By: Josh – Josh@CheapInTheCity.com
Last Updated: August 15, 2018
1. Take the subway not a cab. Yes, the subway is safe. This is not the 1970’s. $2.75 gets you anywhere you want to go and the subway is typically faster than taking a cab.
2. Party in the East Village or Harlem. You’ll save a ton by taking the party to the East Village or Harlem. You typically get more bang for your buck in these areas, and yes, Harlem is safe and beautiful!
3. Get a roommate. NYC has the highest cost of living in the US. By getting a roommate, not only can you get a nicer place for less, you can also split utilities, cable, etc. The savings add up and having a roommate in the city is very typical, unlike many other parts of the country.
4. Stay in a hostel. If you don’t mind sleeping in a room with other people, try staying at one of the many NYC hostels.
5. Eat out for lunch, not dinner. Many restaurants offer the same dishes for lunch as they do for dinner, but at a fraction of the cost.
6. Sell your car. NYC has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. There is absolutely no reason to own a car if you live in the city. Selling your car will save you tons in insurance costs, parking tickets, parking, car payments, etc. It is very difficult to drive in the city. Owning a car in the city is simply not worth it.
7. Buy an unlimited Metro Card. After you’ve sold your car, you’ll still need to get to work and around town. Buy an unlimited subway card for $121.00 and use the subway as much as you like. Doing so will save you even more green. If you’re a tourist, buy an unlimited card based on the time you’ll be staying in the city.
8. Party during happy hour. Going out for a drink between 4pm and 7pm will allow you to find some of the best drink and food specials in the city.
9. Use your student ID. If you’re a student, using your student ID can save you money on everything from food to movie tickets. You’ll find many deals for students around the NYU campus in Greenwich Village.
10. Visit museums on pay-what-you-wish nights. There are a number of museums that offer free admission on certain days and times of the week.
11. Target and UNIQLO Sponsored Events. Target and UNIQLO subsidize a number of events in NYC, offering free admission to everything from expensive museums to shows, plays and concerts.
12. Live in another borough. We all love Manhattan, but living there can be excessively expensive. By living in Brooklyn or another NYC borough, you can still live in New York City and be a stone throw away from Manhattan while saving a ton on rent. You may even get a backyard!
13. Get a NYC ID. NYC now affters NYC ID to residents of the city. The ID will gain you access to many of the city's museums for free. You can even get grocery discounts and cheap theater tickets!
14. Eat Falafel. A New York favorite: this vegetarian dish is filling and typically costs $2 – 3. Falafels consist of pita bread stuffed full of fried chickpeas, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a white sauce. Beware of the hot sauce! They can be found all over the city and are perfect after a late night out on the town.
15. Don’t pay full admission (or any) to the MET or Natural History museums. A number of museums around the city are actually “suggested donation”, meaning you don’t have to pay a cent to get in! Many tourists are unaware of this little tidbit and end up shelling out $15 – 20 each.
16. Take advantage of free samples. Almost everywhere you go you’ll find stores and people handing out free samples of their goods. Everything from cheese samples to free cat food can be found while strolling around city streets. A number of grocery stores offer free food samples at their locations. Try Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in Union Square. Trader Joe’s even has a “Grand Sample Station”. Many of the Greenmarket vendors in Union Square hand out free samples of their goods. Try some before buying.
17. Work out at a city recreation center. No need to pay $100+ per month for a gym membership. The NYC Parks and Recreation Centers offer gym memberships for as little as $25 per YEAR with access to all locations, if you are between 18 and 24 years old. Over 18? Then expect to pay as little as $100 per year, still darn cheap! You can take free gym classes, tennis lessons, dance classes- they offer pretty much everything!
18. Free Pilates! Free mat pilates are offered during the warmer months at several locations. Some studios even offer a free class to possible clients.
19. Visit the Bronx Zoo for Free on Wednesdays. Every Wednesday of every week, the Bronx Zoo has donation based admissions. That means you can get into the zoo for little to no money.
20. Attend “Donation Only” Yoga classes. You’ll find a number of excellent yoga studios across the city, which offer classes for donations only.
