Boston: Living Cheaply in an Expensive City

It’s hard to go wrong in Boston. You’re within driving distance of rolling mountain ranges and the Atlantic, there’s a thriving arts scene, and public transportation can get you pretty much anywhere. As the setting for much of the Revolutionary War, the metropolis is also rich with historical landmarks. Ask random Bostonians and they’ll tell you they invented freedom and no one parks their car in Harvard Yard, so please don’t ask.

Boston has its downside, however: It’s wicked expensive. For $700 a month, not including utilities, you can live in a small closet and share a bathroom with five roommates. Your building was probably constructed 100 years ago and hasn’t been renovated in half a century. Your apartment has mice and your landlord is a jerk, but at least it’s not New York, right?


Start with your threads. Boston gets cold, so layers are a must. While you can always scavenge the nearest Goodwill, the best place for dirt-cheap duds is the Garment District. Located just down the street from MIT in Cambridge, this Pepto-Bismol-hued store is famous for clothing by the pound. This section of the District is reserved strictly for the most avid bargain hunters.

The entire floor is covered in discount clothing. Armed with nothing but a good eye, you’re free to wade through the knee-high depths of couture and pick whatever catches your fancy. And since you pay $1.50 per pound, everything is a steal. Try to have an open mind, too. If something doesn’t look quite right, buy it for 50 cents and have a tailor alter it to perfection.


Boston is a foodie’s paradise, but if you’re living on a budget, you have to make sure you don’t blow your entire paycheck on designer cupcakes and squid linguine. Luckily, Boston has just as many options for cheap eats as it does for lavish meals. Anna’s Taqueria is the perfect solution for late-night munchies. Five dollars buys you enough burrito for two meals. And with six locations scattered throughout Boston and Cambridge with extended hours, you’re never too far away for a food fiesta.

Groceries are a must for folks trying to live on the cheap, and fresh produce doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Check out Haymarket right by Faneuil Hall on Saturday mornings. You can’t beat the prices. A few dollars will buy you enough green beans and lettuce to last a month. Try to get there early – the market doesn’t have formal hours – so you can pick up the freshest groceries. Breeze through all the stalls to make sure you’ve pinpointed the best deal. Sometimes you’ll find that a seller on the other side of the market is offering a better deal on raspberries or potatoes. Find the freshest produce and take advantage of your freezer and you’ll find yourself spending less than $10 a week on groceries. Don’t forget to look at the other offerings there, too. Meat, spices and nuts usually are available.

Sometimes it takes a little extra work to save a few bucks, but it’s worth it in Boston. The city is an oasis for academia, arts and history, and if you look hard enough, there are budget-friendly options around every turn.  Bike everywhere and rely on thrift stores and farmers markets, and you’ll find it easier to pay the rent each month.

Holly Burns About Holly Burns

Holly Burns loves a good laugh... her readers do as well. This mother of four is a freelance writer of satirical content related to family finances. She minored in accounting and knows a lot of the tips and tricks that families can use to save a buck. When you're in a financial pinch just search for Holly Burns, she knows her stuff!

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