HOW TO: Move To New York City Sane And Not Broke

How do you move to New York City and stay sane and not be broke?

Look at this kid. That’s Ben Popken on the night he moved to New York City. He just spent the past three days on a Greyhound from Denver to Manhattan. The last leg of the journey was shared with twenty just-paroled convicts. Look at his smile. He has no idea what he’s in for.

After reading our post, “HOW TO: Re-Up Your Lease, Keep The Same Rent,” Tim in Wisconsin Falls, Wisconsin, asks,

    “You pay $1650 a month rent for an apartment. What do you eat? I am barely getting by with $425.00 a month for a house. I understand it is New York but I have always wondered how New Yorkers manage to eat after paying huge rents each month. I have never been to NY so I cant say much but I have been told that New York doesn’t pay that much more than other cities do. Do you have to have 50 roommates in a one bedroom apt to make it or what?

    How does one move to New York and survive? “

Here’s how…

First, ask yourself…

DO I REALLY NEED TO MOVE TO NEW YORK? Answering no to this is the easiest way to avoid the inevitable hassle and heartache of. New York City is a glittering emerald slut, full of potential and promise, but it can also be a total bitch. Nightlife is down ever since they enacted that cabaret law. The city’s conduits of power are increasingly rusty and incestuous. Parts of the city are becoming, or already are, Disney versions of themselves, like the Lower East Side and Times Square, respectively. There’s lots of other great cities in the world. The Bay Area has nicer weather. Philadelphia has dirt cheap rents. Even so, New York is awesome and is still the capital of the world for many a human endeavor. Let’s move!

TAP PERSONAL CONTACTS. The easiest way to move to NYC is to have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who will let you crash in their apartment until you get your shit together. Be cool and offer to help out with rent as much as you can. If you’re broke, maybe offer to clean up the apartment really nice all the time.

SCOPE OUT THE RENTAL MARKET. Determine where you would like to live and how much you can pay. Personal finance gurus recommend spending no more than 25% of your expected salary on rent. Realistically, you may have to spend up to 50%. But if you lock yourself into a high rent so you can live in “the cool spot” you may end up spending all your time inside your stupid little apartment cause you can never afford to go out. Think smaller and cheaper.

On this note, Brooklyn is a nice, cheaper-than-Manhattan place. Fort Greene and Carrol Gardens are good spots to look at in Brooklyn. Rents are relatively affordable, amenities are there, it’s not too far from Manhattan, and they’re fairly safe. Living near but not next to housing projects is a sure way to get more apartment for your money.

If you must live in Manhattan, Upper Upper West Side (past the 100’s) has become affordable. There’s places to be found on the more easternly points of the Lower East Side.

Cruise Craiglist for the going rates in your desired area(s) for 2+ roomies. Hone in what rent you think you’re going to be paying each month. This number will rule your life.

SAVE Five times your expected monthly rent. To move into a lease, you will probably have to put up two month’s rent + security deposit (usually another month’s rent). There may even be a broker’s fee, which is at least another month’s rent. You will need the rest of the money to feed yourself and not feel like a loser. Stuff it in a high-yield online savings account, like HSBC or INGDirect.

DUMP YOUR JUNK. You probably don’t need about 90% off what you own. Hold a yard sale. Donate. Digitize everything you don’t need a real-world copy of. Put stuff in local storage. Throw it away. Whatever you do, just get rid of it. A good goal is reducing your belongings to an essential wardrobe, books, and your “tools of the trade.” For most people this means a computer. For you it may be a welding torch. Shipping costs. Space in NYC is at a premium. Less stuff means less stuff you don’t have room for.

LINE UP JOB PROSPECTS. Send out feelers and resumes before you arrive. Tap those personal connections. Let people know you’re coming. If you went to college, call up the alumni office and see if they can hook you up with former students in New York. has never done anything for us. Craigslist has. Don’t get discouraged if people don’t initially seem that interested in you. Tons of people say they’re going to move to New York but never do, so NYC veterans learn to take a policy of, “I’ll see it when I see it.” That’s okay, just start cranking the wheel on getting a cash flow going as early as possible.

MOVE. Go Greyhound. Fly coach. Drive yourself. U-Hauls and the like can be expensive over long distances, so its cheaper to ship your stuff freight with a trucking company like ROADWAY and then get to NYC by other means. If you’ve already reduced everything to two pieces of luggage, bonus.

Once you’re here…

DO MASLOW. Take care of your pyramid of needs, working from the bottom up. If you have a choice between doing something at the top of this pyramid, versus something at the bottom, do the thing at the bottom. Not taking care of your needs at the bottom will thwart your attempts to do the ones at the top.


At the same time, maybe you will have to eat only one box of pasta a day so you can afford to go out for social drinks. That’s fine, just don’t make it a habit, or you may end up begging for quarters in Union Square.

GET A JOB. Even if it sucks. You need to make money just to tread water. Our first job was as a bike messenger. In winter. Saner folk go the temping route. Atrium is a fantastic temping agency. Tell them Ben Popken sent you. If you refer people to them who stay on for a few months, you get a small finder’s fee.

LEARN TO ENJOY SOLITUDE. It’s easy to feel lonely in a city of a gazillion people. That’s because you are alone and no one wants to talk to you. Be prepared to have no new friends for at least a year. Be prepared for people who say, “Oh, we’ll totally hang out once you’re here,” and then stand you up even after you set a date. Everyone’s got crazy schedules here so “hang out with the new guy” may rank pretty low. Be glad people do this, so you can scratch ’em off your list before they have time to really disappoint you.

BECOME AWESOME. Whatever your deal is, be it your job or your hobby, get really good at it. You will have lots of free time to work on this because you have no friends. Socializing is often centered around people who have “your thing” in common, so it helps to be dedicated and skilled in it. This is for both personal satisfaction, and that other people will take you seriously if you’re taking your thing seriously.

TUNNEL. Use the resources of your current crappy job to get you your next, better job. With the money from bike messengering, we bought clothes that made us look presentable for the temp agency. Between directing phone calls at the temp job, we blasted out hundreds of resumes that eventually landed us a job at an online marketing firm. While at the online marketing firm, we started an advertising blog on the company’s behalf that ended up getting us a job with Gawker. Now we’re tunneling towards building a six-month emergency cushion and doing more personal creative projects.

DON’T MOVE BACK. A lot of people quit New York less than a year after moving. That’s a personal choice, but if you’re trying to be in New York, obviously leaving it is not a viable solution. If things get so hard you want to move back, ask for help from family and friends. Evaluate the choices you’re making, the things you’re buying, and see where you can cut back. Realize you’re not going to get that super-star job right off the bat (see: BECOME AWESOME). Stiffen that upper lip. Or cry. Whatever you need to do, just don’t move back. Life is hard. Welcome to it.



Edit Your Comment

  1. Musician78 says:

    I hate people, so I would never move to that, or any other city for that matter.

    But, my question is, do all places in NYC pay well? I realize that good pay is a subjective term, but I make almost 19 bucks an hour and still couldn’t afford $1600 plus a month for an apartment. If I gave up my car, smokes, and poker playing, maybe, but it doesn’t seem worth it. Anyway, back to the point, in New Hampshire, what I make is decent money. Would that be crap in NYC??? I just don’t get it.

  2. acambras says:

    What a great post and cute photo!

    Our girlfriend must be so proud. :-)

  3. Tim Matheson says:

    I would love to live in NYC from the sounds of it. It’s just a little scary to think about just jumping into a city of New Yorks scale even with all the great information Ben provided. Im sure people do it every day but I dont think I would even consider it unless I had a job offering me lots of scratch and moving expenses. Also its Wisconsin Rapids, WI Ben no biggie.


  4. Mach5 says:

    Other things to be aware of: If you get an apt through a brokerage agency, be prepared to pay 10%-20% of ANNUAL rent. Check out for general area info when you come.

    A while back I read a report that in NYC you make 55% more any pay 95% more rent than average. Once you get that massive rent payment out of the way, and the $100 cable bill (cable + 5mbs internet, Time Warner) out of the way, most things aren’t too expensive. There are cheap supermarkets scattered and usually within walking distance (for instance, C-Town, over on Ave C). The biggest money saver is not having a car. The average price for a car is $6000+ a year, but a years worth of unlimited metrocards is $912, and that gets you everywhere interesting (even the beach!).

    This city will kick your ass if you aren’t prepared, but once you’re settled in, you are surrounded by the best food and bars, and some of the nicest city parks you’ll ever come across.

  5. missdona says:

    Never pay a broker fee. Ever! Ever! Ever! There are tons of no-broker apartments and those are the ones you need to rent. Ask everyone you know and look for resources online.

  6. Dashiell says:

    One thing I would add (which was implied, but not overtly stated by Ben) is learn to love roommates. You will almost certainly have share your first place with complete (and probably weird) strangers.

  7. mschlock says:

    If $1650/mo sounds alarming, don’t move to Silicon Valley either…

    Really it’s just the same way folks everywhere make things work (or try to), by making more money than you spend on rent/mortgage. I don’t know how much bigger my salary is compared to someone doing an equivalent job in Wisconsin, but I take home more than I pay out, even though what I pay out scares all my friends who don’t live in CA.

  8. kimdog says:

    I moved to NYC in 2001 after spending most of my life in TN. I was scared shitless, but knew it was something I needed to do in order to begin my career in non-profit management.

    I planned for about 6 months before the move, including working a second job to sock away cash, and then I sold my car two weeks before the move, so I had some savings to get started. The scariest part was just making the decision to move. Once I did that, I was too consumed by all the details to get too freaked out. Oh, and I only knew one person in NYC when I arrived

    Following on Ben’s tidy commentary-

    Housing: It’s very difficult to find a good living situation remotely. I got a short term sublet so that I could spend time figuring out my best option. I eventually found a great deal with a roommate, and less than a year later got my own apartment. Upper Manhattan is still the undiscovered country. Inwood and Washington Heights have some great deals and certain areas are rapidly gentrifying. If you are willing to walk the streets, talk to people, and make phone calls you an avoid the scam that are NYC brokers and save a ton of cash.

    Cost of living- yes it’s higher in some respects, but there are trade-offs. I was spending about $300 a month on car insurance, gas and maintenance (and I didn’t have a car note). Now my transportation cost $76 a month for an unlimited MetroCard (and my employer pays for $40 of that). Also, incomes generally are higher, but depending on your experience don’t expect to make big bucks to start. Like Ben said, get good at what you do. I started out in an entry level position making $32k, and doubled my salary in three years. I used my savings to subsidize my first year in NYC until my salary caught up.

    Analyze your expectations- I know many people who spend lots of money to maintain a “lifestyle”- clubs, restaurants, designer clothes, taxis. Many of those people make less than me and are up to their eyeballs in debt. But there are plenty of other paths to take. I’ve made wonderful friends here, and most of them are native New Yorkers who are just living a life. The city has abundant riches to offer that don’t break the bank. Hell, my favorite things are usually free.

    My original plan was to stay two or three years for experience then move back south. But six years later, I have wonderful friends, and an amazing boyfriend, I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

    • Anonymous says:

      @kimdog:Hey kimdog, I live in Nashville, TN now and I plan to move to NYC very soon. I’m EXTREMELY terrified of making the move because of the cost of living as well as not knowing anyone. I do, however, know that it will be very beneficial to my career in fashion & music production. Plus, I feel that a big city fits my personality vs. Nashville’s slow pace. I’ve lived in Atlanta for about 2 years and LOVED IT. Frankly, I’m just tired of the south. I need to be around people of a different mindset. I need all the advice I can get (being that you’re from TN also…LOL). I’d appreciate it!!!

      Tee Howard

  9. matto says:

    I spent 5 months in NYC consulting for Got paid a lot of money, didn’t escape NY with any of it. It was a lot more fun wasting it on drinks there than in SF, though. Plus I blew a blood vessel in my eye dry-heaving at work one morning.

    What was my point, again?

  10. katewrath says:

    Something Ben and the other posters have glossed over is that $1650 is the rent he and his girlfriend split. So really, he only kicks a piece of that. Most NYers, especially beginners, will work out a similar arrangement. Also, a smart newcomer will shoot for the smallest, most managable rent he/she can stand, then gradually move up as money allows.

    My first apartment in NYC was under $1K for a one bedroom, in the absolute ass-end of Manhattan (which I split with a boyfriend.) I learned a lot about the life cycle of cockroaches in that apartment, but in time, we moved onto a better place and I had some great, disgusting stories to tell at parties. (Then we broke up and I had to scale back to Brooklyn, but that too had its own rewards. I finally got my own place after 3 years of roommies–a studio apt. in Fort Greene.)

    It bears repeating, by the way, that NYC is hell for the person who cannot resist putting things on credit. The whole city is one big ad for the awesome life you could be having if you just had $50K more in your bank account. I don’t know anyone who came to NYC to start their career who emerged without many, many thousands of credit card debt. In most cases, folks get promoted to cushier gigs and paid it off, but I also know of a few highly painful parental loans and a bankruptcy. Yuck.

  11. cindel25 says:

    I can’t fathom paying $1650/month in rent when you can pay a mortgage for that amount. I don’t like people so I wouldn’t move to NYC but a friend of mine is and she’s seems to be very happy about that.

  12. ckilgore says:

    All at once I am jealous of New Yorkers and glad I live in the midwest. For I am nothing if not cheap.

    Really interesting and useful advice, though. I wonder if there is a similar simple run down for LA. My brother just moved out there.

  13. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    Ok seriously, I’ve been all over NYC and while sure Manhattan is lovely, if you can’t afford it, Go To Queens.

    I lived in Astoria for the 7 years I was in NYC the second time, 99-2005, and no my math isn’t wrong. :-)

    And I Loved it. I had the top floor of a 2 story row house on one of the most beautiful blocks in the entire borough, 5 blocks from two subways stops on the N/W, one of them the last stop Ditmars Blvd. ensuring I got a seat every morning on the train which Rocked.

    I was also 5 blocks from a boatload of banks, grocery stores, ethnic food, pizza everywhere, bars (including the legendary Beer Garden), shopping, reliable gypsy cabs and yellow cabs (I lived 3 blocks from 21st street, the street that goes directly to the Queensboro bridge).

    It was safe, clean, bustling during the day with people from all sorts of countries and ethnicities, professionals and artists and everyone young and old in between. Had a thriving nightlife. I was never harassed by cops, had a beautiful apartment that went from 1000 bucks to 1500 in 7 years, had two large bedrooms and three living rooms, kitchen bathroom hallways, etc. God I miss that place.

    Anyway, the commute was less than 25 minutes door to door to midtown, 35 to downtown Manhattan, and there was a massive park 5 blocks away with insane views of the Triboro bridge (i.e. you’d be right underneath it), shit I even had a view of it from my bedroom. Huge trees on every street, nice neighbors who gave more than a crap about their homes and community. And I never Once ran into one of those hideous double-wide strollers. Ever.

    The only shitty thing about Astoria are the Vallones.

    Astoria was my NY paradise and it will be again the second I move back. I was an Urban Park Ranger with Americorps the first year I was here at the tender age of 18 and I worked in 99% of the city parks in all 5 boros. I’ve seen most parts of this city and frankly, Brooklyn can bite me. It’s not nearly as safe as the majority of Queens (except Jamaica and even that’s experiencing a rebirth, though slowly). The Bronx is getting pretty safe and of course Staten Island just plain Sucks, but Queens is safe, most areas are cheap for an apartment and definitely for a roommate situation, and the commute is much better.

    I don’t get why people push Brooklyn so much, it used to be cool 20 years ago, now it’s either safe and utterly vapid (ok there are a few interesting blocks) or it’s completely Unsafe, dirty and the commute sucks.

    Viva la Queens people!

    I have my new neighborhoodies T, I Adore Queens (natch). All kinds of them, boros, men, women, whatever.

    That is all.


    Oh and by the way, I had access to my roof, which was the best place to watch the Fireworks on July 4th. Oh the fantastic memories.

    • Will Dennison says:

      @TheUpMyAssPlayers: My wife and I are looking into moving to NY in about a year, so we’re saving and researching now… I’ve fallen in love with Astoria through my research, so it was nice seeing you speak so highly of it… one question though who/what are the Vallones?

  14. Musician78 says:

    @ Matto: You blew a blood vessel in your eye?!? Was that a painful affliction??

  15. drowned_in_milk says:

    Ben, thank you so much for this; as a Rutgers student who plans to move to NYC after graduation, this is by far the most informative and realistic thing I’ve read on the subject. Bravo!

  16. weave says:

    kimgdog touches on an excellent point. The ability to live comfortably without a car is huge. People in the burbs don’t realize what they spend on a car. Payment, gas, tolls, maintenance, insurance. That can easily had up to several hundred a month. Slice that off your rent and things look a lot more affordable.

  17. SharkJumper says:

    Hi Ben,
    Can I come crash with you for a while? I’ll clean up your apartment really nice.

  18. olegna says:

    >> If I gave up my car . . . maybe, but it doesn’t seem worth it.”

    Please don’t go to NYC with a self-entitlement need for a car. I’m glad you have no desire to come if your car is so important. Traffic’s bad enough in a city with 24-7 public transport that, despite many people’s gripes, is really one of the best in the world. (Mexico City’s would be better if it were running all night long, but, alas, it doesn’t. Paris might actually be better, but it’s expensive.)

    >> do all places in NYC pay well?

    No. In fact, in media it pays lower than the national average (at least for entry and mid-level). Hence, Sinatra croons about how making it in NYC means you can make it anywhere. (That’s actually not literally true, since it’s easier in NYC than, say, Baghdad or Lagos, but the point is taken.)

    >> I dont think I would even consider it unless I had a job offering me lots of scratch and moving expenses

    Very thoughtful remark. I wouldn’t move back (I work abroad and have lived in NYC before for four years) without at least $10,000 in the bank for scratch (moving in expenses, getting by until the paychecks start to roll). Having job leads is important for anyone seeking a professional track in NYC, rather than, say, living with 50 roommates and working at The Strand bookstore so you can fulfill your NYC artistic dreams. (In which case, Wisconsin is probably better. NYC is a magnet for artst fartsy types that in most cases have already built a bit of a name for themselves, not an incubator. I’ve always felt more creative juices flowing in places with less white noise than NYC.)

    >> Never pay a broker fee. Ever! Ever! Ever! There are tons of no-broker apartments and those are the ones you need to rent.

    Well, the debate is still out. I never paid a broker’s fee, but I considered it once. The thing is, when you rent direct from the landlord (or, more typically, the landlord salaried liaison), the rent for the same kind of place is often higher because the landlord factors in his efforts (or the efforts of his liaison) into the price and that price is sometimes (not always) higher than it really should be. For example, I reanted a shithole shoebox in Brooklyn for $850 direct form the landlord. I saw a $900 place that was much nicer (like, way more than $50-a-month nicer) with a $1200 broker’s fee. Also, broker’s apartments tend to be cleaner, in nicer buildings because they are managed professionally rather than renting directly from some slumlord with two shitty buildings in Brooklyn too cheap to use brokers. Apartments that you can wlak into often have high turnover, shitty maintenance, slacker building supers and asshole landlords.

    However, again, it’s a point of legitimate debate. There are good and bad on both sides (broker vs., non-broker), most notably the fee you have to pay (so you should use a broker only if you plan a relatively long stay). My advice is to be way more picky about no-fee apartments than ones where you pay a broker.

    >> One thing I would add (which was implied, but not overtly stated by Ben) is learn to love roommates. You will almost certainly have share your first place with complete (and probably weird) strangers.

    True Bal-oo! It’s almost unavoidable, though I managed to avoid it. If you have a decent salary, then it’s possible to live alone. NEVER pay more than 50% of your monthly salary on rent. And credit card debt (or other debt) is a VERY IMPORTANT consideration when you factor in the percentage of your monthly salary you sent to rent.

    >> If $1650/mo sounds alarming,

    The most I paid (2000-2004) was $1,450 for shityy, tiny one-bedroom (trendy hood, walking distance to my job in the Empire State Building). The least I paid was $750 (a spacious Brooklyn studio apartment sublet that was nicer then the one-bedroom trendy flat). The best deal was a $1,200 a month one-bedroom sublet in the Upper West Side, wehre I lived for nearly half the time in NYC. I almost moved around the corner into a $1,300 leased apartment (not subletted) with a $1,300 broker’s fee. It was a very nice place Amsterdam Ave, but, again, that broker’s fee. . .

    @kimdog – great comment. I’m glad you’re in NGO mangement. Good industry (usually good benefits). Good luck!

    >> spent 5 months in NYC consulting for Got paid a lot of money, didn’t escape NY with any of it. It was a lot more fun wasting it on drinks there than in SF, though. Plus I blew a blood vessel in my eye dry-heaving at work one morning.

    I had a drinking problem in NYC, too. It’s very easy to blow your wad (and your mind 3-4 nights per week) in NYC. It got to a point were $5 pints were to me a bargain. I had a blast, though, especially in my co-enabling relationship with a fellow (and hottie) alcoholic. I wouldn’t trade it for anything to have stories like waking up at noon in her bad in a suit with one shoe off and a sock still dangling from my toes while she’s passed out naked in the living room on her futon with her pet iguana wandering around the room. Neither of completely sure how we got home.

    >> Something Ben and the other posters have glossed over is that $1650 is the rent he and his girlfriend split.

    Oh, my gosh. I knew people who were in relationships beyond their prime solely because they split rent in a one-bedroom apartment. Couples definitely have it much easier on the rent thing if they’re both employed. We’re talking about the difference between $1,200 and $600.

    >> and glad I live in the midwest. For I am nothing if not cheap.

    Herein lies something that most people are unaware of: NYC is cheap once you resolve the rent thing and keep your alcohol consumption down to simple social drinking. The price of a beer is more than the price of a really delicious lunch special at this Cuban restaurant run by a Russin couple emploiying Mexican cooks a block from the Empire State Building. Summertime is filled with free or cheap public entertainment. I loved simply riding my bike to Coney Island from the Upper West Side and back on a Saturday. NYC is a cheapskate’s Disneyland. . . once that rent and drinking thing is resolved.

    >> Ok seriously, I’ve been all over NYC and while sure Manhattan is lovely, if you can’t afford it, Go To Queens.

    I love Queens, too. My pop’s from Astoria. I never lived there myself, but would have had no problem. Long Isalnd City is way closer to midtown (where you’re likely to work) than anything in Brooklyn. There’s a subway stop in Astoria that’s two stops to Bloomingdale’s (as the mother of my father’s Greek best childhood buddy was always proud of mentioning.) Queens rules! However, parts of the Bronx are up and coming. Upper-upper Manhattan, as the article points out, is a good area to check.

    >> kimgdog touches on an excellent point. The ability to live comfortably without a car is huge. People in the burbs don’t realize what they spend on a car. P

    Totally agree. And people who bring cars to NYC annoy the shit out of me. Probably because I got around a lot on a bicycle. I hate that sense of self-entitlement. People who have that should stay the fuck in the ‘burbs where they belong.

  19. timmus says:

    I think the thing about car expenses is overrated. I live in flyover country and I basically just buy good cars and drive them into the ground. $12,000 divided by 10 years = $100/month. Since I buy used and pay cash, I don’t need to buy comprehensive insurance, so my insurance bills are trivial. My maintenance/repair expenses average about $2000 per 3 years, so $55/month. So I think getting rid of the car wouldn’t add much to my ability to live in NYC.

