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First Apartment Essentials: 13 Things You Need for Your First Apartment

first apartment essentials
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Disclosure: The following product(s) may have been sent to Earn Spend Live in exchange for a review. All opinions are the author’s own.

Moving into your first apartment is a scary, albeit exciting time. You’re officially on your own, and you get to choose where to spend your money and how to furnish your new home; everything from the artwork on your walls to the amount of clutter you accumulate is all up to you and only you. So where do you start for your first apartment essentials?

We’ve put together a checklist for you to cover all of your first apartment essentials as well as the extras. These are the things you need for your new apartment.

Bedroom Essentials


first apartment essentials - mattress

NECTAR Sleep Mattress

You’ll spend about 25 years over your lifetime sleeping in your bed. IDK about you, but I want to make sure those 25 years are spent on something as comfy as possible — so I say a mattress is the number one thing you need to splurge on when you get your own place.

That being said, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a Tempur-Pedic mattress to have a quality place to sleep. NECTAR Sleep Mattress is a new memory foam mattress, ranging from $500-$900 and available in every size from twin to California king. I have the queen size, and it’s like sleeping on a firm cloud. Plus, NECTAR provides some pretty amazing perks: they have a “forever warranty,” as well as a “365 Nights Free Trial” — so if you don’t like your mattress within the first year, NECTAR will literally come to your door and pick up the mattress, free of charge.

I love my NECTAR mattress, and I would recommend it to everyone in my life — especially my fellow 20-somethings. To learn more about NECTAR mattresses, read my full review here!

Use our code ESL 125 to receive $125 off your NECTAR Sleep mattress order + 2 free pillows!


first apartment essentials - bedding

Target Bedding | Parachute Bedding | Casper Pillow

I’m a huge fan of Target’s comforters, quilts, and sheet sets (as well as Target everything), and they’re great if you’re looking for something inexpensive that doesn’t feel totally cheap.

That being said, I recently discovered Parachute bedding, and I’m kind of obsessed. Their bedding is super minimalist but still elegant, and although it’s slightly more expensive than what you’ll find at Target, I say it’s worth it — especially if you spend most of your evenings Netflix and chilling in your bed (guilty).

No bed is complete without the perfect pillow. While you’re typically forced to choose between soft or supportive bedding, Casper combined the two. The Casper Pillow is made up of two pillows: the “inner pillow” is filled with coated fibers that make it firm and supportive, while the “outer pillow” keeps things soft with a 100% cotton cover. The two layers combined increase airflow, so you won’t have to flip your pillow to get to the cool side each time you lay your head down.

first apartment essentials - casper pillow

The Casper Pillow comes in two sizes — Standard for $75 and King for $85 — and offers a “100 Night Trial.” They promise a full refund if you don’t love it (but you will).


One of the most important first apartment essentials (and the easiest to overlook): you’ll need somewhere to put your underwear and all your t-shirts. I was lucky enough to be able to take my dresser and lingerie chest from my parents’ home (and I highly recommend it if this is an option for you, or you could buy a used dresser from a friend of a friend), but if your circumstances are different, you’ll need to invest in something. A dresser isn’t really something you can go without — unless you want to keep everything in boxes in your closet.

Places like Overstock, Joss & Main, and Wayfair typically have really good deals on furniture.

Box Fan & Space Heater

first apartment essentials - fan and heater

Lasko Box Fan | Lasko Space Heater

Apartment complexes are noisy. Parties are being thrown, dogs are barking at passersby, and stomping will happen above you at all hours of the day (unless you’re on the top floor, but then you’ve got a whole other set of problems). Unless you can sleep through anything, it’s a good idea to invest in a boxed fan. (And by “invest,” I mean spend $20-$30.) I bought my Lasko box fan during college, and now I can’t imagine sleeping without the white noise it provides.

And unless you want to pay out the nose for your electric bill each month, a space heater is a lot more cost-efficient than having the heat cranked up 24/7. The Lasko space heater is oscillating, so it covers every area.

Living Room Essentials


DO NOT BUY A COUCH ONLINE. I REPEAT: DO NOT BUY A COUCH ONLINE. I learned this the hard way when I ordered a cute, $500 (aka super affordable) black, velvet, tufted couch online…and it turned out to be teeny-tiny and hard as a rock. I ended up putting it in my home office and saving up for another (bigger) couch — one I actually went to the store and tried out first.

Buying a couch should be at the top of your first apartment essentials checklist — but it’s also a serious investment. Other than your bed, it’s going to be one of the places you (and your guests) spend the most time in your home — as well as one of the most expensive. So visit your local furniture stores and test out a bunch of couches. Make sure it’s comfy. Decide whether you want leather or cloth (which is a major decision if you have pets or kiddos). Make sure you measure where you’re going to put the couch so you choose one that will actually fit.

Fun fact: investing in a couch is actually an easy way to build your credit (if the store you’re buying from reports to credit bureaus).

Coffee Table

first apartment essentials - coffee tables

Black & Copper Coffee Table by Dwell Magazine | Owings Rectangle Coffee Table | Granby Hammered Barrel Coffee Table | Nate Berkus Round Black & Gold Coffee Table | Chelsea Ottoman

You’re probably not going invest in an entire dinner table set with chairs and the works when you get your first apartment, so a coffee table is a much more affordable alternative. I have the black and gold Nate Berkus coffee table pictured above, and I love how elegant it looks in my living room. (I originally wanted a coffee table with a shelf underneath because I have a lot of clutter in my apartment, but I am human and vain and went for the chic option as opposed to the more functional. But #noregrets.)


