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

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Nine years ago I took a leap of faith and moved from Atlanta to New York City. I had nothing but a few contacts in the city, $300 to my name, and one suitcase. Funny, right? It’s one of my favorite cocktail party stories. But the move was one out of desperation, and definitely not an easy one, so in 2015 I put together this guide on how to move to a new city with no money and it’s been one of the most popular on the blog ever since.

 

Even though I was broke at the start, taking a risk and moving helped to land me in the stronger financial situation I’m in now. Not to mention it changed my life for the better and made me richer in emotional ways I could never have fathomed.

 

Moving to a new city with zero funds can be done. For those in a similar situation (broke, dissatisfied with your current job, in need of a change) and looking for a way out, the steps below are ones I took to successfully land in a new place with an income, friends, and an apartment.

 

 

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.  At the time, I was able to make a full-time living and support myself by being an actor, and was HIGH on the fact I was living out my dream and putting my theatre degree to use.

 

..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 because I couldn’t make rent where I was living.

 

Back at home and on unemployment, I remember getting $122.00 each week in unemployment checks. This was 2010 (the beginning of the recession) and 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.” She asked.

 

Addicted to Sex and the City re-runs, moving to New York was something I'd dreamed about doing my entire life. Being an actor, I knew I’d move there eventually, but every time I thought about actually doing it, I always had an excuse.

 

Sometimes they were really good, and sometimes they weren't.

 

I was in a bad way that Summer: 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 thought. I mean, it wasn't like I had anything to lose.

 

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

 

With zero to lose, I began to formulate my plan for how I’d get to New York City…with zero in savings.

 

 

How to Move to a New City with No Money

 

I offer a “Moving to a New City with No Money” checklist as a thank you freebie for joining my mailing list. Click here to get the free checklist.

 

 

Step #1 – Save as Much as You Can Beforehand

 

With zero money, I bartered with my Mom, who agreed to buy 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.

 

But I don’t recommend doing it this way.

 

For those who want to move but want to be more strategic and have a bigger nest egg in savings (highly encouraged) here are more ways to quickly generate cash.

 

 

 

Need a place to stash your savings? I recommend CIT Bank (love them, keep my business savings here!) because they have one of the highest interest rates around (25x the national average) with zero fees or minimums. All it takes is $100 to start. Learn more here.

 

Step #2 – Coordinate a Place to Stay in Advance

 

 

 

The most important part of moving (whether you’re doing it with money or without) is having a place to stay when you get there. Seriously, accommodations are important. Since this is about moving with no money, I recommend checking out Couchsurfing.com or calling the local YMCA (if applicable.)

 

In my story, my best friend Jackie was already in New York working, as well as a  few of my other friends from summer programs and college. (#theatrekids) 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.

 

 

Step #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 at least 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 favor, but I felt stronger being able to say, “yes, I can come home if it doesn't work out.”

 

 

Step #4 – Side Hustle Your Way to Extra Savings

 

 

 

 

At the time I wasn't a blogger or writer, but I did supplement my unemployment income by being a part-time assistant for someone I knew. It’s also slow going to make money with surveys, but it can be done and is a great way to scrounge up extra.

 

 

Need a side hustle spreadsheet? Savings and debt tracker? What about a budget for your new life in a new city? Check out the Financial Best Life Blueprint which includes everything need to succeed (financially) while starting over in a new place.

 

How To Move to a New City with No Job

 

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. 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. Within my first two weeks of moving to New York I had a job offer. Here’s what I did to make that happen.

 

 

Step #5 – Create a Resume for The Type of Job You Have in Mind

 

 

You have skills. Everyone does. Sure, they may not be what you want to do, but you moved to a new city for a reason. In order to make it work in that new city, you’ll need an income.

 

 

Ask yourself, “Based on my background and prior work experience, what kind of job could I get very easily?”

 

Then, write a new resume based on that type of job.

 

When I moved, I wrote a new resume I thought would be perfect for the type of admin roles I was looking for. I’d spent years in high school and college answering phones and filing at Doctor’s offices.

 

It was tough putting my “Actor self” on the back burner, but that was what needed to be done.

 

Step #6 – 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 one week before I left. (They have both admin jobs and other types of “gigs” if you can wait tables or play music, etc.)

 

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 a 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.

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

 

 

 

Probably the most important “trick” I used when moving to a new city with no job 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 to Financially Land on Your Feet in a New City

 

 

Step #8 – Track Your 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.

 

Suffice to say, 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.

 

 

 

Step #8 – Create a Budget and Live Within Your Means

 

 

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, which was in its infancy back in 2010 and 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.

 

Here's my free 50-30-20 budget template.

 

 

 

Step #9 – Save, Save, Save

 

 

If you move to a new city with no money and manage to make it work, the most important part of your new life in saving money. Not only will you need to save up money to get your own apartment, but you’ll also want to start saving for emergencies.

 

Start by “paying yourself first” into a savings account completely separate from your checking account with each paycheck.

 

Watch the savings stack up over time.

 

Plan carefully and thoughtfully before making purchases.

 

Take heart: this period of watching every penny won’t last forever. The first year in a new place is a very precarious time until you can get a foothold on your finances.

 

 

 

Don't forget about the importance of having a separate place for your money. If you don't already have a separate savings account, click here to view options from CIT Bank.

 

How to Move to a New City with No Friends

 

 

Previously, I wrote an article on making friends in your 20’s and 30’s. Many of the tips I’d give for moving to a new city with no friends are similar to the ones I give in this article.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Friendship is like dating – someone has to ask to hang out!
  • Make continual efforts to see your new friends
  • Find friends in the sphere you already inhabit. Think your apartment, work, your nearby coffee shop, dog park, etc. You already have things in common!
  • Let other people invite you to make friends. If you know someone else who is looking for friends, be a connector.

 

Really, I think the biggest thing to remember about making friends in a new place is that it takes time and continual effort.

 

 

 

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, about the importance of being good with money, but most of all it taught me that if you don't like something about your life it is up to you to change it.

 

Don't forget about the free worksheet I created to go along with this post. Subscribe for access then check your email inbox!

*this post was updated on February 13th, 2019

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212 Shares
    • La Toya
    • August 30, 2017

    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.

  1. 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

    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

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

  2. 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

    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

    1. Thanks for sharing Richard!

    • Kelli-Anne Harris
    • December 19, 2016

    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.

    1. Thanks Kelli-Anne!

    • Nidjd Nufh
    • July 18, 2016

    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

    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

    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

    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

      Did everything work out for you?

    • ash
    • May 13, 2016

    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

    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

      It’s called a risk.

        • brownin329
        • August 13, 2016

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

          • Ultimodragonair
          • August 13, 2016

          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

      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

        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

      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

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

      • technoreaper
      • August 26, 2016

      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.

      1. 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

    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!

    1. Ah! Congrats Leslie- way to go.

  3. 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.

    1. Thanks Michelle!

  4. 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

      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

    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

      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

    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

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

    • Girl Meets Debt
    • August 14, 2013

    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

      Exactly. I sleep pretty well at night!

    • Stefanie
    • August 14, 2013

    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

      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

    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

      Thanks Jordann. I’m glad I did it.

  5. 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

      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 🙂

    • jim
    • August 14, 2013

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

      • L Bee
      • August 14, 2013

      Aww. Thanks Jim!

    • Pauline
    • August 14, 2013

    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

      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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