How to Live Affordably in New York City
New York City is an amazing place to live, but it comes at a price. With 8.5 million people crammed into just 302 square miles, rents are as high as the skyscrapers. Other regular expenses like food, transportation and utilities are also notoriously sky-high. All things considered, not all New Yorkers are millionaires, but it is possible to live in NYC on a budget—and have fun at the same time.
Here are a few tips for managing your budget and living cheaply as possible in NYC while enjoying the wonderful things the city has to offer.
1. Cook more meals at home
With an estimated 24,000 eating establishments in New York City, it’s all too easy to fall into the habit of dining out regularly. It may be delicious and convenient, but the cost adds up quickly. Cooking more of your meals at home can save you thousands of dollars a year. For tips on doing so, refer to our 5 Tips for Cooking and Grocery Shopping in NYC.
2. Maximize your transportation budget
If you take at least 47 subway or bus rides per month, consider purchasing a monthly unlimited MetroCard. It will cost you less than paying per ride and get you the most value for your money. Also, see if your employer participates in the NYC Commuter Benefits program, allowing you to set aside pre-tax income to spend on transportation.
3. Take advantage of NYC Restaurant Week and similar promotions
NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, offers promotions throughout the year in effort to encourage tourism to NYC. The most popular and well-known promotion is NYC Restaurant Week, occurring twice a year, in which participating restaurants offer discounted, prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. Similar promotions include Broadway Week, Spa Week and Must-See Week.
4. Shop at secondhand stores
“Thrifting” is a way of life in New York City, and there’s no shame in it. Shopping at secondhand stores like Beacon’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading Company will save you serious bucks on clothing. You can even score designer items at these stores for a mere fraction of what they would cost new.
5. Scour discount sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt for deals
These discount sites offer deals on anything from restaurants to clothing to spa treatments. It’s a great way to try out different establishments in the city without breaking your budget. Check the sites often, as the offers are time-sensitive and new ones are constantly being added.
6. Visit museums on free admission days
Getting cultured in New York City doesn’t have to be expensive. A few museums are always free to enter, while others ask you to “pay as you wish.” Many museums, such as the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Museum of Modern Art and 9/11 Memorial Museum, offer free admission on certain days. Also look out for “First Friday” events, wherein museums provide free or discounted admission and stay open after hours on the first Friday of the month.
7. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper than buying smaller quantities at a time, and can go a long way to help you live affordably in NYC. That goes for paper towels, toiletries and even some food items with a long shelf life, like grains or dried legumes. You can buy bulk goods at your local Costco or Target, or shop for them online at Amazon, Walmart or newcomer Boxed.
Save on housing accommodations with Furnished Quarters
If you’ll be visiting NYC for 30 days or longer, consider renting a furnished temporary apartment. You’ll have a full sized, fully equipped kitchen, allowing you to prepare meals at home, among many other benefits.