Living in New York and Living Within Your Means

I’m born and raised in what has now been considered to be the most expensive city in the United States, Brooklyn. I live decent, not lavish, my rent is not a fortune or even close to it.  However, everything around me is constantly going up and my income is alright but, not enough for me to be reckless about purchases.  While some of my peers debunk to cities that are lower cost, I can’t for both professional and personal reasons and once I add up the costs if I hit the 'burbs or a smaller city, I’ll have more responsibility, longer commutes and more isolation. I try to be responsible and even though I see my peers getting crushed by rising cost, I can’t nor won’t leave my hometown.   They say New York is lonely but, not for folks like me. To say New York is an expensive city is really just a factor of rent both residential and commercial. The reason why  a pack of gum is higher in one location than in another is to compensate  for the real estate. It doesn’t mean it is always that way.  Some items are also marked up because the demand is less and a business doesn’t want to risk not making a profit. I don’t have a degree in economics but, living in New York and being aware of expenses will make you a pretty savvy bargain hunter which is a far more practical title than economists.  I will tell you that my perspective is mircro rather than macro. Here’s what you need to understand about New York, in the most practical circumstances, that means you are working above the poverty line, you have to be resourceful, or this city will eat your pockets. To enjoy some quality of life, which means not eating Ramen noodles every night just to live your Carrie Bradshaw dreams, one has to be disciplined or you will be broke.  So here are a few tips for enjoying New York without always being strapped.

Learn Some Math
If we apply the simple basics of arithmetic to our lifestyle, most of us would retain more of our income. Pretty simple, if you have a fixed income, deduct your fixed expenses and from there apply what and where you can put your disposable income towards.  If you find yourself saying “Where did my money go?” It is because you don’t really care about it. Saving money is not always about holding it in the bank, for many that is hard to do  but, if you can get more for your buck, that is even more beneficial.

Separate Accounts
Sounds silly but, I have a separate account for fun. It is small, and I keep it small because entertainment is a luxury not necessity but, once I tap out my fun account every month, I stop having fun or do something free or reschedule or get resourceful.

Keep a Calendar
I have a calendar in my home that I keep specific notes on my socializing. I factor in birthday drinks for friends, gifts for clients and see where that fits into my budget. By keeping the calendar I can anticipate and allocate my budget to things that are a priority and things that are not. You can get a calendar

If the above ideas are not your cup of tea, you can very easily track your expenses on a number of apps for your smartphone. is excellent as well as PocketExpense They will let you know if you are dangerously low in your account as well as giving you an overall understanding about where and what you spend your money on with breakdowns.

Shop Around
Living in a free market economy gives us the capabilities of looking at the best deal. Whether it is your internet provider, cellular service, credit card interest rates look around before you get into anything that is a service. You can take your business to  the  competition and most companies will try to get you to stay, see where they could hold on you and you can save some cash.

Deals, Dollars and Cents
While some of my peers can get lost in Walmart or Target, I’m the type that can get lost in a Dollar Store.  In  the five boroughs, and you will see a store that is either Dollar Tree, Deals or my favorite Jack’s. Make those stores your friends for basics just, check out the expiration date.  From cheese to gloves to holiday cards, bargain stores can really become your friend.

Just Say No
If it’s not important and my budget doesn’t agree, I kindly decline. Take for example, an acquaintance asked if I would like to join her for dinner with a group of  people I did not  know, it wasn’t her birthday just dinner. I passed, eating with strangers is not something I like to do plus, this person was an acquaintance  not a dear friend. I did tell her that I had a free event coming up I’d love for her to accompany with me where we could network, save money and get free drinks. She was down for it, but the real lesson, I learned is you have to say no to things that don’t fit into your budget. Saying yes to everything will leave you busted and broke.

Stop Trying to Stunt
Between Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, everyone thinks that they need to be seen at the most elite spots. Pause,  in order to live in New York and well, you can do amazing things minus the pretension. There is nothing that gets my eyes rolling more  than when someone drops how they ate or went to the most expensive places. I think being a native and having had the city at my disposal for my lifetime, I’m not huge on posing. This city has amazing places do both entertainment and basics at affordable prices, all you have to do is ask, search and recommend.

