Saturday, July 13, 2024

20 Essential Life Skills to Learn in your 20s

Earn the adult badge when you've mastered these skills. 👌🏽

Realizing that navigating the world as an adult is as difficult as surviving your classes in college can be a sobering thought. 

There’s so much to be done to thrive apart from heavy-duty chores and competencies. Whether it’s fixing leaky faucets, managing your budget, or doing taxes, these are handy skills to learn in your 20s to save you on rainy days. 💪

1. Learn Basic Home Repairs ⚒️

Faucet’s leaking all over the place? Are wonky shelves ruining the living room aesthetic? Ditch extortionate handyman fees when you learn simple home repair tricks. Save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars by tackling those minor repairs yourself.  🧰

Do you want to know where to start? Here’s a quick guide to fixing common problems around the house:

  • Leaky faucet: Turn off the water, disassemble the faucet (which is easier than it sounds), and replace the worn-out washer or cartridge.
  • Tilted shelves or cabinets: Tighten loose screws or brackets with the right screwdrivers or wrenches. If screws are stripped, re-drill them and use larger anchors, then level it out like a pro. 
  • Small wall holes: ️Remove debris and dust before applying patching compound with a putty knife. Smooth it out and paint over the hole to ensure it looks clean.

Some penny-pinching tips to build your toolbox are: purchase one tool at a time and give pre-loved tools a second chance. Flea markets, garage sales, and online stores are treasure troves for used screwdrivers, pliers, drills, and hammers that still pack a punch. Win-win! 🪛

Good to know: Community centers and libraries are underrated havens for DIY starters and gurus. Check if the library has posted workshop schedules on basic painting techniques, carpentry, and other important know-how.

2. Learn Simple Recipes 🍳

A woman chopping vegetables for a salad in the kitchen
Easy-to-follow recipes can save you from scrambling for last-minute meals and add a bit of variety to your college diet. Photo: Nathan Cowley/Pexels

If you’re craving midnight snacks but are strapped for cash, making cheap meals instead of relying on fast food deliveries will save your wallet. 😋

Buying groceries is much cheaper (and healthier) than eating out in the long run, especially if you’re only cooking for one. Pasta with tomato sauce, avocado toast with egg, and grilled cheese sandwiches — these are all quick recipes for busy students with busy schedules. 🥪

Cooking can also be an awesome bonding experience with your roommates. Whip up a feast together, de-stress after exams over steaming bowls of comfort food, and impress your friends with your newfound kitchen skills.

3. Learn How to Spot Sales 🛍️

A woman picking tomatoes from a cart
Check weekly flyers and plan your shopping around deals. Stock up on pantry staples when they’re on sale. Photo: lightpoet/Depositphotos 

The stress of soaring expenses can be mitigated when you weave your weekly meals or purchases around sales, student discounts, and coupons. Bookmark favorite store apps and websites, sign up for email newsletters, and check local newspapers to stay on top of the latest deals. 

Befriending the generic aisle in supermarkets and digging through clearance racks are also the best decisions to make if you want to save serious cash.

Quality isn’t an issue since store-brand pantry staples often taste as good as their pricier counterparts. You can even score amazing deals on clothes, tech accessories, and dorm essentials like lamps, rugs, and storage bins, all at a fraction of their original prices. 💰

4. Learn to Drive 🚗

A driving instructor and female college student having driving lessons inside the car as one of the skills to learn in your 20s
More than learning the rules, understanding why it’s important to drive safely will prepare you for any situation on the road. Photo: michaeljung/Depositphotos 

Emergencies happen when you least expect them. What if you need to rush an injured friend to the hospital or if a roommate goes into anaphylactic shock and ambulances are swamped? Situations like these turn those who know how to drive into heroes. 🚕

So, how do you become a reliable driver on a student budget? Focus on affordability and look for used cars with good safety ratings and a track record of reliability, like sturdy hatchbacks or fuel-efficient sedans. 

It’s a good idea to scour online marketplaces, local dealerships, and even family connections for hidden gems. There are plenty of good secondhand cars that still have a lot of life left in them. Student discounts on used cars also often exist, so use your ID to your advantage.

It’s also important for busy college students to find driving instructors who offer evening or weekend slots. Squeezing lessons and practice into a packed weekday schedule may be cutting it close.

