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Ready to head off to new adventures? 9 skills new grads need to have first

Knowing how to cook some basic meals is important for young people before they leave home.
Knowing how to cook some basic meals is important for young people before they leave home. - 123RF Stock

Jayden Lempriere, who recently graduated from Corner Brook Regional High School, did not get to have a traditional graduation ceremony, and therefore, did not get to hear the traditional valedictorian send-off speech.

Missing this key opportunity to be given advice for the future, the Newfoundland woman says her family has been filling in the gap and offering their own advice as she moves on to her next adventure.

“They are pushing me to follow my interests and dreams,” she says, noting she will be doing exactly that by enrolling in the visual arts program at the Grenfell campus of Memorial University this fall.

But, there are plenty of practical things young people can be doing now to help prepare for their next steps.

Cook and sew

Cassandra Bruhm, who lives in Mahone Bay, N.S., but is entering her second year of university in Halifax, knows first-hand what recent graduates need to know to survive in a post-high school world.

“Know how to cook some basic meals, as it could really save you from some of the gross meal hall food,” says Bruhm.

Michael Hoy of Montague, P.E.I., agrees. He says the best skill his mother ever taught him was how to cook for himself. She taught me how to make full, well-balanced meals, he says.

“Cooking is just such an important skill, and I know guys now who eat exclusively takeout because being in and around a kitchen intimidates them,” he says.

“A couple of Christmases ago, she made me a big book of family recipes, and since then, I’ve since started adding my own to give to my son, who is now four years old, for when he first moves out on his own.”

Hoy says his mother also made sure he knew how to sew a basic stitch.

“I work in the trades as a plumber, and you can imagine how expensive it'll get replacing jeans every time you get a cut in them,” he says.

Kristina Retfalvi, from Lantz, N.S,. didn’t learn to cook before she moved into an on-campus apartment. She quickly became friends with security officers, she says, because she would regularly set off the fire alarm by cooking everything on high.

Knowing how to do laundry is a basic skill everyone should have - it will help avoid a multitude of possible disasters. - RF Stock
Knowing how to do laundry is a basic skill everyone should have - it will help avoid a multitude of possible disasters. - RF Stock

Learn to do laundry

Bruhm says it’s also essential to learn how to do your own laundry, because you can't always bring it home to get your parents or guardians to do it for you.

Before heading off to a university dorm room, get a drying rack, she adds, because sometimes you are not going to want to spend $1 for a machine to barely dry your clothes.

Susan Drake knows just how wrong laundry can go.

The Cole Harbour, N.S., woman says when she was freshly on her own, she had a small apartment-sized washer and spinner.

“You had to control how much water went in, and I once forgot to keep checking it,” she recalls.

It overflowed and water went down to the lower flat, and the residents were not home.

“Luckily, it was in the enclosed porch and mudroom area, so I had access,” she says.

“They came home to find their camping gear, bags of odd seasonal clothes and other items hanging everywhere in the backyard. Thankfully, they were decent folks and completely understood.”

Cleaning time

Bruhm tells graduates to learn how to properly clean your room, especially the surfaces, especially now with COVID-19.

“Residences are breeding grounds for getting sick because of all the people in close quarters. Also, your parents aren't going to do it for you. Trust me, you need a clean space,” says Bruhm.

And it has more benefits as well.

“Cleaning sucks, but keeping your place uncluttered will actually help your mood and mental health,” says Lisa Jane Dobson of Fairview, N.S.

Basic car maintenance

Hoy suggests learning how to do your own vehicle maintenance, including oil changes, fluid changes, and even how to do your own brake work. Pads, rotors, and calipers are pretty easy to replace, he says, as long as you're relatively organized.

Besides, it will save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

It's very easy for young people to get into debt or trouble with credit cards. - RF Stock
It's very easy for young people to get into debt or trouble with credit cards. - RF Stock

Money management

Bruhm says money management is key. So many university students go to school and think they can go wild because their parents are not there to look over their shoulder, she says.

Tessa McInnis, Enfield, N.S., suggests only having one credit card, and if you are a student, she recommends getting a student credit card.

“They are super appealing, but not so appealing when you are super in debt,” she says. “Hands down, the number one mistake I made when moving out was getting more than one credit card.

And now that’s why I’m in debt. I now see the errors of my ways. Sure, retail therapy is nice. But not at that cost.”

Always make payments on time and have a rainy-day fund that you add to regularly. You should be able to eventually pay three months of bills with this fund, but it should only be used only emergencies, she says.

Bruhm says she recently learned to only have a $500 dollar limit on a credit card, and to use it to pay for one thing, like a phone bill, and put money on it right away so you don't have to pay interest on it.

“The only thing that a credit card is really good for is building credit,” says Bruhm.

Then, says McInnis, learn about what you need to save for income taxes, including prescription slips, and receipts.

Dobson also offers financial wisdom to graduates: avoid buying anything on credit.

“If you can’t afford to buy it in cash, you can’t afford it. Always make sure your rent and power bills are paid. Other bills can fall behind sometimes but you need a roof over your head and lights on,” she says. “Expensive doesn’t mean better, thrifts store can be your favourite spot to buy things.”

Shop smart and save

When grocery shopping, learn how to check the flyers and how to save money.

Amanda Logan of Halifax, N.S., says it should become routine to look at the price per unit, or price per weight. What can seemingly look like a good sale may not actually be. She says an old roommate introduced her to this concept.

“She was a math whiz and would figure out the cost of toilet paper per square per ply. She figured that if you were paying more than $0.30 per roll, you were paying too much,” Logan says. “Mind you, this was a few years ago. But, it’s a smart way to shop and I've saved lots of money using this method.”

Other noted life skills that will come in handy include learning basic handy fix-it skills, knowing how to write a cheque, making out an envelope for the mail, buying meat and freezing it into portions, and differentiating between instant and regular rice.

Be a good citizen and be safe

Remember, your neighbours don’t want to listen to your music at 1 a.m., no matter how good the song is, advises Dobson.

Try to learn to trust your intuition, she adds.

“If something doesn’t feel right, leave. Your safety is more important than being polite,” she says.

And, she adds, always let someone know where you’ll be when you go out. Consider getting a safety app on your phone, especially if you’re moving to a new city.

“Adulting doesn’t make you invincible,” says Dobson. “People can’t help you if they don’t know where you are.”

It’s OK to be homesick

Bruhm says it's important to find one friend, or even group of friends, that you can really rely on.

“You are going to miss home, there is no doubt about it, it's almost inevitable,” she says.

Drake agrees, saying you can become homesick at the strangest things. One year, she and her roommate were working over Thanksgiving so couldn’t get home to their families. They decided to cook their own turkey dinner, but when they sat down to eat, she says they both looked at each other and started bawling.

“We both missed home more than we knew,” says Drake.

McInnis adds that it's important to keep in contact with your parents – it will help both of you.

And most of all, says Dobson, there’s one piece of advice all graduates need to hear.

“Have fun! This will be some of the best years of your life. Don’t be hard on yourself, mistakes are how we gain experience and wisdom.”

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