How to Afford Downtown Living – 5 Creative Tips

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Aaron Mackel, Content Director at, a free shop-and-compare website that allows self storage seekers to find, compare, and rent storage units.

Moving downtown? You’re not alone. Over the last several years, the trend in people moving into major metropolitan areas and out of the suburbs has increased. If you need proof, look no further than Forbes’ list of fastest-growing cities in 2015. Cities like Houston, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco are all in the top ten.

Whether you’re making the move to be closer to work or closer to the action, downtown living has a different energy about it. But it often comes at a cost. Though certain aspects about moving into the city from the suburbs might actually save you money (such as commuting expenses), there are definitely areas where the opposite is true. That’s why we’ve compiled some money-saving tips to help you make a cost-effective move into the city.

Tip 1: Rent a Storage Unit

Probably the biggest difference between downtown living and suburban living is that space is harder to come by in the city and far more expensive. So moving downtown basically means you’ll be downsizing.

But downsizing to a smaller space doesn’t mean you have to become a minimalist and get rid of everything! A simple solution that provides you with additional space is renting a storage unit near your new living space. “Isn’t that an additional cost?” you might be thinking. Actually, just the opposite. Renting storage could save you money.

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Let’s use New York City as an example. If you plan to rent, the average rent across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens is $4,126 a month for a 900 square foot apartment — or $4.62 per square foot per month (Elliman Report). Now let’s compare those prices to a storage unit. You can find a 5×10 storage unit (50 square feet) in New York City for around $149 a month — that is, $2.98 per square foot per month.

With a self storage unit, you can buy or rent a smaller living space and still keep items that you want but don’t need at home, and you’ll be saving money. Renting a storage space isn’t sounding so bad now, is it?

Tip 2: Get a Roommate

Whether you’re buying or renting a downtown apartment or condo, living alone in a major metro can be pricey. In places like San Francisco, for example, it’s nearly impossible to live by yourself due to the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment falling around $3,452 (Priceonomics). In other large markets, it’s doable but less cost-effective than having a roommate.

Of course, the first benefit of living with a roommate is cheaper rent. Going from a one-bedroom in San Francisco at $3,452 per month to a two-bedroom living with a roommate at an average of $4,400 per month, you could save around $1,200 a month on rent.

Photo by Robert Judge/Flickr

Beyond cheaper rent or mortgage payments, you’ll save money on splitting the cost of utilities, Internet, and cable. And who doesn’t like saving money on monthly utilities?

If you’re a young professional and still working to get established, living with a roommate also makes it possible to live in a nicer area and save money for the future rather than pumping it all into monthly payments. If you can find a roommate in a similar profession to you, it also opens up your network to meeting new people and making new connections that could help you in your career.

Friends and family are always good options for roommates. But if you don’t have any family where you’re moving and if you haven’t formed connections yet, there are websites that can make your roommate search process easier. is a great national site that can help you either find a room or find a roommate. There are plenty of city-specific roommate finder websites, too.

Tip 3: Establish a Budget

One of the biggest reasons why people love living downtown is because there’s so much to do. Entertainment is everything and anything from theatre and museums to restaurants and nightlife. But the one thing these all have in common is that they cost money.

Setting a reasonable budget for things like getting takeout or catching a show is essential when living downtown. It’s too easy to lose track of how often you’re going out and how much money you’re spending. It might mean having to choose between two shows or cook in once a week, but setting a firm budget and tracking your spending will always pay off in the end.

If you like the practice of keeping budget records, finance apps like Mint and HomeBudget can be a huge help, and you can download them to your mobile devices! If you’re not good at tracking your spending, an easy solution is to take out cash for each month’s entertainment spending. Once you run out of cash designated for food, drinks, and entertainment, you know you’ve met your limit until next month.

Tip 4: Shop Online

Living in the city can make shopping for even the simplest things — like milk and eggs — difficult. Sure, there are small grocery stores on street corners, as well as plenty of farmers markets during the harvest season. But because these providers are few and far between in metro areas, they charge more for most items.

Shopping online can help you avoid the premium prices downtown stores charge. Some visits to these city grocers will be unavoidable, but if you can order certain items online, you can save yourself time and money.

Toilet paper and paper towels can be ordered online through retailers like Walmart and Target, and AmazonFresh is available in markets like Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York City. In fact, more and more cities are starting to adopt grocery and bulk goods delivery services that can help you save money.

Tip 5: Use Public Transportation

Moving to a city with a strong public transportation system like Chicago? Rather than paying for auto insurance, registration, gas, insanely expensive parking, and your monthly car payment, you could simply get rid of your car and rely on public transportation. In some cases, this could save you well over $500 a month.

Most major cities with public transportation like buses, subways, and elevated trains offer daily, weekly, monthly, and sometimes yearly passes. If you plan to use this transit regularly, getting a 30-day or year-round pass (if available) can make getting around much easier and much cheaper.

Photo by pleasure_player/Flickr

If getting rid of your car isn’t an option for you, there are ways to keep it without breaking the bank. Especially if you need to use your vehicle frequently, finding a living space that comes with a designated parking spot is the most convenient option. Some places will roll the cost of parking into your monthly rent; others will charge a fee. Of course, there’s always street and garage parking. Just be sure you can find an affordable AND safe option.

If you don’t need to use your car regularly but don’t want to sell it, you could also store your car in a storage unit. To save the most money, locate a storage unit outside of the downtown area that’s easily accessible through public transportation. Compared to garage parking, which can exceed $300 a month in downtown areas, a 10×20 storage unit in a nearby suburb can cost less than $200 a month.

Now that you’ve read our tips, you’re ready to make the move downtown! Remember, save money where you can, but most importantly…enjoy your new downtown lifestyle.

Featured photo by Anupam_ts/Flickr

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