21. Volunteer at a local Yoga studio for free yoga classes. If you’re willing to volunteer to clean up the studio and/or help check in guests, many yoga studios will offer you free admission to classes in exchange for your help. Just ask them.
22. Park outside the city and take the train or a water taxi in. Parking in NYC can cost a lot more than doing so in New Jersey. Try parking in NJ and take the subway, a train or water taxi into Manhattan.
23. Book your hotel with Priceline’s “name your own price” option or other last minute booking site. By making an offer on a room through Priceline, you can end up paying significantly less for a hotel room in the city.
24. Watch free theater via Public Theater. During summer months, the Public Theater offers a number of free shows in Central Park including the now famous Shakespeare in the Park.
25. Attend free TV show tapings. A number of shows are filmed in NYC and offer free tickets to those who want to sit in on it all. Shows like The Daily Show give out tickets each day and have a standby line if you are not lucky enough to get tickets the first round.
26. Be a “hair model” for student stylists and get cheap and free haircuts. NYC is packed full of beauty salons and many of them need guinea pigs for their new stylists and/or students to train on. Arrojo (from What Not to Wear) is a popular one in the city. Volunteer your head of hair and save a ton on your next haircut.
27. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the most amazing views of the city can be seen from the Brooklyn Bridge. The walk is both breathtaking and free.
28. Ride the Roosevelt Island Cable Car. The cable car connecting Manhattan to Roosevelt Island is another cheap way to catch beautiful views on the city. The trip simply costs you a swipe of your Metro Card ($2.75).
29. Take the subway from the airport. If you’re arriving at JFK International Airport, you can take the subway into the city for $2.75 each. A cab ride will cost you $52 to $56.50 (during peak hours) plus tolls. You may also want to try taking an Uber or Lyft to the airport. They can't pick you up from the airport, though.
30. Take a van service from the Airport. If you’re not keen on the idea of a one hour subway ride from the airport, try a van service. They typically cost $10 - $25 per person and drop you off right in front of your destination.
31. Drink tap water. Rather than paying $1 – 3 per bottle of water, simply drink straight from the tap. NYC water is some of the cleanest urban water in the country. It is brought in from upstate NY through the water aqueduct. You are NOT drinking water from the Hudson!
32. Take the water taxi to IKEA. If you’d like to take a day trip to IKEA, take the free water taxi. As long as you spend $10 or more at IKEA, your trip is free. The views are amazing and the ride is fun.
33. Once you get to IKEA; eat there. IKEA has some of the best cheap food in the city. For $1 to $3 you can get yourself a plate of Swedish Meatballs with Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and a soda.
34. Use free NYC Condoms provided by the city. Instead of dropping dough on condoms at the store, feel free to pick some up from local pubs and stores for free thanks to the City of New York’s NYC Condoms program.
35. Grab a “slice”. New York is known for its pizza. Grab a slice on the go for as little as 99 cents! You’ll find slices for 99 cents each along 6thAvenue near 14th Street. Just look for the big signs that say “99 Cent Slice!”
36. Buy your groceries in the Bronx. If you don’t mind sitting on the train for a bit, you can save yourself some cash by purchasing your groceries in a borough other than Manhattan.
37. Order your groceries online and save. To save money, try ordering your groceries online to be delivered. There are a number of such services such as FreshDirect. As the food comes from outside Manhattan, the prices are generally cheaper and you don’t have to haul the stuff home!
38. Spend a day uptown visiting the Cloisters. Nestled in Fort Tyron Park you’ll find a beautiful museum: The Cloisters. Admission is donation only for New York residents, so feel free to drop a dollar or two to get in while spending the rest of the day walking around this amazing park. You may even bump into one of the park’s wild chickens! (Crazy, we know)
39. BuyThe Cheap Bastards Guide to NYCby Rob Grader. An amazing guide filled with all the best deals in the city.
40. Take a jog through Central Park. The park is amazing and jogging is always free. Check out the sites while staying healthy.
41. Download social apps. I’ve downloaded such social apps as Yelp! Using this app, you check into restaurants and bars you visit. Some offer free drinks or appetizers if you check in. My favorite is at the Mermaid Oyster Bar in the West Village. You get a free side with every check in. These are amazing sides! Try the fried brussel sprouts.
