How to Move to A New City With No Money and No Prospects

Update 7/5/2017:  I have gotten SO many critical comments on this piece since it went live nearly two years ago, so I figured it was time for an update. No, this post isn't for everyone. Yes, I advocate everyone have a game plan and more money saved before making a big life-changing decision. However, in 2010 when I was young and couldn't find a job (because of the recession), I really did figure out how to move to a new city with no money and it worked out. While I definitely recommend being smart, I also think it's important to be bold, especially when you don't think there are any other options. For those out there who have big dreams, but little funds…this post is for you. – LB

Related: The Financial Best Life 5 Core Money Beliefs

First, How I Ended Up Broke, Unemployed, and in Need of a Change

Flash back five years ago to the Summer of 2010. It was my first post-college summer and I'd spent it singing and dancing in a country music show at a well-known American theme park.  I was living paycheck to paycheck (because of the shopping addiction I had in college that had left me with a lot of bad money habits and you know..copious amounts of credit card debt.) Still, I was able to make a full-time living and support myself by being an actor, and at the time, I was HIGH on the fact I was living out my dream.

..Until we got laid off before our contract ended and I had no backup plan or backup savings.

I was unable to get another job in Atlanta, so I had to move back into my parents house. I remember getting $122.00 each week in unemployment checks. After about 2 and a half months of being unable to find work, I called my best friend Jackie to cry to a listening ear.

She'd just taken her internship full time and was living the glamorous life in NYC.

“Why don't you just move to New York? There are tons of jobs here.”

Addicted to Sex and the City re-runs, moving to New York was something I'd dreamed about doing my entire life. Several of my college friends had departed for New York or L.A. immediately upon graduation. I didn't have the savings for that, and I also wanted more time to “Cut my teeth” in regional theater before I made the leap to the big time in New York.

But every time I thought about it, I always had an excuse. Sometimes they were really good, and sometimes they weren't.

I was in a bad way that Summer: single, chronically unemployed, no money, and with it being the middle of the recession, no end in site.

Why can't I move to New York? I mean, it wasn't like I had anything to lose.

I hung up the phone and my mind began to race. The only thing holding me back was money and fear of the unknown.

Later that night I was browsing Facebook and discovered my arch nemesis had finally made the leap and moved to New York.

If she can do it, so can I, I thought. And that night I vowed I was going to make the move- NYC or bust. I had no money, no prospects and I ended up successfully relocating and living in New York for about two years. Here's how I did it.

I know that what I'm about to outline below is pretty overwhelming (but exciting!) so I put together a FREE checklist for those of you who are actually serious about making a big move happen. This way you can stay more organized and actually make the big stuff happen. Click here to get the free “Making Your Big Move with No Money” Checklist as part of my subscriber freebie series!

 

How to Move to a New City with No Money (The Steps I Took to Make it Happen)

Tip #1 – Save as Much as You Can Beforehand

My Mom bought my plane ticket to New York in exchange for me organizing the garage. I made a plan of when I wanted to fly up (I still remember the exact date!) – October 17th 2010- and squirreled away my scant unemployment checks for six weeks. After paying off only credit card minimums each month, I had about $300 to my name when I moved to New York.

You can also start saving the “change” from your checking account (hey, every little bit helps, right?) with apps like Qapital, which weren't around in 2010, but can offer big benefits in the here and now. I know it doesn't seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. By using the “round up” rule where every purchase got rounded up to the nearest even dollar amount, I saved $75 my first month with Qapital.

Which is a quarter of what I moved to NYC with right there.

Related: 8 Ways to Quickly Build Up Savings in the Next 12 Months, 5 Easy Things to Cut When Saving or Paying Off Debt

Tip #2 – Coordinate a Place to Stay in Advance

My best friend Jackie was already in New York working, and a few of my other friends from summer programs and college had migrated that way as well. So, I sucked up my pride and asked if I could stay with each of them for a week or two while I got on my feet. At one particular apartment, I fell in love with the three guys living there and they ended up inviting me to stay for the long term. We lived four people to a three bedroom apartment.

Yes, it was tight, but it was so much fun in the way that only being young, broke, and new to an exciting city together can be.Eventually, I began contributing an equal share to the rent, but it took me about six weeks to get there.

