Things Adults Have To Pay For That Kids In Their Twenties Don’t

Things Adults Have To Pay For That Kids In Their Twenties Don't - picture of orange couch with white bookshelf above and poster on white brick wall

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I read a lot of crap on the internet.  And, for some reason, I keep stumbling upon articles like “25 Must-Have Items for Thirty-Somethings” and “Top 40 Things A 27-Year-Old Should Own.”  And no, I usually don’t own the majority of the things that those articles claim my life requires.  I’m also smart enough to realize that if a pop-culture website claims you need to own something to be successful, you are not required to listen to them.  Having dispensed that sage advice, I will now retire from the world of personal finance. (Just kidding.)

But, the truth is that there is a big difference between your expenses when you’re 24 and your expenses when you’re 34.  When you’re 24, you’re still able to live the student lifestyle, cramming six people into a two-bedroom apartment and living off ramen and Subway.  But then something happens.  You become an adult, usually because you want to.  And, when you become an adult, your expenses change dramatically.

Even though you’re still making roughly the same amount of money that you did when you were 24, you suddenly have all of these new expenses to keep track of. Where do these new expenses come from?  Here are some things adults have to pay for that kids in their twenties don’t:

Real Furniture

Often, the first big step that you take to become an adult is to fill your apartment with real furniture.  Yes, even furniture from Ikea or Target count as the real thing.  And, even the fiber-board stuff that those stores sell doesn’t come cheap since it can cost as much as $250 for a mattress, $150 for a bedframe, $50 for a bookcase, $50 for a desk, and so on.  And that’s only if you get the cheapest, worst versions of all of their crap.  Decent furniture costs at least twice and sometimes three times as much.

Real Food

Somewhere between age 22 and age 32, your friends stop suggesting Taco Bell for dinner.  Instead they want to go to that new artisanal cocktail place with grass-fed beef.  Soon after that, adults in apartments with real furniture begin to throw parties where PBR and jello shots are not the drink of choice.  And, as we all know, alcohol is expensive!


At some point in adulthood, you may want a real vacation.  You know, a real vacation….which is totally different than a trip to Mom and Dad’s or a crazy “friend trip” to New York where you cram seven people in a car and go 48 hours without sleeping.  If you’re like most people, you’re going to crave an actual vacation every year.

Life Insurance

At a certain point in adulthood, salespeople start asking if you have life insurance.  Yep, it’s another marker on the road from irresponsible twenty-something to full-fledged adult.   Fortunately, you don’t have to buy life insurance from the first person that approaches you.  These days, you an even buy it online!


On top of all of that, you may want to have children at some point.  And, trust me, kids are not cheap!  Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save when it comes to your kids.  Not only do you not have to buy them everything that all the other kids have, but you can also buy most of their stuff used.  Trust me, they’ll never know!

What other expenses have cropped up since you reached adulthood?

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  1. Ha! The real furniture thing was a big one in our transition from age 20 to 30. We gradually went from “college apartment” furniture to elaborate, stain-protected matching sets all throughout the house. I will say this – nothing lasts quite like quality.

    I also totally agree on the vacation thing. Our trips to Mexico and the Caribbean take me weeks of planning and finding the best deals. Not to mention saving up a few thousand to be able to go in the first place. But what’s funny is that when we finally make it down there, at least half the resort is still party-harty 20 year olds taking in as many free drinks as they can. I guess maybe they’re just getting started early in this category!

    1. Ahhhhh…..Mexico. I really want to go back! When we go to an all-inclusive, I like to get my money’s worth in drinks. Ha!

  2. I think the biggest one is time. Looking back at my pre-wife, pre-children days I can’t believe how much time I was wasting and how precious it feels now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the time I spend with my family but it’s much harder to find alone time where you can work on something meaningful.

    1. I agree Matt. That’s a good point. I wasted so much time in my 20’s just sleeping in. I wish I could have that time back now!

