A Broke Mofo's Guide To Living In New York City
Urban Dictionary Definition Mofo: A shortened version of the word Motherf**ker. This meaning though is meant to be non abusive; almost as a sign of respect or greeting for fellow friends.
Here's my biggest tip for those wanting to live in New York City and save money. DON'T. Just don't do it. You can't achieve this. It's impossible. You will cry at your lack of funds and then move home in shame. JUST KIDDING! But seriously, living in New York City is hard work.
It will test you in every way possible and keep you up at night wondering if you can pay your rent this month. But it is possible and is reserved for those who truly want it.
I've created a guide to the way I survive in NYC, with tips for how I keep myself sane when watching my bank account dwindle down to less than $100 every month. I'm going to skip the obvious things like "hang out in Central Park!" or "walk the Highline!" because this isn't about what you should do if you're visiting New York, but how to survive if you're looking to move here or already live here and are sobbing at how quickly your money is disbursing.
I've learned that where you live in this city is pretty irrelevant because no matter what it's going to be expensive. Obviously certain areas are more expensive than others, but don't be fooled that living in a different borough than Manhattan is going to be any less money than one on the island.
Just suck it up and be okay that you're going to be spending a lot of money each month to live here.
If you're not wanting to pay the horrid fees up front or are able to sign a lease (because it's almost impossible to make 40x the rent unless you're in the top 1%), then the best place I've found for finding no-strings-attached apartments is Gypsy Housing. Now, this group is specifically geared towards those in the performing and creative arts industries, so if you're not at least interested in that genre of life, you might not get accepted. I found both of my housing situations on there, and will hopefully find the next too. If you don't mind subletting from someone who's leaving New York for a few months, this is the best place to find a temporary home while you're looking for something a little more permanent. I've seen housing as low as $550 a month (a rare occurrence though), but on average it'll be closer to $1000. You can shop around until you find the right fit.
There is a reason the lines are so long at them; because the food is a good price and amazing quality. Obviously other groceries stores are an option, but New York seems to not have any main chain grocery stores, so if you want good food and would rather skip that questionable-looking fruit aisle at the grocery store across the street from you, then take the extra time to head to a Trader Joe's.
Fast food-wise? Well, you could do the sad person route and eat at McDonalds (which I am very guilty of), or a hack I like (and did even before moving here) is grocery store deli eats. Not all stores have this, but many in Manhattan do and it's so cheap. You go get a small container of macaroni salad, a loaf of French bread, and perhaps a slice of cake and you can go plop down in a park and eat a meal for under $5. Never underestimate a grocery store deli.
You're going to hate hearing this, but you really should just stop going out to drink. It's going to cost a lot of money, no matter what neighborhood you go to and your bank account will drain and you'll be sad and then just want to bury your sorrows in more alcohol (which you can't afford). Go to a liquor store and buy your drank there. You can get a cheap bottle of vodka or wine and then invite friends over to join you.
If you really need the stimulation of going out, then use the cheap alcohol to pre-funk and then leave and pretend you're sober when you flash your ID at the bouncer before entering the club.
I have a feeling that most people who move to New York, also have at least a slight fashion sense. People in this city like to look good. Sadly, that comes at a cost. But it doesn't have to be a big cost. Other than the obvious haunts like Forever 21, H&M (both which seem to be on every corner), and various discount stores such as Burlington Coat Factory and Marshalls, there is another option. L Train Vintage was introduced to me by my roommate, and I can't believe what good deals I found there. First off, it's basically a thrift shop, but disguising as a vintage store, and what's even better is that there are multiple locations. I found amazing flannel there for $5 and a fantastic sweater for only $8. It's great for those who are afraid of what a New York thrift shop might hold (probably bed bugs), but okay with used clothing.
Clothing swaps or exchanges are also a great place to grab some new outfits. You can find them on Meetup, or arrange your own. It's completely free and especially if you fit a niche clothing style (plus size, tall man, emo chic, etc.), you'll definitely find something you're interested in and give away some of your old stuff in the meantime.
This is one of the hardest categories to fulfill because when you're a broke mofo, you often have to give up extra things so you don't completely devastate your bank account. Broadway shows can throw you can a hefty amount ($50+) and any big name musical artist's concert will be way out of your price range.
Hands down, the most inexpensive, highest-quality show you'll see in New York City is at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatres.
I may be biased (since I took improv classes there, and the best human in the world, Amy Poehler, founded the place), but seriously, there's no where else in the city where you can pay only $5 and get to see some of the best improvisors in the world perform for you. During the week all shows are $5. On the weekends the prices go up to $10, but those are the well-practiced house teams, so the quality is even higher. On Sunday nights, the 9:30pm Assscat show is free (get in line early though). Celebrities are known to show up quite often, so you never know who you'll see.
The other improv theatres in the city include The Peoples Improv Theatre, The Annoyance Theatre, The Magnet Theatre and I'm sure there's more. You probably have friends who are comedians or actors who have super cheap or free shows happening, so instead of ignoring their Facebook event invite, maybe you should go to it. It'll make them feel good and you'll get to see a show.