Pretend to Be Grown Up–with Epic Spreadsheet Share!
Back in college I always joked about how I couldn’t wait to be a “real person.” You know, someone with a degree, a job, and even a family. I’ve “arrived” at my youthful definition of adulthood and found there’s much more to it than I once thought. It’s impossible to capture the essence of maturity in one blog post, but here are some steps that have been part of my journey.
1. Make a financial spreadsheet. I’ve always been a saver and planner, but for years the numbers were just swirling in my head, or floating around on bits of scrap paper. Then my husband Neil, an engineer and Excel-lover, made an epic spreadsheet that’s tracked and motivated our financial goals for years.
The spreadsheet helped us visualize the progress of short-term goals like saving for a down payment or a baby . It’s also how we budget and track our net worth, retirement accounts,credit card rewards, and more.
Not sure where to start? Plug your numbers into our 9-page sample spreadsheet. (The numbers are fake, the formulas are real.)
2. Give money. It’s all too easy to put off charitable giving until we feel more financially secure. Regular giving will never feel easy, as we’re all prone to increasing our expenses along with our income. If you give a little when you have a little, you’ll be more likely to give more when you have more.
3. Volunteer overseas. We each traveled separately on an international mission trip and found it very worthwhile. We are so grateful for the opportunity, as it truly changed our perspective and deepened our sense of purpose. Of course, you don’t have to cross borders to help out. The step outside my comfort zone wasn’t quite as large during domestic service trips, but they were still profound experiences.
4. Pay off debt. Many people our age are still nursing student loans, while adding credit card debt, car loans, and mortgages. While we can’t control the cost of college or the borrowing choices we made as teenagers, we can move forward by taking debt payoff seriously.
Debt is a major source of financial stress, so why add more of it to your life? Get your numbers into our sample budget spreadsheet and explore the possibilities—could you cut from areas like entertainment, travel, or clothing to get out of debt faster? Is there are any way to the lower the top three expenses of housing, transportation, or food?
5. Max out retirement accounts. In your 20s and 30s, retirement feels far away, almost mythical. Perhaps that’s why 40% of millennials don’t have a plan for retirement. Yet it’s so important to temper enjoying the present with planning for the future.
Even before your debt is completely out of the way, it makes great sense to start investing because an early start allows compound interest to work its mathematical magic. We struck a balance of investing 15% of our income while aggressively paying down student debt. After that we increased our rate of investing.
6. Have kids. Raising children is so hard at times, but it’s softened my heart unimaginably. And while most sources say kids cost a pretty penny over the long run, having them also motivated us to get our financial act together more than ever. Read about How Having Kids Has Improved Our Finances.
7. Make time for friends. Often as people marry and have children, friendships fall into the background. As a mom of little ones, I completely understand the draw to hunker down and just try to survive! But there is no time that you need your friends more than as you enter the new roles of spouse and parent. While we don’t go out with friends as much as we did before babies, we continue to see them at church, invite people over for dinner or coffee, and plan fun little outings with other families.
8. Dream big. I can be pragmatic to a fault. Case in point: when a curly-haired cutie asked me out to lunch on the second day of college, I answered dryly, “I already ate.” (We’ve been married ten years now.)
If I just slog through the details of daily life without a bigger purpose in mind, I’m at risk of only doing what others expect of me. And that’s very dangerous for both my finances and my soul. Dreaming big helps you clarify your motivation for any grownup action items. We’re much more likely to follow through on steps that fit into a bigger picture.
We also find ways to incorporate elements of our dreams into life today. That’s why we’re Rocking the Burbstead!
Sometimes I can’t believe the college girl who turned down a lunch date is now a “real person” with a family, an IRA, and a financial spreadsheet. None of those inherently comprise adulthood, but they’ve been part of my journey. What about yours?
What’s on your grownup checklist? What is your next action step toward a bigger goal?
Yup, I hear you. Graduated college, got married, bought a house, had a kid, I’ve definitely reached grown-up status!
Spending a prolonged period of time overseas would be a thrill, whether volunteering or a transfer through work or even in retirement. It would be a challenge with kids now, but a great life experience for them as well.
Congrats on reaching grown-up status!
Our stints overseas were short–just two weeks–but we’d love to take a longer trip for any of the reasons you mentioned. We’d love for our kids to get that experience, too. But you’re right. It would be harder with them in tow.
Haha, the spreadsheet was a big part of my road to adulthood as well. It’s crazy how excited me and Josh get about sitting sown to review our expenses once a month! I’d include anything that involves delayed gratification on my “adult ing” checklist. Investing in retirement, relationships, and even investing in family are all things that are valuable but might seem insignificant in the short-term.