  3. Car, this was indeed something I felt like I needed. I don’t need all the gadgets and gizmos (even if I work as a web designer and run my own business) and surely not all the clothing/purses other women find vital 😀

    1. Me neither. I have 4 or 5 pairs of shoes and ONE purse!

  4. Health insurance. I went without it for five years after graduating, but now I’m terrified to be walking around with nothing. I know you’re not an obamacare fan, but after a taste of having healthcare for a year through an employer, I’m so glad I’ll be able to afford that security again.

    1. No, I am not a fan of Obamacare but I am glad more people will be covered. I would be very stressed out if I didn’t have coverage. Any accidents or sickness has the potential to wipe out everything you have!

  5. Love this! Real furniture can be quite expensive and I can really remember going through these stages – switching to real food over time, taking grown up vacations, accumulating insurance for this and that etc. Buying a house is a huge expense and a commitment too.

    1. We still have a lot of cheap craigslist furniture but at least it looks nice!

  6. I’m practically scared to have kids because I can’t imagine the added expense in our budget! When I got married my wife and I spent about $1,000 on furniture at ikea because neither of us had really ever bought furniture and I was still using the bed, chest of drawers, etc. that I had when I was a teenager and used during college. Add a new bed on top of that and furniture isn’t cheap! Now that we have a house we are making due with all that newer furniture but there is even more space to furnish. With that being said, I am still in that 20s demographic that can get by on cheaper food and other things for the time being. Taco Bell sounds good : )

    1. Kids don’t have to be that expensive. Most of what we’ve spent has been on the hospital bill when they were born, daycare, and health insurance.

  7. I reached adulthood at a pretty young age. I stopped living with my parents when I was sixteen. I got married at 21 and my husband and I owned our own house and then we had our first kid when I was 22. I took on the adult expenses fairly young.

  8. I would definitely say we spend more money on caring for our health. Now that we’ve realized we’re not invincible, much more money goes to supplements, and to fresh fruits and veggies as opposed to Doritos and Taco Bell. 🙂

  9. This is so true! Im 25 and trying to keep student lifestyle expenses going as long as possible so I can escape my debt. But I agree with the furniture one! I have been furnishing my new apartment and have been determined to do so without buying all new furniture like many of my peers. Craigslist, friends, antique shops, and TJ Maxx have all played a big role.

    1. Some of my favorite pieces of furniture are from craigslist. Nothing wrong with that!

  10. It was furniture for us as well. For some reason my wife didn’t think the random collection of crappy dorm room furniture looked nice in our first place. Furniture can definitely be pricey, but that just means you need to do your legwork to find quality without breaking the bank.

    1. I like buying nicer used stuff….but just wood. I wouldn’t buy a used couch. I like used stuff that can be cleaned easily.

  11. Bobby @ Making Money Fast and Slow says:

    I’m 23 and my apartment is a hodge podge. My parents gave me their 30-year old leather couch which is still in very good condition, but then everything I’ve mostly bought used. Since I don’t have a house yet, it’s nice not having to worry about what I will do with the real, heavy furniture when I move out of this small apartment.

    Here’re some more tips for furnishing your first place:

  12. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    A REAL mattress is something I took a while to buy and boy do I regret that. I’d rather have craigslist finds for most of my furniture and spend good money on a mattress than have nicer home furniture. Sleep is too important for a cheap mattress!

    I do remember a short phase when I was in my mid 20’s where my friends were all about fancy alcohol and big dinners and micro brew beer. I’ve now realized that I just like Coors Light and I can get tasty red wine at the Trader Joe’s wine store for $4 a bottle. I would rather get good meat and cook at home with our tasty, affordable libations as opposed to paying 3 times the amount to eat out. Now I’m big on potlucks with friends.

    1. A good mattress is so important. I have some back issues and a bad mattress can literally make me a worthless person.

  13. Making sure that my wife has a nice place to live in and call her home is a big deal. Even if you both think you can do with less, it’s difficult to allow your wife to be underwhelmed.

