Essays & Confessions

When Moving To Your Dream City Costs You Your Financial Freedom

By | Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I began reading The Financial Diet around July 2014, right around when I was becoming a “real adult,” or rather, beginning my career and making my first big move, after college. I moved to Columbus, Ohio and started at my job full-time for a consulting firm. The idea of a real paycheck made me overwhelmingly excited, because I knew I could finally become independent financially, and that I could begin building a financial life for myself.

The first few months came with a lot of ups and downs, and a huge learning curve. I consulted my parents, friends, and boyfriend (who works in finance) for financial advice and slowly made my way to stability. I made my financially savvy cousin sit down with me and help me make my own budget, where she forced me to be painstakingly honest about my problem areas ($800 in one month on clothes shopping — yes, that’s a real confession) and I got real about what I could and couldn’t afford. These efforts paid off. By the spring, I had a strong emergency fund, had paid off my credit card, and was saving quite a bit of money for my eventual move to NYC. I felt like I was in a good place, and had good peace of mind.

Fast forward to July 1 of this year, when I made my move to New York City. Here’s one rule I’m setting for myself after making this money-suck of a move: If you are moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world, save at least $3,000 more than what you think you might need. When I finally moved to my dream city, everything was aligned. I was moving in with my boyfriend, transferring locations with the company I currently worked for, and we had put down our deposit for an apartment. I thought I had enough extra cash saved up, and if worst came to worst I could pay with my credit and pay it off as I go, which isn’t a great mindset to have in the first place when moving.

Well, I ended up having to lean on my credit card (again, not ideal), and I ended up burning through half my emergency fund as well. Everything added up: things going wrong with the move, decorating our new place, eating out while the kitchen was still being set up, etc. Then I started really looking at my accounts. Although I didn’t get myself in a large hole, it still was not the place I was before moving. Looking back, these are things that could have really halted my financial life, and life in general. I was lucky that the debt I had incurred was manageable. However, I should have saved up a lot money (double what I had saved in my emergency fund), and been much more frugal when starting my life in the city. I try to live a life with ~no regrets~ but every time I look at where my credit card balance is, I get a little pang saying I should have been a bit smarter. These are lessons that I have learned before, and it sucked that I was going to have to learn them again.

My financially intelligent parents told me not to worry too much, and to stay aware of my finances but also to focus on getting adjusted, without going overboard. They were right, and I should have kept more of an eye on my finances, so that I wasn’t back in the place that I started a year before. There is a way to move to a city (or make a large purchase, or go on vacation…) frugally and intelligently. It’s humbling and frustrating to see your finances go up, and your savings account balance climb, just to see it crash back down. It was alarming to see how fast it can happen. I felt down for a bit, realizing I didn’t maintain the progress I had made. But the good news is that when you make the decision to take ownership of your finances again, as soon as you start taking steps to pay off your credit card, and build your savings back up, a flood of relief and confidence comes sneaking back into your life.

I feel great being in this city, and I’m happy with how things turned out in the long run. However, it is now time for me to get my financial stability back. The first goals are to completely pay off my credit card debt, cut down my clothes shopping expenses, cook at home more, and to build up a strong emergency fund (even stronger than the one I used to have). These small efforts will get me back to feeling in control of my finances. It feels a bit like starting at zero, and it’s admittedly daunting to be doing this all over again. However, I have found excitement in this new task — back to the drawing board I go! Budgeting and my bank’s home page seem like old friends, and revisiting them feels like coming back to a relationship with a person I once knew well, but having to re-learn their habits all over again. I already know some of the tricks of the trade, but there is still so much more to learn and do differently this time. I am planning to make time to meet with a financial advisor at my bank. And dammit, I am going to start making my own coffee at home this time around.

Abby is an IT professional living in Manhattan, originally from the beautiful land of Ohio. She’s obsessed with humans, solving problems, and tuna salad.

Image via Pexels

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