The cost of living in Atlanta isn’t going down, which means penny-pinching is in full effect for most inner-city residents.
This issue has even prompted Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to hold a groundbreaking ceremony this summer that presented a large-scale Housing Authority Action Plan for Atlanta.
Putting $1 billion in private and public funds to residential use, the new 43-page development document aims to assist metro families with 20,000 affordable units by 2026.
Well until then, urban dwellers still need peace of mind with barely-making-it paychecks and rising housing and living expenses.
These five quick-and-easy strategies are solutions city renters and homeowners can count on to help potentially cut costs in the here and now:
Cutting housing-related expenses
Rent in Atlanta averages roughly $1,086 for a one-bedroom, $1,243 for a two-bedroom and $1,604 for a three-bedroom, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces.
BestPlaces compiles data from federal, state and private organizations to provide these numbers on any city in the nation. Unfortunately, BestPlaces also shows Atlanta homes cost more compared to both state and national averages.
The average Atlanta home price, $261,700, towers above Georgia’s average home price, $179,700. The United States’ housing cost: $219,700. These ranges are for just average-sized homes, too.
Because of these increasing numbers, renters and homeowners should consider cutting housing prices with the size of space actually used at this moment.
Let’s face it: Every room in a traditional house isn’t used every day. Maybe on holidays, but for the most part, kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms are the most used.
The other areas make great permanent storage (or junk) space. Think about minimalizing instead. Hence, tiny houses. And they’re literally just that. Everything you need and really use in a compact setting for under $50,000.
Tiny houses are far from trailer or RV living even though tiny homes come on wheels as well. They’re also built on permanent foundations.
Tiny homes mean minimalism and micro-living. It’s all about strictly living off necessities in modern, eco-friendly home designs.
Tiny House Atlanta is a program that has dedicated its resources to building walkable, sustainable “micro-hood” communities while educating individuals, groups and cities about the positive impacts of micro-living.
A tiny home ranges in price from $20,000 to $40,000. And it’s yours. No increases in rent. No huge utility bills. No moving hassles. In most cases, no mortgage. Not completely sold on micro-livelihood right now?
Put Airbnb on your radar as another affordable option. Airbnb allows you to stay in a “host” house for a specified time at a set rate per night or week. Prices can go as low as $25 per night for some downtown rooms. You’ll get a homier feel than most hotels, too.
Warning: Costs can get pricy if your host (homeowner) decides to add extra fees at any time. So ask as many questions as possible before agreeing to anything.
If you’re a homeowner, putting your place up as an Airbnb generates extra cash, especially since you control the price. Holidays create a good opportunity to let your house make money for you.
Cutting entertainment-related expenses
Not everyone can afford to experience sports at the new Mercedes-Benz or Suntrust stadiums. And that’s OK. Many bars, lounges and even cafes have a weekly open mike night where local talent performs for little to no fee.
Apache Café, for example, offers an art gallery along with performances from poets to bands almost every day of the week for $10 in its loft-like venue on 880 Woodrow St. Free yoga classes take place every Saturday morning in Woodruff Park. In addition, annual free events exist like the Fourth of July Celebration in Centennial Olympic Park, the Ice Cream Festival in Piedmont Park, free movies in Central Park, Inman Park Festival, and Barbeque and Bluegrass at Barrington Hall.
For a laundry list of free events taking place in and outside the city limits, visit these seven popular sites: the Sweet Auburn district, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, free samples at Underground Atlanta (lunchtime Wednesdays), Woodruff Park Reading Room, Fernbank Science Center, Center for Puppetry Arts (with “Passport to Puppetry” available through library cards at any participating public library), and Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
Cutting transportation-related expenses
There’s a whole lot of freedom that comes with driving your own car or truck. There’s also crazy drivers and gas prices that come with it as well. Sometimes you can save yourself the commuting hassle by simply taking MARTA, which is sometimes “smart-a.” Here are a few pluses to the city’s rail system and other modes of transportation to give your mind and miles a rest:
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit System (MARTA) offers city residents bus and rail lines throughout more than 1,000 miles of the city and into nearby suburbs for $2.50 per person each way. Up to two children ride for free with each paying adult and seniors have reduced rates.
You instantly have access to Atlanta’s top attractions, business centers, sports/entertainment venues, the airport and popular shopping areas. Summer shuttles even provide convenient service to Atlanta Braves games, Six Flags Over Georgia and Lakewood Amphitheater.
Train times vary by line but generally run every 10 to 20 minutes starting as early as 4:45 a.m. and continuing past midnight. Buses are scheduled to arrive every 12 to 15 minutes on weekdays and can be the easiest way to reach neighborhoods not accessible by MARTA train, such as West Midtown and Atlantic Station in the Westside.
Atlanta Streetcar, one of the city’s newest forms of transportation, offers rides to sites not necessarily within walking or biking distance. You’ll need to buy a ticket from the free Atlanta Streetcar mobile app or at every stop’s fare vending machines.
Tickets cost $1 per one-way ride and $3 for each one-day pass. Kids ride for free with a paying adult. This system only stops by select downtown and Eastside attractions but can put you in walking distance of Centennial Olympic Park, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.
Uber’s JUMP program offers scooters, electric bikes and shareable e-ride options. It’s quickly surpassed its main competitor, Bird—arguably the most popular electric scooter program in the city.
JUMP and Bird scooters cost a dollar to start, but Bird charges 15 cents per minute while the JUMP program charges just 10 cents a minute once on the road. JUMP scooters top out at 15 miles per hour, faster than your feet will get you around the city.
But keep your JUMP vehicles parked away from these locations to avoid fines: locked to Relay Bike racks, Atlantic Station (except the commuter corner), The Capitol, City Hall, Federal Reserve Bank and Ponce City Market parking garage.
Cutting food expenses
Everyone’s got to eat. The entire family can always make it happen at frugal finds around Atlanta. The following eateries are inexpensive and tasty:
K&K Soul Food, a counter-service, bare-bones establishment that offers homestyle soul food plates. From fried chicken to oxtails and located on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, K&K also serves breakfast, which averages around $5. Dinner plates range from $6 (veggie plate) to $15 (oxtail plate) with meal-of-the-day specials.
Eats located on Ponce De Leon Avenue serves soul, Italian and Caribbean food for under $10. They currently have a delicious special: meat, black beans and rice for $6.50.
Café Momo, a breakfast, lunch and café mix, offers a self-serving buffet with a sushi and salad bar right downtown. Its pay-per-pound system helps customers spend only between $3 and $10 on a filling meal.
Cutting wardrobe expenses
Don’t think consignment shops are outdated options for you and your family. Think again. Consignment stores like The Clothing Warehouse on Moreland Avenue and Lost-N-Found on Chantilly Drive sell vintage men’s and women’s clothes that have quickly come back in style.
And their sale racks are lit with sometimes name brands that you wouldn’t find on anyone else. Not into used garments? Then visit Dots on Buford Highway, which sells urban and boho-style women’s clothing and accessories for cheap.
Don’t forget to look outside, either. Local street vendors on corners like Little Five Points or along the sidewalks of Atlantic Station periodically sell one-of-a-kind clothes at reasonable price points.