Have you ever dreamed of living in a big city? Well it is not cheap. I never intended or dreamed of living in a city. But I was accepted to a law school here in Boston, and I made the (premature) decision to make this city my home for three years (and now forever thanks to my boyfriend. Ugh, love). However, I did not conduct the proper research and I paid for that mistake. I paid A LOT. Here are a few money saving tips for those of you who currently live in, or plan on moving to a new city.
1. Save a little.
This might seem like a no brainer, but it’s super important. Before you even think about moving out to a city save like 3 months rent. Why? Because even if you’re using a site like Craigslist to find an apartment, it’s likely that you will still end up paying a realtor’s fee (which is the equivalent to one months rent), and first and last. So if you save at least 3 months rent then you could end up having 0 dollars after you finally find an apartment. You see how quickly your money just disappeared? You need to save CRAP ton before you make a decision.
2. Research the rates.
I was shocked and appalled by how high rent is here in Boston. And because I didn’t spend enough time researching the surrounding areas I ended up paying an absurd amount in monthly rent. I’m going to be all the way real with you guys. I was paying $1,250 a month for a studio apartment. It was a cute studio apartment. But literally, nothing is cute enough to warrant a $1,250 a month price tag. NOTHING. NADA. ZIP. ZILCH. ZERO. I was paying so much because I was living in a student infested area, right between BU and BC. The rent in that area was jacked all the way up because students are idiots. And they will pay anything to be closer to their classes. And I was an idiot who insisted on living alone. Which brings me to my next tip…
3. Decide whether you’d like to live alone or with a roommate.
Living alone is not a bad decision. It’s just a decision that comes with consequences. I lived in a pricey studio apartment for two years before deciding that I needed to live somewhere more affordable. I challenged myself to find a one bedroom apartment under $1,000 a month.
I accomplished this (after months of searching) but I had to compromise a few things. I am able to live alone, close to downtown Boston, for $900 a month because I choose to live in a less desirable neighborhood. So if you decide to live alone, and you’re on a budget, you really need to consider the many neighborhoods surrounding your city. The prices will always range from neighborhood to neighborhood. Exploit that.
The easiest thing to do is to get a roommate (unless the people you end up living with suck and are psychopaths. Then it’s the hardest thing to do). Having a roomie allows you to live in a nice neighborhood on a discount. However, this doesn’t mean that the neighborhood doesn’t matter. You could have a roommate and still pay over $1,000 if you choose a really nice neighborhood. Or you could live in an okay neighborhood and pay around $800-$900.
4. Shop/decorate frugally.
When I first moved to the city I decorated my apartment using entirely thrifted, repainted and reupholstered furniture. I can’t even begin to tell you how much money this saved me. This was a life saver. Especially because I was dumping all of my money on the initial new apartment expenses (first, last, and security etc.).
This also made me a little extra money. When I moved to my new apartment I sold a few of the pieces that I refurbished online and was able to put the money towards a few new pieces.
Another way to decorate on a budget is to ask friends or family members if they have any pieces that they would be willing to donate. I got my large leather couch (pictured here in my Christmas décor post) from my older sister for free! I also was able to shop her basement and I took a bunch of old frames, candle holders, and cute little knick knacks that she no longer wanted.
5. Cut the cord.
This may be really hard for some people but it’s one of my biggest money saving tips. Cut the cable cord. I have not had cable in 4 years and I save so much money. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on cable I purchased a Roku HD. ROKU IS THE BEST!! I am honestly so in love with it. I’ve had the same one for 4 years and I have never had an issue with it. I pay for a monthly Netflix, and Hulu subscription which totals a whopping 19/20 bucks a month. I also have an Amazon Prime account which I can also use to watch shows.
If you’re worried about not being able to watch sports or Game of Thrones stop. I’m here to let you know that I figured it all out. Roku allows you to download a ton of free apps. Like FX (which I use to watch Fargo), CBS sports, HBOGo. “But T.A. you need cable to access FX, CBS, and HBO Go! I thought we were supposed to cut the cord!” First of all, if you haven’t already hijacked a family members cable password then I worry for you. I use my sister’s (I really just steal all of her things. God bless her soul) cable password which allows me access to HBO Go, ESPN, CBS Sports, and all the other awesome packages. “But T.A. I need to Keep Up With the Kardashians!” Don’t be ashamed I keep up with them too. Again, a cable password is all you need.
You guys, we can have it all. I’ve got you.
6. Feel the heat.
A big question you have to ask yourself when you’re looking for a new apartment is: Does it come with heat and hot water?
This is a biggie!! My super expensive studio apartment came with heat and hot water. All I had to worry about was my electric bill which was never higher than $20. Unfortunately when I found my current apartment I loved it so much and I disregarded the fact that the rent did not include heat and hot water. Another issue is that my heat is electric heat which, by the way guys, is really expensive. Last winter was my first winter in my apartment and using the electric heat brought my electric bill up to $300 a month!! What sucked even more was because my ceilings are so high my apartment wasn’t even getting warm. As of right now, I’m adjusting my lifestyle to keep my electricity all the way down, while staying warm. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out for me.
If you want to live alone and the apartment you’re considering does not include at least heat, walk away. Paying for your heat is a huge expense and could easily kill your whole budget.
The bottom line is city living is expensive. But with saving and the proper strategies you can definitely do it!