Before you move, be prepared for the high cost of living in NYC.
I receive emails from readers asking for advice as they plan to move to New York. They dream of life in the city and try to figure out a way to make that dream a reality. I say, reach for the stars – move to New York – because if you don’t, you’ll always wonder what could have been. But get real about it before you do. Be sure to understand the high cost of living in NYC before you commit to moving here.
Sure, dreaming big is a good thing, but be sensible and know what you’re getting yourself into and then buy that one-way plane ticket. While life in New York can be magnificent on many levels, living every day in the Big Apple can also get incredibly expensive, which in turn, causes many people to fight to stay here. And no matter how much you love anything, fighting for it gets old. So you know what to expect when you do move, here’s a closer look at the cost of living in NYC.
How much does it cost to live in NYC?
- Monthly rent for 480 square foot studio: $1941 to $2838 (depending on area). Know that smaller studios can be found for less, especially if you go deep into Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
- Basic utilities (electricity, heating, water, garbage,) in 480 square foot studio: $119/mo
- Meal for 2 people at an Italian restaurant, includes appetizers, main course, wine and dessert, $117 (I think this is on the low side, must include 2 glasses of house wine and perhaps sharing a main course. I can only assume tax and gratuity are not included))
- Cocktail in downtown bar or club: $16 (I’d say range is from $14-$24.)
- Broadway theatre tickets for 2: $314
- Movie tickets for 2: $32
- Beer in neighborhood pub: $8
- Eggs (12): $4.99 (can be had for less, like $3.99)
- 1 lb. Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless): $6 (more for reputable brands or organic)
- 2 lb. apples: $3.62 (This is low – apples are usually at least $2.50 per lb.)
- Bottle of red table wine, good quality: $16
- Monthly transit pass (regular price): $121
- Transit each way: $2.75
- Cabs, basic business trip: $23
- Fitness Club, monthly fee for 1 adult: $94/mo
- 15-minute doctor visit: $142
The above stats and more info on the cost of living in NYC can be found on Expatistan.com. These numbers are updated regularly, so know that a month or year from now, what’s above could be higher or lower.
For many, living alone in New York is out of the question. They can’t afford it.
You can see why most people in NYC live with roommates. And even then, making a move might require a significant lifestyle change if you plan to live here for more than a year or two. According to an article on Financial Samurai, a person can live a basic life on a salary of $100K per year in New York, but won’t have much of anything left to spend or save. Living on $200K per person in NYC, however, affords a more comfortable lifestyle.
Some of us say “if you can pay the rent, you’ll figure out the rest.” But only if you’re a realist, and plan to live within your means, which probably won’t include three-hour lunches at The Modern or orchestra seats to Hamilton. Unless, of course, your wealthy aunt comes to town and treats you.
Living within your means in New York City could mean taking PB&J to work and hitting the 9:30 a.m. weekend matinee at the movies. (Yes, I know it’s early.) Living within your means also might suggest going out once per week to happy hour, and walking through the city or jogging around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for exercise because you can’t afford a gym or expensive fitness classes. And ramen noodles could be back on your menu again. (Even if you swore them off when you graduated college.)
In all seriousness, my best advice is this: Plan ahead, probably years ahead. In other words, save up. And have a job before you move. Do your homework when it comes to finding an apartment and getting to know the city.
Visit NYC multiple times at varying times of the year (in the blistering July heat and during the frigid January winter.) See as many parts of the city as possible. Get to know your way around. Ride the subway; take the bus.
Walk alone at night or early in the morning. Pretend you can’t catch a cab and Uber is surging (maybe you won’t have to pretend), and force yourself to schlep all dressed up in the rain to the bus stop or down three flights of stairs to the underground.
Sublet a walk-up apartment and carry groceries or wine bottles or luggage up and down four-plus flights.
Stay outside Manhattan and commute to the city in the morning as if you were going to the office. Know that you’ll be in those crowds. Every. Single. Day.
Come to New York when you’re broke. Stroll around. Eat a bagel or a slice of pizza. Take advantage of the long list of amazing free things to do in this town. Is all that enough? It very well may be. But know too, that the life you dreamt of might not be as glamorous once you’re living it.