This is the first half of a two-parter, explaining how and when New York City can be affordable.
Common Perceptions About the Cost of NYC
- If you’re on the lowest end of the income scale, then you’re used to bad living conditions, so you don’t mind the fact that you’ll have to live in them to exist in NYC, because that’s all you can afford anyway.
- If you’re making a good six-figure salary, you can be comfortable in NYC. You make enough to actually enjoy the city and take advantage of what it has to offer.
- If you’re most people—who aren’t poor, but aren’t rich either—you won’t be able to afford to live comfortably in NYC. But since you do have some money, you won’t tolerate the NYC living conditions that you can afford, so you leave for a cheaper part of the country to enjoy a better lifestyle.
Three Problems with These Perceptions
- Other places outside of New York are assumed to be cheaper because their housing costs are lower. But a budget is more than just housing…and other budgets often aren’t cheaper when you work it all out.
- This makes NYC seem like a Dickensian dystopia with only billionaires and serfs. But the median household income for Manhattan is $79,781, and for New York City as a whole it’s only $57,782 (source). Household, not individual. These are not legions of serfs, and they’re making it work somehow.
- This view makes it seem like those earning minimum wage can’t make it in NYC. That their housing options are boxes and their food options are discarded ketchup packets. But if you’re a minimum-wage worker, New York City is one of your best bets, and it has plenty to offer. If you work at McDonalds and you want to live in New York, it’s likely that you’re better off here than in many other allegedly cheaper parts of the country.