Before I moved to New York City, so many people warned me about the cost of living and expressed their concerns about money and whether or not I’d “make it work.” Of course I was concerned about this myself, but I was determined to make sure I could do it and afford to live in New York City—and STILL have a life!

I’ve come up with some tips and tricks to make sure living in the big city is practical and achievable so that you can afford all your monthly bills and still have some left over to enjoy yourself and take in all that New York City has to offer!

1. Map out your monthly budget

Add up all of your monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, cell phone, memberships, groceries, student loans, and any other monthly payments you are obligated to make. From there, you should be able to figure out how much you have left over for additional spending per month. This will also give you an idea of how much flexibility you have for social activities. Once you have a rough figure in mind, spend some time on the Internet for activities you can do that will help you enhance your English skills. Maybe find an off-Broadway show that offers cheap tickets on Sunday afternoons; read the plot in English before you visit the show so you can appreciate the acting and singing more since you already know the storyline. Bonus: reading the plot in English then watching it in English will cement your language fluidity for sure!

2. Never pass up free!

Keep an eye out in your neighborhood for new businesses opening—usually within their first week’s opening, they’ll invite the community to try out samples, hand out free goodies, or offer complimentary services to generate new customers. If you’re feeling brave and looking to save a few bucks, visit a beauty school for a haircut—they will either offer free or massively discounted services to allow their students to practice on real human heads! And of course, there are endless museums in the city that offer free admission—and that’s priceless for a taste of New York City culture! Interacting will all these divisions in the city will definitely enhance your English speaking and learning skills, and before you know it, you’ll be having casual conversations with your new hairdresser or neighbor without even realizing you’re speaking in fluent English!

3. Just say no

If you say no to just a few things each month, you might notice that you’re tucking away money bit by bit each month. It can be so easy to drop $12 here for lunch or $16 there for a cab ride; but as they all say, all those little expenses add up very quickly, and by the end of the month, you could be looking at your bank statement wondering, “Where did all my money go?” I found that if I’m invited out to a happy hour for a birthday celebration, and I know I should be keeping an eye on my finances, I’ll accept the invitation but instead stick to drinking water (free!)—this way I won’t be spending my money, AND I won’t miss out on the social experience! It might be a bummer at first to turn down a lot of experiences that others may participate in, but ultimately I guarantee you’ll feel better about your finances, and you won’t experience what I call “spender’s guilt.” Plus, it’s definitely easier to practice your English when you’re sober!

4. Check out discount stores

At first I felt embarrassed about shopping at Goodwill stores or dollar stores, but ultimately, my wallet thanks me. If you have the time and the patience to sift through the clothing racks at Goodwill or second-hand stores, I say go for it. Almost all of my work wardrobe is from these stores, and I get compliments on my clothing all the time—when people ask me where I got my top, I proudly announce, “the Goodwill store on 88th and 2nd.” Their reaction is priceless, and I walk away knowing that I paid $3 for my blouse while my coworker spent $40 on hers. I buy my shampoo and toothpaste at the dollar store because no one will be able to tell how much I spent just from my hair. Cheaper doesn’t always necessarily mean worse, and more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Category : New York