How Do People Live On Less Than Six Figures In An Expensive City?

Have you ever wondered how people can live in an expensive city on less than six figures? I wondered this all the time as someone who has lived in New York City and San Francisco for over 23 years.

I first started my career in New York City as a financial analyst from 1999-2001 at GS. My base salary was only $40,000 and I could only afford to share a studio with a friend! It was an amazing time, but boy was it hard to save money.

Thankfully our salaries were raised in the second year to $65,000 after Wall St. decided to pay new first year analysts $55,000 instead of $40,000. Still, a base salary of $65,000 wasn't much to write home about when one-bedroom condos were selling for 5X.

In 2001, I moved to San Francisco for a raise and a promotion. Back then, San Francisco felt dirt cheap compared to Manhattan. I could either get 30% more space for the same money or buy the same place for 25% less. Therefore, in 2003, I decided to go long San Francisco real estate.

The key to living in an expensive city is to get your housing costs under control. Once you have your housing costs below 20% of your gross income, you should start to thrive.

New York City Is Fantastic, But Is An Expensive City

New York would be the greatest city in North America if it weren't for three things: 1) Tough weather for half the year, 2) Never ending crowds, and 3) outrageous prices!

A decade later, I went to New York City to visit my buddy I shared a studio with for two years. He had been looking to upgrade to a two bedroom condo with his future wife. But he was taken aback by the then ~$1.5 million price tag. He said they just might move out of the city instead.

Back in 2001, my friend had bought a one-bedroom condo near the U.N. for only $325,000. The value of his condo is now over $750,000. If a condo owner who saw his property's value grow by 130% can't even afford to comfortably upgrade to a two bedroom, can you imagine what a renter during this same time period is thinking?

So it really got me thinking. How do people live a comfortable life in an expensive city like New York without making six-figures a year? Let's find out.

Breaking Down How Little $100,000 Goes In An Expensive City

First of all, making $100,000 a year puts you in roughly the top 10-15% of nationwide income earners. $100,000 is a great achievement no matter where you live, but it's not that great if you live in an international city such as New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, or Paris.

It's really important for those who make much less to recognize high salaries are generally earned in expensive locations.

Let's break down what a typical $100,000 earner will get after funding their retirement savings and taxes. There is no excuse for anybody making $100,000 or more to not max out their 401(k) for a more financially sound retirement. Here is my 401(k) post by age for your reference.

$100,000 Income Budget In An Expensive City

Gross Income: $100,000

401(k) Contribution ($19,500 max for 2021): $17,500

Taxable Income: $82,500

Effective Tax Rate (includes city, state, federal, SS tax, health insurance): 30%

Net Income: $57,750

Monthly Net Income: $4,812

NYC Cost Of Living
Savills UK, a property broker ranks NYC the #1 most expensive city in the world

Expenses From A Frugal Friend Making $100K In An Expensive City

Rent: For One Bedroom On 71st and 2nd Avenue: $3,300. Rent has actually surged in New York City post the pandemic.

Food: $700. He eats out about 30 meals a month and cooks his remaining 60 meals at home (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Groceries are not cheap in Manhattan.

Beverages: $100. He only goes out for drinks with his friends once a week. Beers are $5-$15 and cocktails are $8-$15.

Cabs: $100. From the Upper East Side to Grand Central costs about $15 one way. It's $20 to go all the way downtown. He tries not to take cabs, but it's an inevitability.

Subway: $112. It's $5 to commute round-trip. Back in 1998 one-way fairs were only $1. $112 is now the monthly all you can commute pass cost.

Cable / Internet: $100. Pretty standard package for basic cable and internet.

Entertainment: $200. This category includes movies, shows, and events. Movie tickets cost $15 and Broadway shows cost $50-$100 for the cheaper tickets.

Mobile phone: $50. Family plan i.e. subsidized.

Travel: $150. Cost to go see his family in New Jersey and the occasional fishing or skiing trip up north.


Not Living It Up On $100K A Year In Income In An Expensive City

As you can see from my example above, someone making $100,000 a year in New York City is NOT living it up. Going out once a week with friends is hardly excessive in a city that seriously never sleeps. He does his best to walk or utilize the subway and his entertainment budgets is pretty tiny for all the NYC has to offer.

At least he is contributing a good amount to his 401(k), which is crucial since he has nothing left in disposable income. Contributing to his 401(k) should result in over $200,000 in 10 years due to company match and conservative performance estimates. If he wasn't contributing heavily to his 401(k), he'd have an extra $1,200 a month to spend.

Finding a decent one bedroom for under $3,000 is not particularly easy unless you know someone who has a rent controlled apartment. If you want to lead a less comfortable life, then you can find studios for around $2,000 a month.

But, are you really going to be happy still living like a college student making $100,000 a year? Probably not since you're closer to 30 than 20. Where are your parents, girlfriend, boyfriend, and relatives going to sleep? One solution is to find a significant other who is willing to split your $3,300 a month one bedroom cost.

Going Out To Eat Costs A Fortune Too

Lunches in NYC cost on average $10-15 after tax and tip. You could eat a Shackburger at Shake Shack and drink free water every lunch for $5.01 like I did for two days, but you might die of heart failure at a young age. You might also turn so big that your armpits emanate massive odor and heat on the passenger next to you like I felt sitting in the middle sit on a red-eye flight over!

There's a saying by New Yorkers to expect to burn $100 each evening you go out. After going out every evening I can see how this saying is true.

My dinner at Strip House cost $77 followed by $35 of drinks at Sparks Steakhouse where a family friend works. Then of course I had to pay another $15 cab ride back home because it was 1am. At least my buddy and I split the bill.

Of course we could have gone to a cheaper place to eat like Kunjip in Korea Town for a more reasonable $25 a person. We could have drank our alcohol at home and ordered water at the bar instead. But come on. It's good to live it up once in a while.

The Ideal Income To Live In An Expensive City

I believe $200,000 a year per person is the ideal income for maximum happiness. To put things into perspective, a 30-year-old second year Associate makes anywhere from $170,000-$250,000 on average in finance as do second year lawyers. 32 year old doctors who don't do fellowships make $150,000-$250,000 as well.

If two, $200,000 income-earning people can combine forces, then even better. Nowadays, a family earning $300,000 a year in an expensive city is considered middle class.

What's also interesting is that two people making a combined $400,000 annual income is right at the limit for where President Biden wants to raise taxes.

$200,000 Income Breakdown

Gross Income: $200,000

401(k) Contribution: $17,500

Taxable Income: $182,500

Effective Tax Rate (includes city, state, federal, SS tax): 35%

Net Income: $118,625

Monthly Net Income: $9,885

$200,000 Budget Breakdown

Rent For Two Bedroom In Mid Town: $5,500

Food: $1,000. Now we can afford to eat four $100 dinners a month with $500 left over for lunch and breakfast.

Beverages: $500. You can go out twice a week now or feel more comfortable buying a couple rounds of drinks for three friends four times a month.

Cabs: $200. Instead of taking the subway when it's super hot or really late, you get to take a $15 cab ride a little more often for convenience.

Subway ($2.5 one way): $114. Same old monthly commuter plan.

Cable / Internet: $100. Same old package.

Entertainment: $500. A little more breathing room here because now you can afford to take out a date!

Mobile phone:  $100. Upgrade to a larger data package because you're on the move more often.

Travel: $300. A couple more trips out of the city. This time, to the Hamptons.

Total Expenses: $8,300


$200,000 A Year Is Good, But Not Great Income

We can argue the ideal income to live in an expensive city all day long. But as you can see from the example above, $200,000 will allow you to contribute to your 401(k), save $20,000 (10%) in after tax income and spend freely on much of what NYC has to offer.

Anything more than $200,000 is nice, but higher tax rates are really going to eat into your earnings. It also usually takes more effort to earn in the $250,000+ range so that's a negative.

Here's another example of a single mother with a child. It's clear she's not living it up on a $200,000 income. Thanks to taxes and childcare expenses, her six-figure income gets gobbled up quickly.

$200,000 Income And Still Not Feeling Rich

Examples Of Everyday Expensive Things You Can Buy In NYC

Let me now share some pictures of things you may want to buy in NYC that costs a lot of money.

Crepe Cake Lady M in an expensive city
Lady M Confections on 78th St. is absolutely amazing. You can get a 20 layer crepe cake for $10 after tip and tax.
Shackburger at Shake Shak for $8.85.
Shack Stack at Shake Shack for $8.85. Get the Shack Burger for $5.01 instead.
bag of cherries in an expensive city
Bag of Rainier cherries at Fairway for $19! $8.99/lb
666 Park Avenue TV Show Building
The Ansonia on 74th and Broadway. Two bedrooms are $7,000-$8,500 a month
Roof deck at 200 Water St. downtown FiDi. Two bedrooms are $5,000 a month.
Roof deck at 200 Water St. downtown FiDi. Two bedrooms are $5,000 a month.

Share How You Live Comfortably In An Expensive City On Less!

Given only ~15% of Americans make more than $100,000 a year, it's clearly possible to have a good life living in an expensive city making less. This goes for folks living in other expensive international cities as well. Some of the things I've thought of that allow people to live and save are:

  • Co-habitating with a girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, or roommate.
  • Living in a rent controlled apartment.
  • Working two or more jobs.
  • Residing farther away from downtown
  • Living off the generosity of one's parents.
  • Having a wealthy spouse.
  • Working in the food industry so you don't have to pay for your meals.
  • Working as a property manager or hospitality industry to save on rent costs.
  • Living for free in your parent's apartment.

Housing Is The Biggest Issue

If you can take care of your housing situation everything else can be overcome with cheaper options. For example, you can eat McDonald's for dinner rather than go to Le Bernardin. Entertainment-wise, you can play frisbee in the park instead of paying $100 for a Broadway show.

I do wonder how parents afford to send their kids to private schools given public school systems in big cities are often in need of improvement. There's the Citywide Gifted & Talented programs and Anderson, Hunter, Lowerlab, and Nest are all great elementary public schools.

Then there's Stuyvesant and Bronx Science for public high schools. I'm not sure what parents do if their kids aren't smart, but I'm sure there are scholarships for everyone.

If you live in an expensive city and make less than $100,000 a year, I'd love to hear how you manage to live a comfortable life! Please also mention your savings rate as well. I guess it all depends on what your definition of “comfortable” is and your age.

Related: Scraping By On $500,000 A Year: Why It's So Hard For High Income Earners To escape The Rat Race

Expensive Big Cities Outlook Post-Pandemic

Post-pandemic, I believe thousands of people will be flocking back to big cities again for the job opportunities, network effects, and more. Therefore, I'm looking to buy Manhattan property to catch the wave.

Rents and rental property prices will rebound, just like everything else has so far. If you've been sitting on the sidelines for a while, I believe now is the time to invest before the herd comes back.

All my financially savvy friends are scooping up rental properties in San Francisco and New York City right now. If you are renter, your goal should be to lock in as long of a lease as possible at current rates.

How do people afford to live in expensive cities like New York

The reality is, people can afford to live in expensive cities due to high incomes. If incomes weren't high enough expensive cities wouldn't be as expensive.

New York City residents require a net worth of about $3.4 million to feel wealthy in 2022. I think $3.4 million is a reasonable amount given how expensive New York City is. However, NYC has more affordable housing so long as you don't live in Manhattan.

Achieve Financial Freedom Through Real Estate

Real estate is my favorite way to achieving financial freedom. It is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income. By the time I was 30, I had bought two properties in San Francisco and one property in Lake Tahoe. These properties now generate a significant amount of mostly passive income.

In 2016, I started diversifying into heartland real estate to take advantage of lower valuations and higher cap rates. I did so by investing $810,000 with real estate crowdfunding platforms. Now I earn more passive income to take care of my family.

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms. They are free to sign up and explore.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT is the easiest way to gain exposure.

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. 

Real Estate Crowdfunding Dashboard

Manage Your Finances In One Place

If you currently live in an expensive city or plan to move to an expensive city, I recommend signing up with Personal Capital, a free online wealth management tool to keep track of your income and expenses.

Money drains out like water if you don't keep a tight lid on your cash. I live in San Francisco and Personal Capital keeps my budget in check by providing me clear snapshots of my finances. They even send me a weekly overview of my net worth progress over email which I highly appreciate.

My favorite feature is Personal Capital's Investment Analyzer tools that assess your portfolio's risk and fees. I discovered I was paying $1,700+ in annual 401(k) fees I had no idea I was paying!

Personal Capital Retirement Planner Tool
Are you on track? Sign up for free to plan for your retirement future

How Do People Live On Less Than Six Figures In An Expensive City is a Financial Samurai original post. Due to inflation, the cost of living in big cities keeps going up. Hence, we need to earn more, save more, and get our housing under control. I've been writing about achieving financial freedom since 2009.

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305 thoughts on “How Do People Live On Less Than Six Figures In An Expensive City?”

  1. Is there a way to search for career paths that are easy transitions from other careers and that pay “x” amount?

    I live in Ventura County, California, and according to the census, only 36.8% of my neighbors have college degrees, but they all seem to do better than me—owning houses and multiple luxury cars. How can they afford rent? How can I get a job like theirs?

    I am 43, have an MA, and work two part time jobs. I rent a tiny bedroom for 63% of my net income ($48k,) and can’t afford health insurance/ a dentist, or my student loans.

    There has to be a way to find careers that pay enough. How do I find out what jobs my neighbors have that pay enough to not just rent a bedroom—but actually rent or buy a whole house?

  2. Fughhedaboudit

    I love how this blog pretends Queens doesn’t exist or unfashionable neighborhoods in any borough for that matter. Speaking as a New Yorker, 3,300 for a 1 bed is actually quite a lot. You can find many many 1 bedrooms (or more!) for 2500 right next to a train line that takes you straight to work. But god forbid you tell someone you live in Woodside or Sunnyside.

    1. Queens is boring. It doesn’t have the amenities that (upper-)middle class young professionals desire nor does it have singles night life. Astoria is cool though.

  3. My spouse and I live in Chicago. By no means does Chicago compare to New York in regards to the cost of living, however, it’s still a relatively expensive city by American standards. Much like any major city, you will pay a premium for location, and Chicago has many neighborhoods worthy of the “it” location. In some of Chicago’s more premium neighborhoods, you can expect to pay anywhere from 2500-5000+ per month for 1-2-3 bed apartments. Studios can be had around 1800 however. Expect these to be on the smaller size. On the other hand, 1-2 bed apartments can be had for 1600–2500 in less popular, or emerging areas ranging from 500-1400 square feet. Go west or south and you can find apartments in the 800-1200 range. Keep in mind, each person will have a level of comfort they may or may not be willing to compromise on. Things like safety, schools, access to entertainment all will play a major role. One of the advantages of Chicago however is its lower cost of living, yet higher pay when compared to other major metropolitan areas.

    My spouse and I work in marketing, and pull in a little over 200k combined. We’re pretty financially savvy and live well below our means. We save in a 401k and receive employee stock options from work for a total combined savings rate of 18% pre-tax. We have 2 children and also save for their college in a 529 plan. Because of the children we’ve chosen to live in one of the more offbeat neighborhoods, where we are able to have a 1400sq foot townhouse and 3 beds including a small yard for about 2600 per month (mortgage), We’re only 2 miles from some of the more lively areas, so nightlife, retail, and the arts is really only a short cab or train ride away. A nice compromise for more space while living in the 3rd largest city in the US.

    A typical monthly budget with 10k net income for us:

    Housing: 2600
    Utilities including cable phone etc:500
    Car payment:500
    Child care/part time:800
    Eating out/entertainment:350
    Sports and family Rec:200
    Gas and transportation:175
    Subscription services:45
    529 college savings:500
    Credit cards:500
    School: Free (public)

    Could we afford to live in a more lively part of the city, and pay more for housing, even send our children to private schools? Of course. But we’ve chosen to be more frugal, saving for our financial futures, and emergencies. The housing crash of 08 and now with COVID has made us more financially conservative. Knowing that we have the ability to weather a job loss, or travel to see the world means so much more than living next to the Joneses.

    1. Thanks for sharing so much! Chicago is truly one of the best value cities in America where you can also make good money. I’m assuming the winter is what makes it cheaper than more temperate places.

      1. Financial Samurai,

        There are a few things I believe contributing to the lower cost of housing. What you have to remember about Chicago, compared to say New York, or even San Francisco is that although it’s population ranks it 3rd in the nation, its density at roughly 12,000 people per square miles is a little less than half the density of NYC at 28,000 and 18,000 for San Francisco respectively. Due to this disparity in density, you don’t have as many people per square mile fighting for square footage. Also, Chicago for the longest time was predominantly, and still is in some areas a blue collar working class city. It wasn’t until recently, say in the last 20-25 years that we started to see a shift towards tech jobs and startups. This has led to a higher demand in denser housing closer in to the city center where the likes of Google, Salesforce, and 37 other Fortune 500 companies have set up shop. We probably can expect prices to continue to rise as time goes on.

        Another reason to consider why housing may be cheaper is the tax base in Chicago. Most homes and businesses are taxed at a really high rate. Businesses especially downtown businesses make up the largest portion of tax base for the city which helps to offset the cost of homes for individuals. However, people are not exempt either. Most homes are taxed annually at 2% value so a $250,000 home comes with a tax bill of $5,000 per year, add in the sales tax of 10.25% and employment tax of 5% these things all add to the overall cost of living that may be considered when negotiating rent or sales prices of a home.

  4. This is extreme. When I first graduated from college in 1998, I lived in Manhattan and was only making $47K/year. I then lived in Boston, DC, and now Los Angeles. These cities are almost as expensive as NY. I can tell you that in any of these cities – even NY – it would be VERY easy for a single person to live on less than $200K. I would say that $120K would be the lowest and still livable and would allow to save for retirement. You can still go to nice restaurants and have a decent apartment or a condo outside the city for that salary. I’m always amazed by people’s warped perceptions of $$. Unless you need a private masseur and gold plated toiled seats, these numbers you presented are way out of whack

    1. I moved to the UES January 2019 with a job offer of $122k/yr. got a one bedroom for $2700/mo. Monthly MTA caard with unlimited rides for $127/mo which was taken out pretax at work, $60 for cell phone, $60 internet, and around $60 for electric. Everything else included in rent. I went out every now and then. Maybe 3-4x a week and if you’re ona date it’s guaranteed to be over $100 a night. Rarely take cabs but on rare occasions I do. Biggest killer? I smoke and it’s $14-16/pack here. Anyway, I maxed out my 401k easily and even saved around $1,000 a month. Museums, broadway, etc I would do very occasionally. Baseball games, plenty, but wouldn’t buy anything but cheaper seats. Not the cheapest but around $30 a seat.

      As you can see I did fine but there’s a lot more to it. It was pretty rare I went to an actual restaurant b/c it’s so expensive. When I say I eat out most of my meals I mean deli’s, grab a slicer or a bagel or causal fast food places. Typically, under $10 for breakfast and $10-15 for lunch and dinner. Usually I only eat twice a day but not always. Grocery stores? There’s really no such thing in the city. There are a few Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s but not close enough to me and not really any cheaper than “eating out” like I do. Plus, schlepping groceries on a subway or bus? Been there, done that, never again. Local grocery store? I suppose that’s what New Yorkers call them. Like D’Ag, Gristedes, etc but they are very, very small and you likely won’t find everything you need without having to go a different store. Again, not worth the hassle and not really any cheaper.

      I would agree with $200k as a nice lifestyle. My apartment has an outdoor space but it feels like a small jail cell. There is no natural light. It’s noisy because the building is old and to to get out of the city takes forever. True, the subway system is great but just to get to Brooklyn takes me over 45 minutes. To get to the UWS takes almost a half hour and that’s 2 miles away. FiDi over a half hour. Everything here is a giant pain in the ass. $200 k would allow a car which would make a big difference. It would also allow you to take some time away from the city even if it’s just upstate or visiting family back home. You don’t just run somewhere real quick here. Unless it’s in your neighborhood it’s going to be at least an afternoon affair.

      It’s definitely true there are things you can do to make it cheaper. There is a lot of cheap and fun entertainment. Some of it is even free. But it still comes at a price. Central Park is great and free but it’s not a getaway. There will never be a time when you are alone with nature unless you’re there at night which is not a good idea.

      $200k gets you a legitimate apartment where you aren’t living like a person on welfare, a vehicle (even with $600/mo parking spot parked probably miles away), the ability to save and invest a difference-making amount of money and very little worry about being able to have fun unless you’re an idiot.

      1. With the coronavirus, I am working from home outside of Manhattan and no longer have any desire or need to go to Manhattan. I was in lower Manhattan last month and it was all boarded up and full of homeless people. Everything is closed and people have moved out. No restaurants, movies, museums, clubs; nothing to offer. Why pay $2700 for a studio now? Many people have been laid off from their jobs in Manhattan. Better off going home to live with family or a friend and bank the extra cash.

        1. I’ve tried but can’t get out of my lease but leasing company won’t even work with me and won’t allo subletting. On top of that I have been out of work since April. Fortunately, I was good with money over the years and am okay for awhile. But there is literally nothing to do here now. They have outdoor dining now but that’s it and I’m certainly not paying that much for lunch or dinner.

          I would really discourage anyone from moving here if you didn’t have a well paying job lined offered and accepted. Violent crime is up, somewhere the homeless situation has gotten worse as it was already a dismal situation before all this happened. True the restrictions won’t last forever and rents are coming down but the quality of life is so low unless you make near $200k that it’s not worth it. Not even close.

          If I find a job before my lease is up I’ll stay but it’s extremely unlikely I’ll find one paying even close to what I was being paid before. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d ever come back here even to visit.

      2. My stats are very similar to yours but residing on the Waterfront in Jersey City (i.e., “the 6th Borough”).

        Annual salary: $120,000
        401k contributions: $1,500/mo ($18k annual)
        Monthly Net income after 401k contributions: ~$5,600
        Rent: $2,700
        Grocery: $600/mo
        Utilities: $150/mo
        Internet: $55/mo
        Phone: $65/mo

        What I have found is paying this much in rent affords me a high quality of life, given my interests and proclivities.

