1 I Finally Internalized All Those Cheap Living in NYC Tips | The Billfold

I Finally Internalized All Those Cheap Living in NYC Tips

Hot tips only work if you’ve got reasons to believe in them. These are mine.

1. Stop taking cabs. If you can’t get your act together early enough to not take a cab, move away and never come back. Cabs are the bane of your existence. Cabs are okay for super drunk people and medical emergencies. Limit those experiences to a few times a year.

2. Don’t pay a broker’s fee. Paying a broker’s fee is like strapping a wad of hundreds to the back of a greasy pigeon and watching it take a nose dive into the East River. I would actually feel better giving money to a pigeon than to a realtor. They’re both societal parasites, but the pigeon didn’t choose that life. The broker did.

3. Don’t go to clubs with covers. Normal bars also carry Jaegermeister and are also chock full of assholes.

4. Wake up and make your own coffee, you dumb-dumb! You can make great coffee at home, and it tastes better than the $3 coffee you buy every morning on your way to work. Because it tastes like effort. And success. And French press. And the American dream.

5. Change your movie habits. Start associating movies with weekend brunch and not weeknight dinner, and you’ll be ever so happy: cash in on that matinee discount! Sneak in some Greek yogurt and a coffee, and you’re sliding in $15 under what you’d normally spend.

6. Settle up. I am a big fan of having friends over for dinner—it’s fun and generally cost-efficient. HOWEVER, that is only the case if you hold all parties responsible for sharing the cost. Don’t let a potluck dinner fool you—this is not sharing the cost. You’ll spend $40 on the entree, and stupid Erica will get away with paying $3 for edamame. Keep track of how much everyone spent—it’s worth the two minutes of awkwardness so that Erica doesn’t get off scot-free again. When you’re rich, you can shovel caviar and foie gras in your friends’ mouths.

7. There is never a good enough reason not to buy a monthly Metrocard. The fact that you’re going home for a weekend or have a rich friend in town who only takes cabs is not a sufficient financial justification. Even if you don’t use the card for a few days, the psychology of having it is so pervasive—it feels like free transportation, so you use it more. Ergo, you go outside more. Ergo, you have a happier life.


Kathleen Jordan lives in NYC.


50 Comments / Post A Comment

Kate (#1,408)

“If you can’t get your act together early enough to not take a cab, move away and never come back.” + “Cabs are okay for super drunk people and medical emergencies.” = I LOVE YOU LET’S GET MARRIED.

Bill Fostex (#573)

When I host a dinner, I have a whiteboard by the dinner table where I write down everyone’s name and how much they spent, and then I call attention to it two or three times over the course of the meal.

@Bill Fostex Yeah really. I agree with all these tips except that one. That sounds like a good way never to get invited over for dinner anymore. I can understand rotating who brings what to these kinds of events but actually counting all the dollars every time? Also there are a lot of options between edamame and a really elaborate, expensive entree.

@Bill Fostex I just send all of my friends and acquaintances monthly invoices based on how much of my time they’ve taken up.

Then I get in a cab and laugh all the way to the club.

PrettyNicola (#692)

@Bill Fostex So you are saying I should not call out my coworkers who bring 3 bottles of soda to our potluck lunches? I was really hoping there was a magic saying to make these people feel terrible about themselves while maintaining moral high ground.

@PrettyNicola I think the solution is to have rotating potlucks at different people’s houses, and use petty passive-aggressive one-upsmanship. So somebody brings soda to your potluck, bring a single broken after-dinner mint to theirs. They’ll get the message.

faustbanana (#2,376)

@Bill Fostex I put the “edamame” friends on dish duty while the rest of us relax in the parlor with a glass of champers. If their dinner contribution was especially meager, they can mop the floor too.

@Bill Fostex Yeah, this. What if Ericka is super broke, too? Why can’t she bring edamame? I don’t want to go to this person’s parties.

sea ermine (#122)

The monthly metrocard thing is so so true for me. I used to not buy them and I would spend $120 a month (on a slow month, before the fare hikes). Now I just buy the monthly one because I don’t have to stress out about not having enough money to get home, and also because $112 is still less than the cost of car payments + gas + insurance

chic noir (#713)

@seaermine – Don ‘t forget parking and tickets. This is why i like public transportation.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

IMO, a good broker (yes, in NYC they are rare but do exist) is worth the monthly fee, especially if you don’t have the time to hunt down every management company and Craigslist listing.

