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58 Comments

  1. You are totally right! The entertainment, the sheer number of possible things to eat, drink, experience and do – it adds up to being broke. Especially when you start signing your kids up for stuff. You just can’t get into a mindset that you have to do everything. The infinite choices are good and they are bad – just like most of life’s equations.

  2. I love NYC so much and can’t wait to go back there. I got to stay for a month there when I graduated university. I

    I really believe NYC is as expensive as you make it. Yeah, the housing/rent costs are crazy but a lot of people also spent too much on entertainment there. I COULD NOT imagine having to raise kids there! It would get expensive super quick! Hats off to that!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      When I put on my tourist hat I enjoy NYC a lot. I haven’t mentioned this but I lived in Manhattan with rent under $500. In the good ole days the builders of my complex were given tax credits with the condition that they provide subsidized housing. But not long after I moved out, the rents skyrocketed since the subsidy was not for life and came to an end.

  3. I like the idea of news paper for Windex! Talk about cleaning up the news….or maybe alternative facts?

    I recently bought a big house and am kicking myself in the butt for it. I love the view, but we bought more house then I had wanted. My neighbor is also a recent home buyer and we were joking today how renting is SOOOO much cheaper, especially in expensive cities.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Hey DDD – Sorry for the late reply. Perhaps the desire for the large house is just human nature. I’m glad you have a good view!

  4. Linda on the Groovy Blog? This makes for a good day for this reader!

    Always love hearing your perspective, Linda – it’s awesome to hear how you make things work. I think there are a ton of lessons that can be applied from your situation to the rest of us living the suburban or rural lifestyle 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and thanks to the Groovy’s for having such an awesome guest!

  5. Linda, you have got city living down to a science, by the sounds of it! While I don’t mind commuting, I would love to be able to walk or take transit to and from work, if only for the money saving/physical activity aspect of it. I move from sitting at a desk to sitting in a car. I do enjoy small town life, but often miss the energy of city dwelling. You don’t necessarily get that in every city though, not all are created equal. To me, large international centres such as New York, Chicago, or Toronto are in a class of their own. Great post!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I got a little spoiled when I lived in Manhattan. Any job I took needed to be on the east side where I could walk or take a bus! You know what they say about sitting – sitting is the new smoking. I think I need to find an app that gets me up on my feet every hour.

  6. Hi Linda,

    It is great that you are enjoying city life and being money savvy about it. Everything decision has its trade offs and it looks like you are intentional about your choices and are happy with your decisions. That’s a very good thing!

    –Michael

    • Mrs. Groovy

      We were fortunate with our relocation in that most of Mr. Groovy’s family migrated south too. Still, I miss my few family members in NY and it’s not a quick trip – even in retirement. Trade-offs and intentionality – these seem to be the big themes here.

  7. Miss Mazuma! Yes, I agree. The whole issue of people being treated the same way in different parts of the country, all of which have radically different costs of living is frustrating. If I didn’t have so much family that I was so attached to, I would definitely be open to having the experience of living in different places. There is a part of me that really envies people who are able to just say “it would be awesome to live in XYZ place – let’s do it!” My husband and I met studying abroad in Paris and we forever fantasize about living there. But my parents would need to be medicated if we did that – lol!

  8. The trade offs are huge but location is such a big factor in lifestyle…especially when you are close to family and friends. Im born and raised in Chicago and, while my COL is NOTHING compared to yours, I often wonder about the trade off I am making. Being a flight attendant I work with people who commute from St Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Minneapolis and the list goes on. While all those cities vary in cost, we ALL get paid the same wage. Before I owned my place I wondered why I would live somewhere I had to work more hours just to provide the basics when I could easily commute and have a lower COL. But in the end, Chicago always wins. It’s home to me. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t ever move (especially with costs rising as rapidly as yours) but it would be very hard to make that decision. I applaud your efforts!!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      We are so very happy to share Linda’s post, Kraken. You summarized her attitude very succinctly with “focus on the things that matter”. Oh sure, every little bit helps, but cutting costs on the big ticket items like housing, food and child care are what will get you to the finish line – not cutting out the lunches or the lattes.

  9. You’ve seemed to adopted not only a frugal mindset but also a focus on the things that matter. Sure you could have focused on bringing your lunch every day, but you concentrated on solving a bigger problem: you and your husband not being on the same page with the grocery list. It looks like solving that problem has saved you thousands of dollars, which is much more than bringing lunch could have ever achieved.
    I think these three expenses can be reduced by anyone, regardless of their location and financial situation. By reducing your living expenses, child care, and food cost to a place where you are getting the most bang for your buck you enable everything else to fall into place around it.
    I like this concept of focusing on the biggest expenses in life. I’m glad you put this article together Linda, and thanks for sharing this Mr. & Mrs. Groovy.

  10. Great post! I love reading about your life in the city, Linda! I’m most jealous of the summer nights on the stoop sipping cocktails with the neighbors. I think it’s great you have discovered what makes you happy and you’re making it work for you. That’s the key. It’s so easy to wonder if you’d be happier somewhere else, but when you really think about it, you’re often just fine right where you’re at.

