Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons from the Big Apple

I've officially lived in NYC for one month! It's absolutely amazing and I don't know if the honeymoon phase will ever end. :) I thought I would share some lessons I've learned so far:

  • Own GREAT walking shoes. You will walk everywhere! Your feet will definitely be sore! I have a pair of sneakers and a pair of flat boots (with inserts) that are lifesavers, especially since I'm a bit far from the subway but I live close enough to walk to work.
  • Flowers are ridiculously cheap. Two blocks away from where I lived you can buy 2 dozen roses for $8! Men and women, you can afford to ALWAYS buy flowers!
  • The bus is a completely underrated mode of transportation. During the summer it'll be my choice over the sweltering subway stations!
  • My iPhone is invaluable. Google Maps gets me anywhere, whether it's by walking or by public transportation.
  • Walk on the right. Sidewalks, stairs, etc. The other 8 million+ New Yorkers will thank you. Oh, and let them off first on the subway/bus!
  • The weather is fickle. Be prepared for anything at all times! I have an extra pair of socks and an umbrella in my purse at all times.
  • Yes, it can be a lonely city - but you CAN and WILL meet new people. Reach out to anyone and everyone. I have, and so far, it has been great! People will surprise you in a good way :)
  • Cheap food is abundant. Yes, most of it isn't the healthiest...but $5 for a combo platter from the Halal cart near my work lasts me 2-3 meals depending on how hungry I am! (I do get my fill of fruit/veggies from here, though.)
  • Re: cheap food, I have an obsession with food carts. Shout out to New York Street Food.
  • Ear plugs are fantastic, especially with loud roommates and/or a window directly on the street. Case in point.
  • 99% of the city residents are also transplants. I randomly met a native San Diegan in Union Square on Easter!
  • Times Square is a tourist trap. I avoid it like the plague...but maybe that's just my "I-live-in-NYC" mentality ;)
  • Don't buy a lot of stuff if you aren't close to your apartment. Dragging a bunch of bags on the subway is not fun! I try to stick to the one-reusable-bag-only rule.
  • Apartment hunting is a little ridiculous. While using a broker seems expensive, it would be so much less of a headache - so try to look for a place with at least one other person instead of just a room somewhere!
  • Always look around and up. There is so much to see and there is also a lot of amazing architecture!
  • Every neighborhood and borough has a different feel. Check them all out and just get lost. It's really fun and you never know what areas you'll end up really liking.
  • No malls = frustrating to go shopping because all the stores aren't in one location.
I could tell you so much more...but I think this is a decent start!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Partyin' Partyin'

The past two weekends and the week in between found my social calendar PACKED and I loved every minute of it! Going out every night and brunch every day on the weekends, going for drinks with my upcoming roommate last Tuesday and hanging out with two Australian backpackers for the past five days who are friends of one of the girls in the current sublet. (Yes, I'm finally getting along with one of them and yes, being social = expensive but worth every penny!)

That also means I've been bitten by the international travel bug...dreams of London in September and perhaps Munich in October, and Thailand one year from December?! I forgot how amazing it is to connect with fellow travelers. I was incredibly impressed that they saved up for their year-long adventure for two years prior to embarking. Hooray for savings and it's turned into the adventure of a lifetime for them! Hmm...I wonder if I could convince one of my best friends to go traveling together for a whole year. Now that's a true test of friendship.

I got my first New York care package from my Mom! It included my favorite Cadbury Mini Eggs, a second towel, refund checks, a new necklace, two tank tops, face wash and a slew of mail. Yay! So random but always things I need. Mom knows best for sure. :)

Oh and remember when I mentioned getting a gym membership? Well I got the corporate discount last week so I paid $50 for April ($29 unavoidable processing fee and $21 April pro-rate) and I'll pay $54/month going forward for an all-access, one-year pass. I went today and while yes, gyms are very expensive here, my discount is an amazing deal and totally worth it! Just glad I didn't have to pay it all up-front. Perfect. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Found" Money

I have various savings funds in my ING Direct account. The biggest one, of course, is my Emergency Fund. I have a few others like my Travel Fund and Gift Fund that get used on a semi-regular basis. Then... I have other smaller accounts. Some of which I sort-of forgot about over the past few months, especially the two related to my car: Car Maintenance and Car Insurance.

