10 Reasons Why I Can Afford to Live in NYC

It comes down to one thing: I don’t have expensive tastes – in habits or hobbies. I never have. I’ve tried a few things that could have sucked up my disposable income, but I didn’t enjoy them. Some I’ve never even wanted to try. So here’s my list of the coincidental (as opposed to deliberate) frugal habits that allow me to get by without making any sacrifices while earning far less than the generally-accepted figure of $100K a year for a modest Manhattan lifestyle.

  1. I don’t smoke. Not having a half-a-pack-a-day habit keeps $1300 a year in my pocket.
  2. I really don’t like going to bars or clubs. The reasons are numerous and convoluted, so I’ll leave it at that. I think a normal habit would involve a couple of drinks after work once a week, and one night out on the weekend. A low estimate for this would be $100/week. That’s another $5000 a year I don’t spend that everyone else does.
  3. I pay my gym membership annually, not monthly – which I would do even if there was no discount. That saves me $150/year.
  4. I don’t get manicures or pedicures. I used to get pedicures, but I caught a little toenail fungus from a salon pedi, so I stopped about 3 years ago. A shame – I really enjoyed them. I don’t even want to save the money! I do buy about $40 worth of footcare products a year though. A pedicure every 3 weeks with tip, minus home footcare = $430/year.
  5. No car. No monthly MetroCard. I walk anywhere within a 2-mile radius of my home, sometimes further (I walk 5-7 miles a day for fitness reasons). I work from home in a city with frequent and comprehensive public transportation. I won’t give myself credit for not having a car, but I’ll take $81/month for the MetroCard, minus $10 (high estimate) for individual fares, so my annual saving comes in at $850.
  6. Not a theater fan, a sports enthusiast, or a concert-goer. I live smack in the middle of the theater district, and I just don’t like Broadway musicals or plays. Assuming I had a minimal habit and went to one event a month, with a mix of discounted theater tix and regular price for the other stuff, that’s another $700/year saved. 
  7. I don’t wear cosmetics – hate the stuff. The average American woman spends $650 a year (and this is one of the lower figures I stumbled across) on cosmetics. Even if I classify my moisturizers and face cleansers as cosmetics, I’m still not spending about $570.
  8. No Starbucks habit for me. I didn’t even like coffee until 2 years ago, but the real source of savings is that I work alone from my home and not at an office. Otherwise I probably would have a one-a-day habit, but from McDonalds or Europa Cafe because I like their coffee better. So I’m not spending $10/week…$500/year.
  9. Despite my 5’x5′ kitchen, I cook a lot more than most New Yorkers. Seriously, they all use their ovens for storage (sweaters, shoes, CDs). I cook because I don’t want to regain the 65 lbs I’ve lost, not to save money. I usually make my own breakfast and one other meal, and get take-out for the third. Average take-out (pizza, Subway, Mexican) is $6 and most of my home-cooked meals come in around $2/serving because I buy most things on sale…I’ll give New Yorkers a 2-cooked-meals-a-week credit and calculate my savings @ $4 x 5/week…$1000 a year. Sweet!
  10. I don’t date…long story. Anyway, this means no dating site memberships, no buying at least two skirts and two dresses a year (I don’t have any…I’m losing weight – might be out of the size before I get a chance to wear something), no actual date expenses (even if I let him pick up the tab, which I find awkward, I’m still picking up tips and taxis and at least one drink). I think a super-low, one-date-a-month estimate without using a service or website would run me $700 a year.

There are a number of things I’m not even putting on the list, like premium cable channels ($15-20/month), weight loss support (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, personal training, Alli…at least $60/month), grooming services like facials/waxing/teeth whitening ($100+/month), or my aversion to shoes/bags/accessories/jewelry (easily $400/year).

Add up 1-10 and I’m saving $11,200 just by living the way I like to live and not getting sucked into even a fairly low-end New York City lifestyle or acquiring typical “girl” habits that don’t even appeal to me. If I did all of these things, I wouldn’t have an IRA ($5K) or be able to travel at all ($6K)… and I’m not willing to give up a cent of either of those!


3 Responses

  1. Food and theater and bars are the best in NYC! That’s why I would be poor and overweight if I lived in NYC.

  2. Ovens as storage for sweaters, shoes, CDs?!? Hilarious. I love your list. I’m with you that retirement accounts and vacations are more important than mani/pedi, purses, and shoes.

  3. @DAMF – NYC is such a “walking” city that it would counteract at least some of the food. Bars are a definite budget-buster (your recycling snowflake would get you 1 Budweiser in a fancy bar, 2-3 at a dive or mid-range happy hour). But you can always find a deal for the theater as long as you’re not gunning for the big Disney ones like Lion King (which I’m actually tempted by… the music in their commercials is so beautiful).

    @F-Chick – I’m totally not joking about ovens being used for storage. The most popular item you’ll find in there: shoes, by a long shot. Sex & The City is not that far from reality in terms of the average New York woman’s near-obsession with them.

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