Making My Way Below 14th Street

One of the greatest cities in the world (don't @ me) is also one of the hardest to navigate when it comes to finding housing. A few months ago, I shared a quick guide to "moving to NYC" and now's the time I had to follow my own advice.

If you know my NYC journey, you know I've kept it uptown since I first moved here. From Inwood to the same Upper West Side zip code I had when I first moved here years ago, I found comfort in being "away" from the hustle and bustle. The problem is, I was hustling and bustling every time I was getting out of the apartment because I was always working against a minimum 20-minute delay.

Getting to work when the subway works: 25 minutes

Getting to work when the subway doesn't work, which is usually always because #MTA: 45-70 minutes

I began to hate that I had little control on being late. If I left early to make up for potential mishaps, I found myself "too early" 9/10 times. My next goal: move walking distance to work. 

Well, easier said than done when you work in Tribeca -- one of the more expensive parts of Manhattan. I spent a few weeks on the apartment search finding things within or only slightly above my budget, but knowing that this time I would be sacrificing greatly on space (remember: price, size, location). This grueling process really helped me get down to thinking about what exactly I couldn't sacrifice: separate kitchen from living room, windows (can't believe I have to ask for this), and my own closet.

The apartment search finally came to a happy close when I matched with someone via Gypsy Housing on a dream SoHo apartment. If you know me offline, this has always been my favorite downtown neighborhood and I'm often pinching myself to remind myself that I get to live here while staying within a millennial-friendly budget.

I got the apartment, I signed the dotted line, but now my third time moving in the city meant I was going to have much more to lug around when moving day came. This was my biggest stressor. From Miami to NYC I boxed up and UPS-mailed all my things, and from Inwood to Upper West Side I used a "man with a van" (IRL name: Jerry). The difference this time, however, was the fact that I wasn't just a "scrappy Millennial" moving to a new pad. I made small upgrades in my life as I grew into the city and my career and I truly valued the things I had earned and placed in my apartment. I needed to give myself this necessary upgrade and do things the safe, reliable and correct way.

I connected with Roadway Moving after doing some research across review websites and other credible platforms, given that they had some of the highest reviews. What's the hype all about? I mean, it's a moving company, aren't we supposed to dislike them as much as we dislike moving? Well, the difference is this company is putting happiness first to not only make a move as seamless as possible, but as pleasant as possible.

Upfront, I was really excited to be working with a company that provided insurances I'd heard about during this process. If someone is going to be handling your hard earned valuables, you need them to protect them and have a backup plan if they ding something. Roadway not only has the paperwork to cover an accident, but they carefully wrapped (not deconstructed) all my furniture with safety blankets so that nothing returned damaged. 

I was able to chat with their CEO, Ross Sapir, where we talked about the importance of this layer of protection. "Millennials are now making more money, have more things, and 'going the DIY or cheap' way isn't always the smartest route," he said. "You need to find services that are going to protect the things you worked hard to earn."

When it came to thinking about physically moving things around, my "PTSD" of having to help "the man with a van" down my 5th floor walk up kicked in. I kid you not when I say I almost teared up seeing how quickly they grabbed everything, took it down safely, and brought it right back up to my new apartment in the blink of an eye. I also had a few miscellaneous items that didn't fit in boxes, which they had supplies for that I could use on moving day. 

Past the nitty gritty of the moving process, the most important thing is that working with Roadway made my move such a pleasant experience. It didn't feel like you were burdening a friend, or someone that hates their job, with your burden of having to move. I had to remind myself that I didn't know these people, because I swear we could've been neighbors in a past life. They were cheerful, polite, kind, and were excited to talk about things like Spanish soccer.

When all was said and done, I sighed a breath of fresh air. I unpacked my goods, ordered a few missing pieces to the apartment, and got to making this new place feel like home. Moving isn't only stressful because of the logistics of getting your stuff moved halfway across the city, it takes a toll on you mentally as you prepare to start a new chapter of your life in a new neighborhood. New coffee shop, new groceries, new parks, new mindset. Start yours off positive!

Scroll down for a few of my favorite spaces in the apartment:

Moving yourself? Visit Roadway Moving online for a quote, and mention "LISSETTE" for 10% your entire move.

The Art of the Handwritten Letter, Simplified

We all know the feeling of excitement, appreciation and kindness we feel when we receive a handwritten card. Be it a thank you note, birthday card, congratulations note or just to say hello, a small gesture can go a long way.

