Budgeting in New York City is a daunting task for a few reasons, the biggest being that everything in this town is so expensive and the fact that there are so many things to do, all that cost money, of course!
Even still, we know how important it is to at least try to save, which is something we’ve been attempting to wrap our heads around, especially as we’re watching our bank accounts shrivel up this holiday season! We spoke with Sydney, who is 23, and an older and wiser female in her 30s, about their tips on living your best life and budgeting while you’re at it! Read on to see the different perspectives each girl offers up here.
Sydney: I’m Sydney, a 23-year-old lady living in NYC attempting to ball on a budget. Emphasis on attempting. I have lived in NYC for a little over a year now, but I’m still working on figuring out all of the tips and tricks on how to get by living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Luckily, with 1 year under my belt, I have learned just enough that I can spill some of my not-so-expert-level insider tips with you.
30-Something: I’m a 30-something born and raised in New York City. My life is a little less balling, a little more budgeting.
How do you have a social life in NYC and not break the bank?
Sydney: This has been a bit of a challenge for me, but it is doable. I try to limit myself to only going out to eat on the weekends or for special occasions. When it comes to a night out at a bar, I try to always drink a bit before using what I have in my apartment and then limit myself when buying drinks out. I almost always take the subway on my way there, but on my way home I’ll take an Uber Pool since I don’t ride the subway late at night… I recently learned about Via, which I am excited to try out moving forward because that seems much more budget-friendly!
30-Something: Understanding what you can afford and figuring out what you want to prioritize on a monthly basis is the best way. Most of us can’t do it all, but by planning in advance you can enjoy the events you choose to attend.
What are your tips for holding yourself accountable for being responsible with your money? How much of my paycheck should I save each month?
Sydney: To be totally honest, it is really hard living in NYC in your 20s and being able to save a large portion of your paycheck. It is very common to be living paycheck to paycheck, in fact that’s what a lot of people who I’ve talked to about budgeting have to do. I’m still figuring it all out and it definitely is something I think about every day, which can be stressful! But in the end, it’s all about working with what you can and trying to save wherever you can… a little can go a long way to start!
30-Something: Set a realistic budget and do your best to stick to it. I know it sounds crazy, but I made an Excel spreadsheet with all my mandatory expenses (rent, electric bill, etc.) and my elective expenses (dinners out, Ubers etc). This helped me understand how much I could spend in each bucket on a monthly basis. It also helps you flex your budget when necessary. For example, if you have a dinner every weekend that you absolutely can’t miss, you can see where else you can compromise. Maybe you make sure you make dinner during the week instead of ordering takeout. Or you get up earlier to try and walk to work instead of taking the subway. There is no set amount you should be saving, it’s dependent on what you can afford. If you have a number of items in your elective bucket, try and cut one thing out a month and transfer that money into a savings account.
What are the best clothing brands that are high quality, but won’t break the bank?
Sydney: I would say almost my entire wardrobe is from ASOS and Zara! Some people find ASOS to be overwhelming because they have a lot of merchandise, but I promise that you will find the best stuff!
30-Something: I love Zara and H&M. Rent the Runway also has great plan options. The real secret is taking the time to clean out your closet once a season to remind yourself of the amazing pieces you already own. Everyone has clothes they haven’t worn in a while because of the space limitations of Manhattan apartments.
I want to save, but I don’t know where to start. What’s your best advice?
Sydney: I would start by talking about it with someone older who you admire and find responsible. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents because I know this can be a really stressful conversation to have when it hits so close to home. Maybe it’s an older co-worker, a friend who works in finance, a family member slightly more removed…whoever it may be, it’s great to sit down and discuss it with someone else. Even if you don’t have a huge amount of money per month to save, it still counts… walk or subway instead of taking a cab, make your coffee at home rather than spending $6 a day at Starbucks, pack your lunch instead of buying it. Calculate what you would have spent on all of that, and then take that out and put it in your savings!
30-Something: Get a handle on where your money is going every month. Understanding how much that morning latte at Starbucks is hitting your budget might help you make coffee at home in the morning. When you have a strong understanding of what you are spending, you can see where you need to cut back to start saving.
How do you avoid impulse purchases?
Sydney: Haha – this can be hard for me, but I have definitely learned to control impulsive spending. When it comes to shopping for clothes, I try to stick to buying neutrals and basics that are versatile and I can dress up or down. At this time in my life I think I am too young to be spending on investment pieces… And my best advice for controlling impulsive buys would definitely be to sleep on it. If you don’t wake up thinking about it, you probably don’t really want or need it. Try to think about how often you’ll use it, if you have anything like it, if you can find a budget-friendly version of it, etc. I like to consider myself a professional at shopping on a budget 😉
30-Something: Budgeting! If you account for a certain amount of impulse purchases in your elective expense budget, you can still allow yourself to splurge sometimes without breaking the bank. Or if it goes outside your monthly allotment, you understand what you are giving up. Is that dress worth sitting at home on Saturday night?