Adulting 101 Skills: 17 Things All Adults Should Know

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Hi! It’s me.

I’m you… let’s say 20 years ago, give or take.

I was where you are at this very moment… about to fly the coop and make a life for myself. On my own. No parents.

I’m not talking about heading off to college for the first time… but about getting my own place to live.

Starting or finding a job.

Managing my finances.

Taking care of everyday stuff on my own… like a grown-up.

The kids today refer to it as “adulting”. And, believe it or not, there are even classes you can take and books you can read on this very topic.

But these things typically cost money.

And you need to start saving money (if you haven’t done so already).

So, consider this your lucky day! I’m willing to share my own version of Adulting 101 with you… free of charge. 

There will be tips, tricks and a bit of advice… based on my first hand experience.  I’ve even broken it up into sections to make it easier to find what you need.

All you have to do is keep reading.

A. Financial Know-How

Financial savvy is a key component in Adulting 101.

Hopefully your parents or a teacher went over the basics of saving, spending and budgeting… balancing a checkbook.

But if not, never fear… I’ll walk you through it.

1. Open A Checking Account and Get One Credit Card

Every person venturing out on their own needs two things to get started… a checking account and a credit card.

The bank account is where you’ll keep your money and pay bills from. It will control your budget. It’s the center of everything.

You may not actually write too many paper checks, as you’ll likely use the debit card in most instances; but, you still need a routing and account number for automatic payments.

Payments such as student loans and credit cards… which brings me to the next item.

You need to apply for and obtain one credit card. 

Businesses such as hotels, car rental agencies and restaurants often require a credit card to hold reservations. A debit card won’t always do, unless it is one with a mastercard or visa logo on it.

There are a few good credit cards out there, designed to help you build credit when you’re just starting out. The limits will not be as high and some even offer rewards.

I suggest starting out with only one, as to not get into trouble with overspending. You should also try and pay the full statement balance each month to avoid unnecessary interest charges.

2. Budgeting and Debt Consolidation

Now that you’ve set up your accounts, you’ll need to fund them properly. This means creating a budget to help you curb spending and put some money into savings.

At this point in your life, you’ve likely held at least one job… maybe more. And you’ve probably gotten money for birthdays, holidays and other big moments.

Hopefully, you (or your folks) put some of that money away to get you started down the road to independence.  

Once you know how much money you have to work with, you need to first make a list of your monthly expenses. Things like student loans, transportation, groceries, rent, etc….

Afterwards, you can start making a list of extras… like going out with friends, ordering takeout or buying a new pair of shoes. Then set aside how much money you’ll give yourself each month for these things.

Lastly, decide on how much money you want to keep untouched in your savings. This could be an emergency or rainy day fund. It could also be saving for a trip or new car.

Whatever you want to save for is your business, but I highly suggest having at least one month’s cushion saved up… just in case something happens.

Things happen.

There are some terrific money saving apps that make budgeting and saving a cinch, so you really don’t have to think about it too much.

You also want to review your debt (i.e. government or bank loans, and credit cards) to try and either consolidate it or negotiate lower interest rates… putting more money in your pocket each month. 

3. Financial Planning & Taxes

Now that you’re working, you may have work related expenses. Items such as:

  • Transportation costs to and from work
  • Work uniform
  • Supplies
  • Internet or cellular data charges
  • Entertaining clients

Whether you are working in an office or remotely, you are entitled to deduct a portion of work related expenses from your income.

Did you know that?

And did you also know that any interest paid on student loans is an eligible tax deduction up to $2,500 each year?

Money savings tips like these are best obtained by utilizing an accountant or enrolled agent to help you prepare and file your taxes each year.

Basically, if you’re getting a 1099 or W-2 for work and are over 19 years of age… you will need to file taxes. Some couples are still able to claim their child up to age 24 as a dependent on their taxes, but only if they are a full-time student.

So if you’re over 24 and finished with school, you’ll need to take care of this adulting 101 step yourself.

If you feel as if things are pretty simple, you can always try online filing. You’ll need to purchase the software or license agreement, but it can be done from your computer or smartphone… which is convenient.