        My apartment is a newly renovated, modern 1-bedroom with central A/C, in-unit washer-dryer, dishwasher, and in-building amenities like fitness center and patio. At this point in my life, I will not settle for anything less. I am not walking to a laundromat or living without a dishwasher or without an in-building fitness center (though COVID has closed them). Gone are the days of having a roommate or living in “quirky” or “charming” old buildings, or with cockroaches. The premium is worth it for a peace of mind.

        Also my unit is in a safe, quiet area in walking distance of grocery stores, NJ light rail, a CVS, a few fitness centers, and a running path on the waterfront.

        However, all these amenities comes at an extreme cost. Recently I took stock of my expenses and realized I saved very little to other major life goals like saving for a car, a home down payment, and a work sabbatical. Every month I feel so pinched for money, even with meticulous budgeting and cost cutting. I am also debt free. Then I realized, I pay 50% of my net income on rent! Before moving to NYC, I easily maintained rent under the 30% threshold, but now I spend 50% to maintain the same quality of life.

        Also, my grocery expenses doubled. In my Midwestern City, I spent $250-300/mo on groceries; now it’s $500 – 600.

        Since COVID, I’ve been struggling to justify this cost. Why pay this much money to live near a city I don’t even visit? Why live in Jersey either? Jersey is ridiculously expensive without offering much in return. (Jersey Cons: The Jersey bus system is antiquated, the State has few noteworthy attractions outside of the Jersey Shore, the residential homes are ugly shacks unless you go further out to Montclair or Princeton … NYC: The MTA feels like the last place I’d want to be right now.)

        I also feel like it’s a struggle to access any restorative green space or nature here like wooded biking trails, swimming, water sports, scenic hiking, gardens, etc. Some outdoor recreation; that’s all I’m longing for after being cooped in my apartment 24/7. Central Park and Liberty State Park are lovely but it’s not quite the same feel, especially given all the crowding. Plus it always seems to take 45 – 60 minutes to get to Central Parrk – even when I’m only 2-3 miles away.

        What I want now is a car so I can easily escape this concrete jungle, but realistically I can’t afford it. My building charges $225/mo for assigned parking spaces, there’s no on-street parking, and car ownership averages $400/mo.

        What I believe is that NYC is “Worth it” if you (1) have family here, (2) are trying to break into a hot industry like finance, the performing arts, or fine art, (3) *really* love fine dining, live entertainment, and art, or (4) long to live among and connect with a specific sub-culture/sub-community (e.g., LGBTQ+ community, Jewish community, etc.) that you couldn’t easily find elsewhere. For me, I don’t quite fall into any of those buckets so I’m just questioning why live here?

        1. Agree 110% with the last paragraph, which is why we are leaving Brooklyn for Charlotte, NC. It offers similar tastes in some of those things we cherish (i.e. the art scene in NoDa).

          I also used to live in JC Heights for 3 years when I first moved to the area so that I could focus on being debt free and saving. This was from 2012-2015 and I was sharing a large townhouse with 3 people paying $850/month with an income between $70-90k.

          I’ve been fortunate enough to have extremely successful years in sales the last three years so my income is more than triple it was back in 2015 which allowed me to save for a down payment on a beautiful home.

          I think I am part of a large migration pattern from large metropolises to smaller/medium-sized cities. COVID, family and preference are the main reasons for this migration pattern. It will certainly lower the cost of living in big cities and bring back more creative minded folks but I think it will also be less safe. IMHO we saw the best era of NYC Ever and it’s sadly over.

  5. In the $100k scenario I doubt a landlord would have rented to that person. Salary doesn’t even meet the 100k / 40 threshold minimum for the $3300 monthly rent. Also savings in pre-tax transportation to take advantage of.

  6. Cash Chronicles

    Came across this while researching for my book on the NYC housing market. Had to chuckle at the living in a 1 BR in Manhattan paying market rent. Only people dying to live in Manhattan, usually from out of town, would pay that. If you have the money, there is plenty of cheap housing if you are willing to be resourceful and navigate the system.

      1. I work in midtown, live in the suburbs, and am currently looking at NYC apartments. While $3200 is fairly market rent, that much for a 1-bedroom is going to mean living in a prime Manhattan location, possibly renovated. Probably in a walkup with no doorman, but still there’s a real element of choice in renting a 1-bedroom at that price.

        I agree with Cash Chronicles that there are nice, viable alternatives for much less than that (say, $2700) if one doesn’t just let a broker tell you what your options are. I definitely believe that a lot of foreigners, new-to-the-city young professionals, etc. help create artificially inflated rent prices because they don’t necessarily take it upon themselves to see all that is out there.

        1. I agree with you our newbies and foreigners jacking up rent and not knowing better. It’s the same thing in San Francisco. There are so many great deals in the city, but all people read about are the headlines of expensive rents.

  7. I live in the Alexandria, Virginia (Suburb of Washington, DC) I am a single female with no kids and I live in an almost 600 square foot studio apartment in a safe area. I pay $1,135 but my rent is going up to $1,175 soon.

    Right now my commute to work is bad (2 hours) and the further out you go on our subway system the more you pay. I buy a subway train pass for shorter trips which is $38 a week. I also need to ride the bus during my commute and that is $15 a week for a pass. I am trying to get a position closer to home so I can just pay for a bus pass. My groceries are not too expensive. I shop in Aldi, Trader Joe’s and other supermarkets where I get items mostly on sale…

    I want to purchase something and there are things that I don’t like about living in this area so I plan to move to the Southwest where rents are lower, pursue my masters degree and buy a condo with low assessment fees or a single family home. I hope to be married and that will help my income but until then I don’t want to stay in this area too much longer.

    1. Be careful about buying a condo with an HOA, they can go up yearly like rent and fighting an HOA in court is an exercise in futility.

  8. Alright coming from someone who was born and raised in NYC and moved to Florida, cost of living isn’t that much different. Living in Manhattan is a luxury. You can get a small 1 bedroom near the 7 train in sunny side queens, or a small 1 bedroom in Morris park or Pelham bay in the Bronx (both retelivetly nice areas) near the train for $1,700 give or take a couple hundred depending on how new the building is. Do you need a car? Fuck no! So the money saved on rent in NYC goes to car payments, insurance, and gas I’m Florida. Next is food, pretty much the same grocery bill in Florida. Then there’s utility bills. In Florida I pay about $120 a month for electricity, $70 for water, $80 for internet. Those costs in NYC are $220 for electricity, no water bill because that falls on the landlord under NY law, and $55 for optimum internet. So basically it’s the same basic costs. Yrs entertainment is a little more expensive in NYC but not enough to justify the pay difference I’m about to shine a light on. As a union pipefitter in NYC’s local 1 at top pay I’d make $68 an hour before tax. The union pays for great health insurance and pays into my pension meaning I could opt out of the 401k and retire just fine, or I could opt in and live like a king when I retire. Now the UA (United Alliance) is the national union. It’s kind of like a parent company. As a union pipefitter in Orlando’s local 808 my top pay is $23.50. They too cover pension, but the pay out to retired workers is minuscule compared with local 1 in NYC. They too cover health insurance but the health insurance in Florida sucks across the board, so I have a $2,500 deductible, meaning I pay out of pocket up to $2,500 then insurance kicks in. Now me and my wife both have medical conditions meaning we 100% will pay that 2,500. Local 1 in NYC was a copay of $40 for us. Now we can argue all day about money saved in taxes and cost of living, but I’ve lived in both places. I make 1/3 the money, the bulk of everyone’s tax comes from the federal level (even ny is only 4%-8% state) and the only thing that’s really cheaper is housing. Granted making 23.50 with the same bills and 4% less tax doesn’t get you closer to a house, it gets you closer to poverty. Especially with the car costs added. Every job that pays more then $12 will require reliable transportation. So a $250 car payment and $250 in insurance plus $150 in gas a month is mandatory. Not to mention oil changes, tire rotations, new tires, just general car maintenance. Where as the MTA is about $150 a month anywhere in the city in 1 hour. I know I could keep monthly costs around 3k in NYC and I know I can make $7k a month after taxes. Meaning I’m doing very fucking good. Florida costs about 3k in expenses but I make about 3k a month. I literally can’t leave my house without doing overtime down here. If I want to save I need overtime. Anything that is not related to my basic needs requires overtime. Now what I should have done is work in NYC local 1 for 10 years living very poorly and humble. Save every penny and put it in stocks, 401k, and savings. 10 years would have earned me a half pension worth about 3k a month and I could have saved enough to buy a house out right in Florida while collecting dividends from the stocks I bought. That would have given me 23.50 in Florida as almost entirely disposable income. Bottom line don’t take NY for granted. I did and I’m fucking stuck in this hell hole unable to save and get out.

  9. This really tells you how out of touch rich transplants to NYC are against the typical New Yorker. Take it from a native, born and raised:

    Yearly income: $51,000 (also the median individual income in NYC according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey)
    Monthly income: $4250
    Monthly 401K contribution: $425 (10%), plus company match
    Total monthly taxes: $956 (25%)
    Rent for a small studio apartment: $1800
    Monthly utilities: $200
    Monthly food and toiletries: $400 (buy groceries and cook at home)
    Alcohol: $0 (I don’t drink)
    Monthly transportation: $120 (Use the subway, cars aren’t meant for NYC)

    Remaining: $349 per month

    What kind of native New Yorker is losing money on Broadway shows and ski trips? None. Don’t come here if you can’t live the working class life.

  10. I guess most people here miss some of the most important points.
    Of course, one can save money by living with roommates, cooking and bringing lunch boxes to work, etc.
    Everything depends on where you are in life and what kind of preferences you have. Not everyone wants to continue living like a college student. For example, as a couple you would want to live in the privacy of your own apartment. What’s wrong or should I say lavish and luxurious about that? Someone in their early 20s might be okay with living with roommates in a less developed area with lower rents, but what about a couple with kids?

    I moved to NYC few weeks ago and for a couple looking for a decent place to live its easily 3500k+ for a 1br apartment in decent areas. One very important thing most commenters seem to forget: people move to certain neighborhoods because they value the quality of life there not because the rent is low. Also things like commute to work play an essential role in picking the area to live. Stupid comments like “commute like everyone else” can only come from those who dont work long hours and/or have short commutes. What we lack most is time. So I understand people who would rather spend 1000 more on rent if it saves them 30-60 min of commuting – because it can make sense given the personal preference for time over money. The same people do likely not have the time or energy to spend another hour+ after work to cook dinner and prep the lunch box for the next day. So stop generalizing and pushing your own style of living onto others.

    I grew up in a very frugal household outside the US (continental Europe). This has influenced how I value and manage money. Yet, after coming here and moving in with my girlfriend I can see why earning 200k+ is considered still average in NYC. We have about 250-300k together, but apart from the few “luxuries” that we allow ourselves to have due to long hours / commutes, we are far from living a lavish lifestyle. We have no car, rent a 1br apartment, dont pursue expensive hobbies and eat at home most of the time. Still, expenses rack up to 90-100k. Back where I am from we would probably be spending a third of that while maintaining a similar standard of living in a country as developed as the US. True, we are not just scraping by, being able to save 50k. But alone the experience that living a fairly normal life costs around 100k proves to a certain degree then point the author is making.

    1. Also, cheap lunches for 5 bucks. Show me the places to get that around midtown east. 10 bucks seems to be the lower end at most places


      Im a female 30 year old, Single.
      -Moved back to NY this summer after living overseas. I live with my grandmother who owns a condo in fort greene.She bought it back in 87’ for 50k. It is now worth 700K. I basically live here for free while looking for my own apt.

      -My choices are affordable housing in greenpoint/williamsburg/park slope(because i wouldnt live anywhere else on the list). Or Live in New Jersey because I refuse to pay to live with roommates again. Outside of affordable housing, the cheapest 1 bedroom in a ok neighborhood is in greenwood heights next to park slope for $1800. -70k salary-Credit score also has to be 650-700.

      – Multiple jobs- i have advanced degrees yet still struggling to find that ideal full time job with benefits. I work three jobs to meet the salary requirements. One of my jobs is in my field, broadcast media but is part time.
      i need more than 1 job because of student loans and housing but it helps i have family members in major cities giving me more time to find ideal full time professional job.

      -Entertainment- a date will take me to a broadway show or live music/fine dining(free).
      -Fitness- a combination of running in the park(free) and barrys bootcamp 3 X WEEKLY($340).
      – KIDS-I have no kids and dont plan on it.

      -PHONE- I use my ipad to make free calls using facetime and skype.I use a home phone instead of a cellphone. otherwise $20 unlimited plan or Burner phone with no data.

      -FOOD- i love to cook and shop at trader joes, whole foods, and target.(200 per month). Im mostly vegetarian. I dont consume red meat or junk food like mcdonald. Occasionally chinese food once a month costing less than $10.

      -CLOTHES- ebay vintage, etsy or modcloth, thirft stores, century 21 discounted store or SAKS August summer sales.

      Im currently looking for the ideal full time day job with benefits in media or tech so i can get rid of my overnight job. My part time broadcast media temp to perm job is a 1 year 3 month contract so its possibility this will turn into full time next year.

  11. Emily Browning

    These examples are a joke. I lived in NYC for almost 7 years making $65-100k a year and I always had roommates paying $750-$1400 a month on rent. You do not need to live by yourself if you can’t afford it (which he obviously cannot if he’s living paycheck to paycheck). People act like they have to live in Manhattan: there’s plenty of cheaper places in Queens and Brooklyn, which are super close to work and entertainment. Also the food budget is ridiculous. There’s plenty of cheap lunch options in midtown where you can get chicken and veggies for 5 bucks or you can bring your own lunch. I saved plenty in NYC and save even more now that I live in Chicago. People are just entitled and think they deserve everything when they move to these large cities. It’s expensive but there are definitely ways to reduce expenses.

  12. Shell in StL

    I noticed your buget breakdown doest include utilites such as heat gas/electric, water, sewer, trash, etc. Also laundry, and personal necessities. Btw – I was considering moving to NYC because of the medical field job im in, and the hospitals there are world-class. But i could never make the salary it takes to live in NYC :'(


        I think there are alot of young people who are low to middle income(26K-84k) who are not aware of affordable housing lottery in nice buildings and neighborhoods.Maybe they are picky and will only live in manhattan where people pay more for less sq ft.

        I’m fine cycling to manhattan. In rain/snow i will do subway or uber. Some employers offer unlimited metro cards.
        I forgot to include my bicycle.
        I have one dutch bicycle from papillionaire. I had it for years.
        I also bought faster one from public bike R24. Worth every penny.

  13. Hey,

    So I’m from here, grew up in the heights, but latter moved to Brooklyn. Then deeper Brooklyn as gentrification pushed us out of neighborhood after neighborhood. I make 28k a year, and survive- somehow despite being constantly broke.

    But let’s be real- the New York of the underclasses is almost a completely separate co-existing city in the same geography. Down the block from Morimotos is a 24hour greasy spoon you can get 5$ breakfast at 3am. Instead of meatpacking clubs filled with finance bros, there’s wearhouse parties, there’s actual unlicensed speakeasyies where drinks are 7$ instead of 18$. I rented my first apartment in college from a teacher who bought a bunch of brownstones in the 70’s.

    So yeah sure, you can move to NYC on a 200k salary, but you’re getting the tourist experience at 10x the price tag.

  14. I’m late to this thread, but here is my story. I lived at home saving money after college until I was 27 (not making much money 30k/year). I got a small 350 sq ft 1 bedroom walk up rent stabilized apt for $1250/mth that I found on craigslist with no broker fee. I lived on my own and was making about 50k at this time. I had cable and a cell phone. I went on vacations (cheap Caribbean) or a cruise every year. I went out to happy hours and on the weekend. I never took cabs. Only subway or walked as tended to go out in my neighborhood out of convenience. I maxed out my 401K and contributed to a Roth IRA most years. I also saved at least 10% of my income at that time in bank accounts that made about 5%. After 5 years I saved enough to buy a big alcove studio co-op that was renovated in a full service door man building on the west side. I put more than 25% down and after 3 years I refinanced my mortgage down 1.25%. at this time I was making about 75k and after I bought the co-op I continued to save the same way and live the same lifestyle. It is definitely possible to live in NYC under 100k/year, and if you save up first you don’t need roommates. I lived in that apt for 5 years and then sold it to buy a house which I have been in for 4 years now. I made money on the apt and the house has increased in value 100k. I’m always looking to trade up in real estate. I don’t want to be a landlord, but like to use the equity I build up in my home to buy bigger and better. My personal net worth is over $1,000,000 and I don’t even make $200k/year.

  15. Well, I live in East Tenn, and I make 95,000 a year. I work a lot, and I always thought I was poor until I realized that I would make 232,000 dollars a year in New York City… How is that possible; more than a Doctor? I feel really poor in Tennessee, so I could not imagine living there with what I make, and apparently that is good money because its the 10-15 percent, which is more like 8 percent now. (2018) I don’t understand how people survive. I know I have been blessed, but I just wonder how people with nation average incomes like 59,000 live. It’s crazy!

  16. Oh, I forgot. Manhattan is entertaining enough that you do not need cable.

    Other tips- real NYers do not fear public school or college. Some of the greatest minds in our nation attended the public schools or colleges of NYC (I’m looking at you Elena Kagan, Jonas Salk, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, and Eric Holder, to name a few). Real NYers go to Orchard Beach, Coney Island, or maybe Fire Island and ignore the Hamptons. We do not own cars if we live in Manhattan.

    Your fellow up there is a crazy high roller. I grew up UMC in NYC and knew no one who lived that kind of life until they had bumped up their earnings. And we had a great time. You think the progenitors of hip hop, punk, and new wave lived like that? Look deep and hard, and you will find a more rewarding and fascinating (and cheaper) city.

  17. Native NYer here. Yes, the city has gone mad, but let’s make like a native and learn to save. Some things, unfortunately, are written in stone, like the insane taxes and cost of health insurance.

    First, upper Manhattan and the Bronx are actually quite nice, and much less expensive than the prices listed above, even two years later in 2017! You can rent a nice two bedroom in Harlem for 2200-2500 a month a few blocks from Central Park, which is fairly reasonable if you have a roommate. Washington Heights is even cheaper! Many of these apartments are no fee, too, and rent stabilized. You’ll have more space and be able to entertain at home and save money by cooking.

    Also, please, bring your lunch to work like a real NYer, or grab a slice or a dirty water dog for just a few dollars. You can get five dumplings in Chinatown for $1.25 even in these gentrified days! Check out happy hours, early bird specials, and explore new neighborhoods.

    Entertainment? Last month I went to three free talks at different bookstores and one at the Tenement Museum. Get an NY card and enjoy all the free and discounted museums and cultural attractions the city has to offer. Walk everywhere and take pictures. Enjoy a free day people-watching in Central Park or watching the chess players in Washington Square Park. Take the train to Flushing and check out the its exciting colonial history and its interesting immigrant present.

    Join Citibike or buy a used bike on Craigslist and ride it everywhere. You can even cancel the gym membership! I earn plenty now, but in my younger days in a dirtier, scarier NYC, I NEVER took cabs. I don’t think I took a single cab all through high school. Even now I consider a cab to the airport a daring treat!

    Walk. ‘Nuff said.

    Groceries- avoid WF and TJ and shop at Associated and Western Beef (it’s not just beef). Make a monthly trip to Chinatown or Flushing to buy cheap groceries at an Asian market. Buy your fruit from a peddler, not from the store. Befriend the vendors at your local farmer’s market and get free or discounted leftovers.

    These tips should lower your COL by several hundred, even a thousand, a month, while opening your eyes to all the city REALLY has to offer.

    1. Mostly great advice, accept if you eat cheap pizza and dirty water dogs for lunch everyday your going to need to factor in some serious health factors!

  18. This is one of the silliest articles I’ve ever read. I am 26 years old in NYC making 20,500 a year.

    So yeah, I don’t go out to eat ever and I buy $4 bottles of wine from Trader Joe’s and I live with 4 other people in a boarding house in Brooklyn but I do NOT believe I am less happy than you are. My roommate plays Jazz music and we dance a lot. Sometimes the neighbors come by and we drink beers on the roof.

    There are tons of free shows to go to in Brooklyn all the time.

    It’s easy to write me off that I’m not hard working but in fact I work 60-70 hours a week, have been in 2 masters programs, and have lived all over the world, I do with my time makes me happy.

  19. Eventually, it boils down to managing your expenses. I see a lot of expenses in the budget example that can be trimmed down and instead diverted to savings.

    e.g: The annual gas expense is shown to be 4,800. So, if we assume that price per gallon is $4 and the avg mpg is 20, then this amounts to (4,800/4*20) => 24000 miles per year. That’s a lot of mileage for a single person who stays in a city with good public transportation.

    Also, I think that donating to charity should only be done after getting one’s own financial future secure.

    The budget could be easily trimmed by another ~15k, which would basically triple the after tax savings, without sacrificing too much but rather making informed choices.

    Frugality in general will always payoff in bigger networth and greater happiness in the long term.

  20. As one raised entirely outside Manhattan – in the outer boroughs – I question the frugality of your friend for living on the Upper East Side.

    1. Sometimes you have to pay to play.

      I currently live in Weehawken, just on the other side of the tunnel in NJ. Have a really good deal for a studio under $800/month, rent stabilized, rent went up around $6 this year. Not giving it up anytime soon (having a smaller space also helps to accumulate less junk). Allows me to put more money towards savings and experiences (ticket prices are expensive and competitive).

      But time is money. Most of the places I meet up with friends take an hour to get to (almost always going to their place or meeting in between, never coming to my side). I have called nights early, when my friends want to stay out, because I have to factor in the commute (24 hour buses, but you never know when there will be traffic in the tunnel).

      Plus dating is more difficult. People seem interested, then ask where I live. I say Jersey, they say is it along the PATH. Once I say it involves the bus, it’s a non-starter. I have talked to female friends, and they mention the disadvantage of not being in the city (at least for a couple years). Saying I should move into the city to find someone, and then move out when it’s more serious and I want to save. But you know, lifestyle inflation and all that.

