It’s no well-kept secret that New York City has one of the highest costs of living in the country, and housing plays a large part in that. However, as living arrangements can be one of the less flexible factors – although roommates are encouraged – residents must find other areas to be fiscally frugal.
That being said, about 8.5 million people are able to accomplish the dream of living in New York City, which means it’s doable. If you accept the reality that careful financial planning and budgeting is paramount and take practical steps in your day-to-day life, you eventually can enjoy the experience with as little stress as possible. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Create a budget and track every expense
If you don’t want your money to control you, you must learn to control it. Develop a budget that has categories for all your expenses, suggests Gracie Gordon on the Huffington Post blog. Track your expenses each month through a program like Quickbooks or online at Mint.com and then tweak your budget accordingly – figuring out where you need to allot more money and where you can free some up. It may take a while to get used to, but it can give you financial freedom in the end. Also, work on primarily spending cash or using a debit card, as credit gets out of control quickly.
2. Adopt wise eating habits
The area of your budget that often allows for the most scrimping and saving is food-related expenditures. Anisa Purbasari, writing for Business Insider, offers the following suggestions: substitute meat with legumes, which are substantially cheaper; never go anywhere on an empty stomach, so you’re not tempted to buy overpriced snacks or meals you could make at home for less money; and be determined to find the best price for different products, even though it may be time-consuming to shop for groceries and household staples at multiple stores.
3. Splurge occasionally and intentionally
As Purbasari points out, “being on a budget also leaves you craving foods you can’t afford.” That’s why it’s important to allow yourself a weekly treat, like junk food, takeout or a new shirt. Just be sure to choose your treat wisely and only spend what you’ve set aside. For example, Gordon will make conscious decisions ahead of time on how to spend her “fun money.” If she decides to take two SoulCycle classes one week, she will intentionally turn down dinner plans and walk or take the subway instead of cabs or Uber. “The same goes for buying new clothes, pampering, travel, etc.,” Gordon writes. “I’ve found that as long as I keep things as staggered as possible (and still within my budget), it all usually balances out.”
4. Take advantage of free activities
While New York City is expensive, it’s also full of free events if you’re willing to seek them out. Purbasari explains that whenever she wants to do an activity that costs money, she will first do “a bit of Googling to see if there [is] a free or cheaper alternative.” Websites such as Nifty NYC and The Skint are great resources to find fun, inexpensive recreation and social activities. Also keep your eye open for complimentary fitness sessions or other promotions.
A frugal lifestyle may take getting used to, especially when you’ve adopted certain spending habits, like purchasing a Starbucks mocha almost every morning, eating out frequently or even owning a vehicle. Over time, however, making your coffee and lunch at home, taking public transportation and keeping a tighter grip on your wallet will come naturally, making your life in NYC affordable and less stressful and freeing up more time and money for what you think is truly important.