“Couch surfing” is pretty common among NYC newcomers. I know in the time I lived in NYC in that apartment I shared with the roommates we had 4-5 people staying there for 2-3 weeks at a time until they moved on to the next place or found their own apartment.

LB Tip to Combat Homesickness: It helps if you can have a parent or friend ship your own bedding (pillows, comforter, whatever) to the place you're moving to so you can at least have your own stuff as you surf from place to place. It was so nice to snuggle up in my old stuff at night!

 

Tip #3 – Have a Backup Plan

With any big decision, you always need an escape route/back-up plan. I strategically decided to move in the middle of October. I knew if I got stranded, my folks would buy me a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving. So, I told myself if I didn't have a job by Thanksgiving I would call it quits and come home.

Things ended up working out in my favour, but I felt stronger being able to say, “yes, I can come home if it doesn't work out.”

Tip #4 – Side Hustle Your Way to Extra Savings

At the time I wasn't a blogger or writer, but I did make money by being a part-time assistant for someone I knew. And also taking surveys on survey sites. Here are some of my favorites.

Related: FBL's 5 Best Posts on Making More Money,  How to Start a Side Hustle: The Complete Guide

 

How To Get a Job in a New City with No Prospects

It isn't enough to simply move to a new city without any money. You need a plan in place for how you're going to thrive when you get there, and for most people this means getting some form of income so they can support themselves.

As I prepared to move to New York I thought long and hard about what it was going to take to make a new life in a new place…with no money. I knew I'd that in order to stay in the city, I'd have to get a job right away. Taking inventory of my skill sets I knew I could do one of two things – be an actor, or being an administrative assistant like I was all throughout school. (Thanks Dad for making me slave away at your optometry practice every summer!)

Related: The 5 Best Job Sites to Land Your Dream Gig

Tip #4 – Create a Resume for The Type of Job You Have in Mind

I wrote a new resume I thought would be perfect for the type of admin roles I was looking for. It was tough putting my “Actor self” on the back burner, but that was what needed to be done.

Related: Need help putting together a standout resume? Try UptoWork's resume builder  tool. FBL readers can enter in code Ma5DYIZJ at checkout to get one month of the premium plan for FREE!

Tip #5 – Submit to Temp Agencies

NYC was rife with temp agencies looking for qualified new candidates for both short and long term assignments. I browsed mainly on Craiglist for listings and started sending my resume off a week before I left. Many replied to me that same day and wanted to meet before I arrived, but I was able to schedule out appointments for the next week without making it look like I wasn't an actual resident.

I had three screening interviews with agencies my first full day in New York thanks to me scheduling things out. It felt great to get up in a new city and have some place to be. I was sent on my first “temp” assignment a week after.

If you are worried about your lack of administrative background, as long as you have a college degree this shouldn't be too hard. Literally everyone can type on the computer and answer the phone. They mostly just want smart, reliable people.

Tip #6 – Scour Job Sites

Craigslist in those days was still a big way to find (non-scam) jobs. I also like Monster, ZipRecruiter and Indeed for finding good job leads.

Tip #7 – Use an Address from Your New City so You Look Local

Probably the most important “trick” I used was putting a NYC address on my resume. I used one of my friend's (I got their permission first). Whenever someone asked me during an interview how long I'd been in NYC I usually said I'd just moved a few weeks ago and was excited to start looking for work in the city.

It didn't really bother anyone that I was a newcomer. After all, it's New York.

How I Finally Got On My Feet in a New Place

I Landed A Job!

The entire time I temped I also went out for interviews for full-time positions. After a few close calls, I was finally given an offer at the hedge fund I eventually went to work for and (the one I frequently mentioned as part of my origin story on this blog.) I ended up working for them for almost 18 months.

..And Tracked My Spending

I did temp, but it took me about two weeks to begin getting paid for the gigs. Based on my savings from my pre-NYC days, I only gave myself about ten dollars to eat off of each day. So, I ate a lot of honey buns and Frito's from the bodega around the corner to stay on budget. Walking everywhere helped keep the weight off from my poor diet. If I had an interview I would treat myself to Subway or Chinese food.

