It’s Saturday night and I’m slowly counting down my last few days in Manhattan. With the apartment nearly empty and all my valuables packed, I can’t help but look back on the rollercoaster ride of an experience that I’ve had in this wonderful city.
I remember when I first drove my Toyota Camry through the Lincoln Tunnel seven years ago (after a 13 hour drive from Atlanta) and how worried I was to park it in a 24 hour parking garage.
You don’t see the other cars we got in here? Like those BMWs over there. You ain’t got nothing to worry about.
The attendant was right, and yet I couldn’t help but worry since I had packed almost everything I owned in that car.
As the years passed, I worked three different jobs, went to law school and met the girl of my dreams, all the while learning how to earn, save and invest my money. By living in a place where an annual salary of $180,000 was only middle class, I soaked up all the financial knowledge that I could. And I fought hard against the temptations to blow everything on fine dining, entertainment and night-life. I quickly figured out that this was a city where you could feel poor even as a millionaire.
Over time, I became more financially efficient. I got rid of my car after paying almost $1,000 in parking tickets and towing fees alone. I ate out less often, ordered fewer drinks and took fewer taxis. And as I paid off my law school loans, I discovered that I could live comfortably off of just $1,000 a month outside of rent.
The more money I saved, the happier I became, not just because I had more money but because I learned so much about what I truly valued. In other words, by resisting the urge to spend, I made sure that everything I bought either (1) truly meant something or (2) could be enjoyed together with friends and loved ones. In addition, I discovered and rediscovered meaningful activities that cost little or nothing at all, like biking around Central Park, visiting free museums and watching fireworks from the Staten Island Ferry.
What will I miss the most about New York? Besides the obvious (friendships, my church community, breath-taking rooftop views and romantic New York City dates), I’ll miss this fast-paced environment where I discovered my passion for financial independence.