How to Fit Some Exercise into Your Busy Adult Life.

Hi, my name is Leah (aka @Ella_Arcoleo), and I’ve been cramming exercise into my schedule pretty consistently for around a decade, after a childhood of being an asthmatic shut-in and an adolescent who opted for “walking club” as a phys ed class. At the age of 23, I forced myself to start exercising after I began to develop a double chin; I’ve been working out regularly ever since.

I’m about to ramble on, but let’s hit the key points right now: 

  1. Do something that makes you sweat for about 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. 
  2. Do some sort of resistance-based program 2-3 times a week. 
  3. Do some other stuff if you want. 

Some less-specific, still important guidelines: 

  • Make exercise convenient. 
  • Baby steps if you need them. 
  • Listen to your body. 
  • Try to keep a schedule, but if you break it, don’t beat yourself up. 
  • If there’s something that you like to do, do it (but that might not be the case). 

Also important: I am not a medically-licensed anything. I don’t even have a driver’s license. Talk to a doctor about exercise stuff, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. My advice is mostly suited to folks in their 20s and 30s; it would be different for an 80-year-old (two words: water aerobics).

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How to Plan Meals and Buy Groceries Like a Grownup

Hi, I’m Lisa and I’ve been making meals like a grown up for at least 4 years.

Before you start doing anything pick a specific day and time of day which you will dedicate to selecting meals. I plan meals for one week because I don’t like going to the grocery store, and I can only fit 1 week’s worth of groceries on my bike at a time. I do most of my meal selection Saturdays after brunch. If you do it when you’re really hungry you’ll end up eating terrible food for the duration of your meal schedule.

If you’re as indecisive as I am, you’ll probably want to start this process by figuring out what is currently in your fridge and pantry. I’ve found that when going through both of these, I often come up with a few foods I’d like to eat.

After taking inventory of what you already have, start writing down ideas. As you write down ideas for meals, you should also be thinking about which day you are going to make each meal. Be sure to consider preparation time and your schedule before deciding. I put my meal plan on a white board on the fridge so my roommates see it and can add suggestions or requests as they think of them. If I know that someone is going to be gone for a specific meal, I always try to make a food that s/he doesn’t like for that night. I also find that thinking of meals in terms of components helps me think of more meals. I also suggest keeping a list of every meal that you make with tally marks next to each dish so that you have an idea sheet for when you can’t think of meals to prepare.

Once you have planned out your meals for your given time frame and conferred with your co-consumers, begin looking at recipes for each meal and see which ingredients you already have. If you know how to read and follow directions, you can probably make 2/3 of the food you eat from scratch. This will save you a significant amount of money every month.  Once you have reviewed your recipes, begin writing down ingredients that you don’t already have on a separate list. For those of you who are averse to paper versions, I sometimes use BigOven to tell me what ingredients I need as it also sorts them by grocery store department.

Once you have your grocery list, read over it and your recipes again, making sure that you really have everything you need to make each dish either written down or in your house already.

Go buy groceries! Don’t forget to bring your list and something to mark items off of your list as you add them to your cart. Protip: be consistent about not crossing an item off your list until after you have placed it in your cart.

When you get home, unpack your groceries. If you are making a meal using meat more than 2 days from when you buy groceries, you should freeze the meat so it doesn’t spoil in the wait before you use it. Be sure you take it back out to thaw one day before you will cook with it!

My friend Kaitlyn made this menu planner. She is much more of a grownup than I am! 

How to work on passion projects while still having a day job

(Hi, I’m Aroon, aka @naxuu. I’m a lawyer slash noise musician with a heart of gold.)

This Onion piece has really been making the rounds on all of my feeds today. It seems like everyone (especially anyone in your office that’s in a band) is sharing it and having a nice big open weep about it. Myself included.



If you’re of a certain creative and ambitious temperament, you might not know whether to laugh or cry reading the article. It cuts like a knife. Between your job, family and friend commitments, and just being exhausted after a hard day at the office or factory, it sometimes does feel like you can barely muster up the energy or twenty minutes of your time for that personal project you’re really passionate about, the one that defines you and gives you a reason to keep going. Quitting your job just isn’t feasible for a bunch of reasons (no trust fund, loans are obnoxious), and spending less time with your family is out of the question. 

