Tag Archives: NYC

Baby #2 Has Arrived!

Baby #2
I’m happy to announce that Baby#2 has arrived in the Living Rich Cheaply family. Older brother has been very helpful with helping out with his little bro. And to long-time readers of this blog, unlike last time when we had an unintended home-birth because the doctors kept telling us it was not time yet, they didn’t dare send us home this time around.

I’ve really been struggling to post consistently and I’m sure having two little ones needing attention will make it doubly tough. How do you bloggers with kids and a full-time job juggle all of this?? I will definitely try to get back into the blogging groove though. When I originally started this blog about three years ago, it was because I didn’t find many personal finance bloggers who were trying to raise a family in the NYC area, which can be challenging because of its high costs of living. At the time, my wife was also planning on staying home with our first child so we would be living on one-income, making it even more challenging. Although opportunity knocked and she decided to accept a job opportunity that came unexpectedly. Now with two little ones, we started having conversations again of having one parent stay home with the kids at some point. We’ve also talked about whether we would move to a bigger place or a different neighborhood with more affordable housing (still in the NYC metro area though so the term “affordable” is relative). So let me leave you with some relevant posts that I’ve written about living in NYC with a family:

Is it Possible to Raise a Family in NYC?
This post goes over some of the pros and cons I find with living in NYC with a family. It’s something that is constantly on my mind. Part of me daydreams of living in a lower cost of living area, but it’s tough to leave a place I’ve known my entire life and where pretty much all our family and friends live. Plus, it’s an awesome city! Just expensive…

Is NYC Really that Expensive?
Yes, living in NYC is expensive, but it’s mainly because of the high cost of housing. Other than that, there are ways around keeping your costs relatively low living here.

Why Do You Live Where You Live?
This post goes over the reasons why people choose to live where they live. NYC is ranked the #2 most stressed city, so why am I still living here?

Small Baby, Small Apartment, Small Budget
Surprisingly, this is one of my most popular posts. I write about what baby stuff we use to conserve space since space is limited. We have since moved to a slightly bigger apartment, but conserving space is still a priority. And now with two kids, space is even more limited.

Frugal Dating Guide

Couple 01
Recently, I was chatting with a friend about the virtues of frugality and “living rich cheaply.” He responded, “it’s a lot easier for you to be frugal. You’re married. It’s expensive when you’re dating!” My friend has a point. I do remember those days as a single guy and it’s true that it isn’t easy being frugal when you’re dating…especially when you live in NYC. But, I think it’s still possible to do it frugally. Of course, I’m probably the last person you want to take dating advice from, so take it for what it’s worth. Or scroll down to the comments for input from people much more qualified in this area than I am!

According to Zoosk, a dating website, NYC is the most expensive city in the U.S when it comes to dating (costing $173.88), and Indianapolis is the cheapest city (costing $82.62). The cost of the date includes two movie tickets, two drinks, two cappuccinos, and dinner for two. According to Deutsche Bank’s “cheap date index,” a “cheap date” in NYC would cost $93, which includes McDonalds burgers, soft drinks, a movie, a few beers and a cab ride My friend likes to take his date to fancy restaurants to impress his date. I highly doubt that he’s taking them to McDonalds. I think many guys have this mindset. They feel the need to maintain an image and to show that they have money. However, I’ve come to realize that when you’re first getting to know someone, it makes little sense to spend a lot of money to “impress” her. You don’t know how the date will go and whether either of you guys have any chemistry. You’re better off going to a more casual, yet hip, place to get to know the person first. Furthermore, I think picking a fancy place can send the wrong message: that you’re trying too hard to impress her or buy her time. Here in NYC, even non-fancy restaurants can be pretty pricey. The type of person who is turned off by your selection of a less fancy restaurant might not be the right person for you anyway.

I think Thai restaurants are pretty affordable yet don’t give off the vibe of a cheap place. Alternatively, you might opt to meet up at a coffee shop instead. This way if you guys don’t hit it off, you won’t be stuck spending a whole meal together. In the “cheap date index,” it mentions movies as the go to activity for dates. However, I generally find movies make bad dates, especially when you’re first getting to know someone. You don’t get a chance to talk and to get to know that person when you’re sitting in a movie theater. Plus, movie tickets are expensive (about $15 per ticket and about $19 for 3-D movies, here in NYC).

