New York City is considered the cultural capital of America and is called the “city that never sleeps.” It’s a vibrant, bustling metropolis bursting with opportunities not found elsewhere. There’s a certain excitement about living in NYC that is unparalleled anywhere in the world except a few other cities.
But all of that excitement and opportunity don’t come cheap. Living in New York is expensive. Very expensive. The cost of living is 95 percent higher than the national average. The cost of housing is 258 percent higher than the average, food is 35 percent higher, and other goods and services are 25 percent above the national average.
That means your income has to be above average to get by in NYC, right? Not necessarily. The average U.S. income was $97,962 in 2021. But it’s possible to live comfortably in New York on half of that.
So what’s it like to live on $50,000 a year in NYC?
This post will describe what it’s like to live in New York on a $50,000 income. If you’re considering moving to New York, for work, to be close to family, or for the unique atmosphere, but believe your finances just won’t allow it, this post may interest you.
What It’s Like to Live On $50,000 a Year in NYC
Many individuals and even families in New York City live on $50,000 or less. As we mentioned, housing is the most significant living expense, at almost twice the national average. In NYC, most landlords use a 40x rent rule, meaning your annual income needs to be at least 40x the monthly rent to qualify. So with a $50,000 yearly income, you’d qualify for a $1,250 per month home. Depending on where you live, there are certainly studio and one- or two-bedroom apartments to be found for that amount or less. The neighborhoods with the most apartments under $1,200 for rent in NYC are Clinton, Central Harlem North, SoHo-TriBeCa-Civic Center-Little Italy, Ridgewood, and Midtown-Midtown South, according to rentable.co.
You can also consider sharing a house or apartment with one or more roommates and split the cost. You can reach out to your college alum network to see if any fellow graduates in NYC are looking for roommates. Some realtors and apartment referral companies can also help with finding roommates. There’s even a service run by the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens that matches homeowners with extra space to people looking to rent a room. Online services like Roomi and SpareRoom and some Facebook groups also can help.
There are many modes of transportation in and around NYC, so it’s feasible to live there without owning a vehicle. You avoid the expense of licensing and registration, gas, maintenance, and insurance, as well as traffic and aggravation. Taxis are plentiful but can be pricey. Public transportation is the most economical way to travel around the city. A subway ride is $2.75 per person, while the fare for a taxi is $2.50 plus mileage. A study by Ride Guru found Uber is even more expensive in NYC than a taxi. The most economical public transit option is the 30-day unlimited MetroCard which currently costs $127.
Within the city, public buses and the subway are the most common means of travel. Outside the city, there’s the Long Island Railroad and the Metro-North Railroad. The town also offers ferry services to cross the waterways between boroughs.
Finally, biking and walking are the least expensive ways to get around and when feasible, are great ways to experience a neighborhood up close.
The average monthly grocery expense is about $480 in NYC, which is higher than the U.S. average of $348. Your specific grocery bill may be higher or lower depending on your dietary habits and shopping preferences.
Although Trader Joe’s is more expensive than other grocery retailers in Long Island and other parts of the country, it’s one of the least expensive in NYC. With just 12 locations between Manhattan and Brooklyn, you’re in luck if you happen to live close to one. Otherwise, you may have to take the subway or bus and walk and limit your purchases each time to what you can carry.
When you’re looking for a wider selection, there are larger stores like Bravo, Food Town, and Costco. These are higher-priced than Trader Joe’s in New York City, but less than the neighborhood markets.
The neighborhood gourmet markets are ubiquitous in New York and the most expensive choice. It may be convenient to do all your shopping just downstairs or around the corner from your home, but your grocery bill may run to $150. These stores are targeted at higher-income customers. With $50,000 annual income, you may want to limit your visits to neighborhood gourmet markets to emergencies and last-minute necessities.
Likewise, delivery services like Gorillas and Instacart are readily available in NYC, but the delivery fees can take big chunks out of your bank account.
When you’re in the mood to dine out, or you have out-of-town visitors, you’ll be happy to find there are many quality and inexpensive dining options. While New York is, of course, home to some of the world’s best upscale restaurants, it’s also home to many starving artists, working-class types, and interns trying to make ends meet. NYC has a wide variety of low-price-but-good-quality establishments, from pizza to gyros and falafel to handmade Chinese dumplings. Also, many restaurants offer happy hours and food deals at certain times. Once you’ve been in the city for a while, you’ll quickly find where to go nearby. You can also look online and ask friends, coworkers, and neighbors about their favorites.
What’s the point of living in New York City if you don’t get out to enjoy it all? Here’s where the city shines, because there are many free or low-cost sightseeing options. For example, iconic Central Park is great to tour any time of the year, from the spring cherry blossoms to fall foliage to winter landscapes. The park has several attractions, including Belvedere Castle and the Central Park Conservancy. In the summer, you might see a free performance of Shakespeare in the Park, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2022.
Some other notable parks for great views of nature and the city include Domino Park in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
NYC has incredible museums, many of which offer free admission at certain times. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers pay-what-you-wish admission to NY State residents. The American Museum of Natural History is pay what you wish at the ticket counter for NY residents.
A $50,000 income in New York City is about $3,281 per month after taxes. With some planning, you can live quite comfortably in NYC on that income, and many people do. If you’re ready to relocate, call the experts at All Around Moving, and we’ll take care of all of your moving needs.
We hope you found this post, What Is It Like to Live On $50,000 a Year in NYC? useful. Be sure to check out our post, Moving To New York City – Essential To Do Items for more great information.
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