Chicago or New York? Stay or Go?

May 7, 2012

Moving to NYC or Stay In Chicago


Like my silly little list?”I seriously cannot make up my mind if I should grab some New York movers and relocate to NYC or stay in Chicago for another year.  I’m doing better financially now that I’m done with graduate school, but am I doing so well I should take a gamble on a move to New York City?

I’m finally getting to a point where I have money to go out and explore, do some shopping and not feel guilty and be able to sock some money away for a rainy day.  When I first moved to Chicago, it was rough- I lived paycheck to paycheck in a dirt cheap apartment (not bad, but still no amenities  whatsoever – no AC,  no door on my room, elevator or laundry in house..and in an interesting neighborhood).  I made about $800 a month while going to school full time and after expenses any splurge put knots in my tummy.

My worry is that I could save up if my business keeps doing well, but for now I would blow any progress I’ve made financially on relocation and higher rents.  

Along that line, I could get all the way to NYC and have no money to enjoy it unless business progressively and steadily grows….do I want to take that gamble?  I would like to actually be able to afford to go out, explore and be able to afford life’s little luxuries when available.

Conversely, perhaps it’s worth the risk?  What if being in NYC is just the ticket I need to grow my blog and my social media consulting business…  New York has it’s own unique chemistry that could be good juju for the kind of work I do.

As any rational human- my mind goes to the doomsday scenarios:  ending up in NYC back eating rice and beans & debating selling my biology for rent money.  But what if I do really well?  What if I take the risk and it pays off- what if I’m happier, healthier and more prosperous than I can picture now?  

Of course- I can always stay in Chicago for another year and save up..but no matter where I go I’d like to live in a nicer area in a cozier apartment…so how much money would I be saving by staying here?  My rent now is rock-bottom, if I stay in Chicago for a year with more expensive rent (you know, so I can do my laundry in under 3 hours) will I end up ahead?    Will I still be dedicated to sock away money for a move or will I spoil it away on the other things Chicago has to offer (Ask Anthony Bourdain, Chicago’s food scene rivals NYC!)  I honestly have no idea if living in a nicer area will tempt me to spend more instead of saving and if I’ll end up breaking even.

Over the last month or two, I’ve made more money than before (which isn’t hard to do since I was making beans before) and I’ve been spending more…after two years of scrimping, saving and literally eating rice and beans to pay my way through school it’s like I can afford to have a little fun.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to give that up if business isn’t consistent or if I can’t find an apartment priced within my comfort zone in NY.

Staying in Chicago would not be the worst thing in the world. In my two years being here, I’ve been dead broke and haven’t really had the money to try the fancy restaurants or attend seminars and events I wanted to be at.  Additionally, being a grad student left me little time to go out and have fun…being in the area I’m at also has made transportation an ordeal.  Relocating in-city could be fun and redeem a city that was so hard to enjoy  as a stressed-out grad student making $800 a month and working her arse off in school.

Either way, I feel as if I’d be starting over.  Being done with school and starting my own business means I can work from anywhere.  Many of the friends I’ve made here in Chicago are either done with school and are moving away or are still in school and are occupied like I was.  In either city, I’d have to forge a new path, start fresh and make new friends.

My heart already leapt to NYC- but is it unrealistic?   My lease is up at the end of August.  I have about 2 months to make a better assessment and build my business….but I’m afraid it’s not enough time. 

I keep going back and forth…any advice on how you made big decisions when money was tight and the risk and reward where quite substantial?

16 comments so far.

16 responses to “Chicago or New York? Stay or Go?”

  1. Amanda says:

    I think this is something I deal with on a weekly basis – also with moving to NYC (or just out of Miami period).

    I think a part of what makes it so difficult (besides the financial gamble and that I have a steady job while I build up my business) is that we already live in really cool cities that people actually want to live in (Chicago and Miami). I see people all the time at my day job who decided to move to Miami from literally all over the place ( a lot of New Yorkers included) and it makes me wonder whether I should just stay put.

    I think if I lived in the middle of no where, where there was no opportunity, then maybe the decision would be easier.

    I chose to stay in Miami while I built up enough a business that I could do everything from my laptop. I don’t have to worry about rent for now, I have a steady job less than a mile from my house that enables me to build a business and get life coach certification and I live in a crazy bustling city.

    Yet somehow my brain keeps going back to moving out – especially when I go out of town. It’s something my coach and I are going to start working on to see what I can do about it.

    So I guess the point of this ridiculously long comment is that I am right there with you 🙂

    • It’s really hard to know what to do and when to do it. There’s nothing wrong with Chicago (or Miami for that matter)…there was nothing wrong with California either, in fact, many people thought I was crazy for leaving my perfect-weather-sunny-all-year hometown to come out here for school but I wanted to venture out. I know many people “escape” New York, but I was crazy once for leaving my perfect So-Cal bubble, I might as well be crazy one more time since it wasn’t so bad.

