Thriving in High-Cost Cities: Smart Strategies for Financial Wellness

Lisa Mailhot  |  January 4, 2024


Thriving in High-Cost Cities: Smart Strategies for Financial Wellness


Living in a high-cost city like New York, San Francisco, or Orange County comes with its set of financial challenges. The cost of housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation often far exceeds the national average. However, there are clever ways to thrive financially in these urban environments. Here's how:

1. Streamline Your Grocery Routine

Shopping wholesale, such as at Costco, can offer significant savings on groceries and household goods. Kyle Henson, a regional sales manager in New York, notes the stark difference in prices when shopping at Costco compared to traditional grocery stores. He even benefits from the store’s executive membership, which provides access to all locations and 2% cash back on purchases.

For those without a car, combining public transit with a rideshare service or utilizing Costco’s discounted rental car service can make these trips more feasible. Vishal Vaidya, a cook in New York, suggests teaming up with friends to shop and split the cost. Additionally, integrating small grocery trips for non-bulk items like fresh produce and meat can also contribute to overall savings.


2. Take Advantage of Local Discounts

High-cost cities often offer a wealth of cultural institutions, and residents can access many of these for free or at a discount. Museums, theaters, and galleries in cities like New York and Los Angeles often have free entry days or discounted tickets for city residents. Library cardholders can also access free and discounted passes through programs like Culture Pass and Discover & Go. Utilizing these opportunities not only enriches the urban living experience but also helps in managing entertainment expenses.

3. Play the Housing Lottery

Rent is a significant expense in high-cost cities, but affordable housing lottery programs offer a glimmer of hope. These programs incentivize developers to reserve a portion of new housing for applicants in specific income brackets. In cities like Los Angeles and New York, these programs cater to a wide range of incomes, sometimes up to $163,000 per year for an individual. Residents of specific neighborhoods often have a higher chance of winning these lotteries, making it a viable option for reducing housing costs.

The process may require flexibility, such as breaking a current lease, but the long-term financial benefits can be substantial. Thomas Van de Pas, a bartender in New York, has successfully navigated the city’s housing lottery three times, emphasizing the importance of applying early and being ready to move when the opportunity arises.


While living in a high-cost city can be challenging, adopting smart strategies like savvy grocery shopping, taking advantage of local discounts, and exploring housing lotteries can make a significant difference. If you're considering a move to Orange County and are looking for guidance on how to navigate its vibrant yet expensive landscape, let's connect. Together, we can explore the best options to make your urban living experience both enriching and financially sustainable.


Reference: "Millennial Money: 3 ways to save money in a high-cost city" by Dalia Ramirez, NerdWallet, October 10, 2023.

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