I'd like to introduce you to a fellow retirement blogger, JP over at The Money Habit. She retired at the age of 28 after working at an investment firm for seven years. She shares tips for getting to your retirement goal at her blog and has contributed this post about how to make it happen even in a high-cost city like New York City (my own favorite city, as most of you know).
One of the biggest conversations in early retirement circles centers around location. Many plan to move to a lower cost of living area when they retire. That’s a fantastic move and it can serve a lot of people well.
But me? I adore big city living.
The food! The people! And best of all, every kind of class, workshop, and hobby group to pursue my interests.
The one downside is the incredible cost.
Fortunately, you can counter this issue with some judicious compromises. I’ve lived and worked in New York City since I graduated college. At 28, I’m retired and still living in the Big Apple.
Here are the strategies I use to keep my costs low.
Housing is the perfect place to start, given that it’s generally the largest expense line in the budget.
The trinity of factors in housing are price, location, and size.
General advice says you can have any two, but you cannot have all three.
My decision to live in New York City was about valuing the amenities. Because of this, location was paramount in my decision. As early retirement has long been a goal of mine, cost was the second most important consideration. That’s how we ended up in our current apartment.
It is a 325 square foot unit. Many people would cringe at the thought of two people and a dog sharing 325 square feet. We have lived in the same building for five years, and it’s been very pleasant.
The thing I’ve realized is that most people (including myself!) are bad at living in efficient spaces because we have had very little practice, and we have not learned how to optimize the space.
Just like any skill, it takes investment. Here are some space-saving tips I learned from Hong Kong and Tokyo magazines:
- Loft the Bed – That’s 150 cubic feet of storage instantly
- Fill Suitcases – You doubtless have a few bulky items like suitcases to store. Make sure you fill them with other items that need to be stored
- Thin Hangers – You have no idea how much space they will save you.
- Shelving – Pick up floating shelves and extra shelving for your cabinets at any hardware store.
- Expandable Everything – Inflatable mattress for guests, expandable table for company, you want anything that can expand.
- Ethnic Grocery Stores – One of the benefits of living in your super expensive city is the diversity of grocery stores--your local ethnic stores are where the best deals can be found. I go to Chinatown for all my produce, meat, and seafood.
- Value Grocery Stores – Trader Joe’s is my lifeline. This is where I pick up everything else (frozen meals, milk and eggs, cereal). Between the Chinese grocery store and Trader Joe’s, we eat like kings for less than $450 a month.
- Regular Cafe/Coffee Trips – Part of the reason I live in the city is my enjoyment of the ambiance, and there’s nothing like writing on my laptop at a local mom & pop coffee shop. For $4 a week, I can make this a regular occurrence. There are an insane number of unique beverage-focused locales to soak up ambiance. Places that only focus on ciders, roof top bars, beer gardens, wine bars. When I want ambiance at a lower price tag, I opt for something on this list. Not cheap, but definitely workable into the budget. It’s also great to use coffee shops as the venue to catch up with friends over restaurants.
Purchasing on Craigslist
When you are making a purchase, you can use the advantages of your city (density, diverse incomes) to scout for great deals on Craigslist.
One guy who bought a PC part from me told me he always tries to buy his stuff from the fancier neighborhoods--you’ll find steals in the thrift stores in the fancy neighborhoods.
One of the huge benefits of living in your fancy city is the amenities, so use them! I’ve had my eye on Hamilton tickets, which have an insane scalper market snatching up all the inventory. If you check secondary ticket sites on the day of the event, though, you will see that when it gets to within an hour or two of the event, you can get reasonably priced tickets.
Your entertainment options on Groupon and Living Social are going to be vast and varied. As long as you check the deal against yelp reviews to ensure good quality, these are worthwhile considerations. There are also a million completely free things to do like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, free museum nights, and new bands to check out.
The world is your oyster, even in a high cost of living area. Hopefully these tips will help others who are considering taking a job or retiring in a high cost of living city.
The Money Habit is a blog that believes anyone can retire decades before the average. The blog focuses on the 20% of money management techniques that will deliver an 80% impact to get you there.