What Westchester Spends—and How

The County can be tight on a budget, so we talk to some residents about how they allocate their resources.

Andrea Braunstein says that, before she and her husband, Rory, moved to Westchester, they asked themselves questions that she had often heard from clients and friends before.

“Do I move to an area that has a better school system and pay higher taxes? Or do I send the children to a private or Catholic school?” says Andrea, 37, a part-time real estate agent.

The Braunstein Budget
Mortgage and local taxes: 26%
Home maintenance and utilities (electricity, Internet, etc.): 4.1%
Insurance: 1.0%
Tuition: 5.4%
Food and clothing: 5.5%
Savings/investments: 13.7%
Entertainment 7.7%
Summer camp 2.9%
Car payments: 2.9%
Remainder (federal taxes, pocket change, discretionary, etc.): 30.8%

She and Rory, 46, have chosen the latter option. They pay Yonkers taxes for a house near the city’s border with Bronxville and send the kids—a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son—to parochial school.

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“Private school isn’t an option,” she says. “Hackley starts at $33,000 for kindergarten for one child. You could buy a house in Larchmont and pay $30,000 for taxes.”

Still, she says, their budgets are tighter than they used to be. 

“We used to order in or go out all the time, but we don’t really do that as much anymore,” Andrea says. “The cost of living right now just feels crazy to me.”

She’s quick to point out that living in Westchester is only part of that craziness. Having kids added expenses, of course, and the couple is trying to put money away right now. “We were single and now have children, which equals less free time and energy, but we also more financially conservative these days.”

And, she says, they do get a lot for the cost of living in Westchester.

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“Westchester has wonderful things to offer: wonderful restaurants, shops, entertainment and close proximity to beaches and parks, ” she says. “Everything is at your fingertips.” The idea of having a yard was enough to lure Rory, a lifelong apartment dweller, into a house, she says, especially since he didn’t have to give up proximity to the City.

Andrea, meanwhile, gets to be close to family and friends from her time growing up in Eastchester, many who have their own kids. 

“My children are going to school with my friends’ children,” she says. “That’s really special. There’s a nice sense of community, and I think that’s important. It makes your home feel even homier.”

She also says that, for them, Westchester may be expensive, but it’s no worse than anywhere else they were considering. Yes, their two-bedroom apartment in Riverdale cost less per month than their house does. Once Andrea became pregnant with their son, though, they knew they were going to have to move up to a three-bedroom anyway.

Of course, she says, that balance may change, as she and her husband, who is the group creative director of an advertising agency, are hoping to move up in their careers. 

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Kristin Schauber knows Westchester isn’t her cheapest option—or even the one that people her age normally choose—but she knew she wanted to come back to live here when her lease in the Riverdale section of the Bronx ended.

“Overall, my apartment in Rye is more expensive than my apartment in Riverdale overall was,” says Schauber, a 27-year-old sales director for a small business. “But at this point, it’s something I feel like I want to do.”

The Schauber Budget

Rent and local taxes: 44.4%

Home maintenance and utilities (electricity, Internet, etc.): 6.2%

Insurance: 0.0%

Tuition: 0.0%

Car payments: 0.0%

Food and clothing: 8.4%

Savings/investments: 0.6%

Remainder (federal taxes, discretionary income, etc.): 40.6%

Schauber, who grew up in White Plains, says that, even though many of her friends from high school and the University of Delaware live elsewhere, her family is here. “I didn’t really want to stay that far away,” she says.

Besides, Westchester could have been even more expensive for her. She considered buying, but when she found a co-op she thought was perfect, the maintenance fees turned out to be “really, really high. I thought it might be better to wait a few years and maybe save up some money.”

Still, Schauber, who lives alone, does have to live on a budget. “I definitely don’t go out and do whatever I want,” she says. “I feel like everything overall has gotten so expensive.” 

She explains that she doesn’t take on some of the traditional young-person costs that might make a nice apartment out of reach for others. “I’m not a big shopper in terms of going to the mall and buying clothes,” she says. “I like to spend my money on cooking for my friends and family.”

Plus, her parents help with car insurance, and she works within the County. “I don’t have to spend $250 a month on Metro-North,” she says. “I mainly looked for jobs in Westchester and Fairfield, because I didn’t want to commute into the City.”

When looking for her apartment, Schauber says she researched the areas in central Westchester, as well as some Sound Shore locations, including Larchmont. She figured going north of I-287 would be an odd choice for a young single, even one who lives in Westchester.

“I just think it’s a lot more families with younger kids,” Schauber says. “I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot going on up there for people my age.”
 


The Rubin Budget

Mortgage and local taxes: 20% 

Home maintenance and utilities (electricity, Internet, etc.): 13.8%

Insurance: 10.5%

Car payments: 4.4%

Tuition (minus portion paid from savings): 7.3%

Food and clothing: 9.8%

Entertainment and travel: 4.7% 

Savings/investments: 5.0%

Remainder (federal taxes, pocket change, discretionary, etc.): 24.5%

Susan Rubin of Bedford says that she plans to modify her budget now that her kids have left the nest. A single mother, Rubin, 55, used to live in Armonk, where she currently owns and co-directs the Sage Yoga studio.

“I raised my kids in Armonk, but I moved to Bedford because the taxes are lower,” says Rubin. “But taxes here have crept up too. I’m no longer in the school system, so I am considering moving into another town in Westchester that has lower taxes.” 

Rubin says she’s aware that Westchester is an expensive place to live, especially since she’s still helping one of her kids financially, but she wants to stay here.

She plans on finding something smaller, though, because she says that, in addition to taxes, maintaining her home is expensive and represents her main cost concern.

“I’m planning on downsizing so that I can continue affording life in Westchester,” Rubin says. “I might move somewhere with less maintenance costs: Instead of living in a larger house with a pool, I might live in a townhouse.”

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