Planning a move to NYC
June 24, 2009 3:04 PM   Subscribe

How much do I need to get paid to live in NYC?

So, I've got a job offer. We've negotiated to the upper bounds of what they can afford. What's the hit to my standard of living?

Right now in DC, I make about 50k a year, including bonuses, and live in a nice studio in Cleveland Park. Things are tighter than I'd like, but on balance work out.

In New York, most of my friends live with roommates on the UWS, but at this point in my life I'm not looking to share my space.

How can I calculate what I need to be making for the same-ish standard of living? Not drop-dead committed to the neighborhood, but don't have a great idea of where else to look...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure where UWS is located (Manhattan, right?), but this CNN cost of living calculator suggests you'd need about $80k to have a similar standard of living.
posted by achompas at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Upper West Side is one of the wealthiest and most expensive parts of the city. I'd recommend setting your sights much, much lower.
posted by nasreddin at 3:09 PM on June 24, 2009

Most landlords in New York will require that you make 40x monthly rent (although this has relaxed lately). I.e. if you wanted a $2,000 studio, you would have to clear $80,000/year or get a guarantor. Look at studios in neighborhoods you like and multiply the monthly rent by 40 to answer your questions.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:17 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can probably live with a similar standard of living in NYC at 50k--kind of tight, tiny studio apt, etc. Not necessarily UWS (think a 30 minute subway commute to midtown, rather than 5-10) but you can find studios for less than 1500, easy.
posted by shownomercy at 3:21 PM on June 24, 2009

why do your friends live on the UWS? are they in school? I guess it depends on who you are, but that is not where I'd choose to live.
posted by alkupe at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2009

It depends on where you want to live. In the Upper West Side you'll need to be making a good deal -- but here where I am in Brooklyn, you can get by on considerably less. Inwood (the very northern tip of Manhattan), other parts of Brooklyn, a couple parts of Queens, and Staten Island are also less.

Poking your nose in Craigslist is a good way to get an overall feel for the price difference in one or another neighborhood.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:26 PM on June 24, 2009

I would argue that the Upper West Side is par for the course in Manhattan, but it is true that you can find cheaper housing in the boroughs. It is up to you to decide if that is worth the trade off in terms of commuting, nightlife, prestige of address, etc.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2009

I lived on the UWS when I was making $32k. I needed a cosigner for my lease, however.

I found that CNN calculator really unrealistic, particularly about the actual cost of living in DC. The problem with taking average COL statistics for socioeconomically diverse cities is that the result doesn't take into account the relative stability of COL at some points on the spectrum. I think that it is true that you'd need substantially more income in NY to stay above poverty level or to be one of the super-rich, that's not necessarily the case for the middle class.

I think that you could live pretty well in NY on $50k. Neither my salary nor my socioeconomic status changed much when I moved.
posted by decathecting at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2009

During my first year in NYC (a couple years ago), I only earned $45 K a year. I was able to find a studio the UWS (rent=$1200/month), pay my bills (subway pass, landline, internet connection, food), and was able to go out occasionally for this amount of $. I will be honest, though -- the studio is very, very small (200 to 300 square feet) and my neighbors are young college students (not fun). You will probably need to pick what you are willing to give up, though -- perhaps you need to live in a tiny living space or commute from far, far away.

This year, rents are dropping in NYC. Go through Craigslist and/or check out the NYT real estate articles)-- I've noticed that for the same price I pay now (okay, the rent has gone up each year, now it is at 1500/month) -- a person could get a 1-bedroom in the UES, Washington Heights/Inwood, or Chelsea.

Where are you planning to live? IWhat do you want out of the place that you live?

If you want proximity to your friends but more affordable, I would look in Morningside (ie, 110 and Broadway) or the UES. I have friends in the UES now and it is easy to get there from the UWS (crosstown bus). Personally I would not pick Washington Heights/Inwood just because it is so far way (think an extra 30 minutes on the subway), but YMMV.

Although you may pay much more in rent, other things associated with the cost of living will drop. For example, do you drive a car? Get rid of it - a subway pass for the month is cheaper than what you would pay on insurance for a car, let alone gas, maintenance, etc.

You may want to tell us you envision as a "similar standard of living" -- because it is hard to calculate other expenses that you may have.

