The Ultimate First Apartment Checklist (With Cost Estimates)

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: December 28, 2020

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Moving into a new apartment is an exciting moment. But, with all the hustle and bustle, it can get a little chaotic. That’s why it’s so important to keep everything as organized as possible with a first apartment checklist.

From utilities and internet, to dish soap and toilet paper, it is important for your mental and financial health to know exactly what you will need for your new apartment, as well as the associated costs.

I have personally lived in 5 different apartments. So, I know the stress, joy, expenses, pitfalls and nuances of apartment living. The only difference is, I never had a thorough and complete guide to help me through it. So, after years of experience, and hours upon hours of research, I finally put together the checklist I wish I would have had from the beginning.

But, this isn’t your standard list of items to buy. Anybody can go out and create an apartment shopping list. This checklist goes a step further, and gives you price estimates and apartment living tips from my years of experience. When you are finished with this article, you will be fully equipped for your new adventure. So, without further ado, I present the ultimate first apartment checklist.

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Monthly Apartment Expenses

Monthly apartment expenses for your first apartment checklist | BeTheBudget

After moving into a new apartment, you will quickly realize that rent is only part of your monthly expenses. You need to heat your apartment in the winter, and cool it off in the summer. And, I’m guessing you will want wifi, so you are going to need to pony up for internet. Additionally, you’ll need to get renter’s insurance so that you aren’t on the hook if anything catastrophic were to happen to your apartment. But how much can you expect to pay for all this? Here is what you need to know.

Please keep in mind that the monthly costs of apartment living can vary greatly by region, personal preferences, and utility consumption. So, these numbers are by no means exact. They are just estimates based on my own experience.

Renters Insurance ($5 – $30 Per Month)

Renter’s insurance is an absolute necessity if you are going to rent an apartment or home. For only a few bucks a month, renter’s insurance will protect you from all sorts of financially catastrophic events. It’s a no-brainer. Beyond that, most places will require you to have it.

Now, depending on where you live and how much coverage you need, you should expect to pay between $5 and $30 per month. To give you a good idea on rates, I have personally never paid more than $15 per month for renter’s insurance.

If you’re looking for a good renter’s insurance provider, I recommend Liberty Mutual. They offer low rates, and it takes less than 5 minutes to get a quote online.

Click here to get a renter’s insurance quote from Liberty Mutual.

Gas/Electricity ($50-$175)

Your new apartment will more than likely have an individual meter to track your electricity and gas consumption, so your bill will vary every month. Also, your electricity and gas bills might come from 2 separate companies. For example, I currently pay my gas bill along with my rent, but my electricity bill comes from a different source. Be sure to ask a leasing agent in your apartment complex, when and from whom, you can expect your gas and electricity bills.

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Water/Sewer ($10 – $30)

When you move into your new apartment, you might not see a water and sewer bill come in for a couple months. This is normal. Water bills are almost always 2 months behind. Just check with your leasing office to confirm when to expect your bill, and rest assured you haven’t missed a payment. The good news is, water bills in an apartment tend to be low, because you won’t be paying for things like a sprinkler system, which you would pay if you were renting a house. Though, I recommend you keep your water consumption as low as possible until you see your first bill, and learn what you can expect to pay each month.

Trash (+Valet) ($10 – $40)

In an apartment, you will typically pay your trash bill with rent, and it will most likely run in the $10 – $40 range. This also depends on trash valet, which, if you have never lived in an apartment before, will be a new concept. Trash valet is a service wherein you set your trash outside your door every night, so somebody can come by and take it to the dumpster. If an apartment complex uses trash valet, you will most likely have to pay for it whether you use it or not. So, ask your leasing office about trash valet, and be sure to include it in your budget.

Cable/Internet ($50 – $150)

If you have a smartphone, or a computer, which I’m betting you do–because how else would you be reading this post–then you are going to need to pay for internet. And if you want cable, it’s time to pay for that too. You can expect to pay $75 per month for internet, but we don’t have cable.

Bonus Tip:

If you have the option to go paperless on any monthly bill, I highly recommend you do so. Apartment mail can be a bit of a nightmare. I can’t tell you how many times one of my neighbors has received one of my bills by accident. Do yourself an organizational favor, and choose to receive all your bills electronically. This will make your life significantly less stressful.


Entryway checklist for your new apartment | BeTheBudget

The last thing you want in your brand new apartment is a muddy floor, littered with shoes and coats. But you also don’t want to pay through the nose just so people can wipe their feet when they walk in.

So, take a little time to make your entry a welcoming place for yourself and your guests with the following items.

First Apartment Entryway Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Welcome Mat$5 - $15
Entry Rug$10 - $35
Coat Rack$15 - $30
Shoe Mat$5 - $10


Kitchen checklist for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

When you move into your first apartment, be sure to pack kitchen supplies in a clear and organized manner. Make the essentials easily accessible, and unpack them as soon as possible. You don’t want to wake up and have to dig through 10 different boxes to find items like: glasses, dishes, silverware, coffee mugs and your coffee maker.  Trust me, unpacking with a coffee headache is no fun.