Here's another feeling we all know: the pain in the ass it is to buy the card (*10 hours at Papyrus later*), write the card (where's my pen?), find a stamp (is it 2003?) and drop it off at the Post Office (omg what's your address, again?). It makes the task of sending a thoughtful handwritten note as arduous as doing your taxes. 

Of course, millennials love a good shortcut. It makes room for us to focus on the other 1 million things we're trying to achieve and get done during the day. Cue in: the holidays. One of the busiest times of the year, where we're truly in need for as many hacks as we can find. Inspired by this time of year, and my need to carry on the tradition of sending out Christmas cards, I sought out to find something that would simplify the task for me while still feeling authentic to me.

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Good news. There is a solution.

About a year ago, I got introduced to PostableThis services bills itself as the platform that takes away "the pain in the ass" of sending letters. They're making sending snail mail as easy as sending an e-mail, text or DM. With the click of a few buttons, you've got a hiqh-quality printed and virtually-handwritten card en route to a special someone. Here's how it works:

1. Build your address book

Postable makes it incredibly easy to collect, save and update contact information from those you need it from. They provide users with a custom URL (www.postable.com/name) which they could send out to their contacts with a personal request for mailing information. Recipients click the link, fill out a form, and later the complete address book can be downloaded in helpful formats, including Excel. You can also upload existing sheets (looking at you future brides)! Then, you're able to periodically ping your contacts to update their information or add life milestones like anniversaries.

If you're reading this, here's your chance to get on my list.

2. Pick a card, designed by real people.

What truly sets Postable apart for me is their card collection. You can search from hundreds of cards for every occasion all designed by indie artists. The company has said they offer a revenue share that's rather competitive, which makes you feel a little better knowing you're supporting those digital artists. Also love that all cards are made of 100% recycled material.

You can browse through all the artists by name and location here.

3. Write your message, personalize it.

Shamelessly admitting I'm that person that has scratched words off the page or started over and over because I've changed my mind on the message. This is where Postable comes in hot with the save. You can pick from fonts that mimic handwriting (won't judge you if you pick the "As If Your Kid Wrote It"), Martha Stewart-approved fancies, or simple sans serif ones you already use in the digital space.

Aside from the thoughtful note, you can also now add gift cards for an added treat.

4. Press send: they do all the important stuff for you!

You're done customizing, you're done pouring out your feelings, and now it's time to hit send.  This is what you came for after all. No more trips to the post office, no more hunting for stamps throughout your apartment, because with the click of a button your cards are en route to that special person. Once all is said and done, it'll set you back $2-4 with postage included. That's a steal for all this extra time, if you ask me.

During the holidays, they have an even larger selection of cards for every style and occasion (Christmahanakwanzika anyone?), while also giving you the option to completely personalize templates with your own images -- like the monumental "family Christmas card photo."

But don't limit yourself to the holidays. It's such an easy-to-use service that I find myself sending a few out every month. There's always a birthday to celebrate, a thank you to share or someone that just needs to hear that you're thinking of them. 

Are you a fan of sending snail mail? Have you tried this service or any others? Would love to hear about your experience. Here's a promo code for a $5 credit off $20: MREADTI2.
      

Disclaimer: Product provided at the courtesy of Postable. All opinions and statements are my own.

Palm Trees to Skyscrapers: Moving to New York City

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me for advice on moving to NYC, I could upgrade myself to a one-bedroom apartment in the city (a joke only hustling millennials of the city will understand). The United State's largest city, with 8.5 million people and counting, is also one of the most expensive and difficult to live in. With a little flexibility, perseverance, and insider knowledge, moving to the greatest city in the world can be easier than you imagined (#werk).

It's been a year and a half since I moved to New York City "for good," but let's not forget my first stint in the city back in 2013. I'll save you the trip to my blog archives and take you down memory lane: I packed my bags, moved up North, lived in two apartments and one hotel, and then decided it was way too expensive for a fresh-out-of-college gal to handle on her own so decided Florida was the best post-grad step for me.

The decision to move to New York City the second time around was easy. It wasn't a matter of if, but when. I had a vision of continuing my personal and professional journey in a place that would empower me and, also, endlessly tease my desire for discovery. New York City was it.

Landing the Job

First thing's first. I recommend making a responsible move to New York City. This doesn't mean you have to land a job on Wall Street with a six-figure salary. Anything from internship, freelance work, entry-level job, position upgrade, etc., works. So long as you're moving here with purpose and passion, everything will fall into place.

