After falling in love with New York City during a summer internship in college, I moved here two weeks after graduating from college and haven’t even entertained the thought of leaving since.
Despite more than two years of crowded subway rides, streets that smell like hot garbage, and exorbitant rent prices, I’m still obsessed with the city — and constantly urging all of my long-distance friends to move here. But I’m often met with the same response: “I want to, but I can’t afford it.”
“Here’s the thing,” I tell them. “You probably can.”
Yes, New York is expensive. Yes, you’ll constantly be tempted to spend. And yes, your rent will likely be much higher than what you’re paying in Pittsburgh or Phoenix. But if the New York lifestyle is worth it to you, the budget is doable.
For me, it all comes down to a single mantra: You can do some things, just not everything.
Sticking to my budget means choosing what’s a priority and what I’m willing to sacrifice. I bring my lunch to work every day and save my food budget for exploring restaurants with friends. For every night out at an expensive bar, there’s one spent splitting a $7 bottle of white wine on the couch.
Some sacrifices might seem bigger than others: Rent is expensive, and there’s no way around it. You most likely can’t afford to live alone like on “Sex and the City” or nab a huge apartment in the West Village á la “Friends.” But trust me on this: It won’t matter. This city has so much to offer — free outdoor movies, expansive parks that you can get lost for hours in, huge, chocolate-packed cookies at Levain Bakery — the amount of time you’ll spend sitting at home will be negligible.
There are plenty of neighbourhoods where rent is reasonable — try looking in Brooklyn, Queens, or uptown Manhattan — and living farther out will give you a great jumping-off point to explore a new part of the city. Perhaps I’m biased by great roommates, but I share a tiny place in deep Brooklyn with two other people, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I love delving into new corners of the borough and coming home to share my day with friends.
Living here full-time also gives you the luxury of waiting for good deals. You don’t have to fit everything into a weeklong trip — you have months, even years, to explore the city. Which means you can wait for Restaurant Week to check out new places on a budget and hold out for Broadway tickets to go on TKTS at half price. If you don’t mind going on a certain day of the week or month, several museums offer free entry as well.
By living here, you don’t have to shell out hundreds to ensure that you can capture the best of NYC in a few days as you would on a vacation — you’re free to enjoy its magic little by little, watching it unfold right in front of you. My best experiences in New York aren’t tied to expensive activities, but to the amazing friends and colleagues I’ve explored the city with.
As much as I would love for all of my best friends to move to New York, it won’t be a great fit for everyone. But if affordability is the only thing holding you back — give it another chance. At the end of the day, if you’re making a solid income and don’t mind living with a roommate or two, New York isn’t as outrageously expensive as it might seem.
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