New York can be expensive, but that doesn’t make living in NYC on a budget is impossible. These are actionable tips to save money in NYC.
There are two main ways to advance your finances—by making more money, or spending less money. In this article, we will be focusing on the former.
If you’d like to learn how to make more money, check out this great guide.
#1 Create a New Savings Account
Although saving money seems like an extremely obvious step, the best way to go about is is often overlooked.
Rather than just creating an imaginary “spending limit” in your mind, you should create a completely separate bank account to put 10-20% of your income away for a rainy day.
What this does is it creates a barrier to entry for you to spend that money.
Instead of just tapping your card like normal, you’ll need to make the conscious decision to spend the money in this specific savings account.
We recommend the Savings Builder through CIT Bank.
As an incentive to save, they reward you with a higher interest rate as long as you deposit $100/month, or maintain a balance of $25k, along with no maintenance fees.
If you’d like to learn more about this savings account, you can get started here.
#2 Save Money on Purchases You’re Already Making
While you should always aim to avoid unnecessary purchases, we will inevitably buy things.
Whenever possible, look for coupons for your physical purchases, especially when eating out. Lots of food chains are constantly updating their available coupons on their mobile apps, such as McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Wendy’s, and many more.
When it comes to online purchases, there is absolutely no excuse for not using a coupon because of browser extensions like Honey.
When you’re checking out at your favourite online store, Honey can scan the internet and search for nearly every available coupon code, and automatically applies the best one for you.
The best part is that it is 100% free, and you can install it with a few simple clicks. Get started using this link.
#3 Go Price Shopping on Your Insurance
One of the largest recurring expenses most of us have are insurance payments. Whether it be for your home, car, or even your life, these payments can really add up.
The average cost of car insurance in NYC is over $1,200 per year, which is nearly $400 more than the national average.
It is a good idea to get some quotes for your insurance costs, to make sure that you’re not overpaying with your current provider.
Using EverQuote makes this process easy, by getting quotes from several insurance providers near you, to make sure that you’re not paying more than you should be. You can check how your current provider stacks up to other providers using this link.
#4 Skip the Starbucks
While this is a very cliche tip, it still rings true.
A $5 drink from Starbucks every day will cost you over $1,800 in a single year.
With Keurigs and K-cups at our disposal, overspending on coffee is just no longer an option.
This is the Keurig that I use, along with some of the K cups that I’ve enjoyed.
Trust me, you can’t beat it for just $110!
As you can see, you can get K-Cups for as low as $0.50 per serving, so that same coffee a day would only cost just over $180 (plus the cost of the Keurig).
Another benefit is you’ll save a lot of time, since you won’t need to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru every day.
#5 Minimize How Often You’re Eating Out
Speaking of food and drink, eating out can be a great way to wreak havoc on a budget quickly.
In fact, Business Insider found that the average American eats out nearly 6 times per week, and most Americans spend on average $3,000 on dining out every year.
However, Globe St. found that New Yorkers spend an average of over $8,000 on eating out every year. This is more than double the national average.
By cutting down on eating out just 33%, you can save an extra $2,500+ every year, which potentially could contribute a significant portion of a month’s rent!
If you’re able, buying and preparing all of your own meals is a great way to save money in NYC.
If you are too busy to plan, prep, and cook your meals, then a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh is a great way to save on food, while still saving time on the meal prep process.
Hello Fresh is affordable, and you can get your per-meal cost to under $10 including shipping. If you want to learn more, you can get started using this link.
#6 Have Fun For FREE
Spending money on entertainment sucks. So, whenever possible, aim to enjoy free entertainment that’s going on around you.
Instead of going to that concert (assuming it’s no longer 2020) for $100, go to a karaoke bar and spend $10 on a few drinks (or $0!) while having a good time with your friends.
Instead of going to the movies for $30, have a board game night. Buying a board game allows you to play it as many times as you’d like, but buying one movie ticket only gets you into one movie.
For a more extensive list of free activities to do, check out this post by “The Mostly Simple Life”.
#7 Destroy Your Debt
Living in NYC on a budget is difficult enough, but when you add debt to the equation, it can feel suffocating.
If you have debt(s), they should be public enemy #1. You need to do whatever you can to pay those off, before buying anything that isn’t necessary.
Experian has a great resource to figure out what debts to pay off first, so if you have more than one type of debt, use this resource to determine what to tackle first.
#8 Get Real About Your Wants vs Needs
One of the biggest issues that we as humans have, when it comes to our finances, is separating our wants from our needs.
When we buy a new car, it’s not because we needed to. It’s not like buying that new car is the sole reason for our survival.
But when we purchase groceries from Walmart, that is a need. If we decided to just stop buying food, we’d starve, duh.
Notice that I said groceries, rather than food. Going to the Shake Shack is not our only option for survival.
When considering buying anything, big or small, ask yourself “do I really need this?”
Very often, the answer will be no. If you can stop yourself from making just a few impulse purchases a day, this can lead to significant savings in a matter of a few months.
#9 Cut Out Unnecessary Memberships
In today’s digital world, filled with subscription services and recurring payments, it’s easy to forget about cancelling a subscription that you’re paying monthly for.
Go through your last few months worth of credit card statements, and make a list of your recurring payments.
Any of the subscriptions that you don’t use, cancel them. Obviously.
Then, go through the rest and determine whether or not they are worth the price tag.
Every $5, $10, and $20 membership that you cut out will really add up over time.
Also, consider the reason for each of your subscriptions.
If it doesn’t save you time or money, i.e. if it is just a subscription that helps you waste more time (e.g. Netflix, cable, etc.), then you should really look into cancelling it.
#10 Limit Your New Purchases
You would be amazed by the amount of money you can save by buying things used, off of Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, rather than new from the store.
For big and small purchases, you should first check Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, and then thrift stores if you’re unable to find them online.
Another thing to keep in mind is that just because you don’t find anything on Marketplace or Craigslist right now, doesn’t mean that you won’t in the future.
If your purchase is not urgent, then just occasionally check these websites. You never know when someone might list what you’re looking for.
#11 Buy a Bike
The costs of car ownership can add up a lot. For starters, there is insurance, gas, repairs, maintenance, and parking to worry about.
Buying a bike will help you save a lot of money on these costs, and is also a healthier and more environmentally conscious option.
This is especially a good idea if you’ll be living within Midtown/Lower Manhattan, since there is a lot that is accessible in these neighbourhoods.
Whenever you need to go anywhere outside of your neighbourhood, public transit is always an option. It may not be the most convenient for certain routes, but your wallet will thank you.
While Uber and Lyft are options, you should avoid these whenever possible, as their cost can be pretty hefty when constantly taking rides.
#12 Don’t Live By Yourself
This could potentially the most important tip on this list.
Unless you have some serious connections, living by yourself is almost a surefire way to spend a lot of money on rent.
By splitting rent with 1, 2, 3, or even more people in one place, you’ll save a lot of money on likely the biggest expense in New York City.
There are constantly people looking for roommates in NYC on Craigslist, which you can check out here.
To Sum it All Up
Living in NYC on a budget is definitely doable, but it takes a considerable amount of research, and dedication.
We’ve discussed * of the best ways to live in NYC while maintaining your budget, and we hope that you’ve gotten a good grasp on how you can save a few bucks.
Keep in mind that there are of course other ways to save money, and that different techniques will be best for different people. If you absolutely need to keep your Netflix subscription, then keep it. Maybe you can find something else that you’ll be able to cut back on, in order to allow yourself to keep Netflix.
If you think that we missed any crucial steps, then let us know by leaving a comment below. We try to get back to all of our comments. Happy budgeting!