things to buy for your first apartment

After signing the lease, getting the keys, and scheduling your cable installation, everything else about renting seems easy. But wait — you need things to put in your apartment, don't you? Here's a handy guide to outfitting your place … without having to eat soup for a month.

Moving into your own place is an incredible feat: exciting, daunting, and probably very expensive if you're going it alone. All the more reason to have a checklist of things to buy for your new apartment — so you can plan based on your budget and your living space. We'll help you figure out what's vital to have in a new home, and how to get what you need without going broke.

take stock of what you already own

Even if you're starting out without any furniture when you're moving into your apartment, you probably have some possessions you'll be bringing from your last residence (your family home, dorm room, or even a friend's place).

make a checklist for every room

Furnishing an apartment is a big undertaking, and can be overwhelming if you don't have a game plan (and a strict budget). You can simplify considerably by making a list of things you need for each room, from chairs to light bulbs.

The bedroom

You can buy a lot of secondhand furniture safely, but one place where you don't want to skimp is your bed. Considering you spend roughly one-third of your life sleeping, you need a clean, supportive mattress. If you get a mattress used, even from a friend or family member, chances are it may have lost most of its support or pose a safety hazard (like those with aging steel coils).

With increasing awareness of bed bugs (another reason why people discard bed linens) and other health risks, other bedding to consider purchasing new includes:

  • Sheets and pillowcases
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Comforter/duvet cover

It's also wise to get a full-length mirror, either the kind that hangs behind a door (a smart way to save space in small apartments) or a stand-alone one. Plastic storage containers that slide under your bed or stack are smart buys, too, because they keep dust out and help make sense of (or hide) clutter. And even if you rely on your cell phone for an alarm in the morning, it's good to get a battery-powered alarm clock, just in case your phone dies or the power goes out.

If you've got a closet, consider a hanging shoe rack for extra storage. A dresser and nightstand are two pieces of furniture you likely need in a new place, too. Garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores have lots of affordable, unique options, especially if you need a break from assembling flat-pack furniture.

The bathroom

Apartments don't generally come with toilet brushes, plungers, or trash bins, which are everyday essentials to your bathroom needs. It's also smart to have a mop, bucket, and all-purpose cleaning solution, in addition to mold/mildew cleaners for the tub/shower.

The kitchen

When shopping for kitchen wares, you'll probably notice right away how expensive the basics can be. When it comes to trash cans, consider buying a mid-range model (not the cheapest, especially one without a lid) and quality garbage bags — to lock in rogue smells and spills.

Here are some kitchen items it's good to have from the start:

  • Cutlery, serving utensils, dishes, and glasses
  • Pots, pans (at least 2 non-stick pans), and cooking utensils
  • A can opener
  • A cutting board
  • A colander
  • Small appliances (like a toaster or blender, anything you'd need for everyday food prep)
  • Food storage bags and containers
  • Aluminum foil
  • At least one well-sharpened chef's knife
  • Sponges and dish soap
  • Pot holders and dish towels

The living room

When it comes to the living room, your first big purchase is probably a couch. If you don't have the money to buy new, asking a lot of questions about that used Craigslist couch, thoroughly inspecting it, and having it steam cleaned is a good move for new renters.

Because having a living room may be a luxury to begin with in many of the bigger cities, it's okay if it takes a while to furnish yours. But the following basics are good to have:

  • Seating for guests (this can mean floor cushions or side chairs if you're pressed for cash)
  • Bookcases — whether you have a lot of books or not, bookcases are a good catchall for electronic media, photo albums, and other odds and ends
  • A floor lamp
  • A coffee table and TV stand
  • A surge protector power strip

get creative with your stuff

You can always use toilet paper instead of tissues, just as you can use an old toothbrush to scrub your bath tub or shower if you don't have an abundance of cleaning tools. Basically, it's always a good idea to repurpose your stuff, even if you can afford lots of fancy gadgets and supplies.

protection for what you love

For everything you own, it's a wise choice to get renters insurance. It protects your everyday belongings (including that great stuff you've just bought), your liability, and even covers additional living expenses if a catastrophe forces you out of your apartment temporarily.

And now that you've furnished your new place, it's a good idea to take a thorough home inventory of your stuff in case you have hidden valuables in your home or ever need to file a claim after a covered incident.

Tenant rights
Learn more about all of your rights as a renter with our helpful guide to tenant rights.

Who pays for apartment repairs?
Find out which repairs your landlord is responsible for and which come down to you.

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