The piece hits you unexpectedly hard because it masterfully exploits that self-doubt almost all of us carry inside, the one that bubbles up in moments of weakness or despair over our art — the one that tells you that you made a wrong choice by not sacrificing all of your time, money and relationships in favor of single-mindedly pursuing your dream. You feel like an impostor (see: Impostor Syndrome), comparing yourself to some illusory talent who is tirelessly working on her craft 20 hours a day. The voice telling you that is pretty great at setting up false binaries.

You’re probably doing better than you think. The sheer amount of talented, productive people despairing over the Onion article should tip you off to the idea that none of us really have the ideal time we’d like to dedicate to the projects we want. Most of those indie rock bands you love got to where they were while working tiring day jobs. Some of them still do, you just don’t know about it (see Stereogum’s column, Quit Your Day Job.) An endless number of esteemed writers work(ed) day jobs and wrote when they could.

All the difference is in discipline and managing your time and schedule properly. This involves a whole bunch of grown-up, adult skills that blogs such as this one will be able to help you with. Figuring out that you should take a short nap after work to recharge your levels, or that you need a quick meditation session, or that you should get to work as soon as the kid is put to bed, will go a long way toward approaching that canvas with your full attention and energy.

Try to ignore the social media hype cycle. We live in an era where artists and writers are expected to produce new content ALL the TIME and put it out into the world immediately. If you haven’t posted something new to SoundCloud in weeks, you feel a gnawing sense that you’re not really doing anything. But this is just a symptom of our current blog-hype malaise. There’s nothing wrong with taking your damn time to create something worthy and lasting. Take 10 years if you have to. Writing 500 words a day in that novel is not insignificant, as long as you’re working on it diligently and regularly. You don’t need to put something out into the world in a month. And you don’t need to be talked about every week to be relevant. (You don’t even have to be ‘relevant.’)

Nights and weekends should give you enough time. Even with the insane amount of commitments you have. Or if they really are so insane that you don’t have even a minute of time to yourself, you might want to make some hard decisions and evaluate what you’re spending your time on. It’s important to decompress, but take a hard look at whether you’re decompressing a little or just vegging out for hours on a Drag Race marathon. Be conscious of how you spend your time. Just carving some space out of each day will have a huge impact.

There will probably be times when you’ll have to stay home working on stuff instead of, say, hitting the bars with friends. Occasional sacrifices like this may be necessary, yep. This is part of being a grownup.

Most of all, whatever, relax. Realize that the Onion article cunningly exploits your doom-laden inner voice telling you that you’ll never have the time or energy for your passion. Take a breather, think about your priorities a bit, and try to work on something interesting tonight.

How to take care of your skin

One of the saddest facts of being a grown-up is facing the slow decline of your aging body and mind. At a certain point around your mid-twenties, everything starts requiring a lot more maintenance than it did when you were younger. A real grown-up faces up to this inevitability and steps up their game so their body can last for the long haul. 

There are a lot of reasons to take care of your skin that don’t make you seem vain or vapid. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. According to academic sources cited on, more than 90% of the “visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging” are actually caused by sun damage. 

Use sunscreen every goddamn day of your life.

If you leave your house, or even sit near a window, you should be wearing sunscreen. If you’re out in the sun for any length of time, you should reapply your sunscreen layer. Keep a travel-size bottle of sunscreen in your purse or your messenger bag or your car’s glovebox. Throw a sunscreen wipe into your wallet if you’re not bringing a bag with you. Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach, or for camping, or for glorious hot summer days. Sunscreen is for every day of your life, forever, because it will save you thousands of dollars and countless hours of agony to not have to go through treatment for skin cancer somewhere down the line. 


It’s easy to work sunscreen into your normal skincare routine. (Oh, you don’t have a skincare routine? What kind of grown-up are you? Keep reading.) Just buy a moisturizer with sunscreen in it, or buy a booster that you can mix in with your regular moisturizer to add SPF.

Aside from sunscreen, you can do a few other simple things to keep your skin in good shape. The skin on your face is different from the skin on your body, and acne or severe skin ailments like eczema should be addressed with a good dermatologist, so the following advice should be applied sensibly by people with normal, healthy skin. 

Face Care Routine

1. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. 

2. Follow that up with a good-quality moisturizer. In the morning, use a moisturizer with SPF. Use a heavier moisturizer for before-bed or in winter. 

