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Managing a big city budget

Moving can be a huge change, none so big as a shift in budget. If you're planning to move to the city, make sure you know how to balance the books in your favor.

If you're planning to move from the suburbs or the country to the heart of a city, you'll find that the differences extend well beyond culture and climate. The change often felt most acutely is that of cost. The price of living within city limits can vary widely depending on the town in question, but generally, the closer to downtown you are, the more prime the real estate is. That means pricier accommodations, food, entertainment and transportation.

Keeping costs down can seem daunting, but it is possible. If done right, you can have a good time while still being able to put food on the table. All you need is a solid budget and a good plan to stick to it.

Keep looking

While you may have picked a place to live, people are always moving in and out of their apartments in the city, especially those with a large student population. Fortunately, once you've consolidated your life to small apartment living, it becomes easier to move around within town. While you may have thought you got a good deal on your first apartment search, you could find as time goes by that there are plenty more options becoming available. Having to move can be a hassle, but you'll be thankful for the lower rent.

Cook at home

Food is one of the biggest variables when it comes to maintaining daily living costs. Eating out all the time is also one of the quickest ways to blow through a food budget. Try cooking as many meals as you can at home, but especially dinner, which is generally the priciest meal of the day. Pack your lunches as well. Dining out at work can quickly add up. The same is true for other, smaller dietary expenses, including coffees and alcohol. If you're purchasing a $3 specialty coffee beverage every morning, that's $15 a work week on caffeine alone. Beer and cocktails are especially costly in the city, and can run you up higher than $10 a drink, even in supposedly moderately-priced bars.

Additionally, keep an eye out for happy hour specials at local restaurants and bars, and check out deal websites like Groupon and Gilt City to get significant discounts on some of the most popular spots in your new town. 

As for grocery shopping, don't just rely on the nearest market to your apartment. Many boutique stores are overpriced. Get to know a variety of shops in the area and price hunt aggressively.

Find the free stuff

Cities are chock-full of free and low-cost things to do. Many museums offer budget deals on tickets, while some cities, such as Washington, D.C., have free access for most museums. Make the best of warm weather and enjoy parks, and keep a watch out for local community events that require small entry fees. The best part about a big city is that there's usually something going on, whether it's a market, a fair, a free concert or a play. Many cities are also home to colleges, which often hold low-price concerts and activities. Check local papers frequently for notices about such events.

Bike

Cars are already not a viable option in many cities. Public transportation is nice, but fare can add up. Walking can't get you everywhere, but a bike can. Consider getting a bike to get you across town. The added exercise also can't hurt.

In general, when it comes to keeping a budget, the key is to always look for deals. If you can live without something, then it's probably not worth buying.

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