Without a doubt, college has definitely been the best four years of our lives thus far. We've made some incredible life-long friends, landed the internships and jobs we wanted year after year despite some setbacks, traveled the world, and best of all, kept our friendship intact and stronger than ever. We both always knew that despite not going to college in New York or together, we would eventually work here and have some of the greatest adventures together and with our friends!
Once reality hit us after graduating, we were faced with the next dilemma of whether we should live at home in New Jersey and commute to work, or if we should move to Manhattan and live the true Gossip Girl life (but without the trust funds and scandals of course haha). Both of us are currently in very different living situations, and we thought it would be fun and helpful to share our personal experiences with you in case you may be facing the same decisions we had to make this past year of whether to live at home or move out after graduating college.
MOVE OUT (Melissa)
Compared to your average college student, I definitely had a more unconventional experience by living at home and commuting to school during my junior and senior year of college. It was quite a struggle for me to come to the decision of living at home when all of my friends were having the best four years of their lives and living on campus. But ultimately, I was committed to the idea of moving out as soon as I graduated and wanted to minimize any distractions from my studies/recruitment and use this time to save money.
Moving out of our parents' house and being financially independent is one of the biggest life milestones we can achieve as we transition into adulthood and it is certainly a decision that should not be taken lightly. Since I was pretty adamant about moving out as soon as I graduated since my freshman year of college, I essentially had four years to develop and carry out a plan that would put me in a strong financial position where I would comfortably be able to support myself. I collected my first paycheck at 16 years old working as a hostess and a tutor, and I was able to apply the money saving lessons that my family had instilled in me growing up. As I headed to college, I put in a lot of effort by starting recruitment early and saved up the majority of the money I had made during my summer internships. Living at home for 2 years while I was in college also allowed me to cut back on costs, since all I had to cover was gas money, shopping trips, and the occasional night out with friends.
While saving money and budgeting played a significant role in determining whether I was able to afford to move out, an even bigger factor was my salary, and that figure remained unknown until I received a job offer from my current employer in October of my senior year. Since New York City is one of the most expensive cities to live in, I knew that I had to bring in x amount of money each year in order to comfortably pay all of my expenses, max out my 401k contribution, put a little into savings, and have some money left over for all of my non-essentials. Keeping that thought in mind, I gave myself a specific target salary amount that I must hit in order to move out, and if I was unable to get a full time offer that paid at least x amount, then I will continue to live at home for at least a year. While living on my own was one of the biggest goals I had set for myself, I was unwilling to jeopardize my financial security and therefore only allowed myself to move out once I was positive that I could comfortably support myself - a lesson that I credit to my parents for teaching me!
Independence: Since I commuted from home my junior and senior year, I only lived "on my own" my freshman and sophomore year of college, and even then I was not truly independent since I relied on my parents to pay for my tuition and essential expenses. While it would have been nice to save up thousands of dollars had I lived at home for 1 year after graduation, I felt that in order to grow and further develop, I needed to be independent and stand on my own two feet. I knew that if I remained in my household, I would still be relying on my parents on the most basic of things (cooking, making doctor appointments, etc.) because that would be the most comfortable. However, as a recent college grad, I did not need to be comfortable, I needed to be challenged. I needed to have the opportunity to hold myself accountable in all aspects of my life - from learning how to cook/grocery shop and paying my bills on time, to cleaning my apartment because I want to, not because my parents force me to. Personally, independence was never about freedom from my parents and their rules, but more about knowing that after decades of being supported, I was finally ready to make it on my own, even if sacrifices had to be made and tough lessons had to be learned along the way.
Commute: My commute from my parents' home in Central New Jersey to my office in Wall Street would have been around a 1.5 hour door to door compared to the 35 minute subway ride I take currently take. More importantly, prior to starting my role in August, I was unaware of how early/late my days would start/end. Since I work in internal audit, I knew that my hours would not be too outrageous, unlike some of my banker friends. It was reasonable to anticipate that my days would end any time from 5 - 7pm, and the thought that my routine could possibly be arriving at home at 9pm, eating dinner and going to bed at 11pm in order to wake up any time between 5 - 6am was incredibly unappealing to me. The commute alone was a huge factor in my final decision to move out! My advice would be to weigh how important saving time on your commute is to you. If you can use a long commute to your advantage and work or listen to podcasts during that time, the cost savings of paying lower rent to be further away from work, or just living at home may be the better option.
