Author Topic: Case Study: NYC on a budget  (Read 1226 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Case Study: NYC on a budget
« on: January 04, 2018, 11:32:30 AM »

Long time lurker and MMM reader here! My wife and I just completed our first full year living and working in NYC. Iím not really looking for anything specific out of posting this, I just wanted to write down all the numbers somewhere, but comments are welcome! Our goal is to become FI within 10 years.

Life Situation:
Married filing jointly, 25 & 26 years old, no kids (we plan to have one in around five years)
Canadians living in NYC - weíll probably have to return to Canada eventually.
Unlike most New Yorkers, we have a car (you can park on the street in Brooklyn). Itís a hassle and we never use it in NYC, but we drive to visit family (~700 miles roundtrip) probably 10x annually. Itís cheaper than flying. Iím on my fatherís insurance plan which he generously pays for.
I use Mint religiously.

Our combined gross salaries are 112k annually (~75k net), plus I have a small side business which brings in variable amounts - about $24k after-tax for 2017 (will probably shrink in 2018). Weíre hoping for some big wage growth soon; Iím currently looking for a job that comes with a big raise (~$30k).
No 401k offered by our employers, but that might change in 2018.
My employer pays 100% for my zero-deductible health insurance. I have $20/month deducted for dental insurance for the both of us, and my wife has $235/month deducted for high-deductible medical insurance.
Current net income is around $99,000 annually.

Taxable brokerage account: $270,000
Traditional IRA: $11,000
Itís all in equity ETFs, split 50/25/25 American/International/Canadian. No bonds since weíre young and very risk tolerant and Iím mentally prepared for a recession.

I should mention that my wife and I are both ridiculously privileged in this area. Wedding gifts, inheritances, and other gifts probably account for around $180k of our nest egg. We also both have Bachelorís and Masterís degrees from a Canadian university at the cost of only a few thousand annually, which our parents generously covered. I also got a scholarship and was a TA during my Masters. Since we lived with parents rent-free throughout our education (our current home is our first), we graduated with more money than we started with.

Total: $3,450/month or $41,400/year, for a savings rate of 58%.

Our average monthly expenses are:
Rent: $1700 Half our total expenses. One bedroom in Brooklyn, a great deal for our neighborhood.
Travel: $530 Our biggest expense, which I view as a good thing.$6,362 for around 35-40 nights on the road. We are big travelers. This includes a three week honeymoon around the world, a 9 day hiking vacation in the Canadian Rockies, and numerous long weekends. It includes all expenses from the Uber to the airport to the Uber home. We are travel hackers/credit card churners so most of our flights and some hotels are free. It does not include road travel to visit family.
Groceries: $302 Surprisingly, this is less than the $352 youíd get from food stamps. To be fair, it does not include food when we travel (probably 6 weeks of meals overall) or restaurants (around twice weekly). It does include the NYC price premium. Weíre vegetarians so no expensive meat. Otherwise, I donít understand how others spend more than we do. We buy lots of berries, produce, frozen meals, $6 pints of ice cream, the occasional farmers market, and even a tiny $7 yogurt from time to time. I estimate that 90% of our calories can be covered by $100 a month and the rest goes to what we consider luxuries. We donít shop with our middle finger.
Restaurants: $215 We like eating out. Almost always at ďinexpensiveĒ place (thatís $10-$12/meal + 25% tax/tip in NYC).
Utilities: $76 Electric & gas. Heat and water are included in rent.
Internet: $45 My $35 promotional rate just finished
TV: $25 We have Sling TV, plus occasionally we pay for Hulu. We mooch off my MILís Netflix account.
Phone: $50 T-Mobile unlimited $100 for two lines. Includes free calling/texting/4g to/from Canada which we highly value. My wifeís half is reimbursed by her employer.
Public Transit: $80  My wife takes the subway to/from work 4x weekly (1 day works from home). I walk to work, a mile each way. This also includes the very occasional Uber.
Car Expenses: $92 This includes gas, tolls, repairs, and two parking tickets. Most New Yorkers should spend $0 here.
Shopping: $116 I can mostly blame my wife for this one
Home: $52 Includes furniture, plants, decorations, etc.
Pharmacy: $46 Includes all toiletries, cleaning products, anything you can get at Walgreens. Not sure how it adds up to this much but apparently it does.
Pet Rabbit: $44 This is mostly paying for someone to take care of him when we travel. Itís not cheap.
Entertainment: $34 Spotify premium, occasional movie/sports game/concert
Laundry/Haircuts: $36 No laundry in our building. We pay $0.90/lb for drop off service. Now Iím addicted to having someone fold all our stuff, so I donít mind this expense too much.
Gym: $0 > Gym
Misc: $8