      I will say that I have seen some larger studios/junior 1 bedrooms starting around $2.2k-$2.5k in pretty good neighborhoods which I wouldn’t mind, if I were able to get my salary up to $150k (a few years/certifications away though).

  21. The bottom line is this… If you want to live a decent quality of like in Manhattan you need to make well over 100k if you are single. I would say at least 160k. I am talking to buy a 1 bedroom in the city as opposed to splitting rental costs and all that non-sense. You have to compare it to what you would get in another city. Also, you need to factor in the monthly maintenance fees and property taxes that are huge. The average 1 bedroom in the city now is 800k – 1M. Even if you made 160k you can not afford to buy even a 1 bedroom in Manhattan. Now imagine if you have a wife and a kid. The amount you must make skyrockets from there. Now you need at the very least a 2 bedroom and preferable a 3 bedroom. Oh yeah that is 3 million dollars at a low price point. Also in NYC you have to put down more than 30% down payment bc of the other competition. That means you would need 1M for a down payment. Then you ad in the taxes are probably 60k a year and monthly maintenance fees are 3,000. So for a family of 3 not including anything else you would need to take home 15,000 a month after taxes just to afford your housing. This means you would have to make at least 360,000 a year minimum just cover that let alone other bills. When you factor in other bills, food, cloths, transportation, entertainment, SCHOOL etc. In all honesty, as a family you need to make 500k to live pretty average. This is the most expensive city in the history of the world!

  22. Hi Financial Samurai,

    I like the breakdown of this post, however I disagree. I believe if you think you are not making enough and hypothetically get a pay raise to $200k you will still find a way to not have enough money. I graduated college 2 years ago and live in manhattan on $70k, happily. Do I wish I make more? Absolutely.
    First of all, your rent estimates are above what you could quality for by the 40x rule. Ie on 100k, your max rent is $2500. You see how this, in and of itself provides a large cushion you did not have. Secondly the food budget of $700 which is mostly home cooked and not including beverages is ridiculous.
    I believe the taxi budget can also be significantly reduced with low priced ubers, especially if you have an unlimited metro card. Here is my breakdown

    Gross: 70k
    Gross/ Month $5833
    Take Home/ Month: $3686
    Rent: room in luxury flex apartment- 1480
    Electricity & Internet (bc I split w/ roommates) $30
    My work pays for my cell phone
    Taxis/ Ubers: $50
    Cost of metro already removed from my paycheck pre tax
    Food: (including drink) $500 and I eat out 90% of the time
    Student Loans: $500
    Play money (movies, shows, travelling, clothes etc): $343
    Leftover savings: $783!!!

    It is all about choosing to live frugally.

    1. I don’t see 401k anywhere in that list yuppie77, which means you missed literally HALF THE POINT of the article. Good job.

      The author even pointed out that if his 100k earning friend didn’t contribute to his retirement fund, he’d have an extra $1200 to spend each month. Did you even read the article?

  23. I have lived both in NYC and San Francisco. I presently reside in NYC.

    There is a very clear reason that it costs so much to live here. It is called GREED.

    Profiteering landlords and destabilized rents make it nearly impossible for anyone making less than 6 figures to even move here.
    The infrastructure of Manhattan cannot support the unfettered growth of the population.

    I would like to see you do a cost analysis of Philadelphia or Chicago.

    City planning in NYC goes to the highest bidder. Period. The sanitation department, bridges, roadways, transit department and so on see not designed to support the giant influx of new residential and office buildings. The only people getting a “break” in this town are developers who keep the rents and real estate prices extremely high while they walk off to the bank.

    There is no longer any such thing as middle class living in NYC. Every wealthy property owner – I mean BIG property owner, makes their money off the backs of renters and taxpayers slaving away to keep up.

    There is a reason for rent regulation and affordable housing. How can NYC expect to educate its population, pay teachers, police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers a living wage if the landlords basically run NYC politics?

    Do your home work. City planning is based on who has the most money. It is not based on keeping the infrastructure up to date and building only where there is a good infrastructure already in place. Zoning variations happen all the time. NYC now caters to the wealthy and powerful. There is no such thing as a middle class
    Population here, and the the government does not care at all.

    Come visit our overpopulated city with over inflated prices for every thing from a quart of milk to a roll of toilet paper. The reason? Out of control rents.

    A shopkeeper cannot afford the rent. The landlord asked for an exorbitant increase. The shop has to close. The landlord gets tax breaks on it vacant property as infinitum.

    GREEDY landlords and a complicit city government is what makes it so expensive to live here.

    High construction costs?

    Why is it necessary or prudent to build so many more buildings? There is trash all over the place here, broken water pipes, aging subway system, etc.

    There is just so much room for prudent land development here.
    The governing body does not care about that AT ALL. The real estate development community is very heavily favored here. It is NOT in the best interest of quality if life for anyone but the very wealthy.

    Why should a postal worker who delivers mail in NYC take a 2 hour commute here? What if the sanitation workers decided to work in a smaller municipality do they could afford to take their kids in vacation?

    What municipal worker earns $250,000 per year? Any I what other sector apart from law and finance does anyone get a reliable “associates” pay hike annually?

    This is a very short sighted article dealing with a very small spectrum of the population it takes to make this city “go”.

    I have lived here 40 years. In that time my real spending capability has significantly decreased. Checked interest rates at the bank recently?

    The author of this article was obviously born in a different era and location than the majority of born and bred New Yorkers.

    I you were to go back to where you came from, this residential and commercial rent problem we face would disappear.

    1. Its all because of the Bloomberg administration. All of this happened under his watch for 10 years and it didn’t help he was a billionaire either who catered to the rich.

  24. Brooklyn is kinda nice comparing to crowded Manhattan. But with the $6 million house listing right now, I guess I would never make it to buy a house there. Consider Seattle maybe a better option for city life and beach views with much less cost comparing to NYC.

  25. My wife and I recently moved out of NYC to a more relaxed and family friendly state. I lived in NY for 17 years, made $100K and over for the past 5-6 or so and I still felt like I didn’t really have anything to show for it.

    I laugh when people say they live well with $50-60K in Manhattan. Look at what they have to put up to make it work:

    -live in a studio or rent a room…wth, ok if you are early 20s
    -go out once a month
    -no cable TV
    -no entertainment
    -no eating out
    -no cabs or metrocards (so you never go further than 10 blocks from your house)
    – etc etc etc

    And they dare claim they have a good quality of life and don’t deprive themselves of anything…. Ninja please! How is living in a cramped space, never going out and not having any left over income equal good quality of life? I have done it and you learn to accept this as the norm until you move out and see how people on normal salaries love and you realize that the price you pay for living in NYC is not worth the prize that you think NYC living is.

  26. The major flaw with the first budget is the rent. Spending 75% of your take home pay on rent is ABSURD. A very spacious, newly built apartment with ammenities can be had for $2500/mo in Downtown Brooklyn. Move a bit further in and you’re looking at $2000 or maybe even less if you downgrade to a brownstone. You’ve just unlocked another $1300/mo by tacking on 10min to your commute! After living in Brooklyn for 4 years I can say that most young Manhattanites have the backwards perception that they MUST be within walking distance of everything in their life. They pay more to be closer to more places they can spend their money.

  27. Hi, great article and it made me start thinking about my retirement.

    The good news is that we both have company/govt pension. My wife has a govt pension which she is fully vested into though I am not sure how much it will pay at retirement. My company pension will give me apparently about 50-60% of the average of my 3 best years at the firm should I stay with the firm to retirement.

    Unfortunately however outside of these pensions, we both started late but am back on track. Due to the high cost of living, getting paid a pittance initially, and generally being a 20 something and not thinking about these things I didn’t save for retirement until I was in my 30s.

    So outside of our govt and company pensions currently my wife and I are as follows:

    Age – both 35

    My salary – $170K base with about $70K bonus
    Her salary – $90K

    Sounds good right? But like I said we started late investing in our 401K so currently the total amount we have in our 401Ks is about $100K.

    Not good!

    But, we have started, better late than never and we are now maxing out our 401Ks.

    Also, we have savings in investments and cash as follows:

    Investments in funds/stocks – $50K
    Cash – $100K (I would be investing more but have been bearish on the markets for the last year or so)

    We are debt free with the exception of our $550K mortgage where we have about $300K equity in our home. Student loans, credit cards, car loans, etc, all paid off.

    Are we OK? Should we be putting more away for retirement due to starting late or will the pensions support that? But I’d love your thoughts on what else we need to do starting so late.

    1. This is coming from someone a few years younger than you, so take it a you wish. You seriously should and could be saving much more. If your combined pre-tax income is $330K, I’d estimate you are taking in roughly $200K after taxes? You could easily be saving $50K, $75K, or even a $100K a year if you are disciplined. Assuming you have no kids or other major expenses, I’d bet you and your wife could live quite comfortable on 100K after tax dollars.

  28. FlyoverState

    Well that was an interesting read. Certainly eye-opening. I make 70K (4K monthly take-home). My wife doesn’t work, and I have 2 teenage boys. I have a 2 story 1,800 sq. ft. with a finished basement sitting on an acre of land. My monthly mortgage payment is $1,100; natural gas $60, electricity $100, water $60, HOA dues with sanitation $15, 4 iPhones $200, family gym membership $30, and fiber TV/Internet $150, car payments & insurance at $500, I’m maxed on my pension plan contributions at 25% (though my employer would contribute 17% of my annual salary each year whether I pay into it or not). That leaves me about $785 each month for variable expenses – groceries usually run $150 every couple of weeks, a steak dinner for 4 is about $75 with gratuity, medical costs vary but my HSA & insurance plan covers most of that (which is already taken out before I get paid), plus stashing some away in savings. So it’s not too bad. I know I could probably cut some corners here and there to save a few bucks. My wife’s mentioned before about she might like going back to work one of these days, when and if she feels like it, which is fine with me either way. Yeah we’ve got a budget, but we’re not struggling to make ends meet. But anyways, you mentioned $3K for a one-bedroom apartment? That’s too rich for my blood. I think I’ll stay put right here in my flyover state.

    1. Very cool. Where do you live? As this article is talking about folks living in expensive cities. Don’t think you can get 1 acre of land affordably in Manhattan or NYC.

      What I’ve found is that it’s best to make big bucks in expensive cities and then move after the financial nut has been saved. I’m currently traveling for business now and see so many great opportunities out there.

  29. Thank you for this great post, it is a bit depressing and some of the suggestions to be able to live in expensive cities are also highly unrealistic. such as:
    – live with friends and family (or roommates) at an older age? seriously?… (don’t have family or friends anywhere close by)
    – move in with significant other (also not a great solution, what if am single and dont’ want a boyfriend? force myself for the sake of rent?)
    – work in a restaurant in order to save on food? (not so great, I have dietary restrictions and can’t be on my feet either, back problems – need to cook my own food)
    – trust fund? not an option
    – parents? not an option either

    I am over 40, female, educated with a Masters degree but have no 401 K or any savings whatsoever. So your article scares me quite a bit, in fact it is very discouraging, considering that most jobs I get don’t pay more than $12/hour. something is severely wrong with this society.

    thanks for posting.

    1. I dont know what you have a masters in but whatever it is its marketable in NYC. You could easly get a managers position. Starting a business might be an option as well. Personally i didnt graduate from High Shcool but im making a hair under 75k. I worked my way up from the bottom in a warehouse to manager. A Masters to me is a shortcut. The only worry for you i have for you is a bad hiring manager saying you’re over qualified.

      Good luck!

  30. Getting To One Million

    I’m a single female secretary with no kids, no debt and no loans who lives in Los Angeles I make $71,000 gross and I’m able to max out my 401k and my IRA and save an additional $10,000 after doing those things. I’ve been doing it for years. I’ll be 50 next year so $6000 of that $10,000 will be going into my 401K for catch up contributions. See my blog where I list my networth, budget and ways I save money.

  31. Hi! I live in Seattle, the fastest growing city in the US right now. Rents are skyrocketing. It is a concern to me how I am going to stay in this city which is my home. All my family and friends and kid live here. I am an avid international traveler, but Seattle is my home base. I make less than $20,000 per year. I am an artist and performer. Here are my solutions to living here in this beautiful city:

    * I have lived long term in a limited equity co op, created out of a downtown 100 year old hotel by a bunch of forward thinking artists and architects 30 years ago. This is an intentional community and my rent is reasonable .

    *Seattle is walkable town. I don’t own a car…I use my body as transportation (meditation time!) or the bus or as of this year…a car-to-go. Brilliant!! a car is a huge money hole.

    * I have a community garden plot that I farm intensively. I have food almost all year round.

    *My kindred spirits living the life boheme, like me, tend to have to be resourceful as well. Artists keep a city alive culturally but America doesn’t support then financially. Anyway! We eat and drink ’til our hearts are content at high end joints by doing Happy Hour. Seattle is a phenomenal happy hour town. The bill is usually around $25.

    *I borrow a car and do one huge grocery shop per month. I go to 5 or 6 different stores according to what carries the most economical goods. I have a pantry.

    * I get on guest lists for shows.

    * My kid goes to an excellent alternative public school.

    *Hmm, what else? I barter…a lot. I trade my skill set for massages and energy work.

    But looking forward…a new chapter is looming. My daughter will graduate in the next couple of years and I have hired an architect friend who builds tiny houses to draw up the blue print for my new home. Off grid completely, in a backyard in my absolute favorite neighborhood, in a food forest. Heaven! No rent, no utilities, gorgeous home with a loft for my kid when she comes home.

  32. Black_Diamond

    Great blog I have to say!

    As expensive as NYC is, some people have survived in it.

    I stayed in shared apartments while working a $50K a year FT job and going to Grad school FT. Although it was tasking, I had to make sacrifices which I am assuming a lot of people are not making. I ate out once a month, cooked twice a day, drank my alcohol at home instead of getting ripped off in a bar, drove a used car -Honda Accord, paid 60% of my Grad tuition out of pocket, saved money (very little ~$500 a month).

    I currently make $110k a year, contributes 10% towards retirement, puts 10% towards my daughter, decent home in a quiet neighborhood, my tenant pays 85% of my mortgage which I match monthly so as to be paid off in 10 years.


  33. I like your blog a lot. I was born in Manhattan sometimes I walk around and I scratch my head at this being MY city. I spend my childhood upstate and in PA where prices are waaaaay cheaper. Even so you can’t make the kind of money doing the same kind of work in NYC as anywhere else. I believe its all very relative. I like the Wall Street guys they see money for what it is. A means to an end. That’s it, money isn’t going to give you freedom or happiness. Though you can have a good time if you manage it right. We in NYC know from watching the abysmal news programs here that we can be run over by a city bus , shot, stabbed, tossed in front of the L train, or overdose on drugs at anytime so you better be having a good time here or move to the sticks and watch grass grow while saving up for that new wood chipper.

    Enjoy it. NYC is a great place to live if you’re smart about it.

  34. Jeez, it’s sad that even a $200,000 salary leaves you with so little once everything is said and done. It seems like you are either part of the 1% elite or you are a worker-slave.

    But all cities have expensive and inexpensive areas. You don’t necessarily have to live in the ritziest areas with a $3,000/month rent on a two-bedroom if you can find something at half the price in a lesser neighborhood. Plus, as you have mentioned, you can have roommates. In my city, that’s pretty much the only option.

    Man, it really seems that being a landlord is the most lucrative job out there.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  35. Hi Financial Samurai! I think I’ve visited your site at least once a year for the past couple years. Anyways, I moved from good Ole West Columbia, South Carolina 2 years ago. I was renting 1/2 a room for $300 in North Augusta, SC, on the Georgia border, earning roughly $650 a month. lol I traded my landlord my foodstamp EBT card for a bus ticket to Marlton, NJ. I worked at my sister’s inlaws bakery and lived with them for 9 months and met a teacher on Plenty of Fish dating website. I moved in with her in her 1 bedroom. She got pregnant and now we live in Voorhees, NJ about 20 min outside of Philadelphia. She has her Masters degree, earns about 50k per year. I have no degree, but have a small office cleaning biz that I earn around $300 per week, and watch our daughter during the day. I don’t pay rent and her parents subsidize food, her transportation, baby stuff, cell phones, gas, babysitting. Basically they are millionare status. I am currently working under someone else subcontracting and working my tail to the bone at night cleaning 3/4 medium small buildings a night. I have leveraged everything to this point, but I am definitely at a point where I’m wondering what to do business/life wise. Do I lay low and just grind it out until my daughter goes to school or grow my business. I don’t have any managerial skills really, so that is kind of a hangup for me. Also I did d2d sales for Verizon Fios third party marketing scheme and got burned, but I also have an interest in Carpet Cleaning. I suck at pricing and always seem to bid like half what my service is worth out of habit of hustling up dollars since before time. lol I can make something from nothing and after that I’m like where do I go from here. It just seems like I’m going going going and never have but a couple dollars even with incredible support. Thanks!

  36. I’m 31 and am making $10/hr at a package distribution factory about 20 hours per week. According to most of you, I’d be considered an absolute failure.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that it’s a union job with the best benefits package on the planet, and comes with the guarantee of driving full-time. The drivers make anywhere from $70-100k after maxing out their hourly rate in 4 years. So with any luck I’ll be making that salary by around age 35. I’ll try to stick with it until I’m 55 or 60 years old and retire with a fat bank account.

    My 1,000 sqft apartment costs $1,015 + electric. I have an Associate’s in Business but no student loans thanks to military veteran benefits. I carpool with my girlfriend and she makes about $36k before taxes. We can’t afford to save anything. I still need to buy a reliable car. And we want to buy a condo or a house, and it’s not looking good for at least another 5 years.

  37. I’m only making $36k right now working for a private accounting firm and I’m 24. Not happy at all, sort of worried for the future. Might be getting a big raise by the end of the year so we shall see how that works.

  38. Bye Uncle Sam

    The real money is living abroad while making a western salary. Especially if you aren’t paying taxes in your local country as a tourist.

    I pay no taxes on my $65,000 a year freelancing gig. Except for the dreaded SS / Medicare deduction.

  39. I can’t believe a website like this would lay out the above as a matter of fact and suggest this as the only reality.

    The above budget is ridiculous. It’s called living paycheck to paycheck in Manhattan.

    $3300 for your one bedroom, because who wants to live like a college student? This is the argument? Just get a studio and pocket the $1000 a month in savings. Or you’re planning for the one weekend your family comes in? Or your boyfriend/girlfriend are really going to sleep on your couch?

    Let me ask you what’s better? Broke in your one bedroom or $12000 at the end of the year with your studio?

    And if you really, really, really need that one bedroom, move to Queens. It wont kill you, promise.

    Secondly, this maxing out nonsense of a 401k. The 401k is arguably a scam. The idea of locking away money until I’m 60 without having a penalty sounds pretty absurd if I have no money in the bank at the end of the day. A lot of life is going to happen between 30 and 60. And you might need that 10k (17.5, after tax) without anticipating it. On top of that, I’ll be paying income tax, vs. taking the hit now and the money only getting a 15-20% tax rate on capital gains.

    And I’m a nobody, so ask James Altucher:

    And if he was getting a match “Maxing out his 401(k) should result in over $200,000 in 10 years due to company match and conservative performance estimates.

    Then he wouldn’t be putting in 17.5k, he’d put in more like 12.5k and let the company put in 5% at 5k. This is just flimsy math.

    And finally don’t eat shake shack and confectionery items like this. Unless you want to be fat and have health issues in your 40’s/50’s, that will need a budget too.

    Better approach:

    1. Reduce your rent, pocket 8-12k
    2. Reduce 401k to the match, pocket 6k
    3. Cook at home instead of eating trash, pocket 1.5-2k

    Now you are living in Manhattan saving 15k+ a year.


    1. 2. Reduce 401k in the match is simply accounting. Whether you are pocketing $6K liquid or in a tax advantageous savings account is quite similar.

      Cook at home, sure, that’s fine. He’s a doctor on calls all day long though.

      So based on your suggestion, his quality of life goes down, which is fine, and he gets to truly save $9,000 a year. $9K is nice, but does that really move the needle in the short-term? Over 20 years, perhaps!

      Related articles:

      Pay Off Debt Or Invest: Implement FS-DAIR
      How Much Should I Have In My 401k By Age
      Should I Contribute To My After-Tax Investment Account Or 401k?

      1. So this is an interesting debate.

        #2. Lets put the 401k is a fraud aside, which I fundamentally believe it is, at least in the concept of maxing this out with no match. And lets just say from a savings strategy its a wash as you replied.

        So I do I want 17k in a 401k and zero in my bank account? What if I lose my job? I’ll have to raid my coffers and I’ll pay way more than if I hedged this with a lower savings rate. So in effect living paycheck to paycheck with a full 401k balance is a high risk strategy.

        Secondly, quality of life. Maybe one should argue at the minimum a person should have is a two bedroom, or a one bedroom with at least a balcony and a view. It’s a quality of life issue and an extra room will make my life better. So now I have a 4k a month liability or 48k a year of my income soaked up in rent and I refuse to re-assess.

        Then someone can chime and say look 48k on rent with no savings is just dumb. Drop down to 36k, and who could argue that?

        Well this is the same argument, 36k liability, but you won’t dare touch your biggest expense, and eat Shake Shack to compensate? Save the 8-12k, get a alcove if its that important. I don’t see the logic here. We just netted 9% gross with one move.

        Finally, 100k in the city isn’t a lot, but rather than save 9k of my gross which I would wager not many folks with a 100k salary in NYC or SF do.

        Its not a lot agreed, so rather than save that, save nothing?

        In 2 years you’ll have 18 grand, if you lose your job you’re ok for 4-6 months. Then you have the other guy who’s going to raid his 401k, pay a ton in taxes or face moving back with his/her parents, after incurring a broken lease and moving costs.

        Saving your salary will never make you rich, but it will keep you from becoming poor.

        1. I’d love to know more about your situation Kunal. How much do you make, where do you live, how much are you saving a year, and what is your net worth?

