Mastering a budget is admittedly something I have not completely fine-tuned by any means. I still splurge occasionally when I shouldn’t, consider shopping “therapy,” and buy one too many coffees throughout the week (when I know I won’t finish it). However, since moving to NYC, at least attempting to figure out a budget has been a must. From groceries, to rent, to getting drinks out, everything is 10x more expensive than it should be. It’s frustrating, but I didn’t move here thinking it would be any less.
So, in the year that I have been in the city that never sleeps (and is really good at draining your bank account) I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to living on a tight budget, still having fun, and sort of saving money (I’m still working on that part).
First of all, being on a budget does NOT mean that you can’t do anything fun. Does it mean that you have to pick and choose? yes. Does it mean that you maybe shouldn’t buy a $25 drink? absolutely. But, don’t ever think that you can’t find affordable (or free) things to do, still go out with friends, and live it up.
NYC is definitely not cheap when it comes to buying drinks. A $9 glass of wine is a god sent when heading to a restaurant where you want to booze up, and any happy hour that has $5 anything has me feeling #blessed. But, if you are planning to go all out with a night of bar hopping, clubs, etc. my tip to you? Pre-game. Yes, that wonderful thing we did in college still applies. Buy cheaper alcohol at your local package store, chug before that Uber shows up, and limit what you buy while you’re out (or don’t buy at all because you’re already drunk).
As for day activities to bring your friends to while they’re visiting, there are tons of free things to do throughout the five boroughs every week. You just need to look a little deeper for the non-tourist traps that drain your bank account and make you crazy.
Plan ahead, but don’t waste money on stuff you will let go bad.
You do not want to know how many times I have let a bag of spinach or other greens go bad in my fridge. With that lesson learned, I have finally stopped buying that stuff unless I’m 100 percent certain I am going to use it that day or the next. Bags of spinach and other healthy items are more expensive than we think, and we’re basically throwing $4 away every time we let it go bad. I don’t know about you, but I can use every dollar I can get.
Freeze what you don’t need right now. Instead of letting all my fruit go to waste, I’ve been throwing it in the freezer. I realistically only buy them for my smoothies, and frozen fruit works for that, so you’re welcome.
Coupons are also amazing, and you should read about how one of our 20some crew makes that happen. I’m not saying I’m over here cutting coupons every day, but I definitely look for deals, have my Cartwheel app for Target ready at all times, and will get a discount card (like a Stop & Shop card) at my local grocery store (you also don’t NEED to buy from Whole Foods every day, there are cheaper places with the same stuff!).
Download Apps to Help You Budget:
One app that I use in particular is Mint. It’s really helped me put things into perspective, and realize that I spend WAY too much money on coffees and at restaurants. Mint lets you budget how much you will spend each month on rent, other bills, clothes, food, etc. You can create new ones and delete some that don’t apply. For example, I don’t need to worry about how much I spend on gas each month because I don’t have a car. Instead, I need to put it towards public transportation (because the subway sucks out more money than a car probably does).
Aside from the obvious day to day things, there are so many ways that you can save a dime here or there while living in an expensive AF place like New York City. Splurging on expensive things here and there is not a crime, and it is definitely worth it if you know you won’t end up -$1000 in your bank account. Think outside of the box like our writer at 20something did with her scavenger hunt through the city. Get creative and you can still ball out while living in your small apartment with overpriced rent!