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How to Eat in NYC on a Budget

Posted Jun 09 2013 6:00am
New York City, like other major metropolitan areas, is not exactly cheap.

Especially if you have plenty of time to enjoy, like in the summer, there are countless things to spend your money on. Shopping, entertainment, food, etc. - it's hard to keep your personal finances in order with all of it!

I don't know about you, but I'm not made of money.

NOT my text, I swear!!
I'm also twenty years old and way past the age where it's acceptable to treat my parents like the bank.

If you're past the legal working age, it's time to start working on that financial independence. Being a leech is not a good look, no matter how good you've gotten at puppy dog eyes over the years.

So what are you to do if you find yourself living somewhere expensive, like NYC, and don't want to have to choose between missing out on all the fun and running up major debt (college debt is bad enough)?

Plan, plan, plan - and be smart about your expenses! Here are three super easy budgeting tips that will help you keep your personal finances in check.

Coupons.

Yes, that's a tip. And yes, you should be using them! Who cares if the cashiers give you a look or checkout takes a few minutes longer than yesterday? I've learned, from my terrifically thrifty mom, that you can save a lot of money with coupons!

Signing up for a coupon mailer is great and they tend to come in coupon pamphlets once a week - my family gets P & G Saver  and the Red Plum mailer and we sort through them on Sundays, when we have a little more downtime, to pick out coupons for the week. A lot of their coupons are also available online, so you can opt out of the mailer and be more paper-efficient if you have your own printer!

I also recommend following your favorite brands on Facebook and twitter, as well as signing up for their mailing letters. It's free to follow and they'll often publicize deals, coupons, and even giveaways through those venues! Like if you eat Chobani all the time like me?


Then you really ought to be a facebook fan .

Even if your coupon only gets you $1 off five individual-sized yogurts (like a recent one that I got through Red Plum), it adds up in the long run. Assume that you eat five yogurt cups per week (I eat more). That's $1 per week or $4 per month. In a year, that's almost $50 saved on yogurt alone - without super much effort on your part!

Now imagine how that multiplies if you apply it to your bread, cereal, snack, etc. purchases.

Don't pay for free stuff.

Sounds basic, right? But it isn't necessarily as obvious as it sounds.

If you ask anyone what basic, free necessities are, you'll probably get two answers fairly consistently: air and water. You're probably not paying for air (I hope) but it's much more likely that you're paying too much for water!

Sure, water isn't technically completely free, but it also shouldn't run you $2+ for 16oz. If you're in NYC, you're probably paying at least that much if you're buying bottled water on the go. It can get really hot in the summer months and you'll probably get thirsty if you're out and about. But if you plan ahead, you can easily save yourself $14+ per week (almost $60 per month!) and help the environment. It only takes two basic investments - a water filter (I bought a Brita pitcher from Kmart) and a reusable water bottle.

Dance Stainless Water Bottle 1.0L

I bought a cool dance one from Cafe Press !

Make sure to leave your bottle open after washing, so that it can dry properly, or your water will start tasting funky after a while!

Use your computer.

You definitely don't want to miss out on all the fun because you can't afford entrance tickets and restaurant prices, but using sites like Groupon and LivingSocial can help you get the exact same experiences for less money! LivingSocial frequently has deals where you pay, say, $10 and get a $20 credit to a local restaurant. Sweet!

You can also check out your local grocery store ads online to see what's on sale. If you're a little flexible, like being willing to switch up your brand of cereal or your snack, you can also save quite a bit by shopping by sales. Again, the savings may seem small - but they add up!

Speaking of saving money, remember the meal delivery service I reviewed a while ago? Diet To Go is running a Facebook giveaway from June 10 to June 28 where one grand prize winner will win a month of meals and five winners will win a week of meals!

What are your top budgeting tips?

Have you ever tracked your expenses to see where your money goes?

How old were you when you got your first job?
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