Clearly, I don't need either of those anymore since I sold my car! My Car Maintenance Fund has $650 in it and my Car Insurance Fund has $930. I was canceling some automatic transfers from my checking account which included those two and made me remember to check how much was in them. Oh, and there's the $615 in my 25th Birthday/Christian Louboutin Fund which I clearly never spent and after some thinking, I just can't bring myself to buy such expensive heels! (Maybe one day. Because I AM madly in love with them!)

I'm not sure what to do with some of this money. Save it? Spend it? Half and half? I'm thinking of making some near-future pricey purchases like a new laptop (my first Mac?) and getting a few items tailored for work like pants (~$70 each) and a skirt.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apartment Hunting in NYC

So I managed to secure the current (one-month) sublet that I'm currently in with the crazy girls while I was still in San Diego. (Yes, they still smoke, but it seems to have calmed down some - maybe because they are starting to show the place?) Anyway, that was an effort in and of itself to find this sublet while I wasn't in the city but I got really lucky, plus I didn't want to sleep on my friends' couch for an entire month! I figured once I arrived in New York, actually being here would be a huge advantage to finding a more permanent place, a room in an already furnished apartment where I could just sign onto a 1-year lease.

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

A week and a half after I got here, I started looking for shares. A share = your own room in an apartment aka not living by yourself. (Not the same terminology used on the West Coast!) I sent e-mails, I posted on Facebook, I contacted every person I could think of who might have connections in the city. I also figured out a budget and stuck within that range.

And I scoured Craigslist like it was my job. Which is almost was! I had a Craigslist window open on my work computer and would refresh it every hour. I would come home from work and continue to check it in between gym/errands/socializing. Whenever something that sounded decent in the areas I wanted showed up, with or without pictures, I immediately sent an email. I had a short paragraph written about myself, my schedule and my habits that I would copy/paste into each e-mail. I would possibly ask a question or two, inquire about pictures (if there weren't any on the listing) and then ask to schedule a viewing.

Do you know how many e-mails I sent out? 28.

Do you know how many replies I got? 7.

Do you know how many apartments I actually saw? 4.

That's right. I only saw FOUR! Below is the breakdown of each one. Most of the time I just wouldn't get a solid feeling so I would pass based on that. Also, whenever I would get an address from a potential place, I would immediately put it into the Bed Bug Registry website to see if the building had ever had issues. I chose not to look at two places because last year over half the units in each building were infested! GROSS! Not something I wanted to have to worry about.

Apartment 1
Location: Chelsea
Price: $1,175/month (+$60 utilities)
Pros: LOCATION! This was a corner unit on a main avenue and street in the heart of Chelsea. Super cute area, very close to the subway, across the street from a grocery store plus had views of the Empire State Building. The living room and kitchen/dining area were an open plan and LARGE.
Cons: It smelled of smoke when I walked in. The available bedroom was TINY, even by Manhattan standards. It could just fit a full bed and a really small nightstand. There was a closet in the room but it was also tiny/cramped. The room was also directly next to the front door and landing for the floor, plus it was on a very busy/noisy street. Turns out the two other girls in the place were also on similar schedules to me which makes the bathroom situation complicated. It was also awkward because there were three other girls checking it out at the same time and they were trying to compete for the attention of the girls who were showing the room. I've never dealt with a situation like that before for a RENTAL but hey - welcome to Manhattan! ;)
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 2
Location: Upper West Side (low 70s)
Price: $1,075/month (+$45/month utilities)
Pros: Good location, close to to the subway and not too far from where my friends live in the UWS. Two blocks from a Trader Joe's! Available room was very big! It could fit a full or queen bed, wardrobe, desk and dresser plus have space to move around in.
Cons: Very old building which had had bedbug issues in the past, cramped bathroom (I tripped over the toilet walking in!), old everything and gross/moldy tiles in the bathroom. Turns out the two girls who were currently living there were considering moving out in two months as well, even though they advertised for someone to sign onto the 1-year lease after the sublet period was over. I just didn't get a good feeling from this place.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 3
Location: Upper West Side (high 90s)
Price: $800/month (+$75 utilities)
Pros: CHEAP! Decent location, in between two subway lines and still relatively close to my friends in the same neighborhood.
Cons: Another old apartment, weird bathroom setup, TINY bedroom again and also directly next to the front door. The girl needed someone immediately (as in, sign the paperwork the next day in order to avoid it being put on the market by a broker and to avoid paying a broker's fee!) and there were about 12 people looking at the place! It was like vultures, even worse than the Chelsea place and I didn't even get to talk to the girl who was looking for roommates.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 4
Location: Hell's Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West
Price: $1,060 (including utilities)
Pros: Very clean apartment, renovated kitchen (brand new stainless steel appliances!) and bathroom, decent-sized 9x12 furnished bedroom including air conditioner, small closet and some built-in shelves plus lots of under-bed storage, on the same block as my current sublet, laid-back/quiet male roommate who works a lot but was friendly and a NON-SMOKER! The building is kept in good shape and the entranceway/lobby had all new tile work.
Cons: 3-month sublet (I wanted to sign a 1-year lease somewhere to have a more permanent place), no cable, no dining or coffee table. Really? That's what I could come up with?! Those are not deal breakers at ALL but more "nice-to-haves" that I'd definitely give up in exchange for a fantastic place!
Verdict: MINE!

