Move to a major city.. with little to no money

I moved to New York City with approximately $700.  Whenever I tell someone they assume I’m joking; and if it didn’t happen to me I would assume the same thing.  I have always been a city girl as far back as I can remember; and growing up I dreamt of moving to the best city of all… New York.  I lived in Manhattan for almost two years and they were some of my favorite memories.

So if you want to move to another city don’t let lack of funds stop you! Here are some of my tips moving to the Big Apple (or anywhere) with not enough money!

1. Do your research.

I’ve always wanted to live in NYC so I spent a lot of my life looking up information about it, passively at first then with purpose once I decided the move was happening.  I looked up neighborhoods, rent prices, job opportunities and most importantly, people who I knew who might be in the city.  If I had a contact there I picked their brain about city life and let them know I was coming.

2. Figure out what you will do for money.

As I said I didn’t have much money.. actually a couple hundred of it was from a savings bond.. so not real money at the time.  I cashed it in early once I arrived in NYC so I could have whatever it was worth. Before moving I was working part-time at Victoria’s Secret and as luck would have it they allowed transfers to other stores.  Since I did my research I knew where VS stores were in the city and I asked for a transfer to the Herald Square location.  (They had a PINK department and I knew PINK girls wore sweatpants… so getting dressed for work would be easy.) I also signed with a temp agency that specialized in my field of study.  This way I would get some connections and maybe transition into a regular full-time position.

3. Hostels are your friend! Craigslist isn’t scary.

I lived in a hostel for 2-3 months when I first arrived.  Hostels are not very common in the States so my mom needed some convincing on this part.  If you aren’t familiar a hostel is part hotel; part college dorm.  You can rent a bed in a room with other people and you share community spaces like kitchens, media rooms, and bathrooms.  I lived in dorms all through college so I’m completely comfortable sharing spaces.  A plus to staying in a hostel is meeting other young people who might be just as broke as you.  I met some awesome people who were like me; trying to move to the city and figure out life. I left the hostel when the summer rates started because staying in the hostel for a month was the same or more than subletting a room. The hostel started around $14 a night by the time I moved it was around $25 a night.  My next two living spaces came from Craigslist ads, other women with spare rooms looking for someone to help out with bills.  You’ll need to read a lot of ads, and meet the roomies in person.  Make sure you are comfortable with the neighborhood and the person before jumping in.  I have friends that were more into couch surfing, but to me that was too scary.

4. Cheap food doesn’t always mean ramen

Visit the local Bodega, and be sure to try the street food.  I bought main groceries from chain stores (milk, cereal, bacon, etc.) but bought all fruits and veggies from Bodegas and street stands.  Mornings I ate bagels or donuts from a stand near the subway station.. I got to know the worker and eventually my morning foods were discounted.  Point is, don’t be afraid to shop where you live, everyone is friendly and you might make friends.  Busier neighborhoods will have higher prices sometimes so I didn’t eat in Herald Square much.  Learn where the deals are and stick to those.  If you have a student ID some chain restaurants offer deals, and your ID can help you out in other ways too…

5. Explore!

NYC has a lot to do even if you are on a budget, check online for student discounts!  Many Broadway shows offer student tickets which can be half the price of a regular ticket.  There are plenty of things to do for free if you look; all museums have a free day.  I purchased a Not For Tourists guidebook for NYC which outlined all neighborhoods and gave maps to where cool things were including uncommon sights.  Thanks to NFT I know where to find the Ghostbusters firestation,  the Deluxe apartment from the Jeffersons, and the infamous vent from The Seven Year Itch.  In addition I utilized websites like On Location Vacations to find movies or TV shows that were shooting in the city, I’ve even been a background actor in a movie.


Life is too short!  Experience a new city and make memories!  I wouldn’t trade my time being broke in NYC for anything and I wish for everyone to have a great story like I do.  Have you moved somewhere spontaneously and made it work?  I want to hear about it!



Links for NYC

Free things in NYC                     Not For Tourist Guides

On Location Vacations

Student Rush Tickets

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