42. Download reservation apps. Open Table is a service that allows you to reserve a table at some of the city’s best restaurants. Make enough reservations via the service and get yourself gift certificates to help pay for your next meal. Look for the 1,000-point reservations to help speed up the process.
43. Buy stuff from Amazon. Everything in NYC is expensive. I buy almost everything via Amazon.com. When I find something I like in the store, I will use the Amazon bar-code-scanning app to see how much it costs on Amazon. It is often cheaper. If you scan an item via their app on Saturdays, you get an additional discount if you order through Amazon.
44. Sign up for a few coupon sites. There are TONS of coupon sites that focus on NYC. Not only Groupon, but also Living Social, Google Offers, Bloomspot and more. Everyday each site will send you their daily deals. I’d strongly advise opening an email account just for these offers. Your mailbox will fill up quickly.
45. Pick upFrommer’s NYC Free & Dirt Cheap. This is one of my favorite NYC guides for finding free things to do in the city. You’ll find everything from free events to free food. The maps are great.
46. Hit up Broadway Week. For a week or two, every year you can pick up two for one Broadway tickets to some of the city’s best Broadway shows. Check out the NYC Go site for more information.
47. Pump iron free. Many of the city’s most exclusive private gyms offer a free week pass to their club. Try out a few before settling and all free.
48. Take a tour. The city has a boatload of free tours. Skip the pricey Broadway show and take a tour of this amazing city.
49. Don’t pay for internet access. The city offers a growing number of free Wi-Fi hotspots. Drop your 3G or 4G contract and save some cash.
50. Join a free NYC running club. There are a number of clubs which you can join for free which offer runs through the city with other members. Make friends, check out the city, get in shape and save cash.
51. Check out the Union Square Greenmarket. This is an open air market which takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in Union Square. You’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, etc. grown locally for a fraction of the cost of most stores.
52. Skip the tour buses. Go for a walk! The city has tons of stuff to do. Sometimes the best thing to do is just explore. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and costs nothing. The best way to take in the city sights is to simply walk.
53. Purchase your Union Square Greenmarket food at the very end of the day. The vendors don’t want to haul their goods and foods back home. If you catch them right before they pack up you can get even better deals. Feel free to haggle; you’ll get a better price. Sometimes they will give stuff away.
54. Shop at the Union Square Holiday Market. Around the holidays, head over to Union Square and purchase gifts from the amazing Holiday Market. You’ll find hand crafted goods for a fraction of the cost you’d pay in a store.
55. Sublet an apartment and skip the hotel. Many people in NYC sublet out their apartment or rooms in their apartment. Check out AirBnB, Craigslist or other such directories and get your very own apartment for less than a hotel room. Prices go from $50 per day and up.
56. Stay at an extended stay hotel. If you’re planning to stay in the city more than two weeks, look into extended stay hotels. They are typically cheaper and provide larger rooms/kitchens for those staying for an extended period of time.
57. Shop in Chinatown. If you’re looking for deals, there’s no better place than Chinatown. Haggle as much as you can to get the best deal. Don’t be shy, they aren’t.
58. Go dumpster diving. New York City has one of the wealthiest populations in the world. It is not uncommon to find quality furniture and even art out on the sidewalk. Don’t feel ashamed to pick it up. I know people who have apartments which have been completely furnished this way.
59. Attend free movies. Sit in with critics of soon to be launched movies for free. You may have to stand in line, but you’ll have a chance to see a movie before everyone else does and all for free.
60. Grab a hotdog from a vendor. You can’t visit or live in NYC without eating one. So, grab a $1 hotdog from a vendor and save some cash.
61. Buy your clothes at Thrift Stores. There are many Thrift Stores around Manhattan and most of the clothes come from New Yorkers. For some trendy and cheap clothes, make sure to check them out. Note: Sometimes thrift stores are more expensive because they’re trendy. Try going to Goodwill, and not something that says Vintage. They’ll charge you more because of the word “vintage”.