TIP: Explore and utilize online resources, such as driving theory apps, to study for your written exam during spare moments between classes. 

5. Learn Time Management ⏳ 

Time management is a highly-desired superpower for juggling late-night cramming sessions, part-time jobs, school requirements, and social activities.  

The trick to doing all of this is to set realistic goals and break them into smaller, manageable tasks. One approach is the Pomodoro Technique, where you study for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. ⏲️

Sleep is also an overlooked factor in time management. When you’re well-rested, you can focus better, retain information more effectively, and have more energy to tackle your studies and other activities. Prioritize getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye to fuel your brain. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to say no. Committing to so many things is a recipe for stress, so learn to politely decline requests that don’t align with your goals. 💤

6. Learn How to Cast Your Vote ☑️

Voting might not be the first adventure that comes to mind when thinking of skills to learn in your 20s, but your voice matters. 

Participating in local and national elections can influence policies on educational funding, academic freedom, and student support services.

Your current location determines where you get registered — be it your home state or where you attend college. Get accustomed to local election deadlines and requirements, as each state has its own rules. 🔎

Online platforms like — a one-stop shop for voting registration — make this process easier. You can also connect with campus organizations or attend local events focused on civic education to deepen your understanding of political issues and candidates. Plus, there are early voting options or mail-in ballots for flexibility. 🤔

7. Learn a New Language  🎤

A female college student engages in conversation with her language teacher in a classroom setting
Chatting with native speakers is a fantastic way to practice conversation, gain cultural insights, and make new friends. Photo: ZigicDrazen/Depositphotos 

Boost your brainpower, future career prospects, and social life — a new language is one of the prime skills to learn in your 20s! 

Skip the boring textbooks and make the most of language-learning apps like Duolingo and Memrise for bite-sized vocabulary lessons. Your phone can serve as a mini-tutor when you change the language settings or blast podcasts or audiobooks in your target language while cooking or commuting. 🎧

Embrace the awkwardness and strike up conversations in your new language. Even if you mangle the pronunciation, it can be a lot of fun and a great way to break the ice.

Fluency isn’t the finish line; enjoy the journey of babbling your way through a new world and watch your confidence (and cultural understanding) soar. 💭

8. Learn First Aid 🩹 

Life throws curveballs in the form of bumps, scrapes, or more serious emergencies. Basic first-aid, as one of the skills to learn in your 20s, will allow you to handle those situations calmly and confidently. 

Red Cross or St. John Ambulance offers certified courses, but if you’re short on time, knowing what goes inside a basic first-aid kit is also a good start. 🦺

Sometimes, you don’t even have to look further than your campus. Grab your friends and head over to the health center, where free workshops and events led by certified professionals are conducted. 💭

TIP: Download the Red Cross app: it’s a pocket-sized first-aid manual with step-by-step guides for everything from treating burns to choking.

9. Learn to Sew 🧵

A female college student skillfully operates a sewing machine
Choose projects that spark your creativity, whether it’s upcycling vintage tees or whipping up a statement-tote bag. Photo: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos 

Want to patch your favorite jeans or craft handmade gifts? Sewing is a rewarding skill that empowers you to express yourself creatively, and even build a side hustle.

Start small by choosing a beginner-friendly pattern, like a tote bag or pillowcase. Quick projects will build your confidence and teach fundamental techniques like straight stitching. 🪡

YouTube channels like Professor Pincushion and Made to Sew, have free, step-by-step video guides covering everything from selecting fabric to finishing seams. 

Before heading to the fabric store, make the sustainable choice of exploring your local thrift shop. Upcycled fabrics from old clothes or curtains not only fit a college budget but also add a unique touch to your creations. ♻️

10. Learn Stress Management Techniques 🧘

Okay, we all know the drill when stressed: healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep. But when college life gets overwhelming, sometimes the basics just aren’t enough.

A brisk walk or a quick yoga session can be potent stress-busters, but any activity that sparks joy will do, whether it’s dancing, rock climbing, or playing with dogs in the park. 🤸

Finding things to do that make you happy and give you a sense of escape is the key. Schedule frequent “me-time” periods, even if they are only for ten to fifteen minutes each day. 

