It was a tough choice when I decided to leave New York City last year, just six years after I moved there. But, like a lot of people my age, I was seeing my future in New York as plagued with constant money frustrations.
The cost of the city isn’t easy to ignore. Every New Yorker (unless you make a seven-figure salary) talks about how expensive it is. It’s a conversation people have at every party, it’s a topic we’re constantly complaining about on Twitter, it’s a daily annoyance that permeates almost every decision you make. After all, you either have a monthly unlimited Metro card, stay in your neighborhood or pay $2.75 to go anywhere (that’s $5.50 for a roundtrip).
The tough part of leaving NYC wasn’t realizing it was outlandishly, unforgivably, unrelentingly expensive. The tough part was leaving the good friends — the family, really — I had in New York. But I knew certain dreams I had, like buying a home, were just not possible in a city where rent on a one-bedroom apartment within an hour’s commute of my office was continually edging closer to $2,000 a month. So I made the leap (or the drive, to be specific) and relocated to Richmond, Va.
Here are the big differences in cost I’ve discovered since leaving the big city for the South.
1. Housing Costs
I tell everyone this fact — my mortgage for a four-bedroom house (including taxes and insurance) is less than my rent for a one-bedroom apartment in NYC ever was. It may be the New Yorker in me (I wasn’t lying, everyone compares their rent price at parties in NYC), but I am still blown away at how much more I can afford outside of the city.
2. I Ended My Reliance on Seamless
Everything in NYC is just a little bit harder than everywhere else. It’s the same for other big cities, I’m sure, but every time I’d look at an elderly woman walking with her cart down the block to get groceries, I was reminded that there are conveniences other Americans are privy to that New Yorkers aren’t. One of those things is making food at home. I found it so hard to plan meals in advance and instead ended up relying on Seamless. I lived in Queens — one of the most diverse counties in America — and that diversity is reflected in the endless delivery options. Want a burger? There were at least four dozen places to get one. Sushi? Same thing.
The Seamless delivery options for my first apartment when I moved to Richmond? 11 total, mostly pizza places. And a few of them had a $9 delivery fee, making it an easy choice to stop ordering.
3. My Crock Pot Is My Best Friend
It’s hard to have a lot of appliances in your kitchen as a New Yorker. You’re lucky if you have enough counter space for a toaster oven, let alone a crock pot or a stand mixer or a juicer. Don’t get me wrong — people make it work, but it wasn’t until I moved to Richmond that I got appliances that have made spending less money on food easier.
My crock pot is a saving grace. I spend about $120 on groceries for a week and that provides every meal. I work from home, so I now wake up in the morning and, in the time I would have spent commuting in NYC, my husband or I get everything into a crock pot and turn it on. Dinner is ready hours later, and I don’t have to rely on high-cost but high-convenience options like fast food.
4. Drink Costs
Going out in a city where you drive everywhere naturally limits how much you drink while out. Also, instead of the average cocktail being $12, I’m paying $8 a drink. For a 20-something like myself, it adds up quickly.
A taxi ride home after a night out was my “splurge” in NYC. And by splurge, I mean all my discretionary income would end up going toward taxi rides. It was a vice. I have my own car now, so I drive everywhere. You might be saying, “but your car costs more than a monthly Metro card!” and you’re right. But when you add up what I spent on subway fares, cab rides and Ubers, I spend less every month on my car loan payment, gas and car insurance.
6. I Broke My Starbucks Addiction
I used to buy a venti skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks most days. Another vice. It was on the way to the office every day (in fact, there were two on my walk from the subway exit to my office door). Add it up — $5 a day (roughly) x 5 days a week x four weeks a month = $100 month. I make my own coffee now (Blanchard’s Dark As Dark, for any Richmondites). It’s $9 a bag and a bag lasts me and my husband a week. Total cost a month = $36. That’s a nice little savings.
I work from home, I don’t commute. Monthly savings: $116.50 (price of an unlimited 30-day Metro card)
8. The ‘Walk From the Subway’ Splurge
Every now and then I’d walk home from my subway stop and see a really delicious-looking napoleon in a bakery window, or a sale sign on artisanal soaps or a new hair product that looked like it would make my hair longer, better, stronger, less frizzy. I’d stop and swipe my card. The daily temptation was hard to avoid, and it added up pretty quickly. When you walk by a store at least 10 times a week, it’s easy to stop in once in a while and justify it as a one-off expense.
9. Movie Tickets
A movie ticket in NYC was close to, if not more than, $15 per person. That means a night out with my husband was $30 minimum. In Richmond? Under $10 per person. A small savings, but we’re movie buffs and go to the movies often enough that it makes a small difference.
10. Buying In Bulk
Costco! I can’t tell you how much I love Costco. Granted, I’m a new devotee so the shine may have worn off for others, but I have really started to crunch the numbers and am figuring out how much buying in bulk can save me, especially for things I know won’t expire, like cleaning supplies. In New York City, I could’ve shopped at Costco, but I couldn’t store a massive pack of paper towels in my tiny apartment, so bulk buying wasn’t really an option.
11. Trips Home for the Holidays
I used to spend $600 a year getting a flight home to Ohio for the holidays. My husband would spend about the same to join me. Now, we can drive home. It takes a little longer, but with gas prices about $1.50 a gallon in our area, we drove home this year and back for less than $75 in gas costs. $75 in gas vs. $1,200 in plane tickets. It’s a big savings, especially around the holidays when everyone’s credit card balances are up (potentially hurting their credit scores — you can see if your credit scores are taking a hit for free on Credit.com).
Should everyone leave NYC? No! But leaving the city has its appeal.
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