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Cost of Living in New York, NY 2021

By: Davina Ward
May 17, 2021

New York City is a cultural hub, financial center, and media hotbed with something for just about anyone. New York City is the arts. It's fashion, education, technology, entertainment, sports, and more, all rolled up into a neat five-borough package.

Known for its legendary skyline and status as a bonafide megacity, New York City draws thousands of new residents every year.

Of course, every new resident of the Big Apple must contend with a high cost of living. It's difficult to live comfortably in a city that requires you to spend most of your paycheck on rent.

However, it is possible to successfully make the move to New York, provided you take care to plan your budget thoroughly.

This guide will help any new prospective NYC resident build their budget to live comfortably in the Big City. Here's everything you need to know about the cost of living in New York City.

New York City Housing Costs

It's a well-known fact that New York City sports a high cost of living due, in large part, to its notoriously high rent prices. As the city is so large and is divided into boroughs that encompass entire counties, the average rent price for the entire city of New York can be misleading.

Rent prices vary dramatically by borough and even by neighborhood. For example, the average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is two times the average price of a one-bedroom unit in the Bronx.

That said, it’s important to choose a borough and neighborhood that is within your budget. To help, here’s a look at the average rent prices in New York City’s boroughs, including the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn.

BoroughAverage 1-Bedroom RentAverage 2-Bedroom Rent
Bronx, NY$1,716$2,232
Queens, NY$2,126$2,573
Manhattan, NY$3,414$5,080
Staten Island, NY$1,767$2,554
Brooklyn, NY$2,968$3,261

Alongside the hard numbers, you’ll need to consider New York City rent trends. The COVID pandemic has greatly impacted the city’s rent rates and generally caused dramatic drops. The city is in the process of recovering from these drops but has not completely rebounded.

The current median rent in New York is $1,601 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,685 for a two-bedroom. This is a drastic 15.3% drop from rent prices at the same time last year. Although rent prices are increasing, and have been since January, now might be a great time to make your move to NYC and lock in a low rent rate.

If you want to save more by renting with roommates, be sure to do so safely.

New York City Transportation

As one of New York's most famous features, the New York public transportation system is one of the most comprehensive systems in the world. Not to mention, it runs 24/7, which helped the city earn its nickname as “The City That Never Sleeps.”

It's the driving force behind New York's impressive status as the only city in the US that boasts a majority of households without personal vehicles.

The vast majority of New York residents commute to work via public transportation, biking, or walking.

The average single NYC resident spends $4,332 on transportation costs annually, while a family of four with two children spends $11,773. You can cut these costs down by using public transportation as your primary method of getting around.

A 30-day unlimited MetroCard pass costs a low $127, which translates to $1,524 annually for unlimited access to the subway and local buses.

In short, if you make the move to NYC, be prepared to spend some time learning how to navigate the city's massive public transportation system if you want to save big.

New York City Food Costs

From pizza to hot dogs to a viable treasure trove of ethnic cuisine options, New York provides it all in terms of food. If you plan to dine out at all in the city, you'll need to account for those costs in your budget.

A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost you $115, including gratuity.

However, the omnipresent food carts and stalls that adorn New York's streets will likely be more common food stops for you. The famed $5 hotdog, soda, and chips combo might not be the healthiest meal out there, but it's delicious, convenient, and cheap.

If you want to keep costs down and enjoy your time in the kitchen, you can expect to pay $3,690 annually or $307.50 monthly for groceries. If you're feeding a family of four, you can expect to pay $10,806 annually or $900.50 monthly.

Head to your local Aldi for low-cost grocery options. However, if you're looking for more options and at a slightly higher cost, head to the newly opened Wegmans. This grocery store has earned its cult following. Seriously, check out their cheese section.

New York City Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is a necessary expense that you'll have to include in your moving budget.

In New York City, the average resident pays $2,935 annually toward an employer-sponsored health insurance policy, while a family of four pays $7,153.

New York City has several city-operated health clinics dedicated to delivering free or low-cost healthcare. Additionally, you can find information about health insurance enrollment and options on the city's Health Department webpage.

However, if you need to purchase your own private insurance, head over to Healthcare.gov to find affordable coverage that meets your needs.

New York City Utilities

The average utility costs in New York City amount to $273.04 monthly or $3,276.48 for the year. This rate accounts for basic utilities, including water, electricity, and gas.

That said, your utility rates may differ based on your personal preferences, your apartment, and your lease agreement.

