When we graduated from college, we moved to New York City because that's where we landed our first jobs. We believed living in Manhattan meant that we made it. Everything we knew about the city was derived from books and movies, and so we imagined having drinks like an adult at the NoMad Bar, singing karaoke at Arlene's Grocery and looking through stacks of books at the Strand.
We were 22 or 23, and we were so naive that we couldn't see at first that the lifestyle we dreamed up was out of our reach. Every check we earned went to pay for our rent, a hole-in-the-wall walk-up studio in the derelict section near the Port Authority. We were not making it in any sense. We were jealous of our other friends who landed jobs on Wall Street or who had rich parents to help them out. All we knew at the time was that we needed so many essential things for our apartment because it came unfurnished.
Everything was essential. We had no utensils, no dishes, no tools like wooden spoons and knives. We had no place to sit except on the floor, so we bought a futon. We bought shower curtains, mattresses, floor lamps and a wine opener so that we could get blind stinking drunk on an eight dollar bottle of pinot noir to make our worries go away. When we finally purchased all the items, month after month had passed by until it was a year later and we were no longer as young as we were when we first moved here.
And although our life then still looked altogether different from the one we had in our imagination, we did something right, we were able to acquire 25 essential things every graduate should buy for their new apartment. So here's everything we bought.
25 Tool Kit And Drill/Driver
How else are you going to put together all of your new IKEA furniture? They can't be made just by the enclosed hex wrenches we all hate. There's also nails and screws that need to be used. A put-together tool kit is a necessity, then, and it will have all the tools you need, like a tape ruler, a hammer, a level, and screwdrivers. While you're at it, invest in a cordless drill/driver, like this long-lasting one from Bosch.
24 Kitchen Tools and Other Necessities
So, even if your kitchen is the size of a powder room, you still need to cook, remove trash, etc. Here's stuff that you need to have to get by: silverware, dishes (plates, mugs, glasses, etc), a trash can, pots and pans, oven mitts, dish towels, tools like spatulas and whisks, measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, plastic food containers, a bottle opener and a corkscrew.
23 The Countertop Convection Oven
We're talking about things like toasters. But better yet, if you have counter space, get a toaster oven or convection oven. You want one with a powerful convection fan that circulates warm air throughout the oven for fast, even cooking. With a convection, you can not only toast, but you can also (like you'd really do the following) broil, bake and warm up food. It's a step above a microwave, although you do need that too. How else will you pop corn?
22 Coffee Maker
This is imperative. It's your first job and you want to make a good impression. Are you going to go to work groggy or are you going to waste almost 5 bucks that you don't really have by going to Starbucks? With a coffee maker, you can drink as much as you want in order to wake up. If you don't have space or live alone, get a 4-cup coffeemaker. If you do have space and roommates, a 12-cup coffee maker is the best.
21 A Knife
The most important item to have in your new apartment is a good knife. Why? Because you can't do take out pizza and Chinese food every day. You need to cook, and by doing so, you'll save some money. Get a chef's knife. It's sharp, sturdy and chops well. The best one? Try the Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife. It's non-slip, has an ergonomic handle and a razor-sharp edge that requires little sharpening.
20 A Blender
This is a given. How else will you make drinks when friends are over? Get a do-it-all blender. Usually, the glass jar is 40 ounces, which means it can hold 5 cups of mixed drinks, soup or sauce. Don't skimp on blenders that cost less than 40 bucks. You'll just end up breaking it with all the stuff you put into it. Something like a 350-watt motor will do, and you won't have to worry about using it to crush ice.
19 Over-The-Door Hook
You need one. You'll probably have some kind of towel bar in the bath, but that's where you hang your towels. Or else you hang your towels over the shower rod. But you shouldn't hang your clothes over the towel rod, as the overall effect will be messy. The best way is to install an over-the-door hook that you can buy for cheap at places like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Then you can hang your clothes any which way you want.
18 Over-The-Door Mirror
If you don't end up using the over-the-door hook, you can use the inside of your bathroom door by hanging an over-the-door mirror. Why do you need it? You need to look your best at your first job, and you need to see yourself in full to see if your outfit looks good. In fact, this mirror is of utmost importance, as you may not have a mirror, let alone a full mirror, in your first apartment. This one from Walmart only costs $24.95.
17 Ice Cube Trays
How are you going to make your scotch on the rocks without ice? Your first apartment will probably not have a fridge that makes ice, as those kinds of fridges are more expensive than basic ones. We're sure your landlord isn't installing a fancy fridge, so the best option is to make ice are ice cube trays. A pack of 2 from Amazon will only set you back $8.00.
16 Amazon Prime
We all shop at Amazon a lot. In fact, we can get everything we need for our first apartment here. From lighting to light bulbs, from batteries to flashlights, from duvet covers to a set of sheets, from a Swiffer Wet Jet to garbage bag and, from toilet tissue to paper towels, we get these things cheap and also get them in 2 days with free shipping because we've signed up for Amazon Prime. At $119 a year, that's a lot, but the frequency in which we buy ends up justifying that fee.
15 Toilet Plunger
There are times we use too much toilet paper that the toilet gets clogged. These are times when we need a toilet plunger because obviously, the 24-hour super is actually only around 9-4 Monday through Friday. Don't get the cheap one for $6 that we saw at Ring's End. It will not suck up. Get the kind that restaurant bathrooms have. Look for rustproof handles made of sturdy aluminum and rubber cups with powerful suction ability. If your toilet is leaking, you'll thank yourself for investing in one that costs in the 12-15 dollar range.
14 Document Folder Or Accordion Folder
Most of our important docs stayed with mom or dad while we were at school. Now that we graduated and have our first apartment, we need those things--Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, etc--at hand. So invest in a document holder or accordion file or even a document box. You'll definitely need one now because you're probably paying the electric or the cable/internet bill. Keeping everything in place will make you find important docs easy to find. And if you have roommates and don't want them to see your monthly bank account statement, get a document box that has a lock.
