15 Items Every Adult Should Purchase in Their 20s

As an adult, there are definitive purchases that can have a positive impact on your life and future. We’ve created a list of the best purchases in your 20s to help you decide what items are worth saving for. Maybe you’ve already bought some of these items, or you’re deciding if an item is worth making room in your budget. Whatever the reason, check out these 15 recommended purchases and let us know if you agree in the comments!

1. Quality cooking tools & appliances

Now that you’re an adult, you have to feed yourself. While some fall into the trap of constantly spending money on eating out, we recommend you get the tools you need to cook at home. Quality kitchen tools last many years. Some even come with lifetime warranties! The tools you choose to buy will depend on your diet and cooking preferences. Here are some ideas.

  • Cast-iron cookware
  • Coffee machine
  • Slow or pressure cooker
  • Blender or food processor
  • One high-end knife
  • A few quality pots & pans

You don’t have to buy everything at once. You don’t have to buy everything new. But your 20s is the perfect time to curate the kitchen that inspires you to eat in, not out.

2. A reliable form of transportation

Reliable transportation can help you land a steady job and is a super practical purchase. While many young adults rush to buy new cars, there are other options. If you’re living in an urban area with great public transportation, consider investing in a monthly pass. If you need a car to survive in your geographical area, look for a reliable used vehicle. The goal is to know you can count on that transportation for many years to come.

Find out if you should buy new or used. Read our article, “New vs. Used Cars: Which Vehicle is Right for You?

3. Contributions to a retirement fund

Ever heard of compound interest? Starting to make payments towards a retirement fund early can help you take advantage of this powerful tool. It basically means that even if you contribute less money over a longer period of time, your returns will grow more than if you contributed more money in a shorter period of time. That’s why so many financial experts encourage people in their 20s to start investing in their retirement now.

Check out this compound interest calculator from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to see how much your money could grow by retirement.

4. An impressive interview outfit

We’ve all heard the saying – dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This methodology can also be applied to landing the job you want. Impress prospective employers by dressing the part. Shop for a suit at big box stores like Burlington Coat Factory, or even check local thrift stores. Getting an outfit tailored isn’t as expensive as you think, especially if you find a small local shop. This smart purchase can help you invest in your future by landing steady work with steady income.

5. A professional work bag and/or luggage

Along the same vein, employers won’t be impressed by your old college backpack. If you need to carry any work-related supplies into the office or on work trips, invest in a professional bag. Whether it’s a laptop bag, tote, or even carry-on luggage, a nice bag will make a great first impression. Not to mention that it will make you feel like you can take on the world!

6. Long-lasting home appliances

You often get what you pay for with home appliances. The cheapest option now may not seem so cheap when you have to replace it every year. A smart purchase could be a quality vacuum, or it could be a better window a/c unit. A better vacuum might make it more fun to regularly clean your apartment. A better a/c unit could lower your monthly electric bill. Spend money on items that will improve your daily life at home.

7. A quality mattress

Buying a new, better mattress has countless benefits. There are plenty of scientific studies that show it lowers stress levels, decreases allergies, eliminates back pain, and overall gives you a better night’s sleep. A good mattress can last a decade or longer. So, while it may seem expensive now – think of how many years you’ll get out of it! If your mattress has springs poking your back, it’s time to visit your local mattress store.

What you can expect to pay: $700-$1,800 for a mid-range mattress (Source)

8. Investments in your health

Preventative care now actually does prevent issues from developing down the road. It’s always smart to purchase items and services that improve your health. This could mean buying a gym membership (but only if you’ll actually use it) or signing up for fitness classes at the local community center. It could also mean paying for your annual medical checkups at the dentist or ob/gyn. Don’t forget to invest in your mental health as well.

9. Four good tires

Circling back to reliable transportation, if you bought a used car with crappy tires – buy new tires. Good tires will keep you safe on the road. Being safe on the road means less chance of an accident. Accidents are expensive, so tires are a good investment. These experts found that good tires can last about 60,000 miles or around 6 years based on your driving history.

What you can expect to pay: $400-$1,800 for four, new tires (Source)

10. Adopting an animal companion

Sometimes purchases aren’t about monetary value. If you love animals and are in a place where you can responsibly care for one, then adopting a pet is one of the best purchases you can make. Whether you want a dog, cat, bunny, bird, or even snake – there’s an animal out there for you. Check with local shelters and rescue groups to find the perfect companion. Just make sure if you’re living in an apartment to get the okay from your landlord.

What you can expect to pay: $35-$130 adoption fee for a cat and $75-$260 for a dog (York County’s SPCA) Note – this doesn’t count annual vet care, food, and other purchases associated with owning a pet. Pet Education estimates the annual cost of owning a cat is between $310 and $1,169.

11. Shoes & jackets that last longer than one season

The fashion industry makes their money from people repeatedly buying clothing month after month and year after year. It’s often a case where you get what you pay for in quality. Your 20s is the perfect time to start collecting pieces that can last longer than a season. This might mean a high-quality winter jacket or even work heels that you can wear every day. Make sure to scout for deals and even check thrift stores for donated high-end merchandise.

12. Protection for your digital files

What would happen if your laptop or phone suddenly died? Do you have important files and pictures saved in more than one place? Plan ahead and purchase protection for your digital files. This could be paying for a cloud storage service or even an external hard drive.

What you can expect to pay: $55-$140 is the range for external hard drives on Lifewire’s best of list.

13. Paying off debt

This may not be a glamorous purchase, but it’s one we highly recommend. If you’re currently saddled with high-interest debt, it can seriously cut into your monthly budget and hurt your credit score. Making a plan to pay off that debt will not only help you financially, it will also improve your confidence and self-esteem. It’s an all-around win!

It can be overwhelming to think about your debt, but we have some resources that will make the process easier to swallow. Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Debt Consolidation. Also – we created a calculator that plans out how to use the debt snowball strategy for your situation. See the debt snowball calculator here.

14. Investing in experiences

You know all of those cheesy quotes on social media about spending your money on travel and experiences? We agree! When you’re a young adult you often have the freedom to pursue new hobbies and travel to new places. If seeing the world is important to you, save up to go on a trip! If you’ve always wanted to learn how to salsa dance, save up to take lessons!

Invest in these new experiences to gain more than a monetary return. Experiences will contribute to your personal growth and can help you decide who you want to be as an adult. Just be smart about how you budget your money to do so.

15. Any purchase that triggers a ‘fork in the road’ decision

We left this category open-ended for a reason. Every young adult reaches a point where they have to make a ‘fork in the road’ decision. It’s different for everyone, but it often means jumping into the deep end financially and/or emotionally. It’s a scary prospect, but making the purchase can take your life in a different, better direction.

For example, you could finally take the leap to purchase your own home. Maybe you decide to go back to graduate school. Or perhaps you accept a job offer on the opposite side of the country and have to buy a plane ticket to move! These purchases drastically differ, but they all involve major life decisions. It can be easy to stay comfortable, but often it’s the big changes and purchases that can have the best impact on your adult life.

Are there any great purchases you’ve made in your 20s that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

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