As I approach 30, I have a pretty solid idea of who I want to be when I get there. And even if the 3-0 is an arbitrary demarcation between youth and true adulthood, it's important to set goals for yourself. The particulars of those goals come down to the individual in question, but there are some things we should all have down pat by a certain age.
1. Keeping all your money in one place.
Ideally, you're making more money than ever before now and you aren't just keep all your savings in your regular savings account. You should be making your money work for you, actively putting it towards your retirement fund as well as diversifying your investment portfolio.
2. Depending financially on others.
If you are an able-bodied, able-minded adult, you need to take care of yourself instead of relying on others. Sure, emergencies may happen and you may need to borrow some money from your parents or friends when they do, but your financial dependence on others shouldn't be routine. The women's liberation movement got us to the point where we're no longer our male relative's property. Let's all take advantage of that by having a savings account and credit card in our own name.
3. Not having an emergency fund.
You should have had one in your twenties, but if you managed without it then, you definitely need one now—whether you have a family or not. Experts suggest keeping at least three to six months of expenses saved in a high-interest savings account.
4. Staying in a bad relationship for too long.
Even if you're scared of turning into the Bridget Jones of your friendship group, you should be more scared of staying in a bad relationship just for the sake of saying you're in a relationship. In fact, more woman in their thirties are single than ever before—and they're fine with it.
5. Not communicating with your lovers.
The person, or people, you're seeing should know what's up. Do you like them? Do you want to date exclusively? Do you want to get married? Are you still playing the field? Do you want to see other people? Talk. Be honest. You're not responsible for other people's feelings, but you can minimize other people's heartbreak by not lying, cheating, faking, or generally being a jerk. In the best case scenario, you and your lover will part ways because you are incompatible, not because you are too self-centered and immature to respect another human being.
6. Claiming you're not a feminist because of guys.
If you're afraid that guys will think you're a "femi-nazi" because you call yourself a feminist, you need to start dating different guys. Feminism says that women deserve the same rights as men. You're not a "man-hater" because you want equal pay or autonomy over your body. Men who can't understand that are not men; they are boys. And there are few things worse than a misogynist in a diaper. Make it clear that you demand equal treatment and respect, and that you refuse to settle for less in any relationship.
8. Not prioritizing sleep.
Sure, you could pull an all-nighter in your twenties, take a power nap, and then look presentable at work the next day. But those days are over. Now you need your friggin' sleep. And you shouldn't leave it all for the weekend — making up those extra hours on the weekend can end up disrupting your internal clock and makes you even more tired for the work week, says a study done at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
9. Not believing in sunscreen.
As a teenager, all I wanted was a tan and I'd conveniently "forget" sunscreen for every beach or pool day. This lasted well into my twenties, and I can already see some of the damage it's done. No one wants wrinkles and dull skin at any age, so make sure to cover up. And don't skip your hands and neck! Those areas are a dead giveaway to your skin's real age—especially if damage has made it look older than you really are.
10. Not going to the doctor.
We're all guilty of thinking we're invincible and going to the doctor only when we're basically at death's door, but by 30, you should be going in for regular checkups—this is when high cholesterol and high blood pressure can start to pop up.
11. Holding grudges.
Dwelling on hurtful memories and resentful feelings can have a serious negative impact on your emotional and physical health, according to a study published by the Association for Psychological Science. Plus, studies show that forgiveness can improve your life physically and psychologically. Some of the benefits include lower blood pressure, less depression, less stress, less anxiety, and maybe even a few less wrinkles.
12. Crash dieting.
Saying you just won't eat for two days so you can look really hot in that dress for your friend's wedding sounds good, but it's a really bad idea. Research shows that it can reduce your energy levels, mess up your concentration, make you feel moody and make you feel older! Plus, it can cause wrinkles and skin sagging.
13. Eating like a garbage truck.
Junk food has its time and place. That time and place is not all the time, everywhere. If you need help getting on track with a healthy diet, see a nutritionist. Shop for healthy food, even if you're on a budget (one tip: beans and lentils are cheap and very healthy). And if you're suffering from a dearth of time, cook your meals in advance and freeze them or pay for a health-conscious meal delivery service if you can afford it. Potato chips and soda is NOT the breakfast of champions!
14. Binge drinking.
Yes, moderate amounts of alcohol are good for you (and can even help you lose weight). And, yes, many of us did it in college and survived. But it's a terrible thing to do to your body. Enjoy a glass or two of wine, but know when to stop.
15. Not having a single "grown-up" outfit.
You should have at least one outfit that will comfortably take you through professional spaces, whether you're interviewing for a job or applying for a loan. You don't need to be a clotheshorse, but you do need to have something that won't detract from how awesome and capable you are. And if money is the issue, thrift shops often offer plenty of low-cost options. Many churches, women's shelters, and other charities offer free clothes, too. Some of them will even connect you with a tailor or dry cleaner. Who can say no to that kind of hookup?
16. Not doing whatever the hell you say you're going to do.
Say it with me: "I will try to avoid making promises I can't keep and apologize when I flake out." It's not a sexy mantra, but it's a good one. Honor your commitments. If you have a hard time doing that, figure out how you can improve and then actually take the steps necessary to do that. You can read all the self-help books and take all the yoga classes in the world, but being a good person isn't a "fake it 'til you make it" kind of thing. Follow through on things, the same way you paint every fingernail—not just a third of them.
17. Showing up late and thinking it's cute.
Set multiple alarms, leave a little early, and respect other people's time. Sometimes that means going someplace without mascara with a run in your tights. Deal with it. Being late on occasion makes you human, but you should always notify people when you're running late. Don't make appointments if you can't do that much. Stay at home and whine about your life instead. At least you won't keep anyone waiting that way.
18. Hanging out with toxic friends.
Why would you hang out with people that make you feel bad about yourself? Yes, it's super entertaining on The Real Housewives, but that's television. It's a waste of your time — cut the cord.
19. Pretending you're into stuff when you're not.
It's one thing to be polite and listen to people when they tell you about their hobbies and interests. It's another thing to latch onto whatever someone's talking about and acting like you love something. Are you really that desperate for friendship or that insecure about your own identity? Be yourself. People will still want to hang out with you, date you, and generally include you in their lives, even if you've never been snowboarding or–gasp!–watched Game of Thrones.
20. Comparing yourself to others.
This is such a tough one to do, but so very vital. If you constantly think of what you don't have versus what someone does have, you will never get anything done and be absolutely miserable. When you start to go down this spiral, refocus yourself.