It’s also not a bad idea to seek out “one-stop shops”, offering both accounting and future planning advice from a fiduciary financial advisor.

FFAs will be able to invest your money for you, as conservatively or aggressively as you’d like, and are held to very high standards to ensure your investments hit certain benchmarks. They are fee based, rather than commission driven.

They are also able to guide you on things such as retirement and health savings plans (IRA, 401K, HSA). 

If you have no clue what these things are, it’s probably a good idea you find an financial advisor who has a fiduciary responsibility to provide advice… because it’s never too early to start dreaming about life after retirement. 

4. Big Ticket Purchase (Or Lease)

Before you can fly free from your parents’ nest, you’ll need to find a place to live.

Whether you choose to live with a roommate, or fly solo, you’ll first need to decide what you can afford.

Then you’ll need to think about logistics, such as proximity to work or school… and what the surrounding area is like from a social standpoint.

Maybe you would prefer your place is within walking distance to a lively downtown scene? Or perhaps you’d prefer the peace and quiet most of the time?

You also need to figure out whether this is going to be a short or long term move? If you’re only looking at four years of grad school, for instance, you probably want to rent versus buying a place… since you don’t yet have a clue as to where you’ll land a job. 

But if you’re vying for Partner in a law firm, you’ll likely put in the time…working late hours. So, purchasing your first home may be the way to go… especially if it’s got good resale potential down the line. 

It’s also ok to think about what’s really important to you. Property amenities and tenant demographics, for example, can mean a lot to someone just starting out.

Figuring out what would make you happy will also dictate how much you’ll need to spend in order to get it. Thus, you may need a roommate. 

Living arrangements aside, adulting 101 presents a handful of big ticket purchase or lease opportunities as time unfolds.

Do you need a car to get to work? Or will public transportation and UBER suffice? Maybe biking? Electric bikes have grown in popularity, especially in cities.

ALl of these things are food for thought when you’re adulting.

5. Purchasing Insurance

There are many types of insurance, but the most common to think about in adulting 101 are:

  • Homeowners or renters insurance
  • Auto insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Life insurance

If you’re going to be living on your own, whether renting or buying, you need to protect your home and the contents in it.

You’ve likely spent years collecting or purchasing items. And, yes, that includes video game consoles and all that goes with it… as well as DVDs and comics.

This insurance also typically covers accidental damage to the property and injuries that someone might suffer at your place.

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You need to protect your home and the contents in it if you’re going to be living on your own.

The same goes for auto insurance. The law requires all drivers to have insurance, which doesn’t only cover you and your vehicle… but anyone you may accidentally hurt while driving. It usually comes with some level of medical insurance as well, should you wind up needing treatment or in the hospital.   

Unlike renters insurance, which tends to be fairly inexpensive, automobile can get quite pricey. It really depends on whether or not the car is new. In those cases, whether or not you are leasing or purchasing the car, the bank requires full coverage. Conversely, if you’re driving around a beater you paid $1500 for… you can skate away with the minimal coverage amount.

You should definitely shop around for the best rates, based on your driving record. 

Moving on… no, that is not a typo.

Pet insurance is a thing. And it’s a big one to consider.

Let’s be honest.

Your pet is a huge part of your life… especially now that it’s just the two of you.

And a pet’s medical expenses can be huge.

Trust me.

I’ve actually known people who took out loans to pay for their dog’s cancer treatments. 

But catastrophic incidents aside, pets get into things. They are curious by nature… much like kids. They may eat something bad for them, catch a cold or get hit by a car and break their leg.

As they get older, their joints and eyes will start to go. They may have stomach issues.

And everytime you take them to the doctor, you’re likely looking at paying $150 minimum.

Then there are medications and vaccinations.

Pet insurance costs next to nothing and is well worth its weight in gold, with some companies offering policies starting as low as $10 per month.

That’s about how much a glass of wine costs at a nice restaurant.  

B. Domestic Responsibilities

This section could have also been called, “things I should have learned as a teenager”.

If you were fortunate to grow up with parents,  grandparents,  older siblings, aunts or uncles, even a neighbor that took the time to assign chores or spend time teaching you things… you’re already ahead of the game when it comes to running a household.

