Like generations of young people before them, the cast of HBO's Girls came to New York to make careers in the arts -- writing, acting, music. In the meantime, Hannah Horvath and her cohort have been working entry-level jobs, often in coffee shops. For two-plus seasons, creator Lena Dunham's characters have been learning to live in an unforgiving, extremely expensive city on practically nothing (with more or less family support). This post-recession striving stands in stark contrast to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo Blahniks on Sex and the City, HBO's other show about four women in New York. Fans of Girls can even glean some tips for getting by in the big city. Fair warning: Potential spoilers ahead.
1. Choose your neighborhood wisely.
The Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Hannah calls home, may not be as affordable as somewhere like Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the character of Charlie lives. Still, it's a better place to look than nearby Williamsburg, a former hipster enclave that's gone upscale. Rentenna
identifies Greenpoint as an area with low median rent relative to the borough as a whole and savings of more than 25 percent over Williamsburg for a two-bedroom like Hannah's.
2. Have roommates -- as many as possible.
It helps if they have jobs (or a monthly check from Grandma) and can pay rent. When Hannah's parents pulled their financial support in season one, roommate Marnie had to come up with the full rent. Even if you're diligent about finding a cheaper neighborhood, cheap is a relative term in New York. You definitely wouldn't be able to live alone in Greenpoint on a barista/budding-ebook-author income.
3. Skimp on cable.
No longer do you need a cable subscription with a premium add-on to watch an HBO show. The first two episodes of the current season of Girls
reside on YouTube
(for a limited time) and you can watch the rest by mooching off anyone willing to share their HBO Go password. In the first season Hannah reveals that she doesn't have cable. A high-speed Internet connection is all it takes to watch video online. With an inexpensive streaming device such as Google Chromecast, you can go a step further and watch on a TV.
4. Forgo a land line while you're at it.
On Sex and the City
, Carrie and her friends were constantly calling each other via traditional telephone, right up through the early aughts. But without a deal on a cable bundle, there's really no reason to have a land line anymore, assuming you have a cell phone. Although a smartphone is expensive to own, it can take the place of many other pieces of equipment, including a music player and a camera.
5. Don't even think about owning a car.
Of course, this won't work in most other places, but there are plenty of cities with good enough mass transit to make a car unnecessary. When you must go by car, rent one. In most cases companies will rent to drivers 21 and older, but they add a fee if you're under 25. On Girls
, 24-year-old Hannah turned to her boyfriend, Adam, who's 25, to rent a car. Take a cue from him and save money by riding a bike around town.
6. Eat in.
The characters on Girls
rarely go to restaurants if they have to pay out of their own pockets. Instead they spend time in each other's apartments. Hannah serves her friends take-out tacos and store-bought ice cream in the third-season premiere. It's uncomfortable to do much cooking in a miniscule New York kitchen. However, even Hannah managed to make pad Thai for a "grown-up" (if ill-fated) dinner party last season.
7. Eat a lot of hors d'oeuvres, if you must eat out.
Much of the noshing on Girls
goes on at the bars, clubs, and parties where the characters hang out -- generally on somebody else's dime. You can make a meal out of bar snacks if you have to, and you don't have to cook or pay. It may not seem like much, but for the most part Hannah's fridge contains yogurt and Cool Whip, making spring rolls look like a balanced meal. Working in a coffee shop also has its perks: You can always grab a leftover muffin or other day-old snack.
8. Be creative with decor.
Charlie, Marnie's ex, impressed everyone
with his striking, well-organized, and apparently DIY apartment in season two of Girls
. Seems he made the most of past carpentry and architecture office jobs. He also used found objects to make Marnie a Restoration Hardware-inspired coffee table. Ultimately, as fans will remember, he (ahem) reclaimed it.