How to Budget for Your First Apartment

When you’re thinking about becoming a first-time renter, there are lots of things to ponder. Many of these factors will revolve around knowing how to budget for your apartment upfront and setting up a monthly budget between yourself and potential roommates.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment

Finances aren’t going to be the most fun aspect of your first apartment, but they are a necessary one. In today’s competitive rental market (especially in big cities) it’s crucial to have all of your budgeting skills up to par, as it could help you gain an edge over other applicants.

If you need some budgeting pointers, follow the guidelines below to get started:

Location is Everything

There’s a good chance you already have an idea of which neighborhoods you want to live in. Depending on the locale, your monthly budget can differ drastically. Many renting experts recommend that you not spend more than 30% of your annual income on rent.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment - Location is Everything

However, you might have to be flexible about this rule in cities where high housing costs are way above the norm, such as New York City or San Francisco. In places like these, you might have to plan ahead even further in advance, as the screening and budgeting process could take much longer.

No matter where you choose to live, though, you will need to– above all else– ensure that you are setting a realistic budget based on your take-home pay and the desired city/neighborhood.

Select Roommates Carefully

Many first-time apartment dwellers tend to live with friends who they met in college. Sometimes, this situation works out great. However, hanging out with a good friend and living with him or her are two totally different things.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment - Select Roommates Carefully

You could find a couple months down the road that your college buddy might not be so great at keeping up with his or her finances, which could make for an awkward living situation.

As such, it’s crucial that you screen each individual who might be a potential roommate. If he or she seems like a great candidate, meet with him or her to discuss how you might divide bills and rent, as well as where you stand on additional guests and splitting up chores.

Expect to Pay a Lot Upfront

Renting might be cheaper than buying a place, but there’s no doubt that you will be expected to fork over some serious cash in the first few months to secure your dream apartment.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment - Expect to Pay a Lot Upfront

In most situations, landlords will expect you and your roommates to pay a security deposit, first and last month’s rent, application fees, a possible finder’s or broker’s fee, and a pet deposit for your furry friends.

All in all, you will likely be paying at least double the amount of your monthly rent upfront, so be sure you and your potential roommates are saving accordingly.

All of the Bills … And More

In addition to settling upfront costs for your apartment, you and your roommates will also need to contact local utilities for electricity, water, Internet, cable, heat/gas, air conditioning, and parking.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment - All of the Bills... And More

In most cases, if the apartment has a thermostat, you will be expected to pay for heating (though this is not always the case … be sure to ask your landlord), and your air conditioning will likely be part of your electric bill. Additionally, be sure to ask your landlord whether water is included in the price of the rent.

There are also additional expenses you’ll need to consider with your roommates, including furniture, groceries, and renters insurance. You will all need to sit down and decide whether you will be handling these expenses individually (such as one person taking on the electric bill while the other handles the cable/Internet bill), or if you plan on splitting everything down the middle.

Save for Those Little Extras

You might plan out every detail with you and your roommates and think all of the bases are covered upfront. However, you’ll need to consider your rainy day fund, as well as other monthly expenses that might have slipped under your radar.

How to Budget for Your First Apartment - Save for Those Little Extras

For instance, do you like going to the gym? You won’t have one on campus anymore, and gym memberships can get pricey, so you might have to reallocate your spending. You also need what I call a “fun fund”– it’s not all work and no play, after all. This budget is for nonessentials like money for dining out with friends, going to the movies, expenditures for various hobbies (gardening, painting, etc.), gifts, shopping, and traveling.

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How to Budget for Your First Apartment

College Apartment Essentials Checklist

Moving out of a dorm and into your first college apartment is a big step– say goodbye to sharing a tiny room! Instead, you’ll share a somewhat larger space with your friends and have more freedom about what goes in the apartment and what you’re allowed to do there.

College Apartment Essentials Checklist

However, with great freedom comes great decorating responsibility, and that’s often a financial burden. Unlike living in a dorm, you have to fully outfit your place. And even if the unit has some furniture (mine had a desk, bed, and sofas), you still have a lot of work to do before it feels like home.

Before you get lost in the euphoria that is shopping at home stores, however, make a list of everything you need. As a matter of fact, why don’t you use our college apartment essentials checklist:

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Infogrpahic


Your bedroom will be your haven in your college apartment. Other spaces are shared between you and your roomies, and the bedroom is where you can close the door, unwind and focus on your studies. So, it’s a pretty important space. Here’s what you’ll need:

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Bedroom

Bed Frame and MattressSome college apartments provide the bed for you, but double check before you make any assumptions. If you do have to bring you own, measure your bedroom. You don’t want to pack up your queen-size bed just to realize it takes up the entire room.