Yes, we have fun looking at the spreadsheet a well. We are truly blessed that money can be a fun topic in our marriage!
Goals or endeavors that require delayed gratification make a great addition to the list. They aren’t always exciting today, but they build substance in the long run.
Oddly I always felt more grown up when everyone else around me was a teenager, mostly do to my home life circumstances. I’m actually trying to be more kid-like these days by doing simple, cheap, and fun things that you took for granted as a kid. Of course I can’t shirk adult responsibilities. I think one thing that has made me feel more adult like is sacrificing wants now for my future self. I’m constantly scolding my inner Veruca Salt. 🙂
I’m glad you’re embracing those simple child-like fun activities! My personality tends to be overly serious, but I agree that being somber and boring is not what makes for adulthood. Emily also brought up the idea of delayed gratification–it helps to keep the future in view while living in the present.
At 41, I think I’ve only recently felt like I’m an “adult”. I’ve had the spreadsheet for about 6 years now, so maybe it was official then? 🙂 I still love doing “kid” things, though – roller coasters, playing, swimming, just having fun!
Thanks for sharing your journey!
You have to keep having fun! I know what you mean about not feeling “adult” for a long time. I think having a second kid is what helped me finally own it. The spreadsheet helps, too!
Making time for friends is always a challenge once the little ones show up. It’s easy to stay in touch with friends with children of similar ages since they can play together, but staying in touch with child-less friends is a bigger challenge.
We tend towards dinners, knowing that someone’s probably not going to be able to eat dinner and have to take care of the baby. Not exactly fun, but when it comes to parenting you do what you have to do, and enjoy it because anything they’re doing today could be gone tomorrow.
We are very fortunate to have a supportive church community where non-parents (and empty-nesters) will keep hanging out with those of us with little ones, but it is harder when you can’t waltz out the door any time you like.
Thanks for your reminder to embrace each day with our kids.
I’m still working on that whole “adult” thing. And on maxing out retirement. I think we can max out the basic Roth this year, but not much more. Next year I’m hoping to get a SEP IRA and perhaps even max it out. (Dare to dream!)
I’m a spreadsheet lover too! I don’t do long-term stuff, but each month’s budget is figured out on Excel. It just makes it easier for me, especially because it kills the danger of my making a basic addition/subtraction error.
We are just beginning to max out more than one retirement account. Each step counts! That’s awesome you already have a goal for investing next year.
I’m very prone to those little math errors that are not so little when it’s your finances! So Excel all the way.
That’s some spreadsheet. 🙂
My grown up check list including graduating college, landing a job, getting married, buying a house, having kids,. I’ve checked them all off.
I have certainly re-evaluated some of these over the years. I don’t think I’d change any of them, but would do them differently.
Now it all about teaching and preparing the kids. Oh and setting my wife and I up for a great 2nd half. 🙂
There are certainly things we would’ve done differently, too. Hindsight is 20/20.
That’s wonderful that you’re so proactive and thoughtful about preparing your kids for adulthood. Sounds like you and your wife will have a great 2nd half.
I’m in my sixties and I’m still a kid at heart, but not when it comes to finances and making adult decisions. I got married right out of college, had kids and bought a house a few years later, and having a family definitely helped me to grow up. But it wasn’t until my middle ages (and a divorce) that I began to realize I didn’t need a lot of “things” to make me happy and that saving was more important than spending. That was probably my real journey to adulthood. Now I’m married to a woman who shares my financial perspective. She loves to create spreadsheets, and I love to read them, so it must be a match!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Gary. It’s amazing how difficult experiences sometimes mature us more than anything else. Sounds like you’ve now found a perfect match! I’m so glad to hear that.
I don’t think you guys are pretending — you’ve pretty much checked every “adult” box! It reminds me of that saying “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never act” (applies to having kids, making a big leap for something, etc.) — I don’t know that we ever FEEL like adults, we merely show the signs of being adults.
Your note about waiting until you feel accomplished or flush with cash to give reminds me of this story about my college. I got the first fundraising call less than a month after I graduated, and I told the person I spoke to, “I just graduated, I don’t have a job yet, I have a little bit of debt and no income. I will give back, but can you just give me five years?” And what’s amazing is, they actually did! And when they called me five years later, probably to the day, I knew that I had to find a way to give something because that was the mark I had laid down. And that reminded me that I should give to lots of other causes, too. So if anyone reading this feels like you can’t give now, set a date for yourself, and then actually give when that date gets there. Because you never feel ready, but you probably are ready. 🙂
Yes, I think we might now feel like adults because we’re just used to feeling like ourselves. And some of that sense of self has remained constant since childhood.
