According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 1,830,000 students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2018. And while that might sound like 1.83 million Americans will soon be ready to completely embrace their independence, the reality is that prospect is intimidating for many. Although 47% of young Millennials say they have not or will not move back in with their parents after graduation, those who don’t may feel a bit unprepared to take that next pivotal step into adulthood.

Making matters even tougher, approximately 70% of graduates will bring college debt along with them. Do you have student loans? With your employment status uncertain and school debts hanging over your head, that can have a big impact on your budget -- especially as it pertains to your living situation. As costs of living continue to rise, recent graduates like yourself need to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to choosing an apartment and furnishing it. Otherwise, it can be tough to afford all of the necessities.

Fortunately, there are some tips that can help you stay on track without sacrificing the quality of your apartment or what’s in it.

my first apartment

For one thing, focusing on the five must-haves -- a quality mattress with a bedframe, a dining table with chairs, a bookshelf, a sofa, and a coffee table -- is a good way to weed out the extraneous items and keep young people from spending money on other kinds of decor they may not need right away. Once these items are taken care of, you can then shift your focus to finding other pieces you may need.

You should also stick to the 50-30-20 rule whenever possible. Although it can be difficult given the high cost of living in many municipalities, it’s ideal to set aside 50% of one’s income for fixed monthly expenses like rent, utilities, food, insurance payments, and more. Around 30% of your income should go directly into savings, while 20% can be devoted to leisure and entertainment. If you don’t keep track of where your money is going, it’s easy for the non-necessities to add up before you get a chance to take care of the things you truly require. By outlining a budget that takes these percentages into consideration and tracking your spending (there are even apps to help you do this!), you won’t risk a financial emergency.

Budgeting can help you cut out the unnecessary spending, but it’s not the only way to save. Something as simple as switching to energy efficient light bulbs and installing a programmable thermostat can do the trick. Not only will your monthly expenses be lower, but you’ll also be doing your part to protect the planet. Make sure to unplug electronics when they aren’t in use and use your window AC unit sparingly, too!

Although living alone can allow for more privacy, it’s also bound to be pricier. If your area is simply too expensive to afford by yourself and you don’t mind the thought of having a roommate, this can also be a great way to keep your spending in check. By splitting everything right down the middle, 50/50, you can probably afford to live in a better location or enjoy some perks (like cable or internet) that you might not be able to have otherwise. Plus, your roommate might already have some household items or appliances you don’t, which will save you even more!

Finally, remember to be creative with your furnishings. Storage space is usually a top priority, but many apartments are lacking in this area. By taking advantage of modular or multifunctional storage options (which can double both as furniture and as storage spaces), you’ll get more versatility and, essentially, more for your money. And because these storage options are often customizable for your space, you can create something totally unique to fit your needs.

Preparing to move in to your first apartment can be a bit intimidating, but remember that it should be exciting, too! As long as you follow these tips, you’ll be in great shape to manage your spending and organize all of your items in your new home.