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New York: How To Make the Most Of It On A Budget

New York: How To Make the Most Of It On A Budget

After just having returned from a month in New York, I am definitely in love with the city. The big problem is that the Big Apple is also certainly a place that will take a big bite out of your savings if you ever decide to go there.

I’m certainly no millionaire and I managed to not only love every minute of my time but to also leave without a mountain of debt to face now that I’m back home. Here are some easy-to-follow tips for you to be able to do the same thing.

New York Living

Depending on how long you are planning to stay in the city, accommodation will almost certainly be your biggest outgoing. The best solution, and the one I was incredibly lucky to benefit from on my first stay there, is to find a place through a friend. Getting somewhere for free is a real long-shot, as everybody in the city suffers to pay the rent to some extent, but it is not impossible. Utilize your social media channels to tell people where you going and when. You never know how happenstance and a great stroke of luck might help you live it up in a two bedroom new build in Williamsburg.

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If you can’t find a friend to give you a hand, check out Craigslist. Americans use this a lot more than the rest of the world and you can often find better deals on here than those that appear on Airbnb. If you don’t mind sharing, there are also quite a lot of decent hostel options, but for the cheapest prices, you need to understand that you will be sleeping with around 16 other people in a dorm every night!

Embrace Deli Culture

During my first week in New York, I was a little bit wary of the endless options of delis offering freshly made sandwiches. This was a big mistake on my part as I soon learned that delis are the best way to eat really well without burning a hole in your pocket.

Eating out in New York is incredibly expensive by European standards unless you are happy to eat fast food for the duration of your stay. This might see you saving a lot of money, but it certainly won’t do your health much good.

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With most supermarket products also being a lot more expensive than they are in all of the other places I’ve ever been in my life, a good deli is a perfect place to get yourself some freshly made food at a price that isn’t going to want you to start missing meals to save cash.

Walk

New York is enormous and the underground service whilst being extensive is almost pretty jam packed and quite pricey at $2.75 per trip. Bearing this in mind, the best thing to do is to first buy a weekly Metro card so that you can travel as much as you like for $30. The subway is essential because of the sheer size of the city, but nobody wants to spend half of their holiday underground.

For me one of the most enjoyable ways to truly experience the city was to simply walk for miles through its endless streets. In Manhattan, you can easily jump off the subway and then stroll around Central Park before wandering the highly exclusive uptown parts of Fifth, Park, and Madison Avenue before diving down into tourist territory around Times Square.

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Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Union Square, Chinatown, Little Italy. All of these places are so varied and interesting that to really make the most of your experience you should just allow yourself to wander and see where your feet take you. Not only will you begin to feel like a part of the city, you’ll also not be spending any money by doing so. Clocking up the miles on foot is also great for your health.

Culture Vulture Tips and Tricks

New York is arguably the most important city in the world. For this reason, it’s also home to some of the best art that can be found anywhere. Unlike London, where almost all museums are free, in New York, you have to pay your way. This is annoying if you’re on a budget, but it’s not completely true.

The majority of the major museums do have admission fees, but in brackets, you will see that the stated price is only the “suggested” one that you should pay. If you are not flush with money, there is absolutely no shame in paying the person on the ticket office exactly what you can genuinely afford to pay.

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Another huge advantage that culture vultures have in New York is that this is a city where the art world is also incredibly active in terms of buying and selling. This means that in Chelsea you will find gallery after gallery featuring works by some of the world’s greatest living and deceased artists in small exhibitions that are completely free of charge to enter. In one afternoon, I saw small exhibitions by Rothko, Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei, and William Eggleston all without spending a dime.

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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