Living in New York City is expensive — even if you have a high-paying job.
And while it’s possible to balance out costly splurges with affordable activities, it’s not for everyone. If you’re thinking about packing up and heading to the Big Apple, it’s important to make sure you can truly afford it before making the jump and landing in debt.
Read on for five red flags that you might not be financially prepared to move to NYC, even if you’re pulling in a solid income.
You don’t have a budget
Earning a good salary might make it easier to afford New York’s exorbitant rent prices, but if you aren’t keeping track of where your money is going, it’s easy to blow it all in the blink of an eye. Building out an honest, detailed budget — and sticking to it — will make or break your chances of surviving in an expensive city.
Mary Beth Storjohann, a certified financial planner and CEO and founder of Workable Wealth, 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 explained to Business Insider. “And then factor in some savings, retirement, and your emergency fund as well. That’s where you want to aim your salary.”
It’s also important to consider how your taxes will change if you’re moving from another state, says Alan Moore, a certified financial planner and cofounder of XY Planning Network. An $80,000 a year salary doesn’t translate to $80,000 in your pocket. To understand how your taxes will be affected, Moore recommends playing around with the IRS Withholding Calculator.
You aren’t willing to compromise
You might be able to afford a huge one-bedroom in Phoenix, but that same amount of rent won’t go quite as far in Manhattan. Do you go out to eat every night? Do you use Uber instead of taking the bus? If you’re moving to an expensive city, your entire budget probably needs to shift. Things that were once affordable might not be, and your priorities should reflect that. While you don’t necessarily need to live off ramen, you probably can’t eat out every night.
“What are you willing to give up in order to make this happen?” Storjohann asks. “I think that’s the place to start. If you want to move to the big city, what other goals do you have and are you comfortable with putting those on the backburner for however long while you make this transition?”
If you aren’t willing to trade a few Uber rides for the subway, you might find it harder to afford New York than you expect.
You don’t have a plan
Making a big financial decision on a whim is rarely a good idea.
“It’s deciding to move and setting a plan in place to make it happen, instead of deciding to move and just moving,” Storjohann says. “You always hear dream stories about that happening, and then people get to the city and have to work three part-time jobs.”
Unexpected expenses always come up. Both Moore and Storjohann suggest crunching the numbers, making sure you know exactly how much a move will cost, and creating a plan to transition into your new budget. New York will still be there in six months after you’ve had time to prepare.
You only want to live alone
Rent is the ultimate expense in New York. At $3,200 per month, the city’s average for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly three times the national average of $1,158 per month, according to Zumper’s annual National Rent Report. 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.
Even if you can technically afford to funnel 60% of your income toward a one-bedroom apartment in an of-the-moment neighbourhood, does it come at the expense of paying down debt or building up your emergency fund? Finding a roommate — or two, or three — could make your ideal location a whole lot more affordable.
Moore suggests getting creative with your housing and not only looking at roommate and subleasing options, but considering things like co-living spaces.
You don’t have a good reason
Deciding to start over in a new place comes down to much more than money. Consider why you want to move to New York — is it specific to the city itself, or is it something you can find elsewhere?
“What’s the draw? Do you have friends there, family there? Is is the perfect job opportunity?” Moore asks. “There are a lot of folks who give me all the reasons they want to move to a big city and they find that they don’t really care that it’s New York or San Francisco or San Diego or Chicago. They care about certain opportunities.”
Budgeting for life in New York includes sacrifices, so be completely sure you’re ready to make some.
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