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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You can't afford Manhattan. Probably you can't afford Brooklyn, either. But listen up: wherever there is a big city everybody dreams of living in, there is an alternative that gives a savvy renter all the plusses of the city at maybe half the cost.

The same frugal magic can be worked in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston -- in fact just about anywhere rents are sky high. The keys: demand good rapid transit links to the brightest lights in the big city, and also look for a rebounding neighborhood that may be a tad too gritty for the monied set.

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Skeptical that this formula delivers housing bliss? Tune into the latest numbers from New York, compiled by realtor Douglas Elliman, which puts the average Manhattan rental at $3,822 and, oh, if you aspire to a prime neighborhood like Tribeca, be ready to plunk down substantially more dough.

Brooklyn rents in the trendy north and northwest sections - Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill - are closing in on those in Manhattan. The Douglas Elliman July numbers for Brooklyn put the average at $3,035.

Do the math. That Brooklyn renter needs to be pulling in over $100,000 annually for many landlords to be willing to extend a lease.

The antidote: cross the Hudson River into Jersey City and spend under $2,500 for a spacious one bedroom apartment in a newer building, very possibly under $2,000 in an older building downtown, perhaps in a restored brownstone, with convenient access to the PATH subway system that transports Jersey City residents to the World Trade Center on Wall Street in a couple minutes. Trips to 33rd and Sixth Avenue take maybe 20 minutes.

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The town's new mayor, 36-year-old Steven Fulop, has announced his "Across the River" campaign to woo New Yorkers to live on the other side of the Hudson.

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There are no restaurants or bars in Jersey City? There aren't many, admittedly, but that same PATH train runs 24/7, meaning Manhattan's night life is a quick ride away.

Chicago is your kind of town? Prime downtown neighborhoods are packed with one-bedroom apartments renting for $2,000 to $2,500 per month. So dollar conscious hipsters are heading to Logan Square, where Homescout Realty marketing intern Alexandra Wolf said large one bedrooms can be had for $1,300 to $1,400. It's about five miles from the Loop, maybe 15 minutes on the L train, and it's a neighborhood characterized by stately historical boulevards. To boot, it's now starting to show up on lists of the nation's hottest neighborhoods. Bonus point: Logan Square is home to Hot Doug's, revered by many as the nation's best purveyor of exotic sausages, like the 'Brigitte Bardot' ("hot, hot, hot").

Have $2,500 to spend on rent? If so, you can move right into Los Angeles's trendy Venice Beach or Marina del Rey, where your neighbors all drive newer Teslas or Priuses and will shun you if you motor in with the wrong wheels. Add the car to the rent, and you are left out of the equation?

Head to NoHo, the once dowdy North Hollywood, now riding high as a reborn arts district, and there even is a subway stop on Los Angeles's Red Line, which connects downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and NoHo. There are many art galleries, dozens of live theater companies and Hollywood studios nearby, and it's an area filled with mid-century ranch homes and modestly priced low-rise apartment complexes.

Expect to pay under $1,500 for a well-located one bedroom and, did we mention, off-street parking will be free and NoHo is not known for snobbishness about car marques.

Don't go looking for an apartment on the cheap in any of Boston's trendy neighborhoods such as Back Bay, the South End, not even in gentrified South Boston. When Rental Beast, a brokerage that tracks Boston's market, last tallied the numbers in mid 2012, it said a two-bedroom in Back Bay would run around $2,857 and, worse, national tallies put Boston as closing in on the lofty rental heights of New York.

Head to South Dorchester, inside Boston's city limits, but a neighborhood where artists, hipsters and others are vying with the traditional Irish Americans for flats in affordable triple deckers and once-grand Victorians that have been carved up into rentals.Three bedrooms rent for $2,000 and bargain hunters can still score pleasant one-bedrooms for just a bit more than $1,000 per month. Look for convenient access to MBTA train stations -- Fields Corner and Ashmont are the ones to be near - and you can be in the restaurants of Harvard Square in just a very few minutes.

Add it up and ask yourself: does it matter where you sleep? So, now you know where to rent.

--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet