How to live in Manhattan on a budget

Everyone and their grandma knows how expensive living in NYC is, but do you know the true extent of it? Before an average New Yorker’s paycheck reaches the bank, he or she is already missing up to 12% due to the highest income taxes in the country. Next stop is paying for some of the least affordable housing in the nation and last but not the least-the everyday products. These are up to twice the national average. NYC’s core Manhattan is even worse, reaching heights of more than double the national average on everything! To live in Manhattan on a budget is a reality for most of its citizens.

live in Manhattan on a budget
Living in Manhattan is possible even for the lowest incomes.

Yet people will do anything to live in the greatest city on the planet. There are 8.5 million of them in NYC, proof that you can, not only live here but thrive as well. Local moving companies in NYC can attest to the fact that there are more people moving in each year than moving out. This article is for those trying to figure out how to live in Manhattan on a budget. We are talking to you “entry-level job applicants” or to you “starry-eyed dreamer”, this one is for you.

How to rent an apartment on a budget?

Rent is going to be the biggest expense you are going to have while living in Manhattan. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,895. You won’t even be eligible to rent here if you cannot prove your annual income is 40 to 50 times more than the required rent. Your best chance at affording to live in Manhattan on a budget is to get a roommate or two, or three…or four.

Living with roommates in Manhattan

One of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of rent in Manhattan is to shack up with roommates. Search for potential roommates on Craigslist or or if you don’t want to end up with a maniacal serial killer, ask your friends or people you already know. Make sure to do a basic background investigation on your roommates just to be positive that they can afford the rent. This has become such a regular occurrence in NYC that there are many different websites and forums offering help in finding the perfect roommate.

live in Manhattan on a budget
Getting roommates is the best way of lowering your costs.

Another important thing you should have in mind before picking the best Manhattan rental broker is to have the paperwork ready. Once you have found your roommates make sure you have all the paperwork in order. You don’t want to stumble upon a perfect NYC apartment just to learn you don’t qualify due to insufficient paperwork. Manhattan’s rentals appear on the market in the morning and are gone by the end of the day. Therefore, you need to be fast and furious.

Live in Manhattan on a budget-track your expenses

Now that you know what your monthly rent will be, you can start working on your budget. The most critical first step you need to make is to track your spending. What is your actual salary once you take out the income tax and the city tax? You probably need to receive your first paycheck to realize the true number you are working with. Once you know this, start tracking every expense you have, no matter how small. The faster you figure this out the better you budget game will be. But naturally, it will take a few months to figure out your perfect budget.

Live in Manhattan on a budget
Track your every expense to create a monthly budget.

Set aside rent money which includes internet and utilities. These are the most important expenses, next comes food. Try to prepare all of your meals at home. Because by making at least once a day you can save up to $150 a month. But, some Manhattanites wouldn’t agree. There are so many food options everywhere around you, and choosing to eat street food you won’t have to do groceries, cook and carry lunch on the subway. Whichever way is better, we are sure you will figure out yours soon. Maybe it’s a good idea to try the Elon Musk Challenge during your first few months in Manhattan? It’s pretty simple: spend only $2 on food a day for a month!

To live in Manhattan on a budget is a constant battlefield and you need to stay on top of your game. Plan ahead, try every angle you can think of, be flexible and ready to learn. Everything about this city is competitive, but we still love you, New York! 

Useful tips

Your budget will take a few months to form. Use spreadsheets to track your every expense. The minute you get your paycheck make sure the most important expenses are covered. These are some additional trick to keep you afloat:

  • Hire affordable Manhattan movers, local moving companies will know best how to navigate the terrain.
  • Use only cash or the cash-only diet, how people tend to call it. This is a great way of controlling your money. Take an amount out for the week and stick to it. Once the money is in form of cash it’s more visible and you will pay more attention when spending it.
  • Your groceries are entirely under your control. This is an item you can save on, try the Elon Musk Challenge and spend only $60 on food a month.
  • Plan for unexpected costs, such as birthdays, weddings and trips. The best way to tackle this is to try to plan ahead and set aside a chunk of money for it.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to order just a glass of water at a restaurant. It’s ok to say: “I can’t afford it”
  • Walk or bike to work, you can save as much as $100 on transportation this way

Maybe the best advice we can give you is to find joy and pleasure in things that are free. If you start this journey unhappy and frustrated thinking about all the life comforts you will have to leave behind than maybe NYC isn’t for you. There are plenty of free things to do after moving to NYC. This is a city that recognizes how expensive it is to live here and it allows for plenty of fun and culture for zero dollars. Therefore, figure out how to live in Manhattan on a budget and the world will be your oyster.

live in Manhattan on a budget
Figure this one out and you can live anywhere in the world.