    • Mr. Groovy

      There’s something special about impromptu stoop parties. Definitely a NYC thing. On Long Island it’s backyard barbecues. I remember running around with my cousins and the adults playing pinochle on the picnic table. Great stuff. Linda nailed it. Life is very good with a close platoon of family and friends doing simple stuff.

      • Yes, NYC does not have a trademark on neighborly fun, not even close. My sister lives on a canal in Long Island and the shenanigans that go on – people pulling up in their boat or on their jet ski, or waving as they pass by. The houses are small, very middle class and there is a lot of mingling in the yard, on the canal, in the bay. My cousin in NJ has a friend who opens his umbrella, which can be seen from the street to let his friends know to stop in and have a drink. Anyone can have, anyone can be the catalyst that brings people together. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles always played pinochle – to all hours! (Always for money of course!)

  11. Great post! As someone with a family living in NYC, I can definitely relate. Housing is expensive…there’s no way around it. We rented for awhile but then bought a co-op because buying in our area seemed like a better deal. (We live in Queens and not in the hip parts so prices are a little bit more reasonable). However, now with 2 little ones, we might be outgrowing our junior 4 apartment. A 3 bedroom apartment is outrageously priced. We’ve considered a move to the suburbs of LI…which makes sense in our case because I actually work there while my wife works in Queens. Property taxes are higher but there is no city income taxes. My preference would be to stay in the city. though.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Andrew. I was born in Queens. We lived on 88th Avenue in Queens Village. I miss my carefree afternoons in Alley Pond Park. Property taxes are brutal on Long Island. Good luck, my friend.

  12. In City life lot of ways are available to spend money without any reason. I too have a habit of spending more money for restaurants. Prioritize the things are important and do the best you can. Thanks for your sharing. It’s totally worth able to share with my friends.

  13. Love this post! I grapple with living in an expensive city as well (LA) and dream of lower rent (and will probably never own here because of the cost), but it has its advantages. Great weather (uh, normally. Not this winter!), the beach is 1/2 mile away, good paying job, good friends. Traffic? well that still sucks but I try not to spend too much time in it if I can avoid it. The thing is we make the best of what we have!

  14. You gotta do what you gotta do. Prioritize those things that matter, and do the best you can with what you have.

    Making the choices you are, Linda, will help you reach your goals in due time. You might reach them faster living in rural Iowa, but that would require you to live in rural Iowa.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • You may be surprised, but I am constantly bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t born in Vermont. I would have been very happy to have grown up in a small town in the country. There are so many things I love about that lifestyle. It’s just I like being close to my family and city life is all I know. And of course I am going to embrace the good, while I deal with the bad. But the grass is always greener, and we can all get used to a lot of things we never thought we could. If I had to move out to rural Iowa for some reason, it would take some serious adjusting, but I am pretty sure I would end up just as happy as I am now. And I would be ALL OVER the State Fair.

  15. I’ve never lived in NYC…suburban NJ is expensive enough for me. But I do understand that there are intangibles to calling an area home that you just can’t put a price on. Thanks for sharing your perspective on making it work for you and your family.

  16. First thanks as always Linda for giving a great perspective. I lived in the City of Atlanta for 4 years of my life of my life, but it reminded me that I’m more of a rural person at heart (not a suburb, but actual rural. I’ve lived rurally for the remainder of my life).

    It’s funny, my brother and sister in-law live in a city. They come to see us and they are bothered by the quiet and the lack of people. Meanwhile, we go to the city on holiday. I end up feeling it’s too noisy and I can’t get away from the hoards. It’s a way of life and the choosers of each would not be happy in the other one. Happiness ultimately trumps frugality, especially with ways around spending too much like you have here.
    Now if you excuse me I’m going to take a walk in the woods behind my house and see if I come across any deer. 😉

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I love your perspective FTF. I realized I’m more of a rural person at heart myself after years of city living. Linda’s neighborhood in Brooklyn has a nice feel. Two trips to NY ago, Mr. Groovy and I were near Linda’s neighborhood and enjoyed having pizza at an Italian institution that has been around for decades. Parts of Brooklyn have a calmer pace than other areas of NY.

    • You know how to make me jealous! I love city life, but I also love rural life. I couldn’t live in a rural area full time because I do need people around–it’s how I grew up. Cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents downstairs, next door, and around the corner. I don’t love crowds, but I do like not being able to get in my door on a summer night because people are slipping cocktails into my hand and there’s a gaggle of kids running up and down the street. That’s just how my parents grew up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. But if I couldn’t get away into the country with my children, or even just up to RI to my in-laws’ house regularly, I’d go nuts. We love nature and hiking and bird-watching, and I need my kids to experience the beauty of nature.

  17. Hi Linda! Thanks for sharing these tips. It’s always interesting to read about the lives of people in diverse areas of our country.

