Monthly Budget vs Average Cost of Living in NYC

So here is a breakdown of my monthly expenditures.

Monthly budget:
$1,250 rent (covers all utilities: gas, electric, water)
$60 cell phone
$23 cable
$8 netflix
$200-300 food
$5 laundry (1 small load, twice a month)
$100 miscellaneous (personal care, clothing, others)
$233 school loan payment

Total monthly budget: $1,979

* Note: I also generate income through a hobby business which I have not included. I decided not to because my business income has fluctuated so much in the past making it difficult to determine how much I earn monthly. I plan to devote more time to growing the business and creating a steadier stream of income with a goal of $10k for 2016. (more on this later)

About myself and my lifestyle:
I am a single female, living and renting a small basement apartment in the heart of Astoria, Queens. Astoria is a very safe and up and coming area of Queens with tons of restaurants (which I unfortunately don’t frequent). It’s a very popular place to live for young working professionals making the rent higher than in other areas of Queens. Fortunately, I was able to grab a highly coveted basement apartment. In areas with 3 story family homes, owners convert their basements for rent. My basement apartment offers little light but it’s a total steal for the neighborhood. I could roommate but I run a business from home which requires the occasional noisy sewing. Mostly, I need my own personal space so I refuse to roommate. I could pay similar rent prices, for an apartment above ground, further outside of NYC, but living close to work allows me an additional cost savings…

I can bike to work!

This leads to an additional monthly savings of $75, and yearly savings of $450, biking from April-September (a monthly unlimited metro card is $116.50, I still pay to commute on days the weather is not fit for biking and for train commutes on the weekend).

My cell phone plan is with Verizon Wireless which covers unlimited talk and text as well as 1 GB of data. It’s the cheapest plan available for the iPhone. I am considering dumping the privilege of carrying around an iPhone and go with an old school flip phone to save $ (more on this later).

For entertainment, I turn to Netflix. I use the most basic and cheapest internet connection at home and it works just fine for streaming videos and movies.

Food is my largest expense next to rent. I cook nearly all my meals which helps me to save lots of $$$. I limit take-away to 2-3 times a month and eat out once a month (not always) and that can easily run me $60-$80. The biggest savings occurs by taking lunch to work everyday. Unsurprisingly, living in the city can be expensive, especially when it comes to buying food. A simple lunch of a salad can easily run you $12 (I kid you not). A simple turkey sandwich on a roll – $10. It’s freaking ridonkulous.

In terms of miscellaneous expenses, I pay $35 for haircuts at my neighborhood Chinese salon twice a year. I have a pretty simple haircut – bangs in front (which I cut myself), layers in back (cut short and grown out for 6 months). On clothes, in previous years, I spent about $1,000 but limiting the cost to $500 this year.

So there you have it. My monthly budget in a nutshell. That brings my yearly expenses to $23,298 (yearly expenses of $23,748- commute savings $450). This budget doesn’t include any extraneous expenses such as travel but I plan to stick to this budget for the remainder of the year.

Compared to the national average of $25,630 indicated here (Living Wage Calculator), I’m spending $2,332 less.

Not bad but…I think I can do better! (more to come…)

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