A Guide to Your First College Apartment

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Calli Jansen
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Moving to college and living in a residence hall is hard enough but moving into an apartment for the first time has a whole different set of challenges. There are things you never thought to get and a learning situation of truly being on your own for the first time. Here is a guide to handling bills, successful grocery shopping and keeping your new home clean.

Budgeting Bills

Water, electric, cable, WIFI, gas and, of course, rent are the major bills most people will have to handle in their first home. However, some apartments or rental companies will combine some or all in the price of one’s lease, which can be a plus. If you are responsible for any mix of these necessities there are a few ways to handle this. I prefer the e-billing, where the bill for each month comes through email and I keep a folder of them all so they are located in one spot. 

I also turn on autopay for some bills so I do not have to worry about forgetting to pay those on time and there will be no late fees. However, this is not always plausible because of having to wait for roommate reimbursement or a paycheck to clear. Another great option is to get a planner and put down the dates the bills come out and the dates they are due so you can plan ahead and get all the funds you need. Additionally, starting a simple budget in the journal can be helpful with approximate amounts you spend on each utility, grocery store run or school supplies so you know if you have that extra 20 dollars to spend on new tailgating outfits or video games.

Getting Groceries

This is one of my favorite activities – except when it comes to checking out because food can be expensive! See if your local grocery mart has a rewards program. Whether it’s exclusive deals, more coupons or getting cash back after spending so much, every little bit helps. Another helpful hint is to keep a list. There is nothing worse than getting home and unloading tons of groceries only to remember you forgot milk.

I like to keep a list on the fridge so as we run out of items we can record them and whoever goes to the store can take it with them. Usually all that is on our list is diet coke, bagels, eggs and pasta as they are all cheap and reliable. Also, depending on what you like to eat, it is nice to keep some staples in the house that you can add to any meal, like peanut butter, tomatoes, cheese and spinach. I have found out that it’s nice to have quick snacks always available because after a late night of studying or long day of classes, cooking a whole meal isn’t too appealing. 

Cleaning Up

Making your bed and putting your clothes in a hamper is one thing, but moving into your own home means you have to clean the bathroom, do the dishes, sweep the floor and everything else in between. No one else is going to do it other than you unless you have really nice roommates. In my experience, I find it is easier to clean as you go rather than wait for a while because then it will take forever. The longer your dishes sit in the sink, the harder it will be to get off the dried mac and cheese. The less you pick up your crumbs from your sandwich, the more likely it is you’ll get little critter friends visiting. And the longer you wait to do your wash, the more loads you will have to do. So wash your pans after dinner or throw them rinsed in the dishwasher. Clean your bathroom once a week and do your laundry before you run out of clean underwear. 

There are a lot of things to consider when moving into your first apartment that you may not realize. I hope this helps you get a jump start on moving in and helps you get a perfect start to your semester!


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