You're not coming here with a job transfer? LinkedIn Jobs can be your saving grace for the traditional money maker. You can browse online or download their handy app, but this has been one of the most seamless ways to find the plethora of opportunities available in the big city. Especially for those in the communications or advertising field, where NYC serves as the mecca, this platform provides a streamlined way to maximize your opportunities. 

Have your sights set on freelancing within your field? Start by branding yourself with social channels and a website and start to, truly, hustle. You can even try unconventional routes like posting your service offerings on NYC Craigslist or a website like Fiverr, where you can post unique services from consulting to laborious tasks starting at $5.

So you're the cool kid on the block offered to move for a new job or transfer to the Big Apple? One of the most common questions NYC newbies will ask is: how much more money should I ask for? While the important topic of "how to negotiate your salary or die trying" will come from me another time, the short answer is about 15 to 20% of what you're currently making. In my case, I moved from Florida where I remained away from city and state taxes. The shocker of having a third of my paycheck going to "the people" was tough to swallow. If you can swing it, try negotiating things like subsidized monthly metro cards, a hefty moving allowance or a signing bonus (example: after a six-month review, give me $3,000).

You're going to be living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, make sure the paycheck or side hustles are up to par. 

Price, Size, Location

That's my NYC rule. I can't tell you when or why I made it up, but I can tell you I'd bet a lot of money on it being a law of life. When you're apartment hunting in the city, you won't get all three: price, size and location.

What I mean is, you might get an apartment within a conservative budget, but it might be small and it might be a 40-minute commute to work. What if you value your space? You might be able to find something at a nice distance with a roomy feel, but you're going to shell a lot more money for it. When I first moved to the city, I knew I'd have trouble down sizing and I couldn't stomach paying more than $1,000 for rent. I ended up living in deep uptown Manhattan's Washington Heights in a huge (I mean this, huge) bedroom for a total bargain, and was happy while it lasted. Figure out what your priorities are within these three spaces before apartment hunting and you're going to find it much easier.

If price is a priority, you're going to have to search outside the central Manhattan walls. Having a small budget when you first move to the city is totally normal and, if you ask me, totally recommended. It's likely that your first apartment won't be totally what you're looking for since it's found mostly out of need. And remember the affordability rule: your salary should be at least 40 times your slice of the rent. In fact, most landlords and rental companies require it. Less expensive neighborhoods at a reasonable distance from the city center include Washington Heights (Manhattan), Bushwick (Brooklyn), Astoria (Queens) and even some gems in New Jersey near the trains.

If size is a priority, you're going to have to find your way outside of downtown. While it's certainly possible to find large spaces below 34th street, it's either at a hefty price tag or totally outside of the norm. Neighborhoods like Upper East or West Side have some great spaces for reasonable prices. Another option is to get yourself out of Manhattan, period, and you'll find the square footage increases by the block. But, don't limit yourself to only thinking "big," size can mean comfort for you. My personal rule: I need a kitchen that's separate from the living room. It's a non-negotiable for me if my couch is touching the fridge. My room, however, is only for sleeping so coziness doesn't bother me here.

If location is a priority, you might find yourself giving up the luxuries of some of the space parameters or low budget monthly rent to get yourself near the things you want be by. Perhaps it's work or play, but you're within your right to want to find a place that suits your daily routine. Chances are, millennial, that downtown is where all the magic is happening for you. If you can't find something that meets your budget and standards in a hot spot like East Village, SoHo or Tribeca, get a little creative and venture out, but stay near a train to get you there faster. For example, Hell's Kitchen (Manhattan) or Williamsburg (Brooklyn) are great neighborhoods near speedy train lines and reasonable taxi prices to get you to downtown in a New York Minute. 

Actually Doing It

You set a budget and some checklist items for a new home in the city, you narrowed down the neighborhoods, and you're ready to put in work. Great resources for actually finding your place include:

  • Gypsy Housing: While unconventional, I've had the most luck here. This is a "members only" forum for New Yorkers and New Yorkers to-be where people share open spaces or room search announcements. Anything from, "I have a room opening up" to "I am interested in finding XYZ with a room mate," this is an easy place to find gems. Tip: Set notifications for specific key words to the neighborhood, price or size you're looking for.
  • SpareRoom: If you're looking to save some time finding something new yourself and just want in on a good deal or existing unit, this is the place to go. The website, and app, help connect you with people who are already a part of a lease - or are in the process of starting one - and, well, have a spare room. Play around with their filters to save you the most time while you hunt.
  • StreetEasy: One of the most popular apartment finder sites. This is a good option if you're looking for a credible and reliable apartment with a group of friends or on your own. They also make one of the best NYC apartment transition guides on the web! Alert: the good ones likely have a broker's fee.
  • NYC Craigslist: If you're brave enough to overlook the negative stigma that comes with this platform, then this is the method for you. Craigslist, by far, has some of the most gems. I've had friends find solo apartments in incredible neighborhoods for a great price. The trick here is to make sure you're playing with the filters available, such as "distance from," price and other amenities buttons. The safest way is also to "search by date." If something's been listed for far too long, it is likely for a reason.

