10 Things to Know Before Moving to NYC

I’m not an expert about living in the city. I’ve only been here just over a year and there’s still so much to learn. Every day, I find a new solution to a new annoyance. Or discover something extra special hidden away somewhere in the city.
When I was a junior in college, I absolutely had the “itch” to move to the city. I basically knew in my heart that I would end up here; pretty much exactly the same feeling about going to Georgetown. I spent almost every weekend of my senior year commuting to the city on the weekends and then back to the District for classes on Monday. I think if you have the itch, you owe it to yourself to test it out. (The great thing about the city is that you sign a one-year lease, so if you don’t like it after a year… you can move on!) There’s no better time to give it a shot than when you’re in your early twenties with little commitments.
It’s really the best place on earth (if you ask me!). Lots of people have been emailing me about moving to the city– I think a bunch of you guys must be graduating in May!! Anyway, I polled some friends and put together a list of ten things you should know (or be prepared for) if you’re moving here.

1. There is always a way.

I think the biggest thing to know (and to constantly remind yourself) is that there is always a way to get whatever you need done done. It may not be straightforward and it may not be cheap, but there’s always a way. Whether you’re moving furniture in/out of your apartment, searching for an obscure item, or bringing someone doughnuts on the other side of town. It can be done. Apps/Websites (like Taskrabbit, Seamless, and, etc), neighbors, and a whole lot of willpower can come in handy.

Don’t let frustration or hopelessness hold you back. I always work my way backwards trying to come up with creative solutions for solving a problem.

2. Map out all your places.

Map things out before you need it. Honestly. Know where hospitals, doctors, dentists, vets, and emergency clinics (CityMD is amazing). 24-hour pharmacies, too. It’s one of those “you’ll want to know when you need to know” kinds of things. And while the city has just about everything on seemingly every corner, it’s only when you really need something that you can’t find it.

Emergencies aside, you should also have a few more “fun” places mapped away. (The best part about this is the discovery through exploration! Put on your walking shoes and keep your eyes open for hidden gems.) Cafes with the best WiFi, 24-hour diners, a tailor/shoe cobbler, the best go-to brunch, a quiet spot, a nail salon…

3. Ignore your comfort zone.

Just. Ignore. It. You may feel it, but push past it. I think the only way to make the most of the city is to just go out there and make it happen. Apply for the jobs you dream of, go to events alone and introduce yourself to people, take the train someplace new.

4. Budget… everything.

Budget your time, your stress, your energy, and especially your money. Know your limits and avoid burning out. Sometimes it takes a little bit of planning, like organizing meetings in the same area or scheduling a phone call during a time when you’re going to be walking or cabbing somewhere. Don’t neglect time with friends by spending too much time with a boyfriend… and don’t skip out on work functions to watch trashy television.

As far as budgeting goes, two key things: 1) be realistic about where you stand financially and 2) save your money. Live within your means by getting a roommate, taking on a side project/job, subwaying everywhere, being honest with friends when you can’t afford something (like a pricey Sunday brunch)… etc. Also, living within your means doesn’t mean getting by with a penny to spare at the end of the month. A little bit of sacrifice now can save you in the long run if an emergency pops up and to prepare for your future too.

5. Live near friends (more important than living near work)

People will often say to rent an apartment strategically close to a subway stop, preferably one that will take you to your office. But, it may be just as important, if not more important, to live near your friends. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money on cabs. (Even if you take the subway most of the time, cabs will happen. And it’s expensive.) Meeting for brunch, grabbing a quick dinner, gossiping over a cup of coffee, staying out late in a neighborhood bar… so much easier when you’re close to your friends!

6. Leave earlier than you think.

Subways will run late. Sidewalks will be swarmed with tourists. You won’t be able to find a cab. You’ll run into a friend. Google Maps will lie to you. Everything. Takes. Forever. I used to give myself 30 minutes to get to almost every place, but now I give myself 45 minutes. And even then sometimes I run late. It’s the worst.

7. People visit, all the time.

Every week, there will be a handful of people from home and college who are “in town.” Your parents’ friends, your friends. NYC is a revolving door. I honestly do try to meet with as many people as possible if they reach out. But if I can’t, I can’t. I keep a running list of some of my favorite things to do in the city (famous restaurants, tourist traps, off-the-beaten road places, my “spots”) so I can share if I don’t have time to meet up. Getting together with visitors is a good excuse to do touristy things though– one time I tagged along for a trip to the American Girl store. #shameless

On the flip side, don’t be hurt if you see that your friend was in the city and didn’t tell you. It happens.

8. Save contacts, doctors, emergency numbers, etc. in your phone.

Remember #2? Have everything on hand. I have numbers stored in my phone and also on my computer. And I emailed myself a list of everything so I can always access it from pretty much any internet connected device whenever I need it!

Not a bad idea to memorize a few numbers too…. like your closest friend-neighbor (in case of lockouts), the landlord (again, in case of lockouts), a coworker, etc.

9. It’s a small world.

It’s a super populated city, but you will run into friends from college, your mom’s friend who is visiting, every single one of your exes, that boss you didn’t get along with. On the subway, in a cafe, on the sidewalk. It can be a good thing (“Omg! I haven’t seen you in six months! How’s it been?!”) or a bad thing (“Oh… hi. Hope everything is good…”).

