New York is known for being expensive, and for a lot of people, it’s difficult to visit the city because of the price tag attached. However, it’s completely possible to see all of the incredible things New York has to offer without breaking the bank! After spending a semester in New York City on a college student’s budget (aka very small) I feel like I’ve gained a bit of an idea on how to live in the city on a budget, and here are my tips on how to do it.
One of the best things I learned about New York once I moved here is that this city is AMAZING with discounts. Most museums have free or discounted days, and all of the big ones have student discounts (SCORE!). If you can, try to schedule your trip around those days so you can take advantage of as many deals as possible! I’ve put together all of the “pay-what-you-wish” and free days at various popular New York museums, and I highly recommend you check them out. I’m still trying to get to all of them!
go to the park(s)
New York is chalk full of parks, and I adore spending an afternoon in a park. Plus, they’re FREE! Head to a grocery store and grab some bits for a picnic, pick up a cheap book from The Strand, and head to one of the many parks in the city. Or, if you’re in the mood for a nice long walk, walk through Central Park. It’s a beautiful walk, and I highly recommend going off the main roads. You’ll find hills, massive rocks, beautiful trees, and quiet peaceful areas that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere rather than in the middle of the city.
Check out the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for a complete guide to fun activities happening in the parks around the city: https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/places-to-go
(Aneeqah and I got a slice of cake from Magnolia Bakery and spent the afternoon in Central Park and it was by far one of the highlights of my weekend with her.)
Eating in New York on a budget is no easy feat, let me tell you. My pro-tip: SHARE FOOD. Not only can you get a larger variety, but you also end up paying less! Also, don’t feel like you need to try every kind of food on the face of the earth. This is something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis. Also, food in touristy areas is always more expensive than food in less-popular areas of the city, so try to not get food right next-door to a museum or in the middle of Times Square.
I also recommend stalkingNew York foodie Instagram accounts prior to your trip and making a list of places you want to go. This way, you can look at menus and price out spots, and then you go into the trip with an idea of the restaurants you want to go to ahead of time! Planning your food can also help you figure out what other spots to hit up.
Don’t take a cab, my friends.
I repeat, do not take a cab. (Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)
(Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)
WALK. Seriously. Walk everywhere. Use your two legs and see the city as you walk around–it’s a great way to find places to eat, stop into, and to get a feel for the city. I adore walking around the city and do it when at all possible.
To get between areas, get a MetroCard and take the Subway! Not only will you see the people of the city, but it’s also such a New York experience. My personal rule is that I don’t take the Subway unless the distance I would be walking is farther than five subway stops. That’s somewhere around twenty blocks AKA nothing! Definitely doable. Using this rule also helps you save money!
For help getting around the city, I highly recommend the “NYC Subway” app, which shows you a map of the island and allows you to plan routes between stops to see the best way to get there. It’s free in the app store! (Also, don’t be afraid to ask New Yorkers for directions. I haven’t met a rude one yet.)
I recommend centralizing your activities around one thing. For example, if you want to go breakfast at a certain spot in the Flatiron district, spend as much time as you can down in the Flatiron district. Then, walk over to Chelsea for dinner, go to the High Line in the evening and then head to bed. Only TWO Subway rides total if you plan it right!
(Also, MetroCards work on NYC buses, which go crosstown. You can take a crosstown bus through Central Park! Make sure to pay for your ticket PRIOR to getting onto the bus.)
Hotels in New York are SO expensive. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one. I’ve been lucky enough to have family friends in the city who are willing to let my family and I stay with them, or I’ve stayed in Air-BNBs. I highly recommend one of these options if you can! Or, you can get a hotel in New Jersey and take the train into the city every day. (Trust me, it’s WAY cheaper to take the train in than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a hotel room in Manhattan.)
Let me know if you have other New York questions, or ideas for posts you’d like to see! I loved making this one and would love to make some more in the future.