Real Costs of City Living: NYC

Big Apple, Little Budget

In this series, we discuss the cost of big city living with little budget spending from our own experiences in New York, Boston, and LA.

Moving to New York City was a huge leap for Johnny and me. Although Johnny grew up in LA, sprawling cities build out, not up. And I grew up in small towns in Tennessee and Alabama. My first time in NYC was when Johnny took an internship there in the spring of 2009. It truly felt like a foreign place to me. Wide open spaces? zilch. Days spent without seeing a crazy person? zero. Total times I didn’t feel grimy after a day out? zip. But Johnny’s internship was temporary, so we never had to come face to face with the practicalities of City living.

And then Johnny took a job on Madison Ave. in Manhattan in 2010. Just a few months earlier we’d committed to paying off all of our school loans in two years’ time, so we were faced with a dilemma. How were we going to meet our goal while living in the most expensive city in the country? What does a budget in NYC look like? Where do you save and where do you spend? What sacrifices do you have to make in order to be able to pay off debt in the big city? I thought you’d never ask!

Rent: $1645

This was the big kahuna of expenses. We decided that if we were going to live in NYC, we’d live in the heart of it and really experience city life. Aside from that, our main requirement was to live in a safe neighborhood. So we decided on the Upper East Side, the most “reasonably priced” safe neighborhood. Our ideal budget for an apartment was $1600. Johnny flew out and saw dozens of rentals. Most weren’t even livable…shower in the kitchen, no closets or storage, etc. We ended up with a 450-square-foot “one bedroom” apartment that rang in at $1645/month. No dishwasher, no laundry. And our shower went from piping hot to freezing cold at random intervals… except during the summer when it didn’t get hotter than lukewarm.

Electric: $160 (Summer), $80 (Winter)

Our electric bill was quite pricey for how tiny our apartment was. The winter was cheaper because the heat came from radiators in our apartment, which is required by the city to be covered by landlords. Our A/C during the summer was a window unit in our bedroom, which kept only our bedroom cool. We used a floor fan in the kitchen and living room to circulate air flow.

Groceries: $250

Believe it or not, our best option for groceries in the City was by delivery. I always found coupons to cover the delivery costs, and I just made one big order every two weeks. I only went to our local grocery stores for minimal items because they were so expensive. Even after a less expensive grocery store moved in a few blocks away, it still wasn’t worth the several blocks I’d have to walk home with groceries.

NYC ice cream

Needless to say, we didn’t buy ice cream. Johnny and I also made huge Costco runs every couple months to stock up and save $$$. AND, since we didn’t have a car, and to avoid paying for a taxi (and cancelling out our savings), we carried all our Costco goods home in duffle bags and backpacks on an MTA bus to our apartment over 30 city blocks away.

Eating Out: $100

We rarely ate out, and chose instead to order takeout once a week. We also loved food carts, which usually only cost $5 per meal. And then twice a week, Johnny would get $1 pizza by the slice which put us out a whopping $4/week. We surprisingly miss $1 pizza and dirty food carts a whole lot.

Transportation: $130

Johnny had a monthly unlimited MTA pass, which cost us about $100/month. Since I worked from home and used the subway less often, I simply put $75 on a card every few months. We would share Johnny’s card when possible, too. If I met him for lunch, he would swipe me through the turnstile with his unlimited card to see me off. And we pretty much never took taxis unless absolutely necessary.

Laundry: $40

Our local laundry mat was a block and a half away. I would haul a huge bag of laundry down the sidewalk every week or so and do two loads: whites and darks. I know I overstuffed those machines, but at $3.50 PER LOAD, I didn’t care. I then put all of the clothes into one dryer, which cost me $.25 per 5 minutes. We also got Johnny’s button-up shirts dry cleaned semi-regularly. There are so many dry cleaners in NYC that it’s actually really cheap, costing only a little over a dollar a shirt.

Living in NYC is often thought of in a glamorous light. But the lives we led were far from it while we were there. But I don’t think we enjoyed ourselves any less. I loved running in Central Park, and Johnny and I loved taking night walks when the City was deserted and quiet. We took advantage of free and cheap museums and spent numerous Saturdays just walking the streets and soaking the City in. Really, the things I remember and love about our time as NYC residents had nothing to do with money at all.

