Moving to New York City will cost you.
Living in the city comes with a notoriously high cost of living, with rent prices sitting well above the national average. The average one bedroom will run you $3,200 per month compared with just $1,158 a month in the US overall. Not to mention that even for the elevated price, apartments in the big city tend to be much smaller than the rest of the country.
And while it can be affordable, not everyone can make the jump.
So how can you tell if you can actually afford to pack up and head to the big city without going bankrupt?
“It’s mostly your priorities,” Mary Beth Storjohann, a certified financial planner and CEO and founder of Workable Wealth, told Business Insider.
Being able to afford living in New York comes down to how you spend your money, not necessarily how much you have. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you may be able to swing it in New York City if that’s the city of your dreams.
Read on for nine signs that your finances are up to the challenge. After all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
You have a budget …
You’ve taken a hard, detailed look at your finances and know exactly where your money is going. New York boasts a notoriously high cost of living, and it’s critical to understand exactly what you can afford to do and where you need to cut back.
“You need to know what [it’s] going to take and if there’s a gap, you need to know how you’re going to close it,” Alan Moore, a certified financial planner and cofounder of XY Planning Network, told Business Insider.
Storjohann suggests building out your “big city budget” first thing if you’re considering a move. “You want to figure out what’s your rent, what are your expenses, what do you need to get by,” she explains. “And then factor in some savings, retirement, and your emergency fund as well. That’s where you want to aim your salary.”
In addition to laying out a budget, decide if your current job can support the lifestyle you want. Is it time to look for a new job, or move into a new industry? Are there other ways you can supplement your income to reach the number you want?
… and you actually stick to it.
Creating a detailed budget means absolutely nothing if you don’t follow it.
“You can do it all, but you don’t do it all at once,” Storjohann says. “You have to be aware that you’re going to have to make some sacrifices and then actually make them, as opposed to getting there and thinking, ‘I have seven weddings to go to this year, let me put all those flights on my credit card.'”
Be honest: Once you figure out where you’re willing to sacrifice, will you hold yourself accountable? If the answer is no, you might want to head back to the drawing board.
You’ve factored in the little things.
The cost of moving is always more than just rent plus living expenses. Are you going to hire movers or do everything yourself? Do you need to ship your car or will you drive it? How will your taxes look different in a new state?
“Be very diligent into how much taxes are going to be,” Moore says. “It makes a huge difference. Those numbers tend to add up. We do that maths in our head, but when we put it into an Excel doc, it starts to feel real.”
Be sure to crunch every little number, from packing tape for your moving boxes to the cost of gas for a cross-country drive, and see how it changes your budget. To understand how your taxes will be affected, Moore recommends the IRS Withholding Calculator.
You’re on track to pay back any debt.
Having student loans or credit card debt doesn’t mean you can’t afford an expensive city — but it’s important to remember that those debts won’t go away when your cost of living goes up. You should have a plan to tackle those bills within the constraints of a new budget.
“Things like your cell phone bill, your student loans, your credit card bill, those aren’t going to go away, ” Storjohann warns.
But don’t be put off. “As long as you can save and you have something saved up, you’re good to go,” she says. “It’s just knowing your priorities. I’m not going to tell you to get out of debt before you move. If you’re still paying off your bills and doing those things, then don’t put your life on hold.”
You have a solid job.
Moving to New York without a plan or a job might seem romantic in theory, but it can be debilitating in practice. According to Storjohann, your income should be the first and biggest thing to consider when deciding if you can afford to move or not.
“Consider the income that you’re bringing in and if you’re going to maintain that job when you move,” she says. “Or if you’re looking for a new job, what that number will be.” She continues: “You want to look at what your income’s going to be and how your salary will translate in terms of what it will cost you to pay rent, utilities, bills, to live.”
If you have a steady source of income and can handle all your bills while still paying down debt and putting money into savings each month, you’re in a good place to consider making the leap.
You’re ok living with roommates
Rent is the largest factor that makes New York expensive, so the West Village studio of your dreams might need to become a walk-up in Brooklyn with three roommates.
“Get a roommate, put four people in a one-bedroom apartment, I’ve seen it done,” Moore says. “My mum always said, ‘Think of space creatively.’ Just because it’s called the living room, doesn’t mean you have to put a couch in it.”
If you’re down to get creative and sacrifice some personal space, you’ll be much more likely to find an affordable place to live.
You have a side hustle.
Do you sell scarves on Etsy in your free time? Are you an SAT tutor on the side? Finding ways to bring in extra income creates a financial cushion that can help fill in any gaps.
“It’s never been easier to earn extra money, but it does take some effort on your part to learn what that’s going to be,” Moore says. “Whatever it is, you need to know what you’re going to be doing and make a plan.”
You’re realistic about your goals.
Grappling with a higher cost of living means making sacrifices. Both Moore and Storjohann advise anyone considering a move to put in a few hours time marinating on their big life goals and prioritising what they want to happen now and what can wait. Travel, buying a home, and any other big purchases might have to take a backseat to more pressing financial concerns.
“Be honest with yourself about if it’s really worth moving there,” Moore says. “Sit down and make an actual goals list. What are you trying to accomplish?”
He suggests digging to the root of why you want to move. Is this a permanent change or just for a couple of years? Do you have your eye on New York for a certain job, and could you do that elsewhere?
It’s also important to consider what you want to do in New York and what you’re willing to skip. “Do you want to have money leftover to spend on dining out and having experiences? Or are you ok to hack your way through the system and do just the free things?” Storjohann asks. “I think the biggest thing is being realistic about what is important to you.”
You’re willing to adjust your lifestyle.
If you live alone, are you willing to add a few roommates? Are you prepared to cut down on spending? Are you ok with learning to cook instead of eating out every night?
“You’re not going to be able to have the same lifestyle that you had in a small city in a big city with your income,” Storjohann says.
At the end of the day, affording New York’s high cost of living comes down to choosing your priorities. Decide which aspects of your lifestyle are most important, and build your budget out from there.
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