Although New York City is widely considered one of the most expensive cities in the country, it is entirely possible to live there—and thrive—on a budget. You won’t simply subsist, forced to eat ramen and fast food while pathetically pacing a postage stamp-sized apartment, either. If you’re smart, savvy, and open-minded, you can get your foot in the door of a great place to live and start getting into the groove of the city.

Embrace Different Boroughs

You may have your heart set on an apartment in Williamsburg or Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it. The housing market in New York City is tight, but it’s not impenetrable. Realize that if you’re there long enough and you’re successful at whatever you’re trying to do, you may eventually live exactly where you want. In the interim, there are so many boroughs!

If you’re on a budget, and whether you’re interested in Brooklyn or the Bronx, the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side, remember these things when choosing a borough:

  • Steer clear of trendy neighborhoods
  • Think about what’s important—affordability, access to the subway, nearby schools
  • And try to predict the future of the neighborhood

Rent What You Can Afford

In other cities, you can rent a home or an apartment with a long list of necessities and luxuries. That’s not necessarily true in New York City, but you can find a great place. The key is to stay flexible and realistic. Your best options are studios, one-bedrooms, or shares. You may have roommates, and if not, you can easily find them. In the right neighborhood, however, you may get everything you always wanted in an apartment. It all depends on your options, and what’s available.

Look for the Right Local

When you’re on a budget, you have to go to the places you can afford. That’s true no matter where you live. New York City is home to some amazing stores, designer boutiques, five-star restaurants, and incredible entertainment—and all those things cost money. Everything seems to cost a little more money, so spend yours wisely and find out what’s close to you.

For instance, although the local bodegas are amazing, try to limit your spending there. Head to Trader Joe’s, Costco, and similar stores instead. Make some special, seasonal purchases to indulge yourself, but don’t make it a habit. Try to stick to cooking at home, eating with friends, or middle-road restaurants for food. Twice a year, hit up the better restaurants during Restaurant Week when prix fixe menus make dining out more affordable.

Go for Discounted Entertainment

The city has loads of free and discounted entertainment options. You can get into museums for free on certain days, and there are many sponsored events, such as:

  • Skating in Bryant Park
  • Open-air concerts
  • Discounted show tickets
  • And Shakespeare in the Park

Remember, as well, that hitting up Central Park, window shopping, and people watching are always free. You can easily entertain yourself just by virtue of living in New York City.

It’s vibrant, alive, adventurous, exciting, and expensive, sure, but it’s worth every penny. Would you be willing to work out a budget for city-living?


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