The other day our van died and I realized that I don’t know how to jump a car. Now, I know the concept, and I know how to look up instructions. But if I had to do it without guidance? I’d be stuck.
So this got me thinking: what else should I know how to do? There are a lot of life skills we’re expected to just “know”. But unless our parents took the time to teach us, most of what we learn comes from a Home Economics or searching for how-to videos when something goes wrong.
Here are 10 skills I think everyone should learn how to do.
1. Jump Start a Car
Why wait until you’re stuck with a dead car battery when you can be prepared? Take a look through the owner’s manual of your car and get familiar with the basic components under your hood. You can jump a car using either another running vehicle or a portable jump starter.
2. Change a Tire
Emergency car skill #2: learning how to change a flat. If you don’t know already, check your car to see if you have a full-sized spare tire or temporary spare (i.e. a “donut”). Note that for a temporary spare or run-flat tires, you’ll need to keep your speed limited (under 50 mph typically) and switch it out within 50 miles.
3. Perform an Oil Change
This last car skill will save you money on routine car maintenance. Check your owner’s manual to learn which type of oil your car requires, where the major components are located, and how often you need to change it. Tip: never change your oil immediately before leaving for a big trip (we almost missed the flight to our wedding because my husband ran into some issues a few hours before we were set to leave).
4. Perform Basic First Aid and CPR
When faced with an accident or emergency, no one wants to have to take the time to look up what to do. Educate yourself on proper first aid, CPR, and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) techniques. You can find a list of common first aid situations from the Mayo Clinic. The American Red Cross offers a wide range of training and online courses, including a Family First Aid class (only $25).
Here is a basic video demonstrating CPR techniques. Review these instructions annually and always check for the most up-to-date information.
5. Manage Personal Finances
While you don’t need to be an expert, you should have an understanding of the following:
- How to Create (and Stick to) a Budget
- How to Balance a Checkbook/Track Your Accounts
- How to Manage Credit Cards
- How to Manage Debt and Interest
- How to Prepare for Retirement and Long-Term Goals
Sites such as LearnVest or this playlist from the Khan Academy will teach you the basics of a variety of personal finance topics. Services such as Mint or You Need a Budget will assist you in creating budgets, tracking your accounts, and paying off debt. Even if you think some of these topics don’t matter to you now, financial literacy will help you accomplish more with your hard-earned money.
6. File Your Taxes
You might already have someone who does your taxes for you, but improving your understanding of the process will take a lot of the stress out of it. Print out this tax form checklist of the documents you need to file your taxes and keep it as a reference. Check out the current year’s tax calendar and note the due dates on your personal calendars. File your own taxes using software such as TurboTax or H&R Block Online. Finally, use these recommendations for how long you should keep your income tax returns.
7. How to Cook
Now, I’m not saying you need to be the next Iron Chef (although a few too many Food Network marathons may have you think so). But everyone should know how to prepare basic, nutritious meals for themselves and their families. Start off by learning how to read a recipe. Then, make a list of some of your favorite meals and search for recipes online. Follow the instructions and focus on learning one recipe at a time until you get it right.
I promise, anyone can learn how to cook. Here are some videos to get you started.
8. Perform Basic Home Maintenance
If you own your home, you have full responsibility for maintaining it. It can be easy to ignore routine maintenance tasks when everything is going smoothly. But letting that maintenance lapse can result in thousands of dollars in repairs later on. Keep a checklist of annual home tasks. Mark dates in your calendar each year so you don’t forget.
Keep in mind that renter’s need to know many of these skills as well.
9. Sew a Repair
It can ruin your day when your favorite clothing gets a tear. Learn how to mend your own clothes and you can save the time and expense of a tailor. Here are a few skills to learn:
- How to Mend a Seam
- How to Sew a Button
- How to Sew a Patch
- How to Hem
For most repairs you only need to know a few basic stitches (no sewing machine required).
10. How to Manage Stress
In all our efforts to improve our physical health, we often forget about our mental well-being. We live in a stressful world. It’s important to know how to deal with stress and where to get support. Learn how to recognize stress. Test out a variety of stress-management techniques and note the ones that work best for you. Use this “stress toolbox” whenever you start feeling the effects of stress. Build a support network you can rely on when you need help.
This is one of my favorite TED videos. While stress can have significant negative impacts on our health, it can also be a motivator. The key is to take charge of our own wellness.
Are there skills you’d like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!