Tips for Frugal Living in the Big City

Living in the city while on a tight budget can be a struggle if you don’t think ahead.  We all want ways to cut financial corners, but who has the time to be an extreme couponer?! Saving money while living big in the city is feasible, but it’s all about the habits you have (or start having today).

Here are 6 habits to cut costs and boost your bottom line:


1) Develop a plan.

Budgeting can be a real drag and more than likely isn’t a very fun task for the majority of us. What’s even worse than a budget, though, is being surprised by your credit card statement at the end of the month.

To make budgeting a little easier, think of it as a plan, rather than a rule-book.  You can deviate from a plan if need be, whereas rules cannot be broken. What are your goals? What do you want from your money? And what big future purchases might you be saving for? Budgeting is your first action step towards achieving your goals, so be sure to start by getting clear on them.

Using a tool like Mint can help track current spending and suggest budgets based on your spending trends. Every Dollar is another free tool you can use if you want to start your budgeting with what you value and want to spend your money on rather than what you have been spending your money on in the past.

2) Pay attention.

Remember how people used to balance the checkbook before online banking became available? Now, checks are becoming a thing of the past, and it’s almost too easy to swipe your card at a retailer, enter your card number into that online store, or sign up for a subscription that you forget you have to pay.  

Check your bank accounts online at least on a weekly basis. Make sure that your transactions are all legit. This includes checking the retailer, the price you paid, and noting if the charge is pending. If you notice anything odd, call your bank to get it straightened out.

Also be sure to watch out for those pesky subscriptions that sneak into your account (because we know you only wanted that two-week trial of Hulu and meant to cancel it before you got charged.) If you think you’re going to forget about those trial subscriptions, put a reminder on your calendar a day or two before the free trial expires. Once that reminder pops up, cancel your subscription and pat yourself on the back for being the boss of your bank account.

3) Find the free.

Every city, no matter how big or small, has something to do that doesn’t cost money.  Bigger cities like Washington, D.C. have museums, and memorials to see.  New York City has a variety of free attractions to keep you busy without spending a dime.  

Even smaller communities generally have parks (think picnics and long walks or hikes) and community events.  All you have to do is a little searching.  Check out your local city visitor center’s website for the scoop on all there is to do in your area.

4) School your squad.

Your friends can actually be your biggest allies when trying to live frugally! Find a gal pal or squad that will help keep you on track.  Having a friend on board who wants to do free or low-cost events rather than hit every happy hour will do both your finances good. Chances are you have at least a couple friends who wish they didn’t have to spend that money on happy hour every week. Go ahead – be the brave boss who dares to share your savings goals first. I’m sure others in your circle will respect and appreciate it.

5) Save that penny.

Saving money and living on a budget is sometimes hard, but the rewards outweigh the sacrifice.  While you might be dying for that latte on your way to work everyday, you could be financing that big trip just around the corner.  One hundred dollars is saved a few dollars at a time (or a latte at a time).

Eventually those little sacrifices will start to feel like wins as you watch your saving account rise, credit card bill go down, or you just make your rent payment on the due date for once.

6) Work it. (Like Beyonce)

The flipside to saving? Increasing your income. Test the waters at work to negotiate a raise. Or finally start your side hustle.  A little extra hustle can bring in that little bit of bonus income to pad your account.  After all, whatever income you get can either be spent or saved.  A little extra work adds up quickly and there are so many different ways to bring extra cash your way.

Do you want to start saving more money?  Share this with a gal pal to invite her to an at-home happy hour instead of your normal bar crawl — it’s all about stacking those Tubmans, boss!



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  1. Emilie Aries says:

    Great article, Jackie! Love these tips!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Love love love! All very true things I need to keep in mind. 😀


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