A good eye and a good thrift store make the best of friends. With fast fashion being so disappointing with quality etc. I shop a lot of thrift now. I also love vintage clothing so it’s a win. Even if you are not a lover of vintage, pop into a vintage store once and wild and discover the amazing items at very cheap prices you can incorporate into your wardrobe. Thrift stores are known for amazing evening wear, great accessorized and stunning statement coats.

Only a Fool Pays Full Price
If you know a retailer has cyclic pricing, you are a fool to purchase it as soon as it hits the floor. Unless, you have a nonexistent wardrobe and nowhere to compare shop and no time to cruise clearance racks, one should never ever pay full price. Nothing tastes worse than purchasing something, and watching it get marked down to almost 80% off.  If you don’t need it, hold off and if it still around 6 weeks later than thinking about and ask the sales associate if they are doing another markdown.

Sign Up
You know how stores ask if you would like a rewards card, sign up, save the money and get the coupons every month.   The purchases add up to points which you can use on future purchases. 

Buy in Bulk
Toiletries are products I buy in bulk. Yes, that 24 pack of toilet paper will keep my tush nice for most of the year. Bottled water-check, feminine hygiene-bulk, laundry detergent yes, soap, light bulbs, tea, coffee, and if you cook pasta, pasta sauce, beans and rice and excellent products to save by buying in bulk.  You will always need these items and can't go wrong and are excellent in an emergency. Stock up, it won't hurt you. 

Cash Out
Don’t want to waste your time with a separate fun account, then just do cash. Have a set amount of cash that is specific to recreational things, once it is gone, it’s gone.

Give Back
Want to know something that is extremely rewarding and can save you money as well as create friends and a sense of purpose;  volunteering,  and in this wonderful city, there are so many ways you can. From walking dogs at a shelter, to cleaning up a neighborhood garden, to tutoring a student or helping a disadvantaged person mock interview, volunteering can be added to your social calendar, cost you at most carfare and get you to finding a purpose.

Eat at Home
Eating out eats at your wallet.  Now if you are opposed to cooking, then make yourself a sandwich or buy microwavable meals, whatever you do, know that take out, takes a large chunk of your budget. How can you avoid it,  access your palate. If you are ordering a tea and bagel every morning, you are crazy. Get yourself a six packs of bagels and a box of tea.  For weekends, have cereal at home, bread and oatmeal, because getting dressed to head to a deli for  something as simple as that is mindboggling.

Next up, lunch find yourself with soup and salad on the regular. If you are gourmet enough make yourself a soup or purchase cans. Salads are money launders. I have ordered salads that cost me $11 and that is with very few ingredients, and left me hungry and angry. So now I buy salad at my grocery store and all my ingredients for usually under $10 and I can have a salad every day.

 I know people who are shook to enter a grocery store. It intimidates them and it shouldn’t, you eat, you are an adult, you should be able to cook a few things. Like being a savant in the kitchen isn’t cute anymore.Make a crock pot your friend, buys some beans, purchase fruits to snack on, purchase frozen vegetables, pasta, garlic and olive oil are the trinity of easy and flavorful meals. Making meals at home will also be good for your body.   Depending upon the type of take out, it can be full of preservatives,  highly caloric,  heavy on the sodium and MSG and let’s not forget , portions so many take out places only grant you enough for one sitting, so you can’t even reheat your left overs. 

Do You Really Need to Cab It?
 The subway can be annoying buy if you are hopping in a cab more than the subway, either get a car or a driver. Unless, you live far from the subway, an unlimited Metrocard is a better investment than Uber every other day. I have a rule, if I’m home before 10:30 no cab, I my outfit isn’t slutty- no cab, if I don’t have heavy items- no cab.  If you find yourself doing more than going from home to work or school, get yourself an unlimited Metrocard. For $31 a week, that is about 2 Uber rides and a lot of free underground entertainment.

So there are a few steps to live in this city of big dreams, you can have fun, you can entertain yourself you just have to do so with a plan and a purpose.