How Do You Move to New York City on a Budget?
It’s real, y’all. Up until very recently, my money spending style was either feast or famine – either I was eating out every night, not paying attention to my bank account, or I was monitoring it every day and squirreling away every penny. There was no in-between. So when I found out that my partner got into a PhD program at NYU and we’d be relocating from Los Angeles to NYC, I freaked out a little bit.
For context, the greater New York City area’s cost of living is the 5th most expensive area to live in in the country. Between weekly requisite brunches, happy hours every night, and $150 gym memberships, the expenses in New York are quick to add up. That’s not to mention the dreaded broker fee, which doesn’t really exist in Los Angeles. So I realized pretty quickly that my way of living had to change, but I had no idea where to start.
At first, I was nervous. Really poring through my finances and expenses was in some ways eye-opening and disappointing. But after the initial shock, I realized that saving was incredibly doable with some discipline and dedication. Here are some of the things I did:
Stop going out to eat every day.
If food was a love language, it would be mine. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes or technology, but I DO love to indulge in food. I know many people in my life who’d much rather order Uber Eats than try to cook something up themselves. But luckily, for Christmas, Paolo got cookbooks – Lidia Bastianich’s being one of them. Soon, I was enjoying homemade pasta, some of the best meatballs I’ve ever had, and roasted pears and ice cream at the fraction of a cost of what it would’ve been at a restaurant. I found myself calling up my parents and grandparents, asking them for the recipes of my childhood favorites so I could introduce them to Paolo. I’ll also admit that we took advantage of Paolo’s parents being close by and spending time with them grilling outside or his mom making Guatemalan favorites.
Limit my “variable spending” budget to $800 a month.
Now THIS was a tough one. We were challenged to adhere to that budget between the two of us for everything including groceries, shopping, dining out, stuff for my cat, everything went into that budget except for non-negotiable given monthly expenses. That basically evens out to $25 a day for the two of us. We challenged ourselves to “No Spend Days”, where we cannot spend any money in the budget. Paolo and I became ruthless about what was essential and what could go. Instead of going out for drinks with friends, we opted for budget-friendly dinner parties at home. As an idea for a date, we would go out for a walk in one of our local parks and admire the scenery and spend some quality time talking to one another. There are days where it’s not easy and we end up spending more than we intend to, but it’s allowed us to save as much extra income as we can.
Open a high-yield savings account.
One thing people don’t tell you about savings accounts is that the ones at most major banks are pretty crappy. After some recommendations, I opened up a high-yield savings account with Marcus which doesn’t have any withdrawal fees, no minimum balance, and an interest rate of 2.25%. I opened both an emergency fund which I deposit money into monthly, as well as a moving expenses fund, which I also have auto-deposit set up on. I love that instead of being charged for saving my money, my money is working for me. Any side income I made from Instagram, astrology consultations, and babysitting, I put into the moving fund. Soon, between my accounts, I had $6k saved up.
Be realistic about living in expensive neighborhoods.
Paolo and I really wanted to live without roommates, which is almost impossible to do in New York City proper. Instead, we opted to live in *gasp* Jersey City near the PATH train, which gets us into Manhattan in 15 minutes. There’s such a stigma against living in Jersey that the cost of living prices are significantly lower. For only $50 more than what we’re paying for a 1 bedroom in LA, we managed to snag a 2 bedroom 0.4 miles away from the PATH station. Jersey City has a culture of its own, and it’s slowly becoming a more trendy place to move because of the affordability. Plus, you avoid the exorbitant taxes on just about everything, which means the groceries are significantly cheaper.
Find moving services for cheaper.
Obviously, this isn’t the end-all-be-all endless list of tips that are required to move, but they certainly were helpful for me. Have you ever had to move cross-country? What were your experiences? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you!