New York on a Budget

post by Jessica

Today I’m starting a new category of post called “New York on a Budget.” Although R & I are clearly not the first people to do Manhattan on a budget, I figured this is both a great way to bring insight to the joys and challenges of living in NYC and two, it’ll give me even more accountability than just knowing our financial goals or even writing them down without sharing them.

So, what are our financial goals?

  1. Really long term – live a good life, with financial stability and independence, while being able to take care of our (potential) children
  2. Intermediate term – survive the years of graduate school with as little debt as possible, so that we can get on with our lives
  3. Short-term goal – this year, when we have the most guaranteed income (my stipend is the biggest), use only the money we are getting, rather than spending down any of our savings

We have been very lucky that at this moment, we have NO debt. We graduated undergrad without debt (thanks to our parents!) and then moved Our plan for our time in NYC is simple – prevent ourselves from being in financial trouble later by NOT getting ourselves into debt now if we can possibly help it. That’s not to say that we haven’t thought about the situations under which we would take a loan – the two (or even three) semesters that aren’t covered by my scholarship are one area in particular. However, we’ve both agreed to take steps to reduce costs so that we can reduce the amount of loans we have to take out, if any.

The major difficulty we’re facing is two fold, though. We’ve gotten a better idea of what our household costs will be, since we now have an apartment and I’m working on utilities. We’ve made a couple of discoveries. For instance, we can get an alternate energy provider, so after we set everything up with ConEd we can switch to a different provider for a lower (think half price) rate. We also decided not to get cable, just Netflix streaming (since they are making me choose with the rate plan changes!) and internet, since I’ll need it for school.

So, aside from the fixed costs of living in a place, there’s also the costs of being alive in a place – especially groceries! For the last six months,  I’ve been using Mint.com (based on a recommendation from Kosher on a Budget) to track our expenses, and use that as a guideline for the kinds of things we spend money on, knowing full well that there will be differences – it’s New York! I joke with R that I’m practicing – I’ve been printing coupons and trying to figure out what’s on sale at our local grocery store. Granted, moving day is 10 days away, so we’re not buying a lot of food at the moment, but I’m trying to get into the mindset. I’ve also been pouring over another website, called Money Saving Mom. I’m learning a lot and hoping to put it into practice as we get more and more settled in New York. I’ve also been using a piece of software called “Evernote” that I love. I’ve been looking around websites about the city and using Evernote to save pages in organized little notebooks – things like the nearest public library, and my selection of like, twelve grocery stores nearby that I’ll have to get used to.

It’ll be an experiment, and I’m excited to have you along with me!

So what’s your best tip for money saving? Or anything in particular you’re interested in about our new life in the city? Ask away!

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8 thoughts on “New York on a Budget

  1. NY (Manhattan specifically) is hard to do on a budget, for sure. BUT there are hidden gems everywhere, and ways of getting things cheaply… I started doing work-study so I get pottery classes for free! And there are hidden cheap yoga studios, cheaper grocery stores, farmer’s markets, etc etc. I like mint.com but make sure you go through and re-classify things, sometimes it will mark purchases from one store under the wrong heading and it can skew your numbers in weird ways.

    Also, NY has lots of free stuff to do pretty much every day, so look for free entertainment, too!

    Anyway, good luck! I’m looking forward to your posts 🙂

    • I have already found a farmers market in our area, so I’m hoping that will help. And the free pottery class thing is awesome! I’ve had that problem with mint.com too – it was miss-reading one of my monthly donations as going to health insurance – but I’ve figured out mostly when it does that. 🙂
      Thanks for the encouragement! I’m just reminding myself not to be overwhelmed at first!

  2. use the drugstore deals (as featured on KOAB and elsewhere) to get toothpaste, razors, shampoo, etc. for free. If you need to find the deals on other drugstores, just google “frugal blog NYC.” You’ll probably find what you need fast. Can’t wait to read more!

    • I actually signed up for the Rite Aid rewards thing yesterday! We have a Rite Aid about a block from us (between us and the subway stop) so I figured that was a good one to start with as I get my feet wet with playing the drugstore game. I googled some frugal blogs yesterday – found a couple of good ones, so that should be helpful! Thanks for the advice and for reading 🙂

  3. Great post – I wish you much success! KOAB is a great resource. So are all the Kosher/Jewish daily deals along with the thousands of websites that match up coupons with sales. Don’t underestimate the amazing savings you can get with coupon match-ups.

    There are lots of other great money-saving deals and strategies to learn about and apply. I have a great website: http://www.koshershopaholic.com that features the latest deals, coupons, reviews and money saving tips for the Kosher consumer. Take a look at it – I hope it helps you reach your New York on a Budget goals!

    • I am really excited to find websites that work for me! Thank you for the link to your blog – I like it, and I even signed up for the Amazon thing that you featured! I had no idea that they do that! Thanks for the encouragement!

      • For things like beauty/spa type stuff that most of us end up eliminating because of budget concerns, try out local cosmetology schools in your area. It’s a great way to get pampered without breaking the bank. Plus, its a safer bet than going to an inexpensive salon because there are teachers monitoring every step of the students’ work. Also, look on craigslist and places like that to see if there are stylists looking for models–some salons require that stylists serve an apprenticeship and then perform a variety of services on clients before getting their own chair–and it is *free* for you!

        You’ve probably heard of him before, but Dave Ramsey is my go-to financial “guru,” if you will. His website and podcasts offer a lot of helpful information about how to reduce debt (if you already have it, which you don’t) and how to stay out of debt and eventually gain enough money to be comfortable. I went through the Financial Peace University class and it was a total eye-opener. It does have a Christian bend to it, but the information is solid and he’s not preachy about it. His main website is http://www.daveramsey.com

        Hope that helps, and I’m excited to read your upcoming posts! Sorry for such a long-winded comment.

      • There’s got to be a cosmetology school nearby! That could be fun 🙂

        I’ve definitely heard of Dave Ramsey, although I haven’t done much with him yet – as you said, we don’t have debt, but I think I’m going to take a look at his stuff soon!

        Thanks for the encouragement and I hope you continue to enjoy reading!

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