          We spend 50% of our lives in our homes. Should we not at least optimize for a better home?

    2. Brandon Garlock

      Can you please make sure my understanding is correct? As far as I can tell the major reason to max 401k in this scenario is that state and local city income taxes would take out about 9%(some of the highest in country) of income before I invest plus future capital gains tax otherwise. Where as the 401k allows me the option of retiring in a state with lower or none state income taxes on the distributions. If this is all correct I can’t see the scam Kunal is alluding to.

  40. Hello,
    Thank you for this interesting article. I stumbled across it randomly and was shocked to see a picture of my apartment on here. I live at 200 Water St and am moving across the country for half the COL in a month. Thank you for giving me another reason to know this is the right decision. Calling my building out specifically. Nice.

  41. Pingback: Scraping By On $500,000 A Year | Financial Samurai

  42. I’m convinced that unless you work in Finance or Tech, NYC is one of the worst places in America to save as a young professional out of undergrad.

    In my 1st year out of school in the midwest, I managed to save $30k and pay off my loans out of my 60k salary while living alone in one of the nicest apartments in the city. Despite a 50% salary increase, sharing an apartment off craigslist with 5 roommates and not taking overseas trips this year, I’ll still only save about $30k in NYC this year (goal is to buy a house before 35 or go to grad school with minimal debt). On of it all, I just got hit with a 17% rent increase too. Unfortunately its probably still worth it for me since I like living in the same city as my friends…

    Considering even a (non-housing agency supported) studio apartment in Harlem is now around $250,000 minimum to purchase, I have no clue how people making less than 6 figures than can afford to live/work in this city long term and keep a reasonable (<1 hr) commute time. Hell I think Manhattan's median household income is <$70,000, so do most people just live here for a few years, realize their saving no money for retirement, then move out?

    1. Great stuff saving $30,000 and paying off your loans on a $60,000 salary!

      Can you share with us how you did it? Let’s say you paid a 20% effective tax rate, that’s $48,000 left before paying for any health care, pre-tax retirement funds etc.

      Is the $30,000 in an after-tax or post-tax account? Or a blend? I can see you maxing out $18,000 pre-tax in a 401k, and then saving another $12,000. But if you read How Much Should I Have Saved In My 401k By Age, so many commenters complain that it can’t be done on a modest salary! Strange huh? Why do you think this is?

      1. To clarify most of that 30k was used to pay off my loans. My 401k was roth so didnt matter (at 60k taxes didn’t feel like their eating as much yet). $800 for rent + $600 for food + $150 for internet/bare minimum insurance/utilities * 12 months = 18.6k in expenses. Probably closer to 28k saved now that I do the full math since I bought some furniture from Walmart and blew at least $1k on going out with friends/ entertainment.

        I lucked out in that I picked an apartment within 1 mile of work and a small shopping center so I can walk to both easily and didn’t need a car. I know of very few other locations with this luxury. I could’ve saved $200 more on rent if I downgraded to another apartment complex slightly further away, but one of my coworkers got robbed there so I’m glad I didn’t take the risk.

        I do feel like my saving is on the extreme side, I made it a game with myself to pay off my student loans; got close to $1000 worth of credit card sign up rewards (at the cost of a slightly lower credit score for 2 years) and refused to buy beef over $4/lb. I think for anyone with a more normal quality of life standard, $15k off a $60k salary is still doable, but anything more than $20k would be pushing it.

  43. This article left me with some questions. The biggest one being “why do you HAVE to live in the 70s to live comfortably?” There are cheaper options that give you access to “the city” by train or bus within 30-45 minutes.

  44. Pingback: Living In An Expensive City Can Make You Richer, Happier, And More Diplomatic | Financial Samurai

  45. HungryHippo

    Financial Samurai,

    Your posts are more addicting than snicker bars to a closeted eater!
    I’ve been secretly reading over the past year (mostly when I splurge too much on certain luxuries and need some financial poweraid), and thought, enough of being a quiet spectator! So heres to my first post and my story living in New York.

    When I first arrived in 2012, a couple months after graduation, I had only two suitcases and a full-time creative internship paying $15/hr (that I even negotiated!). About one week prior, I received a call from HR congratulating me on the position and wanted me to start right away. At the time, I had already received (2) full-time offers from companies in Charlotte starting around $40K. My mother, being the Asian tiger-mom she is, gave me an ultimatum: either take the $40K job close to home and pay her $400/mo in rent to basically live in my own bedroom, or move to NYC where she’ll pay $400/mo for the next six months (and pray to god land a higher paying job). Of course I choose the latter, and away I went…all the way from South Carolina.

    A lot has changed since fall of 2012. And very interestingly so.

    A little background about me – I’m 24, I’m a hustler first and a designer second. If you ever talk to my friends, they will each tell you a different story about the time I made money by doing A,B, or C (I should really write a blog about all these stories). I used to think I was just lucky and stepped into all the right opportunities. But looking a little deeper, it really has nothing to do with my luck. I win and lose at roulette just like any normal person. Its more to do with the way I perceive what’s in front of me and all the possibilities ahead. I guess you can say I’m a dreamer with her eyes open and head below the clouds.

    So anyways, back to 2012. I remember the day I arrived, with my two suitcases. (Isn’t this the beginning to every immigrant story? I digress). I walked up to my apartment building, the one I arranged a week prior as a sublet from a girl on Craigslist. The apartment she listed only cost $500/mo (shared of course) and apparently in a very nice neighborhood on 100th and Columbus, surrounded by Whole Foods, Petco, Tj Maxx and Starbucks. What she did not disclose was that this was Section 8 housing, which honestly makes the story juicier. To this day I still remember the ‘perfumes’ of the stairwells – a mixture of hamburger grease and dog piss. Yummy right? Inside the unit, I found out I was sharing with a middle age dominican lady plus the landlord’s niece and her baby, who slept on the couch. I had my own room, a queen size bed, a closet, a used drawer, and a bathroom shared by everyone. There was no wi-fi in the apt. I’m not going to go into too much details, as you can probably let your imagination run. Of course I’d be lying if I said it was a dream arrangement, but to be honest, I don’t regret it one bit. If you can remember, Hurricane Sandy hit that year, and guess who was safe with water and electricity? Me. Guess who ended up shacking with me? My friend living in a luxury $3000/mo studio in the Armani building down by Wall St. I still chuckle thinking about the horrified look on her face.

    I eventually moved on from that situation, about two months later and found myself, what I felt to be a very nice 2000sq ft. 4-bdrm duplex in Jersey City for only $1000/mo. Google Avalon Cove for anyone that is interested. The building comes equipped with tennis courts, squash courts, an outdoor pool, a fitness center that overlooks the Hudson River AND a security deposit of only $125pp. I remember feeling like I had won the jackpot. I still sometimes question why I ever moved out. Keep in mind though, at the time I was still interning, making a little $15/hr (plus the occasional overtime) – I was not living grand by any means, but with my mom’s help of an additional $400/mo, I was able to make it work. I ate out for lunch just about everyday at Hale & Hearty’s for ~$10 large soup and crackers, and would come home to cook dinner or usually just heat up some miso soup with tofu and broccoli – cheap and delicious. Luckily there was a ShopRite across the street. On the weekends my (ex)boyfriend would come visit me from Jersey and take me out for dinner and a movie. We never went out drinking and the only entertainment we’d spend money on was maybe at Dave & Busters (we’re huge gamers).

    I will have to admit that I didn’t get to where I am today by just saving. I’m not a huge fanatic of penny pinching – hey, a girl needs to enjoy her purses and shoes! But I’m also not ignorant of frivolous spending, researching, and investing. Before really accumulating wealth, I’ve used tactics such as reselling concert tickets, selling clothes/bags I don’t wear anymore, and even volunteering at local sporting events (Ironman 70.3 races can pay up to $20/hr!). You’d be surprised how much passive income is just sitting on the internet. Back in college, I was the girl who didn’t party and worked three jobs. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to develop a strong sense of financial independence and because I hate staying idle for too long. I remember reaching my breaking point one semester, while working at the school newspaper till 3am (designers were last to go), going in the next day to Ruby Tuesdays to host an entire shift then make it back in the evening for RA duty.

    I laugh and even cringe thinking about some of those things I did in college, but would do it all over again if I had the choice. The decisions I made back then started me on this journey – it taught me ambition and persistency – and boy has it paid off. It seems as if life has gotten just a bit sweeter every year since then.

    Today as I write this, I am sitting by my granite top counter, over looking the east river and all of Manhattan in my floor to ceiling 3bdrm apartment in Long Island City (I am down one roommate, whoo!). A lot has changed since 2012 and still keep changing, for the better. Shortly after my move to Jersey City, things really started to fall in place. I somehow was able to break into the tech industry after working night and day on a personal app project with a couple colleagues – I did this for virtually no pay and all the experience. After we launched, I was contacted by two really big corporations and ultimately accepted a an offer starting at $83K – a whooping $50K+ above what I was making. At the time I was beyond words ecstatic. I remember calling my mom while she was driving and had her guess the number. When I finally blurted it out, she almost made a 360 swerve. Fast forward to 2015, I’ve nearly increased my initial pay by 5X and with a new job, I’ll sitting close to $140K. I recently also won the housing lottery in Queens and starting in October will be able to enjoy a luxury 1-bdrm for a little over $2100, full amenities and everything. If my boyfriend moves in, I’m looking at a Jersey City price tag with NO roommates! My goal is to have enough to comfortably put a down payment for a home before 30 in whatever state/city that shall be in. It feels as if the stars have finally aligned.

    But it wasn’t luck that got me from $15/hr in section 8 housing to the lifestyle I lead today. Alright, maybe 5-10% luck, but everything else came from that voice sitting on my right shoulder to “do better, work smarter, and to find the cracks first”. Oh and complain less. Embrace all the curve balls life throws at you and throw it back at twice the speed. I’d have never gotten to where I am today if I wallowed in self pity. I wouldn’t say I’m much smarter than the average post grad either, but the work ethic and resourcefulness that I’ve built starting in my early days have compounded magnificently throughout the years. To all those out there who think its a dead end, stay focused on the prize. Always look forward, the decisions you make today should always help your situation for tomorrow. And lastly, don’t forget you’re living in New York City baby, where just about anything is possible.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks for sharing your story! And congrats for the progress you’ve made since 2012. I discuss a lot about luck in a recent post about stocks and real estate. The survey’s outcome has the #1 choice being that 50% of success is luck! I guess you will disagree!

      From $30,000 to $140,000 in three years is a MASSIVE jump. What is it that you do nowadays for the app company? I need to give my sister some ideas of things to do with her art talent in NYC!

      Queens really is good value. I went there 6 days in a row during the last US Open, and plan to go for another 6-7 days again for this years US Open!

      It’s amazing how lucky so many of us are yeah? Let’s not take our luck for granted!

      1. HungryHippo

        Oh, there is absolutely no doubt that good fortune has been sitting by my side. But luck is just really 20/20 in hindsight, is it not? For example, had I not taken a risk with moving to NYC for pennies, I may still be in Charlotte making less than 6 figures. Had I not moved out of my spacious apt. in Jersey City to a smaller (but very nice) apt in LIC, I wouldn’t have been considered a Queens resident and therefore lowered my chances of winning the housing lottery. I didn’t mention above, but I’ve also had many many “unlucky” streaks in life that I call missed opportunities. Before I took on that app project, I was rejected to almost all the FT jobs I applied to in NYC. Recruiters back then didn’t even me give a wink of a chance. Now with the right experience and skill-set (and leveraging Linkedin properly), I am contacted on a weekly, if not daily basis. Luck and success is all relative to the risk you are willing to take.

        As far as the app – it was related to social networking and the way people connect – basically trying to make traditional business cards obsolete. I was the sole designer working with one other developer and a couple of marketing guys. The app is no longer on the market today as our group eventually dissolved. Funny how fast things happen in tech. The advice I would give to you sister is to find a market in which A) she is passionate about and can be a domain expert on (for me, it would be real-estate) and B) create an value-added service to solve problem areas, start small but think big. Software is just a medium used to facilitate those areas of improvements. It’s never the end all be all.

        I would also recommend her or anyone trying to break into the tech industry to look at online resources and teach oneself some skills with both online and offline courses. I started in this industry with almost zero coding skills, but with the way tech is going, that’s going to be rarely the case. Soon all designers will be expected to know some programming. There’s many 12-week intensive bootcamps out there in NYC such as Hack School, Dev Boot Camp, or General Assembly.

        Some free ones I like are Code Academy, Coursera, and Shayhowe’s Html/CSS course. I’m currently enrolled in a free 12-week beginner’s level programming class taught at Harvard. You can check it out at:
        These lectures are very interactive and quite fun!

        Lastly, I love living on the cusp of Queens. Long Island City is an area that is really blossoming and still holds great value. Check out the affordable units that I was able to land:

        All the best,

        1. Waal Streeter

          Love this story about how hard work can really pay off. Although how did you win the NYC housing lottery for that unit on a $85K income? Since those units are reserved for low income, capped off for about $50K earners as a single, – do you have a kid … ?

  46. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently. Similar to you, I’ve “burned out” after working about 18 years in NYC in the tech industry. I’ve saved enough to basically generate an income of around 5k/month. Similar to your 100k/year example. Of course, I’d need to deduct 1k or so for health insurance. I currently spend around 8k/month (in line with your 200k/year example).

    So I’ve been thinking a lot about how much happiness that extra 3k/a month really gives me. If I didn’t work in a high stress job, I probably woudn’t feel the need to spend as much money “living it up” on nice meals and vacations. I also wouldn’t care about living in a prime location as much for commuting purposes.

    On the other hand, making an extra 2k-3k a month seems doable without working a high stress job. But is that even worth it? When I consider even mindless job thats pay around that amount, I’m not sure that its worth it on balance. I’d rather cut my lifestyle. Might be easier said than done though. Its easy to get used to the “good life”, and I might very well end up spending more with more free time. Did you find it easy to cut your lifestyle after retiring? Or was it unncessary.

    1. I’ve found that I don’t need nearly as much money in retirement to be happy!

      The freedom and happiness gained more than made up for my 70%+ decrease in income for the first year. Meanwhile, I’ve kept busy working on my online business for the past three years since leaving and now maintain an income about half what I used to make, and am absolutely never going back to work.

      It’s too enjoyable being free. Currently on a 4 week trip to Asia!

  47. LA Kid in NYC

    This is a great article and the comments that follow give me a very interesting perspective on the different lives and first world struggles in NYC…
    Having lived in both LA, for most my life, and NYC for the past several years, I can attest to the fact that both of these cities are ridiculously expensive… but only if you make it to be. A little background about myself, I moved out here after college for a job and thankfully the company that I previously worked for paid for my rent. I was able to save up during those months, it also helps that I have always been a saver, and ended up buying my first apartment in Astoria at the tender age of 23. After saving up money from living rent free, stocking away money from an insurance claim and profiting from side hustles, I put 25% down on a 1 bedroom co-op. Of course, this isn’t a million dollar condo in Manhattan nor do I work in an industry where I make 6 figures (yet).
    A common denominator that I have seen here as a driving force that eats up your hard earned dollars is the almighty income suck — RENT. And I hated the fact that I was throwing my money away every month, I might as well just put it in the trash can. So I built the courage & made the move and bought a place. I chose Astoria because of the real estate value growth potential, proximity to work, freedom to park my car outside my apartment with ease, convenience to get into the ‘city’ and please don’t forget the delicious and inexpensive food on every corner. Astoria is a beautiful neighborhood full of culture and vibrancy, it is NOT Manhattan and that is the beauty of it. But if you need to meet with your Manhattanite friends, I am a quick 10 minute ride into 59th and Lex (but nobody parties there anyways) so about 35 minutes from East Village, not bad when you are saving thousands in rent. I had three friend that lived in East Village in a three bedroom apartment WALK UP on the 4th floor paying $1800 EACH! My mortgage and HOA fees on a 1 bedroom in Astoria with an elevator comes out to be about $1350 per month just for myself. I now have my own privacy, no more roommates and my one bedroom was almost as big as their three bedroom. Another beauty of the situation is that I am able to write off the taxes and the interest paid on my unit at the end of year!
    A lot of people have a mindset where they think, if you CAN, why NOT! (pays 4400 for a studio in SoHo) I am thinking, where CAN I save, right NOW? So, if most people were willing to stop ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, they would be able to live a VERY comfy life, well under 6 figures.

    1. You do not throw money away with rent. If you actually threw the money in the trash you would be sleeping on a park bench and eating at soup kitchens.

  48. Relatively new to the NY rental market so I am really curious about one thing in your math here: I have always seen requirements of demonstrating at least 40 times the monthly rent in annual income. In all of your examples not one is making enough annual income to qualify for their monthly rents.

    What am I missing?

    My currently landlord requires proof of annual income that is 48 times the monthly rent.

    1. Good observation! 40 is the number I’ve used and heard most of the time. For the $100,000 income earner, he is a doctor in fellowship housing with ZERO student debt (parents paid). For the second example at $200,000, he’s at about 40X. It’s not a steadfast rule, but a guideline.

      Check out: Does A Credit Score Really Matter Anymore? Where I list out all the things I look for in a tenant.

    2. I never had a landlord be so stringent with any of these 40X requirements, usually it’s just a “do you make enough or not” decision using their personal judgment.

  49. East Village

    I’ve been living in the East Village in NYC for the past few years. I make 93K a year. I’m 35 years old.

    My rent is $1510 a month, gone up from $1425 3 years ago. It’s a great neighborhood and feel fortunate to be in manhattan downtown even though my studio is pretty tiny.

    I walk to work so I don’t need a monthly metrocard. I also tend to go out in my neighborhood which cuts down a lot on cabs and I am always on the lookout for 2 for 1 happy hours which are plentiful in the EV. I also go out 2-3 nights a week and order a lot of delivery.

    I cancelled Time Warner TV and I just have $35 monthly internet with an apple TV so I save about $65 a month.

    I contribute to my 401k up to my company match and over the past 3 years have been able to pay down half of my $65K student loans. I’m also able to save $350 a month.

    I’m still paying $625 a month on these loans and should be done in about 4 years.

    All in all I feel that I’m able to live comfortably and in a neighborhood that I want. I would say my biggest sacrifice is space living in a tiny apartment, but I guess there is an opportunity cost to living where you want. I suppose I could get a bigger place in another borough but I like the convenience of a 10 min walk to work and the fact that I can work and play in the same neighborhood is great for me.

  50. NYC rent is insane. There are no other words for it.

    I live in Montreal and my friend pays 700$ for his 3.5 apartment downtown, close from the grocery store, metro, McGill university, etc, everything!

    I also have two friends who live in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (a “people’s” neighborhood, 10 minutes from downtown if you take the subway) and
    they each pay around 550$ for their 3.5/4.5 apartments!

    When I see those 4 figures NYC rental prices, man… CRAZY!

    To be able to live in the world’s greatest metropolis definitively requires
    a high-paying job or some kind of sugar daddy/mommy (vomit). I know
    I wouldn’t be able to have roommates even to share the rent because
    I’d absolutely need my privacy (cat roommate okay though)!


  51. This is a little ridiculous. First of all to rent a $3300 apartment in manhattan you need to make 40X the rent ($132,000) there are more affordable apartments. You can get a 1 BR easily for $2200. There ya go, just saved you $1100 a month. Many professionals live in brooklyn and Queens where you can get a nice 1br apartment in a decent area for even less, around $1800/month. Also you learn to be smart and where to get cheaper groceries and the good inexpensive food spots. You don’t have to spend $24 every time you get a meal.

    I live very comfortably in NYC on around 70k/year and I have a brand new luxury car.

    1. I make 72K and that is little under $4K/month after 401K is taken out (free healthcare from work, thank God). I have no student debt but have a car and can afford to live well and to save, but the hard part is saving for the future – the tens of thousands to buy a place instead of renting. I will be 35 in a few months and find renting increasingly soul-sucking every month. I have the income to pay a mortgage but its so hard to save for a down payment here, even though I save $300-$500/month every month.

  52. Hi Sam,

    I just discovered your website about a week ago and I’ve been hungrily devouring all of the great content you’ve posted.

    I recently moved to Manhattan in September and have been loving it. I am, however, 29 and feel like I have little to show for the work I’ve done so far!

    Anyway, my comment is about your math here. I’m not sure if someone pointed this out yet, but it’s typical for landlord’s in NYC to require proof that prospective tenants make 40X the monthly rent in annual salary. You can, at times, get a guarantor to co-sign your lease for you, but they typically have to make 80X the monthly rent, especially if they’re out of state. Putting that together from your two cases above:

    -$100,000 salary, Rent For One Bedroom On 71st and 2nd Avenue: $3,300.
    So we’d have $3,300*40= $132,000 annual salary required to rent.

    -$200,000 salary, Rent For Two Bedroom In Mid Town: $5,500.
    So we’d have $5,500*40= $220,000 annual salary required to rent.

    Now, unless they have guarantors that are making $264,000+ or $440,000+, respectively, I’m not sure how they’re getting these leases to begin with. In reality these people would be living in worse areas. Right? Am I missing something?

  53. Freakishly accurate numbers Sam!

    Being in the SF Bay Area, I wasn’t able to max my 401k until I started to creep over about 90K gross. From what I see, folks making near or below the median income in these expensive cities survive with one or more of the following: Section8 or other housing subsidy, rent control, gov’t vouchers, living with family that either owns the home or is receiving some subsidy, living in a van down by the river, cash earning side hustle(s), cut expenses to the bone.

  54. Hi, this is a great post. I live in San Francisco with my husband and 10-year-old son. My husband makes $95,000 and I make about $30,000 with my part-time job. We both work in the financial district. We live in a very small, rent-controlled two-bedroom for $2,250 a month, but it’s in a great, central neighborhood, and walking distance to our son’s school. (We lucked out in the public school lottery and nabbed a good elementary school.) We drive a Honda Fit that we paid half in cash. We contribute $9,000 a year to our 401(k) and $400 a month for insurance.

