How Do I Afford Rent in NYC on an Entry-level Salary?

With median rents hitting $2,932/month in Brooklyn and $3,200/month in Manhattan, affording rent on an entry-level salary in NYC is not easy. But guess what, dear editorial assistants and junior tax associates? You and your entry level colleagues can do it. Young profs do it all the time.

Entry level salary

According to one StreetEasy report, new graduates can expect to make anything between $28,000 to $55,000 a year depending on your major and job. Teachers tend to have salaries at the low end of this spectrum while finance types, not surprisingly, tend to have salaries at the high end. Even though the spectrum of salaries is quite broad, most will not get you far when you calculate out the cost of renting in NYC. To figure out what you can afford to spend on rent, most people recommend the 40 percent rule – meaning that you should spend no more than 40 percent of your paycheck on rent. Everywhere else in the world the consensus is 30 percent but, this is New York, and things are just that way here.

So how’s it going to work? It comes down to both lowering your rent as much as possible, and then being frugal and fiscally responsible on top of that.

First, let’s go over how to keep your rent as low as possible:

Entry Level Salary Tips

Tip #1:  Give Up Your Loft Dreams

Don’t give up on all your dreams — just your dreams of living in a spacious, loft-style apartment like your favorite characters in TV shows. You won’t be affording these types of places on an entry-level salary – even if Rachel Greene did it as barista. The cheapest apartments, I have found, are ones which feature a bunch of small rooms off of one long, shotgun hallway. These apartments will typically be in older buildings as well, which will automatically feature cheaper rent than apartments in new developments.

Tip #2: Get a Roommate Squad

This is the most obvious, and shame on you if you are complaining about high rent when looking for an apartment where you can live solo. One roommate is great for cutting costs, but if you can commit to having anywhere between two and four roommates, you’ll be in great shape.

budget tips entry level salary nyc

Tip #3: Take the Smallest Bedroom

When living in a 3-, 4-, or 5-bedroom apartment, you can be sure that not all the bedrooms will be the same size. Therefore, a vast majority of roommates will try to divide the rent up fairly, with each person’s contribution reflecting the size of their personal room. If you find yourself in this situation, give up the extra space and opt for the smallest room. You will be saving cash each month, and you will also learn how to downsize and live with just the bare essentials. That is step one to becoming a frugal and financially savvy adult.

SaTip #4: No More Manhattan

Just don’t get an apartment in Manhattan if you are looking to save on rent. It’s as easy as that. Instead, head to the outer boroughs where the median rent — $2,695 per month and $2,300 per month for Brooklyn and Queens respectively — is much lower than the city average. For example, check out some of the more affordable neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Bed-Stuy, Sunset Park, Flatbush and Bushwick, or Astoria and Sunnyside in Queens.

Affording your rent is not just a matter of finding a cheap apartment. It also is about being financially savvy and responsible. Here’s a few tips for keeping your spending habits in check:

Entry-Level Salary Budget Tips

Tip #1: There’s an App for That

There are a ton of budget apps out there that tout an easy way to manage your finances. Some box you into setting aside money for specific types of expenses ahead of time, others don’t. Find a style that works for you, and commit to reviewing your budget daily.

Personally, I have now used Daily Budget for three years and love it. I hated having to assign upfront how much money I would set aside for clothes, food, etc. each month, because it wasn’t how I managed my money. Daily Budget instead gave me a daily allowance from my take home cash, after deducting my regular monthly expenses of rent and utilities. I could spend that money however I wished, or rack it up and watch how much I was saving each day by being frugal.

Entry Level Salary Rent NYC

Tip #2: Delete Seamless

Everyone knows that delivery is a huge money-sucker. Making a habit of delivery will deplete your bank account faster than almost any other expense — and probably won’t help you in the health department either. The easiest way to keep those impulse munchies at bay is to delete delivery apps from your devices. This adds an extra layer of decision-making each time you order delivery, allowing you to really think through whether you want to spend the money or if you could make something just as quickly in your kitchen to satisfy your cravings.

Tip #3: Avoid Wash and Fold

As easy and convenient as it may be, just simply don’t do it! According to a recent post on StreetEasy, wash-and-fold service will typically cost close to double what you would pay if you did your laundry yourself. Those extra bucks you keep in your pocket will add up over time, and also help you be conscious of what you consider a luxury versus what is a necessity.

Entry Level Salary

Tip #4: Don’t Pay for Cable

This is easy. Today we have HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and many other streaming services. Skip the high cable cost and just stream instead. The important thing to note here, is to not sign up for every streaming service. Otherwise, you may just end up paying more for that than you would for traditional cable.

Tip #5: Coupons. Coupons. Coupons.

You’ll never adult harder until you go through an online grocery store circular and make a list of what is on sale that week and what you could use a coupon for. Fifty cents here, 2 for 1 there may not sound like much. But, if you go into the grocery store with a plan to scope out the things that will save you money, you can avoid overspending and buying more than you need. Any food that goes bad and you throw away is some more money down the drain.

Tip #5: Pre-Game + Subway

It’s easy to get caught up in the nightlife of New York, especially when you are fresh out of college and eager to see everything (and everyone) the city has to offer. Your bank account could take a beating, though. Keep things in check by avoiding overpaying for drinks at bars, and make a rule to always see a taxi home as a luxury. Plan accordingly to meet up for some cheap drinks with friends before heading to more swanky places and plan to leave at a time where you can feel safe taking the subway home (and with other people). Most importantly though, have fun responsibly!