Navigating the cost of living in New York City can be a daunting task. From groceries to rent and utilities, there are significant costs associated with living in this bustling metropolis. However, there are ways to cut costs and still maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
With careful budgeting, smart shopping, and creative strategies such as finding roommates or subletting part of your apartment, it is possible to reduce expenses and make life more affordable in New York City.
by David Stone
Here are some tips for navigating the cost of living in New York City:
Research your area and find out what prices you should expect to pay for rent, groceries and utilities.
Tips on this research include: By Zip Code, shop around on websites such as Zillow or Craigslist for listings in your desired area. Comparing prices per square foot in living spaces can give you an idea of what to expect when budgeting.
A word of caution, though, landlords’ listed square footage may be a little generous in their favor. Moving into our first New York City apartment forced us to surrender some furniture that should have fit. But by then, it was too late.
Take your own measurements and don’t fall into this common trap.
• Research the cost of utilities in your area, as this varies from location to location and with types of service.
Con Edison is New York City’s primary resource for electricity, but some landlords are approved for sub-metering. That’s a legal arrangement in which they become a public utility, presumably bargaining for lower costs for their tenants.
This does not work well in most instances. Our advice: Sub-metering = buyer beware. Make sure there is an established, independent appeals process or look elsewhere. People – including my family – lose thousands to crafty landlords.
The landlord-favorable catch is that your utility bill gets combined with your rent. There is no way of separating them.
• Look into available discounts for things like rent and entertainment, such as student discounts or senior citizen programs.
Museums large and small open their doors for free on specific days. The Museum of Modern Art is free for anyone on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., for example. Here’s a helpful list of other museums with free or low-pay options.
For seniors, the Carter Burden Network has countless programs for assistance.
• Consider budget-friendly alternatives for meals, such as eating at home, shopping at farmer’s markets and discount stores or making your own food from scratch.
More folks learn about cooking for themselves every day. Not only is it way less expensive, but it’s also more personal and focused on you. And finding your ingredients in the many farmers’ markets around town makes living in New York City fun and affordable.
• Consider taking public transportation. If you don’t have to drive, don’t.
Abundant options, from buses to subways, can take you almost anywhere in the city. In no way is public transit as dangerous as the media makes it seem.
Driving in New York, with all the traffic jams, freelancing drivers and clouds of exhaust fumes, is not for the faint of heart. And the expenses – insurance, maintenance, parking – are staggering.
But although not as dangerous, the subways are as filthy in many stations as you may have heard. Plenty of homeless, drug-addicted and mentally ill people seek shelter underground. All of that, though, can be said about public spaces everywhere in the city, especially the dirtiness.
• Investigate potential roommate situations, as splitting the costs of rent and utilities can be a great way to save.
Taking the time to research and plan ahead makes living in New York City a much more affordable and enjoyable experience.
With a bit of effort, you can find the right balance between cost and comfort in your city life.
And you’ll still be surrounded by one of the world’s greatest metropolises.
So, why not do what New York veterans do? Strategize every day from every angle and save your cash for things you love.