Cento’s Ultimate First Apartment Checklist

Your First Apartment Checklist: A guide for furnishing and decorating your first apartment on a budget

Graduation is just around the corner, which means you’re ready to go out into the world!

Whether you’re heading out to college with your fellow roommates or you just landed that new job, you’re getting ready to move into your first apartment. (Just make sure you use our Ultimate Moving Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything!)


Moving-Into-Your-First-Apartment Checklist

Nothing makes you feel like an adult more than moving out of your parents’ house for the first time. But you don’t have to do this on your own. Use this moving-into-your-first-apartment checklist to help you get settled in to your new home.

Remember, you’re just starting out, so there’s no need to break the bank. Start with a few first apartment essentials and move on to the extras after you’ve paid down some credit card debt and beefed up your savings account. We’ve also given you some tips about where you can save money and where you should spend a little more.

Congratulations on the new place! Here’s our ultimate first apartment checklist with everything you need to get settled into your new apartment.


Kitchen/Dining Roommodern eat-in kitchen

No matter what your living situation, everyone has to eat. Even if you don’t cook much, you’ll still need a few things to heat up microwave meals and stir your ramen.

Besides, if you have a well-equipped kitchen, maybe you’ll finally learn to cook more than boiled water.


  • Dishes (plates, bowls, glasses, mugs)
  • Utensils
  • Microwave
  • Can opener
  • Food storage containers
  • Coffee maker or tea kettle (Starbucks is an expensive daily habit!)
  • Cookware (pots, pans, baking sheet, cutting board, knife set, spatula, cooking spoons, mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons, oven mitts)
  • Foil, cling wrap, and zip-top bags
  • Hand/dish towels
  • Salt & pepper shakers
  • Spices
  • Groceries and pantry staples


  • Toaster oven
  • Food processor
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Serving platters
  • Utensil holder
  • Cheese grater
  • Pasta strainer
  • Crock pot

Where to Save

Dining table and chairs – You can find a sturdy set pretty much anywhere. (Your chairs don’t even have to match. Call it “farmhouse chic.”) You can always dress up a table with place settings, fresh flowers, or—if all else fails—a tablecloth.

Food storage containers – Reuse food containers from your latest shopping trip. Lunch meat, margarine, and whipped cream can all be found in sturdy tubs that you can wash out and reuse. Use some simple acetone to remove the old label if you want a clean look.

Where to Splurge

Dishes – It might be tempting to eat off paper plates, but an 18-piece set of plates and bowls will only cost you $25 or so at Ikea. You can use ceramic plates indefinitely, but a pack of paper plates will run out in a month or so (and clog up the landfill).

Microwave – If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you’ll be getting some serious use out of this thing. Make sure you go with one that can handle all the TV dinners you can throw at it.


Living Room

cozy couch in living room

Ahh, the living room! This is where it all happens: all your Netflix-ing, game nights, and post-work relaxing. The key here is “comfort.” Stick with whatever makes your new apartment feel like home.


  • Sofa
  • Coffee table
  • Blinds and curtains


  • End tables
  • Lamps
  • Area rug
  • Decorative items (pictures, candles, knick-knacks)

Where to Save

Rugs – Have you seen the price of a large area rug recently? Shop around online for a sale or call your local carpet store. They may have a remnant left over in a color and style you like. Have them bind up the edges and you’re good to go.

Artwork – No one expects you to buy an original piece for your first place. DIY some string art, pick up a quirky poster print on Society6, or hit up your local T.J. Maxx for a unique piece at a discount. You can even hang things on the wall that aren’t pictures: a scarf with a cool print, a guitar, a surfboard…you name it!

Where to Splurge

Sofa – It’s a major statement piece and a major investment. You want to be comfortable when you’re binge-watching the next big Netflix series. Plus, spending a few extra bucks for a quality piece will ensure that you won’t be replacing your sofa two years from now.



modern and minimalist bedroom

After a long day of work, school, and errands, your bedroom is a nice place to relax and wind down before a good 8-hour slumber. It’s also where you start a new day. And if you have roommates, it’s one of the only places you’ll get any “me-time.”