62. Rent your apartment on the Upper East Side. If you’re looking for a studio or one bedroom, some of the best deals in Manhattan (outside of Harlem) can be found on the Upper East Side, especially near 2ndAve. which is still a very nice part of town but a bit of a hike to the subway (until the new 2nd Ave. line is completed).
63. Have a BBQ in the park. Some parks allow you to BBQ and some even provide the grill. Spend the day in a NYC park with friends while cooking great food.
64. Watch free movies in Central Park. Every summer Central Park offers free movies via the Film Festival. Lounge in the park and watch a free movie under the stars.
65. Watch free movies in Bryant Park. Just like Central Park, Bryant Park offers free movie viewings at dusk throughout the summer months.
66. Go sunbathing in Central Park. A popular activity among city dwellers, sunbathing in the park is both relaxing and free.
67. Don’t visit NYC around the holidays. Everyone loves NYC during the holidays. Because everyone wants to be here, prices go up drastically. Unless you’re hell bent on spending the holidays in the city, try visiting another time of the year. Spring is an excellent time.
68. If you live in the city, try subletting out your apartment during the holidays. Everyone wants to be in the city during the holidays. If you’re leaving town to visit family, consider subletting out your apartment. You’ll get a premium during the holidays.
69. Don’t eat out in Times Square. Yes the lights are dazzling, but Times Square is a tourist trap. After taking in all the lights, head somewhere else to eat your dinner.
70. Don’t eat out in Midtown. Midtown is overpriced and caters toward the business crowd and tourists.
71. DO eat out in Greenwich Village. You’ll find some great deals and wonderful places to eat. Greenwich Village is where New Yorkers actually live. Search around and you’ll be sure to find something satisfying.
72. Take the water ferry to Staten Island. The Staten Island water ferry is completely free, runs year round and offers some amazing views of the city.
73. Don’t buy souvenirs in Midtown. Instead, buy them in Chinatown. You know that $20 “I Love NY” t-shirt you just saw in Times Square? They go for $1 each in Chinatown. Yes, a buck each!
74. Don’t eat in your hotel. Unless your breakfast is included, don’t eat in your hotel. Instead, grab breakfast at one of the many wonderful Greek diners (even in Midtown) that offer a full breakfast for $4 – 6. New Yorkers LOVE their diners.
75. Buy from street vendors. NYC has some very strict health guidelines that vendors must follow in order to keep their location open. Grabbing a snack from a vendor can save you time and money while helping out the little guy. They also tend to offer some amazing handmade crafts. The streets of SoHo are filled with such craft vendors.
76. Don’t pay to go swimming. Each summer the NYC Parks Department opens a number of public swimming pools across the city. Every pool is free and open to the public. They even have adults only hours.
77. Watch the street shows at Washington Square Park. Rather than paying an arm and a leg for a Broadway show, try checking out one of the many excellent street performers that have shows in Washington Square Park. There’s everything from magic shows to break dancing. A week ago some guy brought his full sized piano out there on a dolly. It was a hoot.
78. Haggle at stores. In this economy, even department stores are willing to negotiate. The best places are the smaller, family owned stores. Found a $200 dress you love? Try offering $150, you just may make out. Many of these stores can be found on the side streets of SoHo, Greenwich Village and even on Madison Ave.
79. Buy coffee at the small local spots. If you’re in the mood for a good cup of coffee, try a local coffee house. Many times they are a great deal cheaper than chains and are just as good, if not better.
80. Grab a copy of The Village Voice or AM New York. NYC has a number of free publications. Many of them offer up the free local events of the day. You can find them outside most subway stations.
81. Go Kayaking for free. There are several locations, including Pier 40 (Houston Street), Pier 96 (56thStreet) and Riverside Park near 72nd Street. They offer free kayaking every summer.
82. Check out a free concert. During the summer months there are a number of free concerts which take place around the city many of which are free or donation only.
83. Catch a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. If you like comedy, you can’t beat this deal. The shows are good and you’ll even find celebrities there. Tickets are typically $5 per show and shows last an hour and a half.
