Each year thousands of new residents move to New York City in hopes of experiencing the unique confluence of culture, fashion, art, finance, and food the city has to offer. Yet living in NYC and enjoying all it has to offer can quickly become very expensive – the average cost of living in New York City is 68% higher than the rest of the country, with popular neighborhoods being even more expensive. Between steep rent prices, expensive meals, and the occasional Broadway tickets, the city can easily burn through even the thickest of wallets. Before moving to the city, it’s imperative to know the cost of living in the Big Apple.
Average Rent in NYC
New York City is a city filled with renters (46% of NY residents rent their homes and 63% of those renters live in New York City), and over three-quarters of low income households in NYC spend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent. Choosing a neighborhood will make or break the price of rent – trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan often have the most expensive real estate. Many of the lower Manhattan neighborhoods such as Chelsea, NoMad, and the West Village have pricier rents, and as you move farther away from the center of Manhattan rent decreases. Greenwich Village (a downtown neighborhood known for bars, cafes, and Off-Broadway theatres) has an average rent price of $5,400 for a one bedroom apartment, whereas the average rent price in Washington Heights (uptown and a short subway ride away from Times Square) is just $2,288 for a one bedroom apartment.
Many New Yorkers combat these high rent prices by having roommates – the price per bedroom decreases dramatically in larger apartments, making it more expensive to live alone. In Downtown Brooklyn, a two bedroom apartment costs an average of $5,843 per month ($2,921.50 per bedroom) whereas the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood is $4,125. Some NYC residents will even build “flex walls” (temporary wall additions that don’t go all the way to the ceiling) to create additional rooms and divide up space between roommates.
Average Utilities Cost in NYC
The cost of utilities widely differs depending on your lease agreement. Landlords are required to provide heat and water – so there’s rarely any extra charges for those. However, other charges like electricity, internet, etc. may be yours to bear. You can ask when touring the apartment which utilities are covered additionally in the price of rent, and the real estate agent or landlord can often give you an idea of what the average utility costs are for the building.
The cost of electricity in NYC is 9% higher than the rest of the country. According to Energy Sage, the average New Yorker spends about $216 per month on electricity. While this is an average statistic, your electricity bill widely depends on how much electricity you use; unplugging lamps and small appliances when not in use can help cut costs.
While electric bills run more expensive in NYC, internet/wi-fi expenses are the same in the city as the rest of the country. Unfortunately, not all internet services are available at every apartment. The landlord or real estate agent can tell you what internet services are available in your building. Prices range depending on the company – Verizon Fios has internet (300Mbps) for just $25 per month, whereas Optimum offers the same speed of internet at $40 per month. Renters can also frequently save on utilities like cable TV by bundling them together with internet.
Public Transportation Costs in NYC
Transportation costs look very different in New York City, as many residents don’t own cars. A single ride on the subway or public bus costs $2.75, and compared to other public transport systems that price by length of ride, one subway swipe allows a rider to travel as far as they please. For frequent riders, weekly unlimited Metrocards are available for $33 and monthly unlimited Metrocards cost $127. All cards are reloadable (except the single-ride card), and new cards cost $1. You can also eliminate the need for a Metrocard entirely by using MTA’s tap-to-pay system, available with contactless cards, smartphones, and wearable devices. The OMNY tap-to-pay system also tracks how many rides per week you have taken, and after 12 rides in a week (with the week officially starting on Mondays) all rides are free.
Parking Costs in NYC
Though many New Yorkers abstain from owning a car, having a private vehicle can provide great advantages. Taking a weekend getaway trip is far easier without the hassle of renting a car or taking a bus or train. Additionally, car owners can easily transport large objects like furniture without needing to hire movers. The biggest downside of owning a car in NYC is parking – storing a car is either expensive or a hassle.
Street parking is free but inconvenient, as it is both spatially limited and frequently restricted due to street cleaning. Many NYC residents who choose to park on the street have to move their cars every week to avoid getting a ticket. A street cleaning ticket costs $65 if you live on 96th Street or below in Manhattan, and $45 for anywhere else, including Brooklyn. If not parking on the street, residents can expect to pay hefty charges to park in a garage. Monthly garage parking in the Lower East Side costs $549, whereas parking in Harlem is just $199. Many vehicle owners will live in one neighborhood and park in another to cut costs.
