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Moving into Your First Apartment

Getting out on your own for the first time is exciting. Whether you’re moving to a college apartment, or are signing your first lease without a cosigner, you’ll have a lot to consider before making the big move. We know how hectic a time this will be for you, and have put together a list of key areas which will be worth your immediate attention.

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    Your first order of business will be to set aside some money for your move. If this is your first apartment, then the one or two-bedroom costs are likely to be your only concern on the following chart. However, these cost figures have been derived from actual move data from top moving companies across the country. Moving costs in a given area are often governed by local living costs, which should help you to adjust your idea of what your fair price from a full-service mover should be.

    Bear in mind that moving with a container service, such as U-Pack or PODS, or renting a moving truck and doing the heavy lifting yourself are both far more cost-effective options.

    1 BR 2 BR 3 BR 4 BR
    Local $1,200 $1,500 $2,000 $2,750
    250 mi $2,750 $3,800 $5,100 $6,000
    500 mi $3,100 $4,100 $6,000 $6,700
    1000 mi $3,500 $4,500 $6,400 $8,400
    2000 mi $4,300 $4,900 $6,800 $9,000

    *Local moving costs are calculated at hourly rates, while long-distance charges are based on shipping weight and distance covered. 

    Living Costs

    When searching for your first apartment, you’ll ideally be looking to sign a lease that balances location and cost well. You want access to amenities, along with close proximity to your job or university, at an affordable price. Most apartment complexes or landlords will subject you to a credit check (a credit score of above 600 is the qualifier for many landlords), and will require that you provide proof of at least a 3:1 income to rent ratio.

    If you’re unable to pass either of these requirements, then a cosigner may be necessary. In many cases, a close family member – usually a parent – will be happy to fulfill this role. If not, then a roommate may be your best course of action.

    What You’ll Need

    Setting yourself up to live on your own will require a lot of planning. You’ll have to purchase or otherwise procure a number of furniture and basic items to get your apartment floor plan up to snuff. If you’re moving out of your parent’s place, then you may get some help in this area. They could have some older furniture and basic items which they’d be willing to part with for little or no money. You can always upgrade later on when you’re more financially set anyway.


    Furnishing an apartment is likely going to be one of your biggest overall expenses. Items like couches and mattresses are some big-ticket items of note, which could inflate your costs substantially. Luckily, there have been a great number of mail-order mattress and bed frame companies that have cropped up over recent years, which offer quality products at relatively low prices. Ordering online and requesting direct shipment to your new apartment can save you money on your move.

    Beyond this, purchasing a sofa on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or at a larger thrift store is sure to save you some money. Even cheaper couches can run well over $1,000. After putting down first and last month’s rent, as well as a security deposit, you can likely not afford this added expense. Here’s a full list of furniture items you could need:

    • Mattress and bed frame
    • Sofa
    • Desk
    • Dining table and chairs
    • Armchair
    • Coffee table
    • Entertainment center
    • End tables
    • Nightstand
    • Dresser
    • Floor and table lamps
    • Area rugs
    • A shoe rack (for the entryway)
    • Storage containers and racks (for closets)


    Similar to your furniture needs, you may be able to get some help from close friends or family to fill out your kitchenware list. Some of these items include:

    • Utensils (cooking and eating)
    • Chef’s knives
    • Plates and bowls
    • Mixing bowls
    • Mugs and glasses
    • Pots, frying pans, and sheet pans
    • Cutting boards
    • Measuring cups and spoons
    • Oven mitts
    • Dish towels
    • Drying rack
    • And more

    Toiletries and Linens

    This will encompass basic bedroom necessities as well. A healthy schedule or healthy habits will allow for eight hours of sleep per day, so this is a crucial area to see to. Some such items include:

    • Bed sheets
    • Towels
    • Window curtains (blackout curtains if possible)
    • Comforter
    • Laundry hamper or basket
    • Pillows
    • Bathmat
    • Shower curtain and liner
    • Shampoo and conditioner
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Toilet brush and plunger
    • Toilet paper and tissues

    Cleaning Supplies

    Unless it has obviously undergone a recent deep clean, you should clean your new apartment before getting settled. Some cleaning supplies you’ll need for this and day-to-day life going ahead include the following:

    • Vacuum cleaner
    • Broom and dustpan
    • Mop (or Swiffer with wet cleaning pads)
    • Rubber gloves
    • Sponges (separate for dishes and general use)
    • All-purpose cleaning spray
    • Window cleaner
    • Bathroom cleaning spray
    • Toilet cleaner
    • Laundry detergent
    • Dish soap
    • And more


    You should plan on making a large shopping trip as soon as your move-in is complete. Depending on the size of your refrigerator, or the amount of food storage your new place affords you, you should plan on buying between three and seven days’ worth of groceries. Doing this will allow you to cook at home for at least your first week while you get settled.