  14. Good points. Adulthood is slowly creeping up on me. When I got my first apartment, I literally went to Ikea and bought everything I need. Time for an upgrade soon…

  15. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Makes me think back on my younger days…I spent $60/mo. on food tops. Sometimes I could get down to $40. But now we’re lucky if my wife and I can stay under $200. Although back then I don’t think I knew what produce was…

    1. Ha! I probably didn’t either. I used to that things like Hot Pockets and Toaster Strudel were real food.

  16. I STILL don’t have real furniture! I have hand-me-downs but I did buy a “real” bed when I was in my 30’s…well worth the investment. I would also say housing. You just don’t want to live in a cockroach infested dwelling with 10 roommates. I also think you start to spend more on preventative health related costs, like skin screenings, mammograms, etc. I know I do. BTW I totally missed you at Fincon! 🙁 I was sad you weren’t there!

    1. I know! I would’ve loved to gone and met you and everyone else. We were (and still are) moving and I didn’t want to leave Greg with all of that mess.

  17. I all comes down to life being expensive. As we age and mature, we need different things than when we were younger. I think kids is the big one. That can turn your life upside down!

    1. Oh yes, definitely. My kids haven’t been that expensive though. There are ways to keep it under control.

  18. I can see this transition in a lot of friends recently. Very true and very sad, money-wise as this is the time to lay a decent foundation that will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
    While I think it is wise to invest in quality, things that last longer and look better, I also think that you can overdo this. Especially if you are still on a budget that is a little bit tight (for whatever reason), but want what all your friends have, who are already “grown-up” and “don’t-I-need-this-expensive-table-in-order-to-be-a-grown-up-like-them-too?” Sometimes it is just a following-the-herd-thing.

    1. Yep, I hear ya! But, sometimes you have to break away from what your friends are doing and do what you know is right for you.

  19. There’s a difference in EVERYTHING between the ages of 24 and 34. I’m 31 and moved in with roommates who are 22 and oh my god, I want to stab my eyes out. They have no idea how much growing up they need to do, or how they will realize how annoying their baby whiny voices are in 10 years. And they have access to their parents’ credit cards still, so instead of cleaning their own room, they talk of hiring a personal organizer. They go out to eat every day, and waste 50% of the food they do buy. It’s crazy.
    I make twice the money the girl does (they’re two and they’re a couple), and she seems to have far more disposable income. We don’t have much of a difference in bills. I pay $400 more in rent because they share a bedroom, but neither of us have cars or mortgages. I used to, and my bills were definitely “adult bills” back then! Yard maintenance, hot water heater replacement, car parts, etc.

    1. They’ll probably regret that one day. I wish I could have all of the money I wasted in my 20’s back now!

  20. Housing expenses (repairs and maintenance) are a huge difference. At 24 I only had rent and utilities to pay. No yard maintenance, no appliance repairs, no carpets to clean, no air conditioners to replace, etc. All that changes once you purchase your first home. It changes even more when you have kids who run around the house, tearing things up. But we still love them! 🙂

    1. Yeah, I totally agree. Home maintenance is an area that is easy to overlook.

  21. Motel 6 used to seem like luxury to me, but there is no way we would stay there now. I need high thread count sheets and flurry towels for a hotel stay. Health insurance, car insurance, life insurance. I don’t think I paid much at all for those or even had them when I was younger. I also used to get all my shoes at Payless, but my back hurts if I don’t wear good shoes now. Ah, the joys of getting older!

    1. Ha! I agree. I can’t wear super cheap shoes either. Getting old sucks.

  22. I like the theme of the post. It makes me wonder what other expenses I should be planning for going forward into my 40’s, 50’s and beyond? (Maybe a follow up post for you?)

    Insurance, in general, seems to be a cost that becomes hard (and maybe foolish) to avoid later in life (health, dental, life, disability, home, maybe umbrella…).

    1. Yeah. We were smart enough to buy life insurance in our 20’s when it was cheap! =)

  23. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says:

    It appears I am somewhat of a “real adult” in my 20s. My body can’t handle trash food so I make good stuff. I pay for life insurance through work and a personally-owned policy.

    I don’t have kids, so I don’t have that large money vortex. My mattress is still on the floor (the frame broke during the last move), and I have solid-wood furniture from when I was two. Travel is on my radar, but I’m not quite at a point where I can justify that spending (boo debt!).

  24. Whenever people come to our house, they are almost always surprised that we have “real” furniture. Makes me laugh. We’ve always had real furniture!

