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Confessions Of A Nomad: What I Learned From Being Pseudo-Homeless For Months In NYC

I was not prepared for the extreme agony that is New York City apartment hunting. Nor was I prepared for the ungodly cost. I expected the high rent, especially in Manhattan, so breaking my budget in that regard was not unforeseen.

The sheer cost of broker fees, credit checks, application fees, U-Hauls and security deposits, however, was astounding. To top it all off, I had less than two weeks to secure an apartment that would take both me and my little dog all the way from Ohio.

My two roommates did their best to find us a place, and we ended up lucking out big time, securing a luxury building filled with dogs, sans broker fees. The only catch? We couldn't move in until August 1, and the present day was mid-June.

Despite the slight concern over where I would live for six weeks, and the simple fact that I had never seen the building, much less the apartment, we signed.

I convinced my parents to bring my pup and the vast majority of my things come August. I drained my savings, bought my plane ticket, secured a few couches with friends and moved to the city with one bag as a homeless girl.

Living a nomadic lifestyle was an adventure, to say the least. While I am more than excited to finally have a roof over my head that is actually my own, my homeless experience taught me quite a few life lessons.

While I am sure New York might be the worst offender in terms of housing, there's almost never a perfect option. For New Yorkers, there are generally three ideal characteristics: space, location and budget. Pick two, and call it a day.

You're young and probably not making a ton of money yet (unless you work in finance, in which case, congrats on picking a better major than I did), and beggars can't be choosers.

It is possible to figure things out as you go along. I definitely flew by the seat of my pants for the better part of two months, and in the end, everything worked out. I was never truly homeless; I found an incredible apartment and I am living with two wonderful friends.

Despite the stress and anxiety you might feel, the universe will usually make sure you're taken care of, so don't fret.

However, being homeless actually costs quite a bit of money. If you plan on couch surfing for a while, don't for a second think you won't be paying rent. Make a budget and stick to it. Student loans wait for no one, groceries are expensive and that $8 wine at Duane Reade isn't really wine. (Spoiler: It's glorified grape juice.)

Prioritize what you really need, and stop spreading yourself so thin that you're concerned about paying your bills on time.

Open a savings account, put money into it and do not take it out unless there's an emergency, like having to pay three months' rent, a security deposit, a plane ticket, plus rent for your futon-in-a-living-room sublet before you've received your first paycheck.

If that is the case, you may touch your savings, but you must immediately put the money back as soon as possible. The future you will thank you.

To go off of that, utilize free things in whatever city you live. New York is fantastic because you can go literally anywhere in the five boroughs for $2.50 (cheaper, if you have an unlimited card) and there is a myriad of free or wildly inexpensive things to do.

Don't overspend on boozy brunches every week, and try new adventures instead.

Additionally, if you Google hard enough, you can absolutely find a coupon for anything. I've yet to pay full price for Seamless, which is shocking if you take into account the amount of pizza I consume on a regular basis.

Hey, if Kourtney Kardashian can coupon, so can you.

Happy hour will be also your new best friend. New York City drink prices are obscene compared to the tiny, small town bar and their $3 gin and tonics of my college days, but fear not. If you starting consuming early enough, you can definitely enjoy the bar scene, too.

Look for all-you-can-drink specials if you're feeling particularly aggressive, or pitcher deals if you're with friends. (Special shout out to Jake's Dilemma and their $10 Stella pitchers that kicked off my Fourth of July weekend right.)

Don't underestimate a good night's sleep on a real bed. As someone who slept on floors and futons nearly all summer, my back is basically in pain every day, and no amount of yoga has truly been able to rectify this.

You might be on a budget, but when the time comes, spend the extra money for a decent mattress and a sturdy bed. You're a grown adult, after all, and your body will be grateful.

Keep yourself healthy, too. I successfully MacGyvered a month of gym memberships through free trials until I got my complex's fitness center, and it was well worth it. Run outside, download Nike Training Club or even splurge on SoulCycle (worth it, in my opinion).

Do something to take care of yourself. Considering you probably abuse your body every Friday and Saturday night — maybe more — it's the least you can do to earn some forgiveness and compensate for that futon.

Stop complaining. There is no deeper explanation into this, except for the fact that no one wants to be around a negative, awful person — especially those of us in the unhappiest city in America. People out there have it worse than you.

Above all, the best thing I learned in my homeless, nomadic life was that good friends are out there and they've got your back.

It might be the roommate who pays for your brunch, or your best friend's boyfriend telling you to pack a bag for a third-wheeling weekend at his place, complete with your own bed (Thanks, Dave!), but kind people are out there and they are willing to help you out. 

Surround yourself with positive people, continually work on being a good friend and they will reciprocate. More than anything else, having these individuals in your life makes the real world a lot less lonely.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It

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Stephanie Sharlow

Contributor

Stephanie is a contributing writer based in New York City, and is a Media Fellow graduate of DePauw University. Find her on Instagram @StephSharlow.
Stephanie is a contributing writer based in New York City, and is a Media Fellow graduate of DePauw University. Find her on Instagram @StephSharlow.

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