I needed to pay the bills. Do that if you get the chance.
posted by misspony at 4:18 PM on June 4, 2012


So, after a bit more review - welcome to your early adulthood. You are learning how to be an adult and shouldn't be ashamed that you don't know something! I'm just finally figuring things out and going, "gosh, I should have thought of that earlier!"

Here's some advice!

Make and stick to a budget/get myself financially comfortable

1. Here's the long and short of budgeting - use some money to pay bills and save the rest. I'm serious. Take a look at what's coming in - say $2000.00/month (I dunno, making stuff up). Calculate your rent, student loans, and the typical MINIMUM payments on credit cards, and see what's left. If you have, say, $800 left, then this is really all you need to budget. Put a set amount of this away - even just $1-200/month - use some of it to pay more than the minimum balance on a high interest credit card, and use the remaining for spending money. The important thing is to really get into the habit of putting money away.

Once you get comfortable (say paid off enough credit debt so you have $1000 left after bills), take away one of the lower burdens from your parents - like the cell phone. When you're comfortable with that, take the car loan over.

Not sure what the random "necessities" are - if it's like groceries definitely take this over.....if it's something like your car breaking and need repairs, well, saving money will help you deal with that.

Keep it simple, and honestly don't be afraid to depend on your parents for something, if everyone's agreeable. If you're in your early twenties and you're handling your student loans, I don't see anything wrong with them handling your car payments.

Learning how to cook (got Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” and some starter groceries)

2. Again - keep it simple! Not every adult is a culinary genius. Find a couple simple and healthy meals you're comfortable with making at first.


Learning about car maintenance – enough to not get scammed by a mechanic

3. Not getting scammed by a mechanic really relies on the mechanic - the scammers tend to scam you on the detailed things people wouldn't know, even with some training. So bottom line, I wouldn't recommend learning how to work with cars (unless you actually want to work with them), but try to find a mechanic you trust. Perhaps try the Cartalk Mechanics files? My stance is, if I go in for service for something like an oil change and they recommend another, different service, I always ask how much it costs and what's affected by the problem - asking repeated questions until they get to layman's term. If there's an implication that this is not an immediate problem (as in my car will not fall apart/blow up in the next week or two) then I say, "I'll think about it" and then just google what they said and figure it out from there.

Becoming more technologically proficient – reading a good book about computers?

4. Ditto goes for computers - unless you WANT to work with computers - there's not an "adult" need to read a book about them if your needs are being met. If you are having issues simply operating them, think about taking a class at your community center or college, and finding a decent repair shop.


Learning emergency preparedness ...Making an emergency kit for my house and car

5. These two pretty much go together. I would simply check out online common emergencies in your area and plan for them. When I lived in NJ I printed out the weather channel's Hurricane Safety Guide, and when I moved to NE I printed out the weather channel's Tornado Safety Guide. You can maybe check those out. In terms of car safety, unless you're regularly going into unsafe/rural/abandoned areas, a cell phone and an AAA membership should be fine.


Learning self-defense – items to carry in my purse, how to use a switchblade, etc.

The item to carry in your purse is your phone. The item to carry in your hand is brightly colored mace. If you are attacked you may not have the time to reach into your purse. You want to avoid carrying lethal weapons of self-defense - if your attacker was unarmed you may now be providing them a weapon. Self-defense is mainly about evading and escaping attack, not meeting and returning it.

Self-defense classes (again, try a community center) will tell you how to use your body to deflect attacks.

Getting CPR certified

Community center. Try to go to a newer one that's updated the guidelines.

Learning how to shoot a gun, Learning how to sew/repair clothing

These are not parts of being adult - these are hobbies (yes, even sewing clothes!). I would recommend focusing on the major things before you worry about your hobbies.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:44 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Edit on 5 - "You can maybe check those out" should have been "check out preparedness guides for earthquakes" haha. Don't need to prepare for the wrong thing...
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:48 PM on June 4, 2012


I think this is awesome and it's totally okay to secretly dream about being a zombie-kicking badass. The more you can inspire yourself, the better.

The first thing you have to do, though, is cut off any financial support you have. Someone suggested telling your parents to deposit that money into a Roth IRA account - that sounds like an excellent idea. Or tell them to set it aside for now. Because what's going to happen (believe me, I've been there), is that you will quickly find things that would make you badass that are going to cost money, and you'll start to believe that money is the barrier to your badassness, and lean even more on your parents.

Some examples I can think of: a leatherman, that awesome $30 book on bicycle repair, that other awesome $20 book on homebrewing, a sewing machine, motorcycle lessons, cooking books, cooking lessons, good knives, good cookware, outdoor supplies, good boots, good hiking pants, etc. That shit is all awesome, but expensive and unnecessary.

