I’ve been living in my first apartment for about eight months. Not very long, I know, but there are certain things that I’ve noticed have been incredibly helpful in helping me adjust to life away from my parents and outside of dorms.
Slow Cooker-This is probably the most important thing I’ve ever purchased. The internet is full of recipes for slow cooker dump dinners that you can prep, freeze, and throw in a slow cooker later. These are great for people who don’t have a lot of cooking skills. Slow cooker dinners also tend to be huge, so you can split the cost of ingredients with friends and share the meal, or make leftovers for yourself and eat for a few days. The best part is that you can leave a meal in the slow cooker and forget about it for a few hours, while you do homework or apply for jobs. I have chili slow cooking in my kitchen even as I type this. Crock Pot is the best known brand, but there are plenty of other brands that make slow cookers in a variety of price ranges and sizes.
Coffee Maker-If you’re not one of the many 20-somethings working in the coffee industry, you’re probably buying coffee from one of them. With a simple cup of coffee going for more than $2 at many chains, it can be difficult to justify the expense, even if you need the caffeine. Even if you’re buying your beans from a coffee chain instead of the grocery store, you can get a pound of good coffee for under $15 (that’s about a week’s worth of $2 coffees). Depending on how much coffee you drink, that pound of beans could last you a month or two. The Keurig is an option is well, but K-Cups tend to be more expensive than ground coffee and waste a lot of plastic. If tea is more your speed, a nice tea kettle (and an infuser, if you use loose leaf) can accomplish the same goal.
Wholesale Club Membership-Joining a wholesale club like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club can be on the pricey side, but save you so much time and money in the long run, especially if you can split the membership cost with friends or roommates. Buying groceries in bulk saves you both money and time, especially for staple items that you need around, but don’t necessarily get used up quickly (I bought a three pack of giant ketchup bottles about six months ago, and just opened the second one). This isn’t an accessible option for everyone. If you’re living in a small space, you might not be able to store many bulk items, and if you’re like me and rely on public transportation to get around, you may have trouble even taking larger items home. One work around I’ve found is taking the bus to my nearest wholesale club and getting an Uber or Lyft back, so I can put my groceries in the trunk.
Online Surveys-This isn’t an investment of your money, but of your time. There are tons of panels that will pay you in gift cards, airline miles, or PayPal money to take surveys for them. Most of them are only worth five or ten cents a piece, but if you can reserve a couple of weekend hours to surveys every week, you can rack up the bucks pretty quickly. Most of them are quick and easy to sign up for, like Opinion Outpost, Swagbucks, and e-Miles. There are others, like e-Rewards, which are invitation only and require you to be a member of one of their sponsored programs to use. Membership is free, and most surveys only take a few minutes, so you can do them as you have time.