Recipes: Cold smoked salmon

Even when life gets crazy, you still have to eat (hence all the food-focused posts lately). Today’s recipe is courtesy of my second mom, who taught me a bunch of my cooking and baking skills, and makes some of my absolute favorite recipes.

This one is super simple, and the best part is you don’t actually have to cook anything! As a disclaimer, I realize that salmon is a bit of a pricy ingredient, especially for budget-mindful emerging adults. But the rest of the recipe is inexpensive, and if you keep an eye out for sales — or shop at cheaper places like Costco — it can still be a cost-effective way to eat healthy. On the health note, whenever you can, try to buy wild-caught salmon that doesn’t have color added (and hasn’t been frozen if available). Farm-raised salmon are often less healthy, and the farms frequently have bad environmental impacts.

Also general reminders to practice food safety with meats, including washing your hands with soap before and after handling it, and storing it in the fridge at all times.

With all that said, let’s dive in!


  • 1.5 lbs. raw salmon (it’s okay if it has skin, but boneless is better)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (if you can’t find pickling salt, it’s okay to use sea salt or kosher salt that has no additives or anti-caking agents)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke



  1. Rinse off the salmon, and pluck out any bones if it has them (a small pair of pliers is actually best for this, check out how here). I was under the false impression that I needed to remove the skin too, but you can avoid the time and hassle I spent and leave it on until later.
  2. Mix together the pickling salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub the mixture all over the salmon, and put the salmon in a sealed container with any extra mix. I used a *super fancy* gallon Ziploc bag, but you can also use a baking dish and saran wrap. It just needs to have a tight seal.IMG_5504
  4. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. I’d recommend somewhere in the 36-hour zone, but 24 is the minimum and you can always go 48 to play it safe. This process basically cures it, and the salt and sugar sink into the meat making a cool chemical reaction that means you don’t have to cook it. IMG_5505
  5. After salmon has cured, take it out of the fridge and rinse well. (Pro tip: If you left the skin on til now, you should be able to pull it off at this point.)
  6. Rub 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke over fish, and place it in a clean sealed container. (Note: There are other ways to smoke it, but I promise this one is the easiest. Google the fancy ones if you feel like.)
  7. Refrigerate for another 24 hours, then remove and rinse thoroughly.
  8. Enjoy!

Cost varies*, makes about 6 servings

*Cost mostly depends on how much the salmon costs. I got mine on sale for $8/lb., which means I spent about $12 on the salmon. I also had to buy the pickling salt and liquid smoke, but each ingredient will last me several more uses. Total ingredients used besides the salmon cost about $2, and with the salmon it was about $14.

I’ve been adding the smoked salmon to my morning bagel for bagel and lox, but you can also have it with a sandwich, in a salad, or solo with other side dishes!

Things I’d change next time: I really wish I’d bought boneless salmon, and that I hadn’t tried to filet it to remove the skin before curing it. I also think I may have left it in the liquid smoke a bit too long, but overall I’m happy with the first effort.

What are your favorite no-cook dishes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!


Psst… You don’t have to love meal prep

Confession: I hate meal prepping. I don’t mean chopping vegetables and seasoning meat before I actually cook my food. That part I enjoy. I mean cooking enough food for 4-7 meals, packaging it separately, and then eating it throughout the week. I’ve tried it. It annoys the heck out of me.

Of course, the problem that it’s trying to solve is good. Cooking for one person sucks. I’m used to cooking for a whole family, or at least a decent group of friends, which means making enough food for 4-6 people and often having a little leftover. It’s easy to cook that way, and I’m happier to put effort in because it isn’t just for my sake.

When I’m cooking for just me, it’s harder to portion things, a lot of effort for just one person, and can lead to extra expense or wasting ingredients. To avoid that, the lazy thing to do is to eat lazy food like frozen meals and takeout, which are often unhealthy and are usually also more expensive than normal cooking. Hence — especially since emerging adulthood often means we’re cooking solo and short on funds — meal prep.

But I have been forced to realize that I simply will not eat more than 2 (maybe 3) portions of what are effectively leftovers. I don’t like leftovers, and that’s a very privileged problem to have, but here we are. However, part of the issue is that I don’t like anyone telling me what I have to eat, including past me. And while I’m willing to eat the same thing frequently, three dinners in a row is too much.

