During my senior year of college, my roommates and I spent countless hours watching “Sex and the City” marathons, preparing for our move to New York City. We had it all figured out: we would find great Upper East Side apartments, shimmy to midtown to our fabulous jobs, and spend our evenings in various Village wine bars searching for the perfect man.
Saving Money In NYC: It Can Be Tough
The realities of living in New York City were not those of the HBO series. My apartment on the glorious UES was the size of Carrie’s walk-through closet, my fabulous midtown job took up 14 hours of my day, and my evenings were filled with take-out and the occasional spin class. After a few months of living in New York, I began noticing that those long hours at the office were not translating into a healthy balance in my bank account. I would never be able to afford Manolo Blahniks at this pace!
I examined my spending habits and made some startling discoveries. It wasn’t just the big purchases that were making a dent in my checking balance. It was the smaller increments of money I was spending on daily or weekly purchases–spending that had gone unnoticed. Here are some of the areas where my money was steadily disappearing, and the solutions that helped me put padding back into my finances.
Solutions That Helped Me Save Money
1. Breakfast and lunch (-$5,000 a year): I was shocked to find out that I was spending $20 a day on breakfast, lunch and various snacks. In order to save thousands of dollars over the course of a year, I invested in a coffee maker, travel mug and stylish lunch bag. I bought the necessary ingredients when I had a free moment over the weekend and found that preparing my own food was not only good for my wallet, but also for my waist!
2. Cabs (-$2,000 a year): Cab fares add up! I was spending $40 a week on cab fares. The weekends were especially bad, as I jetted around the city fulfilling all sorts of social obligations in 4-inch heels. To cut down the cost of my commuting, I invested in a pair of sensible flats that fit nicely into my purse and started taking the subway.
3. Pampering (-$1,000 a year): Every girl loves to be pampered. It seems that each block on the UES featured a $20 mani/pedi special, which seems hard to pass up… until the costs really rack up. I began limiting my visits to the local nail salon, invested in some pretty OPI shades of my own, and only splurged occasionally. Sites such as Groupon offer great specials and salons in Brooklyn have lower priced services.
4. Working out and looking great (between -$1,200 and -$3,000 a year): Expenses such as a gym membership, specialty workout studios (bar method, spinning, yoga), spray tanning and teeth whitening all quickly add up. Look for online specials and determine realistically what you can spend. Remember, a run in Central Park is always trendy (and free!).
5. Saving (+$2,400 a year): Ah, payday. Open a savings account and transfer $100-200 monthly automatically around the same time as you get paid. If your company offers a 401k savings plan, make sure to sign up for it and have the company transfer a set amount from your paycheck each month as savings for retirement. While you may feel that retirement is far away, returns on investment plans compound each year. It is never too early to start saving.
6. Credit cards (-depending on your outstanding balance, can add up with heavy annual finance charges): Credit cards lure us in with rewards points and 0% APRs for the first year. They also give us a false sense of financial availability. That $1,000 shopping spree sponsored by American Express carries consequences. The outstanding balance on your credit card is a liability against your assets, which when you are just starting out in an expensive, temptation filled city, are under constant strain.