Being one of the most glamorous cities in the world, the social life, culture and wealth of New York City has been a source of inspiration for many in America and around the world. Admiration aside, how much does it actually cost to get by in the Big Apple? While it is certainly a spendy place, more than eight million people find a way to make their lives work here on a daily basis … here's what to expect if you hope to join them.
What you can expect to earn here
New York City is one of the world's leading business hubs, standing alongside London and Tokyo in their importance to global economic output. Opportunities in finance, media, real estate and high tech are abundant, as are careers in a slew of other areas due to the diverse nature of its employment market.
Due to the high concentration of highly skilled positions and partially because of the high cost of living here, salaries after taxes average well over $4,000 a month in the NYC metropolitan area, with many positions paying around six figures or higher, especially in the finance sector.
With everybody wanting a piece of the Big Apple, you'll want to earn as much as you can, as financing a comfortable middle class lifestyle here is no picnic.
Going out to eat
The ethnic diversity and a high concentration of restauranteurs have been drawn by the world city atmosphere that NYC provides, meaning that there is no shortage of great restaurants to dine at throughout the five boroughs.
While it may be a challenge to find places in New York at this price point, joints like the Corner Bistro on West 4th Ave or Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown serve up meals at around $15 per person.
Moving up the scale a bit higher in quality will cost you a mint though, with your average three-course meal at well-loved institutions like Emporio and Freemans in Midtown Manhattan running diners about $75 for an evening of inspiring food.
The price of a cart of groceries
If the expense of a decent meal out in New York City has you smarting, you have a viable alternative to what many passively accept in this place: head to the supermarket, fill your pantry and fridge with groceries and get cooking.
For the frugal denizens of Gotham, this is an excellent way to save money, as not only do you dodge the inflated prices out at the diners and restaurants, but you'll be eating healthier using some of the cheapest groceries in the nation.
That may seem like a lie when you look at pre-made meals in the deli section of your local bodega and heavily taxed bottles of pop (thanks Bloomberg!), but according to data gathered from consumer research group Neilsen, grocery prices in NYC are actually 10% cheaper for the same core staples (milk, cheese, vegetable, fruit, bread, etc) when compared to prices in Des Moines, Iowa (source).
The same holds true when putting New York head to head with other Midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Indianapolis, so shop smart, limit your purchases at places like Whole Foods, and be sure to quit smoking before moving here, as every pack of cancer sticks will set you back $12 on average. Ouch.
Getting to and from work
Unless you live out in a suburb like White Plains or Scarsdale, chances are you'll be taking the subway to work. If you have plans to bring your VW Golf with you to an apartment you've been eying up on the Lower East Side … you may want to sit down.
The average parking spot must be purchased when acquiring a condo/apartment in NYC, with the average cost of these spaces hovering around $165,019 per year. That is not a misprint. Even if you plan on renting a spot when commuting into the city every day, the average price for a rental stall in Midtown will run you about $600 a month, with some spaces exacting a $1,200 toll (for perspective, there are some studio apartments in the outskirts that cost that much per month).
If you have your heart set on urban living in New York: 1) Sell your car ASAP and 2) Shell out $112 for a transit pass that gets you unlimited rides on one of the most extensive people moving systems in the world.
Additionally, the average cost of a cab in NYC is far cheaper than many other cities in the USA ($2.50 starting fare versus $6 in Des Moines, Iowa), as a glut of these vehicles stand ready to get you across town when you don't have enough time to take the subway.
While it is definitely pricier than many cities around the America and the world, the alternative (spending a six figure salary for a piece of asphalt each year or commuting for hours from the outer burbs) is far less palatable.
The cost of owning/renting your own domain
Being built out to its maximum extent many decades ago and with limitations on adding housing supply even as the condo towers of Gotham march relentlessly upwards, the price of housing in the Big Apple is truly astronomical, even on a global scale.
Brownstones, townhouses, and normal homes are hard to find for under $500,000, even on Staten Island. Average prices are in the 700's through much of Queens, with many properties approaching $1 million in Brooklyn.
Prices take on an entirely different strata in Manhattan, with previously owned condos going for at least $850,000, and new developments tend to start at around $1.4 million. Hope that Wall Street job comes with performance bonuses, as you'll need them if you intend on owning property here.
Renting is much less expensive, but still exorbitant when compared with most other parts of the country, as a one bedroom will cost between $1,800 to $3,000 and a three bedroom between $3,300 and $5,200 a month, depending on whether you rent in Midtown Manhattan, or out in the Bronx.
This is where New York City can really begin to hurt the pocketbooks of the newly arrived. Heading out to after work functions can seriously deplete your disposable income if you get carried away, as cocktails average between a lofty $12 to $17 per glass, while microbrew aficionados will be riding the pain train as well, with pints costing around $7 - $11 a stein.
As mentioned off the top of the article, dining out is no small expense, and if you plan on heading out to the movies afterward, expect to pay around $14 just for the ticket ($20 for 3D), and about the same amount for treats.