    It’s frustrating sometimes because everyone we know in the city has a house or a bigger apartment. That’s because most middle-class folks live outside the city, so people here either have tons of money or almost none. Plus we have an upstairs neighbor who’s retired and likes to run laps while yelling into the phone all day.

    Our worry is later this year, when our son goes to an actually good middle school that’s way out by the ocean. Two-bedroom apartments on the edge of the city are going for $3,200 to $4,500 a month, and even then competition is fierce. San Francisco is an amazing place, and we don’t want to leave our friends, but I see the day when we’ll have to leave this apartment, and then we’ll have to leave the city for good.

    I”m not complaining, really. I used to work full time, but the family was stressed and miserable. It’s a shame, though, that a small family making $125,000 a year can’t do a little better. Rents have gone up 25 percent since we arrived here and show no sign of stabilizing. We try to be thrifty, and I cook most of our meals, and we have no debt. Sometimes we consider moving out of the city, but the commute would be awful and rents are rising throughout the region. Sometimes I almost wish for another tech bust just to cool things off a little.

    Keep up the good work. It’s so easy to be judgmental about other people’s choices, but honest discussions like these help us think about what we want out of life and what we’re willing to pay for.

    1. Hi Thebe,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! How did you first find this post?

      Downtown SF seems like Manhattan now, a madhouse. There’s too much construction too, jamming up the roads. Great to hear part time work is less stressful. I love PT work as well, but am thinking of going FT.

      I’m afraid things are just going to get more expensive in SF with Uber, Airbnb, DropBox, thumbtack, and all those other companies going public. Do you feel you will never be able to buy a 2/2 condo somewhere in SF? They are not too bad near the ocean.

  55. My plan is to buy rather than rent, but not just one 3-4 bedroom apartment. I plan to leverage my holdings in Florida to buy two apartments at once. One 3 or more bedroom apartment (preferably in midtown), and one 2 bedroom apartment in lower cost area, (not low…lower). The way I see it with current rental rates I can competitively price and rent out the larger apartment while living in the smaller. The rent on the larger apartment will cannibalize its mortgage, and likely provide a small to respectable subsidy payment for the smaller apartment. As property values rise and the mortgage principles on both apartments decrease at the right time I will sell the smaller use the profits to pay off the larger, and finally move in to Midtown wear I’ve always dreamed of living.
    I know there’s a large amount of risk and potential liability on the table, and the plan isn’t rock solid yet, but then again I didn’t become successful betting on sure things. Ce la Vie.

  56. Great info here!!!! I am considering taking a job in NYC and I would be a fortunate soul to make well over $175k with no children. I grew up very poor so I don’t feel bad to have some opportunity to live in NY. I was born and raised in Detroit proper and have lived in some very bad neighborhoods. So my question is what areas are the ones to stay completely away from? I like diversity and was living in Rogers Park Chicago so a little grit is cool as long as I can catch taxi or train to nightlife and shopping. Oh and I would like to have my car…thanks!

  57. I think a more interesting experiment for you to try would be working two minimum wage jobs with no benefits and finding an apartment and entertaining yourself for a month on that salary. Then you could compare that life with the 100,000 a year life and see which is better.

    1. That definitely will be hard. And then even worse is getting three minimum wage jobs in India and see how far you can last.

      The key word in this article’s title is “comfortable.” Anybody can survive. But can anybody survive comfortably?

  58. I love laying out the monthly budget to put things in perspective, but I disagree with your statement that your friend is frugal. $3300 a month for an apartment on the upper east side sounds like a luxury building to me and $100 dinners aren’t frugal. Don’t get me wrong, I like enjoying a nice restaurant from time to time, but it’s not frugal.

    I don’t have all my real life numbers ready at the moment, but for now here’s my take on the first big chunk:

    Rent $2650 – a small one bedroom on W 16th street between 7th and 8th avenue (a more expensive and centrally located neighborhood than the upper east side, 2nd avenue area) in a non-luxury, pre-war, 3rd floor walkup on a tree lined street. Right there I’ve saved $650/month after tax compared with your example. That’s about $11K pre tax per year less than your friend, and my neighborhood is awesome with many subway lines less than 5 min walk (A,C,E,1,2,3,F,M,L)

    No doubt you can easily spend $4K plus on an apartment, but absolutely not necessary to have a great NYC experience. My building is zero frills, so I walk one block to do laundry, walk up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment. It’s a little less than 400 square feet (real size, not realtor ad size, ha). I’ve hosted parties with 30 people in my apartment and it didn’t feel overcrowded. I’ve had over 150 guests in 4 years sleeping on my pullout sofa in the living room. I have a projector and 7 foot screen setup in my living room and host movie nights with friends. The kitchen is just an L shape setup that’s part of the living room, but I have a kitchen island separating the living area from cooking area and it’s great for entertaining guests and dinner parties. Bedroom could squeeze a queen, but I’m happy with a full, and have room for a desk and dresser plus a small closet, space to hang my bike, and some shelves. In other words, I’m not living like a college student dorm, and having plenty of fun.

    I also have a friend living on the Upper West Side (slightly more desirable area than Upper East because of more subway options, though not as expensive as my hood) in a nicer building with newer renovations, an elevator and laundry, and he has a king size one bedroom apt, I think paying $2500. It’s not a luxury building but definitely not a college dorm.

    Compare this with a guy I met through a Zog sports league who was paying I think $3800/month to live in a luxury building on W 26th st & 10th ave (in my opinion not a fun neighborhood, yes 10 blocks makes a difference). His bathroom was probably the size of my bedroom, he had high end renovations, a doorman, etc…basically a bunch of stuff that to me adds no value to life.

    Or as others pointed out, move to New Jersey. It’s always a space/luxury/location game when it comes to property. If you want all 3 you will pay. I give up luxury and a little bit of space, but have an awesome location. Jersey City you get more space/lower cost but location less good (though not bad). I’m 37 and don’t want roommates anymore, but in my 20’s I thought having roommates was better because it was a lot more fun.

    Further frame, I make 140K, max out 401K, save 24K on top of that via direct deposit into a separate account, take 5 weeks vacation per year (last year 3 weeks in Peru for $2K all in, including flight, this year 3 weeks in Japan for $4K). I buy organic groceries, eat out only places I want to eat because the food is interesting/different, and avoid paying for crappy takeout meals just to fill up. I take taxis maybe 5 times per YEAR, and prefer to ride my bike to work (in Midtown) often or take the subway in the morning and walk home at night (being in a good location saves on travel time/costs). Going out I often walk because I’m 5 minutes from the West village, 20-30 from the east village, or use the subway or my bike to hang in Brooklyn or other random events that are farther away. I don’t have cable, and get a free phone from my job. I have a car that I park on the street (yes, a pain, but need it for work and is nice for road trips).

    So, 200K is definitely not needed. I live pretty large and have plenty of savings to show for it. Just wanted to give yet another perspective!

  59. Great post. I would have liked to see you account for someone who has student loan debt but other than that a terrific post. Because I still have about $14k of student loan debt and I am only paying the minimum, and my employer only contributes half of what you contribute up to 10%, I’m only contributing that 10% to my 401(k). Would you still argue that I should be maxing out at $17,500? I have been taking savings and making my own investments in certain equities after doing research on them and my plan is to measure my performance against my 401(k)’s performance.

    That said, I make $95k per year and live in a very large, 4-bedroom house with roommates in JC so my rent is substantially lower than it would be in Manhattan (only $850). However, I go into the city quite often and probably spend way more than I should (roughly $150-200 per night). I plan to tone that back a bit. Also, I enjoy travelling quite a lot, domestically and internationally which also cuts into savings. The benefit is that I use miles and very rarely pay for anything other than hotels and entertainment/meals when I travel.

    It’s worked for me so far but I am thinking of moving into Manhattan while I’m still somewhat young (soon-to-be 28). Part of me feels as though I’m cheating myself by living in JC just to save for my future. Do you think it’s possible to continue living my lifestyle while living in Manhattan and save?


  60. I’m 36 years old, I work in a creative industry and make 90K + very good benefits. My husband is 44 years old and makes 72/year, also in a creative field. I received a big raise about 4 months ago, before the raise I was making 73/year. We live in NYC. We live on his salary and save mine. It doesn’t feel hard, if it did we wouldn’t do it. We both enjoy reading a lot and cooking. We also like to travel and plan to do it more in the near future. We make most of our own meals. When we do eat out it is either fairly cheap — Ethiopian, Thai, Indian or really expensive $250+ but thats usually only every other month or so. Saturday night is often Netflix, wine and a new recipe. We shop at Trader Joe’s and sometimes Whole foods. I rarely buy anything in a deli and I never buy anything prepared. We don’t buy meat or drink soda. We do buy organic food. I have a big sweet tooth so if I want ice cream or a cookie I’ll get it. We go to the library. We have a gym membership at Crunch, but we pay 2 years in advance and the monthly rate come out to be $46/person. All my gym clothes are from Nike or Lululemon. I don’t have a lot of stuff, but the stuff I do have is nice — mostly from Barneys or small boutiques (Tibi, Bird, Isabel Marant, Alexander Wang etc. I sometimes find really nice stuff at NYC consignment shops) I wear what I have and try hard not to buy more than I need. We don’t have cable, we have an antenna (everyone who comes over asks me what it is!). We own our own home in Brooklyn and we paid $345,000 for a one bedroom a year ago. We put 25% down.

    My extended family is upper middle class and my parents helped pay for my college education – when I graduated in 2000 I had $10,000 in loans ( but it would have been a lot more if not for my parents). My husband paid for 4 years of college on his credit card with no help from his family.

    I’ve been a saver my whole life. The older I get the less value I find in things. Spending consistently less than I make (for well over a decade) investing the rest in good Vanguard funds, not having kids, cooking my own food, not shopping for entertainment, these things have all had a huge impact on my finances.

    Once your money starts making money it gets exciting. The power of compounding interest is truly life changing. Our combined net worth is about $750,000 – much in retirement accounts.

    I’m not writing this for a pat on the back but to illustrate that smart choices especially when made at a young age can have a powerful impact on your finances.

  61. Man I’m so glad I live in Colorado. $250 pays the rent in a beautiful 4 bedroom home I share with 3 other young people. I’ve even taken care of my boyfriend’s portion of the rent the past 3 months because 500 isn’t too bad. And all the grass I can smoke. I don’t own a car either (which sucks in the snow, hail, rain and heat and when I want to go places) but saves me thousands. I live in a community about 15 miles from Colorado springs. City life is claustrophobic and expensive, I was thinking of possibly moving to Denver for the thrills but this made me change my mind and probably saved me money so thank you. I just graduated from massage school, and 40,000 a year would be the beez kneez for me. I live off less than 10,000 a year currently.

  62. I am just coming out of grad school and have gotten a first job offer at a major financial firm in downtown manhattan for about 100K base salary, I am just curious, are you including bonuses as part of the money used for expenses in the above post, because my bonus is expected to be between 25-30% of my base pay. I believe the city really takes a big bite out of one’s bonus, so would living in JC help me with that aspect and can anyone point out how much of my bonus would I be roughly be saving in taxes living in JC. I have lived in grad school budgets for 5 years and I am sick of it, I would like my own 1 BR apt/studio with a queen size bed and a well equipped kitchen and a nice couch and a decent neighborhood, I don’t need to party regularly, once in two or three months is good enough for me. But after living on 18K per year for 5 years well into my late 20’s in NE US, It’s hard to keep a sense of balance with my new salary, I want to thank you for putting living in NYC in perspective, I am now going to try and climb down from the giddiness and try and max out my 401K, and try and have a place that feels like home after work.

  63. I’ve got to be honest, that lifestyle you’ve described on $100,000 sounds pretty damn luxurious from where I’m standing. And all in NYC, to boot? How can anyone complain when they can afford three meals a day and eating out thirty times in a single month, while also paying into their 401k and attending broadway shows? Right now my family’s struggling to get by on $5/person a day as far as meals go.

    1. Chris,

      Thanks for sharing your story. Can you share with us more about your income, Family size, occupation, and aspirations?

      Everything is relative in finance and I appreciate your input.


  64. I love this post. It’s all about what comfortable means to you, right? I am a 36 y/o single female. I make 40K and take home 26K after taxes & unlimited public transportation costs. I have full health care with a prescription plan through my job. I still have to dish out on co-pays on visits and prescriptions. I have a very tiny apartment in Brooklyn, I mean tiny. I pay 1,000 a month. Its a cute place in a nice neighborhood. I have to pay for electricity and gas that comes out to about 150 a month. I share cable and pay $60 a month for full premium channels plus high speed internet. I buy lunch every day, which averages to about $300 a month. I only eat one large meal a day like the Romans. I spend about $150 on vitamins a month. My gym membership is $76 a mo.

    I’m now left with $400 a month and being a girl can get expensive.

    Hair & Makeup – $50 (I always try to get samples from cosmetic stores when I can). I do tons of homemade facial and hair masks – Have to look good!
    Clothes – $15??? This one is difficult to calculate. I stock up on clothes once a year on Black Friday and tend to go with the basics. If you have a nice figure and your hair and makeup is perfect, then you can really get away with wearing form fitting black slacks and 5 different shirts a week. I own 5 pairs of shoes and I’m very happy. The key is to maintain the same weight (I know, so unrealistic -but not when you eat one meal a day) and good quality clothes will last years.
    Laundry – $35

    I’m left with about $290, that’s it. And what do I do with it? SAVE IT! I save my tax return money too. I don’t party, I don’t date, I don’t drink, I don’t go on vacations. Why, because I’m comfortable with not doing those things. Some people are just like that, just plain boring and I’m cool with that. I have about 13K to my name and I will hold on to that because it makes me feel safe and COMFORTABLE.

    I know some of you are thinking WTF I could never live like that, but I thought I’d share how I live for those of you who are willing to.

    1. You, Nadia, are awesome! I appreciate this side to the conversation. I make the same salary and am totally content with my lifestyle as well. City living can get me down because I grew up outside of Chicago, but my career demands it. Happiness has little to do with money.

    2. We both made similar, 40k’s as editors/writers in our 30s, jobs that do not pay much… just ended up moving away, it’s not worth it. After being pushed to Queens and still not being able to live comfortably. After you are over 30 and still not making much, it’s time to leave NYC. NYC is super sterile now from when I first saw it in 1999, no room for media/creatives. Not sure how others do it. The media industry in NYC is a racket of fresh faces. It’s a tough field everywhere but tougher in NYC, esp when similar jobs pay the same, in say, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. Sure it’s not NYC, but you can afford a respectable place. It’s not really NYC’s fault, I can’t blame it. It’s more the media industry as a whole and their reluctance to stay in New York instead of doing like any other industry does and spread out.

      1. Of course there’s room for media/creatives. You just have to have connections and they do pay more now and you have to make it known. Know your worth and do your research of the position that you are in and negotiate accordingly. If a writer position at NBC requires 5 years experience, do your research and you’ll get what you are worth And have a side hustle too.

  65. Thanks for your valuable insight here. It is actually helping me out a ton as I figure out my immediate future. One topic I haven’t seen discussed is moving to the city as a recent married couple. I am in my early 30’s, my wife in her late 20’s. Because of her commute to NJ, we will have to live near in midtown west, and neighborhoods such as Chelsea, and west village. My salary is about 120k, and hers, 105k. I keep seeing different calculators for how much individuals should be able to afford for rent. What would be your take on this? We are pretty active and social and would probably prefer to live a little cheaper in order to have more left over for other activities….

    PS, I’m one of these folks who associates with a ton of academics on a daily basis, and I totally disagree with the poster who went ballistic earlier. EACH ONE OF MY FRIENDS WHO IS A PROFESSOR OR THE LIKE WOULD LOVE THE ABILITY TO EARN MORE MONEY IN ORDER TO ENJOY THE CITY MORE FREELY.

  66. WorkingOnIt

    Great blog. I admire how forthright it is as well as your ability to deal with the naysayers. I do sometimes feel myself siding with them, but I also understand the value of money, and more importantly, of saving well. Life’s a balancing act I suppose.

    I’ve been in NY for about 2 years thus far. Pull in about 76k. Moved here from another major city only making 60ish, but I had a second job in the nightlife industry that paid cash (all my fellow bartenders, waiters etc know the value of cash amirite?!). I got a small bump when I moved here but decided to only work my day job for the first time in my life. I’m 33, so I don’t make alot for my age, something I blame on myself for having my heads in the clouds during my 20s.

    I contribute 6% to my 401k purely because that is how much my company will match. After taxes and everything I net about $3500 a month. I have some secondary income from an investment I made in a friend’s company years ago. Luckily while most people spent their $ in the 20s, I basically just stockpiled it all. I worked 2 jobs and never had time to go out anyway. Bought a decent condo which is finally building equity. I have about 130k in cash put away and another $140 in my 401k. So I’m doing ok, but not great by any means.

    My first year in NY, I wanted the Manhattan experience. So I lived in an awesome doorman building in Murray Hill, one that is literally known for housing a bunch of spoiled rich kids who live off their parents (featured in the WSJ haha). While it was nice, I very quickly realized that the $1725 rent (I had a roommate) effectively killed my ability to have any fun. Just too large a portion of my income (basically half).

    The second year I moved to brooklyn and found an AWESOME spot for an absolute steal. Still have a roommate, but my half of the rent is only $1150. Its MUCH smaller, older, no doorman, no modern appliances etc – but man am I happy. I live right off the water in Williamsburg (yes, hipster central), and it is beautiful, relatively safe, and full of amazing options food and bar wise.

    To your larger point, I do agree that comfort boils down to individual taste and choice. An interesting thing happened that first year in Manhattan. I was constantly surrounded by people making LOTS of money – I noticed however that ALOT of them didn’t seem happy. Money really does make life easier, but it also can complicate how we view “happiness.” 2 years ago if you had asked me if saving was important, I’d be insulted for asking such a stupid question. I used to save EVERY penny I made. But I wasn’t happy.

    The answer is somewhere in the middle I suppose (isn’t it always). Now I live in a great neighborhood, cheaper rent, food/groceries, alchohol, and entertainment in general. I still feel like i’m getting the NY experience, and I’m literally one train stop away from Manhattan. I save a bit but I’m getting to enjoy life. Not being SO worried about $ has been freeing. As long as we’re all doing the best we can, and working hard, I’d like to think things ultimately work out down the road.

    I will say that IF there is a trend among those who are comfortable/happy – it is your point about having a s/o. Everyone seems to have really figured out how to balance their budgets and lives once they found their life partner. Splitting rent, food etc is just half of it. There’s also a reduced desire to party all the time, financial support if you want to pursue a creative endeavor, etc. Being single was pretty awesome in my 20s and its become a bit of a drag in my 30s lol. Such is life!

    Love the blog, keep it up!

    1. I love your comment. Thanks for your perspective! All I really want is to hear from others on how they make it happen. We’re often caught up in our little bubble, and it’s always good to hear how others do it.

      Enjoy your 30s! It’ll go by faster than your 20s, trust me on this!

      Hope you subscribe to my site (email, or RSS) and keep in touch! I’ve published around 800 or so posts so far and I think you’ll enjoy going through them if you rummage through the Categories section on the bottom right.

  67. I saw a complain post there, soo so out of context . .. but Hey! I am from Panama, central america, and here my wife is every year asking to claim my US pasaport to find a job in NYC and go there for a while, and thats how I got to find this website, I kind of know how much money is burn and how not too much fun. But when my panamenians friend come to Panamá in vacations (like for 4 friends) is always the same story “is so cool, so much fun!, we have high salary!, fun fun fun) I and said to myself ( ye! ye! right!). I can imagine how fun can NYC be with the amounth requiere but less than 100,000 is really difficult and consider that with kids, Here in Panama my salary and the cost of the new Panama is pretty close to the same feeling how the money is burn. So until I find my way to earn 200,000 or more. NYC can wait :).

    Nice website congrats!

  68. you guys are all huge douche bags. this site is a douche bag. do you have any idea how many people who live in NYC who will never earn more than 60K a year? millions! And all you wall street douche bags are so freaking greedy all you can think about are 100$ a night parties and events. Perfectly intelligent and hardworking people like proffesors at NYU and columbia and thousands of scientists who work in the city don’t even see the six figure mark until way into thier 30s and still have very gratifying lives. If you need that much money to feel like you can enjoy your life, I feel pity for you becuase you will always be trapped in a place of unhappiness. And seriousy, for the minimal skills that it requires to actually be an associate on wallstreet, you should be greateful for the salary you get becuase your skills certainly don’t warrant the inflated salary you get. And as far as getting laid, I hope your fucking yourself when you are 45 becuase the 25 year old women you are used banging will have found more attractive and younger men than you. Shame on your disgusting, greedy, wallstreet lifestyle. Step out and take a look at the real world where perfectly itelligent and hardworking people have good lives with little money. I feel pity for you.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment.

      Are you saying I shouldn’t fill up my bathtub with Evian water anymore? Faucet water seems so dirty.

      If you truly feel pity for me and others here, I welcome any donations you have. Lots of greedy rich people are donating so much to charity on top of the taxes they pay. In the meantime, please share with us what you do for a living and how you’re enjoying life.

      We are the 99% my brother. We must fight the evil empire!

    2. Thousands of scientists and professors have gratifying lives? You need psychological assistance, as the willingness to describe people so superficially doesn’t speak well to a healthy ability to see people as complex individuals. To wit, it’s impossible to whitewash “thousands” of low paid academics and researchers as having gratifying lives. I’m sure that some do, some are suicididal, and the majority are somehwere in the middle. However, I’m also sure that ALL of them would appreciate less financial stress that inevitably arises from making little money in NYC. Your elitist opinion minimizes the plight of the working poor (which people below 100k in NYC functionally are) in painting them as happy saints. In lieu of a realistic view of people, which I can’t give you, go and give a poor Columbia professor $5 as your penance.

    3. Well…….. I’m late to the comments section but I have to say this:

      I know researchers, scientists and professors. Asides from work, money is the #1 concern for many (grants and living expenses). Many of them have INCREDIBLY low pay (you’d be surprised, true even at a top university) and it’s a constant source of stress (especially if they’re married with kids). It’s why academics with marketable skills and who are still in their 20’s have fled to industry (it’s much harder for older people to transition). There are very few academic saints who are happy with their low salary. I know many who are constantly trying to maximize their income in other ways.