Which, of course, presents a problem. To which I am currently trying out what has (so far) been an effective solution. I present to you: partial meal prep. What I mean by that is that I go to the store, buy a number of ingredients that are an A+ in the mix-and-match department, do all the washing and chopping ahead of time, and then package them up and put them in the fridge/freezer/whatever. This way, I have options where I still get to choose the details of what I’m having and do the final stages of putting it together (rather than just reheating it). But all my options are fairly healthy and I’ve taken some of the work out of the process.

So far, this has mostly been with fruits and veggies because like most of us I know I need to be eating more of them. I bought a bunch of salad ingredients I actually like, prepped them, and then when it’s time to eat I just pick whichever ones I’m feeling like and make a salad that actually tastes good.

I’ve also been pre-cutting and packaging berries so that I have those as a snack at home or at work instead of chips or bread or other things I already eat enough of. I’m still working on incorporating more proteins, but have at least separated some meats into smaller portions sizes in the freezer so when I cook it it’s a couple rounds of leftovers and I don’t end up wasting food.

Of course, if the full meal prep thing works for you, go for it. But if you’re like me and are prone to food boredom, then this is a good halfway point to help out your health and your wallet without making a week’s worth of dinners in one go.

What have you found most helpful when cooking for one person? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

So you’re burnt out. Now what?

It is only Wednesday and I feel like I have already had a full week. I had a fantastic weekend visiting some of my grandparents, but was still a bit travel-tired going into the work week. And then the work week exploded. Or imploded. Whichever you prefer.

I’ve been nonstop busy at my job, putting in extra hours on tight deadlines and praying I haven’t made a mistake somewhere. A freelance project that’s been slow-moving completely ramped up in its final stages, and long story short it was 1 a.m. yesterday (technically today) by the time I felt like I could really take a breath.

The feeling sucks. And I want to clarify that this is brought on mostly by good things, that other people of course handle more, and that I know I’ve handled more. That perspective helps some. But it doesn’t extend my deadlines or get my projects done, nor does it make my stress dissipate like a summer haze. The fact is — even if you love what you do and life is generally good — some days are going to get to you. Things are going to go wrong, your to-do list will pile up, and there will be some final straw that makes it feel like Murphy’s law is out to get you. You’re going to feel burnt out.

Unfortunately, it seems like many of us emerging adults are crap at handling burnout. Some of that is having not developed skills; but it isn’t helped when the expectation for success is to have a 4.3 high school GPA with sports and volunteering to get into a good (expensive) college and have the time of your life while also studying and doing multiple internships to have a job right when you graduate so you can put in 50-hour weeks and support yourself and make new friends and work and start saving for retirement.* But it doesn’t have to be that intense — even small seasons of stress can lead to brief burnouts. The good news is that it isn’t permanent.

If you can, take a day off. If you can’t, or are realizing that your burnout has settled in more deeply than what one day off can fix, there are still things you can do. The important thing is to remain conscious of how you’re holding up without hyperfixating on it to the point of making it worse (which I have a tendency to do if I’m not careful).

Life doesn’t slow down, so the first step is to simply keep going. Draw temporary motivation from commitment or spite or stubbornness if the goodness of your heart isn’t getting the job done. (Of course, make sure that your actions toward others are kind no matter where you’re pulling motivation from.) If you just needed a little dogged effort to push through, great.

If you’re still feeling burnt out, try to incorporate things that make you feel more you where you can. Maybe that’s going for a walk or listening to music or carving out time for a hobby. I try to make sure that I spend a little time outside every day and that I take a break for my meals instead of working through them. If things are particularly rough, I might step outside or default to a playlist that gets me through.

If it persists, know that it’s okay to consider taking something off your plate. Your friends and family are there to support you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Figure out a way to shift your routine once the grueling season is over. After my worst semester of college I spent more than a month almost entirely alone, and while I no longer have any desire to be a hermit, it was the reset I needed to get out of the funk I’d been in for months.

And, as always, it’s also physical. Pay attention to how your body responds when you get stressed or overwhelmed. My boyfriend recently pointed out the extent to which I force tension I’m feeling mentally or emotionally into my shoulders, so now when I’m stressed one of the first things I do is relax them. Sleep is good for you. I promise. Drink water and take deep breaths. Just get up and stretch for a minute if your work is mostly sedentary. Way too often we ignore the physical consequences of stress, and being nice to your body can take some of the sting out of stress, which helps fight burnout.