3. If you’re prone to clogged pores, use a gentle exfoliant twice a week around your nose, chin, and forehead.

4. You should use a good-quality eye cream around your eye area. If you’re a little vain and worried about signs of aging, you can ask a dermatologist for a retinoid cream like Renova if you want to go that route. 

5. For men, we’ll probably have a detailed post on how to shave like an adult at some point (pinging nickd), but a grown-up who grows hair on his face should shave that face regularly, or at least maintain whatever facial hair you’ve chosen to keep. Facial shaving like a grown-up involves a lot more than your disposable Bic razor.

General Skin Care Routine

1. Moisturizer & Sunscreen. Seriously, that’s it. You should moisturize your skin when it feels dry or after you shave. I just use straight-up coconut oil for everything except my face, but you should use whatever works for you. 

2. Use exfoliants sparingly. It’s easy to buy into the marketing and sense of “pampering yourself” that a lot of spa products give you, but skin exfoliants can be really harsh and shouldn’t be used too often. Same thing for facial masks, or any of these other crap products that smell great but aren’t really necessary.

3. Drink a lot of water. Drink a ton of water. Drink water, all day long. Staying hydrated will make your skin look and feel better than any overpriced product ever could.

4. If you live in a climate with harsh winters, you’ll probably need a good, thick hand cream to slather on when the wind chaps your knuckles. I like Lush’s Handy Gurugu, but anything that has at least the thickness of cream cheese going on your hands will probably suffice.

Anonymous said: All right - I've got a job and good health insurance, but know nothing about how to use it for mental health issues. Assume I want to see a therapist for the first time because I feel like something's not right. How do I even start?

First of all, good for you for seeing a therapist instead of the vast array of less healthy ways you could deal with feeling like something’s not right. This is a really good, healthy, and brave step to take (and I don’t know who you are, obvs, but if you know me in person I’m happy to help you with this process in real life too).

So, you have insurance. That’s excellent. You’ll probably want to check out your insurance documentation to figure out what kind of coverage you get: a lot of insurance offers an EAP to deal with mental health issues in a short-term way. When I used my EAP, I had to call the insurance company to get a preauthorization to see an in-network therapist. They gave me a preauthorization code, I took it to the therapist I found in the insurance company’s directory, and the insurance paid. Cool.

There was a limit on the number of sessions I could use before I had to start paying down my deductible, though, and I did not stop having anxiety in my brain in a limited time. I sort of convinced myself that I was doing good enough, though, and I stopped going, because I am very cheap. I do not recommend being very cheap, or stopping therapy when you still feel like you don’t have a healthy framework for dealing with the things that bother you.

What I do recommend is taking the time to find a therapist you’ll actually like. Part of why I quit going to my previous therapists is that we didn’t quite click personality-wise: don’t feel bad about asking for a referral to someone else if you feel like the first therapist you find isn’t cutting it. Therapists know each other and are good judges of each other’s skills. Talk to them on the phone before you go in person: tell them what you want to accomplish in therapy, and ask a bunch of questions about their approach and background.

I currently see an art therapist that I found in the Psychology Today directory. I highly recommend that as a way to find a therapist who fits your needs: you can search by location, insurance, and therapy style, and you can see little biographies of them. My therapist is completely rad, and I am happy to refer you to her if we know each other IRL. Although she doesn’t take my insurance, she offered me a reduced rate: I pay $40 a session. This is another thing to keep in mind— a lot of therapists offer sliding scales according to your ability to pay, regardless of your insurance situation, you just have to ask about it.

There was a much more detailed article on how to find a therapist on Rookie recently, which I would highly recommend as a companion guide to my advice here. Even though that site is ostensibly for teenage girls, they have some really smart people saying Correct Opinions all over the place there. Check it out. And best of luck in your foray into improved mental health; I hope you feel like everything’s all right for you soon.

Anonymous said: When I have a big, looming task that I need to complete, often the hardest part is jUST STARTING. Like, even just opening up the Word document and typing that first sentence. Do you have any tips or mantras for taking those first baby steps toward getting something done?

Find something you believe in, and rabidly, carefully follow its thread. Start small and plan comprehensively. For example, I wrote my first book by drafting an outline, sending it to friends, getting feedback and encouragement, and building it slowly over the course of a few years.

