Surviving and Thriving in NYC

You can only be so prepared. You can do the research, you can find the perfect neighborhood, you can have your guarantors, your co-guarantors, and your co-co-guarantors ready for battle, and even then you can find yourself coming up short. The fact is: New York City is expensive. Rent prices are skyrocketing, student loans are looming, and well...I can’t stop buying Kombucha.  

Let’s say you’ve got rent taken care of. Awesome! But a new apartment comes with new expenses, especially if you’re fresh out of college like me. This includes furniture, utilities, internet/cable (a necessity, if I do say so myself), among other expenses. I didn’t realize how quickly this all adds up when faced against my entry-level salary. Let’s break it down, and get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of affordable housing in NYC, which I promise isn’t an oxymoron!

Furniture. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Or, as I said to myself, Jose, you’re not in a dorm room anymore. Furniture is not cheap, and let’s not forget about the hassle of transporting them. The average mattress, if it isn’t made of water, ranges from $860 to $2300. Also, side note, what is up with these mattress materials? Foam. Water. Air. Is this what is being used to make what I sleep on or the makeup of some really lame Last Airbender ripoff? Anyways, let’s split the difference and say I paid for a mattress smack in the middle of those numbers at $1580. Splitting that up over a year, on top of my rent, I’m already paying $130 a month. Or as I like to think of it, 21 happy hour margaritas at my favorite bar. Not cool. I’ll stop at mattresses, but as you can see, the price of furniture starts to stack up.*

*Editor’s note: In regards to just couches, Apartment Therapy says you can “get a beauty” for $2,500-$3,000, or as I read it, for 2 and a half to 3 months of my rent. Clearly they didn’t see this atrocity for just $120 on IKEA.

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Moving forward, let’s think about our other monthly expenses. An unlimited monthly MetroCard costs $121. SmartAsset lists utilities averaging at about $147 a month, and internet at roughly $50. Splitting this with a roommate or two means about $65-100 a month extra (though more roommates means more showers!). With all those extra bills, now I know why people are so crazy about natural’s because they don’t want to use the light that costs money. Then of course there’s, y’know, the other important stuff: like fun. Or investing into creative endeavors. OR KOMBUCHA. Where do I find the funds for those things? Yes, fancy fermented drinks may not be the most important, but personal wellbeing is, and that comes in many forms. Yoga. Art classes. Trivia nights. Acupuncture. Those things shouldn’t take a backseat either! So what is the answer?

The answer is, it depends, but it definitely isn’t just living paycheck-to-paycheck and hoping for the best. Budget, and track your expenses. See where your wallet is suffering. Maybe it’s time to stop spending $6/day at Starbucks and start brewing coffee at home. Yes, the bodega on the corner is closer, but when eggs are twice the cost, you might want to take the time to brave the line at Trader Joe’s. But, please, I beg you, do not go on a Sunday. See what free events NYC has to offer! As you can tell by this article, a whole lot of people are struggling, but we can struggle together! At the park, or at free rollerblading in DUMBO, or free rooftop movies, or even free yoga.

There really are all kinds of way to cut costs. I know people who time their showers, people who cook for the whole week in advance so they won’t have to buy lunch at work, people who bike 4-6 months out of the year. These small sacrifices will help lend an easiness to the stress of financial woes, and with some wiggle room, you can start to invest in what’s important, to better your NYC life and NYC brain. When you start to develop a healthy relationship with your wallet in the big city, things can really open up. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone, and thousands of people are finding ways to make it work. Because at the end of the day, the city that never sleeps is worth it, whether you’re a teacher, a fashion blogger, a Zumba instructor or an actor, we’ll all be trapped on a subway at one point or another, so let’s buckle down and have some fun (thriftily)!