on cheap activities in new york city

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It’s a well known fact that New York City is an expensive place to visit. According to Business Insider, NYC is the 11th most expensive city in the world. But, whether you’re there for a week, a month or a year, there are ways and means to save on your everyday and discretionary expenses. Below are 10 ways you can save money in the Big Apple…

if you’re visiting

take public transport to the airport

Taking public transportation to and from the airport is SO much cheaper than a cab or Uber! To JFK, it’s $7.75 – $5 for the AirTrain and $2.75 for the subway. If you have an unlimited 7 or 30 day metrocard, getting to La Guardia will only cost you $2.75, as you get a free transfer to the bus.

culture at a discount

There are some phenomenal, iconic cultural institutions in NYC. Institutions that are always flooded with tourists, who are happy to pay the eye-wateringly expensive entrance fees. However, there are ways around the $25 price tag, most places charge.

Most (not all) museums – pay what you feel is appropriate. The entrance costs are just a suggested donation.

  • The Frick Collection is pay what you wish Sunday mornings
  • The New-York Historical Society is pay what you wish Friday evenings
  • The Guggenheim is pay what you wish Friday evenings
  • The Morgan Library and Museum is free on Friday evenings 7-9pm
  • New York Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanical Garden have free entry on Saturday mornings before noon.

And there’s probably lots I’m missing but these are the places I’ve found that I can visit for free or low cost. Most museums are amenable to pay what you wish but some less so (AMNH I’m looking at you).

nyc department of parks and recreation

They offer a lot of free exercise classes and nature/culture programs including free guided tours and walks. Check out their events calendar to see what’s going on around the city, for something a that makes you feel a bit more local and a bit less tourist.

summer is where it’s at for free outdoor activities

If you’re visiting over the summer, you’re in luck! Apart from picnics and games in the park, there’s also free outdoor movies and concerts to attend during the summer months. And don’t forget about the free yoga and other exercise classes!

take the cable car to roosevelt island

All you need is your unlimited 7 or 30 day Metrocard and you’ll get a free ride onto Roosevelt Island whilst being able to take in the lofty and amazing views of Midtown Manhattan and the Queensboro bridge. And then whilst you’re on Roosevelt Island, you can take a wander down to the FDR Four Freedoms Park at the bottom of the island.

if you’re staying a little longer

30 day unlimited metrocard

This should cover all of your transportation needs for the month. Yes, the subway isn’t the the cleanest, most hygienic, friendliest method of transportation but it gets you from A to B. And it runs 24 hours a day. And yes, the weekend subway is frustrating but it still gets you from A to B. And it’s ridiculously cheap, knocking London’s public transport costs out of the park.

craigslist/trash finds for furnishing apartment

Do not be precious about apartment furniture. Yes, it’s nice to have fancy furniture in your swanky NYC apartment but considering you’re probably spending most of your paycheck on rent for your swanky apartment, there’s little leftover to actually furnish it. The good thing about NYC is people are constantly moving on; it’s a very transient city in terms of population. Yes, there are people who call it their home for good but there’s also a significant chunk of people who move on after 2-3 years of living here. This means, there’s a booming second hand furniture market on Craigslist and if you’re really brave, you can pick up and reuse trash finds on the sidewalk. 

harmons for cheap toiletries/household products

This involves some planning but it is worth it to not have to run to Duane Reade and pay $8 for shower gel/toothpaste/shampoo when you run out. Nowhere to be found are the 3 for 2 offers or £1 shower gels we’re used to in Boots or Superdrug. However, Harmons, on 22nd and 6th sell everything you need at less than half the cost of your neighbourhood drug store. Take a dedicated trip to Harmons to stock up every month or so.

trader joes

See above. It involves a bit more planning but shopping for your groceries at Trader Joes is so much cheaper than your neighbourhood grocery store. Unless your neighbourhood store is Trader Joes, in which case you’re obviously winning at life and just move on down to the next point!

dollar stores are your new best friend

Similar to the two previous points; you have to travel a bit for it but you’ll save money if you do! Don’t get sucked into Papyrus and pay $7 for a greetings card or $20 for a box of 10 holiday cards. Yes, they’re beautifully designed but once given to the recipient, you know they’re only ending up in the recycling. Same goes for holiday decorations or party supplies. Save a ton of money by going to the dollar store. Yes, there are some things that should not be bought from these stores (most of the processed food for starters) but these are great for greetings cards, wrapping paper, party supplies, stationery, festive decorations.

New York is a special place but be sure to make it work for you and don’t be sucked into the high baller lifestyle – it won’t get you anywhere!


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