Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Yorkconomics

Every so often I go through a frenzy--deciding that we need to move out of the city. If we ever want to have a savings and if we ever want to be able to pay off our debt, we need to move out of the city. I often talk with my friends who live in other cities (mostly MA) and their draws always drop when they ask me about my rent. I am honestly often embarrassed to admit how much we pay each month to live in a shoebox-sized apartment of 323 square feet. While we constantly say, anything has to be better and bigger than this, it is often a struggle to all survive in our small space. We do love it, as it is ours--well not really, we rent, but you know what I mean--and we adore our neighborhood, but on occasion I get the suburbs itch.

I start to think of all that we would be able to do in the suburbs. Like have a grill, have a yard, have a driveway, possibly even a washer and dryer, have actual room for a living room set--including couch, have more room to function, be able to get a dog and probably have a car again. Then I start thinking about all that I currently have access to, that most likely would not be in the suburbs: amazing neighborhood, everything delivers, everything is within walking distance, public transportation, AMNH and the 92nd Street Y, diversity, culture and heck, I'll admit it, getting to say "I live in NYC!" With all that comes along with living in the city, it is hard to actually want to move.

So, let me get back to my New Yorkconomics now. So, when I start thinking of ways for us to actually start a savings--I can't even say increase, because we don't really have any savings-- my immediate thought is...must find a place with cheaper rent. So, I start looking outside Manhattan proper: Jersey, Westchester, Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, etc. Brooklyn is a viable option, we would be able to get more space, but the rent wouldn't be any cheaper, so that doesn't really help with developing a savings and paying down some debt. Next I usually look in Queens. There are some great sections of Queens where we could get more space for a bit less money. The problem being is that if you live in those areas of Queens, you really need a car. So, any money we may save on rent, we would have to use to get a car (gas, insurance and car payments) basically wipe out any savings we may have had on rent. I then normally look to Long Island and the Westchester area. Some of these, the further out you go from the city, are cheaper and would lend itself to all that suburb stuff I dream about often. So, we would save some money on rent, get the entire suburb thing--but similar to Queens we would really need to get a car and in addition, would also have to pay for our monthly commuter passes, which can be really expensive on Metro North and the LIRR. So, again, an option, but not really one that lends itself to creating savings. Last, but not least there is Jersey. Jersey is also a viable option. It is so close to the city and there are some awesome parts of Jersey I would have loved to live in. But, again and again, we run into the same problem of needing a car, and if nothing else, needing to pay additional money in my monthly commuting pass (The Path, New Jersey Transit, etc).

So, I guess until I hit the lottery or become rich and famous in some other way, for now the most economical thing for us is really to remain where we are. In our teeny-tiny 323 square foot rent-stabilized apartment, where our ceiling paint is chipping and our bathroom ceiling leaks frequently. Ahhh, the joys of a pre-war building. But, I love it, right?

So, yeah, when I talk with my friends, they first gasp at the rent. Next, they cannot begin to comprehend how I survive w/out a car. I try and explain that when everything is within walking distance and there is public transportation, (other than when we would like to go up to MA), we really do not need a car. We can walk to the grocery store, and anywhere else we may need to buy stuff. It then becomes a bit comical when I travel up to MA and stay at my parent’s house, where it quickly becomes weird to drive the mile to go to CVS instead of just walk. I guess it becomes second nature really. So, instead of having to pay for car payments, cash, parking and insurance, I just have to shell out $89/month for an unlimited metro pass.

Food is another huge expense here in the city. I am still not 100% convinced that buying groceries is cheaper than ordering out, but I am slowly being convinced. Groceries are so expensive in the, not to mention the challenge of cooking for 2 people. Everything we buy basically goes bad, or we cannot finish it. We have been trying hard to get better at leftovers, but it is most certainly a WIP (Work-in-progress). There are some amazing restaurants here in the city. Some that are pretty top of the line and some that I just love. I love Luigi's baked ziti on the Upper East Side; I think I could eat it every night. I also love Tony's. Mmmmm....can you tell I love my Italian food! In addition and amazing restaurant in midtown is Del Frisco's!! If you ever go, you must get The Lemon Cake! Del Frisco's is an amazing location and the restaurant is just gorgeous. I also enjoy all of the B.R. Guest Restaurants (Blue Water Grill, Atlantic Grill, Blue Finn, etc). I also cannot forget about my favorite Indian Restaurant Indigo. NYC is an amazing place for food, but again, with everything being so expensive, it is hard to fully enjoy all the city has to offer.

This feeds well into my thoughts on city life. With food, rent and utilities being so expensive, it does not leave much extra for all that fun stuff you see in the movies: going out, drinking, dancing, going to plays, Broadway shows, the opera, etc. This city has so much to offer, but it really takes a few years being here to realize this is not "Sex in the City" and that staying home, cooking and watching some T.V. is really the typical evening, like it would be in any other place you may live. Sure, every once in awhile we will go catch a movie or something, but I envision NYC being a spectacular place to live if you have a ton of money, as the possibilities are truly endless!

That being said there are so many free or relatively inexpensive things to do in the city, you really just need to find your niche. We have really enjoyed getting involved with The American Museum of Natural History. We go to lectures there all the time. While we are both science dorks, we have really enjoyed only being across the park from AMNH--amazing resource. In addition, we have also been going to events and lectures at the 92nd Street Y and found those to be most interesting. While they are not free, they are cheaper than a Broadway show. We have also really come to love walking around the city, Carl Schurz Park, Central Park and our neighborhood. We have also found some places to hike just outside the city, which are accessible by public transportation, so they don't break the bank either. There are some spall places like Second Stage Theater and Make where we are able to enjoy ourselves to see an off-Broadway show and paint some pottery, which again, while are not free--are pretty affordable.

There are many places to explore and many things to do as long as your expectations of the city align more with Seinfeld than Sex and the City.So, in the end, while New Yorkconomics are unlike the economics of any city, you can find a way to make it work. As I always say to relatives "for now, probably not forever." Because as most know, once children come into the picture everything changes and more often than not, after that second child especially the burbs become a necessity--for affordability, space and well, a swing set really!

Off to try and find an affordable lunch---really need to start brown-bagging-it!

And that's all she wrote....

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