If you’ve started looking for your first apartment as a college graduate or a soon-to-be college graduate, you likely have sticker shock. Apartments, even those that aren’t exactly in the best part of town or a bit past their prime, are expensive.

Housing experts recommend you spend no more than 25% to 30% of your pretax income on housing and you’ll want to be toward the low end of that if you have student loans or other debt to pay each month.

Less is more when it comes to items for the first apartment. Consider garage sales, thrift stores and online marketplaces for gently used items, and check out stores such as Target, At Home, IKEA, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Tuesday Morning, and Bed, Bath & Beyond for relatively inexpensive furniture and household items. And if anyone asks what you want for a graduation present, you can’t go wrong with an Amazon Prime Membership.

Assuming your first space will be small, here are some things to consider that won’t break the bank:

Coffee Maker

Stretch your paycheck and cut down on pricey trips to the coffee shop. Invest in or ask for a nice coffee maker but be aware when considering types that single-cup makers may be convenient but K-cups quickly get expensive if you drink a lot of coffee. Another great option is a Chemex Pour Over Glass Coffeemaker, which some swear is the best way to make a cup of joe.

Counter Appliances

Whether it’s a Ninja or another brand, a high-quality, high-speed blender is worth the sticker shock. You’ll be able to make delicious smoothies while sparing yourself a sink of dirty dishes. If smoothies aren’t your thing, consider a quesadilla maker for quick meals, or the Dash Deluxe Rapid Egg Cooker for the easiest hardboiled eggs you’ve ever made in your life.

Kitchen Basics

You can find a 12-piece set: 4 dinner plates, four salad plates and 4 cereal bowls for $20 at Target, or get an 18-piece set for about $50 delivered for free with Amazon Prime. And invest in a round baking sheet and pizza cutter for frozen pizzas. Unless you are graduating from culinary school, your cooking skills will be questionable, and you won’t need a lot in the kitchen. Shop garage sales, thrift stores or Facebook marketplace groups to find what you need.

Adult Furniture

Say good-bye to the futon. You’re a grownup now. The must-haves include a decent, comfortable mattress, a nightstand or small table for charging electronics; seating for the living room; and a kitchen table. We suggest the IKEA Poang in place of a sofa for small spaces. These chairs are versatile and inexpensive. Shop online marketplaces or hit up the parents who may be willing to part with things from your old room.

Flat Screen TV

It doesn’t have to be a 60-incher if you are in a small space. Mount it on the wall to save space if that’s allowed.

Cleaning Supplies

Boring, we get it, but you’ll want to keep the place humanly inhabitable. Invest in a small, inexpensive vacuum if you have carpeting, a broom and dustpan, and a Swiffer, which can be used for wet or dry mopping. Stock a plastic bucket with a few essentials such as an all-purpose cleaner and sponges.

Wireless Speaker

A wireless speaker is relatively inexpensive and will make it sound like you have surround sound in your apartment. The UE Boom has good reviews, comes in a variety of colors and will set you back less than $150. If you have a Prime membership you should also consider the Echo 2 or the portable bluetooth-enabled Amazon Tap.

Sheets and Towels

Getting that first apartment is a good time to upgrade with new sheets and some decent towels. Watch for sales at department stores, but in the meantime Amazon Basics offers a 6-piece set of towels for under $20.

Kerry Curry
Kerry began her journalism career working as a writer/reporter at daily newspapers in Texas covering breaking news, city and county government, courts, cops and general assignments. She later specialized in business reporting and writing, spending 12 years at the Dallas Business Journal, most of that time as managing editor. More recently she has worked as a freelance writer for such publications as the Dallas Morning News, Dow Jones and HousingWire.