Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Moving Out . . . or Up?

with 12 comments

Total Black: $2,057.83
Total Red: $230,820.71

I’ve received a few comments and suggestions about my financial situation and one piece of advice that repeats is that I should move or change apartments.  So, I thought I’d address that option here.

A few preliminary obstacles exist to moving before I could even begin the process.  First, after New York State instituted a tax lien against me, my FICO score plummeted.  That lien has since been satisfied, but my credit report hasn’t been updated yet.  Plus, my current landlord initiated a lawsuit against me for unpaid rent.  That also has since been satisfied, but I counterclaimed because of bedbugs in my apartment and so that proceeding is still active.  A quick search of the public records or court filings would probably uncover my name associated with bedbugs and having been late paying rent.  Any subsequent landlord might request an increased security deposit.  And given the problems associated with bedbugs, I’d be lucky if another building took me.  Why would they rent to someone who claims to have bedbugs?  They’re just inviting a problem into their own building.

So, assume the hypothetical landlord was fine with my bedbug lawsuit as well as my credit score, or assume that he or she didn’t bother checking a credit report or public records, where would this hypothetical apartment building be located?  The average cost of Manhattan apartments on My New is $2,517.00 for a studio and $3,292.00 for a one-bedroom.  Clearly that’s a bit high, but not too much.  Let’s assume the cost of the apartments listed on their website is about $500 higher than average.  And to be consistent, and not appear that I’m slanting the results any particular way, I’ll use the same website for each proposed location.

Let’s try New Jersey to start.  Seems to be the location everyone wants unsuccessful “New Yorkers” to move to.  As if by being unemployed you’re bringing down the social stock of New York so they want you out.  First, I’m not licensed to practice law in New Jersey, and I’m not about to quit current jobs because of a new apartment, so we must also assume that I would still work in New York even if I were to live in New Jersey.  Thus, I’d be taking the PATH train to and from Manhattan everyday.  Monthly that commute would cost me $52.00; $624.00 annually.  Given that I don’t have a permanent position and am currently working two jobs, I’ll also need a monthly subway pass.  An unlimited pass on New York City’s MTA Transit costs $89.00 a month; $1,068 annually.  So that’s $1,692.00 annually, or $141.00 each month I’d have to add to my rent.  Next, I need to find a place.  According to My New, average rent in November 2009 for a studio apartment in Jersey City, NJ costs $1,853.00 a month; $2,149.00 for a one-bedroom.  That average one-bedroom rate costs more than my current apartment, so that wouldn’t be a good idea.  But let’s lower it by the $500 I assumed.  That’s about $1,500 a month for a studio.  Tack on the commuting costs and we’re climbing back up toward the cost of my current apartment.  So, Jersey City is not much of an option.  Hoboken next.  According to My New, an average one-bedroom apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey in November 2009 goes for $2,513.00 a month.  They don’t list prices for studio apartments.  Even dropping that by the estimated $500, that would clearly be out.  Gotta head further east.  Next stop: Newark.  My New lists one-bedroom apartments going for an average of $960.00 a month in Newark, New Jersey.  That is a good deal.  I could even get a two-bedroom or three-bedroom and get roommates.  The drawback, however, is that it takes twenty-two minutes to get from downtown Newark to downtown Manhattan on the PATH train.  With waiting time, that’s at least an additional hour to my day.  I did that commute this summer when I studied for the Pennsylvania bar exam at Seton Hall Law School.  But Newark is a big city, so there’s no guarantee I’d be staying downtown.  That twenty-two minutes could escalate to upwards of an hour if I had to factor in bus or local train connections from my apartment.  So, looks like parts of New Jersey are doable but not ideal.

How about Brooklyn?  I lived in Brooklyn for my first two years in New York City, in Clinton Hill.  My apartment then cost $1,850.00 a month—but that apartment was effectively a three-bedroom.  Huge.  And I miss the space.  I had to move because the man I subleased from was giving up his lease.  He’d been there for over twenty years and the landlord wanted to change the apartment building into condominiums.  My New lists the average price of a studio in Brooklyn at $1,982.00.  A one-bedroom in November 2009 is listed at $2585.00 a month.  Not much of a difference than what I’m paying now.  But Brooklyn is huge and has many neighborhoods.  And an average is just that—an average of many different rates.  There are cheap places in Brooklyn, but New Yorkers charge for proximity to public transportation.  Moving further away from the subway would get me a cheaper rate, but it would cost me more in commuting time.

Unfortunately, Queens didn’t come up on My New  (Sorry Queens!)

Of course, we can’t forget moving expenses.  Assuming I moved on January 2, 2010, renting a 14′ truck from U-Haul in Manhattan would cost $29.95 a day plus $2.95 a mile.  Based on a few searches, movers would cost about $60 an hour.  Let’s assume five hours to move me to someplace in New Jersey or Brooklyn—probably about the same distance from Manhattan.  That means about $350.00 to move.  Let’s assume I find an apartment for $1,500.  I’d also need first month’s rent plus security deposit.  Before I pack one item, based on the rough numbers I’m using here, I’d need $3,350.00 for rent, movers, and a truck.  There’s always additional costs with moving like supplies, cleaning goods, gasoline for the truck, etc.

Frankly, moving is not an option at this point.  I don’t have the start-up capital for a new apartment.  Yes, I suppose I could ask my mother if I could borrow it, but that would be a huge expense on the assumption I remain employed and continue to pay down my debts.  Without a bit more permanence on the job front I’m not willing to incur another loan from my mother.