      I can understand your vitriol against “rich” people with 6-figure incomes but I don’t agree with it. For many, to get that low 6 figures means deferring years of pay for education. Then of course, getting jobs that require crazy long work hours. Then finally, having the luxury of having taxes eat a large chunk of your income. If you are really lucky, you get to earn six figures while living in a high cost-of-living area. There are some 6-figure earning people who are splurging left and right but hey, at least they’re helping the economy. Most of us are incredibly frugal and trying to make up for the years of little to no pay.

  69. Thanks for the nice post! I have been working in nyc since 2006 but never lived in manhattan. I lived in jersey city which is a very easy commute from manhattan and rents are less and you get more space. For e.g. you live in Seacaucus, NJ you can rent an 800 sq ft one bedroom with parking for $1900/month ( and most of these buildings include gym ). Commute is very good. Jersey city downtown has path trains which run 24/7 and has a very short commute to wtc and midtown. Groceries are cheap here too and you save on NYC city tax which is roughly about 2.5% of your income.

    1. $1,900/month for a 1 bedroom and gym is pretty darn good! Is it just snobbery by the Manhattanites that give Jersey a not so great name?

      Sounds like a good solution living in JC to me.

  70. Looking at the possibility of moving to NY, and stumbled upon this post. The information has been immensely helpful in weighing in the Pros & Cons, since I expect to earn around $110k. Most of the comments are on individual expenses, but does anyone have insight into living with a family? I’ll have a dependent wife and a 7 year old son. So schooling, Insurance, activity classes etc. come into play as well….would really appreciate if people ‘in the know’ can shed some light on how sufficient/insufficient this amount could be living with a small family such as mine..

    Great website! look forward to more of such content.

    1. Depending on where you are coming from adjust your expectations. When I lived in NYC I actually lived in Bayside, Queens. I owed a co-op in Bayside Queens. Currently in my old complex 2 bedrooms rent for about $1500-$1800 and sell for $215,000-$250,000. It was 2 blocks to a huge park, 2 blocks to a grocery store and the NYC public schools are rated 10 for the elementary 10 for the middle but fall to 5 for the HS mainly because the size of the HS = more diversity of the student body.

  71. As a resident of NYC, had to chime in with my $0.02 here. I am a brand new reader working in a less-than-lucrative industry who is still committed to saving money and eventually building wealth. I am 24 and pocket about $2200 a month. Yep, that’s it. I aim to put half of into savings. I am still quite content with my current standard of living, and have been able to make it work even in this ridiculous city. One major area where I save is rent: I live in Brooklyn and share a relatively cheap apartment with roommates, making a 35 minute commute to work by train. I don’t have any debt. With that said, I’m actually not that frugal. I don’t cook, so I buy all of my meals out (nothing fancy, but I still eat what I want, when I want it). I take 3-4 weeks worth of vacation a year. And, I love my shopping!

    I think I’m fortunate at this point, and my lifestyle works for me. But, it won’t be this way forever. I may need to change career paths for a better income. Eventually, I’ll have to think of supporting a family. Hopefully, I can continue a pattern of both saving and living comfortably.

    1. Hi Skylar,

      I love your attitude and your commitment to save. That type of mindset will treat you VERY WELL at your age down the road.

      What happens as we get older is that we get sick of living a certain lifestyle after a while. That’s when the difficulty really starts. My desire for a nicer life started around the age of 25-26 after four years of work.

      Welcome to my site!

  72. I agree with this post 100 percent. I live in The DC metro area which his considerably less pricey than New York, but not too far off. One thing this post didn’t take into concideration is the added expense of student loan payments for those that might have gone to grad school or still have undergrad to pay. Additionally, this post took into account the expense for a single person. Imagine being a family with an income of 100k. We have one child and easily our grocery bill a month is upwards of 700. That’s because we have to cook all of our meals at home! Daily lunches included. Without rehashing each item on the budget, I personally believe that living on anything less than 150 in a city like DC is nearly impossible if you want to live fiscally sound and not rack of debt. Sadly most employers are still benefiting off the tight economy and are continuing the trend of paying their people less than what is needed to really LIVE in the city the employer is located. The only option for a family like ours in DC is to live in the far suburbs where we have to commute upwards of two hours into work each day back and forth. That’s not living either! My solution is telecommuting where families can live in other states or less expensive towns while making the city salary.

  73. Thanks for your reply, Financial Samurai.
    Good post you linked to… I can relate to alot of it!
    In regards to getting laid, I’m already pretty advanced…
    I’m active on another blog/forum “” (awesome community) where I’ve also published some articles.

    How I found your post —

    I was researching how I could get a centrally located apartment in a big global city without using a large % of my income on rent – because franky I’d like to avoid it if possible… A google search brought me to your site.

    While I was living in Copenhagen I lived 20min outside the centre, and I got laid like 6 times in 2013, although I had a girlfriend the first 3 months…. Money was my #1 pririoty, #2 gym, and then #3 girls…

    I made some statistics on the basis on some friends that proves that acquiring a centrally located apartment in a good city will improve your results with +200-400% compared to if you werent centrally located at all. A very significant effect… so had I lived in centrally located apartment I would have gotten 12-24 attractive women instead of 6…

    But it just seems that it’s very hard to do for cheap, and it’s very very costly.
    Even in Brazil it seems…

    The only cheap solution I’ve come up with is to buy a 2-room apartment in the city centre, and then rent out the other room… That person’s rent would cover alot of your mortgage, and you’ll be living centrally in a top place for cheap while in your early 20’s.

    I’ve got a very good income right now, I just need continue to build more capital….
    Alternatively I could get a 2nd sales job from home, and try to make 200.000$/year, leaving me very little “spare time”…
    Although my fear is that I won’t be able to “concentrate” my forces, and perform average at both working +70hours a week, instead of being elite a one working 35 hours a week.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer me! It’s appreciated!

    1. Hah! Good stuff.

      Well, I would say do all you can when you have the energy to make and SAVE as much as possible b/c the energy will eventually thin out. I burned out after 13 years. I thought I was going to be able to work on Wall Street until 40, but called it quits at 34.5.

      I’d read these two posts:

      2) (update post from a year later)

    2. Sam, You are NOT joking at all when you wrote this! I went this past week to visit my brother who is a singer at Ellen Stardust diner and makes just enough to get by with NOTHING left over for “fun”. I live (now) in a 6 bedroom house on the lake in Michigan. My brother has been telling me for 7 years how great it is in NYC. I went to see… and he is right. Unbelievable! (and I have lived in Atlanta and San Francisco in my 20’s). I loved every second of NYC while I was there and fell in love hook line and sinker. However, even selling this house here in Michigan (its appraised at 329k) will get me nowhere in NYC. I have been racking my brain on what on earth I would have to do to actually buy something in the city. This article you wrote was very enlightening to me. And SOOOO true! One option I have been seeing a lot of is co op buying. It was a little confusing to me, but it was an option. After I checked it out you are not buying the property, but shares in the company that owns the property. HA. WTHeck that even means. So yeah, Move to NJ and commute in and get killed with tolls and traffic or bite the bullet and just get by to live in the greatest city ever.

  74. Great post!
    Until recently I lived in Copenhagen for 12+ months which is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. I’m in sales, calling to qualified leads.
    I’m looking to make 100.000$/year. I only work 4-5 hours a day.

    I recently moved out my apartment, and back to my parents place 1½hour ride to my work. But I’m location dependent now, since I decided do my calls from “home”.
    My budget in copenhagen was 1500$/month… now I’m at close to 0$/month with the same level of income – which allows me to save up like 100% of my after tax income in theory…

    I’d like to live in a centrally located apartment in a big city, but I don’t like to have rent eat up 60% of my after-tax income… Is this possible? I’ve thought about buying a central home, and renting a room out… Should minimize monthly costs..

    I don’t have an idea what to use my money on.. I’m going to travel abit around Europe while working, to see the world a bit…

    What would you do in my situation? I’m only 22 =)

  75. Luigi Bourbone

    My husband makes about 190k including his yearly bonus. I make about 30k.
    We are in our early forties.
    We live in Jersy City.It’s 1 stop from WTC. The rent for 2bed 2 bath in a high rise apartment overlooking Statue of Liberty is $3300 including a parking lot.( In Manhattan it would be double)
    We don’t really love living out of Manhattan since I’ve always lived in happening cities( in abroad) in the past but unfortunatly,even with our combined income, we can’t comfortably afford to live in a decent size 1 or 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan( I mean in a nice, happening areas in Manhattan)
    We maybe be afford to rent some small ,not so great 1 bed in unhappening areas in the city but we travel abroad about 3 times and do mini-domestic trips a year so I would say if your income range is between 200k to 250k and you want to enjoy active leisure life style,there is no way you can live in a nice areas in Manhattan AND also do a few vacations.
    I read someone’s previous post writing that Manhattan is really for” front office trades, lawyers or doctors” and that’s such a spot-on observation.
    I know a couple ,a wife makes 200k and a husband, 60k. They couldn’t comfortably buy
    a nice 2 bed condo in Manhattan so they decided to buy something in Long Island.
    It’s undoutedly one of the most exciting place to live in America but is not an “easy ” place to live comfortably even with reasonably high income.

    Btw, In your previous article on how to live comfortably in Manhatta

    * Living off a wealthy spouse was funny.

    I know two women whose husbands make 7 figures and they leave off of it.
    Are they particularly intelligent or pretty ? Not really. They were at the right place at the right time..

    I don’t mean to deviate from the subject but 7 figures earners are often greedy and unethical.
    I have worked in investment banks in the past and that’s my conclusion. So my big conclusion is that no matter how much $ you make, you just have to compromise something ( such as living in NJ… ) and try to save a little bit of money for your retirement.

      1. Luigi Bourbone

        I never lived in NJ before I moved to Jersey City last summer.
        My objective observation is that a few parts of NJ such as Hoboken/New Port/ Jersey City
        are pretty white color. In fact, the rent for nice buildings in these area is only 20 % cheaper than the city at most.

        My neighbor living on the pent house of my apt is very well known big shot in media. If he can live here then it can’t be that bad? I think the NJ image is tainted because of this general perception of how NJ being sort of an arm pit state including this Jersey shore people without class but what about Harlem and some remote parts of Brooklyn? There are ghettos everywhere within NY.

        I don’t love NJ but I don’t mind living in areas where the majority of residents are white collar.
        We save money for our vacations and it’s an important priority for us.

  76. Jack O'Brien

    I’m 24, worked for a few years, and now I’m in Medical School accumulating tons of debt. For the year that I worked, I made a little under 50k a year, and managed to save nearly 10k. Granted the job I had allotted me random tips from people that I didn’t have to claim, they were never more than 120-150 dollars a week. That being said, spending those tips on my “fun” activities allowed me to not have to really pay for anything “fun” that I did, or when I needed to buy clothes.

    Sure, I lived on 101/1st avenue for the majority of it (870 dollars a month for EVERYTHING incl cable/internet/electricity/gas with 2 other roommates in a massive 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath with terrace, dishwasher granite and stainless). That ‘brutal’ walk that I had every day could have been circumvented if I took a BUS that was literally 10 feet outside of my apartment to the train that ran MORE frequently than the 4/5/6 (Oh…men in suits probably feel too entitled to take a freaking bus). Lazy! I also lived on 33rd between lex and third for 1,100 a month in a 2bd/1bath (with roommate). More than possible to find ‘affordable’ housing in NYC.

    I have to say that spending 700 freaking dollars on one person for food is OUTRAGEOUS. Again on the laziness front…I can’t believe how freaking lazy everyone is. No one knows how to cook anymore! The idea of cooking something terrifies so many friends of mine and their parents have utterly failed them without teaching them how to make a few simple meals that can literally save them thousands of dollars a year instead of eating out all the time. Oh it takes too long to cook? FREAKING LEARN HOW TO COOK AND YOU’LL LEARN HOW TO COOK THINGS MORE EFFICIENTLY! I went out to eat probably once a week, ordered in from time to time, and I cooked extremely elaborate meals for groups of people but I never EVER spent more than 300 dollars a month on food. 700 dollars is stupid. Now if you like to drink even just once or twice a week, yes I can see spending that 700 dollars a month on yourself. I’m not really a drinker so that never was an expense that I had to factor in.

    Furthermore, 3,300 dollars a month for a one bedroom is retarded. Are you kidding me? I live in a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Long Island City that is 3k a month! We are in a doorman building with a gym, rooftop patio, and have an amazing view of the city from a high floor. I have access to literally every train except for the 1/2/3 and 4/5/6 that is literally 500 feet from my apartment. It is MORE than possible to find an acceptable 1 bedroom apartment in Manhattan for 1500-2000 dollars a month! I can’t even comprehend what crack you’d have to smoke to make it sound reasonable to spend that much to live in a shitty place like “midtown east”. The first place I lived in the city was a 5th floor walkup that was totally redone 2bd/1bath with ‘condo’ finishes with push air heat/AC. Where does this guy save for healthcare? Insurance is freaking expensive!

    Ugh. This article does have validity that you need to make a lot of money to be comfortable in NYC but some of the expenses are unnecessarily high.

    1. So let’s say he only spent $300/month on food instead of $700. That’s $4,800 a year. Not sure if that really makes a difference.

      What is your net worth now? $10,000 savings is good for a $50,000 income for NYC. The thing is, when you are 35 you won’t want to slum it like a 23 year old anymore.

      If love to hear your perspective after you graduate from med school and start working post residency.

  77. I actually lived in San Francisco right out of college. My best friend and I moved out there and split the rent. We actually went because she had gotten a great paying job analyzing chemical/industrial hazard data. I wound up getting a job with a cruise line, so I’d leave for a few months and then come back for a month or two and then leave for a few months again and just kept repeating the cycle. I couldn’t imagine staying out there for the long run. It seemed like such a waste to me to pay rent somewhere that I only spent 25% of the year. None the less, they do have a flourishing arts district, so I suppose people are surviving there. I imagine it mostly takes cramming 8 people in a two bedroom apartment and living off Ramen noodles, but who know.

    I also just got a job working in NYC and am looking at apartments here now in the $1200-1300/month range that are one bedrooms and I have no intention of having a roommate (I’m 29). Granted, I never reach your maxing out the 401(k) plan, but I have been managing to max out my IRA and I always contribute to my 401(k) up to the match.

    Your friend definitely lives like they have $100,000 salary. When you don’t, you just don’t even consider the things he does – like eating out 30 meals a month or taxis.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Your rent example continues to be a great retort to my assumption.

      Where are you finding $1,300/month one bedroom apartments in NYC? Surely not Manhattan right? You cannot find $1,300/month one bedroom apartments in SF. Even the really dangerous neighborhoods, 1 bedrooms are around $1,600.

  78. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    I think that to really enjoy New York to it’s fullest, you need to have a ton of money. But you can “make it” here on a lot less than 100k.

    First of all, if you’re working to stay on budget. there’s no reason to pay over $1,000/month for rent. You can have your own room in a perfectly nice sized apartment off a major subway line IN manhattan for around $800/month. I lived in West New York, NJ, about a 15 minute bus ride from midtown for $500/month.

    I also NEVER take cabs. EVER. I use citibike to save on metro cards now so my transit expenses are less than ever.

    I also don’t know how your friend spent so much on food. I shop mostly local and organic and I’ve found my groceries at Trader Joes to cheaper than I can find elsewhere (when working out of town).

    The hardest thing about new york for me is the temptation to go out. With so many amazing restaurants, happy hours, and world class entertainment, I’m always tempted to go out and enjoy it all.

    1. $800 for your own room ain’t bad! I guess at what age does one decide roomies is no longer an option. I still donno how you live in the area off $20,000-$30,000 a year.

      I’m going to interview others who will hopefully open up about their budget.

  79. These budgets are completely real (almost everyone I know lives like that) and completely crazy. Feeling that you deserve to eat out all the time, live without roommates, and take cabs everywhere is self defeating when you have nothing in the bank. I feel like I deserve early retirement and to be able to live off my investments in 5 or 10 years, and am totally willing to do what it takes to save 80% of my $200k-ish pay. This means I’m in Brooklyn, have 4 roommates, cook rather than Seamless-ing every meal, and don’t drink that much. It requires having the balls to not do what almost everybody you know is doing, but once you start standing up to the peer pressure it’s not a deprived existence. Most people respect it and wish they had the discipline to do it themselves.

  80. Hey Sam, yes I sure do :-) I have deffinitly lived it up after college. I do have plans to move out of state so that I can have a big house and little ones running around in the back yard. I will be able to make the same if not more as a starting salary in a new state because of my experience here. So the plan is to get more bang for my buck in one of the southern states (originally from the south), at the expense of missing all the great things NYC has to offer. Culture, food, entertainment, fashion- I will miss it all <3

  81. Agreed @Financial Samurai. Hard to go back to living with roomates when you are in your late 20’s and have lived alone/ or with a SO in the past. I lived in Astoria for 3 years and finally bit the bullet and moved to Manhattan (I think i deserve it now:) I live alone in a studio UES, no elevator or laundry in building, but it’s very close to work, cutting down all my commuting costs- not to mention the headache of public transportation (yuck during hot sticky summer or flu season to be on those crowded subways/buses). But with the perks of living in the city (close to everything) comes the downfall of the expensive rent and Food in the area whether it’s groceries or eating out is just outrageous.I work in health care (not a nurse or Dr.) and my chances of getting to $100,00/yr are slim to none unless I go back to school, which is another ordeal in itself (currently paying $340.00 minimum student loan payment from undergrad). Jobs out of the city in other states are also very hard to come by. Hoping for a miracle. Thanks for the article by the way.

  82. Ahhh, NYC is only for front-office traders, lawyers and it. Gee I would guess that only 5% of NYC pop. actually work in these professions. Good luck finding those 200k jobs in finance now. Wall Street has moved to slim operations and contractors fill the void. I worked for years at banks supporting accounting and IT change. With 15 years experience, I can’t find any job in NYC that pays more than $115k. I am 40 and there are hundreds of thousands in the same boat. Outsourcing functions to India as well as bringing in desperate H1 visa candidates to NYC for jobs = destruction of wealth path. Prepare for the coming harm. Without proper salaries, your NYC life is not sustainable period.

    1. I hear ya. That’s why I decided to go off on my own with an online business. Making big money in finance is very difficult now.

      I’m about halfway there with my passive income streams at $110,000 a year. I think it will probably take 5-10 more years realistically to get to $200,000 in passive income.

      SF is about 25% cheaper than NYC bye so that helps.

  83. l came to nyc 5 years before , work like crazy take citizenship next year and go home. l am working like limo driver 7days 12 hours and make about 85000 average a year, a save a lot sleep in my aunt apartment and eat. going home to buy apartment and start business. to live good live in nyc you need at least 250000 .

  84. mysticaltyger

    My sister lives in Manhattan and I’m not sure how much she makes, but it’s probably high 5 or low 6 figures. She lives in upper Manhattan around 190th – 200th street…this is actually closer to her jobs (yes multiple jobs…contract work). I know her rent for a 1BR is just under $2000 per month, nowhere near the $3300 you quote. She has no TV at all, so that’s $50 savings on cable. She also has a normal cell phone, so that’s another $50 a month savings because she doesn’t have a smart phone. I also doubt she spends $500 a month on entertainment, but I don’t know for sure. But even without the entertainment budget included, there’s $1400 a month in savings right there. I don’t know her savings rate for sure, but I’d say it’s at least 20%. I’m always nagging her to save more in retirement accounts, but she’s always putting it in savings accounts instead, which drives me crazy!…But that’s another story.

  85. Edward Antrobus

    There is still some room for improvement in your friends budget if he wanted to prioritize saving a larger chunk of his income. Even at $15 drinks, spending $100 in one night is 6-7 drinks. The last time I had six drinks in one night was in college. Likewise $120 will get you into NJ (technically, back into Manhatten, tolls into the Garden State are free) nearly every day, so he could trim his travel budget down a bit.

    But at the end of the day, if he is saving a sufficient amount for his needs, why bother trying to cut corners in his budget?

    1. It’s the process of buying a round of drinks for people. Gets expensive hanging out with folks in drinking establishments! But to be social is to progress in much of business.

      1. Edward Antrobus

        I guess it comes back down to what I’ve previously written about the differences between blue collar and white collar. What you said about drinking and business is similar to what I’ve heard elsewhere, but going out for drinks, or golfing, as a necessity for advancing are more common and likely in professions like sales and finance then they are in things like construction or skilled trades. So while it may take 6 figures to live comfortably in Manhattan for a white collar professional, it can obviously be done on much less considering that the median income for New York County is $64k

  86. One nice thing, if you can swing it in these large expensive cities, is to work in a field where you are on the giving or receiving end of customer entertainment. A salesman taking his customers out to a nice dinner a few times a month save’s not only on those client meals, but will get enough of a “fix” to be more than satisfied eating less fancy things the rest of the month. Easier said than done I suppose, but I think that’s a hidden perk of some jobs.

  87. My husband and my combined salary is 153K and, with one child, we’re doing pretty well living 2 blocks away from Sam’s friend. The rent for our 2br/1ba is $2750 in a nice doorman building (on 2nd Ave and moved in 2008, hence the comparatively low rent), health insurance is covered 100% by our employers, we are saving 20% of our salaries in our TIAA/CREFs with match (but we are not both maxing out), no car expense, and aside from much less eating out and many fewer cabs, our expenses are in line with Sam’s friend’s with one big exception– daycare is $1800/month. Once our son starts school in September, we are going to resist lifestyle inflation and bank that money each month in order to build up our emergency fund to 6 months living expenses and then add to our mutual funds in order to someday leave the city, buy a house in the country (rural CT, MA or VT) and semi-retire. We’re in our mid-30’s and love living in Manhattan and raising our son here. Our friends are diverse, we go to inexpensive concerts and plays, love trying new restaurants and bars (albeit sparingly) and enjoy Central Park and our museum memberships. It will be hard to someday leave, but it will be a different (potentially well-funded) chapter.