How do you feel about city living? Would you ever consider it? If you’ve lived or are still living in a big city, how do you find ways to save?

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  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF February 6, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Sounds… cramped. I’ve never lived in a high-density place, only the suburbs, and right now we are luxuriating in all the space we can afford in NC. I think if our next move is to a high cost-of-living city (SF or Boston), though, we are going to find the tiniest apartment we can so we can save up to buy a place in a few years. I actually don’t mind close living but my husband likes to have extra rooms – while I would LOVE to live car-free he would miss driving too much!

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      I think everyone should try out city living at least once. I wouldn’t trade the experiences we’ve had for anything. But if you do think you’ll be moving to a big city next, enjoy all that extra space while you have it! 🙂

  • Reply Lyn @ Pretty Frugal February 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I’ve never lived in NYC, but most of my friends’ places there are expensive, small, cramped, and have odd layouts. By comparison, living in Chicago is like paradise. Rent in really nice neighborhoods might be comparable, but the apartments are much bigger.

    That said, we’re out of here. I think I’ve had enough city living for a while (or forever). I always planned to move to a mid-size city in the next couple of years, but sometimes life takes you elsewhere. It was fun and all, but I’m looking forward to wide open spaces!

    Saving money in Chicago? We also have free museum days, though it’s tough to take advantage of them when you work full-time. But Chicago has tons of stuff to do in the summer for little or no cost. I like going to Movies in the Park, street festivals, art fairs, outdoor drinks, and just sitting out at the beach. In the winter, I hole up in my apartment and hibernate. At least it saves money!

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      I’ve wondered what Chicago living is like, so it’s great hearing your take. We have friends who live there, and like you said, they seem to get more bang for their buck apartment-wise than NYC.

      It sounds like Chicago has similar opportunities for cheap entertainment. And we did the same in the winter in NYC — hibernate for three months!

  • Reply Michelle February 6, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I didn’t even know you guys lived in NYC. I’m from St. Louis, and no one lives in the city, everyone lives in the metro area haha

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Yeah, most of the other big cities in the US seem to realize that city living’s not the easiest way to live. But a few, like NYC, didn’t get the memo! 🙂

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 6, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Definitely not for me. I enjoy wide open spaces and the feeling of not being cramped. Plus, your rent was more than my mortgage and utilities combined. Ouch!

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      You’re telling me. I hope we never pay that much for rent or a mortgage ever again!

  • Reply K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! February 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I currently live in Brooklyn and the rent prices are quickly climbing to match that of NYC apartments! We also don’t have a laundry area in our building and have to haul our clothes to the corner laundrymat…UGH!
    I am a suburb girl at heart who is used to living with a lot of green space (Montreal) so NYC is really not my cup of tea except that there is so much to see and do here! My husband and I are looking forward to moving to another state eventually where the cost of living will be much lower.

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      There really is so much to see and do! That’s the “love” aspect of the love/hate relationship that all NYC residents have with the city. 🙂 But at least you’re in Brooklyn. If we’d lived in NYC another year, we were planning to make the move on over there.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach February 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I think NY would be way tougher than LA. I think NY is really fun, but I’m not sure I could ever live there unless I made a TON of money. I like smaller type cities like Seattle, Austin, and Portland.

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      I’ve never been to any of those three cities you mentioned, but they’re all on my bucket list of places to visit. Luckily my sister just moved to Seattle, so I think I’ll start there!

  • Reply jane February 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

    I have lived in Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta and Phoenix. Even though I grew up in suburban Chicago I left because wanted it became too much to handle. Wanted more to life. It was 10 years ago, so not sure how the price would compare today but paid $550 for a 300 sq ft studio, utilities included.

    There have been good and bad things about all the cities I’ve lived in but no regrets. Fortunate to have experienced as much as I have.

  • Reply jane February 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Oh and I love this series. Looking forward to how you all have done in each of these cities.

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, Jane! And I agree… no regrets. We’ve learned something in every place we’ve lived that we couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

  • Reply Brittney February 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I feel your pain! We moved to Santa Monica, Ca from Des Moines, Ia for my husband to attend graduate school at USC. Private school tuition + city living expenses = one stretched budget! Our rent is more than double what our mortgage on a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Iowa. Yikes! We do love living out here but occasionally long for a lower cost of living. I can’t wait to read about your LA budgeting {maybe we can take away a few tips!}.

