Advice for Moving on a Shoestring Budget? (Possible: FL, NY)
November 24, 2019 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Should a freelancer with little money move and start over in NYC, FL (or other places -- open to suggestions) or stay in Philly, possibly? I'd love to get firsthand advice from individuals in different places, as I've seen I've learned much more about Philly by living here and asking advice. I'm moving very soon and really have no clue about what neighborhoods are affordable and ideal around Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and other cities in other states.

Due to various circumstances, I am thinking of relocating from Philadelphia, PA to FL in the next week. I'm doing my own research but with work and time restraints don't have as much time as I would like to look into everything before I leave. I've done relocations on a shoestring budget before (under $1000 or under $500), but I like to ask people who live in the areas I'm considering for their insight and advice since they have a better perspective on those areas.

I am a young woman with a background in the arts and no car currently, so ideally I would be around a city, like Miami, Orlando or Tampa, for non-arts jobs plus more access to opportunities in the arts such as modeling, etc. Just to give myself more options for work. I've zeroed in on FL because it seems to be the warmest (even L.A. had a pretty chilly winter when I was there), but I'm open. I've been in Philadelphia for over a year now and haven't seen much potential in the job scene for someone with my level of experience (liberal arts degree, not much professional experience in any one area). I've been offered some positions, but at the same salaries or less than I'd get down south, though Philadelphia is more expensive. Warmer weather is better for my health, so since my lease is ending, I'm thinking of going south.

With not having a car, I've considered maybe it's best to go to the NYC area temporarily; it's expensive but there are more jobs and I can walk/take transit easily. Even having little money, in the city it'd be easier for me to find and do event work, arts work etc. with less UBER costs than I'd accumulate picking up supplemental jobs down south. I do freelance work so I am able to make money week-to-week while I apply for permanent jobs in whatever location I settle in. The plan is to prioritize saving for a car if I am in a place such as FL where I'll need one.

I just wanted to put a post out because the last time I relocated, it really helped to get advice here. Since I work remotely, I'm open to going just about anywhere; I've even considered Mexico. I've lived in L.A. before, and I know what it's like to not have a car there, though of course it has lots of opportunities.

Also: with the recent hurricane damage, any particular advice for areas that are best to consider in FL?
And with the recent fires in CA and L.A., should I be aware of anything specific if I do head that way?
I know news updates won't fully make me aware of things I might not know, not having dealt with living in an area recovering from disasters before.

I kind of see my options as:
1) Move to a more car-dependent area and focus on my freelance work while I save up to get settled
2) Move to a place that is less car-dependent (near NYC, other cities) to at least save on transit costs and be able to network more easily while I'm applying for other jobs and saving up to get a car and an apartment, etc.

While Philly hasn't been the best for me, it is a beautiful city, and though the transit isn't the most time-efficient or dependable, it is a great help to have accessible public transit and a walkable city when you're on a tight budget. I'm just a bit unsure of which I should prioritize now: walkable with transit, or warmer and cheaper?

Thank you in advance if you take the time to read this and answer! Let me know if you have any questions.
posted by dancer4life to Travel & Transportation around Florida (19 answers total)
My thoughts are that it is tough to just pick up and move to New York City itself if you don't already have a place to live. Unless you have people whose couches you can surf, might be a better idea to secure a place to live before you move for NYC specifically esp if you're on a budget
posted by shaademaan at 8:55 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

LA is so incredibly bloody expensive for housing I can't really encourage anyone without a substantial reliable income to come here. The fires are all well outside LA proper, you wouldn't likely be looking in those places, so that's not really an issue to be concerned about. If you know someone who might rent you a room cheap for a while, maybe - and NYC is the same, going without a solid housing plan seems like a bad idea.

I can't really tell what kind of work you're trying to get, but LA is a city where you have to compete for barista jobs while trying to break in to the most menial of event or production jobs, you'd be better off getting some experience in something elsewhere before trying to do it here.

The southeast coast seems like a better combo of cost of living and heat and job diversity. Atlanta is an option I'd suggest considering; public transit there is better than most, it's a big city with lots of jobs in a way that I don't think Florida can offer. Dallas or Houston would be similar but public transportation can be a tough slog there too, so you'd need to prioritize saving up for a car.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2019

Orlando doesn't seem friendly to carless people. Neither does Tampa. I have been to both several times. Miami is a city I've not visited but I imagine as it is more populated it would by necessity be more convenient for carless people.

