New York City is one of the most famous cities in the United States.
It’s often featured in movies, books, and even comic books.
It’s also one of the most populous cities with an estimated population of 18,867,000.
Considering that the cost of living in NYC is $5,142 for a family of four without rent and $1,395 for a single person without rent, then you may wonder how people afford to live there.
Here are 10 ways that people manage to afford to live in NYC.
How Do People Afford To Live In NYC? (10 Ways)
1. Secondary Jobs
Some people might find that living in New York City takes too much from their income.
They might not have enough money for groceries or to put away for the future.
To help cover some of their bills, some people in NYC have secondary jobs.
One good thing about a city as large as New York City is that there are always job openings.
People looking to start their own businesses always need employees to make their dreams happen.
National chains also often make New York City one of their go-to places to open stores.
Because of the large population, businesses are naturally drawn there.
Since there are typically many jobs available, it means that residents can take on a second job if needed.
They might choose to work another full-time job, a part-time job, or even take on a side hustle.
The extra income can help them pay the remainder of their bills, ensure the rent or mortgage gets paid, and can even allow them to put aside a little nest egg.
For some people, a second job might still not be enough to cover their expenses.
A few might choose to take on a third job and work each job part-time.
By spending time working a second or third job, some New Yorkers can afford to live in the expensive city.
2. Public Transport
Owning a car can be expensive in New York City.
Unless you live just outside of the city, chances are you probably have to pay to park your car somewhere.
While some apartments and condos offer free parking, it isn’t really free.
The fee to park is usually built into the rental price that you pay each month.
Those who own a home might have a driveway, but in many cases, they must park on the street as well.
There are also other fees and payments associated with owning a car.
For one, you need to pay for insurance and fuel, and if you don’t own the car outright, then you need to make monthly payments toward it, too.
Depending on the car you have, your monthly payments could be quite high.
Because of traffic congestion in the city, there’s also a good chance that you might find yourself in an accident.
That tacks on repair costs for your car.
Since owning a car is quite expensive, some New Yorkers choose not to own one.
The fact that they live in a large city means they have plenty of options for public transit.
Whether they get a bus pass or a subway pass, or even take a taxi, paying for those services tends to cost far less than owning a car.
Some New Yorkers will even choose to walk or bike when they need to go somewhere.
This further allows them to avoid the expensive fees associated with owning a car.
By not having those expenses to pay each month, they’re able to have a bit more money at the end of the month to use elsewhere.
Some New Yorkers are able to afford to live in NYC by using public transport instead of owning a car.
One of the best ways that New Yorkers can make living in NYC possible is by having roommates.
The average rent for an apartment in Manhattan is $4,265.
For one person, that might be an entire month’s income.
They’d have nothing left for utilities and other bills.
They might not even have enough to buy groceries.
The way that they get around the high cost of rent is to have roommates.
A few roommates may even squeeze into a small apartment to make it affordable.
After all, at least they’d have a place to stay.
By having four people in an apartment, you can split that rent four ways.
It makes the apartment a bit more affordable.
Even having one other roommate allows you to pay only half of what you would otherwise.
Depending on the size of the apartment, you might even be able to cram a few more people in to make it far more affordable.
With your apartment costs being more affordable, you then have a bit more money to use elsewhere.
You can pay your other bills easier and can afford to go out to eat.
You might even be able to put money to the side for a rainy day or start saving to buy a home.
Roommates could be friends, family members, or loved ones.
For example, you might have your partner move in a bit earlier than you would normally to help with the rent.
Family members, like a brother or sister, might move in to make living in NYC more affordable.
Some children may continue to live in their parents’ apartment even as adults to help with the rent.
Having roommates is one of the best ways that New Yorkers can make living in NYC more affordable.
4. Rent-Controlled Apartments
New York City has some apartments that are “rent-controlled” or “rent-stabilized.”
These are special housing opportunities that are mostly offered to lower-income families.
Rent-controlled apartments exist to ensure that landowners or apartment owners don’t raise rents needlessly.
While they’re allowed to raise rent every two years, there’s a limit to how high they can go.
According to the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, there’s a Maximum Base Rent system that a board uses to determine how much a landlord can increase their rent.
Tenants are also able to argue against the rental increase.
In most cases, a landlord has to prove that the rent increase is due to an increase in operating costs.
If tenants can prove that the operating costs aren’t as high as the landlord claims or that there are no reasons behind the increase in operating costs, then the board can decide not to let the landlord increase the rent.
The landlord is also responsible for maintaining certain amenities or services.
If they’re unable to do so, then they’re not able to raise the rent.
Another great thing about these types of apartments is that tenants can inherit them from family members.
As long as the family member lived with the tenant for a certain number of years before their death, they can have the apartment and pay the same amount of rent that their family member was paying.
Those who have particularly low incomes can still afford to live in NYC because of these apartments.
Since the rents are usually quite low and tend to stay low, they’re able to move their money around a bit better.
Even if they make more money, the rent stays the same.
Rent-controlled apartments are one of the ways that people can afford to live in NYC.
5. Higher Salaries
Another reason why people can afford to live in NYC is that they generally make higher salaries than they would make in other cities or towns.
The average salary in NYC is about $69,000.
That’s about $33 an hour.
Not everyone makes this amount.
Some make less while others make more.
However, that’s the average salary for the city which means a good number of people in the city make that amount or close to it.
This makes living in the city more affordable because it shows that city employers are aware of the high cost of living.
It urges employers to pay more to ensure their employees can live in the city and continue working there.
Otherwise, they’d leave the city, and the employer would have no one to work for them or even to sell their products to.
Living in a city like NYC means a lot of people must budget.
Since salaries are a bit higher than in other parts of the country, some people get a bit of a break from the high cost of living.