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      At least the weather’s great where you are to help soften that high cost of living a little bit. But I totally feel ya, Brittney. Los Angeles would be the ideal location for us to live with Johnny’s line of work because of all the advertising agencies out there. (And because we both love warm weather and the beach.) The cost of living is the ONLY thing holding us back!

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty February 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Greg used to live in Chicago and I remember paying $9 for a tub of Country Crock. Never again! =) I do love Chicago, though.

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      That’s terrible. I’m not sure if the Country Crock prices in NYC rivaled those in Chicago, but the overpriced ice cream was really tough for me!! I think we only splurged ONCE on a tub the whole time we lived there.

  • Reply Rob February 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    My wife and I both grew up in the suburbs of Montreal Quebec, were married there and bought our first house there. Later, on a head office company transfer, we with the kids then moved to Toronto Ontario so we could be considered as always having lived in big cities, just more out on the outskirts. The way I look at it we could enjoy suburban living (with our own private front and back yard), close (but not on top of) nearby neighbours, while still having reasonable travelling time access to downtown amenities (shopping, arts and entertainment, sports events, etc.). I consider us fortunate with our head office move. In Montreal, after being married a few years, we were able to put a down payment on our first house (which was at that time considered a big gamble to us) – all of $24,000 for a raised ranch bungalow. When we moved 6 years later it was worth $90,000. Our company move was fully paid for and we received housing assistance to buy our house in Toronto – a detached side split house, buying it for $130,000. Toronto house prices have always been double those found in Montreal. We’ve lived in our house in Toronto now for 35 years, having paid off the mortgage several years ago. Today similar houses on our street sell for $700,000 ! Over the years I would consider that typical Montreal / Toronto salaries were less than those found in New York for similar jobs.

    My point in all of the above: Sure we lucked out having been employed by companies that paid us reasonably well and assisted in our move to Toronto but we worked hard, saved and budgeted carefully, made initial sacrifices and still were able to afford home ownership.

    Big city living is more expensive than small town living but it can be done through frugality, without always living on a bare bones spending existence. You have to learn to look for bargains, price compare, determine needs versus wants. All that, plus a little luck staying employed (not to downplay that important point) will go a long way in achieving one’s goals.

    All that plus have lots of long term discipline and patience. Too many young people expect to be able have a lifestyle immediately like they were used to having when living with their parents. Sadly not so in most cases. Ya gotta pay your dues first ! 🙂

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Great reminders, Rob! No matter where you live, you can save if you’re willing to work hard and keep to a budget.

      Johnny and I are still young, and we have to keep reminding ourselves not to give into lifestyle inflation. Right now we need to focus on saving, and someday we can live a little more luxuriously! It’s nice to hear your experiences, since it sounds like you and your wife did things right! 🙂

  • Reply Shannon @ The Heavy Purse February 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I live in LA, so I’m familiar with high prices, although I think NYC has us beat. The cost of living is high, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. There are pros and cons to living anywhere and it’s figuring out what list is larger. 😀 It sounds like you had a great, unforgettable adventure in NY which is what life is about!

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      Our time spent in LA was great… I can see why you love it! It’s definitely our kind of city living. And since Johnny grew up there, it has an especially dear place in his heart. Although the timing’s not right right now, I could see us ending up there someday!

  • Reply mochiandmacarons February 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I lived across Central Park and paid $5000 a month. Very nicely located right beside a subway and location was very important to me.

    We also took a lot of free walks, I loved being in Soho and the vibe there, but ultimately I can’t stand living in NYC specifically because their taxicabs and the traffic noise of all that squeaking and squealing is a turnoff.

    I don’t want to live in a city or country that can’t even be bothered to put in rules and regulations to force cars to change their brakes when they get worn down. It’s a safety thing too!

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      It sounds like you experienced the best that NYC had to offer living across the street from CP! Few people can say they’ve done that. I think all NYC residents have that love/hate relationship going on… the city definitely has very strong pros and cons!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget February 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    the few times i’ve gone to nyc, $1 pizza and hot dog carts are what I most look forward to. Is that sad? I often dreamed about living in the city, but I know it’s pretty much not going to happen now. There’s just something so magical about it

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      Not sad at all! I could do a whole post just on all the cheap food in NYC that I loved. 🙂 And trust me, city living is much more magical from the outside. Those magical moments were few and far between when we were actually living it. We would savor them.

