New York City NYC Moving Guide

9 Tips for Manhattan Newbies

Living in New York City is a unique experience in any borough, but Manhattan is so central to the New York lifestyle that locals refer to it simply as "the city." If you're ready to take on a bold new challenge, living in Manhattan could be the perfect choice to shake things up. Keep in mind, however, that relocating to this city is much more challenging than your average move. If you've never lived in Manhattan before, make sure that you take these tips to heart.

Get Comfortable with NYC Transportation

Image via Flickr by Olivier Palta

Manhattan's public transportation system is stellar, with taxis, buses and, of course, the subway to get you to your destination. Driving, particularly in Manhattan, is notoriously difficult. There's a never-ending supply of pedestrians to worry about, and parking is extremely expensive. Even if you do score a good spot on the street, you'll have to move your car the next day to comply with alternate side of the street regulations that facilitate efficient and frequent street cleaning.

If you plan to keep your car, your best option is not to drive it, but to store it. You can hang on to the vehicle for trips out of town, but you won't need it on a daily basis. An affordable vehicle storage unit is the best option.

Reevaluate Your Budget

The cost of living in Manhattan is expensive, and depending on the city that you're coming from, it may require a drastic change in the way that you manage your money. A family of four who are accustomed to living comfortably on $48,000 a year in Marshall County, Mississippi, would need $93,500 to enjoy the same lifestyle in New York City. Housing, childcare, and insurance top the list of the biggest expenses in the city.

In Manhattan, rental apartments make up three-quarters of all homes. In April 2014, the average monthly rent for a Manhattan apartment hit $4,000. Harlem, in particular, saw the greatest increase, with rates jumping to an average of $2,528 in the typically low-cost neighborhood. Newcomers to this part of the city must prepare to adjust their budgets accordingly.

Plan for a Different Type of Shopping Trip

Cat in a corner store, laying on a box

Image via Flickr by The All-Nite Images

Without a car, simple routines such as grocery shopping take on a whole new look. Many Manhattanites make frequent, but smaller trips to the bodega, stocking up on just enough food for a few meals. If you're accustomed to stocking up at a traditional grocery store, or patronizing wholesale clubs for bargain-priced goods, you'll have to change your habits significantly to survive in this walker's paradise, where you can typically only buy as much as you can carry home in a single trip.

Be Realistic About How You'll Eat

When you're planning your budget for life in Manhattan, it's important to look at your new city habits realistically. If you live in the suburbs now, you may eat most of your meals at home or happily cart a bagged lunch to work every day. Reconsider whether these habits will really work for your new lifestyle in Manhattan. Anything that you cart along to work is something you'll have to carry on the subway. As mentioned previously, your groceries will present a unique challenge as well. Many Manhattanites eat out regularly and consider it just another part of the city's distinct lifestyle.

Learn the Lingo

View down 7th avenue

Image via Flickr by (vincent desjardins)

New York—Manhattan in particular—has a certain local lingo that you'll want to learn as quickly as possible. Something as small as pronouncing “Houston Street” the same way that you'd pronounce the Texas city will mark you as a newcomer right away (it's HOUSE-ton, by the way). "The city" means Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is just "the bridge," and "New Yorkers" are only those people who live in New York City itself.

Though you can get a MetroCard, prepare to call this mode of transportation the "subway" or "train." Don't refer to the trains by color, but refer to them as the "6 train" or "4 train." Forget north and south, because you'll only head "uptown" or "downtown." Slipping into the language of Manhattan can help you blend in like a local quickly.

Adjust Your Pace

New Yorkers are always moving. This is no city for standing still or making your way anywhere at a leisurely pace. Manhattanites have some of the lowest obesity rates in the country simply because they walk so often, and they frequently seem to do so in a hurry. If you enjoy a slower pace of life, Manhattan may not be right for you. If you're determined to become a New Yorker despite your slow-paced habits, at least prepare for the move by adding several long, vigorous walks to your routine before you get there.

Downsize Your Belongings

Square footage is at a premium in Manhattan. Residents looking to buy rather than rent a home in the city saw prices hit a whopping $1,759 per square foot in 2016. The easiest way to save money on Manhattan apartments is to downsize to as few belongings as possible. Clean out your closets and prepare to ditch anything that you don't use often or love deeply. For items that you don't need regularly but can't bear to ditch, a self-storage unit offers a low-cost solution.

Manhattanites are also great at maximizing what space they have. Prepare to use up every last inch of your closets. Staying organized will help you maximize your space. If living in a small space seems daunting, you can get inspiration from some of the most drastic residents of the city, such as Felice Cohen, who made a cozy home in a 90-square foot micro-studio.

Get to Know the City Before You Commit

If you're not familiar with Manhattan, you should take at least a few weeks to get to know the city before you commit to moving. If your job is relocating you to Manhattan, you may find yourself pushed into this drastic move with little prep time. Your employer may offer some reimbursement for expenses related to your move, including a hotel rental for you the first few weeks in the city, while you get your bearings. Keep in mind that moving expenses related to job relocation are usually tax-deductible as well.

Explore Manhattan and its various neighborhoods thoroughly before you decide where you want to live, or even whether you really want to live there. Take advantage of companies that offer moving storage, so you can keep your belongings somewhere safe while you're scouting out your new home.

Consider What You're Willing to Forego

To make it in Manhattan, there's a good chance that you'll have to cut back significantly in more than one area. Many New Yorkers go without a dishwasher or elevator. Most have no personal green space at their disposal. If you love your large, amenity-packed apartment, you may want to stay put, or at least consider an apartment outside Manhattan. If you truly love living in Manhattan, however, you'll probably find any number of little conveniences that you can do without for the sake of immersing yourself in a vibrant lifestyle that you love.

If you're still ready to take on Manhattan after giving this lifestyle a closer look, pack your bags lightly, put those old items in storage, and get ready for a new adventure.

About the author

The Storage Queens

We know a thing or two about moving. Together, we share the best tips in organizing, storage, navigating your city, and more!

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