To-Do List: Moving to New York City

By: Josh –
Last Updated: September 11, 2015

Thousands of people move to NYC every year and many of those same people leave the city not long thereafter, defeated by the city's high cost of living, unexpected obstacles and their own poor planning. New York City is unlike any other place in the world. Moving here can be a challenge. Lifestyles and spending habits must adapt to a way of life many people have never experienced before.

In this article, I will prepare you for a move to NYC. I've lived in NYC for years and have seen people come and go. By completing my to-do list before and right after moving to the city, you can save yourself a ton of money and avoid unnecessary stress.

1.Save some money before moving to NYC.

How much money do you need to have saved before moving to NYC? You'll need enough to cover your first month's rent (at least!), your security deposit, broker fee (if there is one) and food for the first few weeks you are in the city (before you start getting paid). You will need money for a bed, a subway card (to get around town) and for unexpected expenses and some fun!

How much money do you need to have saved before moving to NYC? You'll need enough to cover your first month's rent (at least!), your security deposit, broker fee (if there is one) and food for the first few weeks you are in the city (before you start getting paid). You will need money for a bed, a subway card (to get around town) and for unexpected expenses and some fun!

Let us do some math:
$2,000 for 1st month's rent of a typical studio apartment in Greenwich Village
$2,000 for the security deposit
$2,000 for the broker's fee (one month's rent if you are lucky)
$10 per day for groceries for three weeks = $210
$1,000 for a bed and bed frame (and maybe some other small furnishings)
$116.50 for a 1-month unlimited Metro Card (Subway)
$250 for unexpected expenses/fun
Total: $7,576.50

As you can see, you should have at least $7,576.50 in savings (minimum) before moving to the city in this situation. And this is not living large. This is living in a small studio apartment in the East Village (think shoebox), eating modestly with little to no furnishings. I would truly advise having more than this saved up, especially if you don't yet have a job! Remember, NYC is EXPENSIVE.

By finding a cheaper place outside Manhattan (or uptown in Harlem) or by moving in with a roommate (roommates are highly recommended), you can cut back on how much you need to save so the above numbers may change, but the math will still work the same. Don't be overly picky about location. Moving even a few blocks from super trendy neighborhoods can save you thousands!

2. Find a place to live in NYC.

It can take time finding a place to live in the city. You should visit the city to look for an apartment before actually moving here. People are often shocked at how much apartments cost and how small they are. Be prepared.

To qualify for an apartment in NYC your annual income will typically need to be at least 40 times your monthly rent. You'll need to provide a pay stub and/or letter of employment. You may need to provide a reference and you'll usually need to pass a credit check. If you fall short, you may need a guarantor.

Your guarantor will need to qualify under the above requirements but will often need to have an annual income of at least 80 times your monthly rent. Some property owners even do background investigations!

After qualifying, to move in property owners typically require 1st month's rent and a one-month security deposit. Some landlords require 1st month's rent, last month's rent and a one-month security deposit. If you're using a broker, you should expect them to ask you for a fee of 15% of your annual rent. You can often negotiate the broker's fee down to one month's rent.

If you move in with a roommate that already has an apartment and is renting out a bedroom, expect to pay 1st month's rent and a one-month security deposit. If you're signing onto the lease you may also have to pay an application fee, which is typically $50 - $150. Use Craigslist to find a roommate or room.

Pro-Tip: Many people in NYC live with a roommate (or eight). I highly recommend it to newcomers to the city. You may also want to consider boroughs other than Manhattan. Brooklyn has become very popular, is a relatively safe place to live and is a quick commute to Manhattan. Harlem is another popular location, is in Manhattan and will save you money. This isn't the 1970's, Harlem is safe and beautiful!

3. Sell your car

Sell your car before moving to NYC. People often make the mistake of bringing their car with them when they move to the city. Parking in the city will cost you big. $300 per month for a spot in a garage is considered "a good deal". Street parking is limited and you'll be required to move your car often for street sweeping, street repairs, movie shoots, etc. $100 parking tickets will pile up quickly. Your car insurance will triple and finally YOU'LL NEVER DRIVE IT.

New York City has one of the best mass transit systems in the world. Use it. If you need a car for a day or two, rent it. Think of all the money you'll save!

4. Sell your large furniture (or all of it).

Moving into or within NYC is difficult and thus expensive. Movers charge a premium for NYC moves and moving stuff yourself will be a major pain in the you know what. You'll have to deal with parking your van/truck (there is no parking), tickets for parking illegally, traffic, stairs in small, old buildings, etc. Half the time you won't be able to move your furniture in anyway. You're not living in the burbs anymore, that sectional couch is out of the question. Space is limited!

Save yourself the headache: sell it all! Sell all your furnishings before you move to NYC. Buy a bed online and set up delivery for the evening of your arrival (bring sheets with you). The next day take a trip on the IKEA Water Taxi to IKEA in Brooklyn. Buy a small dresser and/or a small desk for your bedroom, along with a small sofa and coffee table for your living room (if you have one). Grab some dishes and you're set. The cost of your new furniture will probably be less than moving your old stuff to NYC and you'll be able to tailor your furnishings to your new space.

5. Find your local Grocery Store or order from Fresh Direct

Once you move in, find your local grocery store and visit it often. You can also check out Fresh Direct. They will deliver your groceries to you for a small fee.

After moving to your new pad in the city, you'll find yourself surrounded by excellent restaurants and bars. Try to resist the urge to eat out every night. The credit card bills will add up quickly. Spending too much on going out has to be one of the top reasons people go broke after moving to the city.

It is fine to go out and have some fun, but be sure you can afford it (see budget)! Do not overdo it. Cook at home when you can.

6. Budget for living in NYC

This may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many people do not set up a budget after moving to the city, fall into debt and are forced to move back home.

Calculate your annual take home income and divide it by 12. Subtract from that your monthly rent, student loan payments, cable, cell phone, average utilities (ConEd bill) and any other monthly bills you have. After that, take what is left over, multiply it by 12 and divide it by 365. That is how much you can spend per day on food, entertainment and anything else you may want to spend money on (clothes, new furnishings, etc.).

Get a notebook and keep track of your daily spending. If you have a day where you spend less than your daily budget, add the left over amount to the next day. If you spend more, then subtract it. Don't let the balance go negative. Need a new shirt? Cut back on your spending and save until your budget allows you to purchase it without taking you into the red.

You should also work on building up an emergency fund. Things change quickly in the city. Rent goes up and jobs are lost. It is recommended to have ATLEAST a three-month emergency fund that can cover all your bills for those three months if you were to lose your job. Six months is what I would recommend.


If you follow the above suggestions and check off all six from our Moving to NYC to-do list, you'll be in good shape and should have no trouble moving and adapting to life in New York City. I hope to see you around!