      I think everyone has their own situation and goals in mind, mine aren’t really logical (as most dreams aren’t) I think of all the things I want to do in NYC- and yes, I could do those things on vacation (The Daily Show, SNL, Central Park, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, see the leaves change on the east coast) etc. but I’d really love to experience life there. I sometimes my dreams fit in a safe bubble but they hardly ever do!

  2. Michelle says:

    I would make sure I had a big enough EF before I moved to NYC. I’m used to cheaper living in the Midwest, so a move to NYC would be crazy to me! But it would be a blast.

    • Ya, living is more expensive but I won’t have car expenses or things like that (which I wouldn’t in Chicago either) but that’s how many people make it work. I do need to get a better emergency fund together- but I’m torn on when the “Right” time would be…how much extra coin do I need to survive when I’m just getting started in business? I have a lot of thinking to do!

  3. Carrie Smith says:

    Of course you always have to do what is best for you (and Ralphie) and what makes you feel the most comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with waiting another year, saving up some extra cushion and becoming more mentally prepared. Your businesses will be more established and you will have a good foundation built up. All you lose is a little bit of time, but unless you’re in a hurry, it’s not a big issue.

    • Thanks for the comment Carrie! I’m a weird one that is only comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m not in a big hurry- just wondering when to launch. I don’t know how much I’ll save in the long run if I move out of this apartment- to me it’s either, pay now or pay later in terms of relocation costs. I think I’ve thought myself into a circle.

  4. Andrea says:

    As a former New Yorker, I would wholeheartedly recommend staying in Chicago and exploring your city to its fullest! I went to NYC for college, and while it was a great and exciting experience, the only way I could have possibly afforded it was as a student, with paid-for housing and meal plan, and access to mom and dad’s credit cards in emergencies.

    I now have friends in both Chi-Town and NYC and let me put it to you this way: 5 years after graduation, the friends in NY are still living paycheck-to-paycheck (even making $90k per year and up!) Lifestyle creep is HUUUUGE in NY — the longer you are there, the more wasteful you become with your money and the less you worry about dropping $150 at the bar or at dinner. Not to mention the costs of “necessities” like a monthly Metro card and the occasional cab ride to “treat yourself” that ends up costing $25. And even if you resist these temptations, all the people you meet there are living this way and you’re bound to just feel left out.

    Meanwhile, my friends in Chicago are *homeowners* (yes, in a super cute/trendy neighborhood within Chicago city limits) and traveling all over the place on vacations and living it up in Chi-Town (where a night at the bar is a reasonable cost). They are living the cool, young 20-something lifestyle without sacrificing their financial future.

    The times I have spent in Chicago were seriously magical and I think the dining/shopping/culture/museums/sports is just as good as what you will find in New York. And best of all, the PEOPLE in Chicago are so much more down-to-earth, practical, and nice. I would much rather grow my new business in Chicago than in NY, where you will have to hustle, struggle, and claw your way to the top. The way I see it, Chicago offers you less cost and greater reward. Hope my perspective helps! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment- I know exactly what you mean, lifestyle creep is a silent stalker! Even now, living in Chicago- as I started to make more money I started to spend more…granted I didn’t go off the deep end and should have been more careful, it was almost like I was hungry to participate in what I’d been depriving myself of previously so I started spending more and more.

      While I’m not ready to be a homeowner you hit the nail on the head of being able to enjoy the city and live it up where you’re at. After being in school for two years, I could barely afford going out for a friend’s birthday or buying a new dress for a special occasion- much less planning a vacation or having the money to purchase furniture I would have been more comfortable with.

      I’m sincerely torn between what I should do. While I’m ready to not live paycheck to paycheck, I’m also ready for some serious change and would do the groundwork to make it happen. I would be willing to make sacrifices to live a better life and be able to afford what matters- but I’m stuck in figuring out what matters…having the perks or having the experience.

    • Ace says:

      Awesome, awesome, awesome reply, and I agree 100%.

      I am from Upstate NY, did NYC for college and most of my 20s. It was fun then, but as I moved on from it and noticed as absurd amount of hometown friends moving there, all I could think was thank god I got to it when I could and found the diamond in the rough…. Chicago. Theyre going to be living frugally, paycheck-to-paycheck well into their 30s and possibly even 40s if they decide to stay longer term. Me? I know what NYC has to offer, and Chicago offers the exact same thing, but at a bargain. That whole paycheck-to-paycheck in NYC vs. homeowner in Chicago is absolutely true. I hope im one of them in Chicago in the near future, living the same lifestyle, while all of them are still struggling to stay afloat.

      Its 2012. Living WITHIN your means is increasingly becoming more important given the times. I think its a great and very wise decision to do that in someplace like Chicago than fight for an illusion in NYC.

  5. One word Shannyn, FAITH.

    Let me make it a bit easier for you. You can make money in either city, so take money off the table.

    You will have to start afresh in either city, so take that off the table.

    Both cities are expensive, and lifestyles are similar.

    All you need to do is decide which city you want to be in, and then spend your energy working out HOW it will be done. There is always a way, but first you need commitment.

    This reminds me of when I had to decide to go to grad school immediately or wait a year. Going put me in debt, but I don’t regret it. Consequences only matter if you don’t like your decision. Good luck!

