30 Life Skills To Master Before You're 30

By the time you hit 30, you may have experienced and accomplished a lot. You know what you want in life (corner office, please!) and what you don’t (see ya, toxic friends…). You’re capable enough to make things happen yourself, but may be financially stable enough to hire someone to do it for you, if needed. You’re finally figuring things out, but still love learning new skills.
Although no one’s expecting you to have it fully together all the time, there are still some things you should master by the time you reach this new decade of adulthood. So, we put together a list. From the simple yet necessary art of making a scrumptious breakfast to the ridiculously important technique of saving a life, our helpful range of must-know how-tos is straight ahead.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Designers don’t include an extra button for nothing. At some point you lose one on your coat or shirt or pants. Knowing how to stitch it back together not only saves your piece of clothing quickly, but it also ensures you won’t have to pay someone to do it for you. Check out this video tutorial to find out how.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Instead of crumpling your fitted sheet into a ball and stuffing it in your linen closet, did you know there’s actually a technique to getting it into a neat, little, wrinkle-free square? Lay the sheet on the bed with the fitted corners up. Fold the sheet in half and tuck the top fitted corners into the bottom ones, smoothing the edges as you go. Repeat the step lengthwise and continue folding until it’s as small as you want it to be. Need a visual? See how it’s done here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Being an adult means being able to handle all of life’s little bumps in the road — literally! When those bumps give you a flat tire, avoid having to call an expensive tow truck that might keep you waiting on the side of the road for hours. Be prepared: Have a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench in your trunk. Then, learn these steps just in case.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
As they say, it’s not just about what you give but how you give it. If the item isn’t already in a box, put it in one before you start — this makes for a prettier (and easier) wrapping job. Lay the box flat in the center of the wrapping paper and measure enough paper to wrap around it plus a couple of inches. Use double-sided tape to secure the long sides of paper to the back of the box tightly. Fold the right and left edges of the sides and push them toward the box to form flaps. Fold the top flap down, then the bottom one, pulling tightly and securing with tape. Top with a pretty bow. Here are a few creative wrapping ideas to inspire you.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you wear ties, praise! But, even if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how to tie them (just think of that sexy Pretty Woman scene where Vivian helps Edward get ready for work). Here’s how to do a classic knot: Extend the wide end of the tie to about 10 inches below the narrow end. Cross the wide end over the narrow end and loop around completely. Then, bring it up through the loop in your neck and slip it through the knot. Tighten by holding onto the narrow end while adjusting. Watch a video tutorial here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The beauty of being older and more successful in your career is that you’re able to enjoy the finer things in life. But, that comes with a price...and a responsibility. Knowing how much to tip for services like massages and fancy pedicures can be complicated, so now’s the time to memorize it. We promise it’ll come in handy. If you do end up blanking, though, a good, general rule is to tip 15% to 20%.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Being a grown-up means curbing those dinky wall posters and welcoming bigger, more serious pieces of art. The key to hanging a heavy picture is knowing how to use anchors. Dust off that drill bit from your tool kit in the garage and feel the power of hanging a picture on your own. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
There comes a point in every adult’s life when a makeover is necessary — and we don’t mean the ones that involve MAC and hair dye. Whether you’re fixing up your current space or renovating a new one, a fresh paint job is an inexpensive boost that can completely overhaul a room. Some key things to remember: 1) Clean the walls with water and a bit of dishwashing liquid. 2) Use painter’s tape to protect the trim such as baseboards, molding, and window frames. 3) Cover the wall in primer before painting. 4) Use a two-inch brush to paint around the trim. 5) For the main wall, use a rolling brush and paint in a W shape without lifting the roller. Check out this how-to video for some visual guidance.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Hopefully you’ll never have to use this technique, but it’s always good to have in your back pocket in case someone around you chokes. Know the steps: Remain calm, confirm the individual needs help, and then wrap your arms around them from behind, placing your hand in a fist right above their belly button, and thrust up. This video tutorial shows you exactly how to be the hero.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Here’s another one of those things we hope you’ll never have to use, but it’s good to know just in case. If someone collapses near you, tap them on the shoulder and ask if they’re okay. If they’re not breathing, kneel down next to them, and put the heel of one hand on the center of their chest and your other hand over that one, with your fingers laced together. Keep your arms straight and shoulders above your hands as you push down hard (at least two inches) and fast, letting the chest rise completely before pushing down again. Continue this as long as you can until the person starts breathing or professional help arrives. See how it’s done here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you’ve gotten away with wading in the water without actually swimming all these years, now’s the time to learn. It not only makes sailboat dates and cruises less scary, but it could mean the difference between life or death for you or someone else (like a little one you’re watching). Here’s a video with the basics of treading water. And, check out an adult swimming class in your area; it’ll be fun and useful — and hopefully, eventually, empowering.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
It’s common to struggle to find the right words to express your sympathy, but knowing a few key phrases will make the gesture a little less difficult. “I’m so sorry for your loss” and “My thoughts are with you and your family” are good ones to start with. If you knew the deceased, share a fond memory or something you loved about them to help bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Offer support (meals, child care, a shoulder, or an ear) and your wishes for comfort and healing. Need more inspiration? Here are some other message ideas.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