Full-size beds are great for college apartments – they’ll fit in most rooms and they’re still big enough to let you spread out.

Mattress PadCollege apartments don’t have TempurPedic mattresses. They may be downright uncomfortable. Save yourself a backache and get a mattress pad.

BeddingNo matter how furnished your apartment is, you’ll need to bring your own bedding. See how large the bed is and purchase based on that. Also, the bedding you choose will determine the color scheme in your room, so pick wisely.

Neutral bedding allows you more freedom in picking colors later on, and you can always change things like pillow covers and art to alter your color scheme. Also, consider getting two sets. That way, when you wash one set, you can put another on your bed.

Desk and ChairAgain, many college apartments provide a desk, but if yours doesn’t, get one! This is where you’ll write your papers, study for finals and lounge around on Facebook. Make sure your chair is comfortable – you’ll use it a lot.

LampMake sure your desk is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes trying to read “Crime and Punishment” for your classical literature class – don’t make it any harder on yourself.

Organizational Tools

While your bedroom in a college apartment will be larger than your dorm, it’s certainly not a mansion. Keeping your things organized will prevent clutter and give you plenty of room to live. These tools will help maintain order in your space:

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Organizational Tools

  • Shoe rack
  • Under-bed storage bins
  • Laundry basket
  • Bins for storing in your closet
  • Organizers for your desk

Additional Items

While these may not be essential, they’ll are great to have:

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Additional Items

  • Nightstand
  • Alarm clock
  • Fan
  • Area rug
  • Blackout curtains (you’ll want to sleep in after a night out)
  • Art


Now onto shared spaces: You may only have one bathroom split between multiple roommates in your college apartment, so plan accordingly. Essentials include anything that helps you manage clutter and keep your roommate’s stuff out of your area.

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Bathroom

Shower CaddyThese lovely inventions use a pole filled with springs to stand upright in a shower or tub. Attached to the pole are a series of baskets. Make sure the caddy you use has an equal number of baskets to the amount of people living in your apartment – four people, four baskets. That way, each person can store shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and so on in their designated basket.

Extra Towel BarsIf your apartment doesn’t have enough bars for towels, install more. Or, get over-the-door hooks so everyone has a place to hang their towels.

TowelsAs with bedding, consider buying two towel sets that match so you always have a clean set available. Plus, using matching towels clearly displays which belong to you.

Shower CurtainYou don’t want to drip water on the floor. Enough said.

Plunger and Toilet BrushKeep that toilet clean and running. You don’t want to be stuck in the bathroom without a plunger, trust me.

ToiletriesDon’t forget to bring the basics.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Hair products
  • Soap (both body and hand)
  • Rugs
  • Toilet paper (seriously, don’t forget this!)


Decide amongst yourselves who will bring what items for the kitchen. Remember that whatever you don’t buy now, you will need down the road.

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Kitchen

Dining SetGet a dining table that fits in the space and that’s large enough for all of the roommates to use at once – roomie dinners are tons of fun! Also, don’t forget chairs.

Plates, Cups, Mugs, and BowlsPurchase a set that includes a variety of sizes and make sure you have enough for everyone.

Silverware and UtensilsThis includes your basics (forks, knives, and spoons) as well as tools like spatulas, serving spoons, a garlic press, and so on.

Pots and PansYou can actually cook now that you have an apartment, so go crazy! You’ll need pots and pans to bring out your inner Julia Child.

Trash Can: Buying a trash can for your apartment is the easy part: Getting your roomies to throw out the trash is another matter entirely.

Living Room

You and your roommates will call the living room a shared home. It’s where movie nights, viewing of the big game and even parties will occur.

College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Living Room

Sofa and ChairsIf your apartment has this furniture, consider buying slip covers to add your own personality to the space.

Coffee and End TablesPeople need a place to set down their beers, right?

LampsWhether you’re doing homework in the living room or just chilling with friends, lamps can make the space feel cozier.

Throw BlanketsIf someone needs to crash on your sofa, you’ll be ready to accommodate with throw blankets.

TVPreferably with the ability to hook up to your game console or laptop – because, Netflix.

Make sure to talk with your roommates before you buy your essential college apartment furnishings. That way, you don’t all buy the same things for shared spaces and end up with too much. Good luck getting settled and have fun in a space that’s finally yours!

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College Apartment Essentials Checklist

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership

If you’re on a budget, there are probably a number of things higher on your priority list than a gym membership (paying your rent and buying groceries come to mind). But gym memberships, although pricey, can also be a comfort blanket for some people.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership

How are you supposed to workout without access to your choice of state-of-the art machines and equipment? The good news, though, is that people have been working out without gyms for centuries– it just takes a little imagination mixed with some motivation. And, of course, some pumping music.