Make a few appointments, and be prepared for some of them to be virtual, and get ready for an adventure of apartment hunting. You should set aside at least three months' worth of rent for the places that ask you for first month, last month and a security deposit. The good news is you get a lot of that back when it's time to move again. If you're looking to save some time and get legitimate help, set aside a Broker's Fee which may come in handy for securing a lucky find. Here's a helpful guide on how to safely secure your apartment with "red flagged" descriptions, how to spot a scam, etc.

Once you've signed on the dotted line, it's time to hire a moving service. You can opt for someone to do it all for you without having moved a personal muscle, or hire handymen through friend recommendations that are usually cheaper but have no official business in this space. Alternatively, you can pack it all up yourself and grab a group of friends and a U-Haul van to help move you around. Here's a helpful guide for all that jazz. 

Next step: book the one-way ticket.

The Paperwork Piece

You finally moved and you're sitting on your couch (or floor) the first night in your new apartment over a warm bowl of something you ordered on Seamless. Look at you, you learn so fast! Now you have to take some time to make sure all the necessary transition documents are in order. The longer you stall this, the more problematic it becomes in the future.

  1. Officially change your address: Use USPS's handy moving tool to officially change your address to your new one. This will make sure that the move becomes official-ish and your mail is sent to the right location. And, guess what? This comes with moving coupons from popular sites like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wayfair and Amazon. 
  2. Change your billing addresses: Often overlooked, don't forget to change that address attached to your bank accounts, credit cards and other important and ongoing memberships. You'll thank yourself later when you're punching in your zip code at your nearest retailer.
  3. Make an appointment with the DMV: If you're already a registered driver, you must obtain a New York State driver's license and surrender your out-of-state license within 30 days of establishing residency. Read more about that here, set an appointment and get your shiny new piece of plastic.
  4. No need for driving? Identify yourself with an IDNYC: As a government-issued photo identification card, IDNYC secures the peace of mind and access to City services that come from having recognized identification. IDNYC also provides a dynamic series of benefits to cardholders, including a free one-year membership at many of the City's leading museums, zoos, concert halls, and botanical gardens. Get one here.
  5. Register to vote! Don't be left behind when it's your turn to exercise your constitutional right to make a change in this country. Unless you'd benefit the greater good by keeping your old city on file (*erm, Floridians*), then make the switch upon moving. In New York state, you can get all that and so much more done via their electronic voter registration platform.
  6. Protect your valuables with renter's insurance: Living in a big city sometimes comes with risks. For as little as $5 per month you can protect yourself against these dangers - and so much more. Companies like Lemonade have incredible quick and easy-to-use platforms for securing your goods, while also providing a really friendly user experience. What's even better is this specific apartment/home insurance company has a giveback program where the "extra" money goes right back to local charities. Sign me up!

Building Your New Life

That's it...for now. You've mastered the job and apartment search, you signed the paperwork and filed your important matters, now it's time to sit back (ever so slightly) and enjoy the fruits of your labor

You will get homesick from time to time, it will take you months to find your go-to coffee shops and dives, you might need to friend-flirt for some time before finding your gal/guy gang, you will struggle, you will grow, you will laugh, you will cry, but you just accomplished what many millennial dreamers wish for:

moving to New York, New York.

The Journey to Marketable Millennial

For whatever reason, you ended up on this page. Here I go at an attempt to explain why I created this page.

The first time I created my own blog was via Xanga in 2003. Pre-pubescent me had no idea what I was doing, but I really enjoyed making glitter images and sharing my Dollz Mania creations with other folks on the interwebz.

Then comes MySpace soon afterward, and I began to truly see social media in action. I put things out into the world, I read what others are putting out into the world, I engage, I react, we create. My call to fame was creating  Rockstarr Layouts, a "layouts page" that quickly grew into a community of more than 18,000 fans who used my profile designs, indulged in chatter with one another, participated in contests, and joined my many rants of being a teenager. Rest in Peace, darling.

