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I have over the years had many apartments in various cities across the country. But I still have a nostalgic fondness for the first place I rented while attending university.

The red-brick Victorian house was pretty as a picture, despite bordering on a parking lot and backing onto a railway track. My roommate and I rented the top floor while the owner lived below. And despite our landlady's crew of cats – there must have been at least six – our student haven was inundated with mice.

In that apartment I learned the financial basics of being a tenant: I committed to my first lease, signed up for utilities, paid monthly rent and bills, and purchased things like furnishings, groceries and cleaning supplies.

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I learned to live on my own, which meant I was all of a sudden forced to make weighty financial decisions, like how to come up with both first and last month's rent. And whether or not to sublet our place for the four months of the summer we would not be using it.

Signing up for utilities was another eye-opener. Utility companies demand deposits and in addition to coming up with the money, my roommate and I had to decide whose name the bills would go under. (That one bill your roommate forgot to pay can, unbeknownst to you, tarnish your credit rating.)

Once we were settled in, I discovered that having my own place meant spending money on unforeseen things like a shower curtain and vacuum cleaner and clothing hangers. Although it sounds minor, these things add up quickly.

If you are moving this fall and getting your own place for the first time, you could be struggling to figure out what you need to buy and what you can skip. I know I certainly could have used a hand.

Kerry Taylor, who writes the Squawkfox.com blog, has a post on her site to help people navigate this exciting and potentially confusing time. Her easy-to-print First Apartment Essentials Checklist for renters is a broad but helpful list for a range of apartment renters, including students. Although you might decide to skip some of the things on her list – I certainly never needed loaf and muffin pans – it is a good place to start.

Ms. Taylor also has a printable Dorm Rooms Essentials Checklist and if you are hyper-organized, a Moving Checklist and Planner.

The Studenomics site also has a list of what to bring if you are moving into a dorm, with coffee maker, hangers, and sandals (think shared bathroom) making the list.

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Ms. Taylor mentioned in her blog post that her first apartment had cockroaches, which makes me think that the mouse infestation we lived with really wasn't so bad.

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