I’m not the most tech-savvy person, so my advice is never going to be to buy the biggest flatscreen out there. I brought my small Vizio TV from my parents’ home (I promise I didn’t rob my parents; they wanted all my clutter out of the house) and put it in my bedroom (I told y’all, I spend a lot of time in there) and then bought a slightly bigger (maybe 30-inch?) Samsung TV for the living room for about $400. (I didn’t switch because I thought one was better than the other; that’s literally just how much I pay attention to/care about technology.)

If you’re a techy and you want to splurge on a TV, you do you. But I firmly believe in saving where you can, and I don’t think a big TV is what I need to be spending my entry-level salary on at this point in my life. Both of my TVs came from Best Buy, although you can find great deals at Target, Walmart, and Amazon.


first apartment essentials - bookshelf

Carson 5 Shelf Bookcase | Shelf Floor Lamp | 3-Tier Accent Table Shelf

You’ll need a sturdy bookshelf to hold your childhood collection (because who can bring themselves to throw out their Twilight and Hunger Games collections?? Not this girl.), as well as all the career self-help books you’ll inevitably be buying during your twenties. I currently have two smaller bookshelves, and I’m still running low on space for my books — so I would go ahead and invest in a larger one for your new apartment.

I also chose other furniture, like lamps and end tables, that have extra shelves and spread my books all around the house.

Extra Storage

first apartment essentials - storage

Lazy Susan | Vanity Organizer | Shoe Storage Cubbie Bench | Wrapping Paper Storage Box | Extra Large Wire Basket | Small Wire Basket

There’s one thing you’ll never have enough of if you live in an apartment: Storage. Where are you going to store all your holiday decorations? Your out-of-season clothes? Your borderline-obsessive shoe collection? Your extra sheet sets, throw blankets, and pillows?

I am the queen of clutter, but I finally got sick of staring at the same five throw blankets taking over my cute couch and magazines I tried to hide behind my DVD collection. So I went to Target, bought a shit-ton of storage bins, and threw my clutter (in a nice, organized way) into them. I have one for my ridiculous amount of beauty products in the bathroom, one for my magazine and coloring book collections, a big one for my throw blankets, one for my cat’s toys, and the list goes on and on.

The junk you don’t actually need is still there; it’s just more organized and out of the way (so you’re still a hoarder, but it’s slightly more acceptable).

Kitchen Essentials

Coffee Maker

first apartment essentials - coffee makers

Mr. Coffee | Hamilton Beach Single Serve Coffee Maker

If you’re a coffee drinker, a coffee maker is definitely at the top of your first apartment essentials list; a Keurig isn’t. A simple Mr. Coffee coffee maker is under $40 at Target — you can make up to 12 cups and program it to brew your morning coffee before you even wake up.

If you just *have* to have the magic of a Keurig but don’t want to pay the price, the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Coffee Maker is the most cost-efficient option ($100 vs. $40; you do the math).


first apartment essentials - dinnerware

Corelle Vive Polka Dottie 16-pc Dinnerware Set | “Caffeine is the New Black” Mug | Artland Coppertino 4-pc Wine Goblets | Isabella Ruffle Assorted Plate Set 4-pc | Arkita Flatware Set 5-pc

You can find cute, everyday dinnerware (I’m talking plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, and silverware) at Target or Walmart for pretty cheap. (Target especially has super cute wine glasses.) If you like to throw fancy, grown-up dinner parties, you might want to check out Corelle.


first apartment essentials - cookware

O’Plancha Grill Set| Crock-Pot Slow Cooker | Hamilton Beach Electric Can Opener | Mixing Bowl Set | Country Cabin 12-in Cast-Iron Skillet

I resisted the irresistible pull of a slow cooker for as long as I possibly could, and when I finally gave in, I understood what all the hubbub was about: These babies are pure magic. You just dump in your ingredients, let it cook for a few hours — while you’re at work, or while you’re out running errands — and voila! Dinner’s ready. Easiest thing ever.

Another easy-but-magical cookware investment you need to make? The Mastrad O’Plancha Griddle & Lid Cooking Combo. Most apartments have a strict no-grill policy, which is where the O’Plancha comes in. When used by itself, it turns into a grill that can be used both inside and outside for any meat, fish, or veggies; with its lid, it turns into a mini oven you can use to bake pizzas or cakes — it can also be used to smoke meat and fish in just a few minutes.

Other cookware-related first apartment essentials: A can opener (even “high-end” can openers are pretty effing cheap), pots and pans, and mixing bowls (again, cheap AF).

Decor Essentials

first apartment essentials - decor

It’ll take a while for your new apartment to feel like home, but you can get started by picking out a few fun throw pillows, a rug for your living room, and some artwork for the walls. My fav place to shop for fun decor on a budget is Target — and I always head straight to the Nate Berkus section because it’s minimalist-meets-glam with all of their gray, beige, and gold accents. If you’re more into bright colors, Target also has the Oh Joy! collection available right now.

Follow Elise on Twitter: @elisewillrikard | Instagram: @elisewillrikard

Last modified on November 18th, 2019

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