      The next best option to living there is a long vacation in the City. You could spend two weeks there and not run out of stuff to do!

  • Reply Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin February 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I have never been a big proponent of big city living, my parents took me to NYC when I was 8 years old and I saw a bum on the street. It was the first time I had seen such a thing as I was raised on military bases. This may have been what traumatized me and caused my phobia of big cities now that I think about it. 😉

    • Reply Joanna February 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      There are a lot of bums around any big city for some reason. But they’re pretty harmless… you should give it a try again now that you’re an adult! 🙂

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor February 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Fresh direct was pivotal for us when we didn’t have a car for a few months. BF and I both lived in Boston (at different times before we knew each other) and now we’re in NYC. Never lived in LA, but I’d imagine the cost of living is about the same. One good thing about being used to high cost of living cities is when we move someday we’ll be able to sell our condo, or rent it out and live really well in a cheaper cost of living city. We eat out far too much, but with so many good places to eat it’s almost a crime not to give them a try.

    • Reply Johnny February 8, 2013 at 1:48 am

      That’s awesome that you’ve got a condo out there. We really do miss NYC in so many ways, but once you move out, you feel like a king/queen. The trick is taking the difference in your new, cheaper cost of living and putting it toward savings instead of finding other things to spend it on.

      Stay safe with the forecasted blizzard this weekend.

      • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor February 8, 2013 at 7:18 am

        Yup so true. When we watch HGTV or visit other parts of the country we’re like, “wow you can get that much house for only $400k?”.

        Just started snowing, crossing our fingers they’re wrong with the 8 to 12 inches prediction. As you know from living here, there’s nowhere for that much snow to go.

  • Reply Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank February 7, 2013 at 7:04 am

    That is a heap of rent! Although considering it is a big city like NY, i’m guessing everything is going to be a bit more expensive than everywhere else.

    • Reply Johnny February 8, 2013 at 1:49 am

      A LOT more. Like two-to-three times as much. It’s the price you pay to live in the city that never sleeps.

  • Reply Mary February 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

    We live in Long Island, NY which is a 40 minute drive away from Manhattan. I went to college in the city and commuted. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle since Long Island is very suburban and pretty ‘quiet’ compared to the city but I could never imagine living there. $1645 for a one bedroom is a little insane but LI rents aren’t great either. We pay $1475 for a one bedroom :/ I remember reading an article about where renting beats buying a home and Long Island was one of those places!

    This was a very interesting post! Thank you!

    • Reply Johnny February 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

      I’m surprised that Long Island costs that much! I know that our apartment has definitely gone up in cost (hard to believe) and now probably rents for $1700-$1800. We have a lot of friends in the city that are looking in Jersey and Queens/Brooklyn for cheaper alternatives, but they still won’t be getting great deals.

      Renting definitely wins in LI and the rest of NYC. Stay safe with the blizzard.

  • Reply Shannon-ReadyForZero February 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I too was somewhat surprised when I first moved to New York about the difference in lifestyle compared to what tv and movies like to show. But it didn’t change much for me either – I actually ended up learning to become more frugal and efficient with money while living there and created the budget I still live by today. Plus, there really are so many inexpensive things to take advantage of like you said so I still had a blast! Bike riding, trips on the ferry to governor’s island, and enjoying great inexpensive food in the east village were all ways I managed to have fun on the cheap while living there.

    • Reply Johnny February 8, 2013 at 1:54 am

      While we were preparing the post, Joanna and I reminisced on our money saving techniques and realized that we’ve never been as frugal in our marriage as we were in NYC. Partly out of basic survival, but also because we, like you, were able to create so much fun for free. We don’t miss the costs, but we miss the experience dearly.

  • Reply Chaney February 8, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Hey y’all! I’m new to this blog (and loving it!), so this is my first time commenting. This subject hits close to home since we currently live in DC, where rent and cost of living is ridiculously high – rivaling NYC in a lot of ways. We pay more than double what we paid in Richmond, VA (where we used to live), and have less space. It’s crazy! Food is also expensive, so we try to eat out much less often, and do a lot of inexpensive activities, like going to the Smithsonian, which is always free, and walking the city! We love it – though I wouldn’t mind paying less in rent every month :).

