Sure, it was basically a glorified ad for the author's overly precious personal-finance site, but that doesn't mean that Alexa von Tobel's recent Huffington Post piece on living in New York City on $0 a day wasn't offensive and dumb. Von Tobel's giggly guide to keeping it real could have been retitled "The Well-Off Person's Guide To Playing Pauper For A Day" — the hold-on-to-your-wallets flip side of all the "aspirational" dreck that clogs too much media even to this day. She walked to work, which just happens to be a mere 20-minute hike from her apartment, instead of taking a cab! She gave up Le Pain lattes and made coffee at home! She had some friends over for a potluck, and even conned a pal into bringing the wine! "I recognize that this experiment is unsustainable for a long period of time," she wrote, but god dimmy, that doesn't mean she's not going to try and piggyback off it for her own personal gain.
Anyway, here is my No. 1 tip for not spending any money in New York City, based on empirical research and also being broke now and again! Arianna, if you're reading this and you want me to, you know, expound further, give me a call.
Never leave the house. Even if you live in a expensive apartment that's right by a very tasty restaurant, you should try to have a homebound job (like, say, blogging! although if you're doing so for HuffPo, you probably won't get paid, whoops!) so as to minimize your need to go out, because that is when the money starts coming out of your wallet like it's attached to strings. Yes, being homebound day in and day out might over time drive you into a semi-feral state where you're unable to make eye contact, much less talk to people who exist in a form more corporeal than a screen name. But just think of all the money you'll save by going it alone — no MetroCards, at-home lunches that never existed near a deli counter, no need to dodge the fundraising attempts by the brats who belong to that annoying person from accounting!
And there's a domino effect, too: The longer you stay at home, the less people will call you to go out. Bye bye, cell phone; see ya, land line! And if you keep up the hermitude for long enough, you'll eventually shed the need to do things like groom yourself — which means you save money that would be spent on frivolities like soap and shampoo! The whole "food for sustenance" thing is something that has to be navigated through, unfortunately, but if food and Internet are the only big-ticket items you're spending money on, grocery-delivery charges shouldn't be all that bad to manage. At the very least, seeing the person who brings over your provisions now and again will give you a little bit of the face time that you're missing during the other 23.75 hours of the day!
(In all seriousness, the art writer Geeta Dayal has put together a pretty great guide to cheap living for freelancers and other creative types that isn't as giggly or gimmicky as von Tobel's piece, but that is full of sound advice. No. 9 in particular, which is the one that I always seem to forget, is key!)