84. Check out free standup comedy in Greenwich Village. These shows may not be as good as the Upright Citizens Brigade, but if you’re in the mood for free comedy, you’ll find a ton on the corner of MacDougal and Bleecker Streets.
85. Go ice skating for free at Bryant Park. During the winter months you can ice skate for free at Bryant Park. Skate rentals are extra.
86. Go ice skating for free at Rockefeller Center. Just like Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center offers an amazing ice skating experience for free. Skates cost extra, so bring your own if you have them.
87. Rent books from the library or buy from the Strand Bookstore. New Yorkers read a lot. Rather than dropping cash on books at your local bookstore, join the New York Public library, one of the largest and best funded library systems in the US, and check out your books for free. The library on 42ndStreet is amazing. If you must buy, check out the Strand Bookstore to get the best deal in the city.
88. Subscribe to some of the many NYC specific newsletters and magazines. Subscribe to Time Out New York and Urban Daddy to have some of the best deals in the city emailed and snail-mailed directly to you.
89. Make quarterly trips to Target. There are locations in the Bronx, Harlem and one in Brooklyn. I save an average $3 to $4 dollars on OTC medicines and things like contact lens solution, toilet paper, cleaning supplies. Go once every few months and stock up.
90. Don’t pay for views. Many apartment buildings have rooftop access. You’ll get a unique view that’s free and obviously, less crowded. Have a few friends over for a BBQ on your roof.
91. Eat out during restaurant week. Two times per year (January/February & June/July) NYC has restaurant week. You’ll be able to dine at some of the city’s most exclusive (and expensive) restaurants for a fraction of their normal price. Meals are typically 3 courses and cost between $26 (lunch) and $42 (dinner).
92. Grab a massage during spa week. Every year, NYC has spa week. You’ll be able to grab a massage, facial, etc. for a small fraction of the cost you’d normally pay. Spa week takes place in early spring.
93. Venture off the beaten path. Try Harlem! Tourist spots will always be overcrowded and overpriced. There are some great places to eat and drink in Harlem. If you’re young and broke, Harlem may also be an option when it comes to housing. Apartments in Harlem are larger, and cheaper than other parts of Manhattan. You’ll still be a short subway ride away from downtown and these days, Harlem is safer than ever.
94. Skip the movie. People watch instead. With so many people coming together in the city, there’s always someone out there doing something interesting. Just pick a spot and watch. It’s usually more entertaining than paying for a movie anyway.
95. Research before dining out. Dining out can be expensive. Before doing so, be sure to read reviews of the NYC restaurant you plan to eat at. Websites such as Menu Pages and Yelp can help. You’ll save time, money and yourself a lot of frustration.
96. Go out on “name nights”. Some establishments hand out free food and/or drink to people with a certain name. If the name of the night is Daniel, for example, anyone with an ID that says their name is Daniel will get free food and/or drink for the evening. The name changes each time. “No Idea” bar and “Antarctica” both have name nights. Keep an eye out for your name and save.
97. Attend a BYOB event. There are a number of restaurants and even clubs in NYC which allow you to bring your own bottle. Doing so will save you plenty of cash.
98. Shop at the Trader Joe’s in Union Square (and their new locations on the Upper West Side and in Brooklyn). Years ago the first NYC Trader Joe’s location opened up near Union Square (actually on the corner of 3rd Ave and 14th Street). There is also a Trader Joe’s Wine Shop next door. Stock up, as the prices are dirt cheap and most of the food is frozen health food, which won’t spoil. The location can get packed on the weekends with a line around the corner, so try shopping on weekday afternoons if possible. Don’t forget your free food sample at the “Grand Sample Station”.
99. Buy your Broadway tickets at a TKTS booth. You may have to wait in a long line for up to an hour, but you’ll be rewarded with Broadway tickets up to 50% off. There are currently 3 locations in NYC: one in Times Square Center, one in the South Street Seaport and one in Brooklyn.
100. Buy “rush” or “standing room only” Broadway Tickets. You can get tickets to some of your favorite Broadway shows for as little as $25 if you’re willing to stand or sit in not the best location. Some of these tickets are available to students only, so bring your student ID if you have one. You typically buy such tickets the day of the show and they are almost always cash only.
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