    We hear through the grapevine that the bedbug situation there is bubbling up into a bit of a mess — at this point that would be a major concern about me moving there.

  20. brkl says:

    Oh, I knew choosing morality over excretion would come back to haunt me!

    Oddly I found this post very interesting, even though I live 10,000 miles or so from NY. Good luck to anyone going for it.

  21. Amy Alkon says:

    The only shitty thing about Astoria are the Vallones.

    Who or what are the Vallones?

  22. olegna says:


    I think you are exaggerating a lot. An example: before my time in NYC I lived in Oklahoma and drive a 1990 Isuzu Trooper. Very reliable vehicle. I loved that car.

    I lived close to my job at the time, and my driving record is spotless and the value of the vehicle was low. I still paid $600 a year in insurance, and that is one of the lowest premiums you can pay. That was $50 a month by itself.

    Troopers have crappy gas mileage, but I only put 7,000 miles per year on it. I still filled the tank twice a month. That was $60.

    That’s $110 dollar a month.

    I hit a curb once, blew out a tire. I use good tires. Two tires: a $300 one-time hit that would have put that month’s expense at $410. (OK, maybe you’re a prefect driver and NEVER EVER have anything happen while driving that might cost you a couple of hundred bucks. But this isn’t about you: it’s about the HIGHLY CONVENTIONAL wisdom that cars are bad investments that incur regular considerable costs.)

    Anyway, yes, please keep your cars out of NYC. And, yes, not having a car means your transportation expense is $80 a month for the metro pass. And having a car in NYC, by the way, is much more expensive than it is in a big, square state out west. I wish it were more expensive — tax the fuck out of car owners in the metro are, me sez. I only want to see taxis , limos and commercial vehicles on the streets of NYC.

  23. Islingtonian says:

    If only I had read this post when I moved to NYC in November! I’d say everything written has been spot on. I’d add Prospect Heights/park to neighborhoods in Brooklyn to look at. I have a 30-min commute to midtown every morning. Plus, Prospect Heights gives you the amenities of Park Slope without constantly dodging strollers.

    We (boyfriend & I) tried to get a non-broker apartment, but weeks of craigs-listing only turned up nasty apartments that I didn’t feel safe in. I think it was after we saw the place with no windows that we went straight to a broker. It was definetly worth it so that we could live where we actually wanted to live (well-maintained brownstone, quiet street, good neighborhood). Other people have had more luck with craigs list, though.

    I moved to new york because this is where most of my friends came after college and I figured why the hell not. Since arriving, I’ve found a good job and I’m enjoying life here. That being said, New York is not the end-all be-all of cities. Don’t think you “have” to move to New York; only move here if your heart’s in it. There is a lot of fun to be had in other places with a hell of a lot less stress!

  24. 75Sasha says:

    I moved to Chicago in 5/05 and this holds true for cities other than NY. And I’ll second/third/whatever the Craigslist suggestion. I found my past and current apartments on there. And both situations had/have roommates. Once you get basic rules down, it’s easier living with a (sane) stranger, than say a friend that borrows clothes, has no money for bills but thinks you won’t mind because you went to high school together. I will say try it, because you don’t want to be 40, having a mid-life crisis and wondering what-if. If you go and it doesn’t work, go somewhere else and try. There is some place for you and it probably isn’t your hometown. And the job thing. Take what you can get and keep looking. I just got a new job in 10/06 at a 45% salary increase in my field. The first job I had when I got out here was horrible. But it paid my rent, bills, fed me, and paid for a little bit of grad school. It’s only a stepping stone to something better.

  25. MollyNYC says:

    timmus: I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the difference not needing a car makes. It’s not just the money.

    I live over a French bakery. If I want bagels, it’s another half-block. The grocery store is across the street, next to the greengrocer’s. The once-a-week farmers market is about 7 blocks away. The dry cleaners is next door. In a mile radius, there are at least 5 movie theatres (and 3 live theatres) and another 5 (at least) independant bookstores, plus a B&N. I have to take the subway to work to be on time, but I can walk home. There are dozens of restaurants in walking distance, and most of them deliver. When I need to take the dog to the vet, it’s a 75-foot detour from his usual walk.

    I know you probably have all or most of these things where you live–if you’re willing to drive to them–a mile, 10 miles, 50 miles. (And chances are, even if it’s a short distance, it’s still inconvenient to walk; a lot of places just aren’t set up to accomodate pedestrians.) So that’s 20 minutes or an hour, or a couple of hours a day that you spend doing something that you could easily get killed from if you lose focus, or someone else does. And that’s not even counting the worry about the car itself: Where are my keys, do I need gas, when is my insurance due, where’s a parking spot, will people think my car is lame, where’s a parking spot, what’s that funny noise, am I sober enough to drive, where’s a parking spot? There’s this freaking huge level of stress that you lose when driving ceases to be an necessity in your life.

    So what we got here that you probably don’t, that actually makes a difference in everyone’s day-to-day is: (a) good-enough public tranportation that even people who could drive find it faster/cheaper/more convenient to take the subway; and (b) mixed residential and commercial zoning (in much of Manhattan, the E-W streets are mainly residential, and the N-S avenues have the shops; most of the rest of the city has a similar arrangement).

    This is, of course, no reason to move. Clearly, there’s nothing magic about this combo, and wherever you live is probably going to at least get decent, functional public transportation eventually, because what’s the alternative? The zoning, however, isn’t to everyone’s taste.

  26. Musician78 says:

    @Olegna: I don’t have a self-entitled need for a car. I live in New Hampshire and drive 11 miles to work and aboout 25 to get anywhere else. Therefore I NEED a car. Perhaps if I did live in NYC, I wouldn’t NEED a car, but I am sure I would have one because there is no doubt that there would be times when I would not want to be in NYC.

  27. jbsibley says:

    Parking in NYC (CHEAP garage, unfashionable bits of Manhattan) – $300/mo. And you’ll be thanking them for it.

    Insurance – through the roof.

    Street parking – thanks to street cleaning, you’ll be up at the crack of dawn twice a week to drive around aimlessly for an hour and a half until you can park on your street again, if there’s a space. Or you can pay a $200+ parking ticket. Your choice. Oh, and street-parked cars are frequently vandalized and your bumper is DEFINITELY gonna get banged up, as is the rest of your car.

    Skip the car in NYC. I’ve had ’em on and off and they’re not worth it. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of money and hassle by just renting one when you want to get out of the city. Treat yourself, rent a nice one – it’s still far cheaper than owning!

  28. katana says:

    Do any of you live in Jersey, park there, and commute (subway) into the city?

  29. This how-to is great for people who are fresh out of college, or young single men who own nothing but clothes, a laptop, and a video game console of choice or 22 year-old girls who are OK with transporting all their clothes in a trashbag.

    My roommate and I are both recent transplants to NYC (from Austin, where everyone else wants to live). We both began planning over a year in advance: keeping track of available positions and current pay rates in our career fields, watching craiglist for trends in rent and brokers fees, travelling to the city once a month for about six months to feel out neighborhoods and build connections, donating and selling crap neither of us needed, and in my case, finagling a $10K merit raise in my previous position after I gave 9 months notice. “Don’t ask; don’t get.” (This raise was applied wholly to my personal debt because I couldn’t carry debt and live in NYC.)

    In the span of a month, after actively looking for about 3 months, I was hired remotely for a job with fewer responsibilities and more pay. My roommate put in her notice, lined up three job interviews through connections and applications, and in the space of two weeks, we found an apartment remotely via craigslist, made arrangements to sell our cars, and moved all our respective possessions. She was employed within three weeks of our arrival and landed three additional freelancing gigs. Then again, we are upwardly mobile, degreed professionals with 5+ years of experience in our respective fields and have lived away from home since high school.

    Both of us realise that our move may be viewed as “special,” “fortunate,” or “lucky,” but this move was none of these things. This was not undertaken lightly and frankly, didn’t require any of the squalor or inconvenience that so many young people believe is they have to settle for when moving here. For the record, we live in Bedford-Stuyvesant by choice, though we both work in Chelsea and are in the LES or East Village almost every night. We have two adjoining apartments in a restored brownstone totalling 1500 square feet and we pay considerably less than we would have for marginally acceptable digs elsewhere below the 30s. Queens, upper Manhattan, and Midtown were not options. Jersey was a dealbreaker, as were several of the items on this “Here’s How…” list, i.e. temping.

    Roughing it, becoming a hermit, or liquidating your assets isn’t necessary. Smart planning is, as is realising what you are worth professionally, socially, and figuring out what living in NYC really means to you. If being here is about anyone but you, rethink your plans.

  30. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    Why were Queens or Manhattan not an option for you?

    And yeah, you prepared and therefore you did not fail, congrats on knowing how to get what you want!

  31. missdona says:


    I’ve done Long Island (commuted via LIRR/Subway), Manhattan (Inwood) (commuted via Bus/Subway) and currently I’m in New Jersey.

    I commute by ferry from Hoboken to Wall Street. It’s more expensive than taking the PATH train, but it’s a more convenient and comfortable commute.

  32. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:


    Peter Vallone was a judge and lawyer and his incredibly dense son Peter Vallone Jr. is a city councilman, but this isn’t a political site so I’ll bite my tongue.

    In any case they don’t impact the city of Astoria much no it’s not biggie.

  33. madderhatter says:

    @ therichgirlsareweeping

    We both began planning over a year in advance: keeping track of available positions and current pay rates in our career fields, watching craiglist for trends in rent and brokers fees, travelling to the city once a month for about six months to feel out neighborhoods and build connections, donating and selling crap neither of us needed, and in my case, finagling a $10K merit raise in my previous position after I gave 9 months notice. “

    Heh – you get the award for longest sentence.

    Seriously, what about buying a used RV and driving up there with all your stuff in it if you had a friend with a place where you could park it ? That would cover your rent problems to start with. Once you were on your feet and could afford a house or whatever then sell the RV. Of course I’ve never been to NYC, and never will if I can help it, so there are probably 20 different reasons why this wouldn’t work.

  34. pamelalewisfl says:

    I just moved to NYC a little over a year ago from Tampa, FL. Everything in this article is sooo true. Especially the part about no one wanting to hang out with you. It does get really lonely sometimes. But it’s also the greatest city in the world, so it’s definitely worth whatever. As far as money goes, I doubled my salary in NY. My boyfriend makes just slightly more here, however.

    We live in Brooklyn (which is supposedly more like what manhattan used to be) in a huge place, so our rent is still pretty high, but we no longer have two car payments and car insurance, which means an extra $700 or so a month to put towards rent. And we now have more disposable income than we’ve ever had before. In fact, I find the more expensive the city, the more you make and then the more you have to spend.

    Moving to NY was the best (and hardest) thing I’ve ever done or probably ever will ever do.

  35. tdave365 says:

    Excellent, excellent, excellent, article. When I had the NYC bug a few years back this is exactly what I was looking for. It is particularly validating to know that I zeroed in on some of these points intuitively and was planning accordingly. However, most of the points were revealing.

    Couple of things of interest. First, it’s interesting that pulling this off seems to socially dependent. For instance, contacts to get an apartment, roommates to maintain it; and contacts (or leads) to get a job. Heck, I was going to go in solo even though I have at least a smattering of old acquaintances there. Now I can see what a detriment it would have been to not plan on buttering them up a little more.

    I intuitively reasoned that it would be just as effective in terms of enjoying the NYC life by moving into Queens, and that figured into my plan precisely. But really, why even *just* Queens? The transportation there seems so rich and varied, I would imagine you could move to NYC by moving to NJ instead. All tracks lead to NYC after all. :)


  36. jagrantjr says:

    No doubt I could be pilloried for saying this, but I’ve had a Vespa here for years, and it has not only given me the freedom a car would, it has also allowed me to explore more of the city than public transport. New York is pretty small actually from behind the bars of a scooter, motorbike, or bicycle. Oh, and I actually pay LESS to commute on a scooter than by an unlimited metro card. It’s about a dollar a day in gas.