Here are some ideas for working out without paying for an expensive gym membership:

Go Outside

Now that the weather is warming up, going outside is becoming considerably more bearable. Which means it’s getting harder to blame not working out on not having a gym membership. After all, there are tons of outdoor exercise options. Instead of relaxing on the couch after work or lazing around every Sunday, put on some tennis shoes and just start walking.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Go Outside

Look up some of the best walking and jogging trails near you, and try to explore the fun outdoor areas in your city. Or, if you’re close to some mountains or hills, try to fit a couple of hikes into your schedule each month. If you have a dog, bring them along and you’ll both get a good workout in!

Rethink Your Commute

You don’t need to block off a chunk of time just for working out– you can mix it into your daily routine, too. Find a quality bike and commit to leaving a bit earlier each morning so you can bike to work instead of driving or taking public transit.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Retink Your Commute

You’ll burn tons of calories, and you’ll likely be a lot more energized when you get to work than you usually are.

Invest in Some Equipment

The gym doesn’t hold the monopoly on workout equipment. Look online for some free weights, resistance bands or even simply a yoga mat.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Invest in Some Equipment

Any of these pieces of equipment can get your workout regimen off to a great start, and the one-time purchase won’t bust your budget too much.

Find a Friend

If you depend on the gym to keep you motivated, find a friend who will have the same effect that you can workout with. Schedule a couple nights a week and go on walks or bike rides, or stay in for some yoga (potentially followed by a couple hours of mindless reality TV as a reward).

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Find a Friend

You can even look up classes near you and see if any allow participants to pay for just one session. Try a new Zumba or spin class together if you can find some inexpensive options!

Get Online– Or On Your Phone

There are a ton of resources online that can teach you fun mat workouts, calisthenics routines, and even high-intensity circuit training. Look on Google or YouTube for some inspiration.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Get Online or on Your Phone

There are also a ton of fitness apps out there that can get you moving without any equipment! Look up fun apps like Zombies, Run!, which turns your leisurely runs into adrenaline-rushing zombie chases, or Nexercise, which turns fitness into a game where you can earn points and compete with others.

Check Out Public Options in Your City

Most cities have public tennis courts, volleyball courts or even swimming pools, so take a look online to see what your neighborhood has to offer.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Check Out Public Options in Your City

If you can find a workout buddy, a nearby public tennis court could be a great way to get some serious workouts in while honing your Serena Williams-style power serves.

Choose the Active Options

Even if you aren’t working out each day, making small active choices in your day-to-day life could make a difference.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Choose the Active Options

For instance, take the stairs whenever possible, rather than the elevator. Or, get off the train or bus a few stops early so you can walk the rest of the way.

Start Cleaning

Though you won’t be able to do this workout daily (unless you have seriously messy roommates), cleaning your apartment can help you burn some major calories. Plus, if you incorporate things like squats and lunges into activities like doing the dishes and cleaning the windows, you’ll feel even more of a burn.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Start Cleaning

Even simply rearranging the furniture in the living room can give you a solid workout. So put on some great music, pull out the vacuum and broom, and get cleaning!

Join a Team

If you played sports in high school or college, it may be time to return to that team frame of mind. Sports are a great way to get exercise, and you may find yourself with a new group of buddies you can hang out with.

How to Start Working Out Without Paying For a Gym Membership - Join a Team

Check out local athletics clubs to see if they have anything available. Or you can even see if your co-workers are interested in teaming up to join a local kickball or softball league.

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How to Start Working Out Without Paying for a Gym Membership

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time

Rarely in life do we have just one thing to save up for at once. For instance, I’m currently saving for a trip to New Orleans, a new pair of sneakers and retirement, all of which are important but very different financial goals.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time

Saving for several objectives at once is all about getting organized and setting priorities– after that, the rest is as simple as sticking to your plan. Here are some tips on saving money for multiple things at one time:

Make a List

The first step is asking yourself this question: What are all of the things I need? Brainstorm anything and everything you’d like to start saving up for, no matter how important it is.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Make a List

This is not the time to differentiate between needs and wants– that comes later. For now, just get everything on paper.

Set Goals

Take a look at your list and start organizing the items by deadline. Which goals do you need to save for first? Then, jot down exactly how much money you need to save for each item.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Set Goals

After your list is organized by deadline, it’s time to start prioritizing. Be practical about how much money you can realistically save while still paying rent, bills, buying groceries and going out every so often. If necessary, transfer some items onto a wish list.

Do Some Calculations

Start calculating how much money you’ll need to save each month (or each paycheck, if that’s easier) for each separate item by dividing the total amount you’ll need to save by the number of months you have to save it. Add the amounts together to come up with the total sum you’ll need to set aside each month or pay period.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Do Some Calculations

For instance, I have to save another $500 for my vacation and at least $100 for a new pair of exercise shoes. I have four months until vacation and will need new shoes within the month. $500 divided by four months is $125 per month.

