Whether it's moving in with roommates or striking out solo, a first apartment is a taste of freedom. Unfortunately, even when rented in an ideal city, an apartment also comes with real-world expenses. Putting down a security deposit, paying for rent and utility bills, and buying furniture and essentials can add up fast. Read on to find out what items to prioritize, and what can probably be skipped (for now) to save some cash.
It's where most people relax after work and entertain, so it's required for any "grown-up" pad. For ease of cleaning, try a stain-resistant microfiber as a durable alternative to leather or wool. To keep to a budget, look at Ikea, West Elm and Target for something stylish but budget-friendly-- just be sure to visit the store and try out a purchase this big before buying.
There's a reason accent chairs are often called "occasional chairs" -- they're used sparingly, typically by guests. If hosting more people than can fit on the couch, consider a cheap set of folding chairs that can provide extra seating. A colorful pouf or storage ottoman can also work in a pinch, add personality to a room, and pull double-duty as a side table.
It's a place to kick your feet up, dump the mail, stash your laptop -- a coffee table wears a lot of hats. HGTV recommends choosing something a couple inches lower than your couch to comfortably allow propping up your feet. Also consider a table with a shelf underneath for extra storage.
Many apartments include a bar area that's perfect for eating -- just pull up a stool. Not lucky enough to have a built-in eating area? A coffee table can suffice for a while. But if your budget allows for some sort of table, stretch your dollars by choosing something multi-functional or expandable. My First Apartment recommends several budget-friendly options that can double as desks or offer additional kitchen storage.
Headboards can definitely make a room feel pulled together, but they're pricey -- even Ikea's basic wood options start around $100. They don't serve much of a practical purpose unless you must have something comfy to lean against, perhaps while reading in bed. Grab a pillow or two instead.
If you're charging your phone or tablet overnight, it's best to keep devices close at hand. A nightstand keeps technology and other necessities close by and provides a spot for a small reading lamp. No room in the budget? Try a DIY nightstand -- everything from old wooden crates to a stack of magazines can do the trick -- or shelving for a tight space.
A nightstand is a bedroom essential, but between a coffee table and kitchen counters there's plenty of surface area for stashing belongings without cluttering the floor. Can't resist a few cute tables? Try nesting tables for their versatility in a small space.
In apartments with overhead lighting, those lights might be too harsh for a low-key evening or too dim for reading. A floor lamp can be a powerful, versatile additional lighting source, especially if it has multiple lights like the Threshold tree floor lamp from Target. Supplement it with task lamps for a desk or a bedside table as necessary.
Well-designed table lamps can add personality to a space, but they're generally a little too dim to be a main light source -- they're primarily accent lighting. As their name suggests, table lamps require some sort of table to call home. Skipping end or accent tables to save money or space? Skip the table lamps, too.
The Simple Dollar recommends just three pieces for your first place: A large pot (like a stock pot) a smaller pot (such as a sauce pan) and a skillet. Between the three, it's possible to scramble eggs, boil water for pasta, or manage just about any other basic cooking task. Non-stick is the best bet for easy cleanup.
If you'll be eating out a lot or cooking for one, unless you'll hosting Thanksgiving dinner is in the books more than a few pots and pans is overkill. True gourmands who can't resist a complete cookware set should check out these recommendations for budget-friendly sets under $80.
It's time to pitch those red Solo cups and paper plates in favor of some real dinnerware. At minimum, get full place settings for four -- even those dining alone can go a couple days without doing dishes. Need a brand recommendation? Corelle dishes are known for being inexpensive, easy to stack, and essentially bulletproof.
Even if you plan to hold a dinner party or two, large platters, pitchers and other pieces fit for entertaining are expensive, and they will take up a ton of real estate in your cabinets. Hold off on investing in serving dishes until you have a little more money and space to get pieces that can last a lifetime.
Don't want to stand on your bathroom counter to see how an outfit looks? A floor-length mirror is worth the investment. Target has a handy, over-the-door mirror for $15. For a splurge, consider a mirror with a nicer frame like the Ikea Mongstad that can serve as a décor piece in your living room and make the room look larger.
Spoiler alert: Custom framing that oddly-sized poster will be ridiculously expensive -- possibly hundreds of dollars. If a few years down the road you're still in love with it and have a little more cash to spend, go for it.
Curtains may not feel necessary if the apartment comes with blinds, but a good set of curtains can help regulate the temperature in your new place, so they may actually save money on utility bills. Like throw pillows, they can also add pizzazz to an otherwise plain space. Thermal or light-blocking panels start at just $10 each at Target.
Like curtains, rugs visual appeal and make a space feel cozier. But consider holding off, especially if the new pad has wall-to-wall carpet. Quality rugs are pricey, and if your decorating taste changes your investment won't feel quite so wise. Still want to take the leap? Consider budget-friendly, natural fiber options like jute instead of expensive wool.