Budgeting in a Big City

Having lived in New York City for almost 3 years now, I’ve gotten to experience the inner workings of city life very closely. One of the most important aspects to a 20-somethings life in the city is money, even if they don’t want to admit it. We want to spend the money on a nice lifestyle since we are “adults” now, but at the same time need to make sure we are saving money for important things down the road. It’s no secret that New York City is one of the most expensive places to live. Having lived in different boroughs and different neighborhoods and having seen it all, this is my guide to budgeting in a big city.

Force yourself to food shop

Grocery shopping in New York City is arguably one of the hardest things about living here. You have to drag around huge bags of food once you are done, limiting the amount you can buy at one time. Lines are always typically crazy at the best places (ahem, Trader Joe’s).  On top of all that, prices can be outrageous and can make eating out actually seem like a better deal. I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Even just grabbing stuff for breakfasts, snacks and something small for lunch can help offset a ton of eating out costs. Plus its healthier!

Choose your credit cards wisely

I love having my American Express Blue Cash Everyday card (no this is not an ad!) because it gives me 3% cash back on all U.S. Supermarkets. Not only does this make grocery shopping an even greater value, it really motivates me to haul all of those groceries home! I also have a small variety of other cards that give me points on travel, or cash back in other places that really helps when you least expect it.

Become a smarter renter

For any person living in a big city you know that apartment prices can be out of this world. Broker’s fees and moving costs add up to be a crazy ton of money. I actually am guilty of moving several times while I have lived here, but have learned a few tricks along the way. Sites like Joinery or Roomi make finding a no-fee apartment or new roommate super easy, which cuts out unnecessary middle man fees.

Be honest about your social schedule

If you know that you can’t necessarily afford another dinner out, be honest with your friends. Talking about money can sometimes be awkward but I’ve always found that people are super willing to accommodate (chances are they wouldn’t mind saving a buck also). Change your plans to involve a dinner night at home instead, skip the boat cruise tickets to go kayaking on the hudson for free, etc. The Skint is also a great email publication about cheap and free things to do in New York City every day of the week.

Don’t take money too seriously

We all deserve to treat ourselves, and my best advice is don’t take money too seriously. If you have been eyeing that ONE THING at Aritzia that you would wear with everything in your closet, go for it! If your one space alone during the week is getting a mani/pedi, go for that too! Living in a big city can be stressful so finding a balance of conservative vs. liberal spending habits can help keep your sanity in check.

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