Whether you’re moving in or just in town for a visit, New York City isn’t known for being budget friendly. But with a little creativity, you can take a big bite out of the Big Apple without spending a fortune.
I know, because I did it.
I was recently in New York City for a conference and extended my stay to enjoy a little time away with my husband. We were in New York City for six days, and I spent $350 (not including air fare and hotel, which were paid for ahead of time). For those of you keeping track at home, that’s less than $60 per day. How did I do it?
7 Ways I Saved Money In New York City
1. Use public transportation.
I saved almost $40 before I even arrived at the hotel by taking the train from JFK. Yes, the train. And yes, I had luggage. But the trip into midtown Manhattan was surprisingly stress free. I utilized the free HopStop app on my iPhone to tell me which stop was closest to my hotel, cutting down on the distance I had to walk through Manhattan with luggage, and took advantage of the $5 ride on the AirTran.
I continued to use the HopStop and my unlimited-rides-for-a-week Metro card for the duration of my stay. The card cost me $27 and I saved a small fortune not having to use cabs. I probably could have saved even more if I would have paid per ride, because I’m not sure I took 13 subway rides while I was in town. However, it was nice to have all of my transportation needs taken care of with one purchase.
2. Eat free food when you can.
I was in town for a conference, so some of my meals were provided for me (although I didn’t eat a single meal at the conference). However, I also took advantage of free breakfast provided by the hotel. And by took advantage, I mean I ate the cereal and through the plums in my purse for an afternoon snack. I also took advantage of New York’s amazing tap water by refilling my water bottle each day before leaving my hotel room. And of course I got my coffee fix from the free supplies in my room instead of the overpriced Starbucks in the lobby.
These little freebies might not seem like much, but I saved at least $20 a day by not having to purchase a mid-day snack (because it almost always turns into a meal when you do that) or drinks on the go.
3. Take advantage of the street food!
Eating street food in New York City is a rite of passage for travelers and a great way to save money. Check out Halal carts for the best bang for your food buck. For $7 you can get a heaping serving of rice, meat and vegetables large enough to share for lunch (or scarf down yourself when you’re starving at dinner). Of course, you can’t beat a good old fashion hot dog, but you’ll probably need more than one to feel satisfied.
4. Find a local deli.
In other places, a deli is a place that serves cold cuts and pasta salads. In New York City, you can buy everything from coffee and a bagel to beer. I think the deli across the street from my hotel might have even sold shampoo. While I frequented the “gourmet deli” right outside my hotel, you might save a little more money if you find a deli that is catering to locals instead of tourists.
5. Save money on Broadway shows.
The most expensive thing I bought on my trip was a ticket to a Broadway show, and it was worth every penny. It was, however, worth twice as many pennies as I paid for it. We took advantage of deep discounts by purchasing our tickets on the same day of the show through TKTS in Times Square. I stood in line for about an hour, but saved almost $100 per ticket.
6. Comparison shop your booze.
You can pay a ridiculous amount of money on a night out in Manhattan – or you can pay $5 for a mixed drink. The trick is to watch for drink special signs and ask around. We took advantage of drink specials at the Pig ‘N Whistle a few blocks from our hotel and had a great time listening to live Irish music.
Don’t assume that the price of a drink in one place is indicative of the price of drinks everywhere. Even in our hotel there was a drastic difference in price from one bar to another. Many people end up overspending in New York City simply because they think they are supposed to or have no other alternatives.
7. Check out local festivals.
The souvenirs I purchased came from a street fair in Hell’s Kitchen. My last afternoon in the city was spent watching a parade two blocks from my hotel. There is always something going on in New York City and much of it doesn’t require an admission fee. Do a search before you leave for events going on in neighborhoods you’re interested in visiting. Time Out NYC is a great resource for activities that will give you an authentic taste of NYC culture.
New York City is a great place to experience and one of the best ways to do it is just by walking around. Good news is, walking is still free – even in NYC!
All photos by Britt Reints