But that stuff does not make you a badass, and you need to make it your mission to get by with as little of it as possible. To be on your own, you need to learn to TAKE PRIDE in sewing a button on with your dinky little sewing kit, and working out without paying for an expensive gym membership, and making your own curtains or pillowcases, and changing your own oil, and buying thrift store clothes. If you feel ashamed and just want to pay more so that you know that things will be nice and clean and well done, you are not a badass yet. You need to be way more proud of what you have done yourself, even if maybe it's not the best in the world, because YOU did it. You need to be way more proud of being under your budget than of owning the latest and greatest. (This isn't a totally realistic mindset - but it is absolutely necessary when you have such easy and convenient support from your parents.)

A thing I did a lot when I was really trying to be self reliant was to think that I had to prove myself to everyone, and that I couldn't ask for help - and it made me look like a total jerk, and it made me feel even less self-reliant. For example, the thing that made me feel most helpless was going to the mechanic, because I was sure I was going to get ripped off, so I was very assertive and confrontational when I didn't need to be. You know what worked a lot better? Just saying, straight up, I don't have very much money, and I also don't know much about cars - but I'd like to learn. If I buy the part I need, can I pay you xx to show me how to replace it? When I met people who were really good at something, instead of asking for their help, I felt like I had to go home and study on my own to catch up. Now I have no problem admitting: hey, you're really good at that. Mind showing me how you do it? I've also gotten a hell of a lot better at bargaining (something I never used to do), because asking for something like a discount no longer seems as terrifying. Anyway, maybe not something you have trouble with, but finding out I didn't have to work against everyone was a big life lesson for me.
posted by ke rose ne at 5:31 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have Alternative suggestions for the gun, knife, emergency stuff! Is your apartment in a really bad neighborhood? Or is it just that being on your own is scary? (Because that's perfectly understandable, but your fear will fade with confidence!)

So, can you get a dog? Does your place allow pets? Dogs are a million times safer than having a gun or knifw around, and probably better deterrants. You won't feel as alone with a pet around.

Really good locksfor your doors are another. I live in a safe house in a safe neighborhood, but I still go around the house every night anr check to make sure all the doors are locked. It's a ritual my Dad also had, and it helps make me feel safe!

Lights! Timer for your lights = peasy way to make people think you are home when you aren't. Or, hey, you could just leave a light on in the kitchen when you go out at night. No one likes to come home to a dark home. Make sure you have a lit entryway, too or a flashlight on your keychain at the very least.
posted by misha at 6:05 PM on June 4, 2012


I'd suggest you focus most on getting better at the skills you believe you're going to find most useful in your day-to-day life. Drop a lot of the focus on emergency preparedness. I remember I used to be almost paranoid about that kind of stuff, and even bought multiple books on the subject. Then when I was working on getting rid of unnecessary clutter, I came upon those books and realized that in all the years I owned them, I never once came close to facing a single one of the emergency situations they were supposed to prepare me for.

For example, I used to think I just had to have my trunk filled with every little emergency item the lists suggested, but the one time my car actually did break down none of that stuff was any use. It was simply a matter of calling AAA to get it towed. So that's my car "emergency kit" from now on: a AAA membership, my cell phone, and an empty trunk.
posted by Ryogen at 6:19 PM on June 4, 2012


I think it's great that you're thinking this way and asking these questions.

I'd look at it from this perspective: what's the last time something caused you a lot of trouble or embarrassment that was preventable?

Some little things go a very long way - keeping track of social obligations, remembering or setting up a reminder for when bills come due, looking at my budget and my checking accounts once a week so I know what I can afford. Checking the weather and taking an umbrella when it looks like rain. Researching best practices for taking care of my computer and data.

I've learned the hard way to be very cautious about signing up for things (classes, volunteer gigs, etc). I wind up overcommitting, have to cancel/flake - and that doesn't feel very grownup.

One thing that goes a long way towards growing up is being willing and able to step up when someone needs you - but drawing boundaries and realizing when someone just wants to use you.

I assume you have a job. But that's another big part of it. I wish when I was younger I'd had a better sense of how to think about the jobs I had then in terms of a broader career trajectory and how to handle set-backs and take charge of my career.

Pay your own way, clean up your own messes, treat people right, and do the job in front of you - and remember that no one around you is as grown-up as they are pretending to be.
posted by bunderful at 7:05 AM on June 5, 2012


Thank you all so much! This thread has been extremely helpful. I realized that i really need to scale back on my goals and focus on money management and cooking/eating out less for now before I do anything else. As of yesterday evening, I cooked myself fish, beans, and potatoes just by looking up videos on the internet - and even brought leftovers for lunch today. I feel pretty awesome about this.
posted by themaskedwonder at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Small victories. 'Grats. You should feel awesome because you're taking the right steps in the right direction.

Oh, and if you need a cookbook as a newbie to preparing food for yourself you could do much worse than "The Joy of Cooking" to start with.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:03 AM on June 6, 2012


Congrats, indeed. It's fun to find what simple things make you feel like an adult. Most of my "wow, that was an adult thing I just did" moments are pretty mundane in retrospect.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:02 PM on June 12, 2012


But that doesn't make them any less worthwhile.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:02 PM on June 12, 2012


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