Markovaa (#1,509)

@CubeRootOfPi I agree. I have had two broker’s who have negotiated with the management companies for lower rents or better move in conditions. Also, its handy to use if you ever have to negotiate with your landlord over any future problems that arise. Generally landlords want to stay listed with a broker and will come around to your way of thinking much faster.

I’m moving soon and I’m hoping that post move, I can get off the monthly metro card by walking home from work every day…. This may just be a pipe dream, however.

teacuptempest (#749)

@Franny please share who those magically amazing sounding brokers are – esp if they work with those of us in Brooklyn!

Markovaa (#1,509)

@teacuptempest Haha nope– Neither are in Brooklyn. Two are in queens and the other in Upper Manhattan. The best way to find a good broker is to talk to your friends-don’t start with craigslist. Start talking three or four months before you move about the neighborhood you want to move to. If you have friends in the area, ask about who they used and if they liked them etc. Ask your friends if they have friends who live in that neighborhood and who they used. Be shameless! Generally, if people have used a good broker, they will be happy to pass along the info.

thejacqueline (#799)

@teacuptempest Do you have an e-mail? Depending on the part of Brooklyn, I can recommend one or two decent ones. (Got my current apt. through one of them. We were able to negotiate the fee down to one month’s rent, because when my landlord heard it was 10% he was like No that is INSANE, tell him you are paying one month and that is it. My landlord is awesome.)

Markovaa (#1,509)

@thejacqueline Oh yeah, never in my life have I paid a percentage of the year’s rent as a broker’s fee. Always pay 1 month. Maybe in the chic-er parts of Manhattan you have to pay percentages but then again–Queens.

@fo (#839)

@Franny ” never in my life have I paid a percentage of the year’s rent as a broker’s fee. Always pay 1 month”

Which, strangely enough, is 8.3333% of a years rent. Po-ta-toe, Po-tah-toe.

Markovaa (#1,509)

@@fo Sure, but normally broker’s will ask a fee of one month or 10-15%. 8 1/3% is a much better deal.

@fo (#839)


Yes, and 5% is a better deal than one month. Many people are scared of math, especially word problems. Just spelling (ok, numbering, or something) it out.

sally (#917)

I was standing and cheering until you got to, “When you invite people to dinner, make them pay.” That is ridiculous and awful.

Mae (#1,769)

@sally Agreed. I feel like one nice aspect of potlucks and at home dinners is that it gives people a chance to contribute what they can afford. Also, if I were hosting a potluck I would expect to provide the main course, which is usually more expensive.

EM (#1,012)

@Mae Yes and also people bring things based on deliciousness/meal balancing (gotta give people some guidelines or you get all appetizers and no desserts.) Bringing like $25 worth of headcheese endears you to no one; better to bring hummus that is delicious and cost you like $0.50 to make.

chic noir (#713)

All good tips. I for one hate catching cabs because I feel like I’m just throwing money away.

I have a tip to add.

Learn how to give yourself a manicure and for the yoga obsessed, a pedicure. You will save yourself about 60 per month.

lizard (#2,615)

@chic noir yep. my one 8$ bottle of essie more than pays for itself. I like a mani/pedi to start the summer off and if u combine them its usually cheaper and can combine the tip.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir

theotherginger (#1,304)

@chic noir I like pedicures. But once a year as a treat! The same with cabs – a special treat in winter when the streetcar is far away. And I drank pop instead of beer. (This is Canada, so the costs are almost the same for 2 beers plus tip, and cab plus tip).

sea ermine (#122)

@chic noir Oh my gosh I read that as “catching crabs” and I was imagining that you’d found some lake in NYC where you could go crabbing to bring home your dinner.

ETA I love crabbing! Once I caught a flounder by accident.

chic noir (#713)

@theotherginger – Unfornately I don’t “do yoga” so I’m not very flexible. I go to the shop for a pedicure once a month during the cooler months and one every three weeks during the warmer months.

I save money doing my own manicures.

chic noir (#713)

@seaermine – I wish :) and crabs are so expensive this year.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@chic noir Oh, I did not get the connection between yoga and flexibility and pedicures! I thought you meant that you do yoga barefoot so your feet have to be prettier than for other kinds of exercise.

chic noir (#713)

@cryptolect – Yea my comment was about flexibility since when I try to give myself pedicures, I give myself a mean ab workout.

Your explanation is another good reason for monthly pedicures.

smartastic (#3,056)

@chic noir ALSO for the yoga obsessed: http://www.yogaglo.com/ I am seriously picky about yoga classes and have found great ones on there I do regularly. For like $20/month.

chic noir (#713)

@smartastic- OMG thanks.

