As adults, most people have a choice in where they live. They have the free will to choose a job or career, select the city they’d like to be a resident of, and/or live where family and friends reside.

However, with that said, sometimes things come up that make it more difficult to move to your “ideal” location for all the exact, same reasons.

  • A job might pop up in another city that offers great benefits.
  • You meet your future spouse and are compelled to stay put.
  • Your family lives in the area or sometimes doesn’t live in the area and that gives you reason to stay or move.

Which brings me to….how to live in an expensive city without going broke. Now, based on what I just listed above, I’m not going to say, “Well, move to a cheaper city!” because that’s not always realistic. Instead, I’m offering some real-life solutions for staying in the expensive city.

So let’s look at what you actually have control over:

  • Food expenses. Some might argue that a person doesn’t have control over this, and in some instances food is more expensive in pricey cities, but there’s always a way to eat for less. Eat at home more often, shop at less expensive grocery stores, buy only what you need.
  • Phone costs. Many people today have pared down their phone bill to one cell phone. If this is the case, make sure you’re getting the best price for what you’re actually using. Check out different plans and different providers. You might be surprised how much you can save by shopping around.
  • Utilities. The cost of utilities is often dependent on the city in which you live – this is a gray area. However, you do have control over how much water, gas, and electricity you use. I’d also classify cable as a utility, though some might say this is an “extra.” Either way, there are ways to still watch TV without having to spend money on cable: get an HD antenna.
  • The “extras”. If you go out every night with your friends, then chances are you’re spending much more than someone who only goes out once or twice a week. Find less expensive ways to “have fun” with friends or select one or two nights to “go out.”

If you can focus on getting the basic expenses down to manageable amounts, chances are you’ll have more padding in your budget. Since you have more control over the above mentioned items, it’s a good place to start if you’re feeling a bit squeezed. Believe me, I know. I recently slashed my monthly bills by $219 a month, yet I have no control over my obscene rent!

Now, the items you have no (or little) control over:

  • Rent/mortgage. This is the biggest part of most people’s budget and unfortunately the most expensive category in a pricey city. There are always options, like getting a roommate or moving to a sketchy part of town, but if you can reduce the smaller bills, then paying more in rent or mortgage may not be so stressful.
  • Utilities. Again, this is a gray area – conserve and you could save money. However, if you live in an area that suffers from extreme cold in the winter, you don’t want to freeze to death (nor am I recommending this option, either).
  • Gas prices. I purposely left transportation out of the equation because there are ways to get around town if you can’t afford a car. However, if you do drive a car, you have to buy gas. For some reason, gas is much more expensive in expensive cities. Don’t ask me why, it’s not like the gas has to be transported farther, but my guess is that it has to do with taxes. Case in point: gas in Los Angeles is about $4.02 per gallon for regular right now, but in Phoenix, Arizona it’s only $3.26. Not really sure why there’s a 74-cent difference other than Los Angeles is crazy expensive!

It may not be the perfect or “ideal” solution to remaining in an expensive city, but reducing the costs of smaller, more controllable bills, helps alleviate the stress of the larger bills. Besides, there are usually benefits outside of the costs of living in an expensive city, like access to museums, cultural points of interest, or lots of variety.

Do you live in an expensive city? How do you manage with the high costs of living?