I made it, SALT™ Blog. It has been a whole month in New York City, and I haven’t been mugged or gone broke yet (*knocks on wood*). And thanks to a stringent budget, some piddling Excel skills, and a general willingness to skip dinner from time to time, I’ve managed to meet my savings goals for the month! Woohoo!
That being said, there were definitely a few close calls. They were surprising close calls, too. Living in a city comes with a whole bunch of different expenses that you don’t really run into as a student or a suburb dweller. So, if you’re planning to make the move to an urban-landia in the near future, check out some of my budget results below—I think they may surprise you.
1. Laundry And Dry Cleaning
If you had told me in college that I could almost spend $100 on just cleaning my clothes, I would’ve laughed in your face. Or cried silently in my room, depending on what year this hypothetical situation occurred. Anyway, coming this close to my spending allocation really knocked my socks off. I thought I’d have lots of money left here, but that just wasn’t the case—for a couple reasons.
First, unless you live in a fancy new building, you will likely not have a free washer and dryer in your apartment. So, just like back in college, you’re going to ask around for a lot of quarters at the end of every week. And believe me, those quarters add up. Second, and by far, dry cleaning adds up; it made up about three-quarters of the above amount. When you’ve got to wear five button-downs a week to an office, that bill is understandably going to be much more than you anticipated.
To bring my spending down, I’m experimenting more with just machine-washing and ironing shirts. I had a horrible fiasco when I accidentally shrank three of my favorites, but hey, I’m learning.
This one was a very pleasant surprise. Historically, I’ve always been a big food spender. Lacking cooking skills and the general energy to actually buy and prepare groceries made me prone to eat out a lot, which meant I was spending mucho dinero to feed myself.
The past few years, though, I’ve been working hard on honing my cooking skills (I can make chili now. CHILI!). And, clearly, the work has paid off. By only letting myself eat out for three to four meals a week, I’ve managed to stay well below my food allocation.
Instituting a leftover policy has also been helpful. If I make food, or if I order a big meal out, I always save half of it for lunch the next day. I may not always be full, but my wallet sure is.
“Fun” was another category where I came fairly close to hitting the ceiling. For me, “fun” encompasses anything that I spend money on for entertainment purposes—or anything that helps me have an entertaining night.
This category is definitely the most contested on any 20-something’s budget. There’s a whole school of people that’ll tell you to overspend here, as you’ll most definitely be under spending once the big “30” rolls around. Then, there’s an entirely other school of people that’ll tell you being a working person comes with a quite a few nights-in-front-of-the-TV, for which your budget will definitely be thankful.
Although I tend to the side with the former (you’re only 20-something once), I don’t like the idea of overspending on nights out. If I’m coming close to topping out every month, then I’ll feel like I did a good job enjoying myself.
To bring my spending down here, I’m going to start searching for more “free fun.” One of the benefits of city living is that there’s ALWAYS free fun happening somewhere: you just have to go find it!
What expenses have surprised you after moving to a new city? Share your stories in the comments.