While you may not have realized or appreciated it at the time… they were doing you a big favor.

When you are living on your own, you may not have the luxury of calling someone to come over and fix a clogged drain or change a fuse right away.

And why would you want to pay someone for minor fixes? It’s a waste of money, which is a big no-no in adulting 101.

So here is what you need to know, if you don’t already, when it comes to taking care of your house.

6. Minor Home Repairs

If you are renting a place for the first time, chances are there is a building supervisor or maintenance person whose job it is to take care of minor home repairs. And if it’s something they can’t do, they will contract it out to someone who can… at the building owner’s expense.

That being said, if you are renting a house from an elderly woman… simple fixes may not be here forte and can take awhile to schedule. As a bonus, if you offer to take care of some minor home repairs yourself, landlords will sometimes give you a discount on rent.


Now, if you’re a first time homeowner… the responsibilities do fall solely on you to take care of repairs. Lucky for you, they don’t all require a professional to complete.  By doing minor repairs yourself, you’ll save money and make your parents proud!

Here are the 11 most common list of minor fixes in the home:

  • Unclog a drain and plunging a toilet
  • Locating the fuse box to fix a blown fuse or turn off power
  • Turning off the water supply
  • Fixing a minor pipe leak/caulking
  • Cleaning major appliances (dishwasher, laundry machines, garbage disposal)
  • Clearing gutters
  • Replacing air filters
  • Reigniting a pilot light
  • Replacing light bulbs, light switch plate covers and light fixtures
  • Patching small holes
  • Replacing or repairing a door or window screen

These are all super easy and inexpensive fixes. In fact, most will likely take you less than 1 hour to do yourself.

Also, if you weren’t taught these things before you moved out… never fear! YouTube has free videos for just about everything, with step by step instructions on all of the items mentioned here.

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If you offer to take care of some minor home repairs yourself, landlords will sometimes give you a discount on rent.

It’s also worth mentioning the things you should never tackle on your own:

  • Roof leaks
  • Most electrical work
  • Major plumbing issues
  • Gas appliance issues
  • Structural Damage

Without proper training, these can lead to serious injuries (or worse).  

Which brings me to safety measures… every house should the following:

  • A fire extinguisher
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide alarms

Believe it or not, fire extinguishers actually have expiration dates… so it’s important to make sure yours is still good.

You should also test the alarms regularly to make sure they are operating correctly and the batteries are still working. There is usually a button on them that says “test”.

7. Laundry, Cleaning & Mending Skills

If you’re heading out on your own, you need to make a good impression on others. That means dressing well and keeping a tidy home.

You need to know how to do laundry. This will avoid shrinking and damaging clothes.

C’mon, we’ve all had that one white shirt we turned pink… and not on purpose.

Here’s my adulting 101 laundry tips you must know:

  • Separate your lights, darks and delicates in the wash
  • Use a cool or warm water setting to avoid accidental color bleeding
  • Wash sheets and blankets separately, using hot water to kill germs
  • Hang delicates to dry if possible
  • When drying clothes, do small loads at medium heat to avoid accidental shrinking
  • Towels and bedding can be dried on a higher heat
  • Clean your washer once per month (many newer machines have a setting for this)
  • Clean the lint filter on your dryer (it may be inside the machine or in a tray on the outside)  TIP: if you have a fireplace, dryer lint makes for excellent kindling
  • Learn how to iron, shirts and pants especially… that or get used to hanging your clothes up right away to avoid wrinkles

You should also know how to sew on a button or mend a small hole using a needle and thread. So, you need a small sewing kit at home… if you don’t already have one. 

Sewing with a machine is an entirely different animal… and something I have yet to master.

Fortunately, my 9 year old daughter has taken to it! 

But if you’re up for the challenge, there are in-person and online classes you can take that cover the basics… like hemming pants, which is especially handy if you want to save time and money by taking them to a tailor.

Last but not least… cleaning.  A clean and tidy home is so important for your physical and mental well-being.

Want some tips?