Awkwardness with exes aside, you never know who might be standing behind you in line or sitting next to you on a subway. The world is small and the best thing to do is to keep conversations friendly and positive when you’re in public.

On the flip side, you never know who you might bump into and what kind of opportunities will pop up in the elevator or on the sidewalk.


This is the last on the list, but it’s honestly the most important, I think. The city can be competitive and from the outside, everyone can seem like they have more, work harder, are getting promoted faster, have better clothes, live in nicer apartments. It can be exhausting comparing yourself to friends and strangers in the city.

The truth is that everyone should do their own thing. The city presents itself in different ways for different people. It can be especially challenging, but if you’re focused on you and not busy comparing, you’ll be happier and more successful in the long run!

(Oh, and a lot of everything is smoke and mirrors. You never know what company is actually dipping into the red or whose apartment is paid for by a parent or who might be thousands of dollars in debt.)

Do you want to move to the city? Anyone have anything else to add to the list?

PS This is Garrett’s contribution to the list. He shared the link with me and everything is spot on and absolutely hilarious.
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Ahhh, I watched your apartment tour. And this post helped a lot. I live in Queens and have always loved the city. Just love the environment and people (sometimes :P) I really want to move out when I save up after college (Junior year) and hopefully be able to afford a tiny place in the city during when graduate school. 🙁 Hope I can..


I would LOVE to live in NYC if it wasn't for the fact that it's way up north and cold!! I don't think I would ever go outside from October-April! I don't know how you did it coming from Florida! I'm from Louisiana and if it's below 50 I'm FREEZING!! haha

Katy Z

Good tips. Besides maybe the someone's always visiting one, I think this is applicable to just growing up and leaving a college/family bubble.


Thank you for sharing this! I found this very inspirational and I don't even have any intentions of moving to NYC. I think a lot of these tips apply to life elsewhere! Love your blog 🙂

Tory Banknell

This is literally the most spot on advice I've ever seen! I've been living in the city for about four months now and have dealt with every single item on this list. (I laughed out loud reading about people visiting because I was just discussing that with my parents last night). So glad to know I'm not alone. It's truly the best place in the world to live

Alexa Restifo

I love this post (and all of the others!) I live in Chicago and was able to relate to this, as well. Your posts are always so honest and true. Thanks, Carly! 🙂


I have to respectfully disagree when it comes to living near friends. Considering most people have a daily commute to work, its probably better for most people to live where they can afford with the best proximity to their workplace. Friends are important, but if you're that worried about cab fare the subway in NYC is much cheaper and will get you anywhere. Also, some people move to NYC not knowing who their friends will be, so its just not an option, planning wise. I get the importance of impromptu stuff with friends in NYC, but maintaining a job that allows you to live in NYC is much more important.


Thanks for posting this! I am contemplating about moving to NYC after I graduate so I'll definitely keep this post bookmarked!


JaneDecember 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM
I've lived here most of my life and I think these are pretty important too: hand sanitizer is your best friend (for subways), learn to love (a savior for subway directions), don't be afraid of the "other" boroughs (Brooklyn is awesome), make friends with your dry cleaner/nail salon/door man/local barista (these people can make your life so much easier+give you great tips for the city), and finally – don't take everything personally (we NYers can a be a bit rude without even realizing it).


I don't want to move to the city, but I would love to visit! Maybe you could do a post on your favourite places to visit? 🙂

Kira T.

New York is where I am planning on moving right after college. It has alway been a looming dream; I cannot wait to make it a reality.

Great post!


Peyton Dalton

Great post! #9 is so true. My sister and I were in NYC in October and actually saw you on the subway one morning on our way to breakfast. We didn't realize it was you until we had gotten off, but wish we would've said hello!


I am visiting the city next month to put in some face-to-face time with potential employers so I read this post at the perfect time! (Even though I'm quite behind the post date.) Definitely some great tips when I'm looking at living locales! Any favorite favorite lunch spots I need to check out while I'm out-and-about?


Great post! I will remember it, as I know that sometime in my life I will move to NYC. I crossed the ocean twice to get there, but my time was limited to 5 days – not even remotely enough time to explore everything it has to offer and to feel, to grasp its beauty… What NYC left me with is best described here: I am truly hopeful that I'll go back someday and fall in love with it again and again! 🙂


Great post! I will remember it, as I know that sometime in my life I will move to NYC. I crossed the ocean twice to get there, but my time was limited to 5 days – not even remotely enough time to explore everything it has to offer and to feel, to grasp its beauty… What NYC left me with is best described here: I am truly hopeful that I'll go back someday and fall in love with it again and again! 🙂

Darcie Maher

Excellent post!! I live in Australia and visited New York a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it! I could totally see myself moving there for a year : ) great tips, thank you!
– Darcie

Elizabeth Dowen

Incredibly helpful post for a Chicagoan making the big move to NYC soon. I might live in a "big city" now, but it has no comparison. Cannot wait!

Jo Smith

Thanks so much for this! I would like to live in NYC, but I’m afraid I’ll be lonely. Perhaps I’ll bump into college friends – or maybe make some there!