For those who know the sacrificial strain of of an affordable city lifestyle on a poor-man’s wages — I feel you.
When I was relocated to the “Big D” or the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex more than five years ago, I thought I’d made it. Here I was, a young budding reporter relocating from small-town East Texas to join the ranks of the big city slickers. Only one little problem: although I was offered nearly double my current salary, it was still barely enough to live off a ramen noodle-a-day diet.
Reasonably-priced housing can be difficult to come by for many and salaries don’t always seem to match the cost of living. This gap is contributing to housing crises in developed and developing countries worldwide. Although it requires a bit of penny-pinching and re-prioritizing your desired living arrangements, there are ways to afford living in expensive cities.
Affordable Living in Expensive Cities: Cutting Rental Costs
More than likely, your biggest expense will be the roof over your head. And, a lot of it weighs on which city you reside. For example, an average one-bedroom apartment in New York City costs $2,080 while it’s $880 per-month in Dallas.
Despite the surge in costs, rental markets in large cities tend to be competitive. Here’s what to look for when finding an apartment.
A general rule of thumb for budgeting is ensuring your rent accounts for a maximum 30 percent of your annual salary. Personally, in my Dallas situation that left me at a mere $750 maximum for rent. And, that’s not even bad when compared to places like New York City or Boston, which means finding an apartment that costs less than a minimum of 50 percent of your income.
Really, it boils down to one main component: compromise.
For example, if you’re running into hurdles when trying to find an affordable, high-rise loft in the middle of a vibrant downtown area, think outside the box. Rent tends to drop the further you get from the city’s center.
Don’t forget to ask if utilities such as gas, water, heat and electricity are part of your monthly rent. If not, make sure these are factored into your planned expenditures. Also, internet is a big expense. Do your research on how to trim down these added costs, which could equate to thousands of dollars put back into your savings.
Affordable Living in Expensive Cities: Buying a Home
Most city dwellers tend to gravitate toward renting their homestead. However, this can all depend on where you are looking to lay down your roots.
For example, the bigger states with more room for land-expansion, such as Texas, offer the convenience of suburban living. States like North Carolina that are restricted to allotted land use can make this a more difficult challenge. Good news? There’s always a way to check with developers for community development in and around your desired locale. At D.R. Horton, we offer affordable, quality-built homes no matter the location.
The downside to buying in the city is that even the least expensive properties are anything but inexpensive. You’ll need a decent income and good credit to qualify for what could be a very large mortgage. You’ll also need to factor in state and income taxes, and the effect of property taxes on your budget.
If you’re planning on staying in a place for more than five years, buying can be a sound investment. The good news is real estate in premium places tend to appreciate over time. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still plan carefully for this type of investment. This calculator can help you figure out if renting or owning is a better option for you.
Added bonus? Most major metropolitan areas tend to come with the bonus of a bus or train system tailored for an easy commute into the city. And, living in the city’s outliers’ means escaping from the claustrophobia of an urban sprawl.
Affordable Living in Expensive Cities: Smart Traveling
So, you’ve decided on the type of residence that best fits your lifestyle. Now it’s time to factor in other large expenditures. If you really want to save, don’t bring a car.
Unfortunately, the tradeoff for living in metropolises such as Dallas-Fort Worth often means hour-long commutes thanks to such a vast spans. Living in a place such as Chicago, you don’t need a car to get from place to place.
If you do live in cities where owning a car is unavoidable, carpool when you can. Research the public parking laws to avoid tickets and fines. Get to know the bus and train routes. Most large cities have an efficient public transportation network. They also have price deals designed for commuters.
Weather permitting, try riding your bike. There are plenty of transit navigation apps that can map out your easiest commute. Plus, you’ll add extra money in the bank while shedding a few pounds off of your waistline.
Try using taxis as a last-minute resort. Even ride-share apps, such as Uber or Lyft costs can add up. If in a crunch, they are a great resource. Unless you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain – which, let’s be honest, who actually likes these two things?
Affordable Living in Expensive Cities: Lifestyle Budgeting
Unless you are making millions, living in an expensive city means adherence to a strict budget. These metro areas will stretch your dollar more than you’d expect. So how do you efficiently accomplish this without sacrificing you and your family’s quality of life?
Be proactive about daily spending. Big cities come with the added bonus of an abundance of shopping opportunities. With that, it’s easy to lose track of expenditures. Record what you spend. Once you’ve got a good feel about monthly expenditures, figure out what extraneous expenditures you can cut. An impulse buy could mean sacrificing dinner.
Most urbanized cities contain multiple cultures offering a diversity of food. Plan meals, whether eating out or prepping for the work week. Don’t get stuck in a rut where your only food option is an expensive restaurant down the street. Take-out adds up. Instead, carry snacks and water and know where you’re going ahead of time.
Look for fun, free attractions. The benefit of a big city is the plethora of options for family-fun activities. From summer concerts in the park to art gallery openings, film screenings and food-tasting events, most metros come with plenty of free entertainment ideas. The only downfall is you have to be OK with crowds.
You’ve got free reign to get creative. Enjoy, just be sensible.
Affordable Living in Expensive Cities: Making it Work
When I moved to Dallas, my family warned me more than once: “It’s so expensive!”
I’m here to admit for the first time: mom, you were right. Still, sometimes it takes a real-life experience for these situations to come to fruition. Just don’t be like me and skimp on life’s necessities, such as food and running water. Be conscious. From rent to groceries, you’ll need to find ways to cut down on your expenses.
Big cities come with the opportunity to enhance your cultural road map. The biggest value you can bring into the experience is an open mind. Yes, you can stick to a budget. And, no, you can’t have a luxurious lifestyle without a minimum six-figure income. Do you have any suggestions on how to afford living in an expensive city? Feel free to leave a comment below!