The Reality Of Living In New York City In Your 20s

8 Flares 8 Flares ×

New York City Reality

As a 20-something living in NYC, I’m well aware of the financial challenges young adults face living in this city. Yes, it’s one of the most exciting places to live in the entire world. But it’s also one of the most unforgiving cities to live in.

I know many 20-somethings who dream of living in the Big Apple. We’re mesmerized by the bright lights, shiny buildings and fast pace. But behind all of that is a tough reality. It’s one thing to survive in this city but it’s a whole other thing to thrive. So what does it really take to live in New York City for a 20-something? Let’s take a look at the reality of it.

1. Jobs. One of the best things about New York City is the opportunity that’s available. It’s a great place to jumpstart your career. Some of the biggest companies in finance, technology, and fashion call NYC home. But at the same time, its one of the most competitive job markets (and highest income taxes) in the country. While NYC has experienced job growth over the past year, the growth is mostly limited to lower paying and entry level jobs. Many applicants have to settle for jobs they’re overqualified for. As a young 20-something, finding your dream job in NYC is completely possible. But you might have to pay your dues for a little while.

2. Rent. If you live in NYC, your biggest expense undoubtedly will be rent. In May 2015, the average cost of a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan was $3039 per month. That’s equal to an average monthly paycheck in other parts of the country. It’s safe to say that unless you have a well paying job, you won’t be living in your own apartment in a prime location. To save money, many 20-somethings in NYC opt to share apartments, live in the outer boroughs, or both. While it’s typically recommended to spend no more than 30% of your take home pay on rent, you might have to shell out more if you want to live in NYC.

3. Food. New York City is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. But you probably won’t be eating in any of them, unless you want to drop a few hundred bucks on a single meal. Eating out is expensive and spending anywhere from $50 to $100 on a meal with a couple drinks is pretty average. To save money, you’ll have to cook most of your owns meals. But you’ll have to learn to be a savvy shopper, as groceries here cost 28% to 39% more than the national average.  Check out budget chains, like Trader Joe’s, and ethnic markets for better deals.

4. Entertainment. If you have any time to spare or money leftover, New York has plenty of entertainment options. The typical events like a Broadway show will of course be pricey. But the great thing about NYC is that there are plenty of free events too. Just do your research. Many museums offer admission on a donation basis, so you can give as little or as much as you want. In the summertime, parks host free outdoor concerts and movie nights. You can also always go to the movie theater, but that will set you back about $15.00 a ticket.

We all know how expensive NYC can be and that alone can scare you away. But for a 20-something, it’s one of the best places to live in the world. While living in this city isn’t for everyone, the reward is worth it if you’re ready to put in the work.

Have you lived or would you ever live in NYC, especially as a 20-something?


  1. says

    I’ve always dreamed of living in NYC, only as a 20 year old, but I think I’ll have to settle on visiting. The things I would love about NYC is 24/7 food options (that’s unheard of!) and all the free entertainment. And people watching – I bet people watching in NYC is awesome 🙂

    But $3k for a one bedroom? That’s definitely MORE than my monthly take home! Yeah, I think I’ll stick with visiting 🙂

    • Connie says

      People watching in NYC is the best! Definitely an all day activity! 🙂

      $3k for a one bedroom is definitely crazy and even though I live in NYC, I would never pay that (even if I could afford it)!

  2. says

    I have never lived in New York and I would prefer not to for just the reasons you discuss here – it is SO expensive. I do have many friends who live in the city though and they find ways around the crazy rents and other expenses, but to me it just seems like it would be very draining to constantly be leaking money.

    • Connie says

      It is very draining, especially apartment hunting. But there’s also a lot of great things in NYC that make up for it.

  3. says

    My younger sister has a big dream of moving to NYC but I’ve advised her on racking up as many scholarships as she can because I personally wouldn’t be able to pull off the rent in a prime area. I love the business of the city in terms of entertainment and free events, but I’m much more of a suburban girl in all other aspects just because it’s simpler and more affordable.

  4. says

    I’d love to live in NYC if I had the chance! I grew up in Hong Kong, which is also a busy city that never sleeps. As crazy as it may sound to some people, busy and crowded cities keeps me energized. If I don’t move back home to Hong Kong, I’m definitely going to make plans to make the move. Of course, I’ll have to be really frugal to afford a lifestyle in New York.

  5. says

    I love NYC, but sometimes I wonder how much better my finances would be if I lived in a lower cost of living area. It’s probably because I’m no longer in my 20s and now have a family! =) While NYC is expensive, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it while still living frugally. Housing costs are tough though…even when you live in the outer-boroughs. It’s definitely not as expensive as Manhattan and parts of BK.

  6. says

    I live here, too. Been here about 4 years (33 now). I can’t believe it took me until earlier this year to finally give up Manhattan and move to Queens. My wallet is thanking me. Another thing about NYC is the city tax – that’s an extra 3.5% whammy on our paychecks each month that the folks up in Westchester, Long Island, and Jersey don’t have to pay. I guess it’s all about choices.

Speak Your Mind