However, that’s only the case if people know how to budget.
A savvy New Yorker can take their higher salary and live in one of the more affordable neighborhoods rather than one of the prime neighborhoods.
With a slightly lower cost of living, they’re able to use their salary more efficiently.
They can pay their bills, get food, and perhaps even start investing for the future.
They wouldn’t be able to do this as easily, if at all, if New York City didn’t have a high average salary.
New York City residents can afford to live in NYC because city-based jobs generally offer higher salaries.
6. Affordable Grocery Stores
Another big expense that people must deal with is grocery bills.
Everyone needs to eat, but how much you spend on your food can determine how much money you’re able to use for other parts of your budget.
New Yorkers who stick within a budget are still able to afford to live in NYC because they know where the affordable grocery stores are.
They know that prime neighborhoods like Manhattan are going to have more expensive grocery stores than other neighborhoods.
They also know that certain store brands tend to be more expensive than others.
Those looking for a deal are likely to go to more affordable neighborhoods where they can shop at stores like Costco, Walmart, and other inexpensive stores.
Some may even take it to the extreme and do their best to shop for things that are only on sale or that they have a coupon for.
This helps them reduce their grocery bills even further.
New York City has some of the most famous restaurants in the world.
They’re also some of the most expensive.
New Yorkers know that they can save a good amount of money by just buying food at a cheap grocery store and making it at home.
Not only does the food tend to last longer, but it’s usually a bit cheaper to make yourself.
By knowing where to shop and in what neighborhoods, New Yorkers can make their grocery bills more affordable.
Since groceries eat into your paycheck each week, keeping your grocery bill low can help you utilize what’s left of your paycheck for other things.
As such, New Yorkers can afford to live in New York City by shopping at affordable grocery stores in affordable neighborhoods.
7. Living Just Outside The City
One of the best ways to make living in NYC more affordable is to live just outside of it.
There are tons of smaller cities or towns that surround NYC.
Many people end up commuting in and out of the city for work.
While this does mean that you need a car if public transit isn’t available, it also means you’re able to find more affordable housing.
Housing and rent always tend to cost more in a city than outside of it.
That’s because property taxes are higher in popular areas.
A downtown area is going to have high property taxes because a lot of people want to build there.
They want housing units for renters.
They want areas to open a business.
Landlords who own vacant or undeveloped lots can ask for high rent prices because they know they offer convenience.
They know that apartment complex owners want to build in their lot because the area is ideal.
It’s a particularly ideal location if it’s close to businesses, restaurants, and other amenities.
They know that businesses also want to build on their lot because the high amount of foot traffic in the city means that people are more likely to stop in and buy something.
Between property taxes and value, rent is high inside the city.
Rent and mortgages are cheaper outside of the city because those areas are a little less populated.
There’s more land that can be developed.
Since there’s more of a supply of land, they don’t have to sell it at prices higher than in the city.
Since the land is cheaper, housing is also cheaper.
This allows people to save a bit of money on their housing while costing them the convenience of living directly within the city.
However, living just outside of the city is how some New Yorkers can afford to live in NYC.
8. Stick To Affordable Or Free Events
In New York City, there’s always something going on.
Whether it’s a movie shooting in the downtown area or a free event at the local museum, there’s always something happening.
Festivals are common and encourage people to get out and participate.
Some New Yorkers can afford to live in New York City because they focus on attending affordable or free events instead of paying a lot of money to attend something that comes with a high price tag.
For example, you could go to an expensive restaurant with a famous chef in the kitchen.
You could also go to a local food festival either for free or with a cheap ticket.
You can sample as much food as your budget allows while getting introduced to new and up-and-coming chefs in your area.
You can also experience dishes from different cultures instead of eating at a restaurant that only serves one type of cuisine.
The same goes for music.
You could pay for an expensive ticket to a concert.
Or you could attend a music festival which is usually cheap and offers several different acts throughout the day.
Living in NYC becomes affordable when you know how to spend your money economically.
9. Higher Minimum Wage
While New York City is home to a lot of people who work on Wall Street, there are also a lot of workers who make minimum wage in the city.
You may wonder how they’re able to afford to live in New York City.
Part of the reason is because of New York City’s minimum wage.
The minimum wage in New York, as of 2022, is $15 an hour.
In Upstate New York, it’s $13.20 an hour.
This minimum wage is higher than in many other states.
While it still doesn’t help someone trying to live in an expensive neighborhood, it can allow someone to live on their own or with a roommate in a cheaper neighborhood.
For example, if they can get into a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment, then their rent will be a bit lower than in other markets.
They can then watch their budget to ensure they don’t take on too many expenses.
The higher minimum wage also gives them a better chance of living in New York.
In most cases, if someone doesn’t have a roommate and they make minimum wage, then they’ll probably have to take on a second job, too.
However, because NYC pays a higher minimum wage than other places, it makes living in the city more affordable.
10. New York City Assistance Programs
New York City officials know that it’s a tough city to live in.
They also know that there is a high cost of living in the city that people struggle to keep up with.
As such, they offer an abundance of different assistance programs to allow families a better chance of living in the city.
One of those is food assistance.
They partner with Food Bank to provide food for families who make less than a certain income.
They also have programs designed to make it easier to afford a house or an apartment.
These types of programs can help keep certain individuals and families from going into debt.
That, in turn, can help them make living in NYC more affordable.
People are able to live in NYC because of the various assistance programs that the city offers.
New York City is an expensive place to live.
While it is possible to live there on your own due to the higher minimum wage and potential high starting salaries for certain careers, a lot of New Yorkers rely on other methods to make ends meet.
The most common method is living with roommates to make paying the rent far more affordable.