Moving Out on Your Own for the First Time? 32 Essential Items

The ultimate guide to must-have essentials when moving out on your own

Moving out and living on your own is amazing! You have so much space, so much autonomy, to be who you are without fear of shame, ridicule or embarrassment – well, as long as you close the blinds and don’t post it online. This is the time to do TikTok dances in the living room, cook pantsless (avoid frying – oil splatters hurt), make creepy zombie noises, sing loudly and off-key until your neighbors are shouting at you to keep it down. For many, this is when you meet your true self for the first time and finally have enough freedom to settle into that self.

But where do you start? It’s not like when you make the decision to set out on your own, everything’s just ready to go for you, or that you’ll have the money to go running through store aisles with arms wide open, sweeping things straight from shelf to cart. Saving money sometimes means spending money. More importantly, it means spending money wisely.

You need to have some idea of what the best items are to spend your money on to help you avoid throwing your paycheck away and cluttering your space with junk that you’ll only use once a year – looking at you, fondue set. No one is cheese dippin’ every day, and if you are, let me take this time to remind you that lactose intolerance can become an issue the older you get.


Let’s start with what is objectively the best room in a home. Have you ever been to a party? Take note of which room gets the most traffic. Or don’t, because I can tell you: It’s 100% the kitchen. It reminds us of fresh-baked cookies and your brother setting the stove on fire (it was actually me). You probably have some great memories to look back on in your family’s kitchen, and having all the right tools will help you now create your own memories.


A 4-quart saucepan is a perfect size for someone living on their own or with a roommate. You’ll use this versatile bad boy all the time for things like ramen, rice, beans, small batches of stews and soups, and, as the name would suggest, sauces.


If you can’t find a reasonably priced set with a large and small size, go big! You can cook one egg in a large pan, but you can’t cook a stir fry in a small one.


Do you like roasted vegetables, cookies, and doing as few dishes for dinner as possible? Of course you do! A quality sheet pan will make your culinary aspirations seem much more realistic.


Go for an oven and microwave-safe stackable glass set to save space and give you variety, because not all ingredients should be mixed at the same time or in the same dish. Do you want salmonella? Because that’s how you get salmonella. Bonus points if you get a set with lids for your leftovers.


Having only one cutting board means washing it multiple times for one recipe in order to avoid cross-contamination. Look for boards that can be easily stored in a cabinet, with good grip to keep you from slicing your fingers off.


Remember that quality will almost always beat out quantity. If you can only afford one quality knife to start with, go for a chef’s knife that can handle it all.


Because how are you planning to flip things and get that even crispiness on both sides, a fork? If you like burning yourself or dropping your food, go ahead and skip on this one.


Because nothing ruins a dish like thinking a tablespoon of salt is the same as the teaspoon that’s actually called for in your recipe.

Tip: Look for sets that are narrow enough to fit into spice jars.


Because you’re going to use canned foods way more than you think.


You’re an adult that can’t keep using the paper plates and plastic sporks that were left over from all the delivery food you ordered during the move-in process. Do your pride and the environment a favor by getting actual dishes.

Tip: Deep bowls are far superior to shallow ones because there is less risk of spillage…especially if you’re eating on the couch like the rest of us Peter Pan adults.

Living Room

Your living room is the image you project to anyone that steps foot in your home. It’s the personality you feel comfortable sharing with others.

When your landlord inevitably turns down your request to install floating shelves, find furniture with built-in storage options. There are plenty of them out there that you can fit into your budget.


Remember when I said living alone allows you to be your weirdo, human self without embarrassment, but then immediately said you should put up blinds? Foreshadowing! Blinds also offer security from potential thieves looking for their next loot drop, offer money-saving solutions by reducing your energy bill, offer sanity by filtering noise from outside, and let you block out the light on those days you decide to be a vampire.


Avoid making the mistake of fashion over function. The right couch makes all the difference on those nights when work has been awful and all you want to do is get lost in the same show you’ve watched a million times. Look for couches that come with storage ottomans or with seating that lifts up to offer storage.

Tip: Shop in-store and ask for the floor models or returned furniture.


A rug gives your home a more polished look, can help you get your security deposit back by protecting the floor or carpet underneath, and helps with noise reduction so your downstairs neighbor doesn’t end up banging on your ceiling. Even a cheap one can make a big difference.


Because you need somewhere to put your drinks and charcuterie and to play games when you have friends over. This can also be a great way to add in some much needed storage. With more and more jobs open to people working from home, you may also want to consider a table where the top extends to give you more of a desk option.


Lighting helps keep you from walking into things. Most places in Arizona come with ceiling fans that have a pre-installed light kit, but sometimes that light is a little harsh. Also, mood lighting is a trend that’s here to stay for a while. Smart lights have become an inexpensive luxury that gives the illusion you know what you’re doing with your life.


Sometimes you just want to veg out in front of the tv and watch crime documentaries. Live your life! You don’t have to answer to anyone anymore…okay, you kinda do if you don’t want to become the actual person the documentary is about. Just make sure to get a television that actually makes sense in your space and won’t break your bank or your neck. The point is to unwind and be entertained, not for your joints to grind and be pained.


It’s your home. You have to look at it every day, so make it worth looking at. Fill your home with art and decorations that make you feel something. Don’t worry about making it look like a designer home, just love it.


Let’s keep it simple in the bedroom. This room is pretty easygoing on the actual necessities, and the items you fill it with will mostly be things that make you happy and calm. For some, that may mean books. For others, that could mean plants.

