Cost of Living in New York City

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penny rolling to show cost of living in NYCNew 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.

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, a roll of Bounty kitchen paper costs around USD 3.75 in Manhattan; hop over the water to Brooklyn and one could scrape a few dimes and quarters together and make the same purchase for little over USD 1. Go one step further and 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.

Expats can anticipate an electricity bill of USD 60 per month during winter and USD 250 per month during summer.

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.

A single ride on the subway is still only USD 2.75, cheap even when compared to other large cities.Buses, while slightly slower, are also a convenient and cost effective way to get around the city.Those utilising public transport on a regular basis can save more by purchasing unlimted travel cards.I A monthly travel card for unlimited subway and bus travel is USD 116.50. A weekly card is USD 31. Do note that fares are continuously subject to change.

Entertainment costs in New York City

While this may seem like an unnecessary category to consider when it comes to balancing your budget, it happens that New York is one of the party capitals of the world. 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.

Fast food can be found on most street corners and while we can’t vouch for the health benefits they are certainly easy on your budget.

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. A visit to a general practitioner (GP) without insurance can leave expats with a bill of roughly USD 200 for as little as a 15-minute consultation. Insurance will cover most of these expenses, and expats will only have a small co-payment to make themselves.

The same is true of prescriptions: without adequate cover expats will be left with a bill of up to USD 50 for drugs. If patients have have to see a specialist, which is often the case since GPs only treat every day infections and viruses, they'll need healthcare coverage that will be good for consultations, X-rays, hospital procedures, MRIs, etc. Without insurance, bills could soon amount to thousands of dollars.

Cost of Living Chart for New York City (2015) 

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)
Furnished two-bedroom house USD 4,500
Unfurnished two-bedroom house USD 4,000
Furnished two-bedroom apartment USD 4,200
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment USD 4,050
Milk (1 litre) USD 2.70
Loaf of white bread USD 3
Fresh whole chicken (kg) USD 8
Rice (1kg) USD 3.25
Dozen eggs USD 3.50
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) USD 15
Eating out
Big Mac meal USD 8
Coca Cola (500ml) USD 2.50
Cappuccino USD 5.50
Bottle of beer (local) USD 8
Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant USD 70
Utilities (monthly)
Mobile call rate (per minute - mobile to mobile)   USD 0.45
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable) USD 90
Electricity USD 180
Hourly rate for domestic worker USD 32
Taxi rate/km USD 2.75
City centre bus/train fare USD 2.75
Petrol (per litre) USD 1.25

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