I went to bed last night with a really solid feeling about the place. I knew I had found "the one"...even if it's just for a few months! I got up this morning and immediately sent an email to them letting them know I was very interested if they thought I would be a good fit, and not 10 minutes later I received a "HOORAY! We liked you too!" reply that make me super happy. So, yes, I'll have to move again in a few months, but I feel like I found a gem. Especially when they told me they had received over 20 responses on the first day alone and weeded through them to find the "good people." :) Goodbye, crazy-drunk-smoking-girls that I'm currently living with. You were good while you lasted!

The advice I would give someone looking for a share in Manhattan? Just keep looking! Something will come along. Yes, it's incredibly frustrating and a lot of work, but it's worth it and it will work out in the end! Oh and have a good write-up about about yourself. That definitely made me stand out, from what people told me. Be willing to compromise! Whether that's on price, size, location, length of lease/sublet...something has to give at the end of the day. Last but not least: TRUST YOUR GUT. You will know. :)

[image via]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New York City Life: Some Updates

[via weheartit]

I'm still on the hunt for an apartment. It's frustrating but I know it'll work out! I've seen three places including the one I briefly wrote about in my last post and I have two more scheduled for this week. Plus I'm sending replying to all the possible Craigslist ads I can, so it really is taking up a big chunk of time.

I'm still eating out for 2 meals a day. (I've been keeping bagels/fruit at work for breakfast though!) It's still fun, even though sometimes I do feel guilty. Sometimes. ;) Oh and I'm in love with vanilla chais from Dunkin Donuts! I had one last Friday and another on Sunday...and could totally go for one now thanks to the rain/thunderstorm. Good thing I'm feeling lazy tonight!

My social life is...okay. One of my best girlfriends lives in city so I'm always included in her and her roommates' plans, but they were both out of town the last two weekends! So, I've been reaching out to other people I know of. I had a blast meeting up (twice!) with Leslie of 27 and Frugal recently and I'm also hoping to meet up with other bloggers soon, like Carolyn and Jessica! (Those last two blogs make me want to turn from a PF blogger to a regular blogger...hmm, food for thought?!) I've also sent e-mails to old friends who live in the city and a family friend's nephew/his girlfriend who said they'd be more than happy to help me make some connections in the city. It's definitely an adjustment going from having a consistent social life (friends, book club, bootcamps, etc) to basically being alone. Don't get me wrong, I am LOVING this time of exploring the city, doing what I want, eating what I want and relishing the time to myself. But I'm a people-person so it IS tough! It will pass though as I start to get to know more people and join things.

Speaking of joining things, I am planning on joining New York Sports Club. I believe I get a discount through work, but I think I have pay for a whole YEAR up front. That'll be about $800! EEK! However, for me it's totally worth it. I loved the Total Body Conditioning class I took and the Cardio Kickboxing was okay (the class had a substitute instruction so maybe that was why), but they have such a variety that I know I'll be happy there. I watched one of the Boxing classes and I definitely want to try it, but they seem tough to get it. (You have to call at 6am when they open or something to be lucky to get a spot!) I'll be doing this in the next month or two once I actually start getting my regular paychecks at work. Until then, lots of walking and occasionally dancing the night away!

