Hey everyone! I’d like to introduce you to Dominique! He blogs over at Money Goody and he’s written a fantastic guest post for us today 🙂
Earlier this year I made a major life change. I packed up all my stuff on the east coast and moved hundreds of miles away to Chicago for a new job. Aside from the stress of moving to a completely new city and state where I didn’t know anyone, I also had an added pressure—Chicago is much more expensive than the city I moved from.
I quickly came to the realization that unless I wanted to go broke, I’d have to quickly adjust my spending and get smarter with my money. Even though the job I moved for paid more than I was making before, the higher costs of living in the city definitely ate into some of my additional income.
If you’re considering moving from an area with relatively low costs of living to a big city where your expenses will shoot up, here are some tips to keep your bank account in the positive!
Find an Affordable Place to Live
The very first thing I did before moving here was look for an apartment. In case you’re unfamiliar with Chicago, it has over 70 different neighborhoods to choose from. Each has its own unique culture and personality. But more importantly, each has its own price tag! So I had quite a bit of research to do.
When you’re looking for a place to live in a big city, take a trip there and talk to people. If you don’t know anyone in the area, one of the best resources is Uber and taxi cab drivers. They spend a lot of time driving around and have a very good feel for the different parts of the city.
Let them know what you’re looking for as far as price, types of restaurants or other amenities, and they’ll usually be able to point you in the right direction.
Another good option is to look for an apartment finder service, which is what I did. These are essentially brokers that will help you find an apartment based on your budget, target area and needs. Basically a real estate agent for renters.
Keep in mind that in most metropolitan areas, the closer you live to the downtown area the more money you can expect to pay. To save some money, look for up and coming neighborhoods. That’ll give you the perfect balance between affordable rent and entertainment.
Once you find your new place, you’ll probably want to put some life into it so you’re not just living in a bland apartment or house. Instead of heading to super expensive furniture stores, get crafty!
DIY culture has become super popular with sites like Pinterest and all the fixer-upper shows on HGTV. Whether you want to make your own coffee table or restore an old desk, you can learn how to do pretty much anything through Pinterest and YouTube.
Let your creative side out and you’ll be able to have some original one of a kind furniture without the high price tag.
Go Grocery Shopping
This is one tip I’ve started implementing a lot more. For the first couple of months of living in Chicago, I ordered out nearly every day. With so many different restaurants to choose from, and losing the convenience of being able to quickly drive to the grocery store in my car, takeout become extra tempting.
However, the costs of services like GrubHub and UberEats will eat away at your bank account very quickly.
The appeal of ordering out in the city is convenience. There are a lot of options near you and since a lot of people don’t drive, grocery shopping can be a hassle.
To get around that, I recommend moving to an area that has a grocery store within walking distance. I bought a cool little shopping cart/dolly hybrid that I can easily take with me on the five-minute walk to and from the grocery store.
When it starts to get colder and walking out to the grocery store isn’t an option, you can try services like Instacart or Peapod that will deliver your groceries to you.
One hack I’ve done is walk to the store, buy my groceries, and then catch an Uber back home so you don’t have to lug everything in nasty weather.
Use Public Transportation
Before moving here, everyone I spoke to said not to bring my car. Coming from an area where driving was the main source of transportation, this was a huge shift for me. But the costs-savings are well worth it.
Whether you take the bus or train, you can typically get some type of deal on a monthly pass to save even more money. For instance, $100 gets you a 30-day unlimited voucher for the trains here in Chicago.
To give you an idea of how much I’m saving, I was spending over $300 a month on gas, my car payment and insurance. And my current apartment charges over $100 a month for parking. But since I didn’t bring my car I only spend roughly $80-90 a month on transportation. So I’m saving over $300 a month.
Cut Back on Non-Essentials
In 2016, cable is no longer a hot commodity that you “need” to get. Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and similar streaming services have spawned a movement of cable cutters. All you really need is internet and maybe super basic cable to watch the news or sports.
For some people, gym memberships are another way to save. If you simply like to do a lot of cardio, big cities are perfect. You can always find a good running or biking path.
Make a list of all your monthly expenses and look for opportunities to cut back. Most of us are faithfully paying for services we don’t even use, but don’t think about getting rid of them until there’s a financial emergency. Why wait until you’re on the verge of going broke? Cut out those unnecessary expenses now.
Find Free Things to Do
One of the biggest advantages of living in a large city is entertainment is free. Whether it’s museums, parks, festivals, or other activities, there are a ton of free activities to do throughout the year.
Your local neighborhood or city website should have listings of free activities. Or you can just Google “free things to do in CITY” and you’ll find plenty of great lists.
One thing I did when I first moved here was sign up to Meetup.com It’s a site/app where people post local group events and anyone can RSVP to attend. They have everything from board game nights to pickup games and exercise groups. While some of the events like live shows cost money, there are plenty of free groups.
Don’t Get Caught Up in The Night Life
Luckily I’m not a partier, so I’m able to save a ton of money by not going out drinking every weekend. But if you’re the type of person that lives for the night life, temptation will be all around you in the city.
When you’re living on a tighter budget, try cutting back on you spending during your nights out. You’re already paying more than you’re used to because you’re in the city, but with all the bars and clubs to choose from, it makes it that much harder.
Instead of going out every weekend, mix in some of the free activities I mentioned above. Trust me, your wallet (and your liver) will thank you.
Live Within or Below Your Means
This is a good rule to live by in general, no matter what type of area you live in. You shouldn’t try to live a lifestyle you can’t afford. Just because a character on your favorite TV show lives in a modern condo overlooking the city doesn’t mean you can too.
Living beyond your means is one of the worst ways to go broke because it’s completely avoidable. Set a budget and stick to it.
If you find yourself needing to pay for a lot of expenses with a credit card, it’s a good sign you’re living beyond your means and you need to cut back.
You don’t need to be “rich” to live in a big city. By being smart with your money and having a little self-discipline, you can get all the advantages of living in a big city even if you’re on a small budget.
Dominique is a personal finance and lifestyle blogger at Money Goody. He writes about smart money management for young adults and how to hack living in the city on a budget.