After about a year of living in New York and paying an exorbitant amount of rent each month, my husband and I began searching for an apartment to buy. You’re probably thinking, “How in the world could we possibly afford to ‘buy’ a piece of Manhattan Real Estate?” Or, “Doesn’t everyone rent in New York City?” Well, many people do rent, but believe it or not, many people own apartments, too.
Since we had sold our house in Atlanta (where we had lived previously), we decided to take the profit from that house and put it toward a much smaller (albeit more expensive) real estate purchase in NYC. When we started our quest, however, we soon realized that we needed to save more money since most co-ops require reserve funds (money left in your bank account after you purchase.) And so, we did just that –– we saved.
Now, saving thousands, or pennies, for that matter, is no easy task while living in NYC. Money seems to fly out of your pockets every time you step beyond your front door, and as a New Yorker, you’re constantly surrounded with the temptation to spend. But, with your eyes on the prize –– an invaluable slice of New York to call your own –– saving is possible. Here’s how.
1. Create a budget
Once you’ve made the decision that you want to buy rather than rent, sit down and make a detailed spreadsheet with your expenses and start slashing. Do you really need your apartment cleaned weekly? And since you’re looking to lose a few pounds, trading the daily bagel with cream cheese for an apple is a good idea, anyhow. You’ll be surprised how many items aren’t necessities or can be replaced with cheaper options, and you’ll discover exactly how much money you can put in the nest egg each month.
2. Live smaller
Move to a smaller, less expensive apartment for two years. This option didn’t work for us because we were in a two-year lease and intended to buy at the end of the term. But if you do not live in a rent-stabilized apartment, consider moving for two years and putting the cash you save each month toward your dream apartment.
3. Cut your bar tab
Cocktails in New York are expensive,so forget the pricey bar tabs and hit happy hours, instead. With $4 well drinks available in many watering holes every day, there’s no need to sip the $14 cocktail. Some spots even have food specials, so you can nibble while you imbibe. This brings me to #4.
4. Spend less on food
Shop at Trader Joe’s. Cook more, and eat out less. Take your lunch to work, or find the lunch specials and the $1 slices.
5. Reduce your utility bills
Drop overpriced cable and use Apple TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Use lamps only when you must. Read more, and watch less TV. And if you have a land line, get rid of it.
6. Ride the subway.
Reserve cabs for late nights and when you’re sick or exhausted. Otherwise, take public transit –– everywhere. Or, go the cheaper route and walk.
Photograph by Tracy Kaler
7. Think Free!
From walking the streets and seeing the sights to free museum days and riding the Staten Island Ferry, even if you’re penniless, you’ll never come up short on fun, free things to do in the Big Apple.
8. Drop the gym membership
Use Central Park or one of the many other beautiful outdoor spaces around town. If the weather doesn’t cooperate with your workout schedule, become a member of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for just $150 per year. You’ll have access to more than 50 centers, not to mention free exercise classes throughout the city.
9. Skip Starbucks
New Yorkers live on coffee, but you can save a bundle if you brew your own. At approximately $5 a pop, if you do the math, you can see this is a significant saving each month.
10. Be committed to saving
More than anything, let “SAVE” be part of your mantra for the next two years. It’s not forever, and a few sacrifices here and there will be well worth it when you score the keys to your very own New York pad.