Here are a few activities which are more fun and cost less than two movie tickets:
-Have a picnic
-go to a museum
-volunteer together
-go hiking
-go for a walk/run/bike ride
-go to the beach
-show off your cooking skills and make dinner for her

More specifically, in NYC,
-take a free ferry ride to Governor’s Island and go biking

Governor's Island

Governor’s Island


-Grab an oar and row a boat in Central Park or go kayaking on the Hudson River (it’s free!) There are the city parks which offer pedal boat, bike, paddle boat, and kayak rentals.
-Go for a walk on the Highline
-Be a kid again and ride the ferris wheel in Coney Island and then take a walk on the Boardwalk.
-In the winter time, grab your skates and go ice skating at Bryant Park
-I know I said no movies…but grab a picnic blanket and watch a movie on the lawn at Bryant Park

I understand that I’ve made the assumption that the guy is paying for the date. Maybe I’m kind of old school, but I still think that the guy should probably pay in the beginning. I also know that it’s possible to use coupons/groupons to save money, but I wouldn’t want to do that in the beginning either. Even if your date is a frugal gal, I think you should save your coupons until a little later on into the relationship. The most fun, enjoyable, memorable dates that I had with my wife didn’t cost a lot. I’m not saying that you should never spurge, just that it’s possible to have a good time without going broke.

What other tips do you have for those who are frugal and in the dating world? What other activities are fun but frugal?

Is it Possible to Raise a Family in NYC?

2994-Central Park-Bethesda Fountain

Of course it is! Many families in different income ranges are doing it everyday. But I ask this question because I have a few friends who have decided to move out of NYC after having kids. Some couples we know who haven’t had children yet are already planning to leave once they do have them. The reasons usually cited are the cost of living, being closer to family, and the blanket statement that NYC is a “terrible place to raise children.” Granted, most of these families are NYC transplants and have family in other parts of the country. I mentioned in a previous post, Why Do You Live Where You Live?, that one main reason we plan on staying here is because both my wife and I have family here. It doesn’t hurt that NYC is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Here are some reasons why raising a family in NYC is a good idea and some reasons why it’s tough to raise a family here.

Cons:
Cost of Housing

It is undeniable that living in NYC is expensive, significantly housing costs. We currently live in a one-bedroom apartment which is approximately 600 square feet. BUT, a small place is fine since our son is still a baby. Plus, you can optimize the area in a small apartment to maximize your usable space. We’re hoping to buy a co-op which will have a second bedroom. If we have more kids in the future, we can always get bunk beds for them! It probably is much tougher when kids are older though, but living in close quarters with your loved ones isn’t the worst thing in the world.

No outdoor space
Not having outdoor space like a backyard is related to the cost of housing. I remember fondly growing up having a backyard where we would have BBQs in the summer and my parents would buy a inflatable pool or turn on the sprinklers. Other than a balcony or a terrace, there usually aren’t any outdoor space options for apartment dwellers. BUT , you can use city parks as your backyard as there are public outdoor spaces in pretty much every neighborhood.
swing

Pros:

Entertainment options

I think Shannon from Financially Blonde summed it up best in a comment she made on my post, Why Do You Live Where You Live?, when she said:

Things may be cheaper and commutes may be easier outside of New York; however, you also find a lot less culture and activities for kids and adults other than shopping and eating. We took our now 8 year old son to the Met not too long ago, and he loved it. He just had a field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the kids found out they could have a sleep over in the blue whale room. We took him to his first Broadway show last month and he was riveted by the production and wants to see another. We recently watched a program on Nova about the rebuilding of Ground Zero and then went to Ground Zero to see the memorial and museum. We went to a Yankees game for $20 thanks to Groupon to see Derek Jeter play his last season. Living in NY is stressful, it’s hard work, it’s expensive, but if you take back from the city what you are putting into it, you get an amazing return on your investment.

There are tons of museums, zoos, and kid-friendly attractions here in NYC. There are always ways to go there at a discounted price, and there are also a lot of free entertainment options as well. Also, while I don’t want to make a blanket statement about problems in suburbia, I work in suburbia and live in the city (well Queens), and hear many problems related to under-aged teen drinking and drug use. I’m not saying that it’s not a problem in the city, it most certainly is, I do think that boredom in suburbia is one of the causes of drinking/drug use.
free events

Walkability/Public Transportation

One of the things I really like about living in NYC is that it is convenient and walkable. You don’t need a car to go everywhere. This was a big positive growing up too. I didn’t have to get a ride from my parents to go everywhere, which seems like the case with many kids in suburbia. When I was old enough to go out on my own, I could walk a few blocks to buy a slice of pizza, catch a movie at the local theater, or take the subway to Manhattan where there are even more entertainment options.

Different cultures/Diversity

You can see the world in just one city! You can have Dim Sum at an authentic Chinese Restaurant (no the local Chinese food takeout spot doesn’t have that). You can have a baleada or pupusa from an authentic Central American restaurant. There are also Dominican, Indian, Nepalese, Mexican restaurants, etc…you name it, they have it here. There is Chinatown, Little Italy, and various other communities where you can experience different cultures. I also love the fact that there are many neighborhoods which are very diverse and kids will be exposed to people of every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and class.

chinese restaurant

Is NYC Really That Expensive?

Freedom Tower
Yes it is. End of post. With the way I often complain about living in this high cost of living city, I was tempted to write that three word post. I have to admit, I am a bit of a complainypants about the costs of living in NYC. But is living in NYC really that expensive?