That means I’ll need to save $225 in the first month and $125 each month afterward for the trip. Or, I can save $100 for the shoes in the first month and $166 in the following three months for vacation.

Check Your Calendar

Before setting a firm budget, peruse your calendar. Look for any extra income that will be coming up within the next several months. Are you expecting a bonus from work or is your birthday in the near future? Will you be receiving a tax return this spring?

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Check Your Calendar

Apply this information to the amount you’ll need to save each month. If you can set aside a little more around your birthday or tax day, you may not have to save quite as much every other month.

Set a Budget

To save money effectively, you have to set a budget first. Subtract your rent, bills, food, and other essential expenses from the amount you’re expecting to make. Then budget what’s left for recreation spending and savings. If you don’t have enough leftover for your savings, you may need to extend a deadline or move something else to your wish list.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Set a Budget

Remember when you’re trying to save money that it may require cutting back in other non-essential areas of your budget. Look for ways in your daily life that you can be a little more frugal. For instance, bring lunches from home to work, rather than going out for lunch every day.

Consider Investing

When you’re looking for tips on saving money, one piece of advice you’ll find time and again is to invest for long-term goals, like retirement.

Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time - Consider Investing

Take advantage of mutual funds, high-interest savings accounts and a business or individual retirement account to help you build up the amount of money you need (or even more) over time.

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Tips on Saving Money for Multiple Things at One Time

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5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money

In some cases, being eco-friendly can be expensive– ever research geothermal energy? However, just because some efforts require great sacrifice doesn’t mean that all do.

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money

In fact, you can go green and save money in your apartment all at once, making both you and Mother Nature happy campers. You just have to pick the right ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some options for cutting your utility bills and your environmental impact:

1. Change Your Light Bulbs

While incandescent light bulbs produce a warm and inviting glow, they’re inefficient. Not only do they use a lot of energy, but they burn out pretty quickly, so you have to buy replacements frequently.

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money - Change Your Lightbulbs

Instead of sticking to these old-fashioned fixtures (seriously, Thomas Edison invented incandescent bulbs in 1879), get up to date by purchasing compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) or LEDs.

Don’t let the word fluorescent scare you– you don’t have to buy those harsh white lights you associate with hospitals and offices. Many fluorescent bulbs for home now mimic the warm light incandescents produce. What’s more, they last longer and don’t waste energy. Much of the energy consumed by incandescent is turned into heat, which decreases the amount becoming light. CFLs and LEDs don’t have that problem.

Not only will you have to buy bulbs less often, but you’ll have a reduced electricity bill and you’ll decrease your carbon footprint. Over all, the small change can have a huge impact.

2. Use Power Strips

When you leave your electronics on or plugged in, they sap energy that they don’t need to use. That printer you leave on even though you use it like once a month? It’s wasting energy. Your phone charger that’s always in the socket? Yup, that uses energy too.

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money - Use Power Strips

You may groan over the thought of unplugging every single device when it’s not in use, but there’s an easier way: Buy a power strip. These tools have numerous outlets on a single bar, and allow you to cut power. At the end of the day, simply turn the switch off, and everything plugged into the strip will stop using unnecessary electricity. Some models even shut off automatically!

Using a power strip will reduce your energy bills, helping you save money and preventing environmental waste.

3. Install Faucet Aerators

The planet may be covered in mostly water, but fresh H2O is a precious resource. For this reason, you want to reduce your use as much as possible. Showering, doing dishes and washing your hands all require water.

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money - Install Faucet Aerators

In an apartment, you may not be able to install low-flow faucets, but you can still cut back by installing aerators. These little tools screw onto your faucets and shoot air into your water stream. That way, the water pressure remains high but you use less liquid.

If you live in an apartment that covers water costs, this may not impact your bills. However, you can still rest easy knowing you’ve gone green.

4. Don’t Buy Bottled Water

You’re probably sick of hearing it, but drinking tap or filtered water is an easy and impactful move when you’re trying to be eco-friendly. However, you hear the suggestion so often because it’s a good one!

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money - Don't Buy Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles sit in landfills, where they take eons to decompose. What’s more, much of the advertising you see for “spring water” isn’t totally accurate.

Tap water is heavily regulated, so in some cases, it’s safer to drink than bottled varieties. Plus, buying a case of bottled water every week adds up– wouldn’t you rather go out to eat more often or get drinks with your friends?

5. Walk, Bike, Carpool or Take Public Transit

Basically, avoid driving solo as often as possible. Your car sure is convenient, but you and the planet pay for that ease. With carbon emissions that wreck the ozone, motor vehicles aren’t Mother Earth’s best friend.

