Where to Start When Moving to NYC


#HousemateAdvice comes from a current or past Our Place Housemate. Magda, from Illinois, shares what her experience was like as she prepared for her move to New York City and provides some insightful advice to those who may be considering taking the plunge.

Sowing Gypsy Roots

The concept of gypsy spirits moving to new, exciting cities is a fairytale notion rooted in the American culture of how we view ourselves. Yet if you dare try to live up to it, you’ll find that most people haven’t done it, the idea terrifies them, and no one seems to have any idea of how to do so successfully.

When I dropped out of college in 2016, I knew with absolute certainty that I would move to New York City. But as I headed home and watched the frozen cornfields stretch behind, I struggled to develop a checklist of things I needed to do. I had never lived on my own before, I had never been to NYC before, I didn’t know anyone there, and I didn’t dare breathe a word of my scheme to anyone in fear that they would believe I’d officially become insane.

Now five months in the city, I’m certainly no expert, but people have commented on how well I’m adjusting here. No two stories are the same, so I can’t give you that surefire checklist we all crave, but hopefully the following advice will help your daydreams turn into a reality.


Setting a Date

The first step is to set a goal date for when you want to arrive at your destination. While seemingly redundant, this is extremely important for it develops your fanciful wish of moving into more of a concrete goal. The date, at first, can be an abstract notion, like how I planned on being in NYC some time in 2018. This was vague enough to allow myself flexibility for realities but set my brain into believing that I was moving.


Financial Goal

As I’m sure you’ve heard and will hear a thousand more times, NYC is super expensive. You need to have money saved before coming here.

How much really depends on your needs. For example, how good are you at budgeting? Do you have/how are you with credit cards? Do you have a job lined up? Do you have loan payments? These questions and reviewing your spending habits will help shape your financial goal, but bottom line, it should be no less than $5,000 which does not include your first payment in housing.

After figuring out a financial goal, calculate how much money to save in accordance with your time goal. These two goals should complement to make your moving plans accomplishable, so use them to keep perspective.



The sad fact is that nothing prepares you living in a place better than actually being there. If you’re like me and don’t have the luxury of scouting ahead, moving may be particularly intimidating, but research helps to calm the nerves, and here are two things I did to prepare:

1. First off, I asked as many people as I could about living in NYC. Everyone’s NYC experience is so different that unfortunately there’s no set guide on how to make it. Your sources may not give you the information you want, but keep trying, and when asking for advice, give specific questions to avoid vague answers. Tailor them to your needs. Two more general questions I recommend asking about NYC are:

  • What form of advice did you wish someone gave you before you moved to New York?

  • Any neighborhood specific questions.

2. Since you’re reading Our Place’s blog, you’re already doing the second bit of researching through written sources. I found that these were as unhelpful as the spoken word but look anyway. Hopefully this blog helps, and if you have any questions, or suggestions for links to other helpful sights, please share them in the comments below!



Housing in NYC operates differently than anywhere else, so much so that it warrants its own blog post, but what I’d recommend for newcomers is subletting. It’s a great way to set up, as you’re not tied down to a lease. You can explore neighborhoods at your leisure, and since subletting can work on a month-to-month basis, you’re not tied down to NYC if you end up hating it.

With rent costing generally around $1,000 a month, newcomers should also brace yourselves with the reality that most of your paycheck will go towards rent. Affordable housing, like Our Place, is out there, but finding these rare gems requires digging and fast action. Figure out your living needs before apartment hunting, so you don’t sign onto an apartment that will drain your spirits and money.

Some housing sites to consider are Craigslist, EasyRoommate, and Facebook groups like Gypsy Housing and New York Sublets and Subleases.



If you’re also moving on a whim and arriving without a job, have enough money saved that you don’t feel pressured to work for at the least the first month. Your first month will be exciting as you’re more a tourist than resident. Accept it and spend it as a tourist with the freedom to explore without a routine.

Having a money cushion allows you to calmly decide on employment. You shouldn’t feel forced to jump on the first job you get as you could hate it, which would drain your spirits fast. Also, the NYC job market moves quickly, so don’t feel discouraged if it does take you a little while to find work.

Lastly, NYC isn’t very big with training, so if there’s an industry you’re interested in, even if it’s just restaurants or retail, get some experience in it before coming here to better your chances of landing a job.

Best ways to look for jobs are through Craigslist, Indeed.com, or just walk ins.



There are many crafty ways to get around NYC, but for a newcomer, the best way to get around is walking. You get acquainted with neighborhoods and stumbleupon places you might visit.

But of course, you can’t really live in NYC without using the MTA. The bus system usually intimidates newcomers, but the colorful, straightforward subway map is more welcoming. If you know how to read the map and the signs in the stations, navigating the subway is easy. There are unlimited ticket options for those who take the train a lot. For newcomers, I suggest getting the unlimited monthly, as it works both on trains and buses, makes you worry less about the amount on your card, and lets you focus on just navigating the city.

For more information on the MTA, here’s a link to Fares and Subway Map



While often painted as a flurry of time which storytellers hate to divulge in, I feel that my last bit of advice needs to be on waiting. After all, it is half the battle of getting what you want and the thing you’ll find yourself doing most while preparing to move. It’s the hardest state to be in when the only action you’re capable of is marking a day off the calendar. Despite the pressing restlessness, keep in mind that when perspective pushes through, one day you’ll find you did more than only that.

Being patient gives your subconscious time to figure things out.  For me, this happened one early 2017 June evening. I had locked up my job, and as I walked across the parking lot to my car, suddenly, as if I breathed it in through the cool dusk, my NYC arrival date popped into my head. It was a nonsensical date, March 12, but it locked into my mind, and that date ended up being the perfect time for getting in order everything I needed. If I had rushed or narrow-mindedly stuck to an early decision, I wouldn’t have been open for the puzzle pieces to fall into their places.

Being patient builds your perseverance. Things come up. While adaptability is important, don’t let anything get in the way of what you need and want. Money is unfortunately essential, and not dipping into saved earnings is hard. Honestly, you most likely will—I certainly had to. But despite each apparent setback, you will always be able to earn more. Don’t look at money as your deciding factor that permits you to move. Money will always fluctuate and make you doubt, but time’s more concrete, and when you feel like it’s time to go, it is.

Lastly, being patient builds your confidence. No person’s an island, and we all have ties and relationship obligations. While they may at first come off as adverse towards your plan, people who care about you will understand and be supportive in your decision. Their lack of enthusiasm stems from worry, and they’ll try to make your decisions for you in their attempts to have you avoid pain, but in the end, you know what’s best for you, so stick with it and believe that you know what you’re doing.  


They say if you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere, but I’ve found that NYC isn’t about making it. It’s about taking from it. It’s a pulse point of humanity, where so many ideas, passions, cultures, and individuals come to wander. No wonder so many gypsy spirits at some point end up in New York, for the indescribable sensation of what makes life worth living can be found swimming in its veins. So as you make your plans and find yourself impatiently marking one more day off the calendar, as you dream of New York, expect for things to go horrifically wrong here, expect to be wonderfully surprised, expect to be completely broke, and most importantly, expect to be living in the middle of something extraordinary.