By the way, I'd love to hear any of your advice on moving to a new city, meeting people and adjusting to new (yet familiar to me) surroundings. I definitely can't wait to have a more permanent place in the city. I can't even get mail here because I don't know how, hah!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Week One and a Half

This city is a dream come true. Some days I feel like I'm on vacation instead of actually living here! I definitely can't believe I've already been here for a week and a half. It's feeling like home, but maybe that's just because I'm so comfortable navigating through the city on my own? It's just so familiar from all my prior visits!

Work has been going well. I'm still training, I'm still having technology issues and I'm still having a good time with my coworkers. The hours are great (8:30am-5pm) and soon I'll be receiving my keyfob so I can occasionally work from home!

I moved into the sublet last Thursday. That...has been interesting. Turns out, the girls smoke IN the apartment, when I had been told they only smoke outside. As a non-smoker, this is disgusting to me! Luckily, my room doesn't smell and neither does my closet (which is outside my room) or the bathroom. But hey, this is their apartment and after all, I'm only here for a month. The girls also party frequently, come home drunk, turn on ALL the lights in the apartment and are very loud. Unfortunately, they just aren't my type of people. However, the neighborhood (Hell's Kitchen) is fantastic, I can walk to work in 15 minutes and the subway in about 8 minutes. There's also NO overlap in terms of showering/getting ready, which is a big plus!

I knew this transition month would be expensive, especially in terms of food. I have been going out to eat or doing take-out (no delivery for me yet, I'm not that lazy!) for almost every meal. Since April 1 I've spent almost $80 on that! Last week I did make a point of buying bagels and cottage cheese for breakfast, which I keep at work, so at least that is helping a bit. But being a foodie, NYC is like mecca. I love trying different food carts at lunch (quick, cheap and I always have leftovers!) and trying restaurants in my area. The fact that the girls I'm staying with don't own any pots/pans doesn't exactly help matters! But you know what? I'm actually enjoying it! I know I can afford to eat like this because I have money saved up from my bonus/tax refund/sale of my car...and after packing my lunch 95% of the time for the past 2.5 years, I'm okay with dining out for every meal for ONE month. :) (Crossing my fingers that it's not more than that!)

One of my friends in the city got me a free week pass to New York Sports Club. They are all over the city, including one right near my work. I've gone twice already to different classes (a weightlifting class and a kickboxing class) and I definitely plan on signing up! I might try out one other gym just to see what their classes are like and because my work gives a decent discount to a few different ones. But I'll most likely sign up for NYSC using the corporate discount which should come to $70/month. Compared to my old 24 Hour Fitness Costco membership, it's ridiculously expensive. However, apparently this is a SOLID rate according to people I've talked to! Plus with the salary increase I got with my new position, I can afford that! (And hey, I walk everywhere and have been going to the gym so that will definitely counteract all the eating I'm doing!)

I've also started my apartment hunt! I'm looking to move into an already furnished apartment (either one or two other roommates) with either a furnished or unfurnished bedroom for May 1. I definitely want to stay on the west side of Manhattan since this is where my job is and where my friends are, plus commuting from most east side neighborhoods would be an absolute PAIN! I've worked out a maximum budget based on what my friends pay for their apartment in their fantastic location and so far, I definitely think I can come under that! I've been emailing places on Craigslist daily, and tonight I went to see my first one. The location was excellent (in Chelsea), one avenue from the subway and the rent sounded decent. However, upon arrival and the three flights up (not a deal breaker for me), the room was way smaller than the pictures, it was directly next to the front door of the apartment and it's on a very loud, main street. The place also smelled of smoke, not sure if that was from the current people living their or wafting from somewhere else, but obviously that IS a deal breaker! There were three of us there checking out the room/apartment and the two girls who live their currently also get up almost exactly when I do so that would be an issue since there's only one bathroom. That place was a big no for me, but I definitely learned what to look out for and more about what to ask (laundry, bedbugs/rodents, street noise). Obviously, I also have to be absolutely ready to take a place if I really like it, though! Since it's still the beginning of April, I know a lot of rooms will still be coming available so I'm not worried. Next!

I still have more to blog about but I'm getting tired and want to spend some time reading before bed. More soon! Have a great rest of your week. :)

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