Cost of Living in New York City

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Cost of living in New York CityNew York is widely regarded as the most expensive city to live in within the USA, especially in relation to salaries earned. While the cost of living is cheaper than other big cities like London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the 'Big Apple' is by no means a cost-friendly location. New York City was ranked 16th out of 207 cities in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2015.

In order to overcome this economical intimidation, most employers will offer expats moving to New York City a relocation allowance known as a “COLA” (cost of living adjustment). This initial supplement is designed to ease employees into life in the city; it helps tremendously when it comes to finding an apartment through a broker, paying deposit fees and shouldering the burden of set-up costs while jumpstarting a new life.

Furthermore, while life in Manhattan is particularly costly, employees who work in the area are certainly reimbursed accordingly.

Cost of accommodation in New York City

New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Expats who choose to live in Manhattan will find the cost of living to be extremely high. It could almost be said that Manhattan has a micro-economy in effect. To put it into perspective, anything that is expensive in New York City will be less expensive in Brooklyn. If expats choose accommodation in the more posh and prestigious neighbourhoods of Manhattan, like The West Village, Soho or Tribeca, the cost of living will increase accordingly.

Costs of utilities in New York City

As a tenant in an apartment in New York City, expats will generally only pay an electricity bill; water and gas are often covered by the building or the landlord. While this is good news, it soon becomes obvious that the cost of running an air-conditioning unit in the summer months from May to September can triple the monthly electricity bill.

An additional cost unforeseen by many expats is the annual bonus residents give their building staff at Christmas time – this is more New York City social protocol than enforced rule, but it's nonetheless taken very seriously. With upwards of 15 staff in some buildings, this is no small sum.

Cost of transport in New York City

New York has a comprehensive subway system that covers all five boroughs, and the cost of public transport is reasonable.

Those utilising public transport on a regular basis can save more by purchasing unlimited travel cards. Buses, while slower than the subway, are a convenient and cost effective way to get around the city.

Entertainment costs in New York City

Eating out at some of the city’s culinary hotspots or enjoying an evening of wine and cocktails can come at a hefty price.

Expats should be aware that a 20 percent tip is obligatory in restaurants, and one dollar per drink is expected when buying a beer or wine over the bar.

Newcomers to the city will find that though expensive, the tipping culture means that service in restaurants and bars is often above par in New York, and that the quality of the food is generally of a high standard. Employees are paid only a modest wage and rely on their tips and therefore are conscious of providing good service and leaning on the kitchen to do their part as well.

Grocery and clothing costs in New York City

Everyday groceries and clothing will be much more expensive in Manhattan than any of the other boroughs. Expats will certainly find better deals outside of Manhattan but failing that, they can try buying online at and in bulk, and from large main street stores. The smaller corner stores and clothes stores downtown are lots of fun to browse, but they can be pricey. 

Healthcare costs in New York City

Expats relocating to New York should establish whether their employer will provide them with comprehensive health insurance policy, or whether they must organise this themselves. Insurance will cover most expenses, and expats will only have a small co-payment to make themselves.

The same is true of prescriptions: if patients have to see a specialist, which is often the case since GPs only treat every day infections and viruses, they'll need healthcare coverage for consultations, X-rays, hospital procedures, MRIs and other procedures. 

Cost of living in New York City chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for June 2016.
Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)
Furnished two-bedroom house
USD 5,000
Unfurnished two-bedroom house
USD 4,400
Furnished two-bedroom apartment
USD 4,600
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment
USD 4,100
Eggs (dozen)
Milk (1 litre)
USD 1.10
Rice (1kg)
Loaf of bread
Chicken breasts (1kg) 
USD 12.15
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
USD 13.12
Eating out
Big Mac Meal
Coca Cola (330ml)
USD 1.90
USD 4.22
Bottle of local beer
Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant
USD 80
Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)  
USD 0.12
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
USD 70
Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)
USD 180
Taxi rate (per kilometre)
USD 2.50
Bus/train fare in the city centre
USD 2.75
Petrol/gasoline (per litre)
USD 0.68

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