Uber, Lyft, and Taxis Costs in NYC
For those who don’t own cars, Uber and Lyft are great apps for ridesharing, or you can take a classic yellow taxi. Uber and Lyft give you a flat-rate fee for the distance of travel, and won’t charge extra for traffic or detours. Unfortunately, these apps still hike up prices in NYC – according to the New York Post, a 6.2 mile Uber ride in NYC will cost an average of $34.74, making New York the most expensive city to travel via Uber. Taxis can sometimes be more affordable, but can be less predictable. If a taxi driver gets stuck in gridlock traffic or needs to take a different street, it could mean spending extra money on the ride. Curb is a popular app that connects yellow and green cabs to riders, while providing up-front pricing. Though the average car ride is expensive, most New York residents don’t ride in cars every day. Adopting a car-free lifestyle or taking less frequent car trips can be a great way to save money.
Food Costs in NYC
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average NYC household spent an average of $3,706 in a year on dining outside of the home, though this statistic is highly variable depending on where you choose to eat. There are countless pizza spots where a slice is just $1, or places like Fried Dumpling where you can get 30 frozen dumplings for just $6. New York is known for food stalls and carts that have great food for low prices, and local bodegas can be great spots to get deli sandwiches, bagels, or a famous chopped cheese. While these options aren’t suitable for every meal, they are a staple in most New Yorkers’ diets. Conversely, popular midtown restaurants like The Skylark charge $15 for french fries or $19 for chips and guacamole.
NYC has many options for household groceries, and the prices vary depending on location. NYC doesn’t have popular grocery chains like Walmart, Meijer, or Kroger, so many locals turn to stores such as FoodTown or Bravo, which offer a wide selection of groceries for a reasonable price. Trader Joes is also one of the most popular and cost effective options in the city, with great variety and fair trade options. Farmer’s markets are also highly favored in the city – the Union Square Green Market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays year round and offers cheaper produce than you can find in most grocery stores. Though prices vary, a family of four can expect to spend around $950 monthly on groceries, whereas a single person can expect to spend between $200-300 per month.
Entertainment Expenses in NYC
While food, rent, and utilities are all necessities, New York City has a myriad of opportunities for entertainment. Broadway shows, sporting events, cocktail bars, and museums are just a few things that make New York so tantalizing to outsiders and enjoyable for residents. The average New Yorker spends about $3,221 per year on entertainment and alcoholic beverages, be that at a movie theater, Broadway show, or sporting event. These leisure activities can quickly become expensive, but there are ways to cut costs and have a great time in NYC on a budget.
Most Broadway shows have lotteries, where residents can enter daily for the chance to win discounted tickets. If selected from the raffle, you can buy up to two tickets for as low as $40 a piece. These seats are often in prime locations, sometimes in the orchestra section or even box seats. Some Broadway shows also offer “rush tickets,” where ticket buyers can show up to the box office in the early morning (sometimes as early as 4AM for popular shows) and wait in line to purchase last-minute tickets.
New York is also home to some of the most famous museums in the world; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art all are within a few miles of each other and display some of the most renowned art pieces of all time. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (located on the East side of Central Park) offers pay-what-you-can admission for all New York State residents and New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York students. Though the Guggenheim charges $25 for adult admission, they also have pay-what-you-wish hours on Saturday from 6-8PM. Similarly, the MOMA offers free admission to New York City residents on the first Friday of every month from 4-8PM, whereas adult admission is regularly $25. There are also many completely free museums in NYC, such as the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Folk Art Museum. Not to mention, NYC is also home to many unique museums as well!
Sports, cocktails, and everything in-between
Besides the rich art culture in New York, the city is also home to multiple professional sports teams, swanky cocktail bars, and attractions like paint-and-sip nights, pottery classes, and comedy shows. Many New Yorkers go out frequently and enjoy using the city as their playground, full of social events and entertainment. A New York Yankees game can cost as much as $500 per ticket or as little as $29 per seat, depending on how close to home plate you’d like to sit. For residents on a budget, sites like Groupon and ClassPass can be great ways to get discounts on everyday luxuries like massages, workout classes, or bowling nights. For an everyday outing, happy hour at a bar can be a great way to enjoy a beverage with friends without breaking the bank.
Everything adds up
Though living in NYC can be a phenomenally rewarding experience, it can also be an expensive one. Before moving to the city, it’s important not only to consider rent, utility, and food costs, but also the price of entertainment and leisure in the city. Living in the city can be a challenge, but with careful budgeting any newcomer can find great success in the concrete jungle.