  1. Vacuum regularly –  at least twice a week to keep dust and allergens at bay 
  2. Know what a Swiffer is – available in wet and dry, this device is essential for dusting furniture, ceiling fans and cleaning hardwood floors
  3. Clean the bathrooms often – they get very gross, very fast
    1. You can buy a leave-in toilet bowl cleaner that will keep things fresh for 2,000 flushes. You may also want to invest in a disposable toilet wand, which allows you to flush the brush after every cleaning.
    2. Bleach products are great for sinks and showers, eliminating the spread of germs and fungus
  4. Vinegar is an awesome cleaning agent, especially for hardwood and linoleum floors. It cuts down on slick spots and smells great! TIP: you can also run it through your coffee pot to clean it out once a week
  5. Clean major appliances monthly. Most ovens and dishwashers have a self clean feature. Also remember the refrigerator – empty it out and use clorox wipes on the shelves
  6. Change your sheets at least every two weeks

This may sound like a lot, but it’s really not… especially if you have a roommate to divide and conquer with.

8. Cooking

Cooking for yourself is a big part of adulting 101.

Turning to take-out every day would not only get expensive, but isn’t the best choice for your waistline.

With that, there are a few things you should know how to do for yourself. Things like boiling water, pre-heating the oven, grilling and marinating.

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There are tons of online resources and apps with easy to follow recipes and cooking tips.

Slow cookers are another great option, especially if you’re working outside the home for 8+ hours a day.  Most of these recipes involve little prep time and zero watching.

So what do you cook?

In addition to asking your family for your favorite recipes, there are tons of online resources and apps with easy to follow recipes and cooking tips. You can even search by ingredients, prep and cooking time.  

Meal prepping is another great way to keep costs down… and the guesswork out of what to eat. Simply set one day aside every week to spend some time planning out your meals. Then go shopping or check out Amazon for grocery delivery.

Easy as pie.  

If you want to be a bit more fancy, and have the means to do so, you can try a meal subscription service like Blue Apron. You just preselect a menu and the amount of meals you want for the week, and they ship them to you… with all instructions and ingredients in one box!

Other subscription services even offer breakfast and lunch options as well.

9. Automobile Maintenance

Whether you own or lease a vehicle, it’s important to keep up on its routine maintenance in order to prolong the life of the vehicle.

This includes items such as:

  • Regular oil changes
  • Filter changes
  • Tire rotation
  • Motor vehicle inspection and registration renewal

You should also know how to change a flat tire and pump gas, should you ever have to do it yourself. Being able to change a flat will help you avoid having to call roadside assistance, which can be a costly expense depending on your auto insurance coverage. 

C. Health & Wellness

10. Managing Medical & Dental Appointments

Scheduling annual physicals with your primary doctor is a staple of adulting 101.

After all, the best way to prevent serious medical issues is to schedule your well visits… this way you can hopefully catch something early, or prevent it all together.

You also need to listen to your body in between these checkups. If something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t. 

You have medical insurance for a reason… use it. Find a doctor in-network and get it checked out for peace of mind. 

It is also recommended that you go for dental cleanings every six months.

While not all companies offer dental insurance to their employees, there are always local dentists offering new patient specials for less than $100. 

There is also inexpensive insurance you can purchase on your own that will cover cleanings and general preventative care, with discounts on major dental procedures if they are necessary later on. 

11. Get Regular Exercise And Eat Smart

You need to exercise regularly.

Now that you’re on your own, team sports are probably done… unless you’re doing it professionally.

Nobody said you have to join a gym, which would be another expense.

Instead, you can head outside. Maybe find a running partner or somebody to bike with. Or join a community sports league or hiking club to meet new people.

You can also find great workouts online.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to get at least 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise daily.  Fitness trackers are great for helping you stay active… you can even challenge friends via the app.

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Get at least 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity every day.

In addition to exercise, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet… even if you don’t need to lose weight.

This means getting enough fruit, vegetables, dairy, lean protein and healthy carbohydrates and fats each day. It also means keeping your alcohol and caffeine consumption in check.

Everything in moderation.

You should also get yourself a multivitamin to help pick up the slack in your diet. 

