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When my then-boyfriend got me a cordless drill for my birthday, I opened its sleek plastic case with all the gasping, questioning, and blubbering usually reserved for a ring box.

9 Essential Tools for Apartment-Dwelling Hominids (and 5 That Are Kiiiiinda Useless)

Bitches, I have lovely news. My little brother just moved in with me!

He’s almost a full decade younger than me, and is graduating college a semester early. His final task before graduation is completing an internship, and it just so happens that he was accepted to one in my city. He’s crashing for the summer and filling the house with all sorts of dangerous new ideas. (Sports jerseys can be wall decor. WHO KNEW?)

Little brothers, man!

As my whole being pulsates with prideful big sister vibes, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like to be twenty-one and living in a city for the first time. If I could go back ten years, there’s so much I would tell myself to spare me time, heartache, and money. So if you notice a certain nostalgia creeping into my upcoming posts, that’s probably why!

I got tons of advice when I moved into my first apartment. Some friend or family member gifted me with the tiny toolbox I called Baby’s First Toolbox. It was the size of a slim binder and probably cost them $20.

And that $20 toolbox has saved me thousands of dollars over the last decade.

In the spirit of learning from the past and embracing the skills you need for the future, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite and least favorite tools for beginners. These tools assume you’re not super handy (yet), and that you have a very limited amount of both space and budget.

Every single tool on the first half of this list can be purchased for less than $10, and they’re among the most ubiquitous finds at garage sales. Ask your parents and grandparents if they have extras they would give to you—because I’ve learned that part of being an adult is magically acquiring one new screwdriver every two years?

I don’t know what’s up with that. It’s like the tooth fairy, but even lamer.

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This is the "caulk the wagon and float it" method for getting a promotion.

Santa Isn’t Coming and Neither Is Your Promotion

Some people are told there is no Santa Claus. Their dick cousin tells them, as vengeance for a lost game of Monopoly Junior. Or they saw Gremlins.

Others figure it out on their own. I was one of these. It took me eight years of cognitive development to get there. The physical impossibility and the logistical improbability pressed at my young mind, but the biggest question I had was one of motivation.

At eight years old, I had recently begun to understand money. I’d come to understand that one Breyer Horse was equal to approximately one thousand years of untouched allowance. I’d also begun my education in the concept of Stranger Danger. I had a newly honed ability to scrutinize adults for their intentions.

And I found myself wondering, “If this old man has such limitless wealth and power, what is his angle in using it to buy presents for children he’ll never meet?”

So I asked my parents, and they confirmed. “Yeah, that’s a thing adults made up to incentivize kids to conform to behavioral expectations,” they said, in so many words.

The thing is, Santa Claus is not an isolated incident. False or greatly exaggerated incentives exist everywhere to compel you to behave yourself. I’d like to talk about one of those false incentives today. The merit-based promotion is a comforting myth that took me thirty years to unravel. Much like with Santa, it was a rude awakening, but I’m much happier knowing the truth.

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My parents always treated the topic of investing the same way they did the topic of sex: knowledge to be imparted "when you're older."

Advice I Wish My Parents Gave Me When I Was 16

My parents meant so, so well. And they were so, so right about some things (the relative unworthiness of all teenage boys, for example). But there are a couple of things I’m kinda pissed they didn’t tell me about when I was 16 and on the cusp of making serious decisions about finances and the next several years of my life.

It’s not that they told me nothing, or even that they gave me horrible advice. But I feel like my time as a 16-year-old was the last year of my life before I was expected to make monumental decisions that would affect my financial future in really, really big ways. And that future could have been drastically different (and potentially better) if only they’d told me some key things that would have influenced my decisions about college, a career, and investing.

I brought receipts.

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Income inequality is a real thing. Let's start there.

How to Start at Rock Bottom

Income inequality is a real thing. Let’s start there. We are not all starting on a level playing field. In fact, some are actually starting at rock bottom.

Whatever way you define rock bottom, it’s a shitty place to start when envisioning your financial future. And it’s a frightening reality for many Americans. Giving advice about how my fellow college-educated Millennials can get ahead in their careers, defeat their student loans, and buy homes is all well and good, but it’s utterly useless advice for someone with no education, no family support, and no job prospects to speak of. It’s useless to those drowning in medical debt or responsible for supporting a family on a minimum wage salary. You can’t think about Step 1 when you’re currently at Step -37. Those living at rock bottom need to achieve a basic standard of survival before they can think about “getting ahead.”

One way to start at rock bottom—to survive—is by using a number of government social welfare programs. The purpose of these programs is to help those starting at rock bottom, or who find themselves at rock bottom due to drastic circumstances, to get back on their feet and working toward financial stability.

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