The only true option remaining here is either to sublet my apartment and move back with my mother for a few months and then commute back to the city—or to move back altogether.  Moving back is out of the question as the opportunities for young attorneys aren’t great in Scranton.  If I commuted from Scranton, it would cost me $535.00 a month with Martz Trailways.  That means I’d be saving about $1,500 a month on rent.  It’s something I’m willing to do.  But I still have the bedbug problem.  And I don’t want to be in the situation of my landlord, being sued by the person I sublet the apartment to because I didn’t inform her or him about the bedbug problem.  And who would move in if they did know?

So for the moment it looks as if my hands are a bit tied.  But I’m not worrying about my apartment situation.  I trust everything will work out soon enough.  I’ not moving out.  I’m moving up.  Just not to the East Side.

12 Responses

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  1. Laid-Off I find your blog interesting and well-written. One question I have is that why don’t you do legal freelance work than take up small jobs or drug trials. You are obviously highly-educated and intelligent – you could make a lot more money in half the time with legal freelance.


    December 4, 2009 at 14:26

  2. Boy, you’re sure good at manufacturing excuses. Way to find a way to save yourself money….or not.


    December 6, 2009 at 19:16

  3. Yup. I guess I’m just like all other humans.

    Clearly you can see the total black on hand at the moment. Where do you expect I get the money from? My ass? Or maybe yours?

    Why not click on the PayPal button and send me the $3,500 it would take to move apartments. Go ahead. Call me on the “bluff” you think I’m making.

    Everyone’s an expert with other people’s money.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    December 6, 2009 at 19:25

  4. No you would only be adding $52 a month to your rent if you move to Jersey because you would still buy a subway pass if you lived in New York [$89]- so you would not be adding $141 to your Jersey rent – just $52.


    December 7, 2009 at 01:08

  5. Maybe collecting that 1500 would help, but here you are writing that off. Jesus, just make it happen and stop whining.


    December 7, 2009 at 10:37

  6. I like laid-offs blog – he puts a lot of heart into it – I normally don’t have time to read crap – but this has some soul. Now laid-off you seem to be a cool guy but your financial situation, my friend, is a mess. I can’t believe you were working as a corporate lawyer at a big firm AND have been unemployed for a year and not moved out. I thought you guys were smart. I am a moron and have been unemployed on and off for 8 months and even I know it’s time to move from my mere $1200 apartment. It’s not easy – I worry each day about where I will end up but the money I will save will go to my debt and health insurance. I am very worried and sad because I love living where I am and it’s safe and I have been here for 4 years but in the end I will have have broken off the shackles and be free – and the apartment in itself is a shackle. Buildings come and go but your health and financial security stay for a long long time. I enjoy reading your stuff…


    December 7, 2009 at 22:05

  7. I’ve mentioned to my colleague at least three times already about getting paid. One time was when I received the rent demand from the landlord. Nothing. Catch is, he’s still working pro bono at the local DA’s office that we both worked together at five months ago. He might not have the money to pay. But, to be honest, I haven’t stated in unequivocal terms that I need to be paid.

    It’s not as simple as just demanding a paycheck from a boss, however. The work I did for him involved three small companies. One of those companies is his own. It’s a small film company that doesn’t really generate income. He’s in the process of selling it off. He doesn’t bill it for his time since he’d be billing himself effectively. The second company he also doesn’t bill. I don’t recall why. The third company is the only one he bills and it’s also a start-up company with one shareholder who fills all officer positions. I don’t know where that CEO will get the money to pay for the colleague’s legal work. (He’s incorporating my hours worked into his own and submitting one bill.) None of that should matter because he agreed to pay me regardless of the source of payment. But (if you can’t tell), one of my weaknesses is cutting too many breaks.

    I can demand payment. I can also drag him into small claims court. I can refuse to do any further work until I receive at least a portion of my pay. But at what price? At least for now—I value his friendship. That’s fading, however. And you’re right, eventually I do just have to make it happen. Just that I feel harsh measures must be last measures.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    December 8, 2009 at 00:38

  8. That is why I NEVER work for friends – you are either going to have to write it off – or get nasty.

    Like you I used to write it off – [I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone and people were generally warm and friendly – even though I have lived in NYC for many many years I have never really outgrown that small-towness – so I can’t get really nasty] – finally I just stopped working for friends. Maybe now and then I’ll do something minor – that doesn’t take a lot of time because then even they don’t pay me it’s no big loss.

    It’s the way of the world – you do have to help friends out and you do suffer losses – but smart people just try to keep the losses to a minumum.


    December 8, 2009 at 11:11

  9. you can rent a room in Queens for $500/month, but NO, you’d rather make a spectacle of yourself.

    Good luck paying off $230k in a year … this is equivalent to an average mortage with ammoritzaiton of 30 years … either leave the country or be in debt till you die.


    December 12, 2009 at 09:45

  10. good point


    December 14, 2009 at 20:32

  11. just started reading your blog, and I’m working my way through the back entries, but I’ll tell you now that Jersey City Price is off by about a thousand dollars. You can find a decently sized studio near the path for around 700-1400 dollars a month, which would save you between 15000-7200 a year. I’m hoping by the time I work up to February you’ve moved.


    February 14, 2010 at 14:04

  12. Alas . . . not yet. But I have been giving serious thought to getting a roommate. Given the hours I’ve been working, I’m never there. No sense to be paying all that much for a storage unit really. I’d just rather not have the commute from someplace far away, especially given that the theatre is only a block or two from my place.

    All I have to do though is get my bedroom and my living room swapped. That requires taking time off work or paying someone to move me within my own apartment. Time and money are what I’m short on.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 14, 2010 at 21:28

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