How to afford life in expensive cities: The ultimate guide

by Mai Le | Apr 18, 2021

Are you relocating to the city? You’re not alone. The trend of people moving into major metropolitan areas and out of the suburbs has accelerated in recent years. Whether you’re moving to be closer to work or to have easier access to advanced facilities in the city, downtown living has a terrific vibe. However, it usually comes at a price. Though certain aspects of moving to the city from the suburbs can save you money (for example, commuting costs), there are other expenses actually going up. That’s why we’ve put together a list of money-saving tips to afford life in expensive cities, which will assist you in making a cost-effective life in big cities.


The expenses of living in an expensive city

Some downtown areas have a higher cost of living than others. So here’s what to expect in a large city once you move there. Your first and most obvious expense when you move into a new city is the rent, which can be expensive. London rents are especially exorbitant, but other big cities are no less so. And when you include living expenses, you’re looking at paying over 50 per cent of your income in rent. On top of the rent, you’ll probably be spending on transportation, grocery shopping, laundry, and most of the day-to-day errands.


Save money on commuting

We have some bad news: As incomes increase, you’ll likely see fewer tax breaks on your income when it comes to housing, healthcare, and food costs. Because of this, living in the city doesn’t save you any money on your gas and other transportation expenses. But there’s one significant thing you can do to save on commuting which is using public transportation. It will save you not only fuel expense but also parking fee, maintaining costs when you use your own car. Moreover, buying monthly tickets for London public transportation system will help you save some extra pounds.

You might also try biking or walking for a shorter distance and then using a car service to transport your things. That said, you still need to figure out how you’ll get around the city. If you’re not sure where to start, you can look for shared-ride services in your area, which allow you to share a ride with another passenger to/from certain locations. If public transportation is not so convenient in your area, consider using services like Uber or Lyft, which will allow you to share a ride with another passenger to/from your preferred destination.


Save money on utilities

If you move to a big city like London, New York or Paris, you’ll probably notice that many of the apartments and buildings aren’t exactly designed with an electrician in mind. Since power grids require constant maintenance, they are prone to many problems – both small and large. For this reason, it’s important that you budget enough money to make sure that you can call the utility companies on a moment’s notice if there are any unexpected issues with your electrical or gas line. Paying for your utilities while living in a building or apartment complex located in an area with old infrastructure is actually cheaper than what you’d pay for this with apartments or condominiums on higher floors.


Save money on entertainment

Want to save money on entertainment? It’s relatively easy when you consider you can get free entertainment in the city. You can go for a walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll find so much to see, including plenty of outdoor art and even food options in some neighbourhoods. Plus, you don’t have to pay anything to see an outdoor performance or a concert. So unless you’re really into sports, you’ll be saving money on entertainment anyways.


Save money on food

Many cities offer significantly more value for your dollar in terms of food than the suburbs. Big cities, like London, can cost you a pretty penny. Since you’re going to be moving downtown, you’ll likely be experiencing new eating opportunities for the first time and want to explore those options before you actually invest. In a city, the cost of a meal is only as high as your expectations. By taking advantage of the low-cost bars and restaurants downtown, you can eat better than you ever could in the suburbs. Also, cooking at home and doing meal prep ahead of the week can help you have a healthy eating habit while saving a lot of money.


Save money on clothing

First things first: you can make a big difference in your day-to-day expenses by shopping for basics clothes. Focus on what you really need, not the trend. Don’t go with flashy clothes or the latest trends which usually go outdated after a few weeks. You can also consider buying used clothing from charity shops, as opposed to new ones. Not only will it be cheaper, but it will be a little more unique and might be a little better made.


Save money on education

If you’re moving to a major urban area for education purpose. Some of the best universities and colleges are located downtown, which means you’ll have to pay higher tuition rates to get into these institutions. You should also expect a bigger student loan bill. Plus, you’ll pay for living expenses in addition to the tuition you need to pay, so it’s smart to take advantage of all of the best public schools your city has to offer. Try to utilize all of the facilities your school offer for free or at a low cost, like accommodation, library, study rooms, cafeteria, etc. Many cities have institutions that help you get a college education without breaking the bank.



Moving to the city might be an exciting experience, but there are definitely some drawbacks you have to take into account. However, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and it can even open up new opportunities that you may not have considered in the past. Still, it’s important to know what to expect, and we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you navigate the new city, and we hope they’ll make your downtown experience less stressful and more financially sustainable.

Written By Mai Le

I love helping small businesses to succeed. I also love working with shoppers to help them save money. A maximalist. Serial entrepreneur. Founder of LoyalRate.

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