    1. I have real furniture now too! Some of it is nicer stuff but the rest is from craigslist.

  25. Oh goodie, I’m basically 30 at 24. Real furniture, haven’t eaten at Taco Bell since…I don’t even know when and only one roommate in a two bedroom apartment! Holla!

    Some of the best advice I ever received about furniture was to buy one really nice piece at a time instead of filling up the apartment with crappy Ikea furniture that breaks in 6 months.

  26. “Somewhere between age 22 and age 32, your friends stop suggesting Taco Bell for dinner.” Ha, ha, ha 🙂 So true, Holly!

  27. Other expenses for us other than things you listed would be reliable vehicle, gone are the days of our ”hope and pray” $1,000 cars, insurances, paying for things that our parents used to (food, meds, pets), and post university financial responsibilities such as student loans etc. Great post Holly!

  28. My husband and I are still in the furniture transition phase. We just recently purchased a couch from a furniture store and I finally have a nice desk instead of a folding table (which is now our dining room table). All our storage shelves and dressers are still plastic and cheapo though. It’s a slow transition when you have debt!

  29. Great article, Holly! Indeed, I saw myself ticking all the items on your list. Just a couple of weeks ago I took a look at some photos made during college (and I only came out of college 6 years ago) and I was thinking that I was crazy and could never go through what I went back then – for example, our record was cramming 27 people in ONE room for a party.

    And another thing that adults have to pay for and college students don’t: sex. Ahahaha. Just kidding, but I simply had to say it :))

  30. I’d throw in real home decor and wall hangings – at some point the big Bob Marley sheet starts to look kinda strange hanging on the family room wall. But it doesn’t have to be all the expense to spruce up your home if you do it right.

  31. So true. A decent part of “lifestyle inflation” is things like paying for your own life insurance, contents insurance, car insurance, not getting a bunch of groceries as a gift at the start of the semester, eating a lot better, actually consuming cleaning supplies at times outside of exams and more!

  32. I laughed when I read your article, because I realized my husband and I made a transition to nicer vacations– but we haven’t transitioned into nicer furniture. We still have the same cheap college stuff. I guess I know what our priorities are!

  33. This is funny, because I’m 24 and have never lived the student lifestyle like you’ve described. I put myself through college by paying out of pocket for my expenses. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18. I own a home, have a career, and am engaged. All of those expenses you have mentioned? I have been paying for for a few years. I don’t want kids for another few years, but you bet that that will be our next savings goal – I want to have a nice, healthy savings account when we decide to start trying.

  34. While I think I made the transition from student lifestyle to adult lifestyle quickly, I have come to the realization there’s more things to buy when you’re on your own and actually give a damn. I took most of my parents’ furniture, so I’m not quite there yet (mostly because we’re waiting until we move to get it), but I hate fast food now, when I wouldn’t think twice about it a few years ago. Having to pay rent split between just my boyfriend and I has been the biggest increase, but I’d rather not live with strangers so I’ll pay the price!

  35. When I got older, one thing I realized is that I should make prepare for the future and I should be able to see where my money goes.

  36. My maturity stage was very early, literally “early” because I was married at the very young age and had my daughter at the age of 22. We still live in my parent’s house but I’m the one who paid all the bills, do the groceries and giving my sister a weekly allowance.

  37. Everything about this post was so true! I guess the whole paying bills is still really big for me, especially having jumped from an apartment to a house last year. Every month I’m still like “Seriously 6 bills?!” And that’s just taking care of utilities!

  38. I knew I was an adult when I bought window treatments. Prior to buying our condo I’d never purchased curtains, I just left up whatever the previous renter/owner had installed. I remember thinking, “crap these are expensive I better buy something classic that will last a long time.”

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  40. Having stayed in so many friends’/hosts’ homes in the US, I’ve decided the hallmarks of adulthood are: a dining table/chairs, china/liquor cabinet, and white bedsheets. ESPECIALLY the white sheets.

  41. For me, it’s been insurance. Condo and rental insurance to be exact. We had an apartment fire at a rental once and if not for the insurance coverage of the contractors (they had set the roof on fire…), we would have been stuck and out a lot of money.

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