Budgeting/Living With Debt

30 Life & Money Goals I’m Working Towards In My 30s

By | Thursday, April 26, 2018

Last month, I celebrated my 32nd birthday. I’m not a big birthday person. My usual celebration is dinner at an upscale restaurant with the boyfriend and my folks, and then a girls’ night with a few glasses of bubbly. Birthdays do get me thinking about where I am and whether I’m happy. Reflecting on the good and the bad from the past year helps make sure I’m on the right track with my finances, my career, and my personal life, and set goals for the upcoming year. And because I’m a blogger, I figured hey, why not write a list of goals for your thirties for myself and you guys.

All of these are things I’m working on, so join me, and let’s nail this whole thirties thing.

1. Pay Off Debt

It’s time; debt was so last decade. Whether you have high-interest consumer debt or are plugging away at your mortgage, the goal is to eliminate as much of it as possible. If you have multiple sources of debt then you need to start with a plan. You can either snowball or avalanche it. Mortgage debt is less worrying for me, and I do put specific savings goals ahead of it, but even increasing your mortgage payment by $100 each month can make a big difference in how fast you’ll be able to pay it off in full. The best part of paying off debt is the freedom it gives you when it’s gone. All of sudden, you have all this extra money in your budget that you can divert to new areas that may need some attention.

2. Increase Savings

The opposite of debt is saving, and that’s making the list, too. Your thirties are likely the decade where you’re hitting your stride when it comes to your career, and with that comes better stability in your income. That means it’s time to put that income to work and start setting it aside for the future. Maybe you want to buy a home? Or fund your children’s education? Or take a cruise around the world? All those things need money. Make it your mission to start saving or increase the saving you are already doing.

3. Travel (Check Off That Bucket List Destination)

And now permission to spend! Do it the right way though. This is a list of goals for your entire thirties, so you have ten years to check things off your list. Follow step two and increase your travel fund so you can go on your dream vacation without going into debt. I’m a homebody, but I still love to travel, just not long-term. (I miss my pups!) There’s something special about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing a new culture. The bucket list trip I have on my list? The Czech Republic at the end of 2019 to watch the World Juniors.

4. Read More, Watch Less

I love TV as much as the next person, and have been known to lose entire weekends to a binge-watching session, but books are better. Reading gives your brain a workout in ways that TV never can, and it also improves your language and writing skills. Need some inspiration? Here are a few of my all-time favorite books:

5. Have (Or Change) Your Career Path

Us millennials are known for changing jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but by the time you reach your thirties, you do want to ensure you have consistent income coming in the door. Getting your parents to continually bail you out doesn’t have the same charm as it perhaps once did.

Figure out what it is you enjoy doing, and develop that into a career you can make work for you. You might be thinking that not working is what’s best for you. Okay, but then you need to figure out what you can do now to make that happen as soon as possible. There are so many unique opportunities out there to be an entrepreneur and earn a living by working for yourself. It’s not an easy path, but if you love it and put in the work, it is more achievable than ever. But, there’s also nothing wrong with working for “the man.” Some people (me) are a-okay working a typical office job if it’s for the right company.

6. Give Back

Find a charity you believe in and support them. This can mean monetary donations, but it can also mean giving your time through volunteering. You’ll get the feel-good effect of making a positive difference in the world, and it can help check your privilege. Enough said.

7. Start A Side Hustle

Earning extra income is always a good thing. And diversifying your income sources also gives you added security in case of a sudden job loss or emergency. How do you do that? Start a side hustle. Enjoy writing? Start a blog or seek out freelancing gigs. Love dogs? Become a dog walker or pet sitter. Always the designated driver? Drive for Uber or Skip the Dishes in your free time. You don’t have to bring in a ton of money. Any amount can help you check off other goals on this list.

8. Adopt a New Hobby

So far there have been a lot of goals that relate to money (it’s kind of my thing, if you haven’t noticed), but this one is just for the fun of it. Give yourself a nudge to try something new. It could be something crafty like knitting or painting, or you could learn a new skill like photography or speaking a new language. Hobbies can keep your brain sharp and can also be a great way to meet new people.

9. Cook More, Eat Out Less

Cooking at home is not only good for your wallet — it’s better for your health. You control what goes into your food, and it’s easier to tailor to specific dietary needs. Hate cooking? Me too! Luckily my partner doesn’t, so he takes over the kitchen most of the time, but I do have a few things I can handle making to cover the gaps. I’ve written a few posts on meal planning before (here and here), so check those out for my favorite recipes.

10. Be Active Regularly

Some people are really good about exercising, and others (me) are not. I know it’s important and it is absolutely one of my goals for my thirties to develop a more consistent routine.

11. Know How You Feel About Having Kids

This is a biggie for me, because it’s still a gray area. Up until recently, I always assumed I would have kids, but now I realize that’s likely not what I want. I figured there would be a shift at some point where I would have the desire to have children, but I’m still waiting. Considering I’m in my early thirties, I still have time to change my mind; that won’t last forever, though. By the end of this decade, I’ll need to know one way or another, and I’m certainly leaning towards no.

12. Connect With Friends (The Good Ones)

Friendships get weird as you get older. People change. They move, get new interests, have children, etc. and you can find yourself hanging out with people that you no longer have much in common with. It’s okay to let these people go. I know it can be hard to build new friendships in your thirties, but there’s no upside to continuing to connect with people you don’t have fun with. Commit to the friendships that make you the happiest.

