5 Ways to Spend Less in NYC

SpendLessI’ve written a lot of posts about how to spend less and save more in New York as well as why you should save money. But what are the MOST effective ways to save? What can you do as soon as possible that will save you hundreds of dollars a month and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime? While all spending is worth reviewing and comparing against your priorities, some strategies have a bigger impact than others. Below are the five biggest changes you can make to save money while still being able to live an amazing life in this amazing city.

  1. Don’t Live Alone – Rent is the expense that sets New York apart from the rest of the country. We pay a TON for shelter here. Whether you live with a significant other, friends, or just acquaintances that you know you will get along with, find roommates! I have friends who pay a fortune in rent to live in a studio apartment, even up to $2800/month. Meanwhile, I have friends who are roommates that each pay $800/month. It’s easy math to see you could save up to $2000/month or $24,000 per YEAR! Imagine what fun you could have with that much extra money every year. Imagine if your boss decided to give you a $24,000 raise (after taxes). You’re life would be completely different. Plus, the more roommates you have, the lower your individual bill will be for utilities. Of course, people love their privacy, and I understand that. I just don’t understand insisting to live alone and being willing to pay $24,000 per year.
  2. Cook Your Own Meals – New York has a ton of amazing restaurants and I think you should absolutely enjoy them. However, for the majority of your meals, don’t just pick up a random, overpriced sandwich or slice of pizza. Cook for yourself instead! So many New Yorkers eat out for every single meal. I have one friend who likes to say, “cooking? oh yeah, I tried that… once… three years ago”. If you used to eat out every meal and then started cooking most meals instead, you could save over $700/month! Again, that’s like getting an $8,400 yearly raise from your boss after taxes! Not to mention you will almost necessarily eat healthier and feel better about yourself.
  3. Avoid Taking Cabs – We live in a city with one of THE BEST public transportation systems in the world. We also have one of the most walkable cities in the world. Get some exercise while getting around the city and take a moment to appreciate your city as you walk as well. There are so many ways to get around without taking a cab, it’s amazing that people feel the need to take one all the time. Avoid taking cabs and you could be giving yourself over a $4,500 raise per year after taxes!
  4. Get Your Clothes Spending In Check – New Yorkers have a great sense of style. Just walking down the street, people look great! Of course I think you should feel comfortable in what you wear as well. However, the great byproduct of all these fashion gurus living in your city is that they often donate their clothing to thrift stores. In NYC, we aren’t limited to Salvation Army and Savers. Some of the nicest clothes I own including a cashmere sweater came from Housing Works for a TINY fraction of the original cost. Plus, if you put together a wardrobe plan, you’ll find that you need buy fewer and fewer clothing items. It’s hard to estimate how much you could save per year using these tactics. People spend outrageous amounts of money here that I can’t even comprehend. But suffice it to say, you could easily save $3,000 per year.
  5. Cut Cable – Come on. We don’t live in 2002 any more. We have more streaming services than you can shake a stick at: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Network Websites, and the list goes on. Do you really need to be paying $60 – $100 per month? You can figure out how to watch live sports at bars, or at a friend’s place. The only excuse you have left is that you are too lazy. Well, does the thought of being able to save an extra $1,000 per year motivate you?

Bonus: Look at Your Spending Once a Month – So can you see a theme in the 5 strategies above? They all tackle recurring costs, parts of our NYC lives that eat up our funds month after month, year after year. If you want to go further than the 5 tips above, take a look at your own spending each month. Where does that money go? I promise that it won’t take long for you to see patterns. You will see that you spend on the same things every month. It may not be a fixed amount like a rent payment, but you’ll recognize it. And when you do, you’ll be able to come up with your own strategy to fix it. Are you spending too much for drinks every month at expensive bars? Try inviting friends over to your apartment for a party. Is your cell phone bill killing your bank account? Sign up for a cheaper option like Republic Wireless. Whatever it is, I bet you can come up with a solution that doesn’t hurt your lifestyle. And if you can’t? Feel free to ask me for help with it! You’ll be saving even more before you know it.

Wow. You just saved a ton of money! Of course, a lot of these examples looked at extreme ends of the spectrum, but if you add them all together, you would save $40,900 per year – yikes! I can see why people who aren’t conscious about their spending think you need to make $80k to live in New York City. Of course, you may not be as loose with your money as the people in the examples above. However, I bet you still have a lot of room to trim your spending and still lead an amazing life. Hell, I’m still constantly working on being better with my finances. You don’t have to be perfect. Just be better.

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26 thoughts on “5 Ways to Spend Less in NYC

  1. DC @ Young Adult Money May 19, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Great tips Dave! I have trouble imagining living in NYC. I feel like even if I landed a job in finance it would be really tough to make ends meet. Or maybe I’ve just watched a little too much “Million Dollar Listing: New York”….
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted: 5 Drawbacks of Freelancing and ConsultingMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 19, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Thanks DC! Ha – yeah, the thing about NYC is that it CAN be SUPER expensive. But it can also be surprisingly affordable and give you the same (or better in my opinion) quality of life.

  2. Colleen May 19, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I would just add to the first item that I think it’s just as important to be willing to live in the less-trendy parts of the boroughs. I live in Queens, near several good train lines, and pay $1195 for a large studio (separate kitchen). I see people all the time now advertising for shared rooms in a 2 BR in Williamsburg or LES etc for much more than that, like $1400! So a roommate and neighborhood can be equally important, I think.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I once paid $450 for a room in a shared apartment in Brooklyn. I know getting a roommate would still be the best way I could cut costs, and I go back and forth on it a lot, but I’ve decided it’s worth it for now (esp since it’s hopefully not a super-long-term arrangement) and moving to what some would consider the boonies of Queens was my compromise. Although I like it better here anyway!