That said, it's important to include cell phones and internet service when estimating your utilities.

The average US resident pays $94 monthly for their cell phone service and around $45 for internet service, meaning you'll need to account for an additional $139 in your budget.

As a new resident, you may qualify for new customer discounts and incentives, so be sure to do your research to find the best deal.

Fitness and Entertainment

The average single New York City resident spends $1,702 on fitness and entertainment costs annually. A family of four spends $3,879.

So, where do these funds go? We've got a breakdown of some of the most popular fitness and entertainment options that the city has to offer and how much they'll cost you. Let's dive in.

New York City Fitness Costs

Fitness is an important aspect of healthy living. Luckily, there are tons of ways to stay fit that you can choose based on your budget.

You might be someone who works best with a tribe of like-minded lifters. If so, expect to spend around $107.90 monthly for a gym membership.

If you're keen on fitness and cost-efficiency, you might enjoy home gym sessions that allow you to work up a sweat in your living room. A fitness app like Peloton might be your best bet. At $12.99 a month, it's a steal.

Find a New Favorite Park

Although Central Park gets all the hype, New York plays host to over 1,700 parks. These parks are free, fun, and offer fitness opportunities for the whole family.

Whether you're an everyday jogger, a tennis fanatic, or a birder, a day out at one of NYC's parks presents the opportunity for entertainment and fun. Better yet, it's free — your bank account will thank you.

Catch a Game in the City

In New York, you have at least two home-team options for every major sport in the US.

Like basketball? Root for the Knicks or the Nets. Football? The Giants or the Jets. Baseball? The Yankees or the Nets. (Rhyme much?)

Regardless of the team, you're rooting for, you'll need to consider the cost of attending a game in your budget. Here's a breakdown of the average ticket costs for some of New York's sports teams.

  • New York Knicks: $82
  • Brooklyn Nets: $132
  • New York Mets: $59
  • New York Yankees: $80
  • New York Giants: $123
  • New York Jets: $64

Head to a Museum

Whether you're a culture buff, an art lover, or simply looking for an inexpensive way to kill a few hours over the weekend, New York City's museums will deliver.

The city is home to a collection of museums, famous throughout the world. If you move to the city, they'll be right in your backyard.

Of course, museum visits will take a hit to your budget. Here's a breakdown of the general admission costs for an adult at some of New York's most famous museums.

  • The Museum of Modern Art: $25.00
  • The Guggenheim: $25.00
  • The Met: $25.00
  • The Museum of Natural History: $23.00
  • The New Museum: $18.00

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for free or low-cost days or nights. Museums generally offer a few of these each month or on a regular schedule. It's a great way to get more bang for your buck.

Other Expenses to Consider in New York City

The budget for your move to New York City should be airtight, meaning you'll have to account for the expenses that typically get forgotten on most budgets.

We've got you covered with an in-depth look at the hidden costs of living in New York City.

  • Sales Tax: The combined city and state sales tax rate in New York City is 8.5%, but can vary depending on what you purchase and its cost.
  • Income Tax: New York State levies an income tax rate on a sliding scale. Depending on your income, you can expect to pay anywhere from 4% to 10.90% in income tax. Additionally, you'll have to pay the city's imposed income tax which ranges from 3.078% to 3.876%, depending on your income.
  • Parking Costs: The average cost of monthly parking in New York is $570 per month or $6,840 annually. You'll have to consider this cost on top of the 10.375% tax and an additional 8% surtax on parking, garaging, or storing cars in Manhattan.

When budgeting to live comfortably in a new city, it’s important to utilize the standard rule of three. This rule simply states that to live comfortably and afford rent, one should earn at least three times the monthly rent before taxes.

For example, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,414. To live comfortably, a resident would need to earn at least $10,242 monthly before taxes.

That's pretty steep.

If you chose to live in the more affordable Bronx borough, you'd need to earn three times the $1,716 monthly rent rate before taxes, which amounts to $5,148.

That said, it’s important to note that some New York City property management companies require prospective renters to earn at least 40 times the monthly rent. Be sure to check tenant salary requirements before submitting a rental application.

You may be able to circumvent that requirement by renting as a subletter.

Final Thoughts

Moving to New York City is challenging; there's no way around it. However, if you budget correctly and catch a great deal on your dream apartment, you'll be living in the Big Apple in no time.

Ready to start your New York City apartment hunt? Take the quiz above!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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