If you want to try to save $ and go out and do things when you live here - you can find lots of free activities (eg, free museum nights on certain days of the week, free summer concerts, performances, etc.).
posted by Wolfster at 3:49 PM on June 24, 2009

You can rent a nice place in Brooklyn Heights (great neighborhoods). Your daily commute on the subway is a few stops longer. Your Friday night cab rides are $15 dollars more.
You'll get a nicer place, save a bunch of money.
posted by Flood at 4:09 PM on June 24, 2009

If you love the city, do it. If you love the job, do it. If you're ambivalent about them, don't. It's an expensive city, and it won't take you long to realize that you could be having a much higher standard of living elsewhere in the country.
posted by limon at 4:31 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

@Flood: you serious? Where do you find your deals? I mean it, I'd love to live for cheap in BH.
posted by spacefire at 5:13 PM on June 24, 2009

I would say that the minimum to live in the style you want is $55k. The big thing is whether you own a car now in DC. If you do, then the $$ you will save by giving it up once you move to NYC will basically make up for the rent difference. If you want to live alone, then you will likely be paying around $1500 and living in Brooklyn, Queens, Upper Manhattan, or Jersey. But there are great neighborhoods in all of those areas. You might find a deal (I've got a rent-stabilized studio in Chelsea for ~$1300) in other parts of Manhattan, but that basically boils down to luck.

What you can't factor into cost of living is the wealth of opportunity and experience that you will experience by living here. You can always go home again.
posted by kimdog at 5:29 PM on June 24, 2009

I agree with kimdog, 55k minimum to live comparable more like 60k or 65k to be safe. Especially if you like to go out a lot. Nightlife generally far more expensive than DC, but also far better. Of course in this economy you can probably get a decent deal on rent, but decent is still pretty high rent in Manhattan.
posted by whoaali at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2009

If you don't mind accepting either a small apartment or a different neighborhood in exchange for getting to live alone, and you're careful with money, I think you can do it if you're making at least as much as you did before. And Wolfster and kimdog make a good point--not having a car makes a huge difference in your monthly expenses.

I've always had the impression that finding affordable housing was at least as hard if not harder in DC as it is in NYC. And housing is the biggest expense.
posted by lampoil at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2009

This is so variable, what one person can live on. I know people who insist on eating out most nights a week, or getting delivery. They take cabs everywhere and always have the coolest outfits. But most people I hang out with are far more frugal. We drink at happy hour, go to a cheap restaurant for dinner afterward, ride our bikes or take the train, and don't care about being so fabulous. And it suits us just fine. I make less than the OP, and have a perfectly lovely lifestyle, living on my own. (For the record, I live in Morningside Heights in a co-op.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:18 PM on June 24, 2009

Just don't live in Manhattan if you're worried about money. The notion that living in "the boroughs" is not living in New York City is ridiculous (Manhattan is also a borough, fwiw), elitist, and very limiting.
Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights (which is not cheap, btw, just not as expensive as the Upper West Side), Fort Greene, Forest Hills, Astoria, Long Island City, Jersey City (especially near Hamilton Park or Van Vorst Park), St. George, City Island all have plenty going for them.
You can always move to Manhattan when your lease ends and you have a better sense of how much your life costs in the city.
posted by willpie at 6:59 PM on June 24, 2009

There are parts of Manhattan that are cheap, and only a couple stops further on the subway than the UWS. I'm sitting at home in one right now. One-bedroom apartments in Harlem will run you about the same rent you're paying now for a studio. If I were you I'd look along Frederick Douglass Boulevard (8th Avenue) between 110th and 125th (it's the avenue with the most shops, restaurants, etc. in South Harlem). It's a 10 minute walk from Columbia and Morningside Heights, and you'll be close to the A/B/C and the 2/3. If all your friends are in the UWS, all you have to do is hop down one or two stops depending upon which subway line you take.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2009

And by "South Harlem" I mean Harlem below 125th.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:40 PM on June 24, 2009

Just don't live in Manhattan if you're worried about money. The notion that living in "the boroughs" is not living in New York City is ridiculous (Manhattan is also a borough, fwiw), elitist, and very limiting.