  • Mattress and bed frame
  • Sheets and blankets (at least two)
  • Pillows
  • Nightstand
  • Clothes hangers


  • Headboard
  • Mattress protector
  • Comforter/duvet
  • Decorative throw pillows
  • Alarm clock
  • Dresser
  • Desk

Where to Save

Bedroom furniture – As long as it does the job, it’s fine for now. Check out Walmart or Ikea or even Goodwill for cheap pieces that will keep your alarm clock off the ground. Crates, concrete blocks, and even trash cans can become cute, chic (and cheap!) nightstands.

Where to Splurge

Mattress – You spend roughly one-third of your life sleeping, and how you spend that time can either make or break your days. Life’s too short to suffer through your workday with an aching back.



modern white bathroom with his and hers sinks

The bathroom is not the most glamorous room in the house, but it’s definitely an important one.

Getting ready for the day (and washing it off) happens right here. Make sure you’re well-stocked for all of your daily needs so you’re not caught off-guard later.


  • Plunger
  • Toilet brush
  • Towels (bath and hand)
  • Shower curtain (liner, rings, and rod)
  • Toilet paper
  • Bath mats
  • Hand soap


  • Storage caddies and shelving

Where to Save

Shower curtain – You don’t need to buy a fancy one anytime soon. (Those things can run $30 or more!) Instead, go the hotel route and get a fabric shower curtain liner instead of the typical plastic one. You can even run it through the washing machine to keep it looking new.

Where to Splurge

Plunger and brush – Never skimp on anything that’ll be working this hard for you.

Toilet paper – Sure, 1-ply is cheaper, but you’ll be using so much of it, the savings will cancel themselves out. Besides, a good toilet paper makes for a much more luxurious bathroom experience.



broom mop and dustpan

Your mom was right…chores are part of being a responsible adult. From cleaning to home repairs, make sure you have all the supplies you need to keep adulting like a champ.


  • Vacuum
  • Cleaning supplies (multipurpose spray, detergents, toilet bowl cleaner)
  • Washer and dryer (if applicable)
  • Clothes hamper
  • Basic tool kit
  • Nails, screws, and wall anchors
  • Trash can and trash bags (for all rooms)
  • Sponges (one for the kitchen and each bathroom)
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • Batteries in various sizes
  • Flashlight
  • Extension cords
  • Light bulbs
  • Scissors
  • Pest control supplies
  • First aid kit


  • Dryer sheets
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing kit
  • Broom/dust pan (most vacuums have a “bare floor” setting you can use until then)
  • Mop
  • Dusters
  • Electric drill/screwdriver
  • Adhesive wall hooks
  • Step stool

Where to Save

Cleaning suppliesYou can make your own cleaning supplies that function just as well as the professional stuff for much cheaper.

Where to Splurge

Tool kit – You’ll be glad you spent a few extra bucks after you’ve started assembling all that Ikea furniture!

Vacuum – If you have carpet, expect to be using your vacuum pretty frequently. You’ll want to make sure it can stand up to all the use.


Where to Shop For Your First Apartment

credit cards in wallet

Ikea is a great place to find cheap furniture, but don’t forget to shop around! Ask your family and friends if they have anything they’d like to get rid of. Even something that’s not your style can be a functional placeholder until you can afford your own.

Garage sales, Craigslist, and the Facebook Marketplace are also good places to find cheap (or even free!) stuff. Just make sure to be safe if you’ll be meeting up with a stranger.

Rather get something new? Discount stores like Ross or T.J. Maxx have stylish, affordable inventory that changes all the time, so you won’t end up with the same lamp all your neighbors and friends have. Or check out the dollar store. For things that you don’t plan on keeping that long or using that often, why spend more than you have to?



Moving into your first apartment doesn’t have to break the bank. Even if you’re starting out with nothing but your personal possessions, you can still furnish a comfortable and stylish home on a budget. This first apartment checklist will help you create a comfortable, stylish living space on a new-grad budget.

By starting out with just the basics and knowing where to spend and where to save, you can build a home that you’ll be happy in for years to come…or until the lease is up. And when that time rolls around, make sure you hire a good moving company to take care of those investment pieces!

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