Lindsay Smith
furnishing 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.

It gets much easier when you think about things in terms of their function. Whatever furniture you get for it, you need somewhere to sleep, somewhere to sit down, somewhere to eat, and something to put other things on. These are the most essential functions in your apartment, so focus on getting things to fulfill those needs first. If you can buy something that serves multiple purposes, even better.

If you need more specifics, here’s a priority list of what to buy when furnishing your first apartment.

A bed

Your first priority should be a bed, since you’ll be spending most of your time at home asleep. 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. 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.



Speaking of beds, you’ll 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. 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 be out of reach, so if it seems like too much, start with a futon. 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. 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 items

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. 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. There’s no one list that fits how everyone uses the kitchen.

Bathroom items

You may already have some bathroom necessities, but there are a few essentials everyone should make sure they have. The most important item is toilet paper, obviously. You’ll also need a shower curtain and liner, and probably a shower caddy or organizer if you don’t already have one. Make sure to also get cleaning supplies, both for yourself (hand soap, shampoo, body wash) and for the bathroom itself (toilet cleaning brush, plunger, toilet cleaner) to save you from multiple kinds of messes later.


Especially if your apartment doesn’t have overhead lights, make sure you think about lamps when furnishing your place. Place one next to your bed and in your living room at the least. That also means buying plenty of light bulbs, but it’s worth it; lighting is one of the most easily overlooked ways to make your apartment feel like home.

Extension cords and power strips

Okay, maybe it’s not technically furniture, but you were probably going to forget these. You probably have a lot of things that need electricity, and not having enough convenient outlets is a real pain you can easily avoid. Buy a lot of extension cords and power strips – even if you think you bought too many, you’ll be able to find a use for all of them.

A wireless router

Again, it’s not furniture, but do you really like using ethernet cables? Do you even have any computers with ethernet ports anymore? You’re not going to realize how much you depend on the internet until you have to spend a few days without it! You can either get one from your internet service provider, or buy your own, but either way you go, you’ll be glad you made your internet connection wireless.

Hangers or a dresser

How do you plan on storing your clothes? You could keep all of them in a dresser or hang everything up, but either way, you’ll have to buy something. You’ll probably need a dresser along with some hangers, depending on exactly what you want to store and how.

Blinds or curtains

Unless you plan on having your apartment open to the world all the time, you’re going to need something to cover the windows. Which you choose depends on your preferences, but you’ll probably want some way to have privacy in your new home.



About The Author

Lindsay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer who uses her deadline-oriented writing skills for clients like Apartment Guide,, Womensforum Media Group and Brafton.