    1. $2,750/month for a 2/1 sounds so juicy good doesn’t it?! With a 153k salary, even with $1,800/month in day cafe, it’s comfortable right? But maybe since there are three of you, the space of a 2/1 is equivalent to a studio for one?

      Either way, thanks for sharing. Love Manhattan at 150k/year! Do you think you can earn a similar amount working elsewhere?

      1. Truthfully, we could probably make a similar salary in other big cities like San Francisco, DC and Boston, and our housing $ would potentially go further. I’m not sure we could survive without at least one car, though, in these markets and our vacation money (mostly from side hustles like tutoring) would increasingly go towards visiting family. We also have an amazing schooling option for our son. We’re committed to staying in the 2 bedroom apartment for the next several years, but having a 2nd child would compel us to consider a bigger apartment, perhaps not on the UES, move to another city, or move to the country and make less money (but perhaps buy a house in the 350K range with a hefty down payment). Advice?

        1. I’ve experienced all the cities, and I say if you can make the same, come to SF. Your dollar goes 25% farther here and it is Ye ultimate in work life balance.

          Any idea how much your 2/1 costs now and what it cost back in 2008?

  88. thepotatohead

    I still can’t get over how crazy mad expensive cities are. My one friend lives in Washington DC and had me and my gf over last year. His apartment was slightly bigger than the size of my bedroom, and paid around 1.5-2x my mortgage payment for a studio apartment the size of my bedroom! Redic… I personally like my space and not having to parallel park. No city for me :p

  89. Our household gross income is north of $175K (and rising), but thankfully, we live in a low(er) cost of living inner-ring-suburb of Cleveland (with cost of living index according to of 96.2 compared to the US average of 100, and an index in NYC of 161.5) Though we live pretty high on the hog, we’re both maxing-out our tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and saving close to an additional $22K in taxable brokerage accounts. Our total savings rate is about 32% of gross. With a paid off car, relatively cheap housing, small student loan payments, lower cost of groceries, we lead a rather pleasant lifestyle.

    Perhaps it would be valuable to show similar salaries normalized by the cost of living index to give people an idea of what’s going on…? The $100K in a Cleveland suburb “feels” like $104K whereas a NYCer’s $100K “feels” like ~$63K.

    For the “math challenged” normalizing in this case just means ($salary/(CoLIndex/100)).

      1. I work in software, so I’m sure that I could make more in absolute dollars by moving to Silicon Valley (or one of the many cloned “tech communities” that have sprung up around the country) but I would question whether my family’s quality of life, and salary adjusted for cost of living would be all that much better. Honestly, despite the shakeup at Yahoo, in my experience employers seem to be warming to the idea of completely remote employees, which might make it possible for me to capture a “coastal” salary, all while living in the relative cheapness of the Midwest. People bag on Cleveland all of the time, but in reality, there’s a lot of good things going on in this city. We are however, growing tired of the winters, but we’re more likely to tough it out here (because of family ties, and since we both grew up in the area) and keep our savings rate high, and look for early retirement opportunities that take us to a better climate (both in weather and tax terms).

  90. I used to live in NYC. Rent was $1000 between me and three roommates (Brooklyn). Spent $75 on transportation (no cabs), $200 on food and about $100 for miscellaneous expenses. No bars/ entertainment, since I wasn’t even 21 years old. So yeah, it wasn’t too bad. I still wouldn;t mind living like this (except that now I can go to bars – yeah!), so $100,000 a year would be enough.

  91. The First Million is the Hardest

    I think its rather simple…the people who don’t make 6 figures aren’t living or spending their time in Manhattan! Just like anyone else who doesn’t make a ton of money doesn’t live/shop/eat in the most expensive parts of their respective city. I have a friend who just finished up med school in NYC. He and a classmate shared an apartment on the edge of Harlem and got by just fine.

  92. It’s the stinking rent that’s crazy there! My sis and her hubby don’t make anywhere near six figures and ended up having to move to *gulp* Jersey city. It’s crazy how expensive housing is in the big apple.

  93. I for the life of me can’t see how some of the people live on the salaries they earn in NYC. Its just so expensive. I really like the break down but there are some areas your friend could save but then you also have to look at having “a life” in general. Could save a few bucks on food and buy more groceries going out 1 per week is a minimum. At least he is maxing out the 401k which a lot of people wouldn’t/couldn’t do. What I don’t understand is how people making less than six figures pay from homes in cities like New York and how do they even get approved for some of these loans.

    1. Groceries are more expensive in manhattan as well, so saving money eating at home when there are the most restaurants in one spot probably isn’t saving as much as one would think.

      The answer to your second question is Bank of Mom and Dad. Everybody who I know bought in their 20s in Manhattan go the money from their parents. And now they are much more wealthy because of it!

  94. I don’t have stats in front of me but I would be willing to bet that most do not max out their 401(k) and as such would have an extra grand or so to spend on the good life.

  95. JCApartment2

    What a great post! I’ve lived in the NYC area for the past 15 years and wholeheartedly agree that NYC is expensive, but most people who move here don’t expect to live here forever and don’t need to either. Nearly all of my college classmates eventually moved away and settled down somewhere else. You really only need a few years in NYC to: 1) living the exciting post-college dream amongst throngs of other young New Yorkers and maybe meet your future spouse, 2) boost your resume so when you move home or elsewhere they see you have NYC experience and 3) hopefully save a bit or pay down debt while earning NYC-level income. So pretty good value if you’re only here for a few years!

    Also my secret to making NYC affordable (with no real decrease in quality of life) is living just outside the Manhattan. Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City, etc offer great bang-for-your-buck — there are many “yuppie”-filled neighborhoods that are quiet, family-friendly, have a neighborhood/small town feel and far, far cheaper than Manhattan. Here in Jersey City sales tax is only 3.5%, you don’t have to pay NYC income tax and the commute is cheaper & faster than the NYC subway to lower Manhattan. Pretty good deal!

    Again, great post – keep up the excellent work!

  96. Sorry for the long post, but I though I would share my perspective since I live in Manhattan on about $50k per year. It’s not as hard as you think. The median income in NYC (all boroughs) is approx. $51k (latest census figures), so a lot of people do it. In my case, I have a few advantages.

    I was a high income earner for many years, and, like you, I was an “LBYM” guy, and I managed to save enough to retire 2 years ago at age 47. So my $50k spending represents an “early retirement lifestyle”.

    I own my apartment. It’s a 300 sq ft studio. It’s not fancy, but because its fees and property taxes are relatively low, it’s a steal compared with the rent I would pay if I didn’t own it.

    I also own a car, but in NYC it is generally not necessary to have one. I may sell the car as I rarely use it to go anywhere, but for now I keep it for regional travel and day trips outside the city. Garages cost almost $500/mth in my neighborhood, so I park on the street for free. This means I have to move the car twice a week during official street cleaning times. This is not a big deal as I usually just sit in my parked car drinking coffee until the cleaning vehicle comes and then move back into place after it passes. One makes quirky trade-offs no matter where they live.

    My monthly budget (rough averages):

    Car $200
    Co-op apartment (taxes, maintenance) $600
    Gym $72
    Groceries $400
    Transit (subway, never take cabs) $40 (I bike a lot, or walk, which is ideal in NYC)
    Cell phone $75
    Electricity $50
    Cable $70 (I was paying higher until I threatened to cancel and they lowered my rate)
    Health insurance $400
    Travel $1,000 (this is an average, varies widely by month)
    Misc/Cash/Other $800
    Income Taxes $400

    Unfortunately, NYC charges some of the highest income tax rates in the country, and an NYC dweller must pay both a NY state tax as well as a city tax. Generally this ranges into the 8-11% range depending on income. Of course, if I were still working, I would need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes which would make my budgeting more difficult.

    Of course, lower income and payroll tax rates are a big benefit for an early retiree. I think your estimates of effective income tax rate in NYC is much too low. While I was working my effective rate was closer to 40% including SS and MC. Ouch!

    1. Thanks for sharing! Damn, $500/month is brutal.

      You’re fortunate to have got in early on RE and pay only $600. May I ask whether it’s just you in the place given the 300sqft size?

      I hear you on city taxes.
      30% effective tax rate might be a little low on 100k, but not by much as my effective was around 32% and I made more.

      1. “May I ask whether it’s just you in the place given the 300sqft size?”

        It’s just me. I kind of prefer it to the bigger places I have lived, less cleaning, less furniture to buy and maintain. When I feel stir-crazy I just go for a walk in Central Park or around the neighborhood.

        Of course, I cannot host friends and family outside of a couple of nights at a time on the sofa, and when my girlfriend comes over we live in close quarters. But all things considered it is a good value for a single person.

      2. Tax rates are so specific depending on one’s situation. The reason my taxes were closer to 40% is as follows:

        Federal Income Tax: Due to a variety of factors, I paid the “Alternative Minimum Tax”, so my effective rate was generally around 26%

        State/City Income Tax: 10% effective or sometimes a little more when I was fortunate to pull down a big bonus

        Medicare: 1.45% of all income

        Social Security: Generally 6.2% on first $100k+. I was fortunate to make more than this during my peak earning years, so let’s call it 3% effective.

        Total: 40.45%. Again, I consider myself fortunate to have made a high income to have had to pay such a high income tax rate.

        Getting back to the original theme of your post, one of the considerations folks rarely think about when moving to a big city are the higher tax rates. I have lived in NYC, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. NYC city income tax rates are about 50% on top of the NY state tax rate. Pittsburgh also had a city tax; I don’t remember if Chicago did. And, of course, many cities have high property tax rates which jack up rents as well as ownership costs. People need to know what they are getting into.

        PS I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for putting so much thought and work into it.

        1. Thanks Konrad. You sure your effective at rate was 40% rather than your marginal? If you really paid 40% of your entire income to taxes making under 100k, Id start a revolution!

        2. … to be clear, I was making quite a bit more than $100k during the time I was paying ~40% of it away in taxes. Sorry for the confusion,Sam!

  97. Jerry, George, Elaine, & Kramer all lived very well in their own very decent NYC apartments. Kramer didn’t even have a job! Newman was a mere United States Postal Worker.

    1. The “Friends” gang lived in even better apartments than Seinfeld, and some of them didn’t even have jobs! Yes it’s easy to do on TV!

  98. Oh my gosh that crepe cake looks SO GOOD. New York is an amazing city to experience living in at least once. I was dirt poor when I lived there and loved every minute of it. I don’t get to visit very often any more but it’s always fun to absorb the energy and vibes of Manhattan when I do go. The food is so good and it’s so easy to get around.

    Gosh I didn’t realize the subway passes are $112 now, sheesh! Makes my $66 pass in SF sound cheap, although I’d prefer the NYC subway over Muni any day. The drivers here are terrible and you have to hold on for dear life! $9/pound for cherries, ouch! I just got some on sale today for $1.99/pound.

  99. I lived in Manhattan for 3 years. Let me start by saying that the vast majority of people there are not making $100k/year. And they seem to get along fine.

    I lived in Harlem/UWS with my girlfriend and that helped out with rent, the single biggest expenditure in Manhattan. If the thought of living in Harlem frightens your friend, my buddy who lived in Chelsea/West Village rented a 2-bdr apartment for less than what your friend is paying for a 1-bdr in UES (and split with a roommate).

    $700/month for food (for one person!) tells me he’s eating out all the time or picking up the bill for others. $100/month for cabs also suggests that your friend is hailing a taxi in many situations where he could just take the subway (NYC’s is one of the best in the US).

    Anyway, that’s an ex-NYCer’s take. It’s all tradeoffs, and your friend seems to be choosing fun/convenience over saving/investing. That’s not financial hardship, that’s a set of decisions he’s made.

    1. $700 for all food, including groceries doesn’t seem bad does it?

      What percent did you save of your salary if you think his 17.5% savings rate isn’t that great? A lot of folks living in NYV keep on saying it’s hard to save so is love to get more anecdotes whether this saying is true or false.

      1. It’s great he’s maxing out his 401(k) and a 17.5% savings rate is pretty good considering the national savings rate hovers around 3%.

        But he could easily save another $1000-2000 a month by moving in with a roommate and cutting a few luxuries. That he hasn’t says that he’s enjoying living it up in NYC, which is great, but not really grounds for complaining about financial hardship ;-)

        1. As a percentage of income, we saved less than what your friend does. But we also supported two people on half of what your friend makes :-)

          And that’s normal for NYC. As Konrad notes below, median *household* income for all NYC is around $50k. It’s a bit higher on Manhattan, but not so much higher that $100k for a single person is hard living.

          It all comes down to tradeoffs. I firmly believe people should own the personal finance decisions they make. Your friend has decided to only save through 401(k) contributions and spend the rest. Which is fine, but leaves him exposed to any short-term disruptions, like job loss or any medical expenses his insurance doesn’t cover.

          The albatross here is the apartment on the Upper East Side. As others have pointed out, it is out-of-range for his income, even factoring in NYC rents. A cursory search on Padmapper shows the median 1-bdr in that area is $2,595/month, with a lower bound of about $1,800. So yes, your friend is living in an expensive place relative even to other people on the Upper East Side, let alone the rest of Manhattan (and for non-New Yorkers reading this, UES is definitely not the economical part of Manhattan).

          Love the blog, keep up the thought-provoking posts!

  100. Remember, I don’t have a line item for groceries, and groceries are expensive. Even if he only spend $300/month going out to eat, he’ll have to spend $200 or more on groceries for a savings of maybe $200 more a month. That’s not going to move the needle much in his finances.

  101. I agree with your assessment of living in NYC. It’s been a big adjustment. We live in a studio, eat all but a couple of meals per month at home, and opt for free activities in the parks instead of events that cost. Groceries in the city are more expensive than in other parts of the country so even eating at home is not as cheap as other places. But it’s been a fun experience!

    1. Enjoy the fun for as long as possible! I had a blast for two years and decided to pack my bags West in 2001. I wish I owned a one bedroom pied de terre though. Manhattan is great and if one can take care of their living expenses everything else is pretty manageable.

  102. Hey Sam, I think most of your numbers look reasonable. With that said, I agree with what some other people have said about your friend’s rent. If he got a roommate or had his significant other move in, he’d hopefully be able to defray the costs of rent, internet, cable, electric, etc. I’m also surprised that he’s even able to rent that apartment unless he has a guarantor. Typically, apartments require your annual salary to be 40x 1 month’s rent ($3,300 x 40 = $132,000).

    Btw, if you’re in NYC for the next couple of weeks, you should check out Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The 45 minute trip is definitely worth it. ABC Kitchen is another spot worth hitting.

    1. No significant other at the moment and at 35 doesn’t want a roommate which I totally understand.

      The housing is partially subsided by the hospital he works for. Of not it would be 10% more!

  103. Sam. I think I have to agree with Dan23. I would question on spending ~70% of one’s net income just on rent. $3,300 / month in Upper East Side probably gives you a pretty sweet 1-bedroom and the facilities (doorman, elevator, laundry). But again, it is lifestyle choices.

    From reading your other posts. I would breakdown one’s NET income ( after tax and 401k ) into:
    20-25% for Rent (possibly higher by 10% for mortgage)
    Max 25% for Expenses, Entertainments. Etc
    5-10% for Rainy day savings or wishlists
    40-50% for net income savings!! (some could be invested)

    Now in order to get to 40-50% net income savings, it will depend on what one wants to be frugal on. The problem with NYC is that even if you can save 50% of your net income on $100K, it still takes 5 years or more to accumulate down payment + closing for a piece of “decent” real-estate.

    Question: how long (in years) do people work and save until they can get their first starter home, in average that is. . .

    1. I just don’t believe it is comfortably possible to save 50% of your net income living in manhattan even with a 100k salary.

      Yes, 66% of net after maxing out the 401k is a lot, but a one bedroom for a 35 year old guy is hardly living it up. Anything less is a large downgrade in lifestyle IMO. If he was in his 20s, not at all.

      1. Nightvid Cole

        The trick is to lower your expectations and keep things in perspective. Our grandparents could raise 4 children in 600 square feet.

        The other trick is – get rid of your crap!

  104. I made $79,000 last year before taxes, I work in NYC and have about an hour and a half commute into another borough of NYC outside of Manhattan. I do 10% into my 401k now for the past 13 years I have been working. I don’t have any debt, paid for college through working part time through college and by going to City University. I bought my car cash a few years ago ($17,500), and am doing good. I save if I don’t go nuts $1,000 a month so $12,000 a year at the very max level of being cheap or frugal so to speak. My luck comes that my parents bought a property in the 1970’s in another borough for $70,000. That smart move, they bought a two family has enabled me to live in the second apartment rent free for 13 years since I started working. I am very fortunate for that, without that smart investment my parents made I would be zero dollars left without a doubt. An apartment in this outer borough costs $1,200. I spend about $1,600 a month straight cash for food, fuel, transportation (public bus), about $800 a month for utilities and a monthly gift to my self (a few compact disks, some books, etc), and the $1,000 I save. Without my rent free situation I would have to cut out the monthly gift, pay rent, and do it again and again the next month with no hope.

    I just found out about your web site, the 10% rule with buying cars is a good one, I am especially interested in what I can do to improve my situation with the $12k I do get to save, right now it is in a 1% interest savings account, and I have about $10k in gold assets, about $3k in stock.

    1. You are a lucky one to live in your parents apartment rent free for 13 years!

      Is there a reason why you aren’t maxing out your 401k with no living expenses? What are you spending your money on and what is your estimated net worth now?

      Don’t let your parent’s apartment be a crutch!

  105. Lots of comments about the cost of internet here. Is internet access inevitably expensive in the USA? In England it is possible to get broadband internet for only about $5 per month from the bigger suppliers, or even for free with download limits if you take cable packages, but certainly no more than $25 per month for unlimited usage high-speed internet from the likes of country-wide British Telecom. There are several dozen free TV channels of reasonable quality. I really cannot believe internet access in NYC is 4 times the cost of it in London, an expensive city by anybody’s standards.

      1. Good point, although not quite £25 a month, it’s £145 a year/$18 a month. But so worth it not to see all the adverts!

      1. Yeah, it’s odd isn’t it why some things are so much more expensive in some places in the world than in others. Fair enough if you have to physically import things from the other side of the world, and add certain import taxes on top, but internet access? Surely the cost of electricity and the servers can’t make that much of an impact.

        1. I’ve heard of the same sort of cheap prices in Japan as well. One huge thing to consider is that both London and Japan have cities with greater population densities. I thought a large part of the internet fees (I pay $45/mth for cable in fly over country) was for the existing fiber and the recapture costs of running it out to the houses. Granted, the lack of competition isn’t helping, as around here is there one company for cable and one for dsl (and dsl is very limited in area).

  106. I was living in Manhattan for a while and I believe all of these prices. And, there are people that live/work in the greater NYC area that live on much less than the 100k. I cannot imagine how they do it.

    Even where I’m at now, I’m constantly tempted by lower-cost cities. Given that the majority of household costs are housing, an easy comparison is to look at RE prices. Just going “one rung down” in cost-of-living, houses are about HALF of what they go for around the Bay Area. Going a step further, there are many parts of the country where a house is in the 50-75k range. SO tempting to just pack it in.

    It’s hard to understand why someone would continue to work in high-cost cities unless they were earning large salaries.

    1. I don’t think people so live in high cost cities for very long if they don’t make a high salary. Everything is rational.

      The best reason for living in an expensive city is that you can retire anywhere else for so much cheaper!

  107. NYer here. If your friend is spending 3,300 in rent on a 100k salary he is not frugal (or just isn’t frugal when it comes to housing choice). If you friend is not splitting with partner/spouse and was frugal he’d be either be splitting rent with roomates or solo in a studio in a walk up in the 1400-2k price range. Here are 97 listings less than 1750 in the upper east side:

    Also, lunches do not cost 10-15 if you know what you are doing either (though it very well may be the average). I have many choices, including with waiter choices in the <$10 range. Obviously you could spend many multiples of that on lunch if you chose to.

    It actually does not have to be very expensive to live in NYC if you know what you are doing. You just have to accept that you are not getting the same amount of space for your money as you would elsewhere.

    1. Thanks for the listings. The first that shows up are the $20,000-$50,000/month listings! Can’t search far enough to find $1,750 :)

      I guess one can eat the $1-2 street cart hotdogs to save money too.

      1. Part of the url didn’t hyperlink. I’ll try again. Copy and paste the text of the url rather than clicking and you’ll see just under 1750.

      2. Pay by weight buffets in midtown. I used to get a piece of salmon and veggies for 5 bucks. Much more expensive in Chicago (like $10 easily), which is why I bring my lunch.

  108. This is insane to me. My husband and I combined make $200,000 in salaries (he makes much more but pays himself a small salary and reinvests the rest in his business). We bought a nice 2500 SF with a pool in a gated neighborhood that feeds to the best public schools at the bottom of the market (late ’09) for $350k, got a 2.5% mortgage and our total payment, including HOA, taxes and insurance is $1700/mth. We save $4500/mth excluding the business. We go on multiple ski trips and beach trips every year. We have a full time nanny, bi-monthly house cleaners, yard guys. We paid cash for both our cars and our boat. We became millionaires in our early 30s. We wouldn’t consider moving to NYC or SF unless we had a net worth of at least $5m and income of $500,000.

    1. I’m beginning to think more people make multiple six figures and have Multi million net widths who live in the city that statistics can really reveal.

      Stealth wealth!

  109. I don’t ever comment on blogs … Ever… But keep up the great work. Really enjoy reading your content. Thanks for the hard work.

  110. That’s nuts. I guess burger flippers have to live further out and commute.
    I though Bay Area is expensive, but NY is even more ridiculous.
    I guess people stick around long enough to see if they can strike it rich. If they can’t then, it’s probably better off to move on to a different location.

  111. My wife lived on 78th, between 1st and 2nd Ave in 1968. It was a one bedroom furnished brownstone (apt.), she had to share it with 3 other girls to pay the rent. Luckily, she lived there only 3 months before we were married.

