2 years ago I set foot in Manhattan after landing a job in NYC and I’ll admit, I got used to the insane prices and crazy spending. All of my friends were doing it, and so I followed as well. When the graduates one year above you go out and do this, you kind of follow, because monkey see, monkey do.
$10+ lunches? $5 coffees? Brunch Saturday and Sunday ($50), and hanging out on Saturday nights ($50+). I don’t think I cooked more than a handful of meals per year for those two years, and I never bought groceries ($10+ per takeout meal?). Work provided dinner as I worked late most weekdays and if not, I would just order in or pick up some food. Delicious food wasn’t a celebratory event, it was just normal. Taking Ubers and taxis was the norm ($10 each time before uber pool?), compared to the subway. The charges rang up.
Your Perception of Normality Is the Average of the 5 People You are Closest To
After a while, this was just normal. People tell you those in your industry only save their bonuses and you believe them. I did utilize my retirement accounts and put extra into a brokerage account, but I wasted so much money on stupid things. I thought that was pretty good, until I discovered FI/RE and realized that you could be financially independent and retire 3 decades earlier if you just saved all your money every year instead of spending it by coming up with clever extra ways to make money and fun side hustles. I saw the savings rates of some people on r/financialindependence and realized that I wasn’t doing near as well as what I could be doing! When you see it’s possible to save 70 percent of your income because other people did, you go into overdrive trying to figure out how to do it.
You start analyzing all your expenses one by one and by the time it comes to move, you start reconsidering where you live. Does it really make sense to live in the most expensive rental area if moving somewhere else is just as convenient, but even cheaper and nicer? It takes me less time to bike to get to Grand Central than it used to, and I now live in an apartment that’s probably 1.5x the size for the same price, with more amenities. There’s a Citibike station literally right outside my apartment now, and it saves me a ton in Subway fares, transport time, and I get extra exercise every day instead of breathing in Subway fumes and being packed in the Subway like a sardine.
Everything Is Cheaper!
The first night we moved we ventured out to eat somewhere, because the apartment was too messy for us to think about cleaning. I also didn’t label any of my boxes (rookie mistake) so I didn’t know which box held the kitchenware. For a meal that would’ve cost $50 each in our old neighborhood, we had even better food for $10 each. I don’t even need ambiance most times, I just want delicious food.
The next day I went out for lunch as I still had yet to locate the kitchenware box and managed to get some stewed lamb with rice and beans for $5. Seriously? I’ve never even come across something this cheap before. It was also the best stewed lamb I’ve ever had, so tender and succulent. When I paired it with some brussels sprouts on my weekend grocery trip, it came out to something like $3 a meal since I split it into two meals.
I then learned of a Costco near me, which is now near enough to me that I can bike to it with the Citibike. Now I can get my grocery bill down to $40 a week, for what I’d consider an extravagant grocery list. Chorizo and prosciutto sandwiches? Mmm deliciousness.
People are Much Nicer!
The neighborhood around me has people who say hi and are friendly. They’re open to talking about their experiences and lives, which is something you don’t really encounter in the old place. The area is much much quieter — in the old place, no matter where you lived, it seemed you’d get train horns blaring, emergency vehicle sounds, cars honking, and generally all sorts of noises.
It’s also nice to be brought back to reality to what you could be spending when you don’t have to. The groceries here are 30-50 percent cheaper, the restaurant quality food is much cheaper and just as, or even more delicious. There are a lot more restaurants that are family owned instead of chains, and more authentic food for great prices. In the old place there were a lot more beautifully designed restaurants with mass produced food at higher prices due to the cost of rent.
The Unfortunate Side Effects of Gentrification
I don’t know how long the gentrification process will take, and if I’ll even be here in this neighborhood when it does. It’s a bit sad for the family owned businesses, but ultimately I can’t do anything to stop it. People have been pouring into this neighborhood and some good turns into bad for others. Hopefully the rezoning laws will allow the small businesses to stay where they are, but I’m not confident in that. It’s a bit sad :(.
You should always be kind to the people already in the neighborhood and try to frequent the already existing establishments (they’re much cheaper!). Remember the golden rule.
Mostly, I’m thankful for being able to save more and feeling more grounded as I’m in this new neighborhood. I can see myself happy just walking in the garden, cooking for myself or eating at a great restaurant, and reading my book back home. The amenities make it feel like I don’t need to pay for “fun” — I can just have it free here.
You Should Move to a Gentrifying Neighborhood
In short, moving to a neighborhood that is in the middle of being gentrified is something everyone should do. The new buildings are continuing to go up here, and most newly built buildings in the area are subject to rent stabilization (no increases the past 2 years, with a 1.25% increase this year) due to negotiations on tax abatements and rezoning. It’s safe enough in the neighborhood to walk alone at night and some of the cheapest food that I’ve ever seen the states. A local to the area tells me that I haven’t even seen cheap though, so I’m looking forward to that. You just never know what you don’t know.
A friend moved to the same neighborhood 2 years ago and his return on investment is something like 200 percent (due to usual mortgage leverage), which I am quite highly jealous of.
Have any of you moved to an area like this before? Am I making you reconsider moving? Rent is your biggest expense, and you spend most of your time at home when you’re not at work, so it’s some of the best spending you can analyze.