Florida and hurricanes is always going to be a matter of luck. I've heard that Tampa's position makes it less likely to take damage but I don't know how accurate that is. You may also want to keep in mind that the threat of hurricanes makes the construction process more rigorous. Many Floridians do not even consider evacuating even for a cat 5.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:15 AM on November 24, 2019

Orlando and Tampa are going to be extremely difficult without a car, like basically impossible to live a regular life. Also, Orlando is gross and so is Tampa. You could do Miami but it’s very expensive to live in an area you wouldn’t need a car (look at Brickell and downtown Miami.) Miami will also be a big culture shock - Spanish is the first language and it can be othering to live there if you don’t speak it. However, it’s also an illuminating/instructive/worthwhile experience to be a minority if you’ve always been in the majority. I live in a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale and the only things really keeping me from moving to Miami is that I don’t speak Spanish and housing is expensive.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 9:54 AM on November 24, 2019

Miami does have a pretty good scene for someone like you who might be involved in arts or arts-adjacent work, but aside from a few neighborhoods it's a terrible place to live without a car. I do know carless people (including artists) who live there, but they're very fortunate to live in close proximity to work -- Downtown/Brickell and Miami Beach being rare examples of such areas where that's possible. The other thing about Miami is that it is literally the worst large city in the country for wages compared to cost of living. Even for a lot of people in professional fields, the pay is really low for such an expensive city. Depending on the kind of freelance stuff you do it may actually be pretty livable, but Miami is also full of people who will try to find ways not to pay you for your work.

NYC has lots of the kinds of jobs you're looking for. And being much larger and having much more robust public transport, it will have many more nooks and crannies where you can find a somewhat affordable place to live and not need a car. As others have stated, though, it's not easy to find them if you don't already know the city well or have a place to crash while you get your bearings.

I'll second the suggestion of taking a look at Atlanta if you're aiming for a warm climate. It has more affordable housing and better (though still not great) public transport compared to Miami, it has a vibrant arts scene, and in a lot of ways it's a more diverse and well-rounded city than Miami is.
posted by theory at 9:59 AM on November 24, 2019

I agree with others above that you should check out Atlanta! It’s much cheaper than Miami but much more easily accessible without a car than Orlando or Tampa. It’s a great city, has the climate you’re looking for, and from my (limited) understanding it has a pretty good arts scene.

As someone who just relocated to a high COLA, I don’t really recommend NYC or LA. Even with a steady, pretty high income, housing costs are still a shock to me and eat up way more of my budget than I would like them to. And I’m not even in an area comparable to those two cities.
posted by sillysally at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Orlando is great if you want to be centrally located to get to freelance jobs all around the state. 2 hours (give or take) to opportunities in many directions. Would it be possible for you to invest some of your money in a reliable car that could take you around to those areas? Because unfortunately Florida is the Land of Urban Sprawl. I am not so familiar with where to live in Orlando, but with a car, you could look for room rentals in surrounding cities - Maitland and Winter Park come to mind as a little safer than Orlando proper. With a car, you could even live in Lakeland - where rent will be cheaper - and commute to both Tampa and Orlando easily. If getting a car is an absolute, no holds barred, No... well, you can get around in Tampa without a car. I had a friend who did that, used the bus and was patient with the slowness of it, and he also got around by bicycle. In that way he managed to get to his job just fine as well as his classes at the local community college. Tampa has neighborhoods full of college students near the University of Tampa, it's possible you could find some affordable housing in that area. I have never lived in Miami, so cannot offer any comments on that, but people who live there seem to quite like it. And yes, except for a few chilly days in January, it is almost always warm.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2019

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thank you so much for the responses and quick replies, I greatly appreciate it! I will definitely keep these in mind. A lot is unpredictable for me right now but at least I have the flexibility of working remotely, and it's good to know someone has made it work without a car in Tampa for a while. I made it work without a car in L.A. for five months, though I did have friends who let me couch surf and rent from them along the way. I have some experience with New York, to answer a question earlier, and a friend who has lived there. I think, even with the cold and things I don't like about NYC, I love the ability to get around via transit -- it's good for networking, makes exercise easier and is better for my health in terms of being able to socialize more easily.

If anyone has more neighborhood advice about Atlanta, etc., I'd really appreciate it! As of now I'm just planning to find short term places, hostels, AirBnb, etc. while I check out the neighborhood/area wherever I go and then find a rental. Thank you so much again!
posted by dancer4life at 11:12 AM on November 24, 2019

Tampa is *very* car dependent. I do have a friend in downtown St. Pete that gets by without a vehicle, so it is possible. There’s a nice stretch of artsy, walkable city in St. Pete if you can afford it.
posted by gnutron at 11:40 AM on November 24, 2019

It’s hard to completely tell from your question, but if you are broke I would strongly advise against coming to New York. Yes, there are more arts-related jobs here and the car-free thing is nice, but you are also competing with way more people for even entry-level jobs and a lot of them have access to financial support while they job hunt. It’s a great city but a very competitive and unforgiving place if you are just starting out.
posted by cakelite at 12:24 PM on November 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I feel like moving to New York, you have to either have a job or an apartment lined up. Looking for work and living space at the same time there is incredibly stressful. (I did it once. I don't recommend.) It is so, so expensive, which I'm sure you know, but there's also just this weird sense of cut-throat competition when you're looking for an apartment.
posted by less of course at 2:25 PM on November 24, 2019

What kind of art are you involved in?
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:14 PM on November 24, 2019