Also, when handling large design projects, it takes a day or two of planning before any real work can start. It gives you confidence to set out timelines, create measurable goals, and chunk things up so things don’t feel so daunting. Rigorously scheduling creative work into your daily routine will ground you and give you the right mindset. And there’s a lot to be said for your setting.

This is a very large, complicated problem that a lot of people have tried to tackle in the past, but this is my own perspective. I’ve found the book Art & Fear to be very helpful for creative work, and I read it every couple of years or so. Others have suggested Making the Clackity Noise (and Merlin Mann’s podcast, Back to Work, provides a lot of additional information). No-distraction utilities like iA Writer and Freedom are also very helpful.

How to Plan for Your Retirement Like an Adult

Hello, I am Elisha. I like to talk about money. I worry that you’re not saving for your retirement. No, really, I worry a lot.


The idea of age 67 is unfathomable when you’re 25, and yet you need to plan for it then. It’s still unfathomable at 30 and 35, and yet you need to plan for it then too. If you aren’t planning for it by 45, well, age 67 might be unfathomable.

Age 67 is the government’s age for retirement for anyone born after 1960. We’re so bad at planning for our golden years that we don’t even get to do it at the golden age of 65 anymore.

I’ll admit, planning for retirement seems absurd when you have to pay student loans, rent, and hell, even groceries. Money is tight when you’re first starting out. Oh, hon, I remember the days of counting coins in the change jar so I had enough money for the bus to get to work. Some meals were smaller than my stomach wanted. I sewed the tears in my jeans because I didn’t have enough money to afford a new pair. Also, I’m really bad at sewing so I did an awful job, but I could afford the embarrassment, I couldn’t afford even a cheap pair of jeans at Target. But I still put 10% of my paycheck into an IRA back then.

The thing is, you’re getting to get old and you might get sick or weak and what do you do when money is tight then? It gets harder to scrimp and save the older you get. 

So, here’s the brutal truth about why we plan for retirement: nobody else is going to do it for you. Social Security is going to collapse, and even if it wasn’t, it’s not enough for most people to live on. Your 3% contribution to your 401(k) will have you living below the poverty level when you retire. While you may say you want to work until you die, illness might stop you. Your kids might be bigger fuck-ups than you are and need to get bailed out repeatedly. There might be a massive societal breakdown and your only chance of survival is through bribery.

Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen but that’s the point of retirement planning: you plan for the future so it’s bigger and brighter than the present. At the very least, you want it to be stable. You do that with your relationship, your career, your family. So, dammit, do it with your money too, ok?

How do you save for retirement?

If your employer has a 401(k) plan, sign the fuck up. If they match, contribute at least that much. So, if they match up to 5%, you better contribute at least 5%. If they match up to 10%, damn you’re lucky, and you better contribute at least 10%. It’s easy money. (Know when the funds are fully vested, meaning employer contributions may be taken away if you leave your job too soon. They do this so you stick around.)

When you inevitably ditch your shitty job for a new crappy job, remember to rollover your 401(k). Don’t let the funds sit in their current account to be forgotten about later and don’t cash out. Unless you’re nearly homeless, you should not take money out of your 401(k). You missed the entire point of it if you do and you’re hurting yourself in the long-term. You’re an adult now. Don’t self-sabotage. 

But 401(k)s are often dependent on the stock market, which can be a rocky road. You also need to contribute to more stable retirement fund options. That’s where IRAs come in. They are independent retirement accounts. Your boss doesn’t fund them, neither does mommy or daddy. You do it. You do it because you’re an adult. You do it even if you have a 401(k). You do it because everyone should have an IRA.

You contribute to an IRA so you have money for food when you’re old. You contribute at least 5% of your paycheck, preferably closer to 10%, in your IRA. You do this as soon as you get a job. You do this when you get promoted, when you move on to a new job, when you buy a house, when you start a family, when you start your own business. You do this forever. 

A Roth IRA allows you the option to take money out to pay for a down payment on a house, medical insurance if you’re unemployed or education expenses without penalty. You pay taxes on it now though and there are income limits to qualify.

A Traditional IRA doesn’t let you take money out without a hefty penalty but you don’t pay income tax on the cash until you withdraw the funds.

Both offer tax benefits that will vary on the government’s whim. Current IRA contribution limits are $5,500 a year. Most of you can afford $5,500 a year. Really, you can.

