Thriving on Minimal Wage in NYC in 2023

Today, I stumbled across a new video about a man called JR who is thriving in NYC living off minimal wage. This video really inspired me for many reasons.

First off, the story telling, videography, and editing was amazing (so shout out to Erik Conover who made this). Second, JR has such as positive, optimistic attitude; I have no doubt his charisma will help make this video go viral. Third, the idea behind the video is so amazing; we all know NYC is the most expensive city in the world, yet you’ll see in the video how he thrives. He’s so happy, upbeat, and has that survivor mentality. His home and lifestyle is small, yet he makes so much of it by having smart interior design and being smart with his expenses. His attitude makes his experience well worth it: he loves the culture and experiences that the city offers. In my eyes, he’s thriving.

Having took a swing at trying out NYC for 3.5 months last year, I can tell you that JR is a bit out of the ordinary. Many people would’ve that positive of an attitude or as clean, well furnished, and nice of a space. You can tell he has a high level of conscientiousness. He dresses well, plays guitar well, and knows how to organize his space well. I’m inspired by him because put me in the same room, and it would start look a mess, with a pile of clothes in one area and no decorations on the walls. Don’t worry, I’m getting better; I’ve been following subreddits like /r/malelivingspace to get inspiration. And it just goes to show you that fashion and interior design doesn’t have to be expensive; you just have to smart with what you get.

Also, finding a place that cheap and near the hub of the city isn’t going to be easily, especially in Manhattan. Most people will pay more and have to live in a different burough and commute 20 to 45 minutes in. I lived in Queens, Brooklyn, and upper East NYC near Harlem. While I would’ve loved to live in Manhattan, I didn’t mind living in these other places. I got to experience all the ins and outs of NYC. Frankly, I think experienced more of it than locals. There are people I met who solely lived in Manhattan because they had professional jobs and didn’t like commuting. And let me tell you, they’re missing out on all the different vibes and cultures of the different buroughs because they look a lot different. Harlem is more of a suburby, grungy NYC with more space and more ethnic, delicious soul food. Bushwick, Brooklyn has a more brewery, hipster vibe with mural art everywhere. Astoria Queens was one of my personal favorites since I found I like more of a classic suburb vibe where you can walk to a Best Buy or shopping center but also hop right onto a metro and get to Manhattan in under 30 minutes.

There’s various ways that JR can inspire you. I hope you find your way. For me, he inspired me because:

  • He pursued his dream. Rather than staying his comfort zone living in his home town, he did it. He found a way to do what he wanted, which was to pursue his love of music and self-expression in the multicultural hub of the world. This requires you to commit. You can’t just be wishy washy. I know what it’s like to stay in your comfort zone. I stayed in my hometown for years because the prospect of just moving somewhere new with no connections and no money was so scary and ridiculous to me, even though I had heard and seen others do it.
  • In fact, if he didn’t tell you his salary, I would’ve assumed he was a regular, even cool, person with a regular salary in NYC. Manhattan is the most expensive burough, and he found a way to live there. When you step into his home, it’s not the cleanest it could be, but it’s pretty organized and artsy for me. He can step outside and get to any of the major activities in Manhattan within 15 minutes or less, which is insane. People may assume that you have to be dressed like a bum and have a messy garbage home if you’re barely making money, yet he’s doing it and doing it well. And that just goes to show you that your outer world is really a reflection of your inner world, and JR’s mind is clean, focused, and impressive.
  • He’s doing so much with less. Can’t afford the gym? No problem. Don’t want to spend too much on metro commuting? No problem. That show with JR in a puffer jacket on his bike spoke to me because it felt like he was just like any other local, comfortable with his possessions, not needing anything else, able to get to where he wanted. He was asked a couple times in the video if he felt like he was living comfortably with his income, and he enthusiastically, assuredly said yes. Part of his attitude and perspective. He’s almost delusional about it, claiming it’d be worth it if it cost twice as much and the room was half as small. I think there’s probably a point where you have to be realistic. But I agree with that he seems to be thriving, happy, playing with art, living in the city of his dreams, and living comfortably with what he can afford right now.
  • His attitude about life his contagious and amazing. Like I said, he’s just so positive. I guarantee you there are others living with more in NYC with a much more negative attitude. Your attitude is a choice to a degree, and JR’s made the most of it.

I understand that everyone has different goals. You may not want to do the same as JR and move to NYC. That said, I hope you get something positive out of this video that can help you pursue¬†your¬†dreams. I’m still not sure myself if NYC is where I want to be, though it is still a consideration. I probably couldn’t be as stylish with my interior design or dress or be as positive with my attitude if I was in JR’s living conditions. What I can do is draw inspiration from him to make the most of my life. I can continue to pursue my forms of art and self-expression, which comes in the form of writing in these articles as well as making my own YouTube videos. I can better realize and utilize the fact that fashion and interior design is about doing more with less rather than throwing money at it. I can better “paint” the walls of my mind to have a positive attitude versus a negative one because I know it’s mostly a choice and that outlook can change everything. While there were many good experiences during my time in NYC, there were moments when my mind went negative. I was sometimes at a loss for what to do there other than tourist activities that would make living there worth it. I was struggling to answer the question of how to immerse myself into the social communities there and fun activities so that weekdays wouldn’t just be work -> gym -> bed like back home. While I tried different fitness classes, going to free comedy shows, exploring Chinatown, and even volunteering, I think JR gave me a clue to what I was looking for. JR knew what he wanted: the mix of new cultures and the ability to express himself as an artist. If I can be more clear about what I want, I can have more of an action plan.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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