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9 Ways To Save Money While Living In New York

There is always something to do in New York, and expats moving there will be spoilt for choice. From exotic restaurants that serve up a multitude of different cuisines, to traditional American diners. There are restaurants, bars, nightclubs and live concerts scattered across the city that never sleeps. New York is an ideal destination for those who want to remain rooted with their culture, considering that the city is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the United States.There is a high chance of meeting people from your home country. It is a well-connected city with a subway that operate 24 hours a day. The city’s suburbs are well connected via bus and commuter rail. Millions visit New York every year to enjoy its many theatres, musical stages and cultural organizations. Healthcare is still an issue in the United States, but the New York government offers an inclusive healthcare program. Children between the ages of 5 and 21, irrespective of immigration status or citizenship, can obtain free public school education. Each year, a large number of expats are attracted to the Big Apple to fulfil their dream of living in such a modern, cosmopolitan, diverse and vibrant city.

Cost of living

The cost of living in New York is lower than in other big cities around the world, such as, London, Tokyo and Sydney. However, within the United States, it is the most expensive city to live in. In Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey 2015, New York ranked 16th out of 207 cities. Expats who opt to live in Manhattan, one of New York’s five boroughs, will find the cost of living to be quite high. Accommodation in prestigious neighbourhoods, such as, The West Village, is extremely high. Things are less expensive in Brooklyn. To cope with the staggering prices, many employers provide expats with a relocation allowance, which helps to ease them into life in New York, and helps them find suitable accommodation through a broker. The initial supplement also enables them to pay the deposit fees and other set-up costs involved in starting a new life, in a new city, from scratch. Therefore, even though costs are high in Manhattan, expats working here are reimbursed accordingly.

Expats who are living as tenants in apartments in New York will only have to pay an electricity bill, as the water and gas bills are taken care of by the landlord or building. However, during the summer months, the cost of air conditioning can increase three -fold. There is also an unofficial, social protocol that New Yorkers follow annually, which is to give a yearly bonus to their building staff.

All five boroughs of New York are connected through a comprehensive subway system, which makes public transport costs affordable. Unlimited travel cards help to further reduce the costs of utilising public transport. Buses, which may be slower in comparison to the subway, are a cost effective way to commute around the city.

New York has a number of restaurants and cafés, and eating and drinking out can come at a high price. There is also an obligatory 20% tip that is to be paid at restaurants. Although this may be expensive, it has helped to improve the service at restaurants and bars. The quality of the food is also above par at most eateries in New York. Since employees only receive moderate wages, they tend to depend on their tips, and hence pay extra attention to providing good service.

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The cost of groceries and clothing tends to be more expensive in Manhattan than any of the other boroughs. Good deals may be available outside of Manhattan however. Expats can also try buying groceries and everyday items online, or from the bigger main street stores. Clothing is affordable at the small corner stores and clothing stores downtown.

Some employers provide a comprehensive health insurance policy, so expats moving to New York should find out if this included in their package, or if they need to organise it for themselves. Insurance generally covers most costs and expats are only required to make a small co-payment. This also applies to prescriptions. Health insurance should also cover consultations, hospital procedures, x-rays, MRIs and other procedures as general practitioners only treat minor infections and refer patients to a specialist, if further medical care is needed.

It can be quite a challenge to save money while living in any metropolitan area. There are a wide variety of things to do and temptations are lurking all over the place! Living in New York City on a budget can prove to be quite a challenge. In fact, New York can easily be called one of the worst cities to live in if you want to save money. New Yorkers may find it easier to save money in the warmer seasons as there are a number of free outdoor activities available. In winter, many choose to spend the day at the Met, or at one of New York’s many cozy pubs, with beer and board games. Expats can also benefit from the promotions the city has to offer, such as Restaurant Week or Spa Week.

Here are some other cost-cutting tricks for expats living in New York.


One of the ways in which New Yorkers save money is by getting a roommate. Housing costs are the biggest expense of an expat’s salary, and having a roommate can halve living costs. You can still have your private room, while sharing the kitchen, living area and bathroom. Therefore, getting a roommate, or two or three roommates, is one of the simplest ways of saving money. Another way to save money is to sublet your apartment, if you’re going out of town for a month or two. By subletting your space, you can save up on the cost of rent for the term of the sublease. This can be a good arrangement, for expats who have to travel a lot for work. Budget friendly accommodation is available beyond the major hotspots such as midtown Manhattan and Wall Street. These include Washington Heights, Harlem and Inwood in Manhattan, and Astoria and Forest Hills in Queens. Another way to save money, is to avoid the broker fee.


