15 Tips on How to Live in a Big City on a Small Budget

9. Do Not Get in Debt

This goes for anywhere you live: don’t get into debt and don’t live above your paycheck with credit cards. Most young people are already strapped with student loan debt, which is awful enough. Work at getting out of debt if you are already in it, and don’t accumulate more.

10. Make a concrete savings plan and stick to it.

Of course, the initial move to a city and the next few months will be “settling in” time, but once you’re working, look at your expenses and your income to see how much you can afford to save each month. Then do it. I saved $9000 the year before I left NYC by following this strategy.

11. Skip the gym, not the workout.

Gym fees are another cost you can cut. Big cities all have parks, river paths and endless miles of walking, biking or jogging potential. Search your local TimeOut or paper for donation based classes. Join a social sports team and play soccer, football or ultimate Frisbee in the park.

12. Ditch the brand names.

This goes for food, coffee, cosmetics, etc. If you really need a cup of coffee (and wifi), then I guess Starbucks is okay once in a while. Stay out of boutique stores and head to the Rite Aid instead. Though I adore Whole Foods, and there are some vegan things you might need there, try to shop at a lower priced supermarket for most everything else.

13. Shop at the thrift store.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. These are fantastic places to snag a (sort of) new winter coat, a barely worn pair of Diesel jeans or an amazing designer dress that the previous owner didn’t realize would ever come back in fashion and now goes for $3. Make a day out of it with friends, then put the money you saved towards a few happy hour priced beers or a reasonably priced dinner.

14. Get Your Information For Free, Online.

This one hurts me to write, but so does the truth. Read the news online. I hate that the publishing industry’s financial decline signals doom for my beloved New York Times, and I love the feeling of folding back each page carefully as I lounge on the couch, but online news is free. Treat yourself to the Sunday edition if you must. That’s what I did. You’re only buying it once a week, it has more content, and you can read it throughout the week anyway.

15. House Party (II).

This was a huge source of fun for me in New York, particularly when it was too cold to go out to the bar. Book clubs, wine clubs, chess clubs, Christmas parties, Thanksgiving, Superbowl, 4th of July, Administrative Assistant’s Day, Harry Potter movie marathons- I can think of any excuse to throw a house party. I like to cook and host, but if you don’t, make it a BYO or potluck event. Make the invitations open if you’re looking to make new friends.

So can this really work? Let’s do the math. Say you earn between $30,000 and $50,000 annually. After taxes, let’s say it’s more like $ 22,500 to $42,500, or $ 1875- $ 2500 per month. You can check the actual amount for your salary on the IRS website.

At the low end ($1875/ month), if you spend $500- 800 on rent (which you can totally do with roommates or spouse/ SO), that leaves at least $1000.

Bills (cable, cell phone, electric etc) can be under $200 with shared expenses.

You’ve still got at least $800. Groceries, let’s say $100 per week per person. That leaves you $400!! Save $200 and keep the rest for treats and emergencies.

At the high end ($2500/ month), using the same budget, you’d save at least $1100, which means you can afford to put a little more towards entertainment or savings.

Authored by: Chloe Muller

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