    • Reply Joanna February 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Johnny and I had a weekend getaway to DC in November. I LOVED being in a walking city again. That’s what I miss most about NYC I think. And I totally feel ya on the lack of space and crazy prices. But it sounds like you’re embracing the best aspects of city living!

      Hit up Sprinkles cupcakes for me! That’s another thing I really miss! 😀

      • Reply Chaney February 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        Will do. Sprinkles > Georgetown Cupcake FOR SURE (even though GC gets all the hype)! Come visit our lovely city again sometime!

  • Reply Survivor’s Standouts: Group Projects Stink Edition » Student Debt Survivor February 10, 2013 at 8:33 am

    […] Our Freaking Budget-The Real Costs of City Living: NYC […]

  • Reply jesse.anne.o February 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I just found your blog through a comment on MMM. I, like a few folks above, also live in Brooklyn and work in midtown and hands down the real estate and lack of green space are the major issues. There is no park you can go to in the summer that doesn’t have people every 3 feet. On one hand, it’s great and social and communal and city living has a lower ecological footprint but it’s also tiring…especially since I’ve been doing it for 10 years already.

    Re city costs – we also belong to a food co-op and CSA to help keep grocery costs down. And some family holiday gifts have been BBG and museum memberships near to so that opens some doors with “free” things to do.

    The other issue is constantly being surrounded by stores. My walk from work to the subway near Herald Square is one store after another and while I try to only buy non-sweatshop or re-used it’s still really hard not to see sneakers or a cheap dress in the window of a store and NOT think about it. I wonder how that would change if I’m in a town with a tiny retail strip that I have to make a point to get to?

    • Reply Johnny February 26, 2013 at 12:40 am

      What, eating lunch in Bryant Park in the middle of the summer doesn’t sound like a relaxing, peaceful, serene location to you. 😉 That place makes me feel claustrophobic.

      NYC is a shopper’s paradise. Lucky for us while we lived there, we didn’t have the money or the mindset to spend. But it still didn’t stop us from window lusting. There’s so much that we miss about NYC, but costs and spending temptations are not one of them.

  • Reply Real Costs of City Living in Boston | Our Freaking Budget March 1, 2013 at 7:08 am

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  • Reply Jackie March 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Great blog post. I am battling a decision I must make between attending graduate school in NYC or in Cambridge. The program is better for me in NYC but, having only lived in small towns in Indiana and Florida, I am absolutely terrified of city life- the most intense form of city life, at that. Brooklyn is where I’ve been looking for places….rent is unbelievable! I am also one of those nature-loving folks, so that makes the City even more intimidating. However, it seems from what I have been reading that NYC is manageable, even for single individuals such as myself. But I have a feeling I will go into much greater debt living in NYC versus Cambridge/Boston….

    Wonderful insight provided in this post!
    I suppose the experience is worth it for two years?

    • Reply Joanna March 31, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks, Jackie! I was in your boat when Johnny and I first went to NYC. I’m from small-town Alabama, which is about as opposite as can be to city life. I went through an adjustment phase the first couple months, but then loved it. You’ve got two awesome places to choose from for sure!! Ultimately, I think you’ll know which is best for you, but I really don’t think you can go wrong. It’ll be two of the most memorable years of your life. 🙂 Good luck with your decision!

  • Reply Gwenn May 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    I am in the process of transferring to a new graduate school from Los Angeles to New York City with my 10-year-old son, who will be entering the 6th grade!

    I am not scared per se, because LA is expensive but not as expensive as NYC I know. However, I am finding it difficult to find any resources about my particular situation. I know people in NYC but they are either single or much older and were raised in the city with no kids!
    Not only do I have a kid, but I am a single parent who will be a full-time student! I yi yi I know.
    I have spent the last few months communicating with my prospective school about scholarships and aid and but I am really trying to figure out a reasonable budget because I can’t let my kid struggle because I am in grad school, you know?
    Any suggestions 🙂

    • Reply Johnny May 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Congrats! What an exciting move. I’m sure it’s also a bit stressful. We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into before we moved either, but we tried to define a budget before we stepped foot in the city and find a way to make it work. And surprisingly, it worked out alright.

      If you’re able to survive and save off your current budget in LA, definitely try to make that work in NYC. You might have to look a little harder for cheaper groceries, cheaper laundry, cheaper rent, etc. but it’s no different than trying to find deals in LA. They’re out there, you just have to work a little harder to find them.