12. Manage stress and cope

Stress and negative emotions related to stress, such as fear and worry, are an inevitable part of everyday life. Coping with stress and emotional pain isn’t always easy for a lot of people, regardless of their ethnic, social, and financial backgrounds.

Now that you’re an adult, mom and dad aren’t there to hug and console you at the end of a stressful day or every time something goes wrong in life. You’re the one that is responsible for your own feelings. How you respond/cope will make a difference as to whether the situation gets better or worse.

Learning stress management techniques and other life skills can help you to cope better. The first thing is to equip yourself with tools and techniques designed to minimize the effects of stress on your physical and mental health.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Relax and unwind after work (read, watch TV, or listen to relaxing music)
  • Meditate to quiet your thoughts
  • Live in the moment using mindfulness techniques
  • Exercise to reduce the level of stress hormones in your body
  • See the positive side of everything
  • Go to bed on time and get adequate sleep (6-9 hours)
  • Manage time allotted to employment and household tasks
  • Take a break once you’ve reached your physical and emotional limits

13. How to do first aid

An Adulting 101 guide isn’t quite comprehensive if it doesn’t cover how to treat yourself or others in cases of emergency. Medical emergencies happen suddenly. When they do, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Cuts, burns, choking, and sprains are some common injuries or medical conditions that usually need first aid attention. Others are more severe and require medical attention.

Knowing how to administer first aid can be life-saving in those circumstances. First aid treatment can prevent your condition from worsening or keep a loved one alive until they receive medical assistance.

The best way to prepare is to get formal first-aid training from someone who is certified in the field. Some of the things you will learn in first aid classes include how to stop bleeding and treat wounds, burns, sprains, and fractures. You’ll get hands-on training on performing the Heimlich maneuver to help someone who’s choking, providing rescue breathing, and performing chest compressions to resuscitate someone.

Remember to take these steps to prepare yourself to effectively perform first aid care:

  • Sign up for first aid and CPR classes in your area
  • Buy a first-aid kit with all the necessary tools, medication, and supplies to perform first-aid
  • Get your hand on a first-aid book for beginners

D. Career

The most successful people are often well organized and driven.

They are constantly looking to get ahead and always on the lookout for new opportunities to grow in their career.

If you’re interested in adulting 101, it likely means you’re just starting out…  which means you’ll need to work a little harder to get your foot in the door and get noticed. 

14. Resume Writing, Interviewing and Negotiation Skills

Every job application asks for a work history. And certain jobs require a resume, depending on the position you’re seeking.

Learning how to write a resume that stands out is crucial.  The perfect resume should include:

  • A clean, simplistic format and standard font
  • Free of spelling errors
  • A clearly written objective
  • Keywords that match the job description (many employers quickly scan resumes for these, especially if they receive a lot)
  • Strong verbs when describing your duties, stressing accomplishments over tasks
  • Relevant references
  • Ideally one page in length

When you get called for an interview, you’ll need to be prepared. The worst thing you can do is waste a potential employer's time by not knowing your resume or being ill equipped to answer their questions.

Most interviewers are looking for certain things:

  • Humble confidence – show them you  have something to offer, but are still willing to learn
  • Honesty – if you don’t know a question, ask them to clarify it and think it through out loud
  • Knowledge of the company
  • What your body language is saying
  • Signs of any personality conflicts

If you are prepared and willing to show your true self to potential employers, there is a good chance you’ll be offered the position. And if you aren’t… at least you’ve made a contact in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask for their critique, which can help you on the next interview.

Once you’ve been offered the job, you can turn your focus on negotiating your salary (if need be)… or raises in the future.

Most companies will offer a base salary with annual reviews. Having your negotiation skills be up to par will play a key role in your success moving forward.

Skills such as:

  • Active listening
  • Preparedness – do your research
  • Flexibility
  • Keeping your emotions out of it
  • Staying on point

Employer negotiations aren’t always about money, either. These skills can come in handy if you’re seeking more vacation time or better employee benefits.   

15. Networking and Utilizing Social Media

As qualified as you are for a job… getting your foot in the door is sometimes about who you know.

That is why networking is so important when trying to master adulting 101.

