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Renters Insurance

8 smart tips for affordable city living

Want to live in a big city, but don’t have a big budget? You still can! It just takes some financial planning and our tips for affordable city living.

Because of their accessibility to offices, colleges, hospitals, entertainment, and more, major cities tend to draw in people of all backgrounds and trades.

While urban areas may be convenient and diverse, this doesn’t necessarily translate to the cost of their living options.

Luxury high rises may be out of reach for many middle to low income people like college students, small business owners, and young couples.

However, there are still opportunities to live in a big city with a smaller budget. It just takes some financial planning and frugal spending. Start with the tips below:

Smart tips for affordable city living

  1. Budget for rent before you shop

    A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much you can actually afford to spend on rent is to think about it as a percentage of your monthly income. It’s recommended you pay no more than 25 - 35% of your gross monthly income (after taxes) on your living arrangement. This number doesn’t lock you into whatever apartment you can find closest to this price. It just gives you more of an idea of how much wiggle room you’re allowed. You’ll also want to consider buying a renter’s insurance policy. For a few extra dollars, you can save yourself thousands in the event of an accident.

  2. Live with roommates

    To quote the television show Friends, “So no one told you life was gonna be this way?” is probably what you’re thinking when you have to consider living with others to afford your rent. As an adult we figure we’ve spent the majority of our lives living with other people, whether it’s been family or college roommates, so why would we want to do that all over again? Well, as you might already know from researching rent prices in your city, keeping a roof over your head is expensive. Having one or more roommates can significantly cut your living expenses. Although this option may seem unpleasant to you, if you generally get along fine with others and don’t become stressed when sharing a living space you’ll overall benefit from having some roomies. However, if living with others would cause you too much distress then consider looking for a studio or one bedroom apartment. Just understand that you’ll have to do some serious budgeting in other areas of your finances.

  3. Cook at home

    No matter where you live, eating out at restaurants usually isn’t cheap. This is especially true for city dining. Even if you only go out a few times a month, the spending can add up for meals you could’ve made yourself at home for a lot less. Instead of hitting the bar and grill, make cooking at home with friends and roommates the new social gathering. Splitting grocery costs with friends and roommates will save everyone money and you’ll get more portions for dollar at the supermarket than your local eatery. Divvy and pack up the leftovers to avoid having to buy lunch the next day at work. Don’t know how to cook? No problem! Use simply recipe sites like Real Simple for fast, minimal ingredient dinners.

    The same rules can be applied to snacking on the go. Buying a pastry here and there throughout your day can put a hole in your wallet. Instead, have a weekend snack making party with friends or roommates. Listen to music, drink some cheap wine, and make these fun and simple snack recipes. You’ll have something to look forward to all week at work!

  4. Cut the cable cord

    Recent popularity and availability in online streaming has pushed many people to cancel their cable television. This may be a smart move for you if don’t have the time or budget for cable. Services like Netflix cost $10 a month and offer hours of entertainment.

  5. Use public transportation

    A big perk of living in a big city is the ability to rely on public transportation, like the bus or subway, to get you around. I can get pretty much anywhere I need to be in Boston with my $85/month subway card. City living is a rare chance to exist without car payments like insurance, maintenance, or gas. We recommend mapping your routes before your move to see if public transit will be the best option.

    If you live in the city and must have a vehicle, you should make sure you aren’t paying too much for car insurance. Having a city zipcode can significantly increase your premium rates, so you’ll want to use a quote comparison site like Insurify to find the best deals in the area and the coverage that makes sense for your mileage.

  6. Thrift your furniture

    Consider buying your furniture and other appliances from local thrift stores or sites like Craigslist. You can find amazing deals on like new pieces. It’s ideal for individuals who move apartments frequently due to work or college schedules and just need function on a budget.

  7. Same idea for clothes

    Clothes shopping in the city can be one of the most heartbreaking experiences. Everything is pretty until you see the price tag. The upside to living in a city is that the thrift stores usually have brand name clothing courtesy of those from the fancy side of town. You’ll save money, look great, and help recycle. So fresh.

  8. Take advantage of free admission

    Many city museums and other tourist attractions offer free admission year round or on special occasions. Follow the museum's’ social media accounts so you’ll always be in the know when it comes to free fun.