You should diversify your retirement savings too. A 401(k) and an IRA are not enough. Oh god, I know, this is a lot to take in. But you don’t listen to the same record all day, every day for the rest of your life. You diversify your music and you should diversify your investments too. This is an advanced level topic though. Talk to a financial planner about that.

You still contribute to your own retirement fund even if you get married. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom about this, but the only person out there forever devoted to you is, well, you. Don’t ignore your savings plan because your wife is “the money person.” Don’t ditch your IRA because your husband has a stacked 401(k). If divorce, death or disability happen to either one of you, you’ll be happy you kept funding your own account.

You still contribute to your retirement fund when your kids go to college. You still contribute to your retirement fund when you’re a millionaire. You still contribute to your retirement fund when you have more money than Apple. You contribute to your retirement fund until you retire and cash out. 

That $15 check your grandmother still sends you for your birthday? Put it in your IRA. That bonus you got for a job well done? Put it in a CD. That tax refund you got from the IRS? Buy treasury bonds.

If you can’t do all of that, your expenses are too high or your income is too low. Fix it. Move in to a smaller place, get roommates, cut back on going out, get a new job, ask for a raise, do freelance work. Look, you’re an adult now. Get your shit together. Saving money needs to be part of your budget. 

By age 35, you should have at least your annual salary saved for retirement. By age 45, you should have three times your annual salary saved. And by 55, five times. And when you retire at 67, you should have at least 8 times your annual salary saved for retirement. Will you?

You may have caught on that planning for retirement is mostly about saving money. Well, yeah, it is. When you’re retired, you’re not working. Or maybe you do get a part-time job to stay busy, but you’re certainly not making as much money as you once were. You need to save up a lot of money to pay for your standard bills (utilities, groceries, transportation) as well as medical bills that are likely to increase as you age and any luxury you have earned after a lifetime of labor (a cruise around the world, an RV trip across the United States, a house full of pinball machines). There are always surprise expenses too. If you have kids, they’ll continue to be an expense, especially if they give you grandchildren. The hard part is you have no idea what’s going to happen or how long you’re going to live so you have no idea how much precisely you need to save.

So, you’re gonna hate this one, you’ll need to save more than you need. Leave money to your kids, your favorite charity, or a complete stranger when you finally die. It’s like a going away present. That means you need a will. You should already have one, actually. Don’t leave a financial mess for your loved ones to sort through when you die. 


How do you limit expenses when you retire?

You cut back. Really, you should always cut back. There’s a lot in our lives that we just don’t need. Cut out the shopping sprees and the phone apps. Skip that last drink at the bar and put down that book you’ll forget to read. You don’t need it. When you’re dying, you won’t remember that you did it. Some of my happiest memories are of adventures that didn’t cost a dime. I’ll remember those when I’m on my death bed. Focus on what matters.

You buy a house now so you don’t have to pay rent when you’re 70. Ok, maybe that one is unexpected, so let me explain.I hear a lot of people talk about how they don’t want to be in debt, that they don’t want to have a mortgage, they never want to owe money, but I’m sure they also don’t want to decide between rent and arthritis medication when they’re old and in pain. Just buy a house, ok? Pay off your mortgage before you retire. If things get bad, you can get a reverse mortgage and screw your kids out of an inheritance. Whatever, that’s your choice, and you want as many options as possible. (There are reasons not to buy a home, sure, but I think most people should.)

You sign up for Medicare the day you are able to. This is in the distant future so mark it on your calendar now. If you sign up late, your benefits may be limited and there’s just no reason for that. (Medicare might collapse too, who knows.)

You take care of yourself now so you’re healthier and happier longer. Eat right, exercise, sleep, have sex, smile. It makes a difference.

Alright, that was a lot to cover and here’s the point: retirement planning isn’t actually about retirement at all. It’s about living well now. Living well includes being prepared for those rainy days and making smart decisions for the future. Living well isn’t living extravagantly or recklessly. Living well won’t rob you of crazy stories or rad Instagram pics. Living well allows you to be fully invested in your life, to make the most of it, and to be the best at being you for as long as your body will let you. When I hear that you aren’t saving for retirement or don’t have a savings at all, I wonder what else you’re missing in life. The stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck eats away at you, the inability to leave your shitty job because you can’t pay rent without it makes you even more miserable, that tension brings unhappiness in your relationships with family and friends. You can do better than that.