These intentional pauses are essential to maintaining a sense of well-being, increasing energy, and recharging your batteries. Keep in mind that looking after yourself is essential to handling the challenges of college life and beyond, not a luxury. 🪫

11. Learn and Understand Taxes 🤑

Dealing with taxes may be a bore, but it might be the most important skill to learn in your 20s. It can help you save money by claiming eligible deductions and credits while contributing to essential public services.

One slip in handling your audits and the following penalties or interest charges can drain your hard-earned cash. 💸

The IRS website is a free resource that can become your tax bible. It’s where you can find clear and helpful guides on filing basics, as well as deductions and credits. 

If there are still processes or policies that remain confusing, reach out for help. Free tax preparation services for students run by trained volunteers or accounting professors are for the taking. 🗣️

Good to know: You’ll get bonus points for downloading their free IRS2Go app, a mobile one-stop shop for tax info. 

12. Learn to Negotiate 💬

Two female college students sitting on a couch, reviewing papers
Use clear, assertive language. Practice saying “no” gracefully and expressing your desires firmly. Photo: Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels

Negotiation goes beyond haggling in flea markets; it’s about advocating for your interests in any situation. 

There are instances of needing to negotiate during job interviews, especially when salary and benefits are on the line. Make sure you research the typical compensation for your desired position (ask friends, alumni, and online resources). 🔎

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Thrift shops often have wiggle room on prices, especially if you’re buying multiple items.  At home, consider bartering chores with roommates. You could cook dinner two nights a week in exchange for them taking over laundry duty. This kind of cost-sharing and negotiation can save you money and build valuable life skills to learn in your 20s.

13. Learn to Garden 🌱

A female college student sitting on the floor surrounded by potted plants
Research plants that thrive in your region and sunlight conditions to create a thriving and low-maintenance living space. Photo: cottonbro studio/Pexels

Growing your food is a survival skill for cash-strapped college students to reduce buying overpriced goods at the grocery store. 🌿

Don’t be afraid to start small with easy-to-grow herbs like basil, mint, or parsley, which are perfect for beginners. They’re low-maintenance plants that add pops of flavor and a delightful aroma to your tiny apartment. 🪴

Experiment and grab some seed packets. Online tutorials and gardening apps like GardenTags and Plantix offer a wealth of information on plant care, troubleshooting common problems, and even identifying unexpected visitors like aphids or caterpillars. 🐛

14. Learn Basic Self-Defense 🥋

College students in boxing gear practicing kickboxing, displaying their skills and agility in a training session
Practice self-defense moves regularly to build muscle memory and quick reaction times. Photo: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

Self-defense goes beyond punches and kicks. By understanding how to de-escalate unwanted attention or deter an attacker, self-defense allows you to gain confidence and take charge of your safety.

Mastering the essentials can not only equip you for unexpected circumstances but also boost your physical fitness, mental focus, and overall well-being. 🥊

Many colleges offer self-defense workshops tailored specifically for women and students. These workshops often cover situational awareness, escape techniques, and basic strikes. 

Buddy up and practice with a friend or roommate. Take turns to be the attacker and defender to apply your skills in a safe, controlled environment where valuable feedback can be provided. 🥋

15. Learn About Saving Money 💸

Ramen noodles and maxed-out credit cards seem like a rite of passage in college, but they can quickly lead to a debt spiral. Craft a realistic budget in college that maps out your monthly expenses to get what you need while leaving room for fun. 

Track spending habits and pinpoint areas where you can minimize expenses. Don’t shy away from student discounts, loyalty programs, and cashback options — they’re all valuable tools to stretch your budget further. 🆓

Building an emergency fund is also crucial to weather unexpected costs and avoid the pitfall of credit card debt. Saving isn’t about sacrificing fun; be creative, have fun, and celebrate both big and small progress. ⚠️  

TIP: Gamify your savings and challenge yourself to no-spend weekends or friendly competitions with friends to see who can save the most in a month. Adding a playful element keeps you motivated and on track.

16. Learn Public Speaking Skills 🗣️

Nervous about presentations, interviews, or even leading group projects? Master public speaking and unlock a world of confidence, from nailing that job interview to inspiring others as a leader. 

Aside from talking, it’s about owning your voice and message and standing out in academics and career opportunities. Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t be afraid to practice. 🎤

If you think you’re ready to take the stage, consider joining Toastmasters International, a student-friendly organization that provides a supportive environment for practicing presentations and receiving feedback. 

