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July 22, 2013 - Carrie Olson
Living in NYC on a dime, it ain’t easy. Especially for this girl. I’m a person who every once and awhile glances at her checking account, and goes about her day as usual. When I lived in central Iowa that was usually a pretty safe deal. If I was going to go out and spend money, I might have to travel 25 miles away to do so, so it wasn’t happening every day. There were things to do that didn’t cost much money, and that was fine by me. I could go to our town’s library, take a long run through the woods, or maybe take a dip in the community pool for a few bucks. Perhaps I’d head to a local restaurant for a reasonably priced lunch or hang out at the local bar for a $3 drink. It didn’t put a huge dent in my bankbook, and I was okay with that.
Here, though, spending money freely is expected and encouraged. It’s not just a weekend thing. It’s an everyday event. Everywhere you walk, there’s a cute little pub or diner. Stores clog the streets, selling their wares. “You’re so lucky to live so close to this and that,” I hear constantly. “You have all of these crazy food options at your fingertips.” True, I do. And it is great to have options, I don’t deny that. But how many options of material goods and cuisine does a person possibly need? At first, my eyes were huge at the prospect. And I went into almost every cute boutique or funky restaurant that I saw. That definitely surprises your money supply. Quickly. We halted that spending soon after arriving in the Big Apple. It’s the everyday wallet digging that continues to shock and awe.
Want a quick bite to eat during lunch? It will run you around $13-14. And that’s for a brown-bag sandwich, chips and soda. Want a drink after work? That Lower East Side bar has specials for $7 a glass. Yeah, that’s on sale and just from the tap. And afternoon at the museum? No less than $25.
The ice cream parlor a few blocks away is another great example. It’s delicious, organic (of course it is) and will cost you about $5 for a single scoop. No cash? No problem, if you don’t mind spending the minimum $15 for a card swipe. (It’s a pretty common problem we find here. Places have high minimums or they offer an ATM in the corner that charges exorbitant fees.)
But you don’t have to worry about gas or car fees, you say. True, but I have public transportation to pay for. $2.75 per trip to be exact. And while it might not seem like a lot, if I want to get to work quicker, I pay double that price. (I save money by walking a good 25 minutes more each day.) Want to make it across town? Perhaps you’ll take a taxi for a good chunk of change.
I forgot quarters for the laundry. $2 per wash and $2 per drying cycle (it sometimes takes a couple drying cycles for towels).
And while we live comfortably in a small apartment across the water from the city, the living space would probably be four times less where I am from. We are also doing this on salaries that are pretty near to the ones we had in the Midwest (there was no expected “cost of living” factored in like we had originally thought. Thank you, English degrees.)
When I finally asked to look at my savings account balance, I was definitely astonished at what I found. Not what I expected. But I haven’t bought that iPad or camera that I have wanted. Those designer heels for my upcoming nuptials. We haven’t taken our East Coast summer vacation yet. How did it dwindle that fast? NYC, is the answer. We weren’t stupid. We knew that this would be an expensive place to live, but it still shocks you just the same when you realize just how much it would cost to do so. And although we live pretty minimally and frugally these days (crockpot dinners, basic cable, and nights spent going through our own DVD collection and putting together 2,000 piece puzzles), the expenses keep coming.
The Midwest keeps looking better each and every day. :)