  37. MissPinkKate says:

    Parking an RV in NYC?!?!? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!! No, that would definitely NOT work. There’s no place to park an RV in NYC, are you kidding?! Even if you found one, you’d have to move it regularly due to alternate side parking rules (which vary by area, I believe).

  38. Citron says:

    Philadelphia does have cheap rent! VERY cheap rent. It’s not uncommon for fresh-out-of-college kids to band together and rent a rowhome, living comfortably. But Philadelphia is also nothing like New York City. It’s awesome here in its own right, but definitely not the same.

  39. katewrath says:

    Christy: Your brother has probably figured out the basics of LA already, but as if it needed saying, certain NYC rules do NOT apply in LA.

    A car is mandatory, not optional. Reasonable rents are a lot easier to find; grocery stores within easy walking distance are not. In my graduate program, more than half of the students moved to LA in the four months between acceptence and start of classes. Most found housing near Third & Fairfax, which has three massive mid-century apartment complexes in, like a two square mile radius. Well-meaning Angelenos warned me to focus north of the 10 and west of the 101, but I dunno if I buy that.

    NYC has a great street life that always energized me when I was feeling broke. Los Angeles has no such vibe, but it does have sunlight and (for now) palm trees. So there’s that.

  40. crankymediaguy says:

    “In any case they don’t impact the city of Astoria much no it’s not biggie.”

    Astoria is NOT a city. It’s merely a neighborhood in Queens where a LOT of neighborhoods used to be separate cities, but have been part of NYC for like a century now.

  41. Panhandler says:

    Is that Maslow hierarchy real? It doesn’t look like the one I saw in high school 20 years ago. ‘Sex’ is at the extreme bottom where ‘food, shelter, clothing’ used to be, but ‘sexual intimacy’ is two levels up? Am I old-fashioned, or un-PC, or something, to think that’s not quite right?

  42. bobpaul says:

    If you live in New York, you’ll probably find your car is pretty much useless. IF you keep it, don’t expect to stow it anywhere near your apartment. And only give up poker if you’re bad at it, otherwise it could help with expenses ;)

  43. Elvisisdead says:

    @ therichgirlsareweeping

    They should be weeping at your Continental spelling of realize. It’s a Z. A Zed, if you prefer, and unless your passport has a red cover on it, then you should be using it.

    DC is expensive by middle America standards, but it’s still the best bargain in urban living out there. I rented a 4 story townhouse on Capitol Hill (5BR, 2BA, 3LR) for $1250 with two buddies. Rent was dirt cheap, so we drank our faces off 6 nights of the week with no financial consequences.

  44. hugomania says:

    contrary to all of the above, i moved to manhattan without a job, an apartment or close family/friends in the 90s — i made it, and i live quite nicely to this day. you come to new york because you have a passion to live, work and thrive here; don’t even consider the move if you don’t have the passion to do so. and most important, living in nyc is NOT about having/driving a car whatsoever. but until you live/work here, you won’t understand/get that. first, it’s a walking city. second, if you don’t like to/can’t walk, nyc’s metro system is the best in the u.s. for residents.

  45. oldlady says:

    ah this brings me back to my youth. I moved to NYC from college in the way scary 80s. I never would have gone there if my family hadn’t been there, and even so I crashed on my mom’s couch for a year before moving into my beloved roach infested slum tenement 5th floor walk up.

    My budget for food was $1 a day and all my clothes came from the salvation army. Eating out was for special occasions and we either went to a 6th St Indian place or ate appetizers only (unless a parent or family friend was paying).

    Since most of my friends at the time were artists or musicians, socializing was gallery openings or guest list comps to see friends play at clubs. Night clubs like Danceteria gave out free passes – only old people paid to get into nightclubs. We’d spend the day just walking around or hanging out in the park or at each other’s apartment. All my furniture came from the street.

    Funny, I felt like a princess.

  46. cdan says:

    This post reeks of grit. Love it. Almost makes me wish I had had to go through all of that shit to establish myself in the city, instead of skipping to the last step and getting my family to support me. Almost.

  47. missdona says:

    When I did my 3 year stint in Manhattan, I kept my car. Crazy, I know. I did two years of garaging ($150/mo.) and one of street parking. I loved being able to zip to the suburbs for real grocery shopping or to Target.

    Say what you want, but in an evacuating-type emergency guess who everybody would look to.

  48. flyover says:

    re: 75 Sasha

    I remember when looking at places to relocate last year, Chicago was cheaper to live in than Ann Arbor, MI (and most other metro areas) so moving there from anywhere is much easier, at least financially. It’s tough to compare cities like New York, San Francisco, and Boston to anywhere it is possible to have rent actually total 25% of earnings.

    I relocated to the Bay Area last summer, drove out with belongings in my car, crashed with a friend while interviewing & getting settled, and definitely used Craigslist to its full extent. I love it. My other option was Austin, TX, but I didn’t have the network of friends to help me there.

    It’s true that making the decision to leave is the hardest part. Most of the planning and saving was motivated by that decision & was easy, though time consuming. If you use your non work time to research jobs, housing, etc, you will spend much less money socially, so the saving was a direct result of planning.

  49. Man, this post has made me scared of NYC!

    I grew up in the Chicago area and always thought of myself as a city girl (lived in London for a while, even), but now I live in a rural “city” (in quotes because Chicago has suburbs bigger than this) of 120,000ish people and I whine about having to go 15 minutes to get to the mall. It’s so FAAAAAAAAR! It takes so LOOOOOONG! There might be five other CAAAAAARS on the road!

    My head might implode if I even visited NYC.

  50. cooper says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I feel the same way. Grew up in a city and now live in a micropolis of 120,000. This post and most of the comments have further convinced me that I am NOT meant for NYC, as splendid a world as it may be. It’s not the prospect of losing my car, spending 99% of my salary on rent, or the feeling completely alone in a city of millions that deters me — I think it’s the stupendous effort that seems to go into doing “everyday” things there.

  51. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:


    Pardon me, it’s a neighborhood, albeit a big one.

    And: Astoria was first settled by the Dutch and Germans in the first half of the 17th century.

    So it’s a wee bit older than a century.

  52. Terri Ann says:

    Great tips. I went through something similar with my move to Boston, although a very different city, in comparison to many other places cost of living is crazy.

    I especially was happy to see your tips about “moving far away” like shipping your stuff freight after you dump most of it in your current dumpster, sending out feelers for jobs, and about living in a city knowing no one and how lonely it is to be surrounded by a ton of people who don’t care what your name is. I’m considering planning a long distance move come fall and I think these tips will help a lot!

  53. kimdog says:

    Cooper and Eyebrows McGee:
    I grew up in rural east TN in a town of 20,000, and I NEVER wanted to live in NYC. I didn’t even visit the city until 1999, two years before I moved there, and even then I wasn’t overly impressed.

    The reason that people move to NYC and ultimately stay is because they have a passion about something, and the city affords some of the most incredible opportunities for those prepared to act. For the same reasons that it’s completely crazy making, you can do more in one year in NYC that in three years anywhere else.

    It’s not a lifestyle for everyone. As for me, my bf and I are trying to secure his dad’s rent control apartment and then we plan to buy a house somewhere more peaceful. But if I can, I’ll always keep one foot in New York.

  54. 75Sasha says:

    re: Flyover

    I went to Eastern Michigan University for my undergrad (Go Eagles!) and lived in Ann Arbor (Ypsi had some sketchy areas) for 2 of those years. I will have to disagree on Ann Arbor being more expensive than Chicago. The most I saw for rent in A2 was 900/mo + util for a 1br/1ba. In Chicago I’ve seen over 2000/mo for a 1br/1ba + util with no parking. Granted we’re talking a 3 flat vs a high rise but I guarantee everything factored in Chicago is more expensive. You can get by making 20k a year in Ann Arbor, but I know few and far between in Chicago that make under 30K and get by without debt, family help, roommates or a second job. You can always have 6 roommates, live in Pilsen and live very cheaply in Chicago, but if you want to set up a comparable situation between the two locations Chicago will come out as more expensive. And don’t even start on housing prices between the two cities i.e. what 250k will buy. But Chicago has many more job and educational opportunities than Ann Arbor does, so you end up paying for the opportunity. And you end up paying if you don’t take those opportunities.

  55. ChupaCaBrooklyn says:

    Seriously, a lot of the commenters and the OP seem to either a) already have lots of money/good paying job or b) their parents are supporting them and they just want to move to NY from whatever city that’s only a two hour bus ride away.

    I moved to NY from Cali three years ago with a bag of clothes and a laptop. I stayed in hostels for weeks while looking for apts., one in Harlem the others in Chelsea. After those weeks I found an apartment in Bed-Stuy for $450 a month, two roommates and a big dog. That was all I could afford, not to mention, I didn’t know that Bed-Stuy had/has the stigma that it does. Regardless, it was home and still is.

    Telling people to look into Fort Green or Carrol Gardens…? You mean the Carrol Gardens were it’s close to $2k a month for a one bedroom? People that are truly struglling and not getting help from mommy and daddy are not going to be able to afford that.

  56. winexprt says:


    If you happened to be in your car, here in nYc during an emergency…yeah sure, I’d look to you…

    I’d look to you from the seat of my bike as I passed you by on my way out of the city as you sat in UNIMIGANINABLE gridlock behind thousands of other people with the NOT SO BRIGHT idea of driving here in nYc during ANY sort of emergency. ;-)

  57. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    One easy and fun way to meet people is . it’s an organization run by a nice guy named Jared that basically works like this: they have events in NY (mainly in Manhattan) like lunch where a bunch of people meet just to talk and meet new friends. They go to ballgames sometimes, bar crawls, art gallery crawls, I even did a couple of park tours for them. It’s Not a dating service, but a nice way to meet folks. You pay for your share of the meal or ticket etc. and that’s it.

    Here’s what the website says: When you arrive, we learn your name. Then we introduce you to lots of other “strangers” who are there for the same reason: To make friends and forge community. You’ll simply hang out and get to know each other. Perhaps you’ll share a meal, or take part in one of the many fun activities we do all the time. Afterward, you can keep in touch through this web site. Strangers become neighbors. And that’s merely the beginning.

    You can also meet people if you just say Hi in a lot of cases. :-)

  58. Hyman Decent says:

    Joe Momma, just a couple of minor corrections:

    Charles Vallone was the judge. Peter Sr. (Charles’s son) was a cop, then lawyer, then City Councilmember, eventually becoming the Speaker of the City Council before being forced out by term limits (which were enacted only last decade). Peter Jr. is indeed currently on the City Council.

    crankymediaguy was referring to the year (1890-something) that the “outer boroughs” joined Manhattan and became part of the City of New York.

    ChupaCaBrooklyn, since you corrected someone’s misspelling of Bed-Stuy over on Gawker: It’s Fort Greene and Carroll Gardens.

  59. Hyman Decent says:


    olegna wrote:
    Also, broker’s apartments tend to be cleaner, in nicer buildings because they are managed professionally rather than renting directly from some slumlord with two shitty buildings in Brooklyn too cheap to use brokers.

    Actually, it doesn’t cost a landlord anything to list an apartment with a broker. Not that that disproves your overall point.

  60. @ JoeMomma:

    Despite the truth that Astoria is “one stop” from Grand Central still means that you’re in Midtown, and we spend way too much time below 14th St. to make that a truly viable option.

    I know lots of people are happy in Astoria, but it just didn’t seem like the right place for us.

    As for upper Manhattan — again, the idea of spending ages on a train to get downtown seemed kind of nutty.

