How to Live in a High-Priced City on a Post-Graduate Budget

By Amanda Cohen on February 3, 2019

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The post-graduation move looks different for everyone. Some of us are moving to a big city to start new jobs, some of us are moving to smaller towns to start school, some of us are living at home to save money, and some of us are moving to a whole new country to expand your life. Regardless of where you fall on the post-graduate move spectrum, many of us will move to big cities, like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. where the price of living is very high and where our jobs pay little to nothing.

So, how do you work with a high-price of living city as a recent college graduate? What can you do to make the financial burden less of a burden and more of just a small challenge? That’s where I come in; I’m here to help you navigate your finances and your apartment hunt and how to talk to landlords in a very expensive city!

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First and foremost, when looking for apartments, you have to cater to how many people you are planning on living with. If you are planning on having a roommate, or multiple roommates, look at apartments that have one less bedroom than you need and then “flex” the apartment (build a wall off of the common area) so that you have the correct amount of rooms and cheaper rent. Everyone wins in this scenario: you have the correct number of rooms, you are splitting the rent of an “x-amount of rooms apartment” between “x + 1 number of people,” and therefore you are saving money while also living comfortably in your new city.

Another consideration is the number of amenities you want to have and balancing that with the amenities that you can actually afford. Amenities, such as in-unit laundry, a gym, a doorman, package services, etc. amp up the cost of living in an apartment in any city. If you are looking to save money, only look at apartments that are walk-ups, have no one manning the door, and have no amenities (except maybe laundry on the bottom floor). These apartments are a lot less costly and much more affordable for post-graduates. If you look for walk-up apartments with multiple roommates, the rent price decreases by a significant amount. So, even if you want to live alone, consider living with at least one roommate so that your rent price isn’t as high.

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Regardless of where you end up living, you will have to deal with a landlord or a property manager at some point. How do you negotiate rent prices with your landlord and/or property manager? When speaking to him/her, always be polite and prepared. Don’t just dive into a negotiation without having all the information in front of you. When first meeting the landlord/property manager, get as much information as you can.

Then, take a night or two to sort through the information and propose possible plans that will allow you to pay a more reasonable rent price. Come up with a couple different plans, do some outside research on rent deals and rent prices around your area, and assertively, but kindly, talk to your landlord/property manager. If you think you need to talk to a lawyer about an apartment contract, I highly recommend you do so.

When living in a high-price city, rent prices vary based on location. Some high-profile locations in that city are much more expensive than others; for example, in New York, the price of living in Brooklyn is much less expensive than the price of living in Manhattan. I’m not as familiar with other cities, but New York rent prices are highly contingent on location, and I feel like other high-profile cities are quite similar. Even a block can make a difference in rent prices. Apartments near major transportation hubs (i.e. the subway) also have a bit of a rent increase because, like having a doorman, being close to transportation is another amenity. So, if you want a bit of a break on your rent price, buy some good walking shoes and live a little further away from transportation centers and subway stations. Walking an extra five minutes won’t hurt you, I promise.

I may not have all the answers, but these tricks have definitely made it possible for myself, my friends, and my families to live in expensive cities. When doing your apartment search, be thorough, be mindful, and be smart. Don’t let landlords, property managers, nor brokers screw you over. Be assertive, be mature, and don’t fold so easily if they say something isn’t possible. When you move, get your finances in order and try your best to put money away each month so that you have a back-up plan in case you lose your job, or if your financial situation changes. Good luck and happy apartment hunting!

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I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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