There is this idealization of being a young post grad who drops everything to move up to New York City and make it big. Year after year I hear of people arriving to this massive concrete jungle with no job, no apartment, and no feasible idea about how to attain either of those things. There are people who itch to be here- who can envision themselves doing nothing BUT living in this place. So I want to take a second to pause and tell you what you’re really in for when you move to New York City.
There is a definite group of individuals who gather their notions of “living in New York” from shows like Gossip Girl or spreads in Cosmo. The Cosmo articles are by 1of the 5 writers in this city who can afford to write, eat, and do things worth writing about. The gossip girl characters are a very existent breed of trust fund babies who make living in New York look like a glamorous series of parties, art galas, and Upper East Side politics. I’m not here to tell you that this doesn’t exist- because it does. I’m here to tell you that the fact that these people exist simply makes your life that much more miserable when you are living in your 10 foot by 10 foot apartment eating ramen.
Then there are the people who, like me, interned in the city before they graduated. While I miss things like the color green- I learned to love the fast life during my 3-month stint away from sleepy North Carolina. I have always been skeptical of this place, but there is no denying that it does have a certain charm that you really cannot get anywhere else. Moving to DC, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh- these are all of the “big cities” UNC students flock to. Sure these are large metropolitan areas, but you will not be going through culture and lifestyle shock upon arriving. You will still enjoy the benefit of cars, trees, and in most of them- the Southern charm inherent to everywhere under the Mason Dixon Line.
Maybe you’re someone that never planned on living in New York, but you happened to get a job here. If you’re that person- you really should tune into this article. Little (including my insights) can prepare you for the NC to New York transition.
One thing that is very distinct to New York when it comes to post grad life is how literally broke you are. Being poor after college is expected and inherent unless you are an investment banker (or something of that nature). Moving to New York redefines your whole definition of poor. New York’s way of weeding you out in the communications industry is through paying you the same amount you would be making in one of the other, less expensive, cities highlighted above.
Lets start with the basics- living. At Carolina, I rented a room my junior and senior year in a house that is bigger and nicer than most family’s homes. This room cost me $600 dollars a month, which in Chapel Hill, isn’t cheap when you can find living arrangements for about $450/month. So now it’s time for a reality check- $450 a month is what you’re three bedroom apartment is going to be paying in UTILITIES if you decide to keep your AC units turned on throughout the summer.
The “expensive” living arrangements in Chapel Hill are the houses right on campus and Shortbread Lofts/Warehouse Apartments. These living situations cost anywhere from $750-1000 a month. We’re getting warmer to New York rent prices- but certainly not anywhere close to average. Raise the most expensive apartment in Chapel Hill $500 a month, and now we are talking! Expect to pay around $1500 for a 4th floor 3 bedroom 1 bathroom walkup with a broken dishwasher, a repairmen who “exists” but doesn’t actually exist, and apartment dimensions perfect for legal midgets.
Moving on from rent, we next get to food. This is where you start to literally bleed money in this city. Choose now whether you are a brunch girl or a nightlife girl- because you certainly wont be able to afford both unless you recruit a sugar daddy. New Yorkers love their brunch- unlimited mimosas and a meal starting for around 20-30 bucks. This is totally fun, and can be financially worth it if you get enough mimosas. But calculate that you’re spending $30 on one meal for that day. Throw in another 10 for your food for the rest of the day (if you decide to eat in), and then consider that the cheapest beer you’re buying at the bar that night is around $6. If you like mixed drinks- you’ll be lucky to get one for $8, and the usual will be $12. On a starting salary, it gets pretty hard to start swinging both of these activities.
Finally we get to transportation. Fine, gas was expensive back when we had cars to fuel. But getting around the city finds a way to be just as expensive- if not more. A monthly metro card is $125- not a small amount when we can estimate your first annual income being around $26,000 after taxes. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, especially as girls, when it is 3 in the morning and you are trying to get home from a night of drinking- you’re going to take a cab. Or when its pouring out and you don’t want to show up to the bar looking like a soaked dog- going to take a cab then as well. Or how about when you’re running really late to something- cab. Lets estimate your monthly cab total to be around $150-300. There goes another chunk of your money on simple transportation expenses.
All in all, I sometimes wonder why we didn’t choose a cleaner, slightly better location, to starve and pay ridiculous rent prices in- but hey I’m not the trend starter. Just one of the tens of thousands moving up here to join to coalition of broke graduates. New York is a hard place to be with no money- that is for sure. Breathing seems to cost money here. However, New York is the place to be when you are young and starving, because unless you’re racking in millions, it’s always going to feel like you have no money. Call this article inspirational or a buzzkill- this is New York living for you. Comfort here is questionable, but the excitement of the city is something you will find nowhere else. Let the next broke chapter of my life begin.