  61. olegna says:

    >>No doubt I could be pilloried for saying this, but I’ve had a Vespa here for years, and it has not only given me the freedom a car would, it has also allowed me to explore more of the city than public transport.

    If you rode a bike you’d multi-task by commuting while being active (burning calories). From a environmental standpoint, scooters are awful — they’re two-stroke engines that burn a gas/oil mixture that emit more particulate matter into the atmosphere than cars — glorified lawn mower engines.

    In a city smog lingers at street level between buildings, etc. You drive that Vespa down a narrow alley in Tribeca and pedestrian are likely to cough and you pass by. Talk about second-hand smoke.

    The fact that nearly anything you can do on a scooter can be done with a bike makes it even more a vehicle of entitlement. And there really aren’t that many places int he metro area where the subway isn’t a viable option. (How tdo you get around in the winter months?) Sounds to me like you’ve self-justified to some degree.

    To the guy who lives 11 miles form work in a place with crappy public transport: no offense intended. When I mean entitle meant I mean people who don’t need cars but want to bring them to NYC for the “convenience”.

    On the other hand, annual mileage is important. I lived 4 miles form work in a red state with dismal public transport options and virtually no inter-city dedicated bike paths — I put 7,000 miles a year on my car (the average in the US is over 14,000) by riding my bike when I could, walking when I could and sharing rides.

  62. ten13 says:

    While interesting, these “do’s” and “don’ts” about moving to NYC could put you in serious jeopardy if just ONE thing doesn’t work out.

    Contrary to popular belief, NYC is not like your hometown, but only bigger.

    I am a life-long New Yorker and a cop. I have seen what happens to young people who move to NYC unprepared, or worse, on a lark.

    If you think the same type of job you had in Tennessee is going to get you by in NYC, or the fact that you have a college degree, you are sadly mistaken.

    The most important survival tools to have moving to NYC is MONEY, relatives or close friends living in or near NYC, and, to be polite, MOXIE.

    Don’t be fooled by great deals from “real estate” agents or newspaper ads promising great apartments for under $3000 a month; they don’t exist…not without a few roommates. Yes, maybe you can find an apartment in your price range, but unfortunately not every neighborhood in NYC is out of “Father Knows Best,” or the “Cosby Show.”

    I could go on and on, but to anyone just THINKING about moving to NYC for the “bright lights” and the “night life,” give it some more thought.

  63. As a born and bred NYer who’s lived in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and now NJ I welcome you with open arms.

    But don’t come here if you can’t hack working and living at 78RPM.

    I found for a brief time working in other parts of the country, NOTHING has the pace of New York.

    There are truly nice places in the rest of the country, but there is only one New York.

    Happy apt hunting!

  64. officedrone4 says:

    Re: cars-

    Zipcar ( is a great way to have access to a car without paying for all the hassle. You pay a yearly fee, and you have access to rental cars by the hour or the day conveniently parked all over NYC.

    Re: Apartments

    if you get a roomie it is possible to live in a nice building without going through a broker. it was expensive at first, but i live in a really nice luxury building, originally with 2 others, for 1095 a month. we converted the living room into a second bedroom and had the small dining area as a living room. now we’ve opened up the living space as bf lives with me and our apartment has morphed to two couples. its great, and we didn’t have to pay a brokers fee. A lot of the larger buildings you can contact the management company directly. I recommend doing this. Do a google search for manhattan apartment management companies and search away- broker fee free!

  65. ChupaCaBrooklyn says:

    Hyman Decent: I also misspelled “where.” Please be sure to correct all of my mistakes in the future.

  66. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:


    I Love NY Cops, yet another NY plus. There’s no police force as sweetastic as the boys in blue.

    Cops also do it better, hands down.

  67. Hey, jgrantjr: where do you park your Vespa?

    *evil laugh*

    In all seriousness, the alternate street parking meshugas cannot be overstated. If you must have a car in NYC for trips to IKEA and CostCo, park it in a garage.

    And don’t move to Bay Ridge. I mean it!

  68. NYC’s best kept rent secret: Woodside, Queens. I moved there right out of grad school in 1998 and paid $635 for a huge studio in a clean, safe, multi-ethnic, but especially Irish family-oriented neighborhood. The 61st Street-Woodside stop for the 7 train goes express to Grand Central in 15 minutes and Times Square in 20. I worked on 49th and 8th during those early years, so I got to work in 25 minutes. At the end of four years, I was paying $685 when I finally made the move to Manhattan with a roommate because I could finally afford it.

    On the subject of roommates, today I make a six figure salary and CHOOSE to have a roommate because I like the company. (See “Learn to enjoy solitude”.) Because I live with another person, I just moved into a 1050 square foot dream apartment on a very hip block in Alphabet City. I could and have lived in Alphabet City on my own in a very nice apartment, but I was much tighter for cash and this apartment makes that amazing apartment pale by comparison. Plus, like I said, I really enjoy having a roommate.

  69. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:


    Second the Woodside. Lovely neighborhood, and safe.

    But Yikes on the 6 figure salary and only having a 1050 sq. ft. apartment that you gotta share? Do you have tons of debt or pay taxes through the nose?

    I like roomies too, but if I had a 6 fig. salary I’d be living in something at least 1500 sq. feet, I’m surprised you weren’t able to find something bigger even in Alphabet city in your price range.

  70. rse506 says:

    Don’t move to Bay Ridge? Why would you say that? I’ve lived in Bay Ridge on 86th Street just a block or so from the big Century 21 for close to 4 years now, and I love it. My building is big (over 100 units) and full of all kinds of people, including students, retired couples, etc. Plus, when I first moved in, my rent was only $1,000. So it’s a great option, in my opinion; the main drawback is that the commute is a bit longer (30-40 minutes).

  71. Hyman Decent says:

    JoeMomma: I have an opinion of the NYPD that’s not as positive as yours. I thought it’s a well known fact among savvy New Yorkers that police officers here are loathe to take crime reports because there’s pressure to keep the stats in one’s precinct low. In my experience and that of a few others, the officers of the 114th Precinct in Astoria are particularly disinclined to being helpful, except maybe to attractive women.

    rse506: I took Trouble’s “don’t move to Bay Ridge” as an order, not advice; my guess is, she lives in Bay Ridge and doesn’t want more people there.

  72. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    Hyman Decent

    Hmm, I’ve never had a problem, and I’m 50 lbs. overweight so I can’t agree with the “only help the attractive” part. All the cops I’ve come in contact with were pretty cool but as they say there are always bad apples in every bunch.

  73. Kalik says:

    Great tips – This is something you can use when moving to Tokyo, which is where I am (not by choice, but rather by birth…) I think NYC and Tokyo are very similar in that you do NOT need a car to survive. It may be astonishing to some that this is even an option, but once you get used to it, you really don’t mind…

    If you’re living (or thinking about living) in a metropolis, remember that a 1 hour commute on the train is NOTHING.

  74. Gllrrhh says:

    Woodside is awesome, but I’m afraid it’s no longer a “best kept secret” – last year I looked for almost 6 months for an apartment out there and there was almost nothing open. There were 1 bedrooms for about 1,100-1,300, but they were far from the express 61st-Woodside station (which makes the 45 minute commute to MNH like 15 minutes).

    That’s the way of things in NYC – even if you find a place you want to live, it can take months or even a year to find an actual apartment. I ended up in dreaded Northside Williamsburg, which is not as bad as people say.

  75. Tim Matheson says:

    WOW! And to think they say New Yorkers are not very friendly. Just look at all the time you NY people have spent trying to help people interested in moving to NY. As for me I just think I am being under paid for my skills. I am great with computers PC/Linux and currently work as a web designer with a strong PHP,mySQL,XML,SOAP,JavaScript,Apache (Are you listening Gawker?) background. I am pretty artistic I do alot of Photoshop work for the web sites I design and I am self taught. The reason I was considering moving to NY and intially emailed Ben was to see if it was worth the effort. I just am tired of hearing people out here (who are less technically inclined) say man you should be making the big bucks, and I just reply “I know, I know”. For me the best way to make it in NY is probably to just get thrown in and have someone say swim man, swim. While all of this has been a bit overwelming to me, I am still keeping an open mind about the big apple. I just dont want the lady liberty to take a giant shit on me when I get there LOL. Thanks for all your help and kudos to the Subway Superman and tisk tisk to the MTA for not giving him free subway fair for life. Just think of all the money they saved on the lawsuit his family would have filed (But thats another post).


    Tim Matheson

  76. Frank says:

    In general a really good post and conversation with lots of useful tips.

    As a 9 year veteran of New York (moved from Philly), I suggest putting the “Become Awsome” step before an attempted move. Most entry level jobs here don’t pay well because so many young people move here. Supply and demand. But higher level jobs definitely pay better than in other places. So there is a reward and relative comfort for those who succeed. I moved here in ’98 and was able to triple my income after 5 years.

    One thing not mentioned yet is the taxes. Income tax here can top out at about 12% on top of federal. Yes, you’ll take home less than 60% of that somewhat larger salary. How do you escape that? Either be self employed, or be in a relationship with someone who is. I’m not kidding. How do you swing $6,000 in rent? By taking half of it as a tax write-off. Write off that Cable bill (internet access), that dinner, your computer, that taxi, that everything.

  77. Joe Momma,

    I’m not sure what your experience is, but I lived alone in alphabet city two years ago and have a best friend who just rented a one bedroom on Avenue B about 5 months ago and we both found that a one bedroom with an average of 750 square feet costs at least $2100/mo. This is assuming you live in a well maintained/brokered building and not above the third floor. Sometimes you can find cheaper rent if you live in a 5th or 6th floor walkup, though not much cheaper. I make on the low end of 6 figures. when you figure that 40% of your gross salary goes to taxes (true, folks) that doesn’t leave you a lot of discretionary income. I’m talking about being able to sock money away to save so that one day I can buy. I can afford to live alone, but I enjoy the company if it’s the right roommate and I can save a lot more money while living in a nicer place. And I’m also not sure if you have a clear picture of 1050 square feet. By NYC standards, my apartment is HUUUUGE. Two giant bedrooms with high ceilings (both my roommate and I could fit a king size bed in our rooms if we wanted AND have a living room or home office area in it) then we also have a giant living room that is the same size as the bedrooms, a bath and a half (i have my own half bath in my room) and SEVEN very large closets throughout the apartment. Two of them in my room. The apartment is a walk through in a townhouse which means it goes from the street to the back garden with views out both sides. my roommate is on one end of the apt. and i’m on the other so we have total privacy. If you have a 1500 square foot apartment in alphabet city, you are going to be paying at least $5000 a month i would guess. considering our rent is $3350. So I pay $1675 for an apartment that makes most $2100 one bedrooms pale by comparison.

  78. superisabel says:

    I found therichgirlsareweeping’s comment pretty relevant to me, since I’m also an experienced, 30-something professional, and don’t expect to have to messenger (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to get by.

    I’m also amazed by everyone’s obsession with cars. Here in Montreal, only suburbans (bleh!) drive. Not a big deal.

    My principal issue would be getting sponsored for a visa, but I have hope (and that passion/motivation people have mentioned).