13. Know What Works For You (Fashion, Makeup, Etc.)

I’m still a long way from being completely comfortable in my skin, but I do have a better feel for what does and doesn’t work when it comes to fashion and personal care. I used to be a trend-aholic. You know how every season new styles come out, and everyone jumps on them? That was me. The problem is that not all (not even most) styles worked for me. It’s way better (and cheaper) to only update one or two items and stick with your own set of basics. Same goes for makeup, skincare, and hair products. Find a system that works, and stop trying out new things. My skin is never better than when I stay consistent.

14. Save for Retirement

We already talked about upping your savings rate, but saving specifically for retirement deserves its own category. Even if you don’t have plans to retire early, I’m guessing you still want to retire at some point. Your sixties aren’t that far off anymore and the longer you can let your retirement savings grow, the better.

15. And have a Retirement Plan

Your thirties are also the time to start figuring out your retirement timeline. Do you want to retire before 50 or do you plan to stick it out until 65? Getting a financial plan completed will let you know if your goal is achievable and what you need to do to get there. Knowing exactly how much money you need to put away each month is extremely motivating and makes it that much harder to waste money elsewhere.

16. Say NO!

We all get pressured into doing things we don’t want to do. There’s no getting out of everything, but you are allowed to say no. When your schedule is stressing you out, and you need a break, don’t hesitate to turn down offers and take time to yourself.

17. Don’t Stop Learning

I already talked about the importance of working out your body, but you also have to work out your brain. Look for classes at your local library or community college, or you can find free online classes through platforms like Coursera. If you don’t want the commitment of a class, then at least pick up a book that will teach you something new.

18. See Your Doctor & Dentist Annually

Just do it.

19. Appreciate Your Parents

Spend time with your family. If you’re a millennial like I am, your parents are getting older and won’t always be around. Call your mom, ask your dad for advice, set up a weekly coffee date, or plan a trip if they don’t live nearby. Parents don’t expect huge gestures. Keep them in the loop, and let them be involved in your life.

20. Create an Estate Plan

Since you’re building assets in your thirties, it’s a good idea to make sure they are protected, especially if you have dependents. Getting your will, power of attorney, and personal directive in order can save your family a lot of grief if tragedy strikes.

21. Get Life Insurance

The younger you are, the cheaper your life insurance will be — that’s why it makes sense to get it now if you’re not already insured. If you have anyone in your life (spouse, children, dependent parents, etc.) who relies on your income, then insurance is not optional. Don’t get swayed but a sales pitch for whole or universal life insurance — all you need IMO is term. Nothing fancy, just good old fashioned term insurance. And if you already have life insurance, make sure it’s enough to cover your obligations.

22. Master the Art of Small Talk

This one is specifically for me. If you also have trouble socializing with strangers, then feel free to keep on your list, but I know it won’t apply to everyone. I don’t have advice on actually improving your small talk, as I said, I’m terrible at it, so feel free to share your tips in the comments. Maybe there’s a Coursera course or something!

23. Quality Over Quantity

Stop buying junk! Your home will be a happier place if you only bring in things you really love. That goes for clothes, food, home decor, and any other material possessions you buy.

24. Know Your Credit Score

You should be checking your credit annually, and if you’re not, then now is the perfect time to start. By pulling your credit report, you can ensure there is no incorrect data included. The last thing you want is to get rejected for a loan because of a mistake in your credit history. It can be a time-consuming process to fix and not something you want to deal with at the exact wrong moment.

25. Develop a Self-Care Routine

Give yourself permission to have some me-time. You don’t need to draw an Instagram worthy bath or splurge on a spa day; the important thing is establishing a habit that makes you happy.

26. Stay Informed

Part of being a good citizen is understanding what is going on in the world. We all have a political bias, but realizing that and keeping your mind open to new ideas will make you a heck of a lot easier to get along with. Try to find a source that doesn’t only focus on the bad. It could be your local news station, The Daily Show, or even Twitter. You don’t want to be the only person at the party who doesn’t know that {insert famous person here} just passed away.

27. Accept Yourself

I’m still working on it, but I like to think that your thirties bring out a new level of confidence. You start to feel like your life decisions make sense, and not everyone is so much further ahead. It’s amazing how what other people think matters less when you feel good about where you are in life.

28. Invest in Nice Sheets

If you get the recommended eight hours a night, you spend one-third of your life in bed. Make those hours the best they can be by investing in a comfortable mattress and high-quality sheets. In the winter, I’m all about flannel sheets, but the rest of the year I use these microfiber sheets because they’re soft, silky and affordable. I also started using a silk pillowcase because I heard it cuts down on frizzy hair, and I have noticed a difference.

29. Learn to Cope with Stress

There’s no way to eliminate stress completely. It is something we all have to deal with. However, understanding your triggers and having a few coping methods at the ready can make it that much easier. Maybe you need to chill in a hot bubble bath on the regular, or go to a boxing class to work out some aggression. We all handle stress differently, so find what works for you.

30. Promote Yourself

I saved the worst for last. Self-promotion has never been something I’ve excelled at (goes along with the whole being bad at small talk thing). Some people are fantastic at putting themselves out there…and I hate them for it. Not really (okay, just a little). Being in the age of the side hustle and social media, it is important to put your best face forward to drum up business in your endeavors. The one good thing about that is it’s much easier to brag about yourself from behind a keyboard than it is in public.


That’s it, phew! Thirty things I’m working to improve in my own life while I live out my thirties — and hopefully, you’ll be inspired to do the same.

Sarah is a Canadian personal finance blogger over at Smile & Conquer. She has been working in the world of finance for almost a decade and uses that experience to help other millennials get smart about their money.

Image via Unsplash

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