What ways do you avoid burnout, or recoup after a stressful season? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


*If you’re an emerging adult, you probably know that person (or are them). If you’re not an emerging adult and that scenario sounds far-fetched, it’s pretty average among my peers.

Income talks

What socioeconomic class would you place yourself in? How much do you make compared to your coworkers or other people with your job? A lot of us are uncomfortable thinking about answers to these questions, and some people refuse to discuss them at all. It’s understandable. Your money is your business, and thinking you have or make significantly more or less than our peers can be awkward.

But I’m going to push the envelope a little here: Avoiding talking about income isn’t helpful.

Reason 1: Not talking about income allows us to lose perspective on the reality of large-scale socioeconomics. Feeling broke is different than truly being broke. Emerging adults are a little notorious for feeling — and sometimes being — broke. Some of us aren’t able to work while in school full-time, and the U.S. national average of student loan debt for the Class of 2016 was $17,126. That is, frankly, a ton of money. A lot of us are dealing with minimum wage or entry-level jobs, which often means a limited income. Sometimes ramen is all you can afford until the next paycheck comes.

But perspective is important. When we lose perspective, we risk becoming blind to the needs and realities of people around us. Think for a minute — what socioeconomic class would you say you (or your family) are in? My guess is a whole lot of people would answer middle to upper-middle class. In the U.S., you’re probably right. (Check here to see.) What about globally? According to Pew Research, here are the per capita socioeconomic breakdowns as of 2011:

  • Poor: less than $2 per day
  • Low Income: $2.01–10 per day
  • Middle Income: $10.01–$20 per day
  • Upper-Middle Income: $20.01–$50 per day
  • High Income: more than $50 per day

The median annual household income in the U.S. is $51,915 as of 2013.* Globally, it’s $9,733.

Of course, purchasing power differs with region, not just time. What I can get for $5 in California is different than what I can get for $5 in Copenhagen, which is different than what I can get for $5 in India. The cost of living is *ahem* not low here (nor is it the highest in the world). To balance the numbers a little more, consider that the global low income threshold is 41% of the U.S. threshold, while the global median income is 19% of U.S. median income.**

Reason 2: Not talking about income holds people back. To collectively move higher, we’ve got to help each other out. One of the most interesting patterns that has surfaced with the rise in folks demanding equal pay for equal work and speaking out against unreasonable income disparities is that oftentimes those disparities persist because people have no idea that their pay is significantly different from a coworker or counterpart.

There have been a number of stories about this issue coming up in Hollywood recently, and while I would never suggest taking life lessons from Hollywood willy nilly, I love that a number folks are being more open about discussing pay so they can try to ensure that those in similar job roles aren’t being paid unfairly compared to their peers.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life too. At an old job, a few of us realized the discrepancy in our compensation seemed like more than the basis of rank or responsibility. It turns out, the ones making more were doing so because they had asked to. Knowing how much work I was doing, I felt a boost in my own pay was appropriate, and asked my bosses what we could work out (they responded well and we worked out a deal everyone was happy with). But following that, I made sure to tell coworkers in similar spots that they could consider asking for more, and shared what I made for reference as appropriate.

Of course, if you’re not able to talk to coworkers or peers about income, you can always start by researching the average pay or pay ranges for the job you have or are aiming for. (Pro tip: This can vary widely by region, so make sure to include that in your search.)

The goal here is not to be a downer, and I realize that everyone’s situation is different. But since I started learning more about these topics in the last few years, I’ve tried to keep a larger picture in perspective and be mindful of where I am within it, make sure I’ve done my research so I’m being paid fairly, and when possible to speak up so that I can help ensure other people I know are also being paid fairly. It’s a big, intimidating, adult-ish kind of responsibility, but it’s one that I’m really proud to be working toward.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned about income? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


*The median household income for the U.S. increased to $56,516 as of 2016, but it would have been statistically irresponsible to compare data from different years, and 2013 was the most recent global data I could find.

**The math on that: Less than $10 per person per day is considered low income. Breaking down the worldwide median annual income for a family of 4 and 260 working days (which is the U.S. standard, and not necessarily applicable to poorer regions/occupations), that’s $9.36 per day per person, which makes even the rough median estimate qualify as low income. In comparison, the threshold for low income in the U.S. is about $22.72 per person per day, which means that the global low income threshold is 41% of the U.S. threshold, while the global median income is 19% of U.S. median income (all based on Pew Research data).