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Money - Walk Bike Carpool or Take Public Transit

Instead of driving everywhere, consider biking to nearby locations. Or, take public transportation as often as possible. Both options reduce your gas costs and get you walking or moving. Also, a transit pass is much cheaper than gas.

If you have to drive, consider carpooling. That way, there’s one less car on the road and you and your buddy can split gas costs.

Saving money and being eco-friendly can go hand in hand. Use these tips to keep some cash in your wallet and make the environment a little healthier.

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Drugstore Makeup: Just as Good as the Expensive Brands

It’s expensive to be a girl. In order to achieve that flawless complexion that is expected of us, we must purchase everything from foundation and concealer to mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick … the list goes on. When you’re buying all of these things on a regular basis, your bank account really feels the effects.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands

I know, it can be tempting to buy the expensive brands of makeup, like MAC, Dior, Clinique, Estee Lauder, and Tom Ford. After all, their advertising can be quite convincing. And magazines and television consistently tell us that in order to look as beautiful as the stars gracing the big screen, we need the expensive makeup brands. That advertising and marketing is a big part of why the makeup costs more in the first place.

Best Drugstore Makeups to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands

But you and your wallet will be happy to know that sometimes it actually is better to opt for drugstore makeup. Here’s the best drugstore makeup to buy so you can save money, but not sacrifice your look:


You don’t have to drop big bucks on mascara, because the stuff you’re getting at the drugstore is just as good (if not better) than what you would purchase in a department store. In fact, did you know that the mascara brands sold in drugstores are made in the same laboratories, with the same formulas as the expensive cosmetics?

It’s not worth spending lots of money on mascara because you’ll have to end up tossing it in the trash after just three months. Three months is the point in time when the formula begins to get dried out and isn’t as effective. Plus, old mascara quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to spread bacteria all over your lashes.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Mascara.jpg

I never know what brand of mascara to get when I’m walking through the drugstore aisles. One says it will give my lashes volume, the other says it will give them length. One is black, one is dark brown– there are lots of choices.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the type of wand you select actually matters. The thicker the brush, the more voluminous your eyelashes will be. If you really want to pump up your lashes, go with a plastic bristle brush or a twisted wire brush. For length, the opposite is true. Get defined lashes with smaller plastic or rubber brushes.


Just like mascara, eyeliner only has a shelf life of three months, so you’ll want to re-stock your liner every three months to prevent the spread of bacteria. Many of the designer brands use the same formulas you would find in drugstores, so you’re not doing yourself any favors by splurging here.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eyeliners

I feel clueless when I’m looking for eyeliner. There’s pencil, powder, liquid, black, brown, gray, thick, thin– way too many options. In the past, I’ve gone with black pencil eyeliner, but black eyeliner can actually be too harsh for the eyes and make them look smaller. Instead, it’s best to go for a softer, subtler tone, such as brown or gray. You can save the bold black shade for a dramatic look during a night out on the town.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eyeliner

If you want an eyeliner that produces more sharp and contoured lines, you’ll want to opt for the liquid variety (I still cannot seem to master the cat eye look, but I’m working on it).


No sense in shelling out $30 for eyeshadow when there are brands at the drugstore offering you a palette of lots of different colors for way less. You can purchase a combination of browns, beiges, and gold to warm up your eyes, or give them a cool look with a palette of silvers, greens, and blues.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eye Shadow

Whichever hues you decide to buy, a palette is always the most inexpensive option because you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

I’m living proof that you shouldn’t splurge on eyeshadow. I bought a single container of brown eyeshadow from the MAC store (holy expensive), and my much less pricey L’Oreal palette of brown shadows wins every time. Nobody is ever going to know that I’m wearing L’Oreal and not MAC, unless they ask.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eye Shadows

Plus, thanks to eyeshadow’s four-month lifespan, you’ll find yourself purchasing this must-have makeup pretty often.


If you’re smart about what lipstick you buy, you can get a great deal without sacrificing quality. You can always tell a good lipstick from a less-than-average one, because the designer brand glides on smooth with a luxurious finish and full color. Be sure to look for a lipstick at the drugstore that combines color with hydrating ingredients.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Lipstick

Of course, when you’re buying from the drugstore, you’re bound to come across a specific product or brand that you just don’t like. Create a list of all these brands to ensure you don’t keep buying them over and over again. I tend to lose track of which mascaras and eyeliners I’ve used in the past, so having a list to rely on helps. That way, you know you’ll be buying the best drugstore makeup while still saving cash.

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What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

Furnishing a first apartment is a great feeling, but it can also be an overwhelming process. There are so many options for everything that even deciding on a towel set can seem like too much pressure. Plus, a smaller budget can at times mean refraining from buying some things altogether.

