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“Should I sublet over the holidays?”

1 Dec

In New York City, doing the math on what you’re paying for your apartment when you’re on holiday vacation is  downright painful. Sooner or later, it occurs to all of us*: Oh, the money you’d save by subletting!

But if you’re not living alone (and if you’re reading this blog slash new to the city, you’re probably not), getting it right can be an onerous, complicated process that could go south before you can say cha-ching. There are situations that can work, however, and here are some things to think about:

• PLEASE check with your roommates first. You need to consider their comfort level with a stranger being on the premises, too, especially if they’ll be gone over the holidays as well, and their bedrooms don’t have doors that lock from the outside. Most don’t.

• Post your ad on Facebook. That way, you can be dealing with friends of friends. If that doesn’t work and you still really want to do this, and dedicate the time to vetting a stranger, read on.

• If you’re going the Craigslist route, approach it as a hiring manager would. Get references, both professional and person, proof of employment, and meet with them in person. You will get a gut feeling, and it will be correct. If you don’t have time to be thorough, no amount of money saved will be worth the unease.

• Store your valuables at a friend’s place while you’re gone, or take them with you. Even if the person you’re subletting to would never dream of stealing, you do not want to tempt them regardless.

• Make the rules clear. I’d recommend confining their use of the apartment to the bedroom and bathroom, and not offering up extensive use (or any use) of your cookery. Ask that they bring their own bedding, towels and toiletries, even if you are somehow connected to this person.

• Name your price. You probably won’t be able to charge $400 a night for your small quarters, but hell, if you’re not going to profit handsomely from this, there is no point in taking the risks and time it takes to do it right. That said, negotiate.

Has anyone done this, or knows someone who has, who wants to weigh in?

*Full disclosure: I have never done this myself — I am merely part of the tempted masses.


Ways to skimp on your winter wardrobe

13 Oct

Winter clothes, as we all know, are way more expensive than summer clothes. In a frozen-solid place like New York City, the sheer amount of material we must swath ourselves in to brave the city streets (not to mention the wind chill) is staggering and guarantees a pricier set of duds for the cold months.

Here are seven sly moves I’ve used to save my wallet some woe:

1. Resole a pair of old boots. Just last week, I dropped off my old Elie Tahari boots from two seasons ago at Marco Shoe Repair on Third Avenue. I had run them bald over two winters, and for $36, they look brand new again. Not bad considering what buying new ones could cost.
2. Instead of your annual trip to an overpriced seasonal shop, buy a used Halloween costume on Craigslist.
3. Stock up on tights. Because they are cheap and colorful and come in interesting patterns, they can instantly change any outfit.
4. Turtlenecks. These are the key to winterizing your summer dresses. Buy them a size smaller than your normally would so they fit snugly underneath and don’t bulge.
5. Embellish! I’m a huge fan of Etsy, and flower pins like these or these add instant autumn spice to a tired old white shirt, blazer, peacoat or denim jacket.
6. Get a new haircut. I’ve always found taming my (formerly) long, static-y hair around scarves, hats, ski gear and cowlneck sweaters in the winter to be a huge pain. Last year, I chopped it all off at Thanksgiving on a total whim. It was worth it!
7. Buy a coat from last season. I’ve spoken many times of my obsession with TJ Maxx, Filene’s and the like. Get thee to an off-price store to find that sleeping bag-esque winter coat and save a bundle!

Bonus: While you’re switching your closet to fall/winter, fill a shopping bag full of tanks, dresses and shorts you barely wore this summer — ’cause you probably won’t like ’em next year, either. Donate to your nearest Goodwill or thrift store or leave the bag in your apartment’s lobby. This is a great way to avoid clutter and only have outfits you love to wear each season.

Anybody have a trick they’re especially proud of? Do tell!

Previously: Your first winter in NYC: Are you pumped or what?


6 Oct

You’re all pretty freaking smart from what I can tell, so what I’m about to say may be plain as day to you. Sometimes, however, it helps to hear again that which you already know — especially when you’re sad, and disoriented about what’s true.

I moved here in winter. Admittedly, winter months in NYC feel lonelier. Clearly, even a big town like New York can feel lonely. Maybe lonelier than the small ones. So much water, not a drop to drink.

The psychological effects of loneliness are many. What happens is, you not only don’t have friends, but you also start to think you might just be too unremarkable to regain them. You’re feeling like you’ve somehow failed at your new challenge. Already.

I wish someone had told me this the summer after I graduated college, when I moved to an isolated town and started a new job — working nights, no less. My only friend was TiVo. Seriously. For like a year. The only outgoing or incoming calls were from my parents. I cried a lot — and I was poor as a mouse.

So what do I wish I’d done then that I did when I moved to New York?

• I stuck my neck out. Talked more. Was chattier. Risked saying something inane for saying something at all.

• Asked a TON of questions of the people I met and their own new-to-New-York stories. They all had ’em — plus, everyone’s favorite conversation is themselves. (This is pretty much the only thing you need to remember, ever.)

• Stopped relying on work to meet people. Joined clubs, volunteered, just left the house for the hell of it every once in a while. In NYC, the meetup groups, speed dating events and opportunities to get involved are endless.

• Read How to Win Friends and Influence People. No joke — it’s very, very good.

• Expected to make new friends everywhere. I met one of my closest friends in line for a concert, and I met the first guy I dated at an apartment showing. On occasion, I asked a girl for her phone number. Seriously. But not like that. Just a, “You seem really cool. Could we get a coffee sometime?” It works if you’re not weird.

Anyone else have some proactive, loneliness-curing tips?