Eh, Manhattan has an unbreakable mystique if you're from out of town. Once you settle in, the appeal of the different boroughs can become apparent but for n00bs they don't think they've done the real NYC unless they live in Manhattan. Even for lots of people who've been here quite some time. It makes them feel better about the size of their apartments. They could do Harlem or Morningside Heights if staying on the island is crucial.
posted by Diablevert at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who just moved back to NYC and got a studio on the Upper East Side for $1400. If you had a 50k/year job, assuming a take-home of 65% (32,500), $1400/mo would put you at just under 50% of take-home pay left over for bills, food, Metrocard, etc., which is definitely doable. You may not get to eat out every night, but cooking at home is better for you. Also, your job may supplement your Metrocard (many companies do), so that might be a benefit you could ask about.

Look in Brooklyn and Queens too. Just keep in mind your work commute. Figure out which subways are close to work and look for apartments close to those subway lines. Getting to your friends should be a consideration, too, but I think work commute is more important - if it takes 20 minutes to get to your friends but an hour to get to work, you will tire of it quickly. I work from home now, but when I worked in an office, I considered that when buying my apartment. I could get on an express train and be at work in 20 minutes. Sure beat my old apartment, when I was living in Alphabet City, 15 minutes' walk to the closest subway.
posted by bedhead at 9:42 PM on June 24, 2009

Don't underestimate the expense of DC. It's pretty expensive especially comparitavely with RE depreciation hitting NYC and not DC at all.

I'd suggest looking into Sunnyside, Brooklyn Heights and perhaps UWS. 40x is a good base for living barebones. I'd say 45x is more realistic in terms of comfortable living.
posted by stratastar at 7:15 AM on June 25, 2009

Look into Kensington, Windsor Terrace, and also into Ditmas Park near Cortelyou Rd. All are in Brooklyn. Kew Gardens in Queens is also pretty but really far out.
posted by lorrer at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2009

My salary is in the same ballpark as the OP's, and I just moved into a new place in Brooklyn in June. A friend and I ended up finding a place together, but I started off looking for a studio or one-bedroom. Some of the neighborhoods being proposed are not realistic on $50,000; using the 40x-the-rent rule (which most landlords do seem to live by), you're looking at a rent cap of $1250 a month.

You really just can't find anything for that price in Brooklyn Heights (!!), Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, etc. The "best" (meaning "most Manhattanized") neighborhoods where you MIGHT find something for that price (and it'd be tough) are probably Clinton Hill or Prospect Heights, or some pockets of Greenpoint. The closest neighborhoods where you can definitely find something for that price would be Bed-Stuy, or Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Sunset Park -- basically anything south of Park Slope and Prospect Park.

This basically means that on your current salary, you could comfortably live alone in a nice, safe, but relatively boring neighborhood that's a 20-minute or so subway ride from Manhattan and about five-ten minutes on the train from Brooklyn areas with good bars, restaurants, etc. Or somewhere uptown. Or in Queens. If you want to live somewhere closer to Manhattan, or with more nightlife and a more young-professional vibe, then add $10k.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2009

I found a tiny one bedroom in Ft. Greene for between $1100-1200 last February. The bedroom literally would only fit a bed and the rest of the place was just barely ok. It was a 3rd floor walk up and was fairly close to the Subway. That was by far the best place I ever found. Obviously it was cheaper than it would normally be because of the economy, but there are still probably deals like that out there. I agree that it would be near impossible to live alone anywhere in Manhattan on 50k a year. Unless you lived so far north that you really might as well just live in Brooklyn and Queens, as your commute would likely be shorter. I realize some people have perfected the art of living on next to nothing in NYC and it's almost a badge of honor, but it doesn't sound like that is the lifestyle you are looking for.

Also, I've lived in both DC and NYC. DC is expensive and finding housing is hard, NYC is significantly worse. I would actually amend what I said earlier that you probably need about 70k to live alone. I was thinking more of living with a roommate when I said 55k. I mean there are deals to be found, but you will be in areas that are not comparable to Cleveland Park in niceness and accessibility to the rest of the city.
posted by whoaali at 6:20 PM on June 26, 2009

If all of your friends live on the UWS, you are going to want to live near them or you may never see them. I would really try for the 70-80K/year range if at all possible, given that you want to live alone. You will probably be able to find something to rent for 2K/month but less than that can be hard. The upper UWS will be your best option if you can't get that much, morningside heights etc. I wouldn't do a borough until you've lived here for a while and know the score, particularly given that your friends do not live in one.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:38 AM on June 28, 2009

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