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4 ways to save money in NYC

Street food carts in NYC

New York can be very expensive, and it’s famous for being that way, but let’s not panic, there are several ways to save money while enjoying the Big Apple. I lived in NYC for a couple of years, and I guarantee that you can totally have fun without spending all your dollars at once. After living in a place for a while, you discover some ways to save a few bucks and still go out, eat, drink and have a great time. Here are my tips to save money while visiting my beloved NYC.


1. TRANSPORTATION | Walk by foot and ride the subway

The best way to see NYC – and also the cheapest – is using your own feet. If the place you are heading is too far away to walk then the best option is the subway. The subway system is very efficient and covers all the island, so with US$2,50 you can get anywhere in Manhattan (and surroundings). Use and abuse of the subway, from the moment you start getting it, it will be your best friend.

If you are a tourist (or even live in the city) and want to save the maximum, this is a great option. The subway doesn’t have a taximeter, so you don’t have to worry about the traffic. You don’t have to tip the driver at the end of the ride – US$1 or US$2 can make a difference if you want to save the most. Also, you don’t have to deal with the bad mood of some stressed drivers.

PS: I’m not against taking a cab in NYC, but if the idea is to save money then it’s not worth to take one unless you have a few friends to share the fare.

Subway station in NYC


2. EATING | Executive menus, fast food chains, food trucks/carts, fairs and supermarkets

Executive menu (lunch): There are several ways to save money while eating in NYC, if the idea is to eat real food, setting on a restaurant table and stuff, know that a lot of places during lunch time serve a special cheaper menu. It’s possible to find a full meal for much less than would normally cost.

Fast food chains: Well, you can’t ignore them, a fast food meal now and then is a good way to save money. New York is full of them, Mc Donalds, Chipotle, KFC, Nathans (my favorite hot dog in town, try the one with cheddar and chili). Some of them you can only find in New York, like Gray’s Papaya (a classic in the city). Also, you can get a US$1 slice of pizza pretty much anywhere, there are several places that offer that deal, 2 Bros Pizza is an option– just grab a slice and go.

KFC meal in NYC

Big fried chicken bucket to share with friends

Food trucks: I like this category, I guess the halal food carts are my favorites (I love the Chicken over Rice and the Lamb Gyro, the white sauce is from heaven). You’re not going to pay more than US$6 in a meal. You can also find trucks and carts of hot dogs (pretty much everywhere), burgers, tacos, lobster rolls and so on.

Food Fairs: The fairs are seasonal, and they may change locations. My favorite fairs are Mad. Sq. Eats and Smorgasburg, there you can find a lot of types of food with different prices, some options are more gourmet than others.

READ MORE: Smorgasburg: Paradise for foodies in NYC

Supermarkets: The supermarkets will always be your friend when you want to save money, I recommend Trader Joe’s, it’s cheap, and the products have a good quality. You can buy some food and drinks and make a nice picnic at the park.


3. BOOZING | Happy hours, drinking more spending less

If you are one of those people that enjoy going out to have a drink at the end of the day but doesn’t like the idea of spending a lot of money in it, you just found the most obvious solution: Happy hour! Almost all the bars have a daily happy hour, and a lot of them starts way before the end of the commercial hour. One that I’ve been several times is The 13th Step, the happy hour there happens all day long and the beer mug costs US$1 on Tuesdays.

Some places offer, besides beers and cocktails, cheaper appetizers during the happy hour. A place that I recommend is 5 Napkin, they have beers and drinks around US$5, and also, delicious sliders for US$2. Besides, there is a very cool website called NY Happy Hours where it’s possible to filter the spots by neighborhoods, the day of the week, time and style. I’ve used this website to discover new places a few times, and it worked just fine. So, visiting the bars during happy hour to save money is a great way to meet new places spending less, and the options are endless, that I guarantee.

Cosmopolitans from 5 Napkin Burger in NYC

Cosmopolitans during happy hour. Cheers!


4. FREE EVENTS | The free events around the city

There are plenty of events every season that is free to go, Global Citizen Festival is an amazing one, always with great artists (I’ve seen for free Foo Fighters, Kings of Leons, Alicia Keys). The festival has a beautiful purpose (to know more about it, please check the official website) and it happens once a year at Central Park. There are also the free SummerStage shows, where you can find a concert to go almost every day of the summer. The shows, locations (most of them take place at Central Park) and time vary, it’s good to check the official lineup and choose the ones you want to attend.

You can also catch an open air movie, load a picnic basket, get a blanket and lay on the laws to enjoy a nice film with a bunch of other cinema fans. But it’s not just during the summer that you can enjoy a nice free outdoor event in the city; you can find plenty of stuff to do during the fall, winter and spring as well.

Another free thing to do in NYC is going to a parade, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Easter Parade, Thanksgiving Parade, Halloween Parade, just to name a few. I have to say that New Yorkers take them very seriously, they are packed with people trying to see something and also full of police officers trying to contain the people’s excitement (stressful sometimes, but it can be fun).

When visiting the city, take a look at these websites, NYC Free Concerts and Time Out NYC, they are great to discovery seasonal things to do, just check which events match with the days you’ll be there and you are good to go.

St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC

St. Patrick’s Day Parade


The prices presented here are from June of 2016 and the currency is American Dollar

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