Sound sad? It was. But that's the kind of grit and determination that gets you through those poor-as-a-mouse years in your early 20's.

You can use Learnvest or Mint.com to track your spending. I also recommend the Grow Your Money Tree tool kit, which tracks your debt and assets month over month.

….Created a Budget

Once I finally had an income coming in, I needed a great budget so I'd never have to go back to the “honey bun” diet ever again.

I started reading Learnvest.com, which was in its infancy back in 2010/2011. Eventually, I took their online course on setting up a budget, which is how I used the 50-30-20 method to split up my finances and start stacking away 20% of each paycheck toward my own apartment and a real bed.

I slept on a futon the first three months I lived in the city. Yeouch. #sacrifices people.

Related: Creating Your Best Ever Budget in 10 Easy Steps

..And (Finally) Learned How to Save

In my So Money interview with Farnoosh, I talked about the moment I learned about money: it was when I was sitting at my desk at my new job while all my friends were out auditioning. I didn't want to be behind anymore because of my money decisions, so I had to train myself to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mindset. Eventually, I was able to pay off that $10k in credit card debt from college and start living life again – except this time, I was in my dream city!

 

In Summary

Moving far away from home on your own is hard. Moving far away from home without any money or contacts is excruciating. While it was daring and fun and adventurous, I wouldn't recommend such adversity to anyone who didn't have to do it. Make a plan, save your pennies, and do things the right way. It'll be a much easier transition.

New York didn't work out for me for the long term, but I know I wouldn't have the things in my life  I have now if I had never taken charge of my own life and made the move. It taught me the value of tenacity and being good with money, but most importantly it taught me that if you don't like something about your life it is up to you to change it.

 

Here's how to move to a new city with no money, no job prospects, and only a handful of connections from someone who did it with $300.

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  • La Toya
    August 30, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Hello. I also made a move to NYC with very little money, no job or apartment waiting for me, not ever being there before, not knowing a single soul there, and I went all by myself. I was 26 at the time. Family, friends and acquantainces thought I was crazy. After submitting my 2 weeks resignation letter, I bought my one way flight ticket, and had a little under 500 dollars, with another 500 dollars heading my way (last check). My first thought when I landed was “now I need to book a room at the YMCA.” So I Googled “YMCA in Manhattan” and booked a room.

    Looking back, that experience was worth it. I ended up renting a studio in Harrison, NJ. Then became roommates with a friend I made in Flatbush, Brooklyn (I met her at a local bible study). I literally went by faith and all proved to work. I’m now going to take another leap of faith and move to Greensboro, NC. A similar kind of situation, no job and barely enough money to get me there. I have 2 months to save as much money as possible, but a majority of that will be used to pay my last two months of rent, and all other bills.

    The moral of my story is a move may never be perfect. But it sure beats feeling like you’re dying in a place that you don’t enjoy.

    I’m looking forward to this next adventure. Athough kind of fearful, luckily this time I have a cousin’s couch to land at.

  • ChuckA
    August 4, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Wow, this was my migration in reverse. I had a garage sale and sold most of my stuff in NY in 1993 and moved to Atlanta. My “friend” who was going to help me move with a trailer bailed on the day I was moving. I had all my remaining stuff on the street until I could rent a u-haul. I used the money I saved to live off of the first 3 months on the u-haul. I didn’t know anyone in Atlanta so I just started calling companies and filling out applications everywhere. I got a job at the Radioshack on Bankhead Hwy, cleaning wrestling mats for the WCW, and repairing CRT video monitors. 20+ years later I’m still enjoying the ATL.

