5 Tips on How to Make it in New York City

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Make it in New York City, even with a $25k salary.

Even though it was far away, my friends and I grew up dreaming of the big city.  I needed to know How to Make it in New York City.  Also, New York City always was always associated with high class and represented lifestyle and money.  In addition, the city also provided a vast range of choices in architecture, culture, music, and entertainment.  I came to visit New York City for the first time in 1983 and stayed with my uncle in the UWS.  First of all, the city roared of new technology (I’m thinking Walkman or Color on a TV) and everyone was well-dressed with a solid east coast swagger. Truly, it was at that moment I told myself; I want to make it in New York and make it my home.

The Reality of a Roaring City: Make it in New York City

New York comprises 5 boroughs connected by the Hudson River into the Atlantic Ocean.  Not to mention, the city boasts a high level of density with over 8 million in population.  We also house some of the most iconic structures in the world such as The Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Central Park, The Empire State Building, and Times Square.  As a result, the city of New York also incurs a high level of taxes required to upkeep this beautiful city and the metro system.

Real Estate Prices

New York builds up.  We have no more space to expand (if we are talking Manhattan only) with huge potential in Long Island City.  Also, Real Estate companies here in Manhattan live in a very volatile environment with an aggressive market.  For this reason, studies made comparisons of New York with Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami.

“For instance, the average price per square foot in Manhattan currently sits at $1,773, according to NeighborhoodX’s analysis. In comparison, San Francisco is a distant second with $1,185/square foot, followed by Boston at a $751/square foot, and Los Angeles at a $451/square foot.“ –Tanay Warerkar from Curbed New York

#1 Tip on How to Make it in New York City

Housing – First of all, you have no choice here. With a yearly budget of $25k you are restricted to; a roommate anywhere in the city, or living above 168th  By the way, there are awesome places to live in Washington Heights, Fort Washington, etc. at very affordable prices.

  • Air conditioning.  With this in mind, we started with one spot air cooler, instead of two AC’s one in each room (living-room and bedroom). Unfortunately, studio apartments have no choice.  Also, try to move on the third floor so you can sometimes leave the window open.  If you do, set up a fan pointing outward in one room, and a fan pointing inward in the second room.
  • Negotiate your contract properly. If you have a good track record you can ask for a reduction in the deposit.  Also, try to get 50% of your deposit back after the first year of rent.
  • Try to get an apartment close to the metro for easier accessibility

#2 Tip on How to Survive New York

Food – The food category is a bit tricky because people move to New York to experience the culture.  Needless to say, food is a great part of the New York experience.  You must be ultra-conservative with your expenses in order to survive.  My wife is a huge advocate of the good life and healthy eating.  With that said, it is a bit challenging to keep a healthy diet with a $25k budget considering all your fixed expenses.  Thanks to her health knowledge and some creativity, we could come pretty close to eating healthy. “

*see Foods You Can Afford list and **2 Daily Sample “New York City Tight Budget” Food Schedule.

#3 Tip on How to Make it in New York City

Utilities and Cost of Living – Little Things Count. We had a few interesting experiences along the way.  Most of all, we made a tough decision to budget our entire life until things picked up.

  • Get a metro pass for $120. In particular, the pass works for 5 boroughs (if train accessible) and works for buses also.
  • Cable – We decided to get the internet only instead of an entire cable package. We ended up getting Amazon Prime because of the overall value-added package.  As a result, we had a decent tv show and movie line-up.
  • Air conditioner – We ran the air conditioner on a tight schedule and sometimes up at 72-75 (vs. the 65 I’m used to) after 12:30 pm.

#4 Tip on How to Make it in The Big Apple

Nightlife, Food, and the Entertainment – We believed humans need rewarding. In addition, we believed in unplugging and releasing our stress during the week.  Also, we included a small percentage of our salary to a good meal at a restaurant or a few drinks with our friends.  There are people who find a job where their company covers the cost of both doing business and having fun.  Unfortunately, you cannot allocate more than $350 / month in this kind of entertainment.  For us, it was an $87 weekly party budget we could use for dinner @Broadway and 178th or bowling in Times Square.

#5 Tip on How to Make it in New York

Miscellaneous and The B Plan – Finally, catastrophe always happens. We are not able to see the future.  Also, New York City is unforgiven and merciless.  The city takes and takes all the times and one must be strong to withstand its demands.  As a result, you should always be prepared with a savings of at least $5k in the bank.  For example, we had to make an unexpected trip to Europe and it was a $4k minimum expense.  Consequently, the trip would have been impossible without the backup of some sort of savings.  Always be prepared.

See ***The “Oh Shit Just Happened” B-Plan

As a matter of fact, it is possible to make it in New York City with a budget of $25k per year.  Moreover, there are areas of the budget demanding more attention than others.  I personally think Food and Entertainment take the biggest toll.  Nonetheless, a person must be committed to a budget in order to survive New York City.


*Foods You Can Afford

Here are some healthy foods you can afford to buy with a tight budget in New York City:

  • Vegetables. Lots of them. – New York does provide a LOT OF vegetable choices.  Also, you can find vegetable stands on the street as well as bodegas and supermarkets.
  • Brown rice, also grains
  • Beans, lentils, and nuts
  • Chicken – surprisingly, meat and fish are fresh and healthy in the city (the organic version) especially the chicken

**2 Daily Sample “New York City Tight Budget” Food Schedule:

Sample #1

Breakfast – Yogurt, also fruit
Lunch – Lentil soup and 2 boiled eggs
Dinner – Salad with tuna

Sample #2

Breakfast – Bowl of cereal, fruit
Lunch – Chicken breast, a bowl of vegetable, fruit juice
Dinner – Salad with roasted Brussel sprouts

***The “Oh Shit Just Happened” also, B-Plan Numbers:

  • Apartment Emergency = minimum $175
  • Rent = $1,200
  • Internet reconnect fees = $100
  • Metro pass = $120
  • Average meal = $8
  • Car rental = $175
  • Taxi to the airport = $60
  • Hotel night = $195