New York’s efficient and affordable public transit system makes it possible for expats to go car-free. You can even skip the cabs and thus further cut down costs. The city’s public transit system also connects both of the city’s major airports. Budget friendly alternatives are also available in the form of shared shuttle services, such as NYC Airporter and SuperShuttle. Avoid buying an unlimited monthly MetroCard, if you are heading out of town for a couple of weeks. Before buying the card, consider the number of trips you will realistically take and whether it is economical to pay for an unlimited pass. If you live in a Citibike accessible area, New York’s public bicycle sharing system, you can save a substantial amount on travelling.


Instead of spending a lot on dental care, visit Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine and New York University’s Kriser Dental Center, where dental care is offered to the public at significantly reduced costs. You can even visit free and low cost clinics, to take care of basic healthcare needs. Take care of your children’s healthcare requirements by opting for Child Health Plus, New York State’s health insurance plan for children. Based on family income, your children may be eligible to join Child Health Plus or Children’s Medicaid. Both can be obtained throughout the state, through a number of providers.


Cooking at home is one of the best ways to save money in New York. Resist the temptation to snack on a sandwich or burger when you are out of the house. Instead, save dining out for special occasions. The water in New York City comes from upstate, through the water aqueduct and hence it is some of the cleanest water in urban areas, in the whole country. Drinking from the tap is a great way to avoid spending money on bottles. Another cost-effective method, is to pack your own lunches, or those for your children. Taking a packed lunch every day can lead to some serious money saving over time. If cooking at home is difficult, considering you have to stand in lines for groceries, why not consider a grocery delivery service? Many such services even offer promo codes. When going out for drinks, opt for the happy hour that takes place every day, where drinks are half price. Look for the best happy hour deals around where you live and work, so you have budget-friendly options when meals out are planned. When going out to restaurants, try having lunch instead of dinner, as New York has some great lunch deals.

A full meal, including the tip, can amount to between $12 and $15. New York also has plenty of low cost, grab and go options, such as the 99-cent pizza. You can even find eateries that are under $5. You can coupons at eateries across the city. There are many websites like Groupon and Restaurant.com, that offer excellent savings and promos at eateries. There are various apps cropping up too, through which you can find new ways to save. Another great idea when it comes to saving on your food bill is a potluck. This is a great way to socialize, without worrying about splitting the bill.


New York has a multitude of options for free fitness programs. The city has its own Shape Up program, which offers complimentary classes at locations in the five boroughs, every week. There are even fitness programs that The New York Public Library keeps open to the public. Some of the city’s locations also have free classes from companies such as Nike and Lululemon. Want to get in shape on a budget, why not give running a try? Some of the most popular running routes in the city are the Central Park Loop and the Hudson River Greenway. Ice-skating is another way to get fit. The best part is that Bryant Park has a skating rink that is completely free. You can even opt for free roller-skating during summer.


One of the most popular activities to do in New York is to visit the city’s renowned museums, many of which offer free entry. There are others that are suggested donation, where you pay what you wish. Some of the museums also offer free admission on certain days of the week, or during certain hours. New York has no shortage of attractions, from walking along the Brooklyn Bridge, to taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, from which you can get stunning views of the Statue of Liberty. There is no lack of impressive public spaces in New York. Some of them include Central Park and Washington Square. The quieter areas of the city, also have some beautiful community gardens. During the summer months, you can go kayaking on the Hudson River, for free. There are also many fun activities for children, such as a free visit to the zoo or children’s museum. Expats looking to widen their circle of friends and acquaintances can use sites like ‘MeetUp’, where they can get in touch with like-minded people whom share interests with them, such as watching movie screenings, or simply having a conversation.

Some more ways to save money while living in New York include:

– Keep things minimal by buying and keeping only the stuff you require and the stuff that adds value to your life
– Avoid paying bank fees every time you can’t find an ATM in your network, by using sites such as MagnifyMoney.com, where you can find better, more affordable alternatives
– Shop at thrift stores, where you can shop for anything from designer clothing to furniture, all second hand stuff that is also of a high quality.

Have you lived in New York? Do you have any money-saving tips for fellow expats? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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