You are going to end up needing a lot of small items in your kitchen; spatulas, a can opener, measuring cups, strainers… the list goes on and on. Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to buy everything at once. Take your time, focus on the essentials, and over time, you will learn what you absolutely need to buy, and what you can live without. (I can’t tell you how long I drained pots of noodles using the lid instead of a strainer.)

My last note about your new kitchen is that having a place to sit and eat is very important. For years, the only place to sit and eat at my apartment was on the couch. It made it difficult for guests to enjoy themselves, and my apartments always felt temporary because of it. So, if you have the room for a little 4-chair breakfast table, I highly recommend getting one. Though, barstools do make a good substitute if you have that option. Just give yourself a place to sit and eat–other than your couch.

First Apartment Kitchen Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Dishware Set$35 - $75
Silverware$10 - $35
Pots and Pans$30 - $100
Glassware Set$15 - $30
Coffee Mugs$15 - $30
Microwave$50 - $125
Knife Set$30 - $75
Toaster$25 - $50
Coffee Maker$25 - $75
13 Gallon Trash Can$50 - $100
Trash Bags$15
Dish Soap$5 - $10
Dishwasher Detergent$5
Hand Towels$10 - $35
Paper Towels$10 - $25
Oven Mit$10 - $20
Baking Sheet(s)$5 - $10
Aluminum Foil$3 - $5
Ziploc Bags$5 - $30
Tupperware$15 - $35
Dish Scrubber$3 - $5
Hand Soap$5 - $10
Water Filter$30
Table and Chairs$125 - $300
Barstools$50 - $150
Slow Cooker$20 - $30
Blender$35 - $100
Electric Kettle$20 - $35
Dish Drying Rack$10 - $20
Chip Clips$5 - $10
Cooking Utensil Set$20 - $35


Bathroom checklist for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

Before you move into your new apartment, be sure to buy all the necessary bathroom essentials. Starting from day one, you–and anybody helping you move–will need to use your bathroom in some capacity. So, at bare minimum, go buy some toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, and kleenex. 

Also–I’m just going to say it–don’t wait to buy a plunger. And, if your new apartment only has one bathroom, stop everything you’re doing, head over to Amazon, and buy a plunger right now. You will thank me for this little gem of advice, later. Needing a plunger is enough of an emergency. Don’t make buying one an emergency too.

I also recommend that you buy some bathroom cleaning supplies. A toilet brush, toilet bowl cleaner, shower cleaner, and a shower cleaning brush should be on your list of bathroom essentials.

Last, but certainly not least, you are going to need to buy a shower curtain; which, in reality,  means you will need 3 things: a curtain, a curtain liner, and curtain rings. Be sure to buy all three. You don’t want to be getting ready for work the morning after you move in, and have to take an open, chilly shower, all because you forgot to buy curtain rings.

First Apartment Bathroom Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Plunger$10 - $30
Toilet Paper$10 - $25
Hand Soap$5 - $15
Hand Towels$25 - $30
Shower Curtain$10 - $35
Shower Curtain Rings$5 - $10
Bath Mats$15 - $50
Toilet Brush/Cleaner$5 - $15
Kleenex$5 - $10
Wastebasket$5 - $25
First Aid Kit$10 - $35

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Bedroom checklist for your new apartment | BeTheBudget

When it comes to your bedroom, your initial focus should be on your mattress. If you don’t already have one that you are planning to use, I will give you one piece of advice: buy something high quality. It doesn’t take a giant budget to get a mattress that you love, and a bad mattress will make your life miserable.

To go with your new mattress, I highly recommend a platform bed. Platform beds are great for apartment living, because you don’t have to worry about moving box springs, and they open up some under-bed storage options that you wouldn’t otherwise have with a traditional bed frame.

You will also want to assess the clothing storage options in your new apartment. A dresser is nice to have, but if you have a big enough closet, you might try going without one for awhile. Additionally, nightstands with a couple drawers are a great option for storing small articles of clothing like underwear and socks.

A few final items I highly recommend for your apartment bedroom, are: a lamp, a laundry hamper, and a full length mirror, and a clock. You don’t need to buy these items right away, but they are really nice to have once you get settled in.

First Apartment Bedroom Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Bed Frame$50 - $250
Mattress + Box Springs$300 - $750
Night Stands$35 - $250
Dresser$50 - $200
Lamp(s)$25 - $75
Pillows$20 - $50
Comforter$30 - $150
Sheets$40 - $75
Laundry Hamper$10 - $35

Living Room

Living room checklist for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

You are going to spend a ton of time in your apartment living room, so have a little fun with it, and make it feel like home.

If you have a big area to fill, a sectional and a tv stand might suit your space well. Whereas, if you have a small living room, you might consider a 2 or 3-seat sofa, with a wall mounted TV.

Regardless of what you decide to do with your space, there are a few staple items you will probably want to have: a sofa, a coffee table, a tv, 2 end tables, and a clock.

