From setting up utilitties to saving on necessities

Money-Saving Tips and Hints for Your First Apartment

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First Apartment

My fiancé and I are getting ready to have our first apartment and are wondering if there are any "start-up" tips or hints. Neither of our parents are around, so we are quite lost as to how to set up utilities, what necessities are needed for a home, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Start with Garage Sales

Go to yard sales! Do not purchase furniture on a payment plan. There is so much "good stuff" waiting for you on Friday and Saturday mornings and you'll have fun garage shopping! You will be amazed at what you can pick up to furnish your house and kitchen.

Contact the Chamber of Commerce

Request a newcomer packet from the Chamber of Commerce in the city you live. It will have everything you need. All utility hook up numbers are included and some coupons to local merchants. Most towns and cities offer this service.

Head to the Library

You can find reference books at the library on setting up a household. The one I like is Making a Home, 2001, Better Homes and Gardens Books. It's got household tips like carpet stain removal, plumbing concerns, setting up a basic toolbox for household repairs, etc.

Hold a Freecycle Housewarming Party

For the couple looking for advice on "starting up" their first apartment together, I would suggest picking up a relocation guide from the local post office. The booklet contains a form for forwarding mail to a new address, but it also contains advice and checklists of what to do and whom to call when relocating, most of which will be pertinent even if the couple is staying in the same general area.

Since most first apartments are filled with second-hand furniture, appliances, and housewares from parents' homes, it's likely that this couple will be starting from scratch. If they feel comfortable (and have a circle of generous and understanding friends), they may want to hold a Freecycle Housewarming party in which their guests each donate something that they no longer want to the couple's home. The couple gets free stuff to start off their household, and their friends get to feel good about passing along that slow cooker they never use or that dresser that they never liked or that extra set of dishes that they inherited from Granny. Tell your guests that you would be happy to give anything that you find that you don't need to charity, but make sure to accept every object (even the hideous ones) with a smile.

Stop! Proceed Shopping with Caution

First, register your change with the post office. You can do this online for a small fee ($1) or in person. I've always received a packet of coupons in the mail after registering my address, many of which are targeted to services a new mover might need. Ask your landlord for a list of utility companies in the area to call: electric, gas, cable, phone. Try to get all but cable (which they may need to visit in person) set up before you move in. This may mean checking that the old tenant has turned the service off by that day. Many people forget to turn utilities off promptly, which is fine for you, but you don't want to end up paying someone else's bill if they completely blank on it.

Clean the place before moving things in. Pack a box of crucial items and mark it clearly to unpack first at your new place (toilet paper, pan, pot, bowl, cups, utensils, permanent marker, pen, paper, sheets, etc.). Bribe friends with offers of lunch and undying gratitude to help with move in day. Stock up on water/Gatorade and keep it flowing. Once you have moved in, wait. Every time I move, I'm very enthusiastic with all of the possibilities of a new place but by waiting, I don't let it overwhelm my pocketbook. Keep a list of things that you want, but hold off for two weeks on anything beyond essentials to see if you really need it. This way, I've found I didn't really need that rug, but it was driving me nuts not to have a toothbrush holder.

What Have You Forgotten?

A few things to keep in mind for setting up utilities:

  • Depending on the utility, you may need to put a small "down payment" down. This is generally refunded after a year or so once a history of on-time payments are established.
  • Some utilities may require an additional fee to "turn-on" the service.
  • Don't forget to shop around for certain utilities. Is it cheaper to pay for a dish, receiver and the monthly service for satellite than to have all the bells and whistles with cable? Or would you get a better deal bundling your cable television, high-speed Internet, and telephone service together?

What things should you purchase for your new home that you may not realize? Here's a small list to get you started:

Light Bulbs
Shower Curtain(s)
Small toolkit
Variety pack of nails and screws
Toilet Paper
Paper Towels
Cleaning Supplies (Glass Cleaner, Dishwashing Liquid, Toilet Bowl Cleaner, etc.)
Broom, dustpan and mop
Extra batteries
Emergency Candles
Bathroom and Kitchen Towels
Measuring cups & spoons
Dishware and Silverware
Basic cooking utensils such as a spatula, slotted spoon, regular spoon, ladle and whisk
At least one casserole dish, cookie sheet, a nice frying pan, saucepan and stock pot

Much of these things can be purchased at your local "discount" store such as a Family Dollar or a Dollar General. Just walk through the home aisles and you should get a pretty good idea of what you'll need.

You may also be interested in stocking up your pantry. This is a great chance to get started since you're moving into a new place that does have an "old" pantry to organize first! A quick Internet search can get you well on your way to your own personalized pantry list. A few sites to get your started are and

Have a Move-In Plan

See if your apartment complex has a website. If so, see if they have your floor plan online with its dimensions (for each room). This helps you determine whether or not your furniture will fit and where to put it. When you move in, especially if you have movers or friends who are helping, it's nice to put signs (with painters tape) on the walls telling you where the furniture should go, so you don't have to move it twice. Planning this ahead of time makes your life so much easier. There are so many other tips, but this one was the most useful for my last move.
Lynda C

Cheap, but Cutting Edge Décor

My Father-In-Law once told us that he bought all his first apartment's dishes, silverware, and glassware at the Salvation Army and they were all different. He said it looked so cool to have so many different place settings. The Martha Stewart in me bristled at this until I saw in Martha Stewart magazine the same concept! Scour the local Salvation Army and Goodwill stores for dishes, silverware, glassware, and serving pieces in lots of different patterns and colors. If you want something that looks more uniform, select from the same color palette or the same "feel" (i.e., floral, modern, etc). You'll be very cutting edge!

Who Has Better Credit?

My best advise is to put the various utilities in the name of the individual with the better credit. Often the utility services will wave a security fee for new accounts if you have a good credit rating. It pays to check it out. You can save hundreds of dollars!

Inspect Apartment for Damages Prior to Move In

When viewing the apartment, make sure to inspect everything like plumbing, etc. If it is not working properly, inform the owner immediately so you are not responsible for any repairs. Ask when trash day is and where you're expected to keep it before then. Are there very young children that may disturb you? Or elderly people who may not appreciate your awesome stereo? You want to make sure you live in a home and neighborhood that suits you.

At least two weeks before moving in, call the utility companies, cable service, and Internet service to have them turned on in your name. Request a local phone directory, too. You can call the local Welcome Wagon or visit your Town Hall to get important phone numbers, dates of events, local laws, etc.

Make sure you get a written receipt for any security deposit and rent that you pay. Read your lease carefully before signing it! You want to make sure you leave this apartment in good condition and pay your rent on time so you can get a good reference when moving, and get your security deposit back.

Do not make any changes to the apartment without permission from the owner. Finally, take measurements for rugs, curtains, etc. well before moving in so you can plan your decorating. Enjoy your new home!

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