(Photo credit goes to the ever-wonderful Megan T.)

How to eat vegetables and not hate it

I get it. As an emerging adult, you get to be the boss of you. Dobby is a free elf, yada yada. Most of the time, it’s really nice being able to decide what you want to do with your free time and when, how long you can ignore your laundry, decorating a place the way you want, and eating what you want. The less fun part is when you also have to be your own parent. Which, unfortunately, has to occasionally include eating vegetables.

If you like vegetables, awesome. This will be way easier. If you like vegetables and actually eat them frequently (caught some of you there), then please remind me to eat my veggies. Because I’m definitely not the best at this.

Of course, you are an adult, and no one — except potentially your family — can force you to eat vegetables. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you what you should do. You should think of your future self, current self, and overall health and longevity goals, and realize that eating healthily is probably a significant component of that. Lots of foods are good for you: fruits, whole grains, proteins, dairy in reasonable portions, etc. Even small portions of sweets and alcoholic drinks can be beneficial, especially with letting go of stress. (Note I said small portions, and indulging inconsistently helps prevent such things from becoming a habit.) But of course, veggies are the ones we often have a problem with.

Don’t get me wrong. I think some vegetables suck. You physically cannot make me eat zucchini, and I have enjoyed cauliflower exactly once. I think kale is horrifyingly bitter, and don’t understand why anyone bothers with eggplant — ever. So if there are a few veggies you really can’t stand, don’t feel obligated to eat those ones. Take a look at what nutrients they’re rich in and find alternative sources.

But it’s probably a good idea to find some veggies you like. Or at least, like well enough. Here are a few ways to make your veggies suck less, and suggestions for which ones are ideal when prepared that way.

Raw. If you’re really into eating your veggies raw, more power to you. As a kid, I would only eat vegetables raw, and frankly it’s really easy. Just wash them off, cut them up if you want to, and enjoy!

Best for: celery, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers

Roasted. Vegetables roasted in the oven (or sautéed in a pan) can be awesome, and it helps keep them interesting — especially if you add seasonings or toss them in a little olive oil. It also opens up options of veggies that, frankly, most people aren’t into eating raw.

Best for: squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, bok choy, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, onion

Salad. If you’re anything like me, salad usually feels boring. Good news! It doesn’t have to be. Spice up your salads with more varied ingredients, including things that *gasp* aren’t veggies. Nuts, croutons, meat, whatever. I love salads that also include cheese and fruit, like berries or avocados.

Best for: leafy greens (kale, arugula, lettuce, baby spinach, etc. — there are seriously so many), carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, onion, radishes

Steamed. This is actually my favorite way to have vegetables. Plop them in a pan of water so they’re 1/4 to 1/3 covered, bring it to a simmer, cover and let them steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on what vegetable and how much.

Best for: broccoli, carrots, artichoke (cook this one longer!), green beans, cauliflower

Grilled. Not just for your burgers. Throw a couple on a barbecue (or a cast-iron skillet preheated in the oven) until they get a little tender, and enjoy.

Best for: asparagus, bell peppers, artichoke

Sneak ‘em. If the taste — or I guess, appearance — of vegetables is truly horrid to you, you can always sneak them into other things you’re eating. Mix a few veggies into a well-seasoned stir fry or stew, add a couple into a smoothie, or even purée them and add them into a sauce. Personally, I like to face my vegetables head-on, but this has worked really well for other people I know.

Best for: carrots, dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets, onion or most peas (for stir fry/stew)

Often some of the biggest issues when people don’t like vegetables are that they’ve only had overcooked or under-seasoned ones, or they haven’t tried enough to find some they like. I’m often lazy about it, so if they aren’t easy to prepare I usually won’t eat them — at least not on my own. But I happen to love carrots, broccoli, and green beans, so I’ll often steam those up to add to a dinner and boost its healthfulness.

I realize this is not an exhaustive list of veggies, and that none of the cooking instructions here were very specific, but Google is your friend, and so are recipe sites like Allrecipes and Epicurious. One of my goals is to try eating a bit healthier, which starts with more fruits and vegetables.

What are some of your favorite veggie dish? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo, since I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while and didn’t have enough veggies around. Oops!)

Kindergarten 2.0

Sometimes life’s parallels are uncanny. Okay, so maybe emerging adulthood doesn’t look quite like the kindergarten playground, but it can feel like it. Lots of things are new, you’re thrust into a flurry of activity you may or may not be prepared for, and oh yeah — you have to make friends.