Well of course it is expensive. That is undeniable. NYC is often listed among the most expensive places to live in, both in the United States and worldwide. However, the biggest reason why NYC is so expensive is its housing costs.

The average rental price of apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn are crazy. According to the Daily News, the average rent in Manhattan is $3,902 and in Brooklyn $2,411. Home prices are equally obscene. In Manhattan, the average is $1,303,421 and in Brooklyn, it’s $959,907. The media loves to throw out those numbers to make a point, but I think most can find a suitable place for much less than the average rent and home price cited above. It is pretty much impossible to avoid the high cost of housing, unless you can somehow live rent free because a long lost relative left you a paid for apartment or some other crazy scenario like that. I’ve listed some ways you can try to reduce the costs of housing in a previous post that you may want to check out.

Now, let’s move on to reasons why living in NYC isn’t as expensive as you may think.

Transportation

In many cities and towns, having a car is pretty much a must. For a family or couple, a two-car household is also a necessity. Having to buy a car or two cars and paying for maintenance, gas, and insurance costs a lot of money. In New York City, often times, a car is not necessary. For $2.50 a ride or $112 for unlimited rides for a month, you can pretty much get to any part of the city. The transit system in NYC is pretty amazing and it is open 24 hours a day. Depending on where you live in New York City, most neighborhoods are very walkable. There is often no need to spend money for a car, or even if you have a car, there is no need to waste money on gas. Where I live now, I can walk a few blocks to a supermarket, a drugstore, a movie theater, restaurants and plenty of other places where a person would want to go. While I do have a car because I commute out to the suburbs for work, I know many living here who don’t have one and have no need for one.

Entertainment

There are so many things to do in New York City. Sure, there are plenty of expensive things to do, but there are also many cheap and affordable things to do. My favorite attractions include the museums, Governor’s Island (with free ferry service and free events), the Highline and free movies and ice skating at Bryant Park (not at the same time of course!). Actually visiting and walking around the various diverse and eclectic neighborhoods is entertaining enough for me.

I could compile an exhaustive list of the free and affordable things that you can do in New York City, but Erin who blogs at BrokeMillenial has already posted an extensive list here.

Stefanie who blogs at The Broke and Beautiful Life also has a list of posts about cool and free things to do in NYC. Just click on the NYC tab on her blog.

Groupon type deals
I’ve read some people mention that there are not many Groupon type deals in the areas where they live, but there are plenty in the NYC metro area. While Groupon does not always provide good deals, they do sometimes offer great deals for activities that you may be interested in. Groupon and other deal sites often have deeply discounted deals for museums, tours, sporting events, among other events.

Thai lunch special

Restaurants

I think there is a common misconception that New York City is expensive when dining out. Sure, there are plenty of outrageously expensive restaurants here, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great affordable meal when dining out. You don’t have to go to the fancy Zagat or Michelin rated restaurants to have a good meal. My wife bought recently bought lunch for $4.75 (including a bottle of water) near where she works. No this was not in Manhattan, but even there, cheap eats are available. Also, with restaurants, Groupon deals and Restaurant.com deals are available to get a discounted meal at various places.

Cost of Goods and Services

Once again, similar to everything else in New York City, I think the cost of things here can be very expensive or it can pretty affordable. You just have to know where to look. It depends on what you’re buying and where you go to buy it. For many people, most things they purchase is purchased online so it doesn’t matter where you live. For things like fresh produce and groceries where it is much more difficult to purchase online, I still do not think the price in NYC is necessarily higher. Of course, if you do your grocery shopping in Manhattan, the options for lower costs may be harder to find. Read my post about saving on groceries here.

Competition

I think one advantage of living in NYC is that there is a lot of competition for your money. If you don’t like the service or price at one store, there’s probably another store that offers the same service or product very close by. It is not like in a small rural area where a store has a monopoly. You can use this to your advantage by negotiating the price or by shopping around.

Thrift shop/Freecycle/Craigslist
Another advantage of living in such a big city is that there are a lot of people getting rid of their stuff. There are many thrift shops and many people who donate some gently used items. And in a well-to-do neighborhood (think upper east side), you can score some pretty nice things. There are also many people selling things on Craigslist at a deep discount or people using freecycle to give away things they no longer need. Because of the amount of people here, you can often find what you’re looking for.

Nick who blogs at Pretired.org had an interesting post about great cities and listed factors including safety, affordability, walkability, Transit, bicycle friendliness, cleanliness, weather, infrastructure, open space, culture and aesthetic beauty. Based on these factors, I think New York City scores very high in all of these factors, except maybe the affordability factor. However, if you live frugally, you can enjoy the city’s amenities and cultural offerings. I don’t feel deprived living here (well not most of the time!), but my wants and needs are modest.

Does the media portray NYC living as outrageously expensive? Would you ever want to live here? If you are a fellow New Yorker, what other ways is NYC not as expensive as it seems?