What do you need to start doing now?

  • Saving money
  • Putting that saved money in different accounts
  • Cutting back on things and making more money
  • Enjoying your life to the fullest

There. Your retirement has been planned. 

How to get to bed at a reasonable hour

My friend @naxuu has problems getting to sleep at a reasonable hour because he is tempted to spend more time on the internet late at night. I know he does this because I’ve seen his 3am Weird Twitter musings, and also because when we told him about this blog, he said:

Okay, pal, we’ve got you covered. Note that this advice is not really for people with insomnia or trouble sleeping, but more for anyone who has discipline issues with enforcing their own bedtimes. Self-discipline is a grown-up skill that we can teach.

Step 1. Figure out your reasonable bed-time. Some people need 8 hours of sleep to fully function in the morning. Other people feel like crap if they sleep a full 8 hours and find that 6-7 is better for their productivity. Trial and error and keeping a sleep log for a few weeks can help you find your sweet spot. Once you know how long you need to sleep, count backwards from your normal wake-up time to figure out Optimal Bedtime. For example, I’m ridiculous and sleep best when I have 7 hours of sleep, but know that it can take me up to an hour to fall asleep, so my Optimal Bedtime is (6:15am wakeup - 8 hours =) 10:15pm. You will almost never find me out and about and out of bed past 10:15pm on any night I need to wake up for work the next morning.

Step 2. Set three daily alarms on your smartphone or computer or whatever. Set one for your regular wake-up time (or a bit earlier, if you are a snooze addict like me). Set one for your bedtime. Set one for one hour before your bedtime. 

Step 3. When your one-hour warning alarm goes off, get off the internet. Set your smartphone aside and turn off your notifications or set it to Do Not Disturb or whatever your preferred “leave me alone” tactic is. The idea here is that you don’t want to even know that people are still talking to you on Twitter or sending you emails. If you’re in the middle of an internet k-hole, just leave your browser open so you can fall back into it tomorrow if you want to. You don’t need to wrap up your internet loose ends before going back to sleep, because the whole internet will still be there for you in the morning.

Step 4. Chill out and relax. The last hour before bedtime is all yours to do your relaxing thing. If you’re feeling a little jumpy and know you’ll have trouble sleeping, use the last hour for meditation/relaxation/progressive muscle relaxation. My personal routine is to lock all my apartment doors and turn out lights in any other rooms, wash my face, brush my teeth, moisturize, change into sleep clothes or a robe, brush my hair, drink a bunch of water and put a water glass next to my bed, and get into bed with a boring book. Sometimes I’ll practice yoga breathing or something to relax me if I feel like I need it, but most of the time, being in a comfortable bed with clean sheets and all my bedtime stuff set to go is enough to knock me out pretty quickly. If it’s not…

Step 5. When the bedtime alarm goes off, go to sleep. Turn out your lights, put down your book. If Step 4 worked, you’ll already be sleepy. If not, do whatever you need to do to get to sleep now so you don’t feel like crap tomorrow. Possible options here include but are not limited to: masturbating, sedatives, breathing and meditation exercises, progressive relaxation techniques, etc. We don’t need to know.

How to use a bank that doesn’t suck

(Hi, I’m Kaitlyn. I was born in 1984, but I have been a grown-up since I got my first checking account in 2002, the year I started college and started signing up for the mountain of student debt I am currently repaying. I haven’t paid any fees or interest to my bank or credit cards since 2010.)

I have transacted with a lot of shitty banks, all so I can tell you they are shitty so you don’t have to find out for yourself. Shitty banks include: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, Chase, Union Bank, and almost every other big bank company (RIP WaMu). Shitty banks charge you fees for almost everything. I prefer not to pay fees to banks, and I also prefer maximum convenience and not having to take time to go to an actual bank, so I have created a Bank System for Grown-Ups that works for me.

My primary bank is USAA, where I have a free checking account and a free savings account. USAA is some sort of special company designed for families with US military affiliations, but their free checking and free savings accounts are available to anyone. You probably don’t live anywhere near a USAA branch, so if you want to bank with them, you’ll have to conduct your business with them online or through the mail. This is totally fine and worthwhile because USAA offers free online bill pay, assesses no fees for their “free checking” and “free savings” accounts (unlike many other banks, where free only equals free if you have direct deposit or fulfill some other fine-print criteria), and reimburses ATM fees for any ATM you use anywhere in the world. I hate paying ATM fees and I hate hunting around for an ATM from “my” bank, so this works really well for me.