    I have lived in Los Angeles for 40+ years and still managed to achieve success. You have to pick and choose what is important to you. You cannot have everything, but you can achieve your long term goals. My first house was a fixer and I saved 25% relative to other homes in the neighborhood.

    Making savings a priority which means sacrificing some things for the long term goal of saving and investing is the key. If I could not buy a home, I would make sure my housing costs were minimal, so I could still save and invest. Delaying some goals for more important long term goals is one solution.

  112. ChicagoTeacher

    I can believe your budget for NYC, but you are leaving out clothes and other things that a lady will spend on herself. I live in Chicago and am a teacher. I make about $65,000 a year. I am lucky that our housing costs are cheaper and I live in one of the most expensive neighborhoods. I am single and live alone.
    I strive to teach my students about how much things cost for me in the city bc we just had a teacher strike and they need to know how much things really cost. I do similar breakdowns with my students.

    Housing: I bought a condo after saving by living with a roomie to split bills (I was making though much less than I am now = $3000 a mont), but my current expenses are 1,000 for mortgage, 200 in assessments and about 350 a month for taxes: $1,550

    Credit card: $800: This includes food, gas, adult beverages, clothes, gym membership, teacher expenses, use of the CTA/subway and entertainment.

    Cash: $200. I take out $100 every time I get paid for fun money. This is used for adult beverages and food sometimes a cab.

    Cabs: $0. I rarely take them since I have a car and a parking space, but part of my taxes are the $460 a year I pay for taxes on my parking space. Sometimes I sell it out for Cubs games, but then that money goes into my cash pile.

    Cable / Internet: $130.

    Gas/Electric: $220 (depending on the month, my gas can be almost $200 in the winter with $100 electric bill, it can be a $30 gas bill in the summer with $120 electric bill)

    Mobile phone: Xmas present from parents yearly. I don’t want anything else from them. We no longer exchange presents.

    Grad School expenses: $750 monthly, unlike other cities, Chicago teachers have to pay for their own learning and I refuse to take out loans. When I do not have this expense, I put this money into my ROTH IRA or put it into savings.

    Total Expenses: $3650
    Total Earned monthly: $4,000

    Now, this is my base expenses and doesn’t include much fun money. I could not tell you the last time I’ve been to a movie theater or spent more than $50 at a restaurant or at a bar in one night. I am not that fancy.
    I think that the govt. doesn’t understand how much money living in one city versus another. I know that $100,000 in NYC isn’t much. I follow a few blogs in NYC and I wonder how much money these people make to afford their places and going out as I struggle with that in Chicago.

    1. Thanks for the detailed perspective! I purposefully left out clothing and random things to use as a buffer for when readers inevitably say that other parts of the budget (food, transport, entertainment) are too high.

      The big difference for you is housing. Chicago is so cheap compare to NYC and SF! But also so cold!

    2. @ChicagoTeacher, thanks for your breakdown. I read about the strike, and the negotiated terms. Just curious, how many years have you been teaching, and how old are you? My guess is 7 years, and 30.

      You will get a little more ‘financial room to groove!’ in the coming years, with your pay bumps. Your graduate degree will also pay you a premium for the rest of your teaching days, and you also have a pretty sweet retirement plan. Stay safe in Chicago!:-)

      1. Chicagoteacher

        8 years, and just over 30. I only have a masters degree at the moment.
        However, I don’t have any college loans which many of my co-workers have and I do put money into savings for a new car.
        About our retirement, we just don’t know. They are not funding out retirement at the moment so I am putting money now in a ROTH which I have only done after buying my place 5 years ago. I did put a huge down payment on the place since I lived at home/roomie for a while.

        NYC teachers don’t have to pay for health insurance, while we have to pay for a portion (mine is about $38 a month for my plan which isn’t that great). I don’t know if NYC teachers get money to help with master’s degrees

    3. mysticaltyger

      I read posts like yours and I just don’t see how you’re suffering that much. I am not a teacher but I also work in the public sector in the high cost San Francisco Bay Area (Silicon Valley). After taxes, health care and our mandated 13% pension contribution and my voluntary $1062 monthly 457 (similar to 403b/401k) contribution here are my expenses:

      $3833 Monthly Gross

      –$1850 Take home (after 457 & pension contributions, health insurance, & taxes)
      –$915 Rent on studio apartment. (Granted, I’ve lived here a long time. New tenants in my building are surely paying more than this).
      –$400 Groceries, gas, eating out
      –$85 Internet & cell phone
      –$20 electric & gas
      –$90 Car & renter’s insurance
      –$100 Miscellaneous (car repairs, travel back east once a year, weekend in Palm Springs once a year, swimming laps at the local pool, etc)

      That leaves about $240 per month for cash savings.

      Notice what I don’t have:
      –No car payment. 16 year old car is paid for and still runs ok.
      –No cable TV (That’s what DVDs from the library, YouTube, & Netflix are for…Actually I don’t even have Netflix).
      –No fancy smartphone.
      –No commute. I live in a car oriented city but I live & work in a downtown area, so I only fill up my tank every 2 weeks at most). This is tough to pull off in my area, but can be done. I wish I’d done it sooner!

      I wouldn’t mind having more money, but I don’t feel deprived. I honestly don’t understand what single people making 65K in somewhat cheaper Chicago are complaining about.

      Bottom line: What passes for the typical middle class lifestyle in America is still incredibly wasteful.

  113. This post is only slightly terrifying since we’ll be moving to NY next year. However, we’ve opted to ask for placement in Brooklyn in a less expensive area i.e. not Park Slope. Should be an interesting experience!

    1. Is the move for your husband’s residency? It’s definitely possible to live less in less than $100k living outside Manhattan, but it will be hard to save money. But, once he’s done with residency it gets much better!

      1. It’s actually for clinical rotations (2 years in Grenada & 2 years in New York.) I think the hospital is in Bay Ridge, which our friends have said is slightly more affordable. I know it’ll be tight in terms of finances, and we’ll probably have to rely on the loans quite a bit, but like you said, once residency starts, we’ll be a little better off and even better in the future.

        1. Cool. I think you’ll have a great time. This post is really geared towards folks living in manhattan or other expensive city centers. In in Zurich now and staring at $10 Whoppers!

        2. Marie Roberts

          You will be very happy with Bay Ridge. I would say majority of the residents are families with nice houses but there is a nice young residents there. Also, a good amount of restaurants and bars. It won’t be slightly more affordable than Manhattan. It is considerably more affordable than Manhattan.

        3. Bay Ridge is the cheapest neighborhood in Brooklyn. My friend is paying $800/mo for a studio (studios in the rest of BK are over $1K/mo). You guys will be more than fine. However, it’s a looooong trek to Manhattan so be prepared.

    2. It’s not that bad in NY by a long shot! This guy is spending over 68% of his income on his rent alone! My fiancee and I pay $1,350 for a small two bedroom in a less trendy area of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. We’re less than a 10 minute walk from the subway which gets us into downtown Manhattan in 15 minutes. Do we have a dishwasher and washer dryer and a door man? No. Do we need those things? No. If you can live without these luxuries, you can easily get an affordable place in Brooklyn or Queens. If you’re still a little picky about your location, you can still find a nice place-bedroom for $1,300 for example) if you search hard enough. Don’t worry about the only finding something for crazy high rent. If you’re truly frugal, you can find a nice place to live that doesn’t take 68% of your take home pay.

      And also, groceries aren’t actually that expensive in the outer boros. You just have to learn how to shop. When you find the cheaper grocery stores (Trade Fair and Foodtown are two that I love), you are set. :)

      I also recommend Bay Ridge as well. It’s a bit further from Manhattan via subway but it’s a nice neighborhood and close to the beach.

        1. I know but you can still find a place in Manhattan for cheaper than what he is paying and in a nice neighborhood. This guy obviously took the one of the first places his realtor showed him. A more accurate thing to say is that apartment hunting in NYC does take work to find a place that suits your needs AND budget. No person can call themselves frugal and take so much of their take home pay to pay their rent. He may be saving in his 401(k) but he has no money leftover to save for fun things or emergencies. I would advise him to turn down the 401(k) contributions to help alleviate the lack of savings so he could actually enjoy himself and have money leftover. Stories like these rent situations really misrepresent what living in NYC is all about. My brother is paying $2,200 for an 800 SF 1 bedroom plus office in Midtown Manhattan, steps away from the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen. Yes it’s a 5th floor walk-up, but it is a HUGE place.

  114. In my early twenties, I lived on Bleecker and Houston with about $75k per year. My rent share was $1200 per month. I ate, drank, gambled, and partied … often. One memorable evening was an unplanned swim at a Russian bath house with coworkers on a work night!
    At the end of 2 years I saved nothing – happily. There is no point living in Manhattan if your plan is to save money. After a $100 night out, what’s another $10 to take a cab home?

    While living in the city still appeals to me the price of its real-estate does not. Today, I’m happily living across the Hudson where my dollar bought me twice the square footage with twice the amenities. At just 15 minutes by bus to Manhattan (or ferry) I’m close enough to enjoy the cuisine and culture of the city or just view its skyline from the community swimming pool.

    1. Ahhh, to be young in Manhattan. It really is a fun town to blow your money and live it up for a couple years after college. I didn’t do enough, but I do remember a lot of good times.

      If it was me, is bite the bullet and get someplace smaller in Manhattan on the UWS.

      1. I am loving this thread of comments! So entertaining! I lived by myself for a year in downtown Manhattan and have enough stories for a book that I’m writing. There seemed to be a lot of broke people living in the luxury apartment building I was in, so I googled broke in Manhattan and found this page. Thanks for the interesting read and I will get back to writing my book. Maybe I’ll sell enough copies to earn back the rent I paid ($35,000). I’ll make it sexy so it will sell.

  115. Your friend isn’t frugal at all. He doesn’t have enough left for a haircut or dry cleaning, let alone an emergency or a co-pay on a doctor or dentist visit. I’m thinking of showing this post to some of my friends living in Manhattan so they can have a good laugh.

    It doesn’t matter so much if he’s “happy”; it matters if he’s financially responsible. And he isn’t. Not by a long shot. Plenty of people in NYC rent studios or take roommates; some even commute from Brooklyn or Queens by subway and others even (horrors!) from Jersey or Long Island. They have to pay for the railroad, of course, but they also save the NYC resident tax. When I worked in Manhattan 25 years ago I commuted from Long Island. Of course I had my own place by then, but the trains were packed every day.

    Nor does he need to eat out 30 meals a month or spend $100 on drinks. He can pack lunch from home. He can host dinners for his friends. Even today if I’m headed to a concert or theater in the city I often bring a sandwich and find a bench or park to eat it, along with all the other smart people doing the same thing.

    He can save on entertainment too. Any true New Yorker knows there are other, often cheaper and better places for theater than Broadway. New York also has these things called museums; they’ll cost you $20 a pop to get in. Or you can wander the galleries in Chelsea for nothing. In summer there’s always free Shakespeare in the Park.

    Cabs an “inevitability”? There isn’t an area of Manhattan that isn’t more than adequately served by public transportation, and the subways and buses run 24×7 last I heard. So he has to plan his time and location better, or wait a little longer at night. The poor thing.

    And $19 for a bag of cherries? Maybe, but that tells me nothing unless I know the price per pound. I spend $6 a pound on LI, but I buy in small quantities since they start to rot after a week.

    There. I’ve just saved your friend $1500 a month. He can PayPal my commission to my e-mail.

    1. This isn’t a competition to be the most frugal post Larry. This is a post about living a comfortable lifestyle in an expensive city.

      Not sure if living in a studio in your mid 30s in Long Island and commuting to NYC are most people’s idea of a nice lifestyle.

      1. You claim the man is living frugally:


        Your evidence proves he does not. QED.

        1. I think his expenses are relatively frugal after banking 17.5% of gross in his 401k. How much should he save to be considered frugal in your opinion?

          Most people I know would say his expenses are pretty modest for a 35 year old living in Manhattan.

        2. What “most people”? I count at least six people responding to this thread who support my position.

          Your friend spends 100% of his take-home pay, a good chunk of it on frivolities like eating out, cabs, and drinks. Not to mention 75% of his net going to the apartment, which is way out of line in the opinion of “most people” I know. What he is banking is for retirement, which is well and good, but otherwise he is living paycheck-to-paycheck, which is not. Coming from someone who has always taken the position that one should save a considerable amount of one’s income beyond the 401(k), I’m surprised to see you defending him. Unless, of course, you’re pulling all our legs again.

          1. What do you think is the amount he needs to save in order to be considered frugal if the average savings rate is less than 5%?

            Share with us how you spent your money living in Manhattan and your savings rate then. Thx

            1. Sorry, FS, I would have to agree. In my mind, to be able to use the description frugal, you have to be saving at least double digits of your net, after maxing your 401k/403b/etc and IRA(s). I agree with all the other posters that rent is the biggest problem, as well as frivolous items like cabs. In my 10 years here, I’ve taken less than a dozen cab not for work (read: not expensed).

              Here are some personal data points:

              I moved to NYC in 2004, and my first job here was $55k/year. I got promoted up to $70k/year in 2008, before I switched to a job that payed $115k/year (consulting after b-school).

              – $16k (13k 401 and 3k IRA)
              = $39k

              Forget what the effective tax rate was, but I think it was around 20% (fed+state+city), so:

              $31k / 26 = $1200 per biweekly paycheck.

              What made this work:
              -I’ve never paid more than $900/month for rent in NY
              -I’ve never paid for cable, only Netflix and now Hulu
              -All of the free NY events, especially during the summer
              -Etc, etc.

              I have to admit, money was very tight the first year or two I was here. But not throwing money away on rent made the most difference. Looking back, those expenses were all peanuts compared to the daycare and pre-school costs I shell out for 2, soon to be 3 kids these days (way more than my mortgage+maintenance).

        3. I have to agree…anyone spending 100% of their paycheck every month while at the same time spending hundreds of dollars on takeout is not living frugally. Period. Whether you’re living in New York or San Francisco or Tuscaloosa, doesn’t matter.

    2. He maxes out his 401(k) meaning he’s saving 17.5% of his annual income every year and you think he’s being financially irresponsible?

      What are you smoking? Have you ever lived in Manhattan? Long Island is not Manhattan. Not even close so stop confusing the two.

      I currently live in Manhattan and think his expenses are very reasonable.

      1. I don’t smoke and I’m not remotely confused. Everything raised in objection to my comments has already been asked and answered, both by me and by others in this thread. The man is living beyond his means, and that’s all I intend to say on the subject.

        1. We’re back on this after six months? But to answer your question: it’s fine (more than fine) to save 17.5% in the 401(k), but that’s money he can’t touch without penalties until he’s 59.5. What I don’t see from your description is that he has any savings otherwise, and in my opinion it’s a good idea to set aside not so much a percentage but at least 6-8 months of *necessary* (that is, not cabs, drinks, entertainment, eating out, vacations, etc.) expenses in ready cash in case of an emergency like job loss, uncovered medical or dental bills, what have you. It’s also not clear whether he has any debt of any kind such as student loan or credit card debt. But even if he has such savings and no debt, burning through 100% of one’s paycheck is silly, “whether you’re living in New York or San Francisco or Tuscaloosa, doesn’t matter.”

          Otherwise I haven’t changed my mind one bit from my previous replies. And when I discussed your friend with some friends of my own who live in Manhattan, they all shook their heads in disbelief.

          1. So your friends are a bullish anecdote. Makes me happy that more people are shaking their heads at people who only save 17.5%. Shows that people are much wealthier than the doomsday media.

            Perhaps my friend feels OK to only save 18% bc his parents are well off as a doctor and engineer who paid for his med school tuition.

            1. Sorry Samuari I have to agree with Larry. The point he is making is that having accessible cash is smart AS WELL as the 18% for 401K. However, if your friend has parents who will take care of emergencies and debt payments than I guess he is a okay! Must be nice to have parents who will take care of you in your mid to late 30’s, and has paid for your education.

              I was raised by a single mom middle class mom so I have to have accessible cash saved. I do not invest 18% of my 100K+ income, I only do 10% for now, as my salary increases I increase the percentage.

    3. I love to live in Long Island, I can pay for the mortgage of my house for the price of one bedroom apartment in the city, there are a lot of things to do and is the perfect place to raise kids. I am 10 minutes from the beach. the down side I telecommute everyday to the city, but there is not other place on earth like NY.

  116. This won’t affect your budgeting but a monthly unlimited metrocard is $112.

    I agree that for Manhattan proper shares are $1K/mo, studios $2K/mo, and 1br $3K/mo. Decrease all that for any borough where you will get much more for less and your commute to work can still be 15mins-30mins.

    Cabs aren’t a necessity especially if you’re not out late or doing a lot of drinking. I have never once thought about taking a cab instead of standing for 5 measly minutes on a hot subway platform. Just depends on your values for that one though.

    The true key is to know where to go. First, become a regular. Whether it’s a bar or bagel place, sometimes you’ll get little freebies if you’re at the same place often. Also, there are LOTS of happy hours around since there is so much competition. Most will have discounts on alcohol & food.

    I don’t doubt that Fairway has expensive produce. In Manhattan I’d suggest stopping by any of those little fruit stands on the sidewalk – they are usually cheaper and you can negotiate prices.

    The $200 entertainment category surprises me. Since moving here I spend <$50/mo on entertainment, much less than in other places. There are so many free entertainment options! Lots of comedy shows are free, many free parties, free book signings/launch parties, free lectures/discussions, free trivia/competitions, free live music, free theater performances, free story telling, free book clubs, free movies in the summer, free museum hours, etc!

    1. Getting fruit from vendors on the street really is the way to go. The very next day I walked by a fella selling the same cherries for 40% cheaper.

      Spending only $50/m on entertainment is impressive. I don’t know many shows that charge much less than $50 a ticket in NYC. I like the free stuff too. Sometimes the really good stuff always costs money.

      1. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

        Look into standing room, rush, and lottery policies. I’d say I pay about $30 on average to see a Broadway show. And Leslie is right on about the freebies. Never have I encountered as many free things as I have in NYC. puts out a list every day.

  117. W/r/t the breakdown of a $100k salary, there are a lot of things your friend could be doing to live more cheaply that would have a minimal impact on his quality of life. Living in Manhattan is expensive, but Brooklyn is much cheaper per square foot. Cabs are absolutely NOT an “inevitability,” and certainly not to the tune of $100/mo. Eating out 30 times per month is a lot. And so on and so forth. I don’t buy that it’s so hard to live in Manhattan on $100k, even if you’re not living like a college student (which is how I lived when I was there!).

    1. $100k is the beginning/cut off of a comfortable life where you can save $17,500/year, spend a reasonable amount and enjoy the shows. Certainly living on less happens all the time. I just think it makes finances tight with a big necessity to budget and be disciplined to follow the budget.

    2. I personally tend to agree with Laura. As someone who generally lives frugally and who has also lived in NYC for a few years, I feel that I enjoyed quite a bit on a much smaller budget.

      However, Sam’s point is completely valid insomuch as that his values are very different from mine (and likely yours too, Laura). That said, I’d personally prefer qualifications around quality-of-life assessments in posts like this; ie. “so you can see that with what many consider a reasonable-but-not-necessarily plush lifestyle, a $foo-k salary …”

      Part of why I personally chose to avoid finance in NYC was the price combined with a “potential” for large performance bonuses. I felt that early in my career taking on the risk of simply not getting paid based on market conditions wasn’t something I wanted. However, I can now toy with the idea of seeing what actually happens since my risk tolerance has increased with a more solid financial base.

  118. It can definitely be tough living in expensive parts of the country. We live in Boston, which is not New York’s level but is still in the expensive range and it’s definitely frustrating sometimes. But it’s also a choice. We don’t have to live here. We choose to and there are consequences. If we don’t like those consequences we can find another option. I also think it really depends on what you deem to be a fun lifestyle. For some people the lifestyle outlined above is unacceptably low. For others it might be totally fine, or even a little more than they need. It’s a really personal question.

    I will say that you can live in Manhattan for less than $3,300 per month. My brother and his girlfriend have a 1-bedroom in the lower east side that I think is $2000-2200 and it’s pretty nice. It’s not huge, but it’s better than your typical post-college apartment. It’s possibly that they just got lucky, but when you’re talking about your biggest non-retirement expense, it’s worth making sure you explore all of your options.

    1. $2,200 for a one bedroom is a great deal! Just got to search I guess. These deals seem few and far between. If a couple can live in a one bedroom for $2,200, then Manhattan isn’t that expensive at all.

  119. I think roommates and living in less popular areas are a big part of making it work in expensive cities. All of my friends in NYC live with at least one other person (if not more) and when I’ve lived in expensive cities (though not quite NYC expensive), the key was always for me to live outside of the trendy zone. Living a couple miles away in a more blue collar area, I had a studio steps away from the beach for just a little more than half of what friends who lived in the uber-trendy area were paying. (And they were actually further from the beach than I was!) Even now, our little town is just outside of a really wealthy enclave. So I get a lot of the perks of the wealthy area by traveling a couple miles, but don’t pay the premium of actually living in that zip code.

    1. Tis true. Just wondering when one will start getting sick of living with roommates. It’s been 10 years since I had to share a place other than with a SO, and I don’t think there’s anyway I can go back.

      1. Nightvid Cole

        I bet if circumstances forced you to live with roommates again for 6 months, you’d wonder how you ever forgot how to manage it!

        It’s called Hedonic Adaptation and is closely related to Money Burning a Hole in Your Pocket.

  120. My Multiple Incomes

    I’ve seen some people who do not make a lot of money survive in an expensive city and most of them managed to do so by changing their lifestyles or by being flexible to make certain changes on their expenses. Though, I think we still need to be frugal even when we are earning a lot.

    1. I agree. I made 6 figures (and less beforehand) in NYC (Astoria then Brooklyn) and I never would have dreamed of spending more than $1400 on rent. Most of the time, I shared an apartment and my part was less than $800. People don’t have to have a one bedroom if they can’t afford it. Nothing wrong with having roommates while you continue to save.

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