This is probably the thing that has been most difficult for me since graduating college and leaving the relative safety of the education world. Of course, school has a lot of risks and challenges and lots of people you don’t want to be friends with, but at least there are a ton of potential opportunities built into your daily schedule.

Once school’s out, not so much. For the 8ish months after graduating college that I was living with my parents, I was back in the same place I grew up, so luckily I had a couple of old friends and familiar places to go back to. Still, the majority of my friends were far away, so being able to see them was a trip that had to be planned instead of just a door that had to be knocked on. Since I moved out and started working full-time, it’s been a bit more challenging.

The good news is I’m good friends with the people I live with, but my nearby friend count outside of that is pretty much zero. My coworkers are all kind, and a few in particular are really easy to chat with over lunch or during a lull in the work day. But because for the most part people are working autonomously and on something different than you, you’ve got to go much more out of your way to develop friendships out of acquaintanceships.

I’m an introvert. I like people, and enjoy friendships and being social, but initiating that is a beast I’ve never been fond of. I met my best friend because we had a mutual friend, got to know my boyfriend because he sat next to me in class, and made my best friend in college because we lived in the same dorm and then worked together. Proximity is a huge help in forming friendships, especially proximity with downtime.

Now that we’ve established all that, this is usually the part where I have some helpful advice. I have to admit I’m still struggling with this one, so my advice is painfully limited, but these are the things I have found helpful:

  • Find the kid coloring the same picture as you. In other words, find a group or activity outside of work and home where you can meet people with mutual interests. I recently started going to a new church, and am hoping to connect with folks as I invest time there, as well as find a place to volunteer semi-consistently.
  • Share your snacks. Everything is easier over food. Ask coworkers out to lunch, or say yes when they ask you. I’ve brought in treats for the office just to be a positive presence, and as an easier excuse to say hi to folks than just randomly meandering up to their desk.
  • Don’t cry. Tell the voice in your head to calm the heck down. Your acquaintances are probably not avoiding you or whispering behind your back, so please try not to worry about it.
  • You know, be friendly. Ask about things people care about, listen attentively, and remember what they say. Having a vested interest in someone’s life — even if it’s just for the sake of conversation — will create the opportunity for friendships to form.

Okay guys, that’s it. That’s all I got. However, I would absolutely love to hear suggestions on what you’ve found helpful for making friends in new places because I need all the help I can get. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

International Women’s Day

I had a post all prepped for today, but upon remembering that tomorrow is International Women’s Day, knew that was what I had to talk about. Though it’s been observed by some since the early 1900s, technology and social movements have boosted its prominence in recent years.

Women are an amazing, impressive, phenomenal part of humanity. I actually wish we didn’t need a special day to recognize those qualities, or to acknowledge the challenges that so many women face every day. But sometimes the reminder is helpful.

I am grateful beyond words for all of the amazing women in my life, and everyone who supports them. I have a sister, two moms, best friends who might as well be sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers, and peers who have shown me how resilient we can be, how tenacious, how compassionate. Who have shown me that a person can be both gentle and strong. Who have reminded me that opportunities are meant to be sought after — or created if need be. Who have picked me up and held my hand and stood by my side. Who have pushed me to be better. Who have taught me not to take crap from anybody. Who have chosen kindness and perseverance when it would have been so much easier to be less. Who go the extra mile because it’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, injustices still creep into a broken world. I refused to wear dresses for years when I was small because some boys had laughed at me and convinced me that being girly was a bad thing. I was 7 and outraged when I realized the Constitution and Declaration of Independence only said “all men” (and then horrified when I learned it didn’t even mean all men). As an adult, I try not to walk alone at night, don’t walk with headphones in, try not to have my hair in a ponytail when I go for a run. I have friends who are expected to cook, clean, and work for no other fact than that of being female. I have been in homes where women are not allowed to be equal shareholders. I have been in churches where women speaking was scandalous. I am saddened when the stories of women who changed the world were overlooked, and embarrassed that I didn’t go looking for them.

I don’t lament my experiences — but I don’t want my little sister, my young friends, or anyone in the generations to come to have to be told that they are lesser, to be threatened, to be put down, to be pushed aside, to be hurt senselessly. We still have work to do. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re nothing less than wonderful. No one is perfect, of course. But you’ve got potential and worth and, I hope, ever-increasing opportunities.

