My move to New York was years in the making, which is probably a good thing, considering how much money my husband and I had to save to get it done. We both previously spent a lot of time in the city and researched a lot about the cost of living, so we were prepared for just how expensive this move would be.
That doesn’t make it any less painful to see a massive drop in our bank account balances. From beginning to end, it cost us $14,262.70 move from Chicago to New York over the course of two months.
Of course, as I’m sure many people will think upon reading this, we could have done this for less. There are also plenty of ways this could have been even more expensive. Still, while we were prepared to throw thousands of dollars at a dream we’d both had for years, we learned a lot in the process, because spending money is one of those things that will always teach you lessons, whether you like it or not.
Here’s how everything added up.
We split up the move in a few parts, partly because we didn’t want to feel rushed to find a place to live, but mostly because my husband kept his job in Chicago while I looked for an apartment. I sublet a place in New York while he stayed in Chicago with all our stuff (and our dog), but that meant paying rent for two places. I booked a round-trip ticket from Chicago to New York, because after I found a place to live, I’d go back so we could pack our stuff and drive the 800 miles to our new home.
My plane ticket, including checked baggage, cost $508.20. I took Uber to and from the airport because I had three suitcases, which cost $26.39 in Chicago and $45.51 in New York. For my return trip, I took an Uber to the airport ($39.81 in New York) but upon arrival in Chicago, I opted for an uncomfortable trip on a crowded CTA train with all my luggage because it only cost $5.
We spent a week packing, hired movers to load our truck (I’ll get to that in a minute) and spent about 18 hours driving a U-Haul. My husband had to go back to Chicago to finish work (yes, another month of two rents), so his round-trip ticket, including checked bags, cost $259.20.
Our airfares and travel to and from the airports cost us $884.11.
Moving Our Things
Because we don’t own a car but didn’t want to put our dog on an airplane, we figured we’d be efficient and rent a moving truck, so we didn’t have to pay someone else to move our stuff and also rent a car. We figured it would be no big deal, because Marvin (the dog) loves riding in cars. As it turns out, riding in a huge truck is totally different and he hated it. (That’s why it took us so long to get from Chicago to New York — we stopped to let Marvin out a lot.)
Renting the U-Haul cost $769.02, fueling it cost $224.24 and using toll roads (which we avoided as much as we could) cost $106.60. That’s $1,099.86, but if I had to do it again, I’d gladly pay more to avoid putting my dog through what was clearly a terrible experience.
We hired movers on both ends to load and unload the truck. The movers in Chicago cost $98, including tip. The movers we initially booked for New York would have cost $80 before tip, had they shown up. When they stood us up, we booked different movers for the next day, and we paid them $170, including tip. Lesson learned: Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay for more expensive services with great reviews. My attempt to save money on New York movers resulted in all three of us sleeping on a twin-size air mattress with no blankets our first night in New York. It was awful.
This portion of our move added up to $1,367.
Renting in New York
Here’s where things start to get really pricey.
My sublet cost $1,250 plus $64.80 for utilities, and at one point, I lost my keys and had to pay $10 for copies. After three weeks of poring over apartment listings and running around the city checking out units, I found the perfect place.
Well, almost perfect. The apartment met every criteria on our list except one: It had a broker’s fee. I wanted so badly to avoid paying a fee, but every no-fee apartment I looked at fell short in too many ways to make it worth it. Even though I had nearly a month to look for a place, it started to feel like not enough time, and when I found this almost-perfect apartment with a fee attached, I gave in and went to see it. There’s a good reason people tell you to not test drive a car or try on a wedding dress that’s not in your budget — you’ll want it.
The good news is I found an apartment within our price range. The bad news is we had to pay a 12% fee on the annual rent. It’s standard to have to put down three month’s worth of rent when signing a lease in New York — first month, last month and a deposit — but I asked if I could not pay the last month’s rent upfront. The landlord agreed. I also had to pay an application fee and a pet deposit. By the time I had signed the lease, I had spent $9,140.
None of this fit into our regular budget, because we simultaneously paid rent in Chicago. Including the sublet, it cost us $10,464.80 to get an apartment in New York. I haven’t yet gotten our utility bills for the first month in the new apartment.
This hasn’t been the smoothest move, and some hiccups have had financial consequences. For example, I still don’t have gas or internet in my apartment (both long stories), so I’ve been buying my lunch most days and spending a lot of time at coffee shops to use the internet. I’ve spent $289.19 on meals and coffee shop visits, though I didn’t track cash transactions.
We also bought a new mattress ($653.25) and made a $504.06 trip to IKEA (we still had the moving truck, so at least we saved money on delivery). My husband also flew out to New York for a long weekend, which cost $389.48, including airport transport and a checked bag.
That brings the total for extras to $1,546.79.
And here we are at that $14,262.70 grand total.
We did it all without going into debt, as well. Additionally, I’ve been saving money by biking to work, and we’ve cashed in about $700 of cash-back credit card rewards. I’m also hoping we get some, if not all, of our security deposit back from our Chicago apartment.
We could have done better, but it also could have cost much more. It’s hard to not think about all the other things we could have done with that money, but in the end, this is what we wanted.
Prepare Your Credit Before You Move
As soon as you know you’ll be looking for a new place to live, whether it’s across town or across the country, you should check your credit reports and scores. The more time you have to improve your score or fix errors, the less stressful your apartment hunt will be.
You also don’t want to find your perfect apartment, apply and get denied, just because you had no idea about your credit standing. Not only will you waste money on application fees, you will waste time. Say you’re in one of the country’s big cities: Apartments are often rented soon after they become available, so you don’t have time to make sure your credit is in order once you find the right one.
You can check your free annual credit reports through the government-mandated AnnualCreditReport.com and get your free credit scores every month on Credit.com.
More Money-Saving Reads:
Image: Peeter Viisimaa