How to Save Money in NYC

We all know that NYC is an expensive place to live. As much as I love this city, I am fully aware that the cost of everything is higher. But, if you know where the look, there are ways of saving a few dollars.

  1. Take public transportation. Like anyone who lives there, I am fully aware of the downsides of using the MTA to get around. But even with those problems, there is no beating that for one fare, you can go from one end of the city to another, 24/7/365.
  2. The dollar store is your best friend. Not everything is cheaper than the big box stores, but the deals may be surprising.
  3. Not everyone can afford to live alone. Though the roommate experience is sometimes hit or miss (as I painfully remember), it is the most economical way to reside here if you cannot afford an apartment on your own.
  4. If you need furniture, there are multiple options: local stores, Craigslist, various apps, etc. If you must buy new and prefer to go to a name brand store, hit up Target or Ikea. They are a pain in the ass to put together (even if you have to pay someone), but overall, it is worth it. The pieces I bought from Ikea more than a decade ago are still in good condition.
  5. When it comes time to get a haircut, find a local salon. Their work is just as good as the expensive salons and many will throw in a free blowout. In my experience, the ones owned by AAPI owners provide a pretty good service at a price that will not break the bank.
  6. Buy in bulk, large sizes, and store brands. If you do have access to a car, stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are worth the drive and the membership fee.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities to be outdoors. Most, if not all of the parks and beaches are free to enter.
  8. If you are a bookworm like me, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the public library. If you must buy a book, hit up a local bookstore or 2nd hand store/thrift shop. This is also good if you are looking for a gift for someone. Now granted, you might not find exactly what you are looking for. But you never know what you may find. My favorite bookstores are the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan (great for browsing), Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, and of course, Housing Works.
  9. If you have a New York State driver’s license, you can get into some museums for nothing or almost nothing.
  10. Use Yelp and Time Out. Yelp is great because the reviews come from customers. Time Out has listings for things to do that will please almost anyone.
  11. If you can, purchase your produce from a street vendor. The quality is just as good as a traditional retailer and the price is just a tad cheaper.
  12. Finally, if you want to see a Broadway show, there are ways to have this experience that will not empty your wallet. If you are willing and/or able to climb stairs, seats on the upper levels of the theaters are always cheaper. For me, it’s about the experience. I don’t mind going up a few flights. Organizations like TKTS sell tickets at discounted prices. However, not every show is listed (especially the popular shows) and the desired seats are not always available. There is also the option of going to one of the booths. The primary one is located in Times Square. Just prepared to be waiting in a very long line.
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How to Find an Apartment in New York City

Looking for a new home is not easy. In New York City, it is made infinitely harder by the fact that not only is everything more expensive, but compared to other parts of the country, your paying more money for less space.

After living in my last apartment for over a decade, it was time to find a new place to live. Along the way, I learned a few things and I would like to share the lessons I learned.

  1. Know your budget: Before you start any apartment search, it is imperative to know what you can and cannot afford in terms of rent. There is nothing worse than finding your dream home and realizing that it is out of financial reach. On the surface, the budget is the rent. However, there is also the security deposit, the realtor fee( see #3), the cost of moving (see #10), and other miscellaneous expenses that crop up along the way.
  2. Check your credit score: One of the things that a potential realtor and landlord will ask is your credit score. Even if everything else on your application is perfect, there is a chance that you may be rejected because of your past credit history.
  3. Working with a realtor: The upshot of working with a realtor is that they have access to multiple properties. Bear in mind, however, that if you make this decision and find an apartment that you love, there is likely to be a realtor free. Depending on the agency, the fee could be anywhere from 15% of one month’s rent to one to two months of rent. If you choose this path, I highly recommend that you do research and/or ask for recommendations. If they are legit, you will not pay anything until you say yes to the apartment.
  4. Use multiple sources: The more search options you use, the more apartments you will find. When I was looking, I used the advertised sites (Zillow, Streeteasy, etc), Facebook (both the market and groups), Nextdoor.com, and Craigslist. Just be aware that some ads on Craigslist can be a little on the shady side.
  5. Location: While you may want to live in Manhattan, be aware that the cost of rent is higher than other parts of the city. An example is of the Cash Jordan video below. I’ve seen similar units in Brooklyn that cost around $1500 instead of $2500.

6. Get to know your potential neighborhood (if you don’t know it already): Once you have narrowed down the neighborhood(s), it is time to get to know where you might be living. I recommend first using rentcity.co to learn more about the building. Then I used Google and Yelp to figure out where the stores are and how close the public transportation is. After you have seen the unit, take some time to walk around. Not just during the day, but also at night. The last thing you want is to be afraid to leave home after dark or come home after a late night out.

7. Amenities: They can be as simple as an elevator and/or laundry in the building. Or, they can be as fancy as high end finishes, in house gyms, doormen, roof decks, etc. What you have to remember that the more amenities a building offers, it is very likely that the rent will be higher.

8. Be firm, but flexible: I know this sounds like a contradiction, but hear me out. Whether or not you go through an agent or work with the building owners directly, there may be a fair amount of pressure to say yes. I can recall a number of times that I was told that the apartment would go fast and I had to make a decision ASAP. Know what you want, but be realistic. There will always be something to compromise on. The question is, what are you willing to let go of and what stays on your must have list?

9. Be patient: This is a learning process. You may find what you are looking for right away. It can happen. But, be aware that it takes time to put together an image of your next. It took me about six months to find my new apartment. Trust me when I say it was difficult and time consuming. You don’t want to sign a twelve month lease and realize two months in that your miserable.

10. Moving Company: Once you have signed the lease, the next step is figure out how you are going to transfer your belongings. There are two ways to go about this. The first is, if you don’t have a lot of stuff, rent a van and ask friends or family to help. A few years ago, I and a few others helped a couple of friends move. Our reward was free dinner. The second is to hire a moving company. The vetting process is similar to finding a realtor. What I found very helpful is that if you use Yelp, it is setup so that multiple moving companies are contacted in one sitting.

11. Organization is key: This is a messy, complicated process with a lot of details that if missed, could result in a major screwup. The only way to remain calm and in control is to be organized. I used Excel and added a new folder in my email just for this process. Someone else may have another way of going about it, but the point is not to panic and let everything that has to be done overwhelm you.

12. Be prepared to throw-out, sell, or donate: When your settled, you don’t think about how much stuff you have. That realization only comes when you have to start packing. Over the course of those six months, I did a deep dive and really had to think about what I wanted to take with me and what I no longer needed. There are multiple ways to go about doing this. I made several trips to Housing Works. Craigslist, Facebook, and Nextdoor.com also have features in which you can post listings for stuff you want to sell and/or donate.

To anyone going through this, I wish you luck. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is farther away than you would like it to be.

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