      New York with be tomorrow’s state for our 50 State Project, so feel free to chime in in the comments tomorrow and ask for suggestions there, too!

  • Reply Tyron July 18, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    High 5 to the initial post that poured in all these comments. I am from South Africa and I have been offered a job in NY, for now its the relocation process thats being discussed if I do take this work. This is my first time out of the country & I have absolutely no-one in NY….. Hosh! TREMBLING…. Any pointers?

  • Reply Anna Edwards February 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I am always searching for deals. I use the guide book 365 Guide New York City. It lists restaurant deals and bar specials. Saves me a ton of cash so I can actually go out.

  • Reply Dave March 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Awesome blog guys!

    I live in Melbourne, Australia and can promise you that it’s tough here too! The suburbs are quite cheap but Melbourne being like the rest of Australia (very spread out) it makes for a long trip in to the city.

    I live in St. Kilda, which is on the beach, on the outskirts of the central city area and pay $1350 a month for an ok 1br.

    At the moment I’m considering making a move to NYC or San Francisco to further my music career (in Melbourne there are 4 million people, 1.25 million derive some income from musical performance the competition is tough and while I do well from it I can only imagine I’ll do better elsewhere).

    I’ve played both towns a number of times over the last 15 years and found the competition far less brutal!

    So, I ask … Manhattenites & San Franciscans … Pitch your city to me!

    • Reply Johnny March 24, 2014 at 12:55 am

      25% of Melbourne is involved in the music industry?! That’s an incredible stat!

      It sounds like you have quite the adventure ahead of you. Unfortunately, we still haven’t made a trek out to SF, yet, but it’s on the docket this year. It sounds like no matter your choice, you’ll be somewhat prepared for the extravagant costs of living. Either would be an amazing place for a music career, so best of luck!

  • Reply Ebi April 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Hi… I’m a graduated student from London and I wanna study my masters in NY and I was thinking I could get some help here. I wanna go to either Cunny Bernard M.B.College or New York university, I wanna live off campus, can I get a share apartment (30 minutes to 1 hour away by train from Uni) for $500 – $700 a month? Would I be able to survive with $600 a month (including transportation)?

    • Reply Johnny April 19, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Hrmm… that’s a great question. But since we were renting a whole apartment within close proximity to work, I don’t have the answers, unfortunately. Start by searching shared apartments on Craigslist in parts of town that are about a half hour to hour away (maybe Queens or LI). From there, you’ll have a pretty good sense of room prices. For a monthly Metro pass, add another $100/month for the unlimited card. They likely have better deals for students, but I’d overbudget just in case.

  • Reply Ally June 4, 2014 at 7:32 am

    So I’m 14 now living in Australia. Life here’s pretty good. I live in a normal suburban area which is close enough to the city to be near to big shopping centres while still being able to have a good night’s rest without any noisy interruptions.
    It’s always been my plan to graduate school (in spring 2016) and go to uni (college in America, right?) straight after or take a gap year. But recently, I’ve been doing some research and it looks like there’s this whole complicated process with visas and stuff so I might have to do some further looking into things.
    In particular, the city I wanted to got is New York. I guess everyone dreams like that too – until disillusionment sets in…. Reading your blog was really an eye opener for me to maybe start being practical so thanks guys for that!
    I was wondering if you had any advice for a girl like me? What would be a good city? But then again, I’ve always loved the idea of a big city like NY.
    Thanks again for your blog!

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dreaming big, Ally! If you can figure out a way to make the numbers work, NYC would be an incredible place to go to college. Johnny and I loved our time there. That said, you’ve gotta weigh the pros and cons of it all. If it means being in almost 100k in debt when it’s all said and done, it’s probably not worth it. There are other great American cities, but if you’re looking for the big city feel and fast-paced life that NYC brings, I don’t think you’ll find any other places like that in the US. I’m so impressed you’re already thinking through all of this at age 14! You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Good luck with your decision!

  • Reply Anastasiya October 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    We so would! That’s such a helpful article. Although I doubt you’d find a 1 bedroom in UES in that price range right now, we are hoping to move to the city in the next few years. I’ve wanted to live there my entire life, but it never quite happened. Thanks for breaking these out! This was super insightful!