    Thanks for the tips, both from the original article and the comments. See you soon. :)

  79. curcio says:

    first of all…i’d take in mind that the comments above are very useful but also that nyc prices have gone through the roof more in the past 5 years than before 9/11. in the past 5 years, my rent for a 1 bdrm went from $2050 up to $2750. i moved out at $2400 but my friend still lives there. the people above who are relating stories from pre-2003 have valid points but things are def tougher now than they were then. i’ve been here since 94 & at least in manhattan that has been my experience.

    with the cheap $, i wouldn’t expect things to change either. i am now renting a large 1bdrm for $3650 in astor place and half of the apts are now pied-à-terres. if they keep willing to plop down $40k a yr just for their vacations, i’ll be forced to rent smaller & the downward effect on the market will continue.

    as far as a car goes, go ahead & torture yourself and bring it. personally, i think it sucks having one. i had one because i lived in the city & commuted to westchester to get to work (yes, i am crazy – i know). anyways, the day i quit my job i was so happy to get rid of that stupid thing. if you want to park on the street, it can be a full-time job in some neighborhoods trying to avoid traffic police & thus you are usually better off with a garage. avg price now is $450 according to stats but unless you are in a prime area, you can get one for about $350/month. also expect to drive past many people who are moving quicker than you by walking and be pissed. better to just get a zipcar when necessary.

    best bet is either get a job with a lot of cash or move short-term into a sublet or shared apt and work your way up. there is no shame in trying nyc out if you feel the urge (just plan well). you will know pretty quickly whether it is worth it for you in your case or better to escape without too many losses. all of that being said – it’s a fucking awesome place to live.

  80. dalasv says:

    I moved to NYC with $300 and lived there for a year and a half. I hated it (and still do when I have to go back for business).

    Now I live in Portland, which is more my vibe.

  81. Anonymous says:

    I have a question that pertains to a first time resident of NY. I live in TX currently and I am looking to move in July of 2008. I heard that you have to make 40 times your rent annually and if you dont, you need a guarantor who makes like 80 times your rent annually. Please fill me in.. I’m lost…I’m 20 years old.. I make decent salary for a 20 yr old out here in tx, but it seems to not be near enough in ny.. help me!

    • Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous: We are from TX as well and are planning a move to NYC in a year and half. The “Guarantor” thing is new to me as well coming from TX. Would love to share any info you may get and i will as well.

  82. liamgideon says:

    Are you kiding? is 1650 that scary? I have lived in Dallas an Houston, where i paid 1000 in Dallas for loft and 1800 in houston fo a 1 room loft. Now i live in DC whee my rent is 1800 for a 2 bedroom. I eat well (mostly sushi) and drink well (mostly beer) without trouble. All i can suggest is that what is considered reasonable income in smaller towns is what you get at Wal Mart in big cities.

    I moved from a small town in New Mexico when i first jouneyed to Dallas, went from making 8 dollars an hour at a profesional job to making 36 thousand a year in a mall retail job. Small towns have small comanies, most family owned, with small resources and money. Bigger towns have large companis with alot of jobs, resources and money. A more direct comparison, as an IT in Hobbs New Mexico, yur are top of your game at 17 an hour or about 36,000 a year. In Houston, starting pay for an IT is 70-85,000 a year.

    Alot longer than i planned on posting, but its something i know alot about. I came from a small town in the west, progressively moved to bigger and bigger areas, and watched one of my friends that followed me wash out because 400 a month was too much for him in rent. Dallas-Houston-Washington DC-Next stop TOKYO!!!!

  83. StephieG says:

    This article is really enlightening, thank you. I’m currently looking to move to NYC from LA in a couple of months, although I only have 2 months of rent saved plus some for groceries and food ($500) when I arrive. Is this realistic, or should I wait when I have more saved? Also, if someone is making $50K in Cali, would it be realistic for them to make $70K in NYC? Thanks also for the tips on Queens instead of Manhattan. I am not a roommate type of person and don’t plan on being one anytime soon so this might be a more viable option to get an affordable studio. I’d rather live by myself in Brooklyn/Queens than with a stranger in Manhattan.
    What’s the situation on dogs? Are we able to have a dog in apartments? Its almost unheard of being able to have one in Los Angeles, no rentals will allow it.

  84. elyjere says:

    Hi everyone.
    I’m definitely open to bashing, so don’t go easy on me. I am a senior at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama and I want to get out of the south and change my environment! I know I don’t have a lot of experience in my field of study yet, but I feel compelled to live in New York. I visited once for a week and I literally fell in love. Is it too eager of me to want to move there a year after college? I’m willing to do the work, but here’s my dilemma…I am accruing bad credit(credit cards, loans etc)…very bad credit and my major would not allow me to make A’s and have a job. So, no cash in the bank. Negative cash in the bank. Does bad credit mean don’t try to move to New York? Also, I’ve been reading your posts but I haven’t heard much about visiting family being added to the checklist of expenses. Should I say goodbye to my family for 6 years before I have enough money to see them again?

  85. quintessential.wiseassguy says:

    Just out of curiosity, does the end therefore justify the means? I mean, I know the move is worth it but is it really? I live in crappy Greenbelt, MD but NY has my heart on lock, and since visiting NY two years ago, the Boroughs have been calling me. And do any of you, I’ve-finally-or-somewhat-made-it-in-NYers have any suggestions as to how to go about finding a starter gig or just a respectable, I-can-get-by-job in the city. Ben suggested Atrium. Obviously CL might be one also. Just wondering if any of you guys have (entry-level..mail clerk, secretary/receptionist) openings at your current jobs? I’m really asking because I’m a Junior from college who wants to try the job market and it seems most of all the success stories that have come with this article is pretty much from Ph.D-holders or something. Help!

  86. Anonymous says:

    Hey you guys!… Ummm I’ve decided to create my own blog about moving to NYC…

    CHeck me out

    I’m moving from Dallas-Fort Worth, Tx to New York CITY!!… I’m pretty much as clueless as all of you guys so if you have any tips, leave comments in on my posts and email me if you would like to.

    I need your help and hopefully with my research, I can help you!

    hehe I also added this page to my fave links list! I love it!


  87. supaflyrobby says:

    Interesting post, and some great information to digest for the new prospective New Yorker. Just to add some information from my own experience in May of 06, I had a huge gym bag of clothing and my satchel pack containing my laptop when I moved to the city from the Midwest. My car was a piece of shit so I just left it at my parents place. Finding a place to live was my first major obstacle, and I ended up shacked up at numerous hostels for weeks on end.

    I was a restaurant server back in God’s country so that was the first places I looked for employment. I remember finding it strange to have to have a resume when applying for a serving job. Oddly enough, with a little persistence, I was actually able to secure employment while still doing the whole hosteling thing.
    I finally was able to secure a place with 2 other people for 740 a month, and It felt like paradise compared to living in a cramped hostel.

    I can also certainly appreciate the loneliness aspect of the transition here. For the longest time, nobody seemed to want to have anything to do with me. It was a little easier for me since I work in a restaurant, and going out after work is almost like a religion for most wait staff. After about a month and a half, my co-workers finally began inviting me to join the flock for a post shift cocktail.Work wise, I have since gone up the pecking order to fine dining establishments and I make far better money.

    A certain degree of planning would go a long way, and maybe make it to where you do not have to struggle as much as I did when you initially arrive here, but once you get settled and into your routine, it is not as bad as some people make it out to be.

    My advice on getting around would be to get generally acclimated with the area you are staying in and then branch out slowly from there (for the longest time I could only navigate from home to work and back). This city grid map was helpful to me: []

    Also, having an MTA map is helpful. (make sure you print it off in color)

    I guess I will shut up now since I have run out of helpful advice

  88. navygirl99 says:

    This is a great article with really helpful advice for people looking to “live the dream.”

    I’m from the south but lived in NY for many years. Like any other place, it has advantages and disadvantages. There are people who love it and people who will bitch about something no matter where they live because it’s just who they are.

    I would love to move back to NYC someday because there is an energy and excitement that I haven’t found anywhere else. I think the people who don’t “make it” are the ones who get carried away, swept up in living the Manhattan life from Friends and Sex and the City. (yeah, I’m guilty to an extent)

    If you’re responsible, reasonable, and flexible, it’s possible to live well and love it. Just resist buying lots of expensive clothes, cook cheap meals at home even when it’s tempting to go out, and limit taking cabs. Those three expenses are easy to avoid if you make a conscious effort.

    Making friends can be really hard. It’s not that people aren’t friendly, but it’s a fast-paced world and no one likes to waste time. Friendships will come if you don’t lose heart and you continue to make the effort. Don’t give up. I think the best advice Ben gave is to stick with it. Remember what you went to New York for and make the most of the experience. No matter how long you stay, or how broke you are if/when you leave, remember that you are fortunate to have lived there. There are a lot of people in this world who would kill for that chance.

    I’m going to put my soapbox back under my desk now.

  89. brookenc says:

    I have toyed with the idea of moving to NYC for years. I am currently living dowtown in Charlotte, and although it’s growing quickly, I will be 80 before it even compares to Atlanta. On my way back from the big apple Monday my car gave out. After thinking it over, I realized that w/o the cost of my car, car insurance and gas to gallavant, I could afford a studio in Manhattan. I will gladly make that trade. This is a great article…I can’t wait!

  90. brooke711 says:

    What a great thread. I am moving to NYC from Charlotte, NC the end of this year. It’s always been something I have wanted to do. My car will be paid off (and sold), along w/ my student loans, so that makes up for the additional cost in rent that I will be paying.

    So far this is my only concern…perhaps a seasoned vet can shed some light for me. I plan on finding a job once I get there, because from what I have heard employers are skeptical of hiring someone who is supposedly moving to the city, in the case that they never do. My plan was to go up w/ enough money to live for 3 months, then job hunt once I get there. BUT, don’t most apartments require proof of income for approval?

    And just a side note to all the talk about drinking and the price of booze…everytime I have been to the city I have found a bar that has specials that are the same, sometimes cheaper, than where I live in downtown Charlotte. Not to mention you can always tie on a buzz before hitting the bar…that probably saved me $10000 last year alone.

  91. FDNYBOY9988 says:

    this page has me soooooo amped up!!! im 19yrs old and I live in St.louis and I would like to move to New York after I save up enough money. Hope by Janurary of 2009. When I move to New York I would like to become a EMT and hopefully a FDNY. I know its going to be really hard but I dont care. I dont really have anything to lose. Im not really sure about how much money to save up, finding a JOB and how to find a decent apartment in one of the 5 bouroughs. please help!!!…

  92. FDNYBOY9988 says:

    does anyone know if you can have your vechicle and insurance registered in a different state then move to New York. Because im 19 and i live with my mom and were both on the same insurance and stuff. so if i just drive my car up there and have my mom pay the insurance and stuff I’ll be saving money right??? idk… Maybe Im trippn…lol. Because I have a 2003 Chevy Impala and I cant see myself without it. Anyway I need to come to NYC to get a feel for the city before I move. Maybe I could chill at one of u guys apartment?!?!?! and show me around… Ill pay u2!! idk Im…

  93. Kizmet says:

    So glad I found this website.

    I’m looking to relocate from Los Angeles by the end of the year. I’m a nondriver (don’t even have a driver’s lisence) and aside from it being difficult to get around, I’m seen as a somewhat insubordate person because of it.

    I’ve lived here most of my life and have visited NY a few times. Have lived in San Francisco too, which is a neat little place. But I’m looking for a place with more culture (LA) and a vibrant nightlife (poetry, music, etc.) Right now I make about $40,000 a year as an investigator.

    I’m seeing from this website that Queens and Upper Manhattan are the least expensive places to live. How long is the commute? And if I did move to Long Island or say Bronx, is it possible to get around without a car?

  94. darklighter324 says:

    *glad i found this site too

    after reading the opinions (and some facts) from all these posts, i’m still unsure of what part of nyc to live in. I want to heed the advice of those advising to live in queens or brooklyn, but manhattan seems like the place to live! Id really like to eventually live in greenwich village, i know it would be crazy to even think of moving directly there.

    ive lived in houston practically all my life (until i moved to lubbock for my current college adventures) and even though its the 4th largest city, it still cant compare to nyc. hardly anyone uses public transportation, suburbs are the way to go, etc. etc.

    btw, a little advice for someone who has no connections (currently) would be helpful too. I wont let not having any contacts stop me!

    take care good people

  95. Booicu says:

    Good Advice. I will definately keep your suggestions in mind when I go through the transition. I am relocating from Las Vegas to NYC for a great job opportunity so I have the job thing covered, which seems to be most of the battle.

    Doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in regards to people. Sounds a lot like Vegas. Took me over a year to build solid friendships. Someone always looking for a buck in vegas, maybe so they can hit big on their next slot spin.

    I will start looking for apartments in the upper westside.

    One question though, how tough is it with pets? I am not sure if I should bring my dog… seems to me it will be rough. Would love to if I can, but would love to New Yorker perspective.


  96. BarclayNotus says:

    Comment on HOW TO: Move To New York City Sane And Not Broke The Pet question right now is my biggest question. My fiancé and I are moving to New York City in August for a new beginning in a new world. However, we have 2 dogs and a cat. Are having 3 pets typically a problem in New York City? We are moving from Portland, OR which is widely regarded as the most dog-friend city in the nation.

    My dogs can occasionally be noise makers, which is why apartments are no good in Portland (we are moving from an actual house). Will occasional howling from our dogs be a disruption in NYC or will they fit right in?

  97. SampritiPotts says:

    As far as a lot of you have stated with doubling your income, I have yet to
    find a job that pays me more than what I was getting paid in California.
    I’ve worked in customer service since graduating high school and the two
    major areas were in a hotel at Disneyland and a call center. I still can’t
    find a good paying job as a call center rep. I dont have any college
    education but I’m considering a trade school or something. What are good
    fields to work in here in NYC that pay well and not require you to go
    through so much schooling??? Does anyone know?

  98. stealingtime says:

    Living in Dallas all of my life, with a minor stint in LA and visiting NYC several times throughout my life, I would have to say that costs in the end are about the same. Especially since owning a car adds so much to your annual cost of living. Living on the far northeast side of the county, and spending all of my time in all the cities and areas in and around Dallas, that’s quite a bit of driving, especially when I’m running errands. It can be quite easy to rack up 100 miles worth of driving in one day. Now my car isn’t a gas guzzling behemoth like a lot of Texan vehicles, and I actually get rather good gas mileage, but buying gas every week which adds up to more than what I can buy an unlimited MetroCard for starts to get kind of ridiculous. I know this doesn’t hold true for everyone in the Big D, since I know people who barely ever leave their 6 mile radius, yet still have a car for some reason… I personally pay 150 for my car note, 150 for insurance, and about 100 per week on gas filling it up twice a week. That’s about 700 per month right there, not to mention my apartment costs 650, adding up to 1150 and I don’t live in the “nice” areas of town where rent can skyrocket up to 900 -1200 for a studio. I basically pay 1150+utilities which comes out to about 1400 per month, including internet, cell phone, water/gas, trash fees, etc. that comes along with an apartment.

    If Dallas didn’t have such a completely useless public transport system I would get rid of my car in a heartbeat (and die of a heatstroke the next second because I would be stranded in our extreme heat)and take the train SOMEWHERE ELSE OTHER THAN GARLAND TO DOWNTOWN OR PLANO TO DOWNTOWN!!! Any of those places I can get to faster using the highways in 15 minutes rather than the 25 minutes it takes a train. It’s also Dallas and you can always find parking. I would take the bus to the train, but it would add about another hour to my commute one way because the DART system is so useless.

    Being a heavy commuter, and getting back from NYC earlier today in fact, I took the train everywhere I needed to go and it really didn’t take that long. I was staying with a friend in Park Slope (Brooklyn for those who don’t know) and took the train to the UWS on an express which only took about 30 minutes with one transfer when I got near the Brooklyn Bridge stations. I really don’t think that’s a bad commute; however, I’m used to it taking up to an hour to drive to my school in Dallas if traffic doesn’t feel like being friendly. So basically a guaranteed train coming by a stop every so often will allow me to sleep in more in the mornings because I don’t have to worry about traffic conditions, just whether or not I can squeeze my ass through the doors before it hacks off a limb. Commuting around town really isn’t that big of a deal from Queens to Midtown or Brooklyn to Midtown, when you stop and think it used to take me 50 minutes to drive 5 miles to my nearest Target in LA, and that was one way.

    You also cut out the costs of unexpected expenses as someone had mentioned above by getting rid of your car. Seeing as how tires can get flattened by a random nail in the middle of the highway, or you bend a rim going through a construction zone, or your brakes need work done, or your transmission conks out, or you have a crack in your engine block, etc, etc, etc. Life is so much easier when you can walk out of your apartment, stop by the deli for a quick bite to eat on your way to the station, and take the train to a few blocks to work without the the hassle of 9 mile backups completely ruining your day.

    Now, this isn’t to say the MTA is free of headaches. There’s the bitch who forgets to click her pen when she’s done writing and the bus jolts and she marks up the sleeve of your favorite shirt at the start of the day making you look like a fool, the tourists and all of their damn bags and cameras, the stupid strollers that try to kill you no matter how much you try avoiding them, the loud music on the trains coming from people’s iPods, or the one dog in the entire city that just has to bark at everyone it sees and then takes a dump at a crosswalk getting in your way.

    This post is turning out to be longer than expected, so basically to wrap it up real fast. Dallas is different than any other city, LA is different than other city, and NYC is different than other city. They all come with their headaches about rent, making money, finding jobs, finding an apartment, being lonely (not because New Yorkers are busy or rude or inconsiderate, but because they’re human and that happens anywhere you go); but basically if you start planning ahead by saving money, creating budgets of what you use now as opposed to what you’ll be using in New York, doing research into how much certain jobs pay in those cities whether it be by calling (yes not everything is listed out on the interwebs for us….yet) or mailing businesses to find out, reading the MTA website and familiarizing yourself with city by looking at maps and googling the different neighborhoods of the burroughs and doing price comparisons different living situations and determining which ones would be the best for you and…

    Basically just use your damn head.

  99. blackja2 says:

    Your article is excellent!

  100. eerwin says:

    HI…alot of you are right..planning is the best way to get anything done efficiently, and in NYC your going to need to be efficient!
    I do want to let you know that if you have the motivation you can get what you want without sacrificing too much. Im moving in 6 days, I have secured my own private studio apartment in Greenwich village, without a broker and will have enough saved to live on for 5 months without any job. Yes it took time, years really but preparation is key if this is what you want.

    If you are still in school my suggestion is to save up extra student loan refunds or grant money, or just take out an extra student loan if your worried you wont get by.

    I spent 5 years paying off all my debt so when I move I won’t have other bills- this is a great weight of my shoulders.

    Also, I know I like to shop, wear nice clothes, go out, ect so I am limiting myself to a credit limit I know I could pay back if things don’t go well.

    Also, Im loosing the car…I have no idea who could afford to park in Manhattan.

    and great tip on ditching the crap- Im taking just suitcases, Im taking the train because you get 3 checked and 2 carry ons free-this and a few space bags will be plenty if I ship myself my shoes :).

    One thing that I am doing is not taking bedding-I found cheap clearance stuff online and am having that shipped too. Blankets, comforters and pillows take up space.

    Just take the necessities, buy the rest when you get there, Im planning on getting a TV off craigs list too. My only necessities are my clothes because it would cost thousands to replace them, a desk lamp on the other hand is $5 at Ikea-they have a free shuttle too!

    Also, your best friend will be the room divider! Studios are the only way to go if you want your own place and are not rich. I will be making mine by attaching foam board sheets from the art store together with key rings or ribbon, or zip ties-whatever you want, and hanging then from the celling. you can paint them, cover then with fancy scrap-booking paper, fabric, whatever floats your boat, but dividing up your space will make it feel like your not living in one tiny room where you can shower, cook eggs and sleep all in the same spot(unless your studio is so small that you do actually shower, cook and sleep in the same spot).

    good luck-it can be done

    • Ziola says:

      @eerwin: Just curious…was it hard to find a place and secure it long distance. We are planning on moving and would love to line a place up before the actual move. We are planning the same as you. Selling the car and just taking suit cases. We are experienced movers but it seems its a bit harder to secure a place in NYC ahead of time. But you give me hope. Any words of advice would be greatly appreciated.

  101. thenightbusiness says:

    Well, I’ve certainly had fun reading this thread!
    A decade ago (fresh from college), I would have lit out for NYC with nothing but a dumb grin and a fire under my a*s. Instead, I ended up wrecking a motorcycle while slacking around the country, and I fell in love with New Orleans.
    For ten years.
    Unlike many of you, I don’t have social or professional connections in NYC to ease the rub. In fact, I can not claim a single acquaintance. I used to fool around with a girl who went to Parson’s (sp) and visited me in New Orleans once a year or so – but that’s the extent of my familiarity with the metropolis. To the table I also bring a worthless degree (philo) and no interest or experience in the Manhattan rents income bracket. So why would any reasonable person with these stellar qualifications plunge into something so potentially catastrophic as a blind (and obscenely expensive) nose dive into UltraCity?

    Yeah, I don’t know, either. But I do understand the concept of regret. I’m still a vital man, if not a spring chicken. What monstrous regret and yearning will I feel 10 years from now, not having taken in New York City? To lie with her…feel her energy pulsing the streets around me like blood in arteries! Even if it turns out to be hype, not doing it is like believing it better to have never loved, than to have lost.

    So here’s the ‘plan.’ I’m taking $10,000, my laptop, and my favorite pair of jeans. I am a bartender…a real one, too. As in ‘career.’ Someone, somewhere in NYC needs a bartender, right? So that solves my career goals. Well, there’s that whole ‘American Novel novel thingie, but I don’t want to be an absolute cliche.

    I’m amused by the few people who have remarked that NYC, even in this post-sleaze hum, is just insane. That I’d better be prepared for it, mentally. While certainly a fair concern, I have lived in the French Quarter for ten extremely bizarre years. With a straight face I’ve ordered dinner at a deli while surrounded by 19 gay midgets bussed in for Decadence Festival. All in varying degrees of strappy leather and undress. All while feeling stuck in a particularly lurid version of The Wizard of Oz. I’ve shared sunrise and fog bar stools with poets and pimps, hustlers and celebrities. I survived the social chaos of Katrina. And as for the crime that remains in NYC, I’m already hardened, distrustful, and cynical. So NYC, aside from the extraordinary size and volume, you can’t possibly give me pause.

    Years from now I may find this post in a bookmark and laugh. Heck, I’m laughing at how naive this must sound even as I write it. But I do know that something is just white-hot, deep in my guts. I MUST do New York. Even if she gnaws on me like cheap jerky and tears the last bits of passion and wonder from my spine.

    You’ve destroyed better men than me, femme New York. But you’d like me even less if I never tried. And three months from now, I will make you mine.

  102. Anonymous says:

    1) This has all been very helpful. I’m a long-time Californian, originally from Silicon Valley/ suburbs of San Francisco (expensive), and now a resident of Los Angeles (less expensive, but still expensive). I’m considering NY and back to SF–the city that is my love–but can’t decide where to go to next.

    2) Car expenses are *not* overrated if you live in a city, especially an over-crowded one, where street parking is fined in everyway possible and your car is towed with alarming frequency and zeal (no, really). I pay more for parking and driving than any single thing in my life except rent (though rent feels justified–I love my $1025 old-hollywood studio). For those asking about LA on this board: LA has a lot to offer for those who want to pursue some means of career in the industry (movie, TV, commercial, advertising, modelling) or its related industries (ie, entertainment law). DO NOT MOVE HERE if you don’t want to work in the industry or if you hate driving.

    Hollywood, movie stars, movies being shot on your street, and the papparazi are not glamorous, and if they strike you as such, will lose their charm quickly, promise. (Shopping and food are great.)

