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3 Things You Need to Move to NYC or LA Without Financial Stress as an Actor

New York City and Los Angeles are the hot spots for actors to live, because of access to live auditions, being a local hire where things are being made and being surrounded by a large community of other artists.

These are by no means the only cities/markets to live in to be a working actor (I lived in Florida for many years working consistently as a stage actor and earned my Equity card down there). But even if you don’t desire to live to NYC or LA, you might want to live in another large city like Atlanta or Chicago to pursue a creative career.

These cities bear an all-around higher cost of living than other cities in the United States, which feels at odds with the financial realities of most artists, but there are ways you can increase your financial standing.

We are going to discuss the three things you’ll need in order to move to NYC or LA without encountering financial stress. If you already live in one of these cities, you can still apply these tips to eliminate any current stress about paying rent, or to help you prepare for when you move into a different apartment or building.

Secure Income That Pays Your Rent

When preparing for your move, you want to make sure that the money you are bringing in not only covers your rent in a more expensive city, but also gives you wiggle room to put money into savings (and have fun)!

The first step is to calculate how much your new lifestyle in NYC or LA will cost you. Peruse apartment listings in your desired neighborhoods that have your non-negotiable amenities to see the going rates of what it will cost you.

Fill up an online grocery cart with a NYC or LA zip code to see how much a week of your current food would cost you there. Skim through menus of restaurants in your desired neighborhood to see how much more going out will cost you as well.

Be sure to add your subway fares, gas costs and anything else you will need/want to pay for month to month when you live in your city of choice.

Tally everything up to see what your new baseline expenses will be in NYC or LA, and compare that to the average income you bring in during the course of a month (or what you expect to bring in with the kind of day job you’re looking to acquire once you move).

If your baseline number is lower than your average income…awesome! You won’t feel squeezed paying your rent each month.

If your current or expected income doesn’t cover what your new high cost of living would be, you now have a specific financial gap you can look to fill (i.e. “I need to make $700 more a month than I do now to afford to live comfortably in NYC,” vs. “NYC is so expensive and I need to figure out how to make a ton more money”).

Here are some ways you can increase your income:

  • Look for an hourly remote job that pays over $25/hour (virtual assistant, social media manager, operations assistant, customer service rep, etc.).
  • Bundle a skill set of yours into a package you can sell ($500 digital brand makeover kit, $75 private virtual yoga classes, 6 months of SAT prep tutoring for $1,000, etc.).
  • Find a friend who works at a fancier restaurant than yours to refer you in so you can earn more in tips.
  • Start a consulting or coaching business with a skill set you’ve become an expert in and are passionate about.
  • Finding a full-time salaried job with benefits that aligns with your strengths that still gives you freedom, plus flexibility to audition.

These are by no means the only options for increasing your income. The goal here is to get your brain thinking about all the different options available to you if you want to bring in more money for the lifestyle you’d like to lead.

If some of the options listed sound a bit cliche, you’re right — but they’ve become mainstays for the performer community for good reason, giving actors the freedom and flexibility that auditions and gigs require.

Remember, being a full-time artist doesn’t mean you have to make 100% of your income from your art. You can pursue your artistic career alongside a whole other full-time job. The only thing that matters is that you are able to pursue your creativity in a way that feels good to you, and you are bringing in the money you need for the lifestyle you desire.

Have Three Months of Bills in the Bank

Moving when you already have three months of bills in the bank, especially if you are doing a job transition alongside the move, will be one of your biggest stress relievers. This gives you a financial safety net in case it takes longer than you expected to snag that personal training job at a nearby gym.

If your income is fluctuating with residuals or acting gigs coming in, you are able to buffer yourself with this savings fund so you don’t have to worry about not being able to pay rent one month. You can calculate how much should be in the savings fund by taking the baseline number you calculated earlier and multiplying it by three.

Use any extra money you’re bringing in right now to start building up this fund so it’s full when you’re ready to move.

Start a Savings Fund for Moving Costs

This is not the same as setting aside three months of bills. Your savings fund for moving costs is a separate fund that you’ll want to build up for your new furniture, security deposit, broker fee and all of the miscellaneous start-up costs that tend to pop up when you make any kind of move.

Having the cash on-hand and readily available for these costs will eliminate stress in your moving process. A savings fund for moving means not worrying about where you’re going to get the money to buy a couch after you’ve already paid the security deposit.

You can calculate this number the same as your baseline number: research the requirements of your desired building, pick out the furniture you will need and list out any miscellaneous costs that might come up (like stocking up cleaning supplies and kitchen spices).

The reality of living in a bigger city like NYC or LA is that they are more expensive, and there are fundamental issues surrounding surging rent costs and price-gouging from large corporations that continue to increase the cost of living.

That being said, it shouldn’t stop you from being able to live in a city that lifts you up and allows you to pursue your craft at a higher level.

The moving process is stressful enough, and these three things will help you to eliminate as many financial stressors as possible before making the leap to a city with a higher cost of living. This way, you can focus more on your art, and creating a new community in NYC or LA whenever you make your move.

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Brooke Tyler Benson, Money Coach + AEA Actor, is the founder of Not Starving Artists. She is bringing financial education and empowerment to creatives to create a new generation of wealthy artists living lives of luxury and purpose (no budgeting or bi-weekly paycheck required). After graduating with a BFA in Acting, it became her mission to destroy the “starving artist” trope once and for all. She is your financial cheerleader, bringing you accessible money education and coaching specifically for creative freelancers and small business owners.