  • Reply danny November 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I lived in Tudor City from 1993 to mid 1998 and paid $800 for a small studio. Very non New york type of neighborhood but still NYC. Walked to graduate school. Really would love to just do this for 1 year again if i could. Rents have gone up amazingly high in the same neighborhood in that a studio is now $1950.

  • Reply camille December 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I mat my husband here in NYC while I was visiting a friend of mine living there (I am French). After 2 years of long distance relationship, I decided to quit my job in Paris and move to NYC as the potential of career is much better than in Europe. It may sound scary to quit your job and have no other one waiting when you arrive to live in the big apple. But I actually saved a lot of money! And of course I can say I got lucky and made compromises: I moved to my husband’s apt, that he was sharing with 3 other roomates, in the center of Manhattan (Chelsea). Our rent was only $500 a month, because the apt was in a really bad condition (however the rooms were not that tiny), and the roomates were paying more as they were coming only for a few months and then leaving (they did not care paying a bit more, which was still cheap for the area). For a year, I was waiting for my work visa and green card, so all I did was taking the most of the city at the least expensive cost (Groceries at Trader joes only, clothing at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, eating out only once a week, walking the city the most possible, so no monthly metro pass, avoiding taking the taxi, etc etc.) My husband was working a block away from our apt, and making enough money to support us two + going on vacation in the US and in Europe once a year to see our respective families.
    We did the free museum, cheap good eats, etc on his few days off.
    Then I found a job and we were able to move to our own apt. We found a small 1 bedroom (350 ft2) in hell’s Kitchen, rent stabilized, for $1950/month. It has a dishwasher and it a charming pre war renovated unit. No laundry in the building unfortunately but across from the street. And the kicker is that I got recruited after 6 months by a company that is located a block away from where we live! They also provide me with an Iphone and a plan! So that’s less expenses! Also, we decided to go only with the Internet (Netflix and Hulu) so we don’t have to paid for expensive useless cable! I keep on doing my groceries once a week to Trader Joes, I do not pay for the metrocard and my husband goes to work either by walking or biking (we invested in two folding bikes that fits our small apt). We do not have a car, nor any debts. My company also offers a free gym and great health insurance for both of us ($100/month for the 2 of us), and a 401(K). Most expenses are obviously the groceries, and the vacation abroad. Life is actually easier than living in France, as our salary is about the double of the normal salary in Paris for our jobs/skills/ages, and we are able to save a lot. We are also considering buying a 2 bedrooms in upper Manhattan by end of next year.
    If you are able to make good judgments on paying reasonable prices (and not get over tempted of paying all of the expensive attractive stuff in this city), then this is easy!

    • Reply Joanna January 10, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Wow, awesome, Camille! It sounds like you and your husband have really found a way to make NYC living work for you — while still saving and keeping a budget! (And sorry for the delayed response… we’re still catching up since moving back to NYC and the holidays.)

  • Reply Anne May 16, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Did you not have cable or internet? My son lives in NYC and has been there since college at Manhattan School of Music. His rent is much cheaper because he lives uptown a ways above the school closer to Harlem and of course he splits his rent with a room mate. There monthly costs seem higher with food, transportation and utilities. He has to take instruments around to gigs so he hops a cab often which is costly and with the last few frigid winters the electric has been really high but they also have cable internet which adds on each month. He had cable and cable internet at first but gave up the cable and and kept the internet and watches Netflix and Hulu. I’m not sure he could stand living without internet. I think that’s a big part of his entertainment when he is too broke to do things in the city he can get online and read or watch a movie.

  • Reply sam July 5, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    HI Do you have any advice for people visiting NY for 3 days as tourists. We will be geting our parents and 2 kids too. what do you think about hotels in NY? also any idea how much does a taxi cost ie the minimum fare there?

  • Reply Rhonda Smith July 23, 2015 at 9:09 am

    So interesting article! My best friend moved to New York City last year and the first thing she told me when she got there was that everything is extremely expensive. It was great that she moved there because of her job and she get enough money but she also could save a lot of money if everything wasn’t so expensive. Well, big city, big prices!

  • Reply Abhijeet February 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm


    Read almost all the post, really it give fair idea about living in NY.
    One query that I have, what would be the school fees in general for a kid of age 7-8 yrs?
    Can anyone help me please?

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