There’s a huge difference between drinking in your 20s versus your 30s. While you might not be going out as much now (the party starts at midnight? No, thanks…), scientists have observed that hangovers tend to get worse as we get older (boo, hiss!). But, with age also comes wisdom. The most important thing for treating a hangover is to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water or Sprite, and be sure to eat. Eggs, burned toast, and tomatoes (virgin Bloody Mary, anyone?) are all good choices — and here are some DIY beauty solutions.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Tampons, condoms, Imodium…everyone has to buy embarrassing products, although it doesn’t make it any less awkward. If you haven’t mastered the confidence to walk up to the counter and look the cashier in the eye while purchasing a product that makes you blush, now’s the time. There’s actually a scientific study on this (yes, for real…) that shows people are less embarrassed if they buy additional products that are neutral, like a bag of chips, or ones that are opposite the embarrassing item, like picking up a copy of Scientific American along with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your IQ.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Whether you’re giving your notice at the most inopportune time or a deal falls through that could impact the entire company, telling your boss bad news is never fun — but it still has to be done. Make sure the timing is right — the best time to tell her is Friday afternoon, if possible. Also, the more worried you come across, the more she’ll feel the same, so keep calm and try to give actionable ideas to fix the problem. Here are more tips to navigate the situation.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
It may sound easy in concept, but we all know how hard it is to turn something down, especially when it’s for your job. Now’s the time to feel confident saying no to things like speaking engagements that you don’t have time for, job opportunities that you don’t want, and projects that are not in your scope. The trick is to not make excuses and stand by your decision. Instead, say things like, “I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it,” or “I can’t take on any more work at this time.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Everyone needs a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment sometimes, but maybe don’t copy his totally public style. Getting caught playing hooky could result in even more mental anguish. Ask yourself three questions before taking the day off work: 1) Do I have enough sick days? 2) Will my absence impact anyone else’s workload? 3) Can I stay put binge-watching Netflix all day in my house? Once you give yourself the green light, call in sick simply saying you’re not feeling well — no need to come up with an elaborate lie. See more tips here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Before you ask for a raise, do your research. How is the company doing financially, and what’s your personal market value? This will help you identify how much to ask for. Go to the meeting prepared with a list of your achievements and income potential for the company as well as any other benefits you’d like besides money (vacation days, job title change, etc.) just in case. And, pick the right time: Bad is around holidays or weekends, and good is when you’ve been on a roll. Here are some more tips.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Your handshake says a lot about you both in work and social settings, so now’s the time to perfect it if you haven’t already. First, make sure you’re standing up when you extend your hand. Next, lock the section between your thumb and pointer finger with that of the other person, and give a strong shake. Be sure to look them in the eye and smile while you continue shaking until both introductions have been made. Check out a video tutorial here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The thing about being an adult is that you have to act like one even when you might not want to. Relationships bring out all sorts of emotions, but you have to stay strong and mature when ending them. A few rules: 1) Always break up in person. 2) Don’t make up a lame excuse — just give it to them straight, but also be nice about it. 3) Afterward, keep the communication limited to just discussing the essentials (like when to get your stuff back). See more tips here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
This is the dish you’re known for and the one your friends always ask you to make for potluck dinners because it’s just so good. Whether it’s your grandmother’s recipe or one you found here, practice until it’s perfect.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
While the Keurig gods have blessed us with a simple, no-fail method when we don’t want to think, there is just something so grown-up and sophisticated about brewing your own coffee. Watch this quick video tutorial to find out how to make the perfect cup.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Today, we’ll focus on scrambled and sunny side up. For scrambled, crack a few eggs into a bowl and beat with a whisk. Add the mixture to a buttered pan over low heat, and scramble until done. For sunny side up, cook the egg on medium heat until the white part appears solid.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Your party guests will grow to love and demand this cocktail from you at every soiree you throw, so make it a fun one. Perhaps it’s your go-to mixed drink or one that you specifically designed based on your favorite ingredients. Need some inspiration? Here are some recipes.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
When you’re in your 30s, it’s probably safe to say you’ve opened a bottle of wine or two…but are you able to do it without a fancy wine opener? First, remove the foil using the knife of a simple wine-key corkscrew. Then open the corkscrew into a T shape and dig the spirals into the middle of the cork turning clockwise until there's only one spiral showing. Place the corkscrew's bottle rest on the lip of the bottle and lift the handle, pulling up the cork. Click here to see this move, plus find out how to properly use specialty openers many people have in their homes. For Champagne, simply grab the cork with one hand and twist the bottle with the other until it pops. Cheers!
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Whether you’re serving a basic meal or hosting a formal holiday dinner, it’s good to know the correct etiquette for what goes where. Here’s a handy guide to help you with the rules. And, if you only memorize a few things, it should be that forks go on the left, knives and spoons on the right, and silverware should be placed in the order of use from the outside in.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Whether you’re traveling solo or just need to kill some time in a neighborhood, dining alone can be scary but also very empowering. The trick is to find a place you feel comfortable in (cafés and French bistros work well), and go on a weekday if possible (you won’t be surrounded by couples and groups of friends). Bring along a good book to keep you company, and own it when you say, “Table for one.” Need more tips? Click here.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Of course everyone knows how to say, “Hi, I’m [insert name here],” but now that you’re more of a big shot at work, you’re probably finding yourself having to give more formal public intros. Nonverbal cues like a smile, eye contact, and body language go a long way. And, be sure to say your name clearly as well as mention a few things about yourself that are relevant to the group.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
As easy as it is to give the excuse “I’m just so bad with names,” it’s time to learn the tricks for remembering them once and for all. The golden rule: Say the person’s name immediately after you meet them (“Nice to meet you, Liz”), and try to use their name another time in the conversation or when you leave. If it’s going to take more for you to remember, check out these memory-building tips.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
When you were younger, the idea of showing up to a party by yourself was absolutely devastating. But, these days, it’s no big deal thanks to networking events, conferences, and parties for new friends. Of course it’s still scary, but there are tricks to make it easier. Try to find the host if possible — they’ll introduce you to others. And, look for small groups you can easily jump into, or start chatting it up with people in line at the bar. Remember to stock up on conversation starters. You got this!
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