One of the worst parts about living in New York is the high cost of living. Just the other day, a friend shared a story about a young couple who thought that they could get a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan for $2,000. Little did they know that they’d be lucky to get a studio here for that price. Fortunately, having lived here for over six years now, I’ve identified a few areas that actually cost less, if not the same, as they would in other states. Check out the examples below.
1. Public Transportation/Biking/Walking
While New York can certainly kill your savings with rent and real estate, transportation is an area where you can really save. An unlimited pass to use the subways and buses here costs $116.50 per month. This comes out to about $100-$200 cheaper than a daily 30 minute commute by car if you take into account gas, insurance, parking and daily wear and tear. And if you wanted to save more, you can opt for a Citi Bike membership for just $14.95 a month. Of course, if you wanted to save even more you could walk. My personal favorite is to buy a limited subway pass and alternate between walking and biking while only taking the subway when I’m in a rush. This way, I save money and get plenty of exercise to counteract my sedentary lifestyle in the office.
In addition, most local employers are required by law to offer commuter benefits. My firm for instance gives us the option to pay for subway passes with pretax dollars. This benefit can result in significant savings depending on your income tax bracket.
2. Over-Time Meals
It’s no secret that food here is pricey as well. Even if you’re eating at McDonald’s, a Big Mac could cost 20% more in New York than anywhere else. So how do you afford to eat at nice places and still save money? Fortunately, many employers offer over-time meal allowances. Our firm for example will reimburse up to $35 if we work past 7:30 p.m. on a weekday. On weekends or holidays, we’ll get $35 for working five hours and another $35 if we work eight hours.* While not all places will offer the exact same benefits, most employers will have some sort of over-time meal policy that could help defray the costs of eating out.
3. Trader Joe’s
Likewise, groceries are no exception to New York’s high cost of living. Luckily, Trader Joe’s sets its prices pretty close to what they are in other states. As a result, you get to buy better stuff for cheaper prices. For instance, my girlfriend and I will frequently buy a quart of super premium cookie butter ice cream for the same price as a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Other items like meat, produce, cereal, yogurt and wine are also cheaper here than at other supermarkets or bodegas. Beware, though, of the long lines to the cash registers and make sure you grab some free samples while you wait.**
4. Tax-free Clothing
One final area that could save you money in New York is clothing. Here, you can get anything under $110 without having to pay that hefty 8.875% sales tax that comes with almost everything else. So as a matter of principle, I try not to buy any clothes for more than $110 unless it’s a nice suit or pair of shoes that I need for work.
So there you have it, four ways to save money in New York. If you can think of any others, let me know!
* So you can imagine that when things get busy, I hardly spend any money. In fact, I’ll usually max out my $35 with two meals (one for lunch the following day) and various snacks and yogurts to eat for breakfast.
**You’ll sometimes even see lines of people waiting outside of Trader Joe’s, making the store seem more exclusive than some of the nightclubs in Midtown.