Living in New Jersey while working in NYC can have its advantages. Let’s take a look at some of them. (For more, see How Expensive Is New York City – Really?)
Housing Is Cheaper
New York City has some of the highest housing costs in the country, and prices continue to rise. In 2000 the cost per square foot was $345, but in 2016 the price had risen to $1,759 – a 31% increase from 2015 levels (see The Best Family Neighborhoods in New York City). In New Jersey the median price per square foot is a fraction of that, just $169, and prices only rose about 5% over the past year. You can get more house or apartment for a much cheaper price by heading to New Jersey. (For more, see New Jersey Property Tax Guide.)
Take a Train to Work
It might seem odd to commute to work from another state, but if you live in the northern or north central portions of New Jersey work is only 30 minutes to an hour away. You can take a ferry across the Hudson River or a train into Penn Station. Of course, where you live in New Jersey will have a big impact on your commute time, but with some people now driving more than two hours to get to work, even an hour isn’t bad. You can spend that long on subways and buses getting to work even if you live in New York City. And if you take a train or ferry, you can get some work done on the way.
Of course, you have to factor in the cost of each weekday ride, but some employers offer a pre-tax way of paying these amounts. Also, spring 2017 saw an unusual number of signal problems, derailments and other issues creating a number of massive delays in Penn Station that turned commuting into a nightmare.
A Car for Nights and Weekends
Having a car in New York City is seriously costly. Just parking your car in a garage could run between $250 and $500 or more. Add about $80 for insurance and gas and you could easily pay $700 per month. In addition, getting around New York City by car can be daunting. Traffic and a shortage of street parking are just two of the problems.
New Jersey has more of a suburban feel. You can park your car in your driveway or apartment parking lot for free and head to the grocery store or take the kids to baseball practice.
Did you know that in addition to New York state taxes, New York City levies a city tax? The lowest tax rate is 2.907% and it goes up to 3.876% if you earn more than $500,000 per year. Living in New Jersey eliminates that tax. The New York state tax starts at 4% and goes as high at 8.82%, while in New Jersey rates start at 1.4%, though they go as high as 8.97% if you make more than $500,000. Sales tax in New York City is 8.875%, while in New Jersey the statewide retail sales tax is 7%. In Jersey City the sales tax is only 3.5%.
If you have kids, you want them to attend the best schools. New Jersey has the second-highest high school graduation rate – down from the highest in 2009. In 2016, 89.7% of high school students graduated, and eight out of 10 went on to attend college. Although New York City is home to some superior schools, you aren’t going to find its public school system topping any best schools lists.
Plenty of Scenery
New York City has Central Park, the Empire State Building, the 9/11 memorial and plenty of other attractions, but New Jersey has a diverse portfolio of eye candy, as well. There are some heavily industrialized areas that aren't so scenic, but with 127 miles of ocean coastline, plenty of beautiful driving routes and a stunning view of New York City from across the Hudson River, there’s not much you can’t see in New Jersey if you’re looking for natural beauty.
You Won’t Pump Your Gas
Did you know that in New Jersey you’re not allowed to pump your own gas? Although that makes gas a little more expensive, living in Jersey means never touching a gas pump. What did disappear, in October 2016, is New Jersey’s famously ultra-low gas tax, which used to have drivers from surrounding states detouring to New Jersey as often as possible to fill their tanks.
The Bottom Line
There are also plenty of downsides to living in New Jersey while working in New York. The cost of the commute and the amount of time you’ll waste coming and going from work (especially recently) are two of the most notable. High property taxes are another. Nevertheless, people who have a family will likely find that New Jersey is more economical and offers a better life for their children.