While some people never want to leave the town they were born in, plenty of career-driven, hard-working folks migrate to the big, expensive cities to seek their fortune. If moving to an area with a higher cost of living is something you want to explore but fears about finances are holding you back, you’re not alone. With some careful consideration, learning to budget and taking advantage of your new surroundings, you can fit into big city life as seamlessly as any other transplant.
1. Discerning Reasons for Relocating
It doesn’t matter if you are fresh out of high school or if the ink isn’t dry on your doctorate yet, you need to uncover your true reasons for wanting to move to where the money is, before you take the first step in relocating. Many young people and new grads automatically assume that their careers hinge on moving to a city, landing a plum job, and working their way to the top. In some professions, this is absolutely true. In other jobs, it is not. Here are some issues you need to consider as a businessman before deciding to make a move.
Career Opportunities. For those who want to work in finance or technology, moving to the mecca of the industry is sometimes nonnegotiable. New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. are the places to be for many careers. However, some jobs are very flexible. If you’re a new emergency medicine nurse, your options are entirely open. The busiest trauma center in the smallest town around may provide all the excitement you’ll ever need. Take a good, hard look at your career aspirations and ask yourself if you need to jump into a bustling metropolis to make it happen.
Income Potential. Usually, a lower cost of living will point to a lower offered salary for any given position. Do a careful analysis of the salary you expect compared to the cost of living. If you can live frugally in a large city and still command the higher salary, you can set yourself up for a higher rate of savings and a higher standard of living in the long term.
Art and Culture. If being able to see top-notch shows and attend gallery openings factors into your preferred lifestyle, settling down in a small country village is not for you. Bigger cities, while expensive, offer up a wide variety of activities that smaller venues simply don’t. If you only need to get into the city to see the occasional performance by a beloved artist, a bedroom community with a reasonable commute may be a good idea. Consider your attachment to the arts and cultural experiences before making a decision.
Nightlife. If two honky-tonks and a supper club are all that’s available in your hometown, you may find yourself yearning for more excitement. This is especially true if you are young. If you want to crawl the bars and dance until sunup, the big city may be just the right place for you to enjoy the nightlife.
2. Budgeting Concerns
If you’ve decided to make your move, finances are most likely among your top concerns. However, there are a lot of tricks you can use to make living in the big city a lot easier on your wallet than you may expect.
Get a roomie or go minimalist. In huge cities, it is not at all unusual to live with roommates until you get married. This may mean you can comfortably share an apartment with others until your forties, if you wind up liking the low rent, low bill payments and general lifestyle of shared housing. If getting a roomie is simply too much to bear, consider an efficiency apartment. Living in a big city usually doesn’t leave you much time for hanging out at home, so why pay rent for something more spacious?
Learn to cook. Eating out every day for every meal will strain your wallet, and it’s a very easy habit to pick up in the city where prepared food is available at every turn. Even if your kitchenette is wedged into a closet, you should know how to prepare a tasty spaghetti or some easy baked chicken. Draw up a budget for food and stick to it.
Take advantage of free or low-cost entertainment and cultural events. Every city offers up a boatload of free or almost-free things to do, so why not take advantage of them? Everything from free classes to libraries to dollar movies on the lawn can give you a great time out for little to no outlay of cash. You can search online and check local posting boards at grocery stores and bodegas to find the sweetest deals in town.
Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Yes, fashionable, smart clothing and a quality bag are both expected for most jobs in large cities. However, there is no need to go overboard. You will never be able to dress in the latest high-end fashions or drive the most expensive vehicle in the office, especially not during your first few years in the city. Live below your means so you can save money and live more comfortably later.
Make a budget and stick to it. No matter how set you are on becoming rich and successful, small expenditures can really add up. That daily coffee or newspaper can put a dent in your funds and leave you short for other responsibilities, so draw up a generous budget that is well within your financial means and stick to it. Regular savings, entertainment expenses and emergency spending should all be line items, so don’t neglect them. Be more generous with your clothing allotment, especially if you are moving from a warmer climate to a colder one, as clothes are necessary and add up quickly.
Consider collective bargaining or buying. Once you’ve made some good friends in the city with similar interests and tastes, consider forming a group to score discounts on everything from concert tickets to that ultra-virgin olive oil you all use in your salad dressing. Buying in bulk and then dividing the spoils can save you a ton of cash, as can using the bargaining power of a group.
Moving to a high cost of living city can be a scary step, no matter where you are in your education and lifestyle. By carefully considering your move and the financial ramifications, as well as using savvy money-saving strategies, you can transplant yourself into a sprawling metropolis and carve out a life for yourself. Don’t be intimidated! Budgeting and making smart decisions will help you find the right balance in your new home.