Before I moved to NYC, I was convinced I needed to save $10,000 to comfortably move without a job. But in all honesty, that number was pretty lofty, and since it was practically unachievable, it kept me from taking any action. Since money is so important in moving, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how much money you need to move to NYC.
So, how much money do you need to move to NYC?
The answer is it depends, and it depends on how fast you can find a job. I set a goal to find employment within three months of moving here (which is pretty realistic) and tried to save enough to get me through life until my first paycheck. A note about the NYC job search: it can take a long time.
When I moved to New York I had about $4,000 in cash saved and could still depend on a little bit of freelance work that paid me about $2,000. By the time I landed a full-time job, three months later, I still had cash leftover.
The amount of money you bring with you will likely determine how easy your transition will be. Mostly, money buys you time to figure things out (like finding the right job) and allows you to live in nicer apartments and neighborhoods. Just remember, the amount of money you start with doesn’t necessarily dictate how successful you will be once you are here, how your life will be six months after you’ve settled, or whether you’ll be one of the transplants that move back.
Don’t move with debt.
Just don’t. Money will be incredibly tight and you can’t stretch it if you’re paying off a car loan or credit cards. Before you move, tackle that debt. (Ok, so I did move with a low-ish student loan payment but part of my savings accounted for three monthly payments toward the loan.)
How much money do I recommend you bring?
I think you should have at least $4,000 start with. It gives you time to find the right place and get somewhat settled, and if you’re smart, it can go a long way. Here’s an example of one woman who moved with $3,000. If that number seems unrealistic for you, it can be done for cheaper, like this guy who only moved with $400. Just hope you have a lot of generous friends in the city who have couches.
Regardless of your financial situation, the trick is to not buy anything you don’t need the first few months.
With $4,000, here’s where I think it can get you*
*If you’re doing it the cheapest way possible.
Day of arrival:
You can rent a room in a hostel, hotel, or airbnb for a night or two the moment you arrive. This will give you some time to browse Craigslist for semi-permanent housing (but it’s probably a good idea to start this before you leave).
A note about day of arrival: I was able to stay for free for about two weeks in a friend’s spare bedroom. A lot of people do this when first moving to New York and many established New Yorkers are willing to help newbies out and let them crash for a few days on their couch. Before you move ask if you can shack up with a friend temporarily, but don’t overstay your welcome.
Week of arrival:
With some savings, you can establish more permanent living, like renting a craigslist room or airbnb (hopefully furnished) for a few months without signing a lease or broker’s fee. For something around $600 – $700 a month you will have roommates and you likely won’t live in a nice neighborhood, but it will be safe neighborhood.
You’ll also be buying yourself time to travel throughout the city to look at Craigslist rooms and different neighborhoods.
Month of arrival:
Once you’ve established some housing, your savings gives you time to apply for jobs (ideally you’ve done this before moving) and go on interviews. Expect tons of interviews.
Unless you’ve moved with no bills, it’s likely you may still have to pay your cell phone, student loan, or health insurance. Your savings can go toward this to keep it from going into default.
Having a little cushion will also help you nurture your social life a little and not feel too stressed for grabbing a beer with new friends. But don’t forget to explore the city’s many free things, go to meetups, and network!
You’ll probably be living in an apartment with a roommate for a while. Once you’ve found a job that can better support you, you may want to move out of the temporary room into an apartment with a lease. If so, be prepared to be hit with a ton of costs (read: broker’s fee, first month’s rent, security deposit). Any leftover money from your initial savings could be used for that.
Here’s what you won’t be able to do with $4,000
- You will not be able to get on a lease or rent an apartment by yourself.
- You won’t be able to be unemployed for much longer than a month or two, which means you can’t be picky with jobs. If one is offered to you, take it. You can apply to better ones later, but you need that paycheck now.
- You won’t be able to live in a nice neighborhood. You won’t be able to live alone.
- You won’t be taking any taxis, but you’ll get really comfortable with the train.
- You won’t be able to furnish an apartment (that can come later).
I hope this was helpful in determining the amount of money you’ll need to move. I do want to say everyone’s situation is different and what worked for me may not work for you, you may need more money depending on your expenses and lifestyle preferences.
I’m curious. If you’ve moved to NYC, how much money did you bring?