Advice for your early 20’s

Take this advice with a grain of salt, I’m still in my early 20’s and have much to learn. I wanted to write about some advice I wish I knew when I first turned 18 and moved to Chicago alone so everyone else doesn’t have to make the same mistakes I did. 

1. Be friends with your neighbors

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been saved by getting to know my neighbors. From learning the best way to scam coin-laundry machines, borrowing taller ladders to hang things up or just having someone who’s aware of what’s happening in your neighborhood can make your life so much easier. You don’t have to be best friends, but remember names and saying hello can really go a long way. 

2. Two sources of income

The inevitable happens all the time, and relying on one job can be difficult when you have bills to pay. The best advice I can give is try to have two sources of income at all times. One should be less work, a side college job or gig like babysitting or freelancing, with the ability to pick up shifts that you can use for extra income that doesn’t take up too much of your time. It’s risky to only rely on one place for money, especially at a young age when you won’t be staying at that job forever. 

3. Learn how to order a drink at a bar properly

You either just turned 21 or have finally used your fake at the local bars. Time to stop you from ordering a Whiteclaw every time you go out. Start finding your go-to that doesn’t make you sound 19. You don’t have to sound overly pretentious, but I have a selection of different orders I resort to depending on the type of place. Dive bar: tequila soda with lime. Cocktail lounge or nicer venues: dirty martini. Test different drinks out until you find some you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to try their signature cocktails. Be nice to the bartenders and servers. If you want to try something not on the menu, try to do it when it’s not busy and make sure to tip every time. They definitely don’t get paid enough. 

4. Take lots of photos and videos

Nobody cares. It’s your memories and your life. Just take the photo so you can look five years down the road and remember that moment instead of being worried how people will perceive you for using your phone. I have never once regretted taking photos to remember a moment, but don’t let it take up all of your time from the event ethier. 

5. Invest in things important to you

There are some things you should not be cheap with. Investing doesn’t mean dropping hundreds of dollars, but putting in the time and effort to find a good winter coat, emergency stacked first aid kit and the basics in a tool kit should all be worth your while to last a very long time. Some of my recommendations are a thick winter coat and a nonstick pot and pan. You don’t need to get a Canada Goose to have a nice long lasting jacket. Thrift stores like Village Discount provide a wide variety of quality Chicago-worthy coats. Same with cookware, Target has reliable pots and pans that can last a long time as long as you take care of them.

6. One professional outfit, one safety outfit:

You don’t need an extravagant wardrobe to make it in college, but at the very least you should have one nice pair of slacks and button up for interviews and one outfit you can rely on to wear out that you feel comfortable in. I find most of my professional pieces at thrift shops like Village Discount. Again, investment pieces don’t need to cost more. Most of my favorite pairs of jeans I just took the time to look for in thrift stores. 

7. Learn how to do your own laundry:

Luckily, I was able to learn this at home, but not everyone gets this opportunity. Instead of wondering why your clothes are never as clean as they should be, let me give you a couple tips to help with the last minute google searches. DON’T buy dryer sheets, DO use dryer balls, and put a little lavender essential oil on it before the dryer and your clothes will come out smelling fantastic. DON’T wash your jeans every use. DO wash your bed sheets at least once every two weeks.

8. Learn how to cook

It’s okay you didn’t know how to cook before college, but now you need to learn before you waste your money on Uber Eats. Learn the basics and collect a lot of dry goods, like pasta, rice and beans, that can be used with different dishes. While I believe the more seasonings the better, to make any dish taste great use the big five: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Experiment with those and move up from there. 

9. Have at least $5 in cash on you

Even the most prepared people lose it sometimes, but you don’t want to be stuck late at night with a dead phone and no CTA pass or debit card. $5 cash can get you two Ventra passes to make it home.

10. Utilize your library

One of the first things you should do when you move somewhere new is visit your local library. I shouldn’t have to tell you, but get a library card because it’s more useful than you think. At most libraries you can check out wifi routers, borrow tool kits, listen to audiobooks for free, print for cheap, and figure out what events you can join in your neighborhood.