With financial experts suggesting that San Francisco residents need to earn six-figure incomes to live affordably in the city, it’s become clear that America’s growing cities are becoming less affordable, particularly for the millennials who seem to favor them.
For those who want the big city experience without the financial strain, here are a few ways to make it possible to live affordably in an unaffordable city:
- Get roommates
One of the easiest ways to cut your cost of living is to share your rent. A SmartAsset analysis found that in some cities, a renter who shares a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate saves more than $800 a month compared to someone who lives in a one-bedroom alone. You’re not just cutting back on the cost of rent though, you’ll also be able to split utility costs, which between internet, energy and water, can eat up more than 20 percent of your after-tax income according to the ACCCE.
Find someone you’re comfortable living with and cash in on these savings. In cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, you might need more roommates to make the rent reasonable.
- Secure a long lease
If you find an apartment or a home that you love at a reasonable cost, do whatever you can to lock that price in for as long as possible. Apartment managers like long-term tenants and might find the idea of an 18-month or even 24-month lease attractive. It will also ensure that your rent doesn’t go up for the duration of your lease.
- Move when the rental market is less competitive
The rental market slows during the holidays, especially in places that experience cold weather that is not conducive to moving, like New York City. According to a study from RentHop, rents in New York City are lowest in December and January and peak during the summer. The difference is roughly 4.5 percent for a one-bedroom apartment, or about $140 a month. If you can’t avoid moving during the summer months, avoid areas near colleges and universities that are popular for students.
- Cut miscellaneous costs
It’s not just the rents that make city living so expensive. Cost of living also trickles down to transportation, groceries, fitness and other discretionary spending. One way to cut back on these costs is to take advantage of public transportation, walking and biking whenever possible. If those options aren’t feasible, try the carpool options available through Uber or Lyft and avoiding ordering a car during prime time hours. Also, host dinners instead of going out to eat and plan your meals ahead of time to avoid impulsive food buys.
- Purge your closet
Take the time to purge your closet at least once a season. It will help you stay organized and reduce clutter in your home, and you can also make some easy cash on the side. Sell whatever you’re willing to part with to a local consignment store or list your clothes on apps like Poshmark. Consignment stores tend to favor trendy clothes that are in season, so be strategic about what you sell.
- Take advantage of free events
Rent in major metro areas might be expensive, but going out doesn’t have to be. Live affordably and fully by finding free or cheap events on websites like DoStuff Media, Meetup and Eventbrite. Most cities have free outdoor movies and concerts during the summer and most museums offer free entry a few days a month. With a little bit of research and planning ahead, you can maintain your vibrant social life without hitting your wallet too hard.
- Settle in the suburbs
Another way to live affordably in a big city is to settle in a nearby suburb. You’ll still be close enough to enjoy most of the benefits of the city, but for a fraction of the cost. Studies show that millennials tend to prioritize work-life balance, which can be difficult to achieve when you’re busy hustling in the big city. Living in the suburbs can free up time and money that could be spent on outings with friends, travel or even an eventual down payment on a home.