Moving to New York City: A Life Update

I recently moved to New York City.  Since I was a kid, undoubtedly due to watching a bunch of movies, I’ve always believed New York City is where you move to “make it happen.” Whether you want to be an actor, or a chef, or a banker, or a writer, New York City is a make or break it town.

But I’ve never wanted to live here. In fact, I remember declaring to my friend Allen that I’d never move to New York. Too busy. Too loud. Too much. It was always just a fun place to visit.

But last year, after traveling here 7 times for trips, I fell in love with it. The speed that once turned me off, sucked me in. New York is a magnet. Once it gets you, well, it’s got you.

It got me. After more than a few discussions with my wife we decided to make the leap and move to New York City both for her career and so I’d have the opportunity to launch my Financial Freedom book in one of the top media hubs.

Moving to NYC… sucked

It would be simple. We’d put our home on the market and fly to New York to start looking for apartments. Everyone in New York uses the same website Street Easy to find apartments, which as you can imagine makes it extremely competitive. We were luckier than most and found an apartment on our first trip, but it was only because I’d reached out to the realtor a mere 20 minutes after the apartment was listed.

I hunted and found a great apartment with a private roof deck for just over $3,000 a month on the Upper West Side. It’s the nicest, most affordable apartment I could find. While I know that $3,000 is by no means a bargain, I’m getting a lot for the money where I live. I flew to New York, signed the lease, and got a great deal on renters insurance.

The move ended up being one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done. Sure, I moved many times in Chicago, but never from one big city to another, and not to the biggest city in the United States. It turned into a beast of a move on every level, including being expensive. Moving sucked.


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Everything we own weighs 4,872 pounds

Yup, that’s how much everything we shipped to New York City weighed. While it definitely felt good to get rid of a lot of stuff, we still have way more stuff than I thought we did. However, I’m still guessing we have less stuff when compared to an Average American couple.

I’m fairly certain that most of the weight came from our pretty big book collection, records, kitchen stuff, and one big new desk we bought for the move. We didn’t ship much furniture but it still ended up costing, oddly, about $1 per pound.

I did feel like we ended up getting lucky because the quote we got for the move underestimated the weight of the stuff by almost 1,000 pounds so we ended not getting charged for the extra weight. I’ve always wanted to own a moving company, who knows maybe one day I will. Owning a moving company can be a great side hustle – a guy I knew in college paid for almost his entire tuition running his own moving company for students.

The moving industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world. There’s a reason so many of the world’s billionaires have shipping empires. My wife and I did the packing and I coordinated, but I expected the moving company to take most of the burden. They didn’t and it was still a ton of work.

I have a huge respect for everyone who keeps it simple and lives light. While I don’t have the desire to carry around everything I own in a backpack, or live full-time out of my VW Camper (although this is always tempting!), I definitely intend to acquire less stuff and try to keep it light. While I know moving always sucks, this move felt particularly hard.

I also started feeling some things for the first time.

The pull and passing of time

I’ve written a lot about how money is not the goal, time is and I’m grateful for all the time I’ve had over the past year to grow and also realize that success to me really isn’t about money, it’s about peace.

One practice I’ve started in the past year is that every feeling I have now, I listen to and try to understand what it means. Instead of ignoring or repressing feelings, I take the time to open them up and look at them closely. While moving I had a lot of feelings – like leaving Chicago, where I’ve lived for most of the past 15 years, and leaving an apartment where I had so many amazing memories. You know the usual moving feels.

But there was one big one that was new – something I didn’t expect. For the first time in my life I could feel the passing of time in my body. I simply couldn’t carry as much or move as quickly as I expected I would be able to. Everything just felt a little harder and took a little more time. Sure, I’m not in the same shape I was when I last moved at the age of 25, but this was deeper.

The next day I felt it in my bones. While I was still able to move, I could almost feel the passing of time in my body and in hurting my knee for the first time ever. I also can’t stay up as late as I could only a few years ago and can feel the first pull of the shift of aging. Reflecting on it now it was actually jarring how tough the move was, but it also made me stop and appreciate all I have and all that is.