According to the Networthify calculator, we can retire in 8.8 years (11.5 if we didnít inherit anything). Should be even less since we expect raises. I expect that eventually our non-rent expenses will go up a little in FI, especially if we have a kid, but rent/mortgage should be much lower when we leave NYC. Travel costs should also go down, so I expect to spend around $40k forever. This gives us a nice round target of one million.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: New York, NY
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2018, 05:19:28 PM »
Hello fellow Brooklynite! I can definitely relate on having a car to travel to family, worshipping at the church of Mint, and coming from a place of privilege. Though you spend way less than we do and that is enviable (we dine out way too much and do fancy gym stuff). Stay warm in the current "bomb cyclone"!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Age: 24
  • Location: East Coast
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2018, 05:35:24 AM »
Can you tell me about your 3 week honeymoon?  I'm getting married in April 2019 and want to do a 2 week trip.  I'm hoping to get the flights paid for by credit cards so I only need to pay for food/lodging.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2018, 09:55:10 AM »
Thanks mo_money, I enjoyed reading your journal! Lucky you for having a parking spot!
Engineer, we went to the Seychelles, India, and Bali. Spent around $3000 total. It was quite an amazing trip! I'll PM you some more details.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2018, 02:09:06 PM »
Also in Brooklyn! Looks like you are on your way with only a few luxuries and a healthy savings rate. Congratulations on doing this in NYC. Most don't think it is possible.

DW and I are in a similar situation with similar income and expenses except for student loans which we pay 3k/mo on and will be done in July. We only save around 1k/mo. We are 29 & 30 yo and are trying to figure out how to do the baby thing next year. We are just getting started on our FI journey unfortunately. Another 15+ years to go by my estimates. Our only assets are 35k in retirement accounts. DW just graduated from grad school and has been making about 20k/yr. I just started making a decent salary last year. Her income should increase dramatically soon, but with a baby in our plans who knows.

Anyways, best of luck to you! Though you probably don't need it. Cheers.


  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6251
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2018, 10:22:55 PM »
I haven't lived in NYC since 2002, but your budget numbers look pretty good to me! 

If you have any ethnic grocery stores near you that is one place to look for cheap produce/staples (esp tofu products if you eat soy) -- our grocery bill plummeted and the quality of our  meals skyrocketed when we moved from the West Village (we had 10 months of free housing in a townhouse owned by our employer when we first arrived, so buying groceries at D'Ags and Gourmet Garage was doable) to Jackson Heights (ethnic grocery HEAVEN -- we had Indian, East Asian and Latin American versions to choose from all within a few blocks). If you like Indian food a trip to JH to load up on all the wonderful dried legumes and spices might be worth an Uber back, actually -- assuming you don't have something similar closer.

Now I want to go Indian grocery shopping again.....
Wherever you go, there you are


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2018, 02:53:36 PM »
Steeze, your situation sounds like it will get a lot better very soon! 3k/month extra in savings plus the raise from $20k to something much higher. Good luck with the baby, I'll have to report back in 5 or so years to see how we do when we're your age!

Ihamo, that's a good idea, I've never really thought hard about it. I might go exploring for some cheap produce. It would have to be somewhere close though, I think most of our expenses go towards perishables so our "stocking-up" trips our monopolized by Trader Joe's!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Case Study: NYC on a budget
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2018, 05:58:47 PM »
Ah! make me sound so old! haha.

As far as groceries, we shop at a market in China Town called iFresh on Mott Street - the produce is much cheaper than a regular market. The store there isn't as well kept as a TJ's and the produce doesn't look like it came out of a magazine like at Whole Foods, but you can get some good deals. Meat is usually far cheaper, particularly fish. Eggs are $1.50 for 2 dozen. Some stuff there is more expensive such as the western style groceries like oatmeal or cereal or US name brand products. Worth checking out anyway.

There is another good grocery in china town on 8th ave in Brooklyn attached to the food court in the mall there. Awesome place to grab a meal in the food court for under $5 and grab groceries for cheap while you are there. Last time I went I snagged a roast duck over rice with veggies for $4.50 and it was a huge serving - menu was all in Chinese though, so good luck!