Where Can I Live in NYC on My Budget?

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Whether you're new to living in New York City or you're just looking for a cheaper place to live, remember when it comes to real estate, it's all about location. If you're on a budget and trying to save some cash, New York City isn't the easiest place to do it thanks to the high cost of groceries, exorbitant market, and added transportation expenses

Everything here just costs more. Remember that, yeah, you might be making bank in NYC, but that doesn't mean you necessarily get to put more of that moolah in the bank. That higher salary will cover the supremely gross cost of living that permeates every wallet in the city. Instead, recognize that rents are astronomically high and you are probably not going to dwell in your Sex and the City-inspired rent-controlled dream apartment. It's true: according toBusiness Insider, the cost of living in NYC costs more than double the national average (with rent for a Manhattan apartment averaging $3,667). Before you feel like the Big Apple has taken a bite of your wallet, look into more affordable neighborhoods where you can live in New York City.

Hopefully you've already determined just how much rent you can afford each month. Now comes the tough part–where can you find a decent place to live with that kind of budget? Before you go browsing through nakedapartment.com and Craigslist, evaluate your needs, wants, and situation first.

Needs

Do you need to have a car with you in the city, or is it more important for you to have plenty of public transportation options? Do you need a cheap one-bedroom, or are you looking for a place that you can live with a few roommates? How close do you really need to be to work? Consider proximity to laundromats versus having an in-house washer and dryer along with all the other practical matters of day-to-day living, and be honest with yourself about what you can live with and what you absolutely can't. Remember, the key here is to identify your needs, not your wants.

Wants

Now that you recognize your needs, you can think about your ideal place to live. Do you prefer a quiet, suburban feel, or do you want to be in the heart of shopping, restaurants, and clubs? Maybe you're willing to put up with a longer commute if your new place is in a residential, tree-lined neighborhood.

On the other hand, you moved to the city to be in the heart of it all, so you'll take more of the concrete-jungle scenery and proximity to trains instead. How long will it take you to commute to work from this neighborhood, and is that something you can realistically do every day? Prioritize this list of wants and understand that you might be lucky just to find an affordable place that also features one or two of your ‘want' items.

Living situation

You might want to consider taking on a roommate or two, which can be one of the best ways to save money and afford living in the city. Before signing a lease agreement, make sure you and your potential roomie(s) are on the same page when it comes to basic house rules (such as pets, overnight guests, parties, and sharing common spaces). It's also wise to hash out how you'll handle expenses like utilities, internet bills, and cable/streaming services so everyone's on the same page from the get-go. From saving on rent to splitting internet bills, you'll find many of your bills slashed in half just from taking on a roommate.

Tips to keep in mind

  1. See what your rent includes
    In New York City, landlords are legally required to provide heat and hot water to their tenants, along with trash removal. Other fees may or may not be included in the rent, so make sure you find out and see it all in writing before signing a lease..
  2. Consider proximity to transportation
    And be honest about how much you're willing to walk back and forth from the subway station (and doing so while alone and at night). In NYC, walking distance and train availability is everything, and landlords know it.
  3. Cheaper always equals fewer conveniences
    A walk-up on the fourth floor (or higher) will cost less. So will a railroad apartment or a neighborhood way out of the way. Where are you willing to make concessions? What kind of amenities are you willing to go without? Remember, you might not have a dishwasher, an in-unit washer and dryer, or air conditioning. These things might matter to you, or they might not. Prioritize what matters most, and begin your apartment hunt accordingly!

Remember, it's possible for you to live in your dream neighborhood if you can find a way to afford it (getting roommates, going without luxuries, earning more income), or you can score a sweet rental that might not be in your ideal location–just don't expect to find both! There are loads of neighborhoods in New York City that can satisfy your needs, wants, and living situation. For this article, "affordable" means in the ballpark of $1,500-$2,500–still sounds high, but it's an entire grand or two less than standard Manhattan digs. Some affordable NYC neighborhoods that you might want to look at include:

The Bronx:

  • Mott Haven (rents starting at $1,450 for a 1-bedroom)
    • Kingsbridge (rents starting at $1,450 for a 1-bedroom)

    Brooklyn:

    • Flatbush (rents starting at $1,300 for a studio)
    • Kensington (rents starting at $1,260 for a studio)
    • Crown Heights (rents starting at $1,600 for a 1-bedroom)

    Queens:

    • Jackson Heights (rents starting at $1,625 for a 1-bedroom)
    • Forest Hills (rents starting at $1,450 for a studio)
    • Elmhurst (rents starting at $1,500 for a studio)
    • Astoria (rents starting at $1,450 for a studio)

    Staten Island:

    • St. George (rents starting at $1,600 for a 2-bedroom)

    Manhattan:

    • Inwood (rents starting at $1,600 for a 1-bedroom)
    • Washington Heights (rents starting at $1,550 for a 1-bedroom)
    • Harlem (rents starting at $1,600 for a 1-bedroom)