13 Bath Towels
You're at your new digs, so you have to invest in a set of new towels. Forget the novelty or bright colored towels you used in college. You're all grown up, so you should get a matching set. And the color should be white, so you look more spa than blah. And don't go cheap. We were using Amazon Basics towels and after a few washes, they started to fray. Pottery Barn has the most affordable towels that we know will last because it's a quality brand. A set of 3 costs $56.
12 A Sofa
A sofa is imperative, as it's a place to relax, or to binge watch a show on Netflix. You probably can't afford to get a new and comfy sofa, so you may have to settle for a futon. Yep, like the one you threw away from your dorm the second you got your degree. But these days, futons are looking better and stronger. We searched until we found one that's affordable and looks great. A futon at Target covered in faux-leather costs $509. That's not high. If you are looking for a real sofa with a sleeper tucked in and at a cost below 500, you are, alas, looking for something that doesn't exist.
11 Command Hooks and Strips
Renting your first apartment comes with all sorts of rules. You can't paint the (often) white walls, you can't walk around with shoes so that the neighbors below don't complain, and you can't hand pictures because you'll leave glaring holes and pin marks on the walls. So what are you going to do? Look at your blank wall? Nope. Thanks to Command hooks by 3M, you can hang art with these picture hanging strips that use adhesives so as not to mess up your walls.
10 A Mattress
Mattresses are expensive. If you live in a studio, you have no choice but to buy a full mattress, as if you were still living at home. But if you have room, or if you have an actual bedroom, then a queen mattress will do. You can get a new mattress for under $200 by companies found on Craig's List, but we've tried that route and found our mattress to be ridiculously thin. So buy one from a trusted source, like Mattress Firm. You can get a queen for under $300.
Our first job after graduation was in publishing, working as an editorial assistant. Back then, we were paid $23,000 a year. Things haven't changed, and now EAs get $34,000 a year. You can't live on that, which is why we used to put our mattress on the floor. We called it "zen-like" but who were we fooling? Everyone was asking us where our bedframe was. We said, at the store, as we certainly couldn't afford one. If you don't want to look broke, definitely get a frame as soon as you have the cash.
8 Shower Caddy
Your first bathroom will have a shower where there's no space to place all our body products, like shampoos, conditioners, and body washes. We have a shower with just a sliver of space inside it. Solution: a bath caddy that hangs on the shower head. If you have roommates or a significant other, then you'll really have no space. Do we really have to resort to the portable bath caddy that we used to have while living in our dorm that has communal bathrooms? Apparently, yes.
7 The Smart LED TV
The television, like the mattress, is essential. To help you find an affordable one, we went to reviewed.com as a trusted source and found a slew of smart TVs in 32 inch and 40 inch sizes under $300, not what we would ever expect at such a low price point. So after reading all the professional reviews, we settled on the TCL 32S305 32-Inch 720p Roku Smart LED TV, which had all we needed, like the Roku TV platform that streams different channels and which supports Netflix. The cost for a 32 inch? You won't believe it. It's only $149.99.
6 Cable Management Box
For several years now, Blue Lounge has been making products that eliminate cable clutter. If you have a mess of cables under your desk where your computer is and want to stay organized, then the CableBox is for you. The item is a rectangular box which is designed to fit a surge protector. So you attach all your electrics to the surge, and two outlets run on both sides of the CableBox to allow for necessary cables to come out and plug into their associated devices. You've just hidden the cables out of sight!
5 The Torchiere Floor Lamp
We've been in a lot of apartments and one thing they have in common is that there's no overhead lighting. There's one in the bath, but that's it. So you need to invest in some lamps, and your best bet is to get a few torchiere floor lamps that will instantly light up your space at a higher height than your tabletop light. We found one at Target that we love, and the best thing is that it costs only $7.99! So buy a few of these simple and sleek lamps and your rooms will always be bright and stylish.
4 The Billy Bookcase
At some point in our life, we all have owned the infamous BILLY Bookcase from IKEA. That's because it's the cheapest bookcase around, with a six-shelf that sells for only $79.99. According to IKEA, "It is estimated that every five seconds, one BILLY bookcase is sold somewhere in the world." Of course. Because who doesn't like putting it together? It only takes, let's see, about 8 hours and at the end, you have leftover screws that you don't know where they belong on the BILLY. And the back that you have to nail to the BILLY. It's like cardboard, so soft and thin you can push a sharpened pencil through it. But hey, you need it.
3 Under The Bed Storage
Unless your parents are millionaires, chances are the first apartment you snag after college will be a studio. As such, you probably have only one closet and no place left to store shoes or just things you need but want out of sight. So invest in a few under-the-bed storage crates. We found an under bed box that's reasonably priced at the Container Store and is a step above cheaper kinds. These boxes have integrated gliders that allow you to slide them under a standard bed frame.
2 Brita Water Pitcher And Filter
Sure your tap is safe to drink. If you're living in New York City, clean water is a given. But where else? You don't really know until you invest in a Brita pitcher. The water filtered into the pitcher will definitely make you see how clean water can be, devoid of any funky tastes. In fact, using the filter reduces chlorine taste and odor, as well as all impurities found in tap water. A 10 cup pitcher will set you back only $27.
1 Swiffer Sweeper
We don't know how we lived before we found out about the Swiffer Sweeper. In the past, we used a mop and we always thought how disgusting it was to keep reusing it. The Swiffer solves that. You attach wet sheets to the Swiffer to mop the floor and dry sheets that work as a broom. The best part is that since the sheets are disposable, it's like you're using a new mop every time you clean your floors.