Big City Budgeting Tips for Young Adults and College Graduates

Author: Lauren Ross

tax, finances, family, home and happiness concept - busy couple

You’ve just accepted a full time employment offer with a great company and you’re beyond delighted to start the next chapter of your life in the big city. You have a long pre-moving to-do list including finding an apartment, packing boxes, renting a moving truck, saying farewells to the family, and filling out new hire paperwork before the start of your first day. During the planning process of your move, you may want to set up a budgeting system for yourself. After all, you are now living on your own and adulthood can be expensive.  Budgeting can be easy and simple when you have a strategy. The best strategy would be to set up a monthly allowance to fund expenses such as living, food, entertainment, transportation and emergencies.  If you need to visualize the cost of living in your new city, Expatistan is a great tool that lets you view the cost of living of one city compared to another. It is definitely possible to save money in the big city with these budgeting tips for young adults and college grads.

Location – But Not in the Usual Sense

Generally, the first step of apartment hunting is to look for a place that is close to work with a variety of stores and restaurants in the area. Apartment hunting in cities such as New York or Chicago should be approached in a slightly different fashion. Of course there will be restaurants and plenty of shopping, however, your main focus right now is finding the right apartment for you. If your new job is located on Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side, you’ll find that rent in the area is fairly steep. Instead of spending your entire paycheck to meet the cost of living standards in the area, check out adjacent neighborhoods that are more within your range. Many of these neighborhoods have their own eclectic city cultures you may find fitting to your personal style.

Transit is your Access to the Whole City

Big cities have some of the most innovative and integrated transit systems in the world. When planning your move to the city, you will need to consider transit if you’re not bringing a vehicle.  A transit card will be very useful for day-to-day transportation because city traffic can be excruciating and parking is limited. The best way to budget around transportation is to do month-over-month calculations so you can allocate the necessary funds for your daily commutes.  When doing the calculations, think about what transit option will save you more money like the unlimited pass or pay-per-ride. Your calculations should be based off your daily activity schedule. If you are working everyday uptown, then the unlimited pass will be more beneficial. However, if you can work from home and only need to go out a few times a week, then you may consider the pay-per-ride option. For the times when you need to travel outside the city, you may want to check out these alternative transportation services.

Questions to ask yourself when planning a budget for transportation:

  • Will I go into the office every day?
  • How often will I need to go uptown?
  • Is everything I need within walking distance?

Blowing off Steam is Good Once in a While

City life can be fun for recent college grads and twenty-somethings, but the cost of going out every evening will drain your wallet. Big cities like New York City often charge upwards of $14 dollars for a cocktail in restaurants and nightclubs. To stay within your means and save without forfeiting fun, pick one night out of the week to unwind and hang with friends. This will give you an evening to look forward to without breaking the bank. Utilize sites such as Living Social or Groupon to find discounted event tickets in your area. Don’t forget about FREE events! Check out your cities’ event pages for free concerts in the park or free food festivals – they do exist!

Spare the Impulse Buying with a Well-Defined List

You don’t need to be a frugal shopper to save on food! The best way to budget at the grocery store is through a detailed shopping list based on planned weekday meals. During the planning process, opt for more budget friendly dinners such as beef stroganoff or oven baked chicken skewers. Budget friendly meals will allow for you to buy the basics and keep unnecessary items from taking up valuable fridge or cabinet space. Cutting back on processed food items can also help you save in a big way! Cookies and cereals are more costly at the store in major metropolitan areas because of the higher cost of living. Instead of processed snack foods, choose fresh fruit or vegetables as a healthier alternative.

Laundry Day    

Laundry day can get pretty pricey when you don’t have your own personal machines. Washers at the laundromat can be priced from $3.50 to upwards of $5.00 with a dryer starting at $0.25 for 5 minute intervals. Stash away your loose change throughout the week in a jar to help with costs on laundry day. This way you can get rid of your spare change and avoid hitting the ATM. Save even more by making your own laundry detergent. Ingredients are fairly cheap and your detergent will last significantly longer than branded detergents. For a simple detergent recipe, check out the Life Could Be a Dream blog to learn more.

Do you have any tips to share for the graduating classes when it comes to budgeting and saving? If so, we’d love to hear it! Let us know your tips by leaving a comment on our Apartment Finder Facebook page or tweet us on Twitter!