With the demise of MySpace, came Twitter, Tumblr and good-ol Facebook. While these were great publishing platforms, it was never enough for me. How was I supposed to complain in under 140-characters? Was that subtle image enough to get my point across? What the heck is a status update anyway?

I needed more. 

Years later, I created my very first blog: Don't Cry Over Spilled Green Tea. This space was intended to give my virtual soap box a little more room to truly story tell. As you can imagine, since I'm not an internet influencer with an audience of a million, every attempt at blogging quickly became overshadowed by all the offline work I was doing. Each time I got far, I stopped because #life. I'm not mad about it. I gave myself room to create the life I wanted for myself and all my early experiences with social media and the digital space fueled my career. It gave way to creating my personal mission:

Using communications as a vehicle to advocate for, and uplift, people, ideas and movements. 

This decade+ long story turned as-short-as-can-be, is here to tell you why I'm back to blogging. I have a voice, and I still want to use it. But now I have a purpose and that's pushing me to give my voice a new platform to help fulfill my mission. After years of working among some of the best leaders, changers and thinkers, I am also now inspired to use these stories to encourage others toward finding their voice.

What's this page going to be about anyway? 

Let's start with the basics: There's Thoughts and there's Lifestyle. 

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Thoughts: The rants, the epiphanies and the thoughts that help fuel my path. This is where we'll really get to talking about how to live and thrive as a millennial.

Lifestyle: Giving the people what they asked for. The places, experiences and things that make up my everyday life. The soft news, for lack of a better word.

What you're seeing to-date is a series of past published lifestyle articles traced to my freelance posts, old blogs and other internet ramblings. My short-term goal is to get back in the rhythm of long-form content and find what my audience wants to hear more about. In the future, I hope to grow this into a community to not only tell my story, but to make it a place where others can also share theirs.

Why "Marketable Millennial"?

When I sat down and thought about what people truly think of me for, it's been career or millennial advice.

Marketable: I knew what I "wanted to be" earlier than most, and I thrived at it (#selfpromo). This meant others were seeking my advice when it came to similar chapters of their lives, and I've loved being able to share my story to help others grow in their field. I built a brand around myself and want to help others do the same via their triumphs. 

Millennial: Time and time I've been dubbed the "token millennial" or "expert millennial" among my companies or friend groups. This all really translates to my ability to understand people and live as an early-adopter. I'm not any smarter than the other millennial you know, I just have a special way of observing, translating and looking ahead. The things I want to talk about are made for my generation (Disclaimer: Hey, it's a 20 year gap so forgive me if things are not always 100% relevant to you). 

And the reality is that many of you out there are "marketable millennials." You are the exception to the stereotype, you are the stories we want to talk about, and you are setting an example for the generations that come after us.

Let's continue this journey together.

Millennials: The Coupon Clique

The holiday season is filled with spending, and millennials are rising up to be a little more ready than the rest of the population. A new point of validation to the theory that millennials are financially savvy and deeply conservative is a finding that they love coupons.

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Do coupons seem like an old-fashioned, antique way of shopping? Not anymore. Today’s young consumers, often accessorized by their enormous student debt and rent payments, have become some of the most coupon-savvy of our time. According to an infographic by Syracuse University’s online Master’s in Accounting program, 96 percent of millennials use coupons. This can be in the form of traditional clippings, online promotions, rebate programs, etc.

When you break down the most popular forms of savings, digital coupons and internet promotions win by an overwhelming amount. Couple that with the fact that millennials are dubbed the “digital generation,” and the notion that they’re winning at couponing fits right in. More than 60 percent of millennials admit to trading and hunting for deals via social media or online before committing to a purchase. This consumer group is constantly on the hunt for apps and websites, like Groupon or Ibotta, which provide the value they seek at the touch of a button.

 MBA@SYRACUSE

MBA@SYRACUSE

What’s in it for the businesses? Coupons can be a cost-effective method for attracting new customers, encouraging them to increase first-time purchases. For many, a coupon might’ve made a purchasing moment for a new product much more comfortable. Unlike price reductions or clearances, the incentive of a coupon makes the consumer feel they are taking advantage of a limited deal versus grabbing something no one wanted. According to information from MBA@Syracuse, an online MBA program with a GMAT waiver, the rise in popularity for digital coupons also benefits the business as it eliminates costs to print and makes room for codes to become a valuable insight.

Coupons can make a dollar go further, and coupon-related discounts can add up to more than $3.5 billion in savings per year. The art of stretching the dollar is allowing millennials to make more guilt-free purchases while staying on a budget. So alas, some valuable notes we should be taking from this generation.