Self Care

Among other things, it’s given me a newfound commitment to stretching and taking better care of my body. I spent my entire 20’s taking it for granted, but I can’t any longer.

Over the past year, I definitely feel like the mind has gotten a lot more time and love than my body. When I was recently at a conference, a friend who I hadn’t seen for a full year, said “You look like you’ve lost quite a bit of weight.”

While I took it as a compliment, it was the first time in a long time that I was self conscious. I generally feel pretty good about myself and know I’ve lost some weight, largely because of the beard diet (more coming soon!), but I’m definitely doubling down on my health after noticing a shift when moving to New York.

While most feel the pull of time increase as you get older, I’m committing to focusing more on the body in addition to the mind. Just like I’ve been listening to my emotions, I’m going to be listening to my body much more.

Welcome to the Bad Apple

My Editor was the first person I talked to the day I arrived in NYC. “Welcome to the Bad Apple,” she said. I didn’t quite get it, but as it turns out New York is complicated. Living here is a lot different than visiting for a week or a long weekend. I’ve officially lived in New York City for 3 months and it’s a lot.

I feel small here but in a good way. There are millions of people all pretty much on top of each other living their own lives doing their own things. It feels like 9 million people surrounded by each other in their own little bubbles.

New York puts you in your place. It reminds you that you are but one spec in the universe. This can be unsettling and freeing at the same time. The city’s like a jazz drummer going crazy. Sometimes it sounds so good, transcendent even, while others times too loud, messy, and jarring. There is something going on everywhere at all times.

I’ve already met some of the craziest, most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life. I love that. I’m drawn to passionate people. It really doesn’t even matter what they’re passionate about. I just love passionate people. I also like weird people who just do their own thing, no matter what that thing is. New York has a lot of crazy, passionate, weirdos and I’m excited to meet more.

Everything is 30% harder in NYC

Everything takes a lot of time. For example, I needed some stamps so I walked to the local Walgreens and it turns out they no longer sell stamps. I tried the other convenience store down the street and they no longer sold stamps either.

So I went to the post office and the kiosks were all broken so there was a line of about 40 people. I waited almost 40 minutes to get a book of stamps and then had to walk home in the rain. From door to door, it took me almost an hour and a half to just buy a book of stamps.

And that’s just one example of many. I naively expected things would actually be easier than in Chicago because everything is so close, but nope. No matter what you plan for the day it ends up taking at least 30% longer and being 30% harder than anywhere else I’ve been and sometimes (though not all the time) it ends up being about 30% more expensive than Chicago.

30% More Expensive…

From a financial perspective, I’ve been tallying the numbers and pretty much everything is about 30% more expensive than Chicago. I needed a new mop and it was 30% more expensive than Chicago. I even roughly calculated that the yogurt I eat is also 30% more expensive. However, can actually eat in New York City really affordably. It’s been one of the biggest surprises so far.

While I’m currently doing everything I can to keep my expenses low, I’m gonna have a hard time keeping my expenses at $50,000 per year (my FI target spending level).

Here’s a general baseline of how much money my wife and I spent each year in Chicago, and our expectations adjusting for New York City.

This is not an actual budget for in NYC (I already pay less in housing!).

So am I still financially independent now that I live in New York City? That’s a good question.  When it comes to calculating how much money you’re going to need for the rest of your life, New York is a particularly difficult place to make those calculations since its more difficult to estimate the impact of inflation here.

I also don’t plan to stay here forever.

I’m setting my expense target at $70,000 for 2019, which will also allow me to save and invest more as Millennial Money continues to grow.

What’s Next…

It’s officially 90 days until my book Financial Freedom launches so I am ramping up my book launch efforts, as well as planning for a tour next year.

I just bought a new Volkswagen Westfalia camper for the book tour and will be customizing it over the next few months so it will be ready for The Road to Financial Freedom Tour next Spring. I can’t wait to trick out this camper and take it on the road. But most importantly I can’t wait to just hit the road and meet new people.


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As for New York City?

Last week, after complaining to a friend who lives in NYC too, she warned me that I will definitely cry at some point and threaten to leave at least a few times during my first year.