What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

If you’re on a budget, knowing what to buy first will help you allocate your spending accordingly. That way, you can get what you’ll truly need, then use the rest of your budget on little touches that will turn the space into a home. Here’s a priority list of what to buy when furnishing your first apartment:

A Bed

Your first priority should be a bed, since it’s where you’ll be spending most of your time while at home. In fact, the most essential part of the bed is the mattress. Get a good quality mattress that you’ll sleep well on and be able to keep for several years. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Bed As far as bed frames go, a basic frame is all that’s really needed, but feel free to get something a little more decorative. Though not absolutely necessary, it may make you feel a little more at home in your bedroom.

A Comforter and Sheets

Speaking of beds, you’ll also want to invest in a down comforter and duvet, especially if you live in a cold place. A nice down comforter will last for years, and you can buy new duvets instead of a whole new comforter as your tastes change. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Comfroter and Sheets Plus, stripping off a duvet and throwing it in the washing machine, while sometimes awkward and complicated, is a lot easier and more efficient than trying to wash an entire comforter.

A Couch

A living room without a couch isn’t the most comfortable place to spend time, so make sure to pick one up. Splurging on a pricey couch may seem a little out of reach, so if it just seems like too much, start with a futon. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment -  Couch Futons may not be as comfortable or long-lasting, but at least you and your guests will have a place to relax (and sleep). Box stores like Ikea, Wal-Mart, and Big Lots may have some inexpensive couch options, so if you’d rather buy a couch than a futon, consider starting there.

A Coffee Table

Unless you have room for a full dining table set, a coffee table may be the only eating surface you have in your apartment for a couple of years. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Coffee Table This is one item you don’t have to bother splurging on– look to cheaper versions, since it’s likely to get damaged between now and when you move out.

Kitchen Necessities

There are various kitchen items you should make sure to get when furnishing your new place, and you probably know best what those items are. Take a few minutes and write down a list of your own personal kitchen necessities– the items you use the most, like a tea kettle or microwave, for instance. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Kitchen Necessities Break the list down into categories for items you use to cook (pots and pans, spatulas and food), items you use to eat (dishes, silverware, glasses), items you use to clean (take my word for it, and get plenty of Clorox wipes), and any appliances you use often. I know many people who simply can’t live without a ​slow cooker or have to have a French press. If that sounds like you, put it on your list.

Bathroom Necessities

You may already have some bathroom necessities, but there are a few essentials everyone should make sure they have. The No. 1 most important item is toilet paper, obviously. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Bathroom Necessities You’ll also need a shower curtain and liner, and probably a shower caddy or organizer if you don’t already have one.


Especially if your apartment doesn’t have overhead lights, make sure you think about lamps when furnishing your place. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Lamps Place one next to your bed and in your living room, if you have one. That also means buying plenty of light bulbs!

Extension Cords

Extension cords are so necessary and sadly often forgotten about. Buy several, and I can guarantee you’ll find uses for all of them. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Extension Cords Power strips are another good idea, so be sure to pick up a couple, especially if you have a TV and other electronics.

A Wireless Router

Like extension cords, a wireless router isn’t always the first item on a person’s priority list, but it should be in the top 10. You never know how much you depend on the Internet until you have to spend a few days without it! What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Wireless Router Many cable and internet packages include a router rental, so either set up an appointment with your Internet provider as soon as possible, or buy one of your own that you’ll be able to move with you to future apartments.


Unless you plan on keeping everything in a dresser (in which case, you’ll need to buy one), make sure you pick up a few packs of hangers. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Hangers You’ll find it hard to settle in when all of your clothes are still boxed up!

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What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

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Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money

If you’re struggling to pay all of your varied expenses while still having some extra cash for decorating your space, you are most certainly not alone. A low salary and the basic costs of living make for a tight budget, with very little wiggle room.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money

One easy way to cut down on expenses, though, is to buy a few subscriptions. Almost anyone can find a subscription that would save them at least a few dollars in the long run. If you’re looking for new ways to save money, check out these 7 subscriptions and memberships that may help you pinch some pennies:

1. Amazon Subscriptions

If you’re an avid online shopper (as many budgeters are), you may find becoming an Amazon Prime member to be very worth the $99 per year membership fee. Amazon Prime offers a whole host of money-saving benefits, including free two-day shipping.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Amazon Prime

For those of us who buy enough online that shipping charges easily add up to more than $100 a year, that already makes Prime worth it. But the membership service also includes great perks like access to a number of free streaming movies and TV shows, unlimited music streaming, and free e​-books that you can borrow for as long as you want.

Amazon Prime isn’t the only great subscription from the online company– Amazon Subscribe and Save is another great service that can save members money. The service allows members to have everything from food items to toiletries to other home necessities (think toilet paper and toothpaste) delivered to their house on a set day each month.

