The challenges of living in New York City are well documented in every form of popular culture. As an Aussie, raised in abundant space, sunshine and laid back vibes, the lack of these things in the city can be especially hard. Not to mention a global pandemic that has forced everyone into their “it’s a shoebox but it doesn’t matter as I’m never home” apartments.
Perhaps you’ve thought about moving away, then come full circle to thinking “what was the point of moving to the US if I’m not going to be in New. York. City?” But if only you could just have a little more space, if things could just be a little easier… well just across the Hudson River, there may be a solution for you…
New Jersey, falsely advertised as the “armpit of America”
Before you stop reading as the thought of being in the “bridge and tunnel” crowd is just too repulsive, keep in mind I believe it is this confusingly bad reputation that helps keep NJ rent reasonable. Everyone has armpits after all.
Many areas of NJ have similar or shorter commutes to Manhattan than the outer boroughs. If you look at the MTA subway map, Manhattan is along the very left-hand side, with the other boroughs filling the rest of the map. To consider moving to NJ is simply considering what is to the right, or west of Manhattan. You can do this by looking at the PATH train map. The PATH is a frequent service mass transit train like the subway. Also just like the subway, it costs $2.75. One example of travel time is on a weekday, Journal Square (roughly in the middle of the map) is 23 minutes to the 33rd street station or just 11 minutes to World Trade Center.
There is then the much larger NJ transit rail map. Fares on NJ transit vary. Being from Sydney, it reminds me of the train system there – it’s usually much more than $2.75, and is based on how far you are traveling. One example of travel time is Maplewood (also roughly in the middle of the map) on a weekday, is 36 minutes to Penn Station, and is $7.75 for a one-way trip.
So there’s a lot of NJ that is under an hour to Manhattan, and comes with these added benefits…
Jersey City means more apartment space for less money
Let’s let the data do the talking:
For a one-bedroom apartment in May 2021:
Journal Square: $1,495
For a two-bedroom apartment in May 2021:
Journal Square: $1,695
For a three-bedroom apartment in May 2021:
Journal Square: $2,500
As you can see, things get really exciting when you start looking at how many bedrooms you can get, for a comparatively small jump in rent in New Jersey. If you’re going to be working from home for some time, having a dedicated office can no longer be a dream.
Benefit of living in Jersey: You can have a car again
In NYC garages are expensive, even if they are in your own apartment building. Trying to rent a car on a holiday weekend is also expensive. But in NJ, it’s not uncommon for a parking spot to be included with your apartment/house, or on-street parking isn’t the nightmare it is in NYC.
Cars make life easier in ways you forget if you’ve been living as a carless New Yorker. You can drive to gigantic American supermarkets and buy gigantic-sized packages of basically everything. You also don’t have half of your grocery order not delivered as your items have become unavailable.
New Jersey recognizes your Australian license in that you only need to sit and pass the written test to then obtain your full New Jersey license. No learner permit or in-person driving test is required. Just be careful of course driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
The real secret about living in New Jersey: Getaways and getting out of the city easily
There is so much nature in the tri-state area that is only accessible by car. Before I moved here I assumed NYC was surrounded by endless suburbs, but there are many hikes within driving distance from Manhattan. In the winter you can easily drive to skiing or tubing.
If you’ve tried to go to the beach via public transport from NYC, there are only a few choices. With a car, the whole east coast is yours to explore. Closest to home is the Jersey Shore, which also unfairly got a bad reputation due to the TV show of the same name. Jersey Shore beaches are clean, enormous, and quite a few are free (because paying to go to the beach is a thing in the US).
Then there are countless weekend destinations in and surrounding the tri-state area, like Boston, Cape Cod, Philadelphia, and DC, just to name a few.
Did you know that taxes in New Jersey are lower?
In America, you pay separate federal and state taxes. Then some cities also take a city tax. If you live in NYC you pay a city tax of 3.078%, which goes up to 3.876% if you make over $50,000. If you’ve only lived in NYC, you may not realize that you don’t pay this tax or an equivalent city tax if you live anywhere in NJ.
Depending on how much you earn, NJ state taxes may also be lower for you than NY state taxes. Sales taxes are lower in NJ than in NY. Do a little research, but you could be saving real money by living in NJ, money that could be spent on the aforementioned getaways!
What you lose by living in New Jersey…
Living in Manhattan is a specific life experience, and living in Jersey is of course not the same thing. If your friends all don’t already live in Jersey, you may be further away from them (until you convince them to also move to NJ!) However, if you can still get to the city quickly and easily, maybe it’s worth giving up a NY NY address for overall higher quality of life, and right now, some sanity that gets you through these challenging times.