Great story! Thanks for sharing it. I’m impressed they called back 5 years later! Of course if someone doesn’t have income, that is not the time to start giving 🙂 I do think it’s okay to give a little while you’re getting out of debt, in part to keep you motivated to give more in the future. At least that helped us. That’s wonderful that call reminded you to give to other causes as well. Great tip to set a date for yourself!
Your response when asked to dinner made me chuckle. I’ve definitely been there before myself.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I appreciate that you are mindful of giving back in terms of mission work and charitable contributions. We are very like-minded in that regard. Of all the things I have ever done with money, giving will always be my favorite.
Thanks for the solidarity!
I love the way you express that–“giving will always be my favorite” way you’ve used money. I don’t feel like we’ve “arrived” at the generous people we want to become, but giving really does bring the giver joy.
As we got our financial house in order, our attentions turned to setting up a revocable trust and our will. Two very important things to consider if you have kids.
We still need to set up some umbrella insurance to ensure we are covered if anything untoward lands on us.
Great advice, Mr. PIE. Having kids is definitely what motivated us to finally create a will. We will have to think about umbrella insurance in the future as well.
Wow this is all really good stuff! I just went over and checked out the spreadsheet and it’s awesome! I’m an Excel nerd so I really love looking at what other people put together. I have a few spreadsheets I’ve put together for tracking income and expenses, credit cards, etc. but would really like to make one consolidated one.
Excel nerds unite! It is nice having everything in one place. Our full version has about 25 tabs, though a few are outdated.
Awesome spreadsheet, I love a good spreadsheet! We use one for our finances and it works great.
I think moving out, having a full time job, a full driving licence and having kids is our ‘growing up’ list. We just need to do that last one now, then we’re completely grown up 🙂
Best wishes with the last step on your list, Tristan!
“I already ate.” Well, I can see why your husband fell in love with you : ) You must have shown a lot more charm after that point! You are so right in advising people to take debt seriously and to take ownership of present choices. The 30s can be a brutal time for adding more and more and more to that debt total. Student debt + car loan + mortgage is the norm, not the exception.
I was so shy when we met, sometimes I don’t know how he stuck around! He’s a patient man 🙂
It’s unfortunate that steadily adding to debt is the norm, but it is. We’ve spared ourselves some grief by avoiding the car loan, which in our view is the least reasonable of the three.
I love excel spreadsheets 🙂 for some reason I like using them so much more than something like Mint to budget.
I’m 22 and started a Roth IRA a year ago (currently don’t have a employer 401k). I won’t be able to max it out this year because of debt repayment but I’m contributing as much as I can!
We like creating own own spreadsheets because we can customize them more.
It sounds like you’re off to a great start if you’re paying down debt and investing at 22!
I’m going to rip off your utilities tab and insert it directly into my spreadsheet.Although, our utility companies don’t run on exactly monthly schedules, so I guess, I’ll have to update that manually.
I’ve been trying to use Personal Capital (export transactions function) to automatically update everything. It’s still dicey, but much easier than it once was.
Glad you can use something from the spreadsheet, Hannah!
“I already ate” – I love it!!
In my very early 20s, I considered owning a new couch to be a sign of adulthood. Two decades later, I realize that there’s a lot more to it than that. Like you, being a parent changed me a great deal, and I think it’s been more responsbile for making me a true grown-up, than everything else. Suddenly, the stakes for EVERYTHING are higher. Even seemingly minor things changed when I became a parent. As a young adult, I would sometimes flop on the couch with a bowl of Lucky Charms, and call it dinner. As a parent, I not only have to make sure my daughter is fed, too, but I want to make sure she’s eating something nutritious. (Although I can’t claim that Lucky Charms have never crossed her lips…)
That’s funny about the couch as a sign of adulthood. I have yet to own a new one, and after a couple fights over couches, I’m over it. But we definitely latch on to random ideas of what makes us grown up.
So true that parenthood raises the stakes so high–everything from food to money to your relationship with spouse and more.
I’m with you – I’m still making spreadsheets and lists every day to keep myself on track and organized. Lately one of the fun ones on my list is how to get free airfare for our planned vacation next year. Credit card churning, here we go!
We are using some credit card rewards banked years ago for our first flight as a family of four. There’s no way we would’ve purchased four tickets for this trip if they weren’t essentially free.
Great simple list to follow, thank you for sharing the spreadsheet too 🙂