City Living Made Affordable in 4 Steps

Plus: How to make biking to work part of your routine

city view of skyscrapers from below

According to 2015 Census data, 63 percent of the U.S. population lives in cities, though they squeeze into just 3.5 percent of the land area. Our friends at Metromile, which provides pay-per-mile insurance, offer their recommendations for how to make living and getting around in cities more affordable. Their city living tips, summarized:

San Francisco aerial

1. Control Your Cash

Review your finances regularly. This may seem super obvious, but take some time to evaluate three fundamental components of personal finance: your budget, investments, and insurance. Examine your take-home pay and monthly expenses, create savings goals, categorize expenses, and receive custom alerts when you are close to overspending. And have your bank automatically move cash into your savings on payday. (If you don’t know it’s there to spend, you won’t miss it!)

2. Consider Where & What You Eat

Walk to your local farmers’ market. Cities often designate parks for farmers’ markets on weekends, and city dwellers can benefit from farms’ surplus stocks of in-season fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. Bonus tip: if you prefer to buy organic, it’s often cheaper at a farmers’ market than at a grocery store.

Eat in (sometimes). While it’s fun to try the trendy new restaurants (and you can still budget for a weekly dinner splurge), spend more time in your kitchen to save some green. Plus, leftovers make great next-day lunches!

3. Peddle Your Skills

It’s all about the side hustle. With so many new modern conveniences and resource-sharing services, you can add a side gig to your day job such as ride-sharing, dog walking, house cleaning or even selling art or other craft on sites like Etsy.

City girl

4. Get Around on the Cheap

We’re still all about cars and driving here at The Zebra, but there are plenty of circumstances when it makes more sense to get around by other means. Take public transportation, walk, ride-share, or carpool. And of course, break out the trusty ol’ bike…

Opting to Bike Instead of Drive

More than half of Americans live within five miles of their office, which averages to a 30-minute bike ride. Biking to work can save you time and money, is good for the environment, and gives you a workout. If you’re thinking about biking to work, but don’t know what you need or where to get started, we’ve gathered some best practices and good habits for your bike commute:

Get your gear: You don’t need to have a full bicycle kit to ride to work, but we recommend wearing a sturdy helmet and finding a reliable bike lock. (Definitely lock that up!) Many urban offices also have a bike room you can store your bike in during the day.

Test ride: Google Maps offers routes for an optimized bike commute on streets with bike paths. Test your ride in off-commute hours or on a non-work day to get a hang of your route.

Follow the rules of the road: Always bike in the same direction of traffic, and keep a pulse on the cars, bikes and pedestrians around you.

Woman with blue bike

Good Cycling Habits

Keep the phone out of sight: You’ll want to keep your eyes on the road and your ears out for honking, approaching cars and ambulances.

Use clear hand signals: Using your left hand to signal while biking helps communicate your route clearly with the drivers around you.

Dress for the ride: Make sure the drivers around you are aware you are there, and on two wheels. Wear bright colors during the day and reflective gear at night.

Don’t have a bike? Many urban areas have bike share programs, which allow riders an allotted time for transportation for a small annual fee.

Thanks to Metromile for sharing their city-living tips!