I know I donât have to tell you this, city dwellers: Living in a big city is expensive.
I was slapped with that cold reality when I moved to Denver. After living in two relatively rural college towns, I was used to paying a rent I could almost afford; groceries that were, well, normally priced; and a night out with friends that never remotely creeped close to $ 50.
Then there were those times I visited New York City and San Francisco for long weekendsâ¦ Donât get me started.
Anyway, kudos for making it work â but I know itâs got to get difficult sometimes. Thatâs why we put together a list of ways to save money when you live in a big city.
1. Save Money on Any Debt Youâve Already Accumulated Â
Moving in general is expensive, but moving to a big city and adjusting to that new cost of living is difficult.
If you accumulate any credit card debt in the process thatâs still lingering, consider refinancing or consolidating it to find better interest rates.
A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $ 100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
2. Get $ 3 Pantry Essentials Delivered to Your Door
Groceries tend to be more expensive in big cities. Goods in New York City are 10% higher than average U.S. prices, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The task itself also tends to be more difficult, depending on how far away you live from the closest store.
A great way to save money is to order the essentials online â where prices are more likely to be the same nationwide.
With Brandless, you can stock up on all your grocery essentials for $ 3 each. Yup â everythingâs $ 3. And youâll get $ 5 off your order when you sign up with your email address.
Better yet, Brandless carries organic, gluten-free and vegan options. You could spend hours perusing the virtual aisles, but here are a few examples:
- An 8-ounce jar of organic, 100% pure honey: $ 3
- Organic aged white cheddar popcorn: Two for $ 3
- Roasted and salted almonds: $ 3
- Organic, fair-trade, light-roast ground coffee: $ 3
You can also stock up on Brandless cleaning supplies, household essentials and clean beauty supplies.
Shipping is free when you spend $ 39 or more.
3. Claim Cash Back on Drinks and Takeout Orders
Life tends to be a bit more stressful in the big city, and itâs important to take time to unwind. Whether you prefer to do that with alcohol or takeout, claim cash back.
Traditionally, Ibotta is known for its cash-back offers on groceries, but itâs also available for restaurants, bars and food-delivery services.
For example, weâve seen deals for:
- 10% cash back for new DoorDash users.
- $ 5 back on two bottles of Stella Artois.
- $ 2 back on a glass of Cupcake Wine.
Just download the app for free, then select âFind Offers.â When you claim your first cash-back offer, youâll pocket a $ 10 bonus.
4. Ease the Pain of Those Higher Car Insurance Rates
The good news is big cities typically have public transit systems, so sometimes you can get away with selling your car and living that car-free life.
If you still need your car, though, youâll probably face higher car insurance rates.
Here are three options to help alleviate the pain associated with those high costs:
- First, find a pay-per-mile insurance policy. If you live in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Washington and drive less than 200 miles a week, consider getting insurance through MetroMile, a company that lets you pay for insurance by the mile. I you only drive 5,000 miles per year, you could save $ 500, according to MetroMileâs calculations. Find out if it could help you save by snagging a free quote.
- If you still drive quite a bit, take a few minutes to compare rates from other providers. A service called Gabi will do it for you, and you donât even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driverâs license number, and Gabi will go to work. Gabi says it finds an average savings of $ 720 per year for its customers.
- Help offset big-city costs by renting your car out when youâre not using it. With the Getaround app, you can safely rent out your car to people in your community and neighborhood. The company insures your car for each trip, offers 24/7 roadside assistance and screens drivers for a safe driving record.
5. Count Your Many Steps and Turn âEm Into Cash
Whether you walk to work or take public transit, you tend to spend more time on your feet in big cities.
Go ahead and reward your barking feet with the Achievement app.
Achievement connects to your phoneâs health apps and runs in the background, so it works passively. Many users report being happily surprised when logging on and checking their progress.
Once you earn 10,000 points, youâll score $ 10, which you can deposit directly into your bank account.
Pro tip: Achievement connects to more than 30 Android and iOS health-related apps, including MyFitnessPal and Garmin. The more apps you connect, the more earning opportunities.
6. Negotiate Your Monthly Bills (or Have This Bot Do It)
A great money-saving tactic when living in a big city is to negotiate your bills. Some may be more difficult to negotiate than others (you can even try negotiating your rent), but we suggest starting simply with a free negotiation tool.
Download TrueBill, an app thatâll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.
After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds â it might get you a refund even when you didnât know an outage occurred.
On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $ 700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.
Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional â but could totally be worth it.
7. Set up Your Big-City Budget
If moneyâs tighter than youâd like, itâs important to keep a budget.
Budgeting can be a little scary, but it doesnât have to be. The first step is to find out how youâre doing now. Luckily, you can have a financial assistant right in your pocket to help you out.
The Empower app is a powerful budgeting tool that can help you figure out how youâre spending your money and develop a budgeting plan to keep you on track.
Link the app to your bank accounts, and it will track your spending. It will also categorize your spending so you can see exactly where you are overdoing it. Thatâs right: It will show you just how many times you went out for dinner because you didnât want to do the dishes.
Set a monthly spending limit and the app will show you a graph that can tell you in one snapshot just how youâre doing for the month. Are you over the line or under it? Itâs that simple to see how youâre doing so you can adjust your spending accordingly.
8. Declutter Your Space â and Earn Some Extra Cash
Affordable apartments tend to be small, so if youâre feeling a bit cluttered in your space, clean stuff out.
You can sell virtually anything on Letgo. This easy-to-use app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. It removes a lot of the hassle of selling things online, and itâs 100% free to use.