Tip: Don’t rush to fill your room with stuff at the beginning. Let yourself settle and add things as you go.


Duh. How could the first thing be anything other than a bed? The money you spend on a bed is usually money well-spent, but you have to do a little research. Spend a few days going to different stores and testing out whether you prefer to feel like you’re sleeping on the ground, a cloud or something in between. The life expectancy of a mattress is about 7-8 years, so depending on how much you value your beauty sleep, this may be an item worth spending a little more money on.


Elevate your bed, and you’ll elevate your life. As we age, our spinal cords decide for us that just having a mattress on the ground isn’t the right choice. Get yourself a bedframe. Trust me, you’ll save so much money on chiropractors later on. In addition to health benefits, a bedframe can give you a lot of storage space underneath.


Good bedding is whatever material is most comfortable for you to sleep on and fits in your budget, so worry less about the thread count and more about your sleeping environment. If you live somewhere that’s hot for half the year, silk and a heavy knit probably aren’t your best bet – unless you like sweating all night long. Breathable fabrics like cotton or linen are best to keep you cool and comfy year-round, are durable and easy to wash, and they won’t break the bank.


It’s my firm, unwavering opinion that everyone should have both a book and water next to their bed at all times. In bed and feeling tired, but you can’t get yourself to fall asleep? Don’t play on your phone. Read a book. Your eyes will start to get droopy, and off you go to Dreamland. It’s also great to keep water by your bed for those nights where you’re feeling really dehydrated, and the thought of walking into the kitchen seems more like a 10-mile hike through the desert in the middle of July.


When you wake up in the middle of the night to a creepy shadow on the wall, it will save your sanity to be able to switch on the light and chase the shadows away. There are more practical reasons too, like reading in bed or wanting to see your whole fit before heading out for the day, but it’s mostly the shadow ghost thing. There are tons of affordable lamps to fit any style. The hardest part is deciding what you want your style to be.


I would venture to guess that we all start our day in the bathroom, and it’s important to start out in a space that feels fresh and clean. There are so many budget-friendly options for making your bathroom a spa-like experience that will have you ready to take on the day or unwind from a long one.  


No one wants to smell gross, and no one wants to be around you when you smell gross. Aside from smell, a clean body is a healthy body. Always have soap, toilet paper, and toothpaste on hand!


You can always just stand there airdrying after a shower or washing your hands, but that’s kind of awkward and not really time-efficient. A good set of affordable bath towels can last you a long time as long as you take care of them, and they just make you feel good.


You probably want to avoid slipping on your way out of the shower. It could actually be incredibly hazardous to skip this item, and a bath rug will always be cheaper than a trip to the hospital and stitches. Look for one that’s machine washable and non-slip.


I’ve never seen a bathroom that didn’t already have a mirror, but this is a quick and easy way to add some flare, and you can find stylish affordable mirrors that will take your bathroom up a notch. Whether you’re doing your daily affirmations, putting on makeup or shaving, a mirror is a necessity. Especially in regards to that last one, a mirror will help you to avoid Sweeney Todd-ing yourself.


A shower curtain will most likely pull the most focus in your bathroom, so find one that makes you happy to look at and that will also keep the water in your bathtub or shower where it’s supposed to be.


Trust us. You need to have a plunger on hand. One of the best pieces of advice we've ever heard is, "don't wait until you need a plunger to get a plunger."

Tip: Get a plunger and bowl brush combo to make your toilet sparkle.

Home Maintenance


It doesn’t matter whether you’re handy or not, you need at least a basic tool box. Our homes are made up of screws and nails and bolts and lots of other Home Depot paraphernalia. Your landlord probably won’t be available at all hours, so keeping a tool box on hand for the little things that need tightening or for easy projects around your home is a must.


Streaky mirrors and windows will drive you crazy to look at, and splatters will definitely happen when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands.


Soap and water isn’t always the best option for countertops, stove tops, floors, doors, drawers, and all the other miscellaneous surfaces in a home. If you have pets or kids, you should be cautious of what cleaner you’re using, and it’s always great to choose an eco-friendly multi-purpose cleaner.

Tip: Make sure you can tolerate the smell. If you’re using it throughout your place, it’s a good idea to not hate the smell that will permeate your home.


Spills happen, and you’re going to need something to wipe up the multi-purpose cleaner.


At the end of the day, we are living in a material world, and figuratively speaking, we are all material girls (to a point). This doesn’t mean getting caught up in the regime of commercialism. It’s actually the opposite, and it gives you the power to spend your money on what you actually need versus what businesses tell you that you need.

Although all of the links we listed here give you options for budget-friendly home essentials, this is still a big list and the costs will add up. You may find that you can’t afford all of these things when you’re moving into your first place. Here are a few tips and solutions to help you get what you need:

Create a budget before well in advance of signing your lease and save every cent that you can spare while living at home.

Prioritize items that have to do with keeping you safe and healthy. A coffee table is important, but you can always add it into the mix later if you need that money for a tool box and toiletries.

Have a housewarming party! Add items to a gift registry through Target or Amazon and add the link to a digital party invitation. Invite family and friends over for wine and appetizers. The people that love you want to celebrate you and this huge step in your life. Accept the love…and the gifts.

Don’t overdo it on style. You don’t truly know what your décor aesthetic is until you’ve had time to live on your own for a little while. Avoid getting super stylized essentials until you know the vibe you’re trying to achieve.

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November 15, 2022

Published by SunWest Credit Union

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