First Apartment Living Room Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Sofa$200 - $400
Television$100 - $200
TV Stand$50 - $150
TV Wall Mount$30 - $125
Floor Lamp$30 - $50
End Tables$30 - $100
Coasters$10 - $15
Rug$25 - $100
Clock$10 - $15
Blankets$10 - $35

Laundry Room

Laundry Room checklist for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

If you are lucky enough to have a laundry room in your apartment, there are a few things you are going to need; most obviously, a washer and dryer (if they aren’t already included with your apartment). Just be careful where you buy them. I am not a fan of buying washers and dryers on craigslist, because you don’t usually get to test them out before you take them home. So, what I recommend, is that you wait to buy a washer and dryer until a holiday weekend. It’s not uncommon to see washers and dryers go on sale for 40%, 50%, or even 60% off.

Oh, and don’t forget about detergent and fabric softener.

Apartment Laundry Tip:

If you have a small-capacity washer and dryer, try to do a small load of laundry every day. It is a pain in the butt trying to catch up on a big pile of  laundry when you can only wash 3 pairs of jeans at a time.

First Apartment Laundry Room Checklist

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Washer & Dryer$500 - $1,200
Detergent$10 - $20
Fabric Softener$5 - $10
Clothes Drying Rack$20 - $35


Patio checklist for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

When you live in an apartment, feeling a little claustrophobic at times can be a very real thing. So, if you have a patio, adding some furniture and a little grill can be just the escape you need.

If you have room for a small table and a few chairs, go for it. You can find some cheap options on craigslist all year long.

Also, you should know that apartments tend to hold cooking smells for a long time, so grilling outside will keep your apartment from smelling like 2-day old salmon.

If you do a lot of grilling and you have an electrical outlet on your patio, I recommend a Traeger. They are electric, wood pellet grills that act a lot like an oven, so you can grill more than just meat. You can cook pizzas, desserts, and so much more. You can check them out here.

Otherwise, I recommend a small camping grill. You can find my recommendation in the checklist below.

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Traeger Grill$450 - $500
Camping Grill$150 - $250
Patio Table and Chairs$150 - $250


General items for your first apartment | BeTheBudget

The upkeep and lifestyle of apartment living requires a bunch of random items. Whether you have carpet or hardwood, you are going to need to clean your floors every so often, so get ready to buy a vacuum, or a mop.

Also, if you don’t want to go to work looking like a wrinkly slob, you are going to want to buy an iron and ironing board.

The following checklist contains a bunch of random items that you should have on hand, because you will probably need them at some point in your apartment life. They may not be the most fun items to buy, but trust me, you will be glad to have them.

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Vacuum$75 - $300
Iron$25 - $50
Ironing Board$50 - $95
Broom & Dust Pan$10 - $25
Mop$15 - $35
Batteries$5 - $15


Tools to add to your first apartment checklist | BeTheBudget

If you plan on hanging pictures, putting together new furniture, or mounting your tv to the wall, you are going to need some tools. The good news is, you don’t need a ton.

Remember, one of the main benefits of living in an apartment is the on-site maintenance crew that is there to fix any problems that arise. But for the items that you put into your apartment, having a few tools laying around will be a major help.

ItemHow Much Should You Plan To Spend?
Utility Knife$10 - $15
Screw Driver Set$10 - $15
Allen Key Set$5 - $10
Socket Wrench Set$10 - $20
Hammer$10 - $15
Picture Hanging Kit$5 - $15
Drill$40 - $100
Drill Bits$5 - $15
Extension Cord$5 - $10
Wet/Dry Vacuum$25 - $75
Tool Set (Instead of buying individually)$15 - $50

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Tips For Your First Apartment Moving Day

apartment with wood floors and red accents | apartment checklist

When the day finally arrives for you to move into your new apartment, there are a few things you should be sure to do. There is no substitute for being prepared. So here are a few quick tips to help your moving day go smoothly.

Bring Required Documents and Payment

One of the most important things you can do before moving, is to get renter’s insurance. Most–if not all–apartment complexes will require you to carry it, and provide proof of insurance before you can sign your lease.

Also, you may have to have to set up an account with your local gas and/or electricity company and provide an account number at the time you sign your lease.

You may also be required to pay your first payment in the form of a cashier’s check or money order. So, call your leasing office prior to move-in to find out everything you will need to provide on moving day.

Do A Walk-Through

Don’t feel uncomfortable asking to do a walk-through of your apartment before you sign your lease. This is a critical thing to do. You don’t want to sign your lease, only to enter your apartment and find a bunch of things wrong, or broken.

When you walk through your apartment, test every faucet, shower, light switch, light bulb, fireplace, etc.

As an example, when my wife and I moved into our first apartment together, we did a walk through, and found that the counter tops and carpet had not been replaced like we were promised. So, we had to bump our move-in date to one week later than we originally planned.

Take Care Of The People Helping You

If anybody is gracious enough to help you move, it is common courtesy to buy them lunch, and provide snacks and beverages for the whole moving day.

Moving is an arduous task. The last thing you want is for everybody to hate you for not providing water and food throughout the day.

Order a couple pizzas. Take your friends out for a sit-down lunch. Just do something nice for them. They deserve it!

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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