Getting your name out there can be as simple as:

  • Joining a professional networking group
  • Writing a blog relevant to your field
  • Attending charity events sponsored by companies you may be interested in working for
  • Volunteering
  • Playing golf
  • Joining a health club

Additionally, social media can be so much more than posting cute pictures or political rants… if you know how to use it.

LinkedIn is probably the most popular when it comes to posting your resume and making connections… but there are other sites that can help you find great success as well.

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Networking is so important when trying to master adulting 101.

Facebook and Twitter allow you to follow or like pages and threads from people and groups that run in the same professional circles as you.

I’ve even seen people post that they are looking for a job and get tangible leads from it. It can be that simple at times. 

Whatever route you choose, remember this: your profile needs to be professional!

For instance, most employers aren’t looking to hire the candidate photographed doing keg stands… or talking trash about a current or former employer (or colleague).

So watch your photos and what you say on your page. Big brother is watching… and it could make all the difference when it comes to landing your dream job. 

16. Managing time for efficiency

Juggling work and life away from work can get overwhelming if you don’t have a system for allocating a specific amount of time to projects and tasks. Time-management skills are a must to optimize productivity, keep your day flowing smoothly and minimize stress.

The skills needed will depend on the nature of your job, for example, whether you’re a standard employee or in a supervisory position. Planning prioritizing, organizing, and delegating tasks can cut down the amount of time it takes to complete assignments.

Productivity tools and techniques

Arm yourself with checklists, to-do lists, reminder apps, note apps, tools for streamlining workflow, and task trackers. Those productivity tools will help manage time more effectively and keep on top of your schedule.

Tackle tasks one at a time. A system such the Pomodoro technique is designed to keep you focused while completing tasks in a structured and methodical fashion.

Create the habit of starting work as soon as you clock in. You’ll capitalize on the hours productivity is at its highest, which is 8.00 AM to 2:00 PM, according to a study. Focus, speed, and accuracy are usually at a high level during this time period. The urge to procrastinate tends to show up after lunch break, as you start getting tired and less focused on work.

Developers of project-management software called Podio made the software after discovering that the brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. Productivity dips after that. Taking a 15-20 minute break helps reenergize the brain. Learn to use the productivity technique to split your work day or tasks into 90-minute segments.

17. Communicate verbally and non-verbally

Every type of job position requires verbal, non-verbal, and written communication skills. You’ll be speaking to your boss, co-workers, clients, and customers. You’ll need to be able to clearly express yourself in ways that others understand using spoken and written language. The other key aspect of communication many people forget is listening skills.

Actively listening helps you understand detailed instructions and reduce the chances of errors on the job. Beyond that, there are at least ten other communication skills for workplace success you should know. Possessing these skills will help you to become a well-rounded employee and an asset to your company.

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Displaying positive body language
  3. Making eye contact
  4. Confidence
  5. Open-mindedness
  6. Empathy
  7. Friendliness
  8. Feedback
  9. Respect
  10. Pick the right medium (knowing when to use in-person (spoken) or email (written) communication)

Equally important is being able to demonstrate your skills to potential employers to maximize your hireabilty. Here are a few tips:

  • Create an impressively-written resume that highlights the right skills for the job.
  • Provide a concise explanation of how you’ll use those skills for workplace success.
  • Use industry-specific language at the interview to communicate you’re the right candidate for the job.
  • Show confidence at the interview through proper posture, friendliness, and making eye contact.

Final Thoughts on Adulting 101

Becoming an adult didn’t happen to you overnight… although it may feel like that sometimes.

Hopefully, you had access to people who were positive influences throughout your life… those  who were there to guide you and prepare you for the journey ahead. 

Not everybody has that.

The life skills I covered here are a blend of those I was taught and ones I learned on my own. (Check out these life skills worksheets to help facilitate your learning!)

I’m confident that you will find at least some of these tips helpful. You can even go back and re-read through the areas that you find most useful. And be sure to click on the links I’ve included to some valuable resources.   

Welcome to adulting 101!

Regardless of how you got here, you’ve got this!

Check out this adulting checklist, downloadable as a PDF, to help you in this journey.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.

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