Trilby (#191)

@chic noir I am reading all this super-late but I want to second you on doing one’s own nails. I can’t stand listening to people who are low on money exclaim that they’re going for a “mani-pedi” as a treat, a reward, a “little indulgence.” Sheesh. Grow up.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

Why even bother? Salaries are shrinking, medical and educational costs are skyrocketing, the economy is weak with few jobs so we all may as well be “exploding volcanoes of wastefulness” amirite?! That $3 coffee, $15 movie snack, $20 club cover, or $30 cab ride isn’t as big of an issue as the above, and damnit, I like doing all of those things and I work hard and I deserve them so I’m going to do them!

Tongue being removed from cheek now.

jmdj (#2,994)

When you invite people into your home (even if they bring a dish) you are the HOST. If you cannot afford to host, then do not invite people into your home. Asking them to pay-up after arriving is the worst. Do you know your guest’s financial situation? Perhaps edamame is all they could afford until the next paycheck. Next time someone else can be the host and absorb the extra cost. It all evens out. Tallying up the balance of each item is really really bad form.

Catface (#1,106)

@jmdj I agree and that was well put. And how’s this, if someone is truly an ungracious guest just don’t invite that person over again. It works both ways, too: if I were invited to a dinner at someone’s house and then learned I was expected to pay, I would not accept another invitation from that host. I’m aghast that the writer of the post thinks it’s OK to charge guests at a dinner party but I am blasted dumbstruck that her friends apparently are willing to keep handing over the cash.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@jmdj Yeah, that’s a super weird one for sure. I will never forget the time I went to a food party and then was expected to contribute some cash to the host! It was mortifying for so many reasons, and I never went back.

boringbunny (#3,260)

@sunflowernut My friend went to a dumpling making party and the host asked for, like, a dollar, from each of them for the cost of materials/electricity. On the one hand – it’s only a dollar. On the other hand – it’s a lot of awkward for only a few dollars. And none of them were struggling for money.

I think “party” was too strong a word there.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@boringbunny I’ve been to dinner parties and contributed – but only twice. Once, was because the hosts bought many bottles of wine for us to sample when we were in undergrad, and other was because they provided the entire dinner for a large student group. I think in the second case it was a bit tacky, because my parents who also host people a lot would never do it. I also know how to host a dinner party for a lot of money, or less money, and in both cases it’s because that’s what I want to do. Not because I expect compensation!

ThatJenn (#916)

@sunflowernut I feel like, if this is something you and your friends want to do to keep things even, go for it! But it would definitely not work for every group of people.

ellabella (#1,480)

wait i love greek yogurt and eat it every morning for breakfast but it is healthy breakfast food not movie food.

I’m trying to think what DC equivalents would be, since we don’t even have monthly Metro passes.

Maybe get over your last remaining shred of morality/dignity and do whatever it is you do now for some evil entity for double the salary?

szajic (#1,811)

About #7: is having more money a good enough reason not to buy a monthly Metrocard? Roughly 25% of monthly pass owners aren’t using them enough (12 times/week) to make the discount worth it. Here’s the math: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/07/31/metrocard-mathematics-are-unlimited-subway-passes-a-good-deal/

sea ermine (#122)

@szajic Maybe it would be good to test it? Like, but a regular non monthly card and go about your business without increasing your rides or limiting them. And then calculate what it costs. For me, I spend at least $120 a month when I wasn’t using an unlimited card, and would hold of on taking the subway when I really wanted to to keep the costs down. Now I have a monthly card and probably use the subway 20 times a week. But if you can walk to work, or spend a lot of time in your neighborhood then you might not need the card.

pizza (#599)

@szajic That article is outdated since the prices have changed again.

Trilby (#191)

@szajic There is a totally other way to justify a monthly metrocard– it costs $3.7777/day for the luxury of being able to take as many trips as you wish, or none. Having the option is worth $3.7777/day.

Word to number 7.

In San Francisco, a monthly transit pass is $67 and I always made excuses not to buy it b/c I was always losing the cards that i would put a random $20 on. I decided to buy one this month and take much better care of it since it was an investment of sorts. And it’s exactly like free transportation!

I’ll never make coffee at home, however. Buying coffee literally is the only thing that gets me out of the house some days.

Brokers fees are like throwing money away.
I don’t even take the subway or anything, so I don’t need to get a card. I just walk everywhere.
Also, for those drivers in the house, you can get practically free insurance from newyorkmotorinsurance.com, so you can’t even complain about the insurance costs associated with driving in the city.
All in all, NYC can be much cheaper than everybody makes it out to be.

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