    • Albert- very wise words… your advice takes some of the chaos out of the thought process. In the end, you can do all the calculations and hedge your bets but it all winds down to focusing on your biggest goals.

      I wonder if I stay here, how motivated I’ll be to move on to something better if I get too comfortable. Why would I want to downsize and restart if I’ve gotten a nice apartment and had to buy everything for it. The longer I set down roots, the harder it is to uproot. Thanks for your insight, everyone’s putting down some great advice!

  6. Girl, I completely understand where you are at. I chose to move from Oklahoma to NYC about 10 months ago, I have learned along the way and hope this will help!

    First of all know that there is no wrong choice, it is important to be wise financially when you make these kind of decisions but I really believe that if we use wisdom and follow our hearts we will be met with all we need, finances included. Plus, there are A LOT of ways to save in NYC so don’t let that scare you., it’s not so bad.

    After moving to NYC I had the chance to meet a lot of career contacts and be around inspiring people. It was nice to be around people who had big visions like I do. Of course the night life and restaurants are fabulous, but they can be expensive. I didn’t have a lot to spend and like you said, it is very nice to be able to enjoy the city you are in.

    I recently moved back to Oklahoma because I realized I had some growing up I needed to do and I wanted to save money to go back with a more financial foundation (I moved there with $200, I’m sure you will save more than that! Haha) I also came back to finish school.

    Looking back on it now, I wonder, what would have happened if I waited a year and really prepared myself? I could have had more money, more maturity and a more clear direction. But I also wouldn’t have got to interview Tom Cruise, learn the lessons I learned and experience NYC as a broke early twenty-something! I think my time there has made me more prepared for the next step.

    So what should you do? Well obviously I can’t tell you that 🙂 But it sounds to me like you have it a lot more together than you give yourself credit for; my advice would be take all extremes off the table, the worst and best case scenarios, because realistically, NYC is not gonna make you fall flat on your face and never let you up and it’s not gonna get you a million dollar networth over night… your success has very little to do with where you are and everything to do with YOU. So I suggest thinking about the story you most want to tell ten years down the road, how would it look?

    Whether you go in August or in a year or five, just remember where there is a will there is a way. Apartments can be found, martinis can be bought and success can be made EVEN in NYC 🙂

    I hope this helps, let me know if there is anything else I can do 🙂

    Katie Hoffman

  7. Katie- holy cow that is a very long and awesome comment! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences! I have so much to consider, I keep thinking myself in circles.

    This advice: “So I suggest thinking about the story you most want to tell ten years down the road, how would it look?” GREAT stuff… really, someone can succeed or fail anywhere…but what would be the best story to tell? That’s what I’m all it!

    So many amazing people leaving amazing comments on this post. I am going to continue to think about it, ask questions, and plan and plot… something’s going to happen!

  8. This sounds so familiar. I recently had a difficult decision to make that was going to change my life right now, drastically! It was between waiting to retake the LSAT and reapply to law school in my current town or move away now and start law school in August, but I’d have to quit my job and live away from BF.

    It was difficult but I talked it out with the people I love and trust, and weighed the pros and cons of each. After doing the pros and cons list, prioritize what is most important to YOU and also think about things that you want to gain out of each experience. Once you have that list, really think it through again and again.

    I honestly can’t choose a decision based off the list because it’s such a toss-up. There are a lot of “what ifs” but I think you have to ignore those right now. Good luck! If you need advice, feel free to email me or DM me on twitter! I seriously went through this 2 weeks ago 🙂

    • You’re awesome, thank you so much…and I’m glad I’m not the only one who had a hard time figuring this (or other big choices) out. I put this list together and it really felt like a toss up either way…a giant bet either way, so I guess it just depends, what would be more fun? I could go for broke but what’d be more fulfilling and make for a better story, right now I’m trying to just commit to a choice instead of waffling so I can put my call out to the universe and let the chips fall where they may.

  9. Tatiana says:

    It looks like you’ve gotten so much good advice about moving! As someone who currently lives in NYC, I wouldn’t suggest moving here. Hah. Not for any particularly reason, although NYC is expensive, it’s pricey to live in any major city in the US – it just doesn’t vibe with me. I’m a city girl, to be sure, but I’m not a NEW YORK city girl. I’ve heard people talk about the “electricity” they feel when they come here – I’ve never felt it. I don’t actually like NYC, and I often wonder why people want to move here so bad. I’m anxious to leave! Hah.

    So I think finding a city that vibes with you on an energetic level is important – if that’s something you even pay attention to. I know it’s easy to love a city if you’re only visiting and you’re doing a bunch of fun stuff with your friends. But I would definitely recommend coming to NY for like a week or so and just living. Doing day to day stuff, and seeing how you FEEL while you’re here. That, to me, should be the foundation of where you’d want to live because you can get comfortable anywhere. Places you know, places you don’t know even. But if you find a city or a town that meshes with you so much so that you HAVE to live there, then go for it.

    So that’s definitely my two cents on the matter. :3 Good luck with your choice!


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