Even shoestrings cost money...

By: Melanie

...and in NYC they cost twice as much. No one knows "living on a budget" better than we do. Have a look at this equation:

1 full time student + 1 stay at home mom + 1 baby protected under the child welfare laws + 1 outrageous medical school tuition bill = x, where x is a very, very large mountain of student loan debt.

Now this would be a tricky situation living in an average city, but living in New York really ups the ante. We have to be creative. But the city does provide for us in ways that you don't see elsewhere. People here, at least in our neighborhood, really seem to get the whole idea of trying to get the most out of what they have, and passing things along when they are finished with them instead of just throwing things away. You would be utterly amazed at the things we have found on the curb and have carried, dragged, or had willing cab drivers take home for us. Like, for example, these two lovely pieces of furniture:

No kidding. And often what's not free is dirt cheap at stoop sales on the weekend. Almost every weekend morning from April to October, my husband and I pack up the girl and the dog and spend a couple of hours wandering around the neighborhood, picking up toys and clothes and books and all sorts of random goodies for a buck or two, or fifty cents. 

Another great resource has been the online parents group I joined in our neighborhood. People are always listing things that they are selling or giving away, and often it's really good stuff. I've been able to pick up quite a few storage bins/baskets/cabinets this way, which can be very expensive at stores. 

Generally speaking, I have found that if you're willing to do just a little bit of extra work you can make a big difference to your bottom line. Walking just a bit farther than the bodega on the corner not only means that I get a better selection of groceries, but they are much cheaper as well. Doing my own laundry at the laundromat can be a real hassle in February with a baby strapped to my back and my laundry cart getting stuck in the unplowed sidewalks, but it is still much cheaper than having it sent out. Listing for something I need on the parents group before going out to buy it at the store means I'll have to wait a bit longer for it, but can I really complain if I end up with a freebie? 

I'm fortunate in that I have the time to spend on these things. Not everyone does. Every family has a unique situation to deal with and must find their own unique solutions. Our lifestyle works for us, but not everyone loves the idea of using other people's hand-me-downs or of walking everywhere instead of having a car. When you sit down to figure out a way for your family to save money, make sure you consider what is realistic for you. It's the only way to find a solution that will really work in the long haul.

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