Overhearing this, our waiter nodding in confirmation said: “Give it a few years. It will take some time.”

So that’s what I’m planning to do.

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  • Comment Author image blank
    Welcome! I've lived here too for 30+ years. Love it.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Sylvia
  • Comment Author image blank
    Welcome to NYC! We also moved to Upper West Side from San Francisco Bay Area with my wife and 4 year old daughter. I love it here so far and no complaints. Maybe because I still get to go back to CA often and travel. Coming from CA, love the clear 4 seasons. Also central park is awesome. Looking forward to reading your blogs.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Making me nostalgic. I moved to NYC when I was 18 and stayed there for a decade - met my now husband who was born and raised in Tarrytown, and he needed to get out in that way locals often do. We moved when I was 28 and still miss it dearly. Dragged me kicking and screaming, but I'll confess that the price difference living elsewhere is wonderful. Enjoy your time. There are so many things to enjoy there, so many things to experience. Everytime I go back a dozen things I've loved have closed, and a dozen new gems to be discovered have opened.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Tough one. I've lived in both; here are my thoughts. Chicago is cheaper in every way, except for the following. You don't need a car (unlike Chicago), which can save a ton, Middle class Manhattanites (a dying breed) don't have cars. Historically the transit was better in NYC, which was a massive savings, but that's highly debatable these days. Museums are cheaper, and more plentiful, in NYC. More parkland per acre in NYC. Huge. You don't have to fly to go interesting places- you can take the bus to Boston or DC, and there's actually nature upstate. The schools are indescribably better in NYC. No reason to send your kids to private. The medical care is better in Chicago for the most part (Northwestern and U of C are great), but NYC has health care for all and more public hospitals. Food has become insanely expensive in the last five years. I don't know why. But Americans waste tons of food; in NYC you don't have to because you can go to the market every day and get exactly what you need, so you don't waste anything. I'm curious at your calculations- how are you possibly spending 14k a year in food in NYC? Does that include eating out? Why is transportation so much? You are in Manhattan- can't you walk, bike, or take the subway? Why is healthcare is so expensive? You can get the local plan for basically nothing. Why is entertainment so pricey? Museums are free. .
  • Comment Author image blank
    Welcome to NYC! I’ve been reading your blog posts on and off now for some time. I admit that as someone who moved here a few years ago to launch my career (I was 24 and now soon turning 27) - I found a lot of financial blogs to be unrelatable in their tone and prescriptions. As you’ve noticed, it’s not just more expensive to live here - it really is harder for awhile (emotionally, physically, mentally). I came from California and didn’t love it here at first. Now? I absolutely love it. I live in Brooklyn. The biggest gift in disguise NYC has given me is forcing myself to take a raw hard look at my habits, especially financial ones. There’s no escaping the consequences of poor choices here if you want to first stay afloat. I look forward to reading your insights now the longer you are here! :) P.S. How to fall in love with NYC faster: Go enjoy all the FREE things this culturally rich city offers, become friends with good people, host intimate dinners at your house, find a few go-to spots, create a sense of real routine, admire the diversity, and meditate / rest often. Definitely take care of your health. Don’t eat out so much. Get everything you can - delivered. Get away from the city when you can - coming back is the best part.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Emerline. I appreciate the great tips. I feel thankful that I get to mostly control my own schedule so I can chill out when needed, but I'm definitely still searching for the right rhythm. I know it will take some time. Today so far has been a great day :)
  • Comment Author image blank
    Welcome to NYC! I too, moved from Chicago to NY and never regretted it. However. NY is a lot to take and you will probably want, like most of the people I know, including myself, to leave the "party" at some point in the distant future. Till then, enjoy!
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Paula
  • Comment Author image blank
    Enjoyed the post. I moved from Lubbock, TX to NYC - even more of a culture shock that Chicago, I imagine. Lived in NYC for 10 years after college. I can tell you it is ironically lonely at times but it also has the most vibrant energy that you don't get in any other US city. Enjoy your time there. While you will spend 30% more on everything you will spend 30% LESS time in your apt because there is so much to do, so many people to visit with and so many things available to help grow your biz. Joe