    We will never live in a city. Our favorite activities include things like enjoying a bonfire under the stars. But everyone is different. I think one of the best points you make is about adopting a frugal mindset. It can make a huge difference in your finances no matter where you live. The key is really thinking about how to spend your money and figuring out whether there is a cheaper way to do things.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I had many a bonfire under the stars in Brooklyn. But usually we set a garbage pail on fire to do it! Adopting a frugal mindset most definitely is key. You can do your food shopping at specialty stores in NY, or you can go to Costco or neighborhood stores. There’s a huge difference in price. I also like Linda’s choice about sending her child to a Catholic school to save on Pre-K tuition. In general, religious schools in NY offer a much better education than public school but at a fraction of the cost of private school.

  18. I think we all succumb to imposter syndrom, Mr. Groovy. 🙂 It’s hard to feel like you’re doing extraordinary things, but believe me, you are! 🙂

    Oy! Staying under budget in such an expensive easy is no small task. I get the lure of the big city, but I honestly think it’s very difficult to make a living on a normal salary in a place like NYC. But thanks for these tips! It just goes to show that your ability to save will depend according to your life circumstances and even where you live. There’s no right path for everybody when it comes to FIRE.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I tell Mr. Groovy all the time how I married a genius!!!

      You’re so right about there being no “right” path for everyone. What really matters is how much you love where you live and as Linda pointed out, where you are willing to make your trade-offs. For us, there was no longer an allure for living on Long Island.

    • I agree – Mr. Groovy is anything but an imposter. It is hard to live in NYC with a normal salary. And we will be working until we die! But aside from the space issue, which isn’t as bad as you might think, the main difficulty is living among so many ultra wealthy people, and viewing the world through that very skewed lens. It is hard not to get caught up in–especially when “keeping up with the Jones’s” means something other people would never even think about, like being able to have three children instead of only two. But at the end of the day, comparing yourself to freakishly rich people is always going to lead to a bad place, no matter where you live. We expend a lot of energy sending those thoughts away.

  19. I loved living in NYC but it got depressing struggling to stay up with at all the rich people on Park Avenue. Then I gave in, gave it up, and became very grateful for all I had.

    Attitude is the key–and your is amazing!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Linda’s got a great attitude! Mr. Groovy and I, too, are so grateful for what we have now and how life became easier after we got out of NY. One of our biggest issues was property taxes.

    • Some days are harder than others – like yesterday when I learned my next door neighbor is renting his newly renovated apt for $10K a month. Vodka, whiskey… crack, anyone? Sometimes humor is all we have… that’s free at least!

      • Mr. Groovy

        Where’s his apartment? Tribeca? Or is it in your building? Wow. My nephew and his wife are paying $3,000 per month for a one-bedroom in Williamsburg. And I thought that rent was outrageous. Yes, please pass the whiskey.

  20. Thanks for sharing Linda.

    It’s amazing what NYS has in way of living areas and expenses. Rural, urban, suburbs, and all with a wide range of costs.

    Good for you and the family for making the budget work and keep Brooklyn your home. What in the world would you call your blog if it wasn’t? 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      What’s always amazed me about NYC is that property taxes are relatively cheap. If you could somehow manage to own your house or co-op outright, you’d be in pretty good shape financially. Long Island, however, is a different beast. The cost of housing is cheaper, but the property taxes are through the roof. I have a friend who lives in Woodbury and his taxes are over $36K per year. That’s over $3,000 per month. I have another friend in Bayville whose property taxes are over $20K per year. Those are scary numbers. I don’t know the exact tradeoff between owning and renting in NYC and Long Island, but I’m inclined to think that Linda’s doing the right thing. Just the opportunity cost of using tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment rather than boosting one’s investment portfolio has got to give the edge to renting. Thanks for stopping by, Brian.

    • I worry about that when things get rough enough that even I question my sanity. Maybe I’ll have to call it “born in Staten Island but living no place special and still needing more money.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Brooklyn Bread,” though. lol. Meanwhile, Mr. Groovy, the taxes in LI are crazy, but Westchester is where the real rape and pillage is happening. I have a sister in LI and a sister in Westchester. We considered both at one time but had a pretty fast reality check.

  21. There’s always trade-offs to every decision. We have this crazy pull to be anchored near the beach, at the same time want the mountains & trails, and even more we love the city! I guess it’s possible that we could be happy anywhere, but there’s always expenses and benefits to all of them. One positive is we don’t have to worry about the kid equation so that saves a little. We were very surprised when we visited New York City and found so many great food carts that were actually pretty affordable!

    It’s great that you guys got your financial situation used to the big city and then geo-arbitraged to a cheaper area of the country. That’s the way to do it!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Ha! You sound just like Mrs. G and me. We love the water and love the mountains. But since we moved down to NC, we’ve become more intrigued with mountains. In fact, we were very close to buying 20 acres in Montana a few years ago. As far as NYC goes, I have a love/hate relationship. The people are great–although, they’re definitely annoying at times. And the number of cool, affordable things to do are off the chart. Want to take a great hike? Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for free. Want to see a great movie? Go movie night at Central Park for free. NYC is truly amazing. Sadly, the weather, the crowds, and the cost of housing wore Mrs. G and I down. This is why I really respect people like Linda. She takes the lemons of NYC and makes some awesome lemonade. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Saturday. I loving hearing from people who can appreciate a good “dirty-water dog.”