  • grace
    July 16, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Hey, thanks for this article! Although it’s true that she has backup and friends, what do you expect, people? stop being so salty and just take the lesson in this article!!
    anw I’m thinking to move to a new country with no job prospect, so i was inspired by your article. will be harder, I know, but at least I know where to start 🙂

    • Lauren Bowling
      July 17, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Thanks Grace! I’m glad you found it useful, and good luck with your move. 🙂

  • giulia
    July 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

    Every single woman in the planet would like to have a Sex & the ity lifestyle…but sometimes isn’t possible..but I love this kind of pst because are real testimonials and are really inspiring….thanks for sharing it:D

  • richardcodes
    March 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I made a site to help people with this exact situation. I think a lot of people want to move to a cool city, but are afraid they won’t be able to make it. My site lets you know how much above the local minimum wage you need to make to survive. Check it out! https://www.brokekidcoolcity.com

  • Kelli-Anne Harris
    December 19, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Honestly, This is pretty inspiring for those who have nothing much to lose and the will to carry on and make something of their situation.Even if it is dangerous, if you have people who don’t mind you couch-surfing at their place while you are getting on your feet, count yourself VERY fortunate. NYC is filled with so much..well everything..while it’s certainly most expensive there is plenty of opportunity. I plan on at-least visiting and subletting during the summer months to take acting intensives and go on alot of auditions. I am trying to decide between there and LA. I know with my job experience I can make good money doing brand ambassador work on a daily basis. Where there’s a will there’s a way…I have all my dept paid off thankfully just saving up now.

  • Nidjd Nufh
    July 18, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Ehhhhh, she was couch surfing (so she DID have a place(s) to live) and she had unemployment checks (so she DID have money). Strange article.

  • hayley
    June 20, 2016 at 8:21 am

    this is completely irrelevant because you had six weeks weeks of unemployment checks saved……who even gets unemployment anymore? i know 800 bucks isnt much, but it can last if you make it. also you had friends to fall back on in new york…stuuuuppid.

  • Natalie
    June 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    To move somewhere in your own country is not so scary as to move in other country! I moved from my country in my 19 to the country with different language(english which i didnt know and didn learn),far from parents,friends….country with different way of living,people which i still cannot understand,different mentality,where i didnt have friends,people i know,places,nothing. Moved ALONE. And where i didnt have permition to work as i foreigner(and i still dont have),there they dont give you any credit card and etc coz you foreigner…and this is SCARY. But everything comes in right time, the point is never give up! I celebrated 6 years of moving and dont regret))

  • Angel
    May 16, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I came to this post hoping to get real life advice but instead read about a pampered, privileged, middle-class young lady with parents to catch her if she fell. I’m broke, unemployed, chronically ill, with no family and have to move out of my condo in 2 weeks because the owner decided to sell it. I have nowhere to go, no prospects. No mommy & daddy to pony up a plane ticket. I’m beyond scared. Numb is more like it. Darling, I hope you never find yourself in my shoes. Stay privileged.

    • technoreaper
      August 26, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Did everything work out for you?

  • ash
    May 13, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    She lost me at couch surfing. I completely stopped reading after that. You only had 300.00 but you had a place (places) to sleep. I thought that this would literally be for someone who actually has no money/prospects…

  • brownin329
    December 10, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Wow. Why did I read this? Please don’t do this. Have your ducks lines up before you come anywhere, especially to a place like NYC. I am from New York City and it is not the easiest place to get a start. Especially now. And it is not that easy to get a temp gig.

    For every story like this there are 1000 guys and girls that end up on the streets, dancing or doing whatever to “make their dreams come true.” And they don’t have a home to go to, and some that do, find they can’t go home again. New York is no place to come without cash, a good place to stay, connections that can get you a real job and a serious plan. Best way to do it is to come for school. Many foreign students do this, but they usually come from people with a lot of money or on some kind of grant or loan from their home countries and have connections already here.

    Please be responsible and pragmatic. Keep the pollyanna-ism to a minimum. Thank you.

    • palmspringsboi
      March 19, 2016 at 3:12 am

      It’s called a risk.

      • brownin329
        August 13, 2016 at 7:15 pm

        It’s called dangerous. I didn’t say don’t come, just plan it better.

        • Ultimodragonair
          August 13, 2016 at 7:58 pm

          The fact that it’s dangerous makes it a risk. So, it’s called a risk. I never said that you said don’t come, some people don’t need extensive planning. Don’t be ignorant.

    • Tiffany Robinson
      March 19, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Seriously? It’s called taking a risk and going after your dreams – nothing amazing and worth truly having comes without some sort of risk. Imagine if every famous or influential artist/musician/actor/figure in history, who moved to NYC without the “right” amount of money or contacts, had taken this advice. Please.