None of us got here without remarkable women. If you are a woman, I hope you start to understand how remarkable you are. It took me until well into emerging adulthood to start valuing myself the way I should, and I cannot say thank you enough to the women and men who helped me do that. I hope we use this moment to appreciate the women in our lives for not just all they do, but all they are, and keep working toward a future that prioritizes equity and common humanity.

What is something the women in your life have taught you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy International Women’s Day!

The future doesn’t save for itself

Recently a friend asked me about how much I typically save per month, just to get perspective from someone else. I had a rough idea, but when I looked at the numbers realized I’ve actually been saving a little more than I even thought. Of course, most emerging adults feel pretty broke, and the prospect of being able to afford huge purchases like a house can feel nigh impossible. So sometimes the goal is just to be, you know, less broke.

Noting all of that, I thought it might be helpful to share some savings tips and tools that I’ve found helpful. But let’s start this off with a couple of clarifying facts:

First, there is no “right amount” to be saving other than as much as you can without creating unnecessary strain on your current financial situation. Whether that’s spare change or more than half your income, do what you can. You’ve got to start somewhere, and saving even a little will mean you’re better off down the road.

Second, I am not the expert on this. I wasn’t serious about saving until I started getting serious about my finances, which (unfortunately) was in the later part of college. I never had insane spending habits, but it took me too long to start being proactive about saving. Once I was serious about it, I got really serious. In the 8-month stretch between graduating and getting hired full-time, I saved like a maniac. At least 75% of what I earned — and more when I could manage it — got saved.

Now that I don’t have to pinch pennies quite so hard, this is my plan:

  • A static emergency fund of 3-6 months’ expenses (it’s currently at about 4 months, and I’m working on building it up). This fund is not to be touched except for emergencies, and just sits in my savings account until I should need it.
  • At least 30% of my monthly income into general savings, more whenever possible. This is a catchall pot that can be used for emergencies if necessary, but ideally will keep growing until major milestone purchases come up down the road.
  • 6-7% of my monthly income goes to repair/replacement savings, specifically for my car and furniture (though it’s in the same savings account as everything else). You don’t want the refrigerator going out to keep you from paying rent.
  • About 2.5% of my monthly income goes to “gift savings,” basically so that I set a little money aside every month and then when birthdays and Christmas comes around I’m set instead of stressed.

In total, roughly 40% of my income gets saved, plus I have the emergency fund. I realize that’s a way hefty number for some people. While saving should never be an afterthought, it should also never outrank a roof over your head and food on the table. But if you’re treating yourself more often than you’re setting money aside for the future, it’s time to reassess. Here are some ways to help:

Set a savings goal. I can’t emphasize this one enough. If you’re just saving to save, there’s less motivation to do it well. If you’re saving for something, or to a certain amount, you’ll be more likely to remain committed to the plan.

Invest, or at least get interest. If you’ve got a big chunk that doesn’t need to be touched soon, invest it in safe stocks/mutual funds that show consistent appreciation over time. (Pro tip: Appreciation means it grows in value.) If you don’t have a lot or want to be able to access it quickly (called “liquidity”), then at least throw it in a savings account. It won’t make you money per se, but it will at least keep it from losing value due to inflation.

Rule of 5s. Every time you get a $5 bill (or a $1, or a $10, up to you), that gets saved. My grandma does this, and especially if you deal in cash fairly often it can add up quickly.

Make technology your friend. Set up your bank account to automatically transfer a certain amount into your savings every month, or use a savings app like the ones that round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the change into your savings account.

Save what you spend. Anytime you spend money on a non-necessity (groceries are a necessity, eating out is not, etc.), put the same amount or even half that amount into savings. This one requires some discipline not to fudge what is or isn’t a necessity, but can help curb spending while also adding to savings.

Budget the fun stuff. The less complicated but more intense version of the preceding tip is to just don’t buy stuff you don’t need, but it kind of sucks. The best compromise is to set a budget for what you’re allowed to spend on fun stuff, and save whatever extra you have beyond that.

Immediately save any unexpected funds. Tax refunds, gifts, or any other money that comes to you apart from regular income can go straight to your savings. If that bums you out, think about it this way: it’s money you wouldn’t have had otherwise, and since it’s extra you can afford to save it! Your future self will thank you, I absolutely promise.

Saving can be a little bit of a painful and slow process, but getting set up for the future is smart, even if boring. What tools do you use to save? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!