Many universities also have public speaking clubs where you can hone your skills alongside classmates. Additionally, online courses and resources are readily available, offering tips and techniques for captivating your audience and delivering impactful presentations.

17. Learn to Use a Map 🗺️

College students read a map and enjoy a hike in the serene forest, surrounded by tall trees and lush greenery.
Use your map to plan hikes, bike rides, or even city explorations with your friends and colleagues. Photo: carballo/Depositphotos 

Make friends with paper maps (yes, they’re still around). Learn to read various types, like topographics for outdoor adventures or subway maps for city trips. Discover hidden gems and time-saving shortcuts that no app can show you. 🙌 

Bring a compass, learn its cardinal directions, and figure out how to align it with the map. Trusting your own navigation skills not only boosts confidence but also comes in handy when GPS fails — think dead battery or no signal.

TIP: Experiment with map-reading challenges, such as planning a road trip or finding the shortest route between two points, to sharpen your spatial reasoning skills.

18. Learn to Meet Deadlines ⌚

A focused female college student wearing headphones is diligently working on her laptop, fully engrossed in her tasks
Differentiate between urgent (needs immediate attention) and important (contributes to long-term goals) tasks. Photo: 

Mastering deadlines isn’t about working yourself to the bone; it’s about working smart, prioritizing effectively, and celebrating your wins. ✅

Chop large, overwhelming projects into bite-sized tasks to get more progress done. Use to-do lists, mind maps, or even sticky notes to visualize your progress and feel the satisfaction of checking off completed tasks.  

Identify your peak productivity hours and schedule demanding tasks accordingly. You can track your time using apps or jotting them in notebooks. 🕝

The power of short, focused bursts of work followed by refreshing breaks should not be underestimated.  

TIP: Reward yourself for completing tasks early with fun activities, like an extra hour of sleep or a movie night with friends. Positive reinforcement keeps you on track and makes the journey even more enjoyable.

19. Learn to Use Public Transportation 🚍

A passenger on a train, using his cell phone while standing
Brush up on public transit etiquette. Be mindful of personal space, avoid loud phone calls, and give up seats for those in need. Photo: Snapic.PhotoProduction/Depositphotos 

One of the more useful skills to learn in your 20s is how to get around using public transportation. It’s a money-saver, boosts independence, promotes sustainability, and opens doors to new experiences.  

Download your city’s transit app — whether it’s buses, subways, trains, or even ferries, find the fastest route, check real-time arrival times, and plan seamless multi-modal journeys like a pro. Bonus points for setting up alerts to avoid missing your ride (no more frantic sprinting to bus stops!). 📲

Familiarize yourself with your city’s ticketing system. Buy a weekly pass for discounted rides, top up your reloadable card, or keep some change handy for pay-as-you-go convenience. Remember, preparedness is key to avoiding awkward fumbling when the bus pulls up. 🎫

20. Learn Survival Skills 🌲

Ditch the romanticized wilderness survival images from TV. Mastering practical skills is about building resilience, confidence, and adaptability to everyday challenges. 

Check out YouTube tutorials such as basic car maintenance or even campfire cooking techniques. Visual learning is powerful, and remember, practice makes perfect, whether it’s assembling IKEA furniture or mastering a new skill. 💻

Get hands-on by volunteering at a community garden, attending a local carpentry workshop, or joining a first-aid training course. Immerse yourself in practical learning to gain confidence in tackling unfamiliar tasks, potentially uncovering hidden talents, and developing new hobbies. 

Learn basic outdoor skills like pitching a tent, navigating with a compass, building a fire, or identifying edible plants to turn a simple camping trip into a memorable survival adventure. ⛺

Beyond enhancing your employability, these key skills to learn in your 20s will also foster personal and professional growth. 

Start equipping yourself with this handy know-hows as early as possible, then hunt down resources and opportunities to level up. Your future self will thank you! 🧠

Skills to Learn in Your 20s: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best life skill to learn in my 20s?

While the best life skill depends on your unique path, some core skills can empower anyone in their 20s. 

For instance, mastering basic cooking for healthy, budget-friendly meals, managing personal finances with savvy budgeting, or learning crucial car maintenance and DIY fixes to save money and avoid emergencies. 

How can I effectively learn skills while managing my college studies?

What management skills can you use while studying?

How can I improve my time management skills as a student?

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