If youâve got old technology lingering (think: phones, CDs, DVDs or video games), download the Decluttr app, and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. Itâs completely free to use, you wonât pay listing or seller fees, payment is super fast and even shipping is free.
Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $ 5 for your trade-in order!
9. Entertain Yourself on Your Commute (and Win Cash)
While youâre swiping around on your phone and wasting time on your commute, go ahead and download the Lucky Day app
You could win up to $ 10,000 playing digital scratch-off tickets or even a whopping $ 100,000 in the daily lotto. Youâll also have a lot of chances to win gift cards to cool places like Amazon, Walmart, Dunkin and Target.
Itâs all free to play, with no in-app purchases. The company has already awarded more than $ 3 million in prizes to winners since 2014.
Try to resist an embarrassing happy dance on the subway if you win money.
10. Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Fund Without Thinking
When you have to spend a lot of money just to get by day to day, the task of saving money will easily fall to the wayside.
Donât let that happen. Digit allows you to save money without even noticing.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $ 5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $ 4,300 without noticing â read his Digit review.
If you need that money sooner than expected, youâll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then itâs $ 2.99 per month afterward.
11. Dress up to Big-City Standards Without Credit Card Debt
Thereâs something about living in a big city where thereâs more pressure to dress like, well, a real human. Fashion trends are actually timely, and you want to look professional when walking into your skyscraper of an office.
But just because you have pressure to look trendy doesnât mean you have to rack up credit card debt.
Instead of shopping online at any olâ retailer or signing up for a clothing subscription service, check out flash-sale site Rue La La first.
It offers top brands for up to 70% off. How? When retailers have excess product, Rue La La takes it and sells it at a hefty discount â but each sale is only available for a limited time.
Just sign up for free with your email address. (Itâs an exclusive site â discounts are for members only.) Then search your favorite brands, or browse the boutiques to see whatâs available.
12. Protect Your Abode and Belongings With Affordable Insurance
If youâre renting, you know some cities and states require renters insurance. It might seem like a pain at the time, but it can really save you in the long run.
For example, when my boyfriend lived in Denver, a hail storm hit and destroyed his complexâs roof, causing water to flood into his apartment. After his deductible, his renters insurance paid for him to move into a hotel near his workplace for about three months. If any of his items had been damaged, it would have covered those expenses, too.
If you donât yet have renters insurance â or want to shop around for a better rate â start by getting a free quote. We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $ 5 a month.
Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you donât often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesnât have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.
That also means Lemonade isnât going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve â âcause the money isnât going into its pockets.
13. Find a Side Gig (Opportunities Abound)
Big cities are basically playgrounds for side gigs. If youâre struggling to make rent or are racking up credit card debt, consider increasing your income, even if only temporarily.
Here are some of our favorite side-gig options for folks in the big city:
- Itâs no secret big cities attract more tourists, and thatâs good news for you. If you have a spare room, try earning some extra money by listing it on Airbnb. If youâre a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds â even thousands â of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.
- If youâre looking for a flexible, independent way to earn money â and you love hanging out with dogs â Rover might be your perfect gig. The online network connects dog walkers and sitters to local dog owners through its 4.9-star-rated app, so you donât have to staple flyers on every utility pole across town. Rover says sitters can earn as much as $ 1,000 a month.
- Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people? Try driving with Lyft. To be eligible, youâll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.
14. Call it Quits With Your Expensive Cell Phone Provider
If youâre sick of of paying your cell phone carrier hundreds of dollars each month, look beyond the so-called Big Four and into the discount carrier Twigby.
Thatâs what Zak Wilson did. Heâd been paying Verizon Wireless about $ 180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, heâs now paying $ 60 a month.
Plus, new customers get 25% off the first six months of service.
Pro tip: Big cities mean big Wi-Fi opportunities. Whenever you can, tap into free Wi-Fi to save on data.
15. Snag Cash Back â Even From Your Favorite Local Deli
Cash-back apps are great, but many of them donât cater to your favorite local haunts â like that unsuspecting deli on your block or your favorite coffee pitstop on your way to work.
But donât worry. We found an app thatâll reward you for keeping any receipt.
As seen on Shark Tank, CoinOut is a shopping rewards app. Youâll earn cash when you snap a photo of a receipt â any receipt, from any retailer, featuring any item. (Similar apps are a lot pickier.)
We put it to the test: A couple of Penny Hoarder staffers dug out receipts â a $ 5 Wendyâs order and a salad from a local sandwich shop. One collected 5 cents, the other 4 cents. The better condition your receipt is in, the more youâll earn back, so resist crumpling it into a ball.
You can also earn cash back when you shop online with one click through the CoinOut app. Featured retailers include Walmart, Overstock and Warby Parker.
You can cash â ahem, coin â out once a week for an Amazon gift card or funnel the money right into your bank account or PayPal.
16. Donât Let Laundry and Dry Cleaning Shrink Your Budget
Laundryâs a big expensive chore in big cities. And dry cleaning? Donât even get us startedâ¦
Youâve probably already invested in that magical Febreze Fabric Refresher spray (if you havenât, just trust us), but now itâs time to tackle the costs of dry cleaning.
For some fabrics, itâs totally necessary. But for others (even if the tag says dry-cleaning only), itâs not.
Dive into your guide to saving money on dry cleaning. It just might change your life (or at least your budget).
17. Find Fun (and Free!) Weekend Activities
All right. Weâve addressed all your big recurring bills, but youâve got to have some fun, too. After all, you live in a city where thereâs tons to do and explore.
Look into your neighborhoodâs farmers market, check out free museum passes from your local library, take a hike (genuinely), plan a picnic or window-shop.
Get some inspiration from our list of free things to do in Orlando.
Carson Kohler (email@example.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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