    • Mr NYBudget May 19, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Great point, Colleen. There is a balancing act there in terms of what you want to get out of the city vs. where in the city you live. For instance, if I had to move out to Long Island, then I might as well just move to a cheaper part of the country altogether, but there are definitely awesome and unique parts of the Burroughs that can save you money while still reaping the benefits of living in NYC! It’s all about preference here. And of course, you absolutely have the right to say that your preference is to live alone, over living in Manhattan, for instance. As long as you are conscious about your choices, life will be good!

      • Colleen May 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm

        Yep. And by “boonies” I guess I should clarify that I can walk out my door and be in Central Park in 20 minutes 🙂

        • Mr NYBudget May 22, 2014 at 5:22 pm

          Haha – fair – their are all different levels of tradeoffs – you can still be near awesomeness and save money!

  3. Jess @UsedYorkCity May 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Great tips! I personally LOVE thrifting in the city, and head to Buffalo Exchange to get store credit for selling old clothes, and then use that credit for new (to me!) ones. Basically like shopping for free, whoo!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted: Tips On Where To Save/Splurge On Your NYC WeddingMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Nice tip! I’ve never been to Buffalo Exchange – it looks amazing – definitely checking that out soon!

  4. Kassandra May 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Really good tips. I was looking for a place to donate my wedding gown and I discovered that the Arthritis Foundation has a cool thrift shop so your readers may want to check that out also. It’s located at 1430 Third Ave. between 81st and 82nd Streets.
    Kassandra recently posted: Money MilestonesMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 20, 2014 at 7:13 am

      Interesting – I know that area – I will have to check that place out some time!

  5. FI Fighter May 20, 2014 at 1:51 am

    I think rent is definitely the killer for people like you and me who live in super expensive locations.Very hard to pull off on your own, unless you make an insane salary. I have co-workers who spend over $2000/month on rent… and have nothing left over to save… but like you said, if you’re willing to live with others and compromise, you can get that well under, around $800/month or so. I once lived in Newport Beach for $750/month, and the HOA dues were $600/month… Come to think of it, I have no idea how the landlord was making any money off that property… But I did live with 3 other people.
    FI Fighter recently posted: Global Entry: Getting Ready for International Travel!My Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 20, 2014 at 7:15 am

      I am also lucky that I think I would actually RATHER live with other people. Also, that’s awesome that you were able to get such a deal!

  6. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life May 20, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I don’t understand when people who whine about their finances live alone, eat out constantly, and take cabs.

    I would also add that you can always find cheaper housing. When I lived in West New York, NJ, my commute to midtown was 15 min and my rent was $500
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted: Budget Travel: CouchSurfingMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      It’s so true! Of course, spending money on those things is their own decision, but I definitely agree that they shouldn’t be allowed to complain about it afterwards!

  7. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply May 20, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Cooking at home is a big money saver! And now that I’ve started cooking and seeing how much it costs versus eating out…I sometimes can’t rationalize paying those prices. Of course I do enjoy eating out from time to time…but I usually order something I wouldn’t be able to cook or cook well. And cabs?? I can count on my hand the amount of times I’ve taken the cab (excluding from the airport). It is usually unnecessary. Public transportation/walking and now Citibikes are often better alternatives.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted: Price of the American Dream: Are your costs escalating?My Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      Plus, I have found that I feel HEALTHIER when I eat meals that I cook. And I am gaining more and more skill at it as I go along, using more spices with greater success, etc.

      Of course, now Uber is going to take over the city and people will have even more reason to take the easy way and part with their money because it is simply so convenient – pff.

  8. No Nonsense Landlord May 20, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I do not think I could ever live in NYC. the food might be great, and the finance center of the world (maybe London?), but there are far too many people there. And the taxes, whew!
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted: How to Find a Mentor for Financial Advice (or Not)My Profile

    • Mr NYBudget May 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      It’s not for everyone.

  9. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich May 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Eating out is totally what gets me every time… mostly because of laziness and an intense dislike of cooking. I’ve have mastered the $2.75 meal of chicken pockets and chocolate chip cookies from the bodega around the corner, but I’m pretty sure it’s clogging my arteries and slowly killing me (at least it’s a delicious death), so when I spring for anything even a little bit more nutritious, the price definitely sky rockets.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted: 7 Stage Management Warning Signs: A New Year’s Resolutions UpdateMy Profile

    • Colleen May 22, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      This took me forever to figure out, but Trader Joes has really changed the game for me on this one. I’ve found their prices to be sooo much lower than everywhere else, and if you don’t like to cook, they have lots of healthy-ish premade stuff, pre-cut vegetables, things like that. You’ll probably have to stand in line but if you go at the right time it’s not too bad.

      • Mr NYBudget May 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm

        Agreed – I am REALLY fortunate to live right across from a TJs – it really is amazing!

  10. Marie @ Financial Debauchery May 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Living with your parents or family would be a great idea and it would save more! My friend and his husband are living in NYC for almost 5 years now and they share a rent with her brother. They also love to cook their own meals and they always ride a public transportation rather than taking a cab.

    • Mr NYBudget May 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Sounds like a great tip! All it takes is a little (and I do mean just a LITTLE) creative thinking to live the good life without paying too much!

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