    Planning The Move Itself

    The planning of the move itself should begin around eight weeks ahead of time. If you’re planning on moving in with just the basics and filling in the gaps in your floor plan over several weeks or months, your move will cost markedly less. Either way, you should conduct a full inventory of your goods to be moved to your first apartment before contacting movers.

    Between eight and six weeks ahead of moving day, you should schedule moving quotes with at least a few different movers in your area. Even if you plan on hiring a container mover to handle things, you should at least fill out an online form on their company website for a preliminary estimate. However, you should know that no moving estimate can be held as valid or binding without some visual component being involved, whether it be in-person or via video call.

    Evaluating Movers

    After getting quotes from different moving companies, you should make your choice based on several factors discussed during your estimates. These include the following:

    • Pricing: This is likely going to be the primary factor in determining your choice of mover. Getting multiple quotes is the best way to ensure that you aren’t overpaying.
    • Proper registration: If your first apartment move is taking you out of state, then a mover you book with will have to be registered with the FMCSA, along with carrying active USDOT and MC numbers. You can use these numbers to look up a mover’s complaint history and registration status through this link.
    • Proper insurance: All movers must carry multiple forms of insurance. You should inquire about valid policies for all of their vehicles, as well as cargo insurance, coverage for any of your goods, and workers’ compensation.
    • Service profile: If you’re moving into your first apartment, you likely won’t have many special service requirements. However, if you have any service needs, like packing, you should ask about them during any moving estimates you receive.
    • Good reviews: Positive reviews are essential when vetting any moving company. Look into customer feedback from multiple sources, including Google, Yelp, and social media.

    Pack a Moving Bag

    For a same-day or local move, you should assemble some essentials in a backpack or duffel bag to be kept on your person at all times. These should include:

    • Documents relating to your identity or bank records
    • Laptop
    • A method of payment for your movers
    • Cash for tipping your movers
    • Snacks and water

    If you’re moving across state lines, or long-distance, then bringing some changes of clothing and toiletries in case of an emergency or delay in your move would be worth it.

    Set Up Utilities

    Many apartments will include at least one utility service in the price of rent to entice prospective lessees. You should look up which utility providers operate in your apartment’s general area and arrange for switching these services on for your move-in date. These should include:

    • Electricity
    • Natural gas or propane
    • Cable and internet
    • Water and sewer service
    • Trash and recycling pickup

    Change Your Address

    Before you move, you should update your address, both with the postal service and with any other subscription services dependent on your location before you move. You can set a date to forward your mail from your old address to your new one, so you won’t miss out on any important letters or packages.

    For more detailed information on this process, you can check out our Ultimate Moving Checklist.

    Settling In

    Begin unpacking your essentials immediately upon moving in. Toiletries, often-used clothing, any food items you’ve packed, should come first. Totally settling into your new space is sure to take a few weeks or months. Here are a few things you can do to make this transition smoother:

    • Make a list of unpacking priorities
    • Arrange your furniture
    • Set up a renters’ insurance policy
    • Walk around your new neighborhood
    • Take a day to relax

    Moving into an Apartment FAQ

    What won’t movers pack?

    Most moving companies will have their own lists of “no-go” items. However, universally-banned items include the following:

    • Flammable chemicals or fuel sources
    • Toxic cleaners (bleach, etc)
    • Batteries
    • Fertilizer or live plants
    • Live plants or animals

    How do I get cheap packing materials?

    Your best bet is to look on forums and online marketplaces for used boxes. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are sure to yield people in your area who have recently moved and would like to get rid of their boxes and packing paper.

    Do movers offer student discounts?

    Discounts will vary greatly between movers. Commonly-offered groups eligible for discounts from these providers include first responders, healthcare workers, veterans, and (sometimes) students. If you live in a college town and have a still-active student ID, you’ll likely be able to find a mover who offers price breaks specifically for you.