Social Life: The greatest thing about New York City is that there is always something to do, whether its going to oyster happy hour after work or seeing a free concert at Central Park on a beautiful summer day. There really is no better time to experience all of this hustle and bustle than right now in my life, and living in the city gives me more reasons to see friends that I probably would not regularly see as often had I lived back in New Jersey and commuted to work. Granted, I pay pretty hefty rent in the city, so I also find myself being more cautious about being able to hang out, eat dinner at a restaurant, and grab drinks every other night, since all of those extra entertainment costs definitely are not cheap. I try to balance these costs out by cooking at home on most nights and sometimes bringing my lunch instead of buying. It's a fine balance that I am still learning, but I have definitely enjoyed being close to everything and everyone, and it's nice to know that I have the option to pretty much go anywhere at anytime in the city, which is definitely not the case back at home.
LIVE AT "HOME" (Jess)
Renting an apartment in the city honestly never crossed my mind too much since I am fortunate enough to have a lot of close family and relatives in New York that I would always have a place to stay if I needed. My immediate family actually lives in New Jersey, and commuting every day from home would not have been the most ideal. Given that my job is pretty heavy with travel depending on the project I am on, I decided to hold off on renting my own place in the city until I really knew where I was going to be more long-term. I started working back in September, and decided to stay at a close relatives' in Brooklyn temporarily until I found an apartment I really loved. This way, I could also explore the different NYC neighborhoods before signing a lease in my favorite one. In the meantime, I pretty much live alone right now in a very empty space they happen to have without paying crazy Manhattan housing prices. I'm well aware that not everyone has this luxury or option, but I encourage you to not discount this option if the opportunity is there. Here are some of my thoughts on living at home that were pretty big factors in my decision to not move into my own apartment right after starting work.
Money. Money. Money. To be honest, this is probably the #1 reason for me and many others who choose to live at "home" after graduating. By saving upwards of $1600/month on rent (Yeah, NYC housing is quite the killer), I am able to stretch my income so much more by not spending over 1/3 of my salary just on housing alone. Having been taught the importance of saving since I was young, I am now able to stash away a large majority of my paychecks in multiple retirement accounts, and still have left over money to regularly eat out with my friends, plan multiple international trips, and make the occasional luxury purchase throughout the year. A lot of people actually ask me how I am able to afford the excessive traveling I've done and still max out my savings contributions, and it's honestly because I was conscious about my decision to not rent right after I started earning money. If you have other hobbies that may require more money to do, or have travel plans on your bucket list, consider living at home to save up! I promise it's worth it when you can use that extra money toward something else that you love or are passionate about.
Become closer to family: I actually don't think this is 100% true, since many people who move out may actually become closer to their families after moving away since they see them less often. However, I do think living near and with some family members helps me to be more connected with things going on within my immediate and extended family since I see people around more often than if I lived with friends. I love being available to do family activities or being around town for the occasional gatherings and for holidays. My grandparents actually live in Brooklyn as well, and I grew up visiting very often when I was younger. Brooklyn is extremely nostalgic for me, and being able to live here now is a special experience.
Social Life: I would say for someone who does not live in the heart of Manhattan with other roommates my age, I still have a pretty robust social life and feel like I am able to do everything that I want with my friends. I can still hang out after work and on the weekends, but I am more conscious of my late night activities since I live a bit further from all the hustle and bustle and nightlife. There was definitely more action when I lived with my friends and when I had roommates in college, given that there would always be other people over to hang out and enjoy late night conversations and have girl talks with. However, it's also extremely nice to come home and have some peace and quiet and time alone after a long day of talking and mingling with my co-workers. My advice for those who are nervous about the social life drawbacks of living at home is to really make going out and socializing a priority. It's so easy to make excuses and not do anything by blaming your living situation, but trust me, there are always ways to save money while living at home and also have a bustling social life! And guess what, you can afford to go out more often and buy more drinks too when you have more disposable income from not paying rent.
I actually do think I have reached a comfortable point to move into the city to be a bit closer to work, since I have a pretty lengthy commute when I am on local projects. It's definitely hard to give up all the current financial perks right now though! However, it's a step I always intended to take, and I am actually moving into a new place in the city this weekend. Talk about an exciting new chapter. I can't wait to take you guys along for the ride!
This is definitely one of our lengthiest posts to date, but we really wanted to get personal with you guys and share our living and moving experiences with you. We're both fortunate enough to have had the option to choose our own living situations, but both came to our respective decisions after very careful planning and budgeting. We definitely encourage you to crunch some numbers and sort out your priorities before choosing to live at home or to move out. The best part about leasing in NYC is that you are never truly bound if you do decide to move. There is a high enough demand for housing here that you can always decide to sublease or move-in/out almost whenever you want to. We really hope that this was helpful, and leave us any questions and comments you may have below.
Check back soon for our tips and experiences on finding NYC housing and how to survive in this concrete jungle on a budget!
Love Always, Jessica & Melissa