Congratulations! You’re moving into your very own NYC rental apartment. Before you sign that lease, be prepared for unforeseen expenses. Let’s take a look at common household expenditures and compare these typical costs to your monthly income. Goal? Avoid debt six months after you’ve moved in.
Rent is the biggest expense and easiest to calculate into your living expenses. You want your neighborhood to be safe and in close proximity to fun hot spots and everyday essentials. Be realistic and ask yourself, if you can you afford your ideal neighborhood? Rent should be no higher than 30 to 50 percent of your monthly income. Compare average rents in your community by going to Find The Data. Remember that New York City apartment costs are always going up.
What you should budget: Starting prices on Manhattan rental studios are from about $1,100 and up in Inwood and Fort Washington. One bedroom apartments in Manhattan start at about $1400 and go up from there, depending on the location. Other apartments can be found in the boroughs of New York City at lower starting rents.
A rule of thumb is plan to pay between 2 and 10 percent of your income on your apartment utilities. Most apartments in NYC for rent include heat, but that is less true if you are renting in a two or three unit apartment house. Always ask if heat is included in the rent. If you must pay the heating bill, find out the type of heat the apartment uses. Is it gas forced-air or steam ? Do you have thermostat control or not? What is the average winter heating bill for the unit? Don’t be surprised to find out that keeping your own apartment warm can easily come to an additional $150 per month or more if the heating source is electric baseboard heat.
Also, keeping your computer and TV on 24/7 and using energy-sucking appliances like air conditioners can add up. Your monthly electric charge can range from $40 to $80 if you use AC.
What you should budget: Set aside anywhere from $50 – $140 per month.
A connection to the Internet is as basic as electricity and gas. Although cable is typically associated with high-speed Internet, DSL Internet can be just as powerful and cheaper. You can shop for basic Internet service for as little as $19.95 a month. Most Internet providers bundle services to include cable TV or a phone line. Adding extra services can increase your monthly bill from $59 to $79. If you need those extra services, bundling can be cost-effective, but only if you get the services you really need. Most neighborhoods in New York City are served by only one cable company, so you might want to also consider a satellite receiver for your broad band access if your landlord will allow you to have a dish.
What you should budget: Basic broad band only: $19.95 per month. Bundled plans: $59 – 79 per month.
Landlines are as nearly obsolete as pay phones. Cell phone packages can be as low as $10 a month for no-frills, calls-only plans and up to the U.S. average of $73 a month for a plan with all the bells and whistles. If you want data service, expect to pay the high end. Most of New York City has excellent coverage from every major cell phone company.
What you should budget: $10 – $90 per month. (If you’re on your parents’ family plan: $0!)
Traveling to and from work is the second largest household expense after housing, according the Federal Highway Administration. Your neighborhood’s location impacts your travel budget. Is it close to work, a grocery store and nightlife? In an auto-dependent area, such as the areas further out in Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx, your trips can take up as much as 25 percent of your yearly budget. But in a “location efficient” area, such as an area within subway distance of Manhattan, transportation could take up as little as 9 percent of your budget. If you avoid the cost of owning a car and use public transportation entirely, you can save as much as $10,000 a year.
What you should budget: Owning a car: $650 per month, including gas, licenses, maintenance, parking, car payments. Without a car: $40 – $100 per month. Ride a bike and bring that down to almost $0.
The monthly U.S. food bill averages between $182 to $235 a month for men and $162 to $204 for women, according to the USDA. Keep in mind that’s if you’re on the “thrifty” or the “low cost” plans. Reduce your eating expenses by teaming up with friends to buy in bulk from discount stores like Sam’s Club, Costco or a neighborhood coop, but expect to pay for fresh and whole foods too. You can eat cheaply without relying on frozen pizza and fast food.
What you should budget: $160 – $200 per month.