    3) Back to NY: how about the cold, for those of us that have never lived in it? I lived in England and wore so many layers everyday I couldn’t breath. I know NYC is lots colder. Tips, tricks, suggestions? How to stay fashionable and warm on a budget?

    4) NYC attitude. Yes, I know LA has got its stereotypes (many true), as does SF. But I’m wondering, are people in NYC cold, angry, bitter, and judgemental? Can you find a decent relationship in NYC? Is the art scene actually alive or just a pretense? Do all conversations really begin “what do you do for a living?” and do people really (really?!) care where you went to undergrad?


  103. Anonymous says:

    I have a good question: How do people in New York go grocery shopping? You obviously can’t fill a bus or subway car with your eggs, coffee filters, milk jugs, and such…

  104. Anonymous says:

    I read this advice. I took it. I am now here and alive in my third month in NYC with a roof over my head and I would say two very good friends. NYC can be handled. Thanks Ben!

  105. Gemma Martin says:

    My best friend and I are thinking about moving to New York- we’re from Gibraltar (population of 30,000) so massive culture shock :D. I’m a primary school teacher- does any1 know what teaching is like over there? Over here we have a supply list which I’ve been on for nearly two years- I get around £1,400-£1,500 a month depending on how many days I’ve worked because I’m not permanent and don’t get paid holidays.

  106. Taylor Ann Drew says:

    OK. So I was terrified about moving to the city, and now I am even more so. Good thing my excitement trumps my terror. I need some more advice on living there on a student budget. I am going to start nursing school at Columbia and can’t work for the first year. I guess coming from Florida, I can sell my car and other belongings. How the hell do I find a roommate? Or even afford a place with a roommate? I’ve been in college for six years and just want to live alone with my books and my Bulldog. I start in three months. Is that even enough time to plan? Ahhhhhhh.


  107. Anonymous says:

    I am so happy with reading this article and comments by others. I have been wanting to move to NYC for a very long time now, I just graduate from college last year with my Master’s degree in International Business which obviously for me I would have to move to an international city so my college wasn’t wasted. I have decided to move this coming april but I am terrified to think about it. I am from Buffalo, NY but have been living in the Panhandle of Florida with my parents since my graduation last May. I am scared right now because of the economy and all the jobs being lost, but I can’t handle being down here anymore and I want to move on. I’ve been saving for like 8 months to live in NYC. I don’t have a car or anything because of wanting to move there.

    I am just scared of failure but I can’t stay here, there are no career advancement oppurtunties nor any international oppurtunity. So I will be taking my leap of fate hopefully in April. I just wanted to thank ben for this article, it really made me feel that my fears are felt by others. I know that it won’t be easy but I have better expectations.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m graduating next May and also considering moving there. I will have a bachlors in MIS and marketing. Currently living in Michigan, there’s not much opportunity here. The move is mostly for my husband who wants to go to the culinary institute of America. He is so talented and I’m excited to help him with his dreams and hopefully find a job I will love. We currently have a 3 bedroom house and it’s hard to imagine selling that to move into a 1 bedroom condo/ apartment. We just started thinking about it but are very serious. I’m terrified but it seems like such a cool place to live.

  108. Dawn Marie Heinzman says:

    There are so many thoughts I have with this BLOG. I almost don’t know where to begin. Here! I will just dive in!

    I am a 23 year old female living in Salem, Oregon. I have always loved the idea of living in an urban city like New York but only recently realized how much New York could offer me. I am limited where I am at! The public transportation sucks (the buses don’t run 24 hours and only come around once an hour), I don’t have a car to get me to and from where I could attend school up in Portland, and there is really nothing here to help me grow as a person anymore. This is where New York comes in to play. . .

    My friend, a customer at my work, is my life cheerleader and wants to see me succeed. He has been many places around the world, including the East coast, he has been through college and wants to return to acquire a Masters, and he has a family. Because of these things, I trust his advice. Recently, I ran into him, and he wondered out loud whether or not I was back in college. Regretfully, I had to respond that I still had yet to return. I explained that I wanted to go back to school to study languages at Portland State University but that I would have to wait to save up for a car to get to school because I would need a better paying job to afford the car.

    He said, “I don’t want to see you scanning coupons the rest of your life, and why do you have to limit yourself to Portland? What is so great about Portland? Why not move to New York? It is THE city to live in for foreign languages.” He told me he knows a lady who is single, older and more than likely willing to room with someone. My friend had it all lined up before I could say another word. I kept throwing him doubts and questions not only because his suggestion was completely out of the blue but also because my initial perception of moving to New York was that I WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD IT.

    I know it makes me feel better to think that when I have it pretty bad, I am probably not the person the worst off and that there is someone else out there going through more difficult times, and I know I would be paid differently in New York, but I will show you how cheated I have been out of my pay raises at my four year job as well as how bad I have had it here in Oregon. Right now I am earning only $9.10 an hour. When I started four years ago at my still current job, I was earning $7.50 an hour. What a pay increase! Not. I also bring up how small my pay increase has been since starting at my job because I am not able to pay my half of the rent ($287.50) with my also having to pay two student loans (totaling roughly $160) and the full amount of utilities ($100.00+). (More on why I have a boyfriend and still pay all the utilities explained further on.) This is not counting the money I spend on my food and toiletries for myself and NOT with government help, and that can get expensive because I purchase mostly organic products. I will note that I don’t get any help from the government, so this is all out of my own pocket. As mentioned above, I don’t have a car, so I don’t have to pay car insurance, and although that SHOULD have been saving me money, my car insurance company decided to take advantage of me being a new car owner by ignoring the paper trail created in my car being totaled out by continuing to bill me for premiums I thought I had to have lest I got behind the wheel of another person’s car. Recently, I discovered that my insurance company has started work on investigating my being overcharged, so they are working on getting my money refunded. Anyway, if I hadn’t been overcharged with car insurance premiums, I would be getting by just barely- at this point, but since I have been paying for the utilities to pay my boyfriend back for my half of the rent in addition to the rent, I am in the hole financially. However, I should be even in the next month if I pay the full rent for this month and the next with no help.

    I CAN see how I would have a lot more opportunities in New York with my aspirations of wanting to work around foreign languages. However, I also see how I could get that here. If only I didn’t feel so limited in where I am at right now.

    I talked to my boyfriend of four years about wanting him to move with me to New York, and he was against it. He likes it here in Oregon, and I said that wouldn’t change if he left. He said that it would be different if it were a move to California, and I said it wouldn’t. Our being closer to our home state wouldn’t change the fact that we would have to still fly to get to family. He said he has too many ties here (friends, family, school), but I told him I have as many ties as he does, and it isn’t like he is attending Willamette University where he is getting such an outstanding education that wouldn’t be worth moving away from. He is attending a community college! He said that he doesn’t want to waste any more time because he is 27 and still working at a degree. I told him that another year, at this point, isn’t going to make much of a difference and that he should be wanting to support my aspirations by moving. He said he would prefer that I spend a year or two acquiring a degree in New York on my own and then return to Oregon once I graduate, but I don’t see myself moving and maintaining a long distance relationship. He doesn’t understand how feasible it is for me to move all the way across the country when I could pursue the same education in Portland even though I have told him I have been limited in getting back to school these past six months what with not having a car let alone the money to supply one and that if I were in New York, I would already be back in school. He doesn’t understand how I could suddenly afford to live in New York when I can’t even afford where I am right now. This is another reason he couldn’t see it working out for both of us to move out East. He doesn’t want to have me “dragging him down” when we move out there because I can’t afford things out there like I can’t out here. I don’t know how to assure him that for what I can’t do here in Oregon, I can do in New York. Does anyone have advice for me?

  109. DarkSamurai says:

    Thinking about moving there… thanks for the rent advice!

  110. Brandon26pdx says:

    The people who move there with no job, semi-permanent place to shack up, or personal contacts/family to show you the ropes are definitely braver souls than I am. I would need some combination of those to consider moving anywhere really, (to soften the landing) but especially a place like New York. As luck would have it I do, so it seems it would really be a shame to let such an opportunity pass.

  111. JadesInTheSky says:

    Very Useful information for people considering the move to NYC and much of it could be said the same for anyone considering a move to the very expensive state of California. If you want to work yourself into the ground paying expensive rent move to either NYC or LA. You could buy a house in many states with the rent you pay in just one year in either LA or NYC. Also besides the bedbugs consider the massive Rat problem in NYC and cockroaches. Consider having no quality of life in NYC if you are not making 6 figures or hit the jackpot.

  112. mjo28 says:

    Thank you for this.
    I’ll be moving to NYC Sept 3rd.

    Just graduated college and I’m obviously crazy or a masochist, right?

    I have one suitcase, a computer, a friend’s couch, craigslist connections, resume, cover letters, recommendation letters, and looking forward for the first crappy job that comes my way.

    So this is 2009 and this article was written a couple years back…. I need advice on what neighborhoods to live in. i’m looking for a cheap room, with a good lock and where i wont die to or from work.

    Or any other advice i guess would be good.


  113. mamastace03 says:

    all sounds good. I am sincerely consideringmoving to ny, your advice is right on the same blocks that i was thinking. my problem is that i am a single parent of 3 little girls. why move? i live in california and 25% of all californians are unemployed, including myself. the job market sucks. i have my unemployment check, but the job market sucks. i have been on unemployment for 6 months, with no hopes for a job. so, i will continue on my journey, but i have noted roadway and atrium for future references. thanks for your advice.

  114. says:

    Moving to the city doesn’t necessarily mean having to be lonely. There are plenty of ways to meet people, through communal activities and even sports teams. One really helpful site i found is the postgrad apartments blog. They give recommendations of companies that organize various sporting events, formations of teams, etc.

  115. musicalgurl1003 says:

    I love New York. I currently live in NC but I was born in NY (Brooklyn) and I am dying to be back there. I can only go when I graduate from high school. (education is horrible here btw) Should I go to college there and then live, or should I go to college here and then move? I really want to go to NYU though. It’s one of my dream schools.

  116. manhattan mini says:

    Excellent tips. Putting stuff in storage can definitely help to make the moving process easier. Manhattan Mini Storage offers some great units for stashing your belongings until you are able to find an apartment with space for everything. It definitely beats trying to decide what to keep and what to ditch.

  117. lifeson22 says:

    NYC is a gorgeous city. Still, if you’re going to be miserable there, you’re better off elsewhere. So it’s always good to prepare.

    First off, you’re unemployable without a skill. No, I’m not saying you need to go get a four year B.S. and then a 2 year M.S., and then another 2 year year M.S. like me – that’s just stupid and inefficient.

    But you should have a good idea of where the jobs are. And in NYC jobs are in software and information and money and writing – all things that take up little space. Bye manufacturing facilities and strenuously acquired manufacturing technical skills.

    A simple search will show you what I’m talking about. Go on and type in “software” or “java” for NYC, and you’ll get thousands of hits. To illustrate my point I just performed the following searches for NYC on (just another job search site):

    1. “software” – 16,235
    2. “java” – 5,637
    3. “financial” – 26,209

    On the other hand, other fields are so scarce, they scare you:

    1. “aerospace” – 345
    2. “semiconductor” – 113
    3. “chemical” – 645
    4. “electrical” – 649

    Unless they find some way of making aircraft vertically and then moving them out of the city via gridlock traffic, “aerospace” is going to be just a blip in NYC. So think “information”, “software”, “business”, “office space”.

  118. nikkidee says:

    I know this article is old but it’s so completely relevant. However, 1600 dollar rent is a lot, and there is no way you could pay that with a bike messenger’s salary. Or waiting tables salary, or retail worker salary.
    To reply to Musician78, I feel like places in NYC pay the same or less. Definitely not more in my experience. But people here tend to make their jobs centered in their lives, and work more hours. The cost of living here can be really high, but also worth it. You gotta be willing to work long hours, stay thrifty, but never, never undertip.