How to Budget in New York

If you are new resident in New York City, it is important to have a budget and know what to expect when it comes to living expenses and extras. Chances are you are spending more than you expected; after all, New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. So it is to your benefit to spend time planning, allocating and learning how to stretch your money.

If you are travelling to New York on a budget staying in a New York hostel is a great way to save money and meet new people. Many hostels provide free breakfast, tours of the area and party nights too so they are great fun!

In general, living expenses range anywhere from 25-65% more than the average in most large cities. Unfortunately, the comparison in salaries is a much less favorable percentage. The salary increase from most other cities is approximately 12-17%. So with general necessities and common living expenses taking more of your pay check what can you do to keep your head above water in New York City?

It is very likely that you are spending a larger percentage of your budget on your home or apartment than you are used to. Good deals on apartments in New York City are almost impossible to find, thus it can be vital to find other ways to save money. If you find that rent is eating up more of your budget than is bearable, try to slowly look for cheaper rent prices in less expensive areas or try subletting. You may not be able to move right away, but this can be part of your master plan. Just as an example, if you are living in Manhattan, you may want to look in the Washington Heights or Astoria neighborhoods. A simple move like this could save $400-$500 a month in rent.

Dining out in New York can be outrageously expensive. Normal chain restaurants sometimes charge double what other cities do for the exact same meal, and there are many high-end choices available. However, it isn't impossible to eat out. Many local restaurants serve wonderful food for under $10; it just isn't the norm. So try different places and find those jewels. Be creative. Many online sources or print ads have cheap eats guides and restaurant reviews. Street food vendors and deli or lunch counters are a cheaper alternative to restaurants. There is also an IGT card that is free but can be used to save a percentage off at many restaurants around the city. The best advice for saving money on food is to stay in and shop the local supermarkets. There are also healthy markets like the Greenmarket at Union Square where you can find fresh, reasonably-priced food. The regional markets are also a great place to find low-cost, quality food. On any given day in Union Square you can find loads of vendors handing out free samples. Have lunch while you shop for the week's groceries.

New York is a shopping Mecca; however, you can still find bargains and great deals. Besides being known for designer shops and exclusive boutiques, New York City is equally known for its sample sales, where retailers discard excess merchandise. While New York City is know for Bloomingdales and Macy's, you don't necessarily need to shop there. Shoppers will find plenty of stores like TJ Maxx that offer quite reasonable deals. There are some great 'gently worn' shops. Shop sales, and take the time to find deals.

The best way to save money on transportation is to use the public transportation system. Taxis are quite expensive and should be used only if absolutely necessary. If you live and work in the same area consider walking or riding a bike. A weekly unlimited subway card is $27 or just $2 a day to go anywhere in the city. The Downtown Connection is a free shuttle bus. Many companies offer commuter benefits which allow employees to pay for transportation tax-free. Certain statistics suggest owning a car can be as high as $10,000 a year in the city. Decide if this is a luxury you can afford.

Living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, it is a shame not to take advantage of the many opportunities New York City has to offer. Most museums have free days/hours or pay-what-you-wish days. The summer is full of free concerts, festivals and movies in the park. There are wonderful open air, holiday, flea and farmers markets. You can save big by buying local. If you want to splurge on something like a Broadway show, same day tickets are 25 to 50% off. There are some super happy hour deals and ladies drink free night. Talk to other people; you'll get great tips. It is hard to find a major urban center that offers more free or cheap resources, you just have to put in the time to find the events.

Craigslist is a great way to save money. One example is salons in the city that offer services from new technicians or technicians teaching students. You can get a haircut or even color for $20-$30. You can also find massage, acupuncture, medical and dental student clinics that perform work for a fraction of the cost.

The New York City Parks and Recreation Indoor Facilities, of which there are 15 in Manhattan alone, are a great place to exercise at the fraction of a cost of most gyms. Membership is $50 for the entire year or $75 for the year if the recreation centers have indoor pools. No extra fees and you get access to all the different facilities.

New York City is a wonderful place to live, and once you make some adjustments in your budget it won't be prohibitive. There are many ways to survive the city that can actually be fun and lead to interesting alternatives.


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