"Online Bill Pay" means that you can make payments directly to certain accounts, or you can tell USAA to just mail a check to whoever you need to pay. I use this to save postage and save myself the boring check-writing and letter-writing when I need to mail a check to say, my mom, or my landlord, or whoever else I owe money. I put in my landlady’s address and tell USAA I want the check for my rent to get to her before the 1st every month, so I never have to worry about paying my rent on time. USAA also has the benefit of employing some of the *nicest* customer service people I’ve ever dealt with. 

Just like anything else in the world of being a grown-up, there are drawbacks and nothing is as simple as it seems. USAA’s free non-military-person checking accounts don’t allow you to use their online billpay system. You can mail check deposits, but that takes several days and you have to remember to mail a thing, which is kind of a pain. So, I also use a second bank, which is the Fancy Internet Bank Called Simple. I like Simple, but because of the ATM issue it will never be my primary bank. I link my Simple account with my USAA accounts, use Simple for mobile deposit, and just transfer funds back and forth as needed. I also use Simple as my PayPal-linked account, because my husband and I have a joint checking account which is linked to *his* Paypal account, and any given checking account can only be linked to one PayPal account because PayPal is stupid.

If you think having two banks is complicated enough to make you a real grown-up, think again. You still have to worry about foreign transaction fees if you like buying things from foreign countries over the internet, or better yet, going on lavish international vacations like real grown-ups do. If you’re responsible with money and know how to pay your bills on time (I’m sure we’ll have a post on how to do that someday), you could consider getting a CapitalOne credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Maybe you’d also like another kind of credit card that offers cashback rewards or airline miles too, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I use Mint to keep track of 3 bank accounts, 5 credit cards, 2 student loans, 4 retirement accounts, and 1 brokerage account. I use 1Password to keep track of logins, because smart people don’t use the same password for all their financial stuff and a good password is one you can’t even remember.

How to have renters’ insurance

(Welcome to this blog about being an adult! I am Erin and I have been an adult for, like, six years, counting from when I graduated college.)

I bought some renters’ insurance after my bike got stolen in 2009. When your bike gets stolen, you can go to the police station and give them the serial number, and then they thank you politely and tell you there is probably nothing they can do, since stolen bikes almost never get recovered. Then they will admonish you that you should have renters’ insurance. I am admonishing you so the police don’t have to! Renters’ insurance will reimburse you for your stolen bike after you pay your deductible! It doesn’t even have to be stolen from your house; when I signed up for my policy, they told me it would cover property loss anywhere in the US. It costs me $176 a year, which is, like, two beers plus tip per month if you’re drinking fancy beers in bars.

I’m writing this now because I just had to make a claim on my renters’ insurance for the first time this week: my fiancé’s laptop got stolen. I just had to put in some information in State Farm’s website: the date of the theft, the address where it occurred, and any other people who were affected in the same incident. Within the hour someone called Nick back about it, and within the week a check was in the mail for the price of the laptop minus the $500 deductible.

Some other things my renters’ insurance covers: up to $16,000 worth of personal property (which is, like, more than everything I own put together, even my stupid record collection), $300,000 worth of personal liability (which is, like, if someone sued me for a thing), and $1,000 worth of identity theft (which also means that someone from State Farm will deal with all the bureaucratic folderol if my identity gets thieved, which is basically worth $1,000 to me anyway because I hate that shit).

I don’t want this to be a State Farm ad, because like all corporations they are probably at least a little evil, but so far so good as far as my renters’ insurance experience with them goes. I also hear good things about USAA’s insurance, but you have to be the spouse or child of a military service member to qualify for that.

Anyway, you can get a quote from State Farm here, or from USAA here, or from American Family here. I went to an actual insurance broker’s office and they were very helpful at explaining what everything was and why it cost what it did, so I’d recommend that if you prefer human contact to the chilly embrace of websites.

Edited to add: grownup friend and excellent cello-man Gordon notes that you can get extra coverage for very expensive things you might own (like, say, a musical instrument? maybe a cello?) with no deductible and a small additional cost.