|Do you need to live on the cheap in NYC? Then this post is for you.|
So, you made it. You’re in New York––finally. You’ve been dreaming of living in NYC since you could walk (well, almost), and now you’ve secured that tiny apartment in some Brooklyn neighborhood you’ve never heard of, with a roommate you’ve never met before. That’s a lot to cope with already, but how do you handle the high cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world? Get ready because New York City life is one big budget. Here are 10 tips to help you cut costs and live cheap in NYC.
1. Secure a no-fee or rent-stabilized apartment.
Your current apartment might be market rate, or you may even be subletting temporarily. The most efficient way to save a chunk of change every month is to secure a rent-stabilized apartment. Doing so is not an easy task, however, especially if you’re new to New York. I suggest talking to everyone you meet every day, and if the NYC real estate gods are on your side, you might land that $1,500 studio in the East Village.
If the 15 percent broker’s fee isn’t in your budget, try finding a no-fee apartment. Streeteasy.com is a user-friendly site where you can view all available apartments in New York’s five boroughs. Just keep in mind that cheap living in Manhattan is no easy feat.
2. Say “No” to taxis.
If you want to spend less in NYC, take public transit. Or better yet, walk as many places as possible. What might seem like nickels and dimes, adds up – $8 here, $10 there, and before you know it, you’ve spent the amount of your cell phone bill on cabs.
What’s more, you move to NYC to live like a New Yorker. To do so, take the subway and ride the bus. Even with fare hikes, public transportation is still cheaper.
Citi Bike is another alternative. Pay $12 per day or $179 for an annual membership and bike up to 45 minutes at no extra cost. Beyond that, overtime fees apply. Though biking isn’t the safest mode of transportation, bike lanes throughout the city improve the level of safety.
3. Think Free.
Take advantage of the many free events and activities on any given day of the year in New York. Sites like clubfreetime.com, and theskint.com are excellent resources. Some activities are completely free and others incur small fees or encourage donations.
4. Bring back the coupons.
Your mom or grandparents probably lived by these, but guess what? It’s time you start doing the same. Groupon, Crave and other discount sites and apps will become your new friends while living on a budget in NYC. Share these cost-savers with your roommates or co-workers and the monthly savings will surprise you. You’ll also still be able to get out on a regular basis. Otherwise, you’ll become a homebody in the city that never sleeps. And that’s no fun!
5. Booze it on the cheap.
If you want to really live frugally in NYC, frequent BYOB restaurants whenever possible. And take advantage of happy hours. Drink deals are plentiful in all neighborhoods and can rack up substantial savings, especially $3 beers and $4 well drinks. Avoid dinner out and do a boozy brunch instead. Weekend brunches with unlimited cocktails––usually bloody Marys, mimosas, bellinis, and sangria–– are everywhere.
I don’t necessarily love the big box stores, but they do bring a level of convenience and allow us to live on the cheap in NYC. With Costco in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, Target in all the boroughs, IKEA in Brooklyn and just over the bridge in Jersey, and Trader Joe’s in four of the five boroughs (none in the Bronx yet!), there’s no excuse for paying premium prices unless you’re in a pinch. Bear in mind, these stores attract a lot of New Yorkers, so be prepared to fight crowds and wait in line. But, the savings are probably worth the aggravation.
7. Thrift it.
Stores like Housing Works, Goodwill, and Beacon’s Closet have great, affordable finds. Whether you’re looking for basic clothing items, a cocktail dress, a coffee table for your five by eight living room, tchotchkes to lend personality to your otherwise boring space, or that basic leather belt, head to secondhand stores. You are in NYC, after all, and you’ll never have seen such stylish hand-me-downs anywhere else, I promise.
8. Forgo the land line and cable.
A cell phone is all you need in this town, and that will be costly enough. For your favorite television shows and movies, use Hulu and Netflix, and for those live events you can’t miss, head to a bar and watch with friends, a lá NYC style. You’ll rarely be hanging at home anyhow, but be out in the city doing all those fun, free or cheap activities from #4, instead.
9. Skip Equinox.
You’ve got to look good now that you live in New York. Have no fear. With alternatives to expensive gyms like Equinox, there’s no reason to let that flab get the best of you. If you’re a runner, it’s a no-brainer. Run through Central Park, or along the Hudson or East River. And (again) walking is the some of the best exercise and will save money, so get out into your city and do those 10,000 steps each day. (Bonus points for subway stairs.)
NYC also offers 33 public recreation centers throughout the five boroughs with exercise facilities, many of which have swimming pools. Note: these centers are temporarily closed due to Covid-19. And if you really do need the gym, Planet Fitness plans start as low as $10 per month with a $39 annual fee.
10. Forget Starbucks.
At $3-$5 a pop for a cup, drinking that Starbucks Venti every day is no way to live cheap in NYC. Make coffee at home, and if your morning schedule doesn’t permit brewing, buy a cup from the cart on the corner for $1.25. Skip the fancy, fattening froufrou caffeinated beverages. You don’t really need those empty calories anyway, now do you?
And living on a budget in New York is possible! These tips can benefit anyone who wants to live on the cheap in NYC.
Plus, need to get out of New York? Check out these very affordable flights from Newark Airport.