The great part is, on top of Amazon’s already low prices, the service offers free delivery, extra discounts, and 15% more deducted from the delivery total if you’re getting more than five items delivered on one day.

2. Magazines

Magazines are probably the first thing you think of when you hear the word “subscriptions.” That’s because magazine subscriptions have been saving people money for years and years.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Magazines

If you find yourself picking up a couple magazines here and there throughout the month, you’re likely paying more than you would on a magazine subscription that will only cost you $15-30 a year. The caveat here is to only buy magazine subscriptions if you know you will actually have the time and energy to read them.

3. Netflix

Online TV streaming services are wildly popular for being inexpensive and convenient, with sites like Netflix and Hulu leading the way.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Netflix

Thousands of television shows and movies are available at the touch of a button, which means you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. Streaming memberships can help save quite a bit of money, especially if they’re used to replace an expensive cable TV package.

4. Birchbox

For those who love new beauty products and trends, a Birchbox subscription is a good idea. If you’re already spending a lot of money each month at stores like Sephora and Ulta, a Birchbox subscription may be a good way to limit that expense.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Birchbox

For $10 per month, Birchbox sends a selection of exciting sample-sized beauty and lifestyle products, and gives you the chance to try each one out before deciding to purchase it.

5. Warehouse Clubs or Grocery Stores

Bulk-shopping warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are a proven way to save money if you can afford to buy in bulk and you know how to shop smart.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Warehouse Sales or Grocery Stores

Because they offer bulk items, warehouse clubs are a little more cost-effective– if you have roommates, you may want to consider splitting a membership and buying items for everyone in the apartment.

If you don’t have roommates, even a membership card at your local grocery store will likely save you money. Most grocery store chains offer members-only deals or coupons that could end up saving you a lot in the long run.

6. Spotify

​Spotify is the music-lover’s answer to not wanting to buy every new song they like.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Spotify

For $9.99 per month, members of Spotify Premium can listen to any song they want at any time, even without access to internet. Members can also create playlists of their favorite songs and avoid advertisements and other restrictions.

7. American Automobile Association

Anyone with a car should consider becoming an AAA member because it’s a great way to save money. AAA memberships begin at $47 per year, which includes 24/7 roadside assistance for things like flat tires and breakdowns.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - American Automobile Association

The membership is really worth it, for all of the amazing discounts members receive. Being an AAA member can get you exclusive deals on everything from car services to concert tickets, along with the thousands of restaurants, stores, and other companies that offer AAA members lower prices.

Almost all of these subscriptions are a great way to save money, but to limit your spending even more, consider asking for one of them as a gift!

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How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

A great way to make your apartment feel like a true home is to add decorations and pretty updates that complement your own personal style. Decorating can get pretty expensive, though.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

The good news? If you want to spruce up each room in your apartment, there are ways you can do it without having to break the bank. The key to updating your apartment cheaply is to make small changes that add big style.

Make a small touch up here and include a splash of color there, and before you know it the room will look completely different. Here’s how to update each room in your apartment for $50 or less:

The Living Room

  • Dress up your windows: Bright curtains can liven up a space in no time, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money either. Look online or at discount department stores for some pretty patterned curtains that will jazz up the windows and add some color to the white walls.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Living Room

  • Switch out your throw pillows: A couple of throw pillows won’t break the bank, and your plain couch will look super spiffy. Make the room look even more put together by matching the colors in your pillows to those in your curtains.
  • Prettify your coffee table: Use a pretty tray to keep your coffee table organized and stylish. Place some magazines or a coffee table book on the tray next to a small vase or scented candle.

The Bedroom

  • Change your lamp shades: New lamp shades can completely alter the look of a room in an instant. Not only will they add a new style to your bedside tables, but they can also change the quality of light in the room – use them to make the bright light in your bedroom a little softer.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Bedroom

  • Stack some baskets: Tackle clutter and add some decor at the same time by picking up a couple of stackable baskets to keep in one corner of the room. Throw in some blankets or clothes you don’t wear often, or anything cluttering up your shelves.
  • Make your own headboard: A quick search on Pinterest will show you just how many DIY headboard ideas there are out there, and some of them can be created pretty cheaply. Even simply hanging a curtain on the wall at the head of your bed can pull the room together.

The Kitchen

  • Change the hardware: As long as your landlord gives the OK, a great way to change the look of a small apartment kitchen is to switch out the cabinet hardware. For apartments that don’t have very many cabinets and drawers, this can be a super cheap and easy project.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Kitchen

  • Add a rug: Replace your old rug by the sink with something new, colorful and fun. Over time kitchen rugs can become dirty and discolored. You can feel free to clean it thoroughly, but splurging on a new one shouldn’t break the bank either.

