How to Save Money in New York City

If you live in New York City, or have been to New York City, you might know that it is expensive. Life in the city consists of dining out, wearing high fashion, going to shows and fundraisers, and the amount of rent we pay is one of the favorite topics of conversation among New Yorkers.

Somehow, while earning scarse pay for NYC, I managed to save enough money to pack my things and head on my journey to travel the world. Here is how I did it.

1. Food
In NYC it’s easy to get into the habit of dining out all of the time. It’s the thing to do. I managed to live off of $200 per month for (healthy!) food, most of the produce I would buy at the farmers market in Brooklyn every Saturday morning.
a. Every Saturday I buy fruits and vegetables for about $20-$25 and
b. The rest of the food I buy at Trader Joe’s on Mondays, as this is the least expensive grocery store around me.
This strategy is successful, because the trip to the market is once a week, and the trip to the grocery store once a week; this prevents overbuying. Sometimes the spending will be $60 a week, then the next week balance this by spending less and eating Snert (Dutch split pea soup, cheap, of course).

2. Friends
Tell your friends that you are not going to be able to go out and grab a beer, eat some sushi or get a coffee. Let your friends know that you’re saving up money, and can’t go out to expensive places for a while. This is pretty difficult. Instead you can suggest to cook food together, go for bike rides, watch movies on Netflix, drink a $5 bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s, do yoga together, etc. Your friends will understand, and go along with the broke-game-plan.

3. Budgets
Besides watching the expenses for food, it’s important to track miscellaneous expenses as well. Set targets for different expenses: food, drink, going out, etc.

4. Phone: I downsized my phone payment, I have an iPhone, but went from a $55 monthly plan to a $30 monthly plan. This saves me $25 a month. The biggest difference in plans is the internet, which I find great not to have everywhere; no more uploading pictures when you’re out, checking Facebook, Whatsapp with friends in Holland. Enjoy life without your phone.

5. Alcohol: I love going out with friends and grabbing a drink (or two), but in New York City it is expensive, if you quit drinking for a while you will save loads of money. I set an alcohol allowance for myself per month: $50. The best way to still drink alcohol, and not spend too much, is by getting wine at the Trader Joe’s wine store, bottles of wine are $4 as opposed to at least $11 in Williamsburg.

6. Sugar: Don’t spend money on sugar, I’ll still eat sugar when it’s offered to me, I just don’t buy it. This makes it easier for me to eat less sugar.

7. Exercise: No gyms, yoga schools, or any other spending on workouts is necessary. The following all cost $0: ride your bicycle, go for runs, do yoga and other mat exercises in the comfort of your home.

8. Laundry: do laundry every two weeks, save up some. This will save one trip on the weekends to spend on other things, and it saves $9.

9. Holidays & Special Occasions
Ok, November with Thanksgiving and December with Christmas and New Years Eve were especially difficult, it’s depressing not to celebrate. The way I solved this was by having a lavish meal at home with friends, this way cheap bottles of wine at were bought at Trader Joe’s, organic local food bought at the farmer’s market, and the feast was $30 a person.

10. Extra Cash
Every month I try and make some extra money by working events at night, house-sitting, dog-walking, baby-sitting, etc. Every month this generated about $300.

All in all I saved enough money for plane tickets, life in India and a yoga teacher course. I will have to work when I’m in China/Australia/New Zealand, but that’s ok with me!

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