      • brownin329
        August 13, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        Please yourself. Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it will work for others. Get real. I mean it.

    • aroundthewayJ
      August 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Im from NYC. Ive left and come back twice and Im planning a third time. I WILL however, give myself a year and save a couple thousand. I plan to store my crap and couch surf for a month or so. Why the F not? You only live once. Follow your dreams.

      • brownin329
        August 13, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        Good for you. You only live once so do it right.

    • technoreaper
      August 26, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Yeah, NYC is basically a haven for trust funders and finance a-holes from all over the world now. It probably was better back in the old days, when there were a ton of factories and plants you could work at, but not now. Also, rent was cheap and there were a ton of other desperate people like you that could make it work.

      It doesn’t even really sound like she was successful, honestly. I think she did move back home.

      • Lauren Bowling
        March 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm

        I did stay for two years, but yes, did move home in 2012. In the end I realized New York wasn’t for me…cost of living being a chief reason.

  • Leslie
    October 6, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m considering moving to NYC but I’m very nervous about not having the funds and not having a job lined up before I moved there. Your post has inspired me to make the leap!

    • Lauren Bee
      October 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Ah! Congrats Leslie- way to go.

  • Michelle
    September 14, 2015 at 10:06 am

    The thing about this post that I love is you were always taking action steps to for both short-term and long-term goals every week. You also worked your plan of action.

    • Lauren Bee
      October 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks Michelle!

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor
    August 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Thankfully when I came to NY, I was in school so I had a subsidized place to live (student housing) and didn’t have to sleep on any couches. The NYC experience is definitely unique. It’s not for everybody, but it’s at worth least a try so you aren’t wondering “what if.” I’m glad you were able to live out that dream.

    • L Bee
      August 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      What school did you attend? I always wondered what it would be like to be a young student in New York.

  • cantaloupe
    August 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I hosted many a person who was moving to NYC on my couch while they searched for a place/saved up some money/looked for a job to be able to get an apartment. It is totally the norm. And when I move back, I fully intend to cash in on those couch times.

    • L Bee
      August 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      You definitely should! I know I would, and I know we always had someone staying in our living room. It was part of the fun and charm of NYC life.

  • AverageJoe
    August 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Great story. It’s funny how life works out….NYC seems like it made it easier for you to go anywhere and do anything you wanted afterward.

  • Tushar @ Everything Finance
    August 15, 2013 at 4:03 am

    You are brave! I couldn’t imagine moving anywhere with $300. I also hate sleeping on couches, but that’s another story all together.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans
    August 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Moving to NY is still on my bucket list and I can’t wait to finally do it! It’s always good to read other people’s experiences with it.

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      I recommend living in NY For a year or two to anyone. You learn SO much, and I get super nostalgic whenever I see a movie that features NYC. Just make sure you save your pennies before you go 🙂

  • Girl Meets Debt
    August 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I loved hearing that you lived your NYC dreams. It may not have worked out but you will never be 40 years old and left wondering “what if?” Great post L Bee 🙂

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      Exactly. I sleep pretty well at night!

  • jim
    August 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Darling,
    I am absolutely LOVING this post. Good for you!!!!!

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Aww. Thanks Jim!

  • Stefanie
    August 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I’m a New York City actress and it’s tough stuff. Was that what you were pursuing while you were here? I find that prospective actors who move to the city without a reasonable amount of savings spend most of their time working “survival jobs” rather than pursuing the dream they came here to achieve. Either way though, it’s quite an experience.

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      That is what I came there to do, yes, but because I had so little I had to take a “survival job” right away. And it had to be a little bit more than survival since I had so much debt to pay off. Should’ve included that in the story!

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
    August 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I think it was really brave and resourceful that you made that happen even though you didn’t have a ton of cash. Many people cite “not enough money” as a reason not to do something – but not you! Good job.

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks Jordann. I’m glad I did it.

  • Pauline
    August 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

    I find it interesting how you were living paycheck to paycheck and suddenly having no money made you thrifty, you hustled for your ticket, made ends meet, etc.

    • L Bee
      August 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      It was a lesson for sure. I’d never *not* had money, but my parents kicked me off the gravy train and I had to fend for myself.

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