The Bathroom

  • Add a coat rack: If you have some extra wall space, hang up a decorative coat rack for your robes and extra towels. The colorful array of towels will add some brightness to your walls.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - Bathroom

  • Frame some photos: Almost anything looks great in a beautiful frame, so you don’t have to be a professional photographer to make some hangable artwork. Spend an afternoon walking around a park or neighborhood and take some colorful pictures. Print them out at a drugstore, frame them, and hang them on your bathroom wall.
  • Choose a fun shower curtain: The most obvious big change you can make in a bathroom for $50 or less is replacing the shower curtain. Something new and colorful will update the room’s overall style immediately.

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How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

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When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money

When you’re trying to save some money on your grocery bill, most people will tell you to buy in bulk. That way, you won’t have to keep running back and forth to the supermarket to stock up on that particular item, and you’re usually getting it for cheaper than normal.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money

Grocery stores like Costco and Sam’s Club often encourage you to buy in bulk, but the truth is, there are always exceptions. The following items are a waste of money when purchased in large amounts:


Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and dressing should only be purchased when you need them, otherwise they’ll go bad before you can eat them.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Condiments

You’ll save money up front when you buy condiments in bulk, but that money will be lost when your expired condiments end up in the trash.

Health and Beauty Products

When walking through Costco, you can buy virtually anything in bulk, including health and beauty products like deodorant, mascara, sunscreen, foundation, eye liner, etc.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Health and Beauty Products

It may seem handy to have extras of these frequently used products, but most of them have a shelf life of about one year before they start to go bad.

Instead of bulk buying, it’s best to look for the best sales on the items individually. Oftentimes drugstores will have weekly deals featuring those health and beauty products you use the most. Here’s a quick look at the shelf life of beauty essentials:

  • Mascara: 2-3 months
  • Eye liner: 3 months
  • Foundation: 6-12 months
  • Concealer: 1 year
  • Deodorant: 3 years
  • Lip gloss: 1 year
  • Lipstick: 2 years


Spices like oregano, chili powder and garlic salt are essential for adding flavor to your dishes. However, if you see a bundle of spices being sold at Costco, you may want to refrain.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Spices

While spices don’t necessarily expire, they do lose their flavor after about six months to a year. There’s no sense in stocking up on spices if they’re not going to do anything to help your cooking.

There might be some spices that you use on a regular basis, like oregano or red pepper flakes. If you rely on those frequently, it may be OK to buy in bulk. Otherwise, just purchase spices as you need them so you don’t waste your money.

Brown Rice

If you want to keep a whole lot of white rice in your pantry, go for it. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with brown rice, which has a much shorter shelf life than its white counterpart.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Brown Rice

But why? Well, brown rice contains much more oil, so it will only be good in your kitchen for six months. White rice lasts a bit longer – I’m talking 30 years. Unless you know you will be consuming a lot of brown rice in a short amount of time, I suggest saving money by purchasing smaller bags of it and stocking up on white rice.

Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are essential for making anything from baked goods to fried chicken, but be careful about how long you’ve kept your oils. The truth is, many of these oils can go bad after just just a few months.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Cooking Oils

If vegetable oil is unopened, it can last up to six months, but if it’s already opened, toss it after one to three months. Olive oil also lasts for about six months, and should be kept away from any light or heat. It’s best to buy olive oil in the darkest jar possible, as it takes longer for light to break down the product.

If you’re not sure how long you’ve had your cooking oils, look for a change in color or an off smell to tell you whether to keep them or throw them away.


Bleach can not only get the stains out of clothing, it can brighten up your glassware, disinfect trash cans, and even remove mold and mildew from shower curtains and grout. Bleach is certainly handy to have sitting around your apartment.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Bleach

However, after just six months, bleach tends to lose its effectiveness. It’s better to buy a smaller bottle of bleach and only stock up when you’re running low.

Tips for Buying in Bulk

  • Always consider the expiration date. You may be getting a good price, but will you be able to finish all the food before it goes bad? Ask yourself how frequently you would consume what you’re buying.
  • Keep in mind that buying in bulk isn’t always the most financially sound idea. Next time you go shopping, bring your regular grocery receipt and compare prices for products that you most often buy. This will help you figure out where to get the best bang for your buck.
  • Get creative in the kitchen. Buying certain items in bulk can force you to become a more versatile chef. For instance, if you see that a big container of strawberries is on sale at Costco, take them home and experiment with all of the different ways you can use them. Make strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, jam, cupcakes, smoothies, etc.

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When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - You're Not Always Saving Money When You Buy in Bulk!

Photo Credit: Ken TeegardinMatt KatzenbergerMaria MorriAndrea Parrish – Geyer, Arria BelliAllen SheffieldAllen