Living in NYC on a budget is a phrase that contradicts itself to most degrees. If you’re familiar with our blog you may be wondering how two twenty-somethings have been fortunate enough to travel so much. It’s the number one question we receive, and I myself was always very curious years before we left on this life of adventure how people do it. Over the past seven or so years I have saved up, left to travel, depleted the savings, saved up again, deplete again…etc. That’s what we do. Save and work.
We didn’t have much money when we moved to the big city in search of a career. We decided to make the leap without jobs, without a place to live, and without a plan – thankfully we had each other.
It was shortly after we landed entry-level positions and found an $1800/month 1 bedroom apartment in the Bronx, New York that we decided to start saving. We knew we wanted to travel more in the future, and even though we weren’t exactly sure when, we set out to save as much as we could.
For New York standards, we lived way below our means. Both of us value experiences rather than tangible items, and it’s this mindset that lets us travel the way we do. It has always been easy to walk past that coach purse or new flatscreen TV. My $10 purse holds its purpose and cable TV is dying anyway.
What to know how we were able to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a budget? We lived by these ways of life in New York, and this is how we were able to save over $50k in one year.
Living in NYC on a Budget
Learn to love home-cooked meals
This is just how to live cheap 101. Cooking your own meals are generally healthier and you know exactly what is going into your body because you made it yourself. A decent meal, tip, and perhaps an alcoholic beverage could set you back $30+ (or $50 in NYC).
Get rid of cable
With the internet, cable is really an unnecessary expense. Invest in an $8/month Netflix or Hulu account to get your movie and TV fix in. Or just spend more time outside, reading, or working out.
Bye bye bar nights
At $10-$15 a cocktail, drinking wasn’t really in our budget. If you find yourself in need of some alcoholic juice then grab some friends, cards, and a bottle of vodka and have a fun night in! A bottle of vodka at the store cost $15, while a vodka soda will run you $8…you do the math. If you’re given a hard time, just remember about much better those drinks will taste when they are $2 in Eastern Europe.
Work two jobs
While you’re young and able why not pick up a second job on weekends! Maybe you sit all day at your day job and love walking around and bartending. Or maybe you can swing a couple early mornings working at that awesome New York cafe. Even if it’s not needed, picking up a second job can really boost your savings.
Take public transport
On any New York itinerary, you can get by with public transport. It’s weird that I need to say this to New Yorkers, but obviously, this is “duh” advice on how to live cheap. This doesn’t just go for New York. Be greener and cheaper and hop on your local bus or train. We would have rather spend an hour more on the subway than dishing out $40 for a cab.
Ditch the 401K
Investing is smart. Investing means you are saving so you can enjoy life in your old age. But wouldn’t you rather have that money now, when you are young and agile enough to travel and experience new things? You never know what’s coming; so live in the moment!
We are coffee snobs. I would love a fresh latte every morning. However, it is something we cut out years ago. The average American spends over $1100 on coffee a year. That’s almost $100 a month! Start making your coffee at home.
This goes along with home-cooked meals. Ordering a BASIC lunch in NYC is around $15 even at some of the more famous affordable places to eat; so there goes $75 in one week. Remember when mom used to pack you a brown paper lunch while all the cool kids got to buy cafeteria food? It’s time to bring the old times back – be a brown paper lunch person again!
Open profitable Bank accounts
We never open a checking, savings, or credit card unless it is offering us something. Make the banks work for you again. Since when did we let them charge us to hold our cash? That’s not how the financial system got started. Sign up for checking accounts when they are running $200 sign up bonuses. Open credit cards in the interest of miles or cash. And pick savings accounts with high dividends and interest rates. Do a google search every month and see which of your banks are offering incentives.
Count your dollars
Next time you’re caught between spending $3 on that snack out, or just waiting till you get home – choose to wait. Yes, it is only $3, but dollars add up! Five times of saying “It’s only $3” equals $15.
And Finally – Live Below Your Means
How much does it take for you to just get by with the basics? If you cut out all the frivolous spending on clothes, shoes, and alcohol you will be amazed how much you can get by on. Even if you can afford those nice items, do you really need them?