I feel like I should add that Atlanta is pleasant but it's also right there at Stone Mountain. They do have actual winter there, although I'm sure it's shorter than it is in Philly.
posted by crunchy potato at 3:49 PM on November 24, 2019

One thing I haven't seen anybody mention is that moving without much advance planning is bound to add extra logistical wrinkles to the process, especially on a tight budget. I'd suggest finding a sublet in Philly for another month or two (or crashing in a friend's guest room somewhere warmer, if you know anyone who can reasonably extend an offer that generous -- a month is too long for a couch!) and getting your ducks in a row both by deciding on a specific city, and by reaching out to friends and contacts in the area. I moved to Tucson on a whim a dozen years back, but I couldn't have done it without having a friend (really a vague acquaintance) who offered to let me sleep on her couch for the first week. I'd already lined up the sublet, but it's still really helped to know I had local folks looking out for me, even though I didn't know them very well. If you don't have friends to help orient you to a new place, and you also don't have much money, I'd reaaaaalllly suggest making sure you do everything else you can to make the transition as easy as possible.

On the other hand, maybe I've gotten cautious in my old age! It'd probably be fine if you rounded up a 2-3mo sublet in a neighborhood that's really well-served by public transit and otherwise close to good grocery stores and cafes (or whatever's important for your daily-ish life).

But please do heed what folks are saying about regional cost of living differences. I've lived in the Bay Area for a decade but I'm in Austin this fall. When I go out for a meal, even at a "nice" place, I'm honestly astonished at how affordable it is. I'm used to a hamburger running $16 anywhere nicer than In-n-Out, and in Austin (which hasn't been regarded as a particularly cheap city since the nineties, I don't think) is just so much more reasonable by comparison. Meanwhile, there are probably a dozen people on this thread alone who would tell me I'm nuts for thinking Austin's affordable, and they'd be right!
posted by tapir-whorf at 5:20 PM on November 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thank you again. Update: Taking into consideration all the advice and my current situation, I am now thinking of staying in Philly a bit longer possibly, to focus my funds on temporary housing until I save up more /get more work lined up and have more to put toward relocating. It does feel like a bit of a sinkhole for me right now, with no recent interviews leading to jobs (or offers with sufficient pay), and until I get more freelance work/regular work, I'm not making much. But at least it doesn't cost me anything really to get around here, ($25 unlimited metro pass + Uber when necessary + walking) so I can focus funds on a place to stay.

Thank you so much for sharing specific examples and tips, it really helps. And, Crunchy Potato, I am glad you mentioned ATL still gets cold. I'm familiar with some of the southeast so I figured so, but I wasn't sure. That's why I was aiming for FL.

And Cakelite, yes you could definitely consider me as broke. This is a shoestring budget (or no budget) situation.

TrytheTilapia, to answer your question, I'm a multidisciplinary artist (modeling, dancing, acting, singing, writing, etc). I'm not actively involved in any of them really at the moment, besides maintaining a model Instagram page, but I am trying to put myself out there more, especially once I'm in a better area. I've gotten several invitations to castings for photo shoots recently, but most of the work is in NY or Miami, etc, on the east coast. It'd just be better in a city with more opportunities and living close enough so I can get to those opportunities, as they often pay well, better than my current freelance work, and even just one gig could help me get ahead more quickly.
posted by dancer4life at 4:24 AM on November 25, 2019

Nthing the "don't go to NYC without more of a plan." Have you considered taking the $10 bus into NYC for gigs? It wouldn't be sustainable for 9-5 Mon-Friday, but maybe for occasional work, and if you do want to move to NYC at some point, you'll have more connections there if you've been picking up gigs there.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:24 AM on November 25, 2019

Response by poster: Hi Needs More Cowbell, thank you, yes I am definitely keeping in mind the Megabus/affordable bus options for NYC from Philly. I started applying to jobs/opportunities in the city so it's always a great option! Thank you for mentioning that.
posted by dancer4life at 7:24 AM on November 25, 2019

I think you should stay in philly and to make some side cash be a model for drawing classes at the various art/ design schools (u arts, pafa, tyler, jefferson/philaU, drexel) and maybe try to get a dance adjacent job either doing kids classes at a studio or a fitness dance oriented class for adults to build up you resume experience.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2019

Thanks for the response.

I too am an interdisciplinary artist helmed in nyc. Housing here unless you have a lot of money is difficult. I would not come here without money and a place to stay for at least a couple of months.

Places I recommend:

Chicago. I went to college there. You don’t need a car, the art scenes are plentiful and there’s lots of housing. It’s cold AF in the winter. It’s an amazing place to be young and in theater, art, performance, etc.

New Orleans. Grew up there. Probably need a car but I bet there are ride share options I don’t know about. Buses and streetcars downtown and uptown. Lots of cool things to do for young artists, plus the vibe in the city is unique in the states. Service economy can get you on your feet making money quickly, plus housing options are affordable. You need to be street smart here especially. Plus: hurricanes.

Anyway, my two cents. Best of luck. I also think you’d be smart to stay in philly for awhile.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:33 PM on November 26, 2019

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