How to save money in NYC | American Travel Blogger
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How to save money in NYC

How to save money in NYC

New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. My rent in Chelsea, Manhattan is $1700 per month and that’s just for a room. If you want to have your own 1-bedroom apartment expect to pay around $3000 and up. Then, with all the socialising you’re going to be doing (that’s why you’re in NYC right?) things can soon add up. $15 cocktails on a weeknight, $50 meals at dinner time…it’s easy to watch your money go down the drain.

But living in the Big Apple doesn’t have to be this way. I am inherently frugal by nature and I have to watch my spending. I’d rather have savings, grow my business and not feel like I’m constantly in debt. So, I’ve developed various tricks for saving money so that I can travel more and do the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’m not saying it’s easy but it IS possible to live in NYC on a budget – you just have to change your attitude to spending.

So here are my top tips on how to save money in NYC:

Sign up for Mealpal

My friend Nomadic Matt introduced me to Mealpal, which is a subscription app that allows you to sign up for weekday lunches and dinners from NYC restaurants. The monthly lunch plan has a choice of either 12 or 20 meals and the dinner plan has a choice of 10 or 15 meals. Over a 1000 restaurants across NYC are part of the program and they each have just one daily dish. You can only choose that one dish and there’s no option to customise your order but the beauty is you can get a lunch meal for less than $6! Some of the portions are HUGE and with most lunch time foods costing $10 and up, this definitely saves some money. Once you’ve purchased a plan, simply open the app, look at the map and look at the pictures of the dishes to see what you’d like to eat. Place your order, choose the time you’d like to pick it up et voila! When you arrive a the restaurant your meal is ready and waiting and the payment has already been taken care of because you’ve purchased your monthly subscription. The kitchen opens at 5pm Sunday-Thursday and closes at 09:30am the following morning, so you need to choose your meal the night before or in the morning but it’s definitely a great app to have.

Shop at Trader Joe’s, skip Whole Foods

Trader Joes

My roommate loves to shop at Whole Foods but even now that Amazon has reduced the prices, I still find it to be expensive. If, like me, price is your main factor then I’d suggest shopping at Trader Joe’s. I buy a week’s worth of groceries for around $38. I don’t make extravagant meals with lots of different ingredients anymore, unless I’m entertaining guests. Instead I’ll buy the basics like oatmeal and frozen berries for breakfast and then grill up some chicken with potatoes for dinner. Which brings me onto my next two points:

Buy frozen veggies and fruit

Back in the UK I would never have dreamt of buying frozen fruit or vegetables. It’s just not the done thing. But over here, when it’s likely you’re going to be invited out to dinner with friends at a moment’s notice, you don’t want all that food going rotten in the fridge. So buying frozen produce means you always have something in the freezer and it will always be fresh. Things like frozen green beans are actually pretty tasty too!

Opt for cheaper ingredients

I buy a whole bag of frozen chicken or frozen fish from Trader Joe’s because it’s cheaper than buying the fresh stuff. I find that chicken and pork are usually cheaper than beef, so I buy according to what’s affordable and what’s on offer at the time. In other words, I’m not too fussy about what I eat and I’ll usually opt for cheaper ingredients such as pasta.

Eat $1 pizza

1 dollar pizza new york

New York is full of $1 pizza places. You get a huge slice for just $1. It may not be very healthy but at 1 dollar I really cannot complain. I could eat this every day and it makes a great late night snack after you’ve had a few drinks.

Hit up the Happy Hours

New York is full of Happy Hours between 4pm and 7pm. Take advantage of them. Personally I love the $1 oyster happy hours at places such as Cull & Pistol in Chelsea Market. Whatever your cuisine off choice though, you’ll be sure to find something. If you want to drink and eat for cheap, this is the way to do it.

Cut back on your Uber habit

Living in a city like NYC it’s easy to just order an Uber when you’re running late. But that $15 Uber you just took would equal around 5 subway rides. Try to plan your time better and take the subway wherever possible. If you really want to use Uber, use uberPOOL. Even though you have to pick up and drop off other people, I find it doesn’t usually take too long. If you’re new to the city you can sign up to numerous apps and get free or discounted rides. Use the following promo codes:

Uber promo code (up to $5 ride credit): victoriab19256ue

Lyft promo code ($10 ride credit): VICTORIA96733 

Via promo code ($10 ride credit): victoria5i5a

Ride the subway, or better still, walk

The subway costs $2.75 per ride, which is much cheaper than taking a taxi. Better still, in the summer months I love to walk. So what if I have to walk 30 minutes to get somewhere? At least I get to uncover some incredibly pretty tree-lined streets and buildings. If you ride the subway a lot then you may want to consider getting a monthly metro card, which gives you unlimited rides for $116.50.

Attend free social events

There are so many networking events happening all over NYC. Search Meetup for free events – you never know, they may have free food and drink. The Skint has a daily newsletter with a list of free or cheap events throughout the city.

Get your hair done with Groupon

Need to get your hair done in New York? Some salons charge $200 and upwards for highlights or balayage. That’s without tipping! If you don’t want to pay full price, look to sites like Groupon for the best deals. In Manhattan things tend to be more expensive, so you may also want to head out to Queens or New Jersey if you want to find a more affordable salon.

For dental, or anything else, head away from Manhattan

Need to get Invisalign? Want to get LASIK? Thinking about getting laser hair removal? Whatever it is, it’s going to be less expensive the further away you get from Manhattan. My roommate regularly makes trips to New Jersey or Queens for household essentials and dental work.

Watch dogs

I know loads of people who are making extra cash in New York City by being a dog sitter. It seems like every other person in NYC has a dog and those dogs need someone to walk them. If you love canine friends, consider signing up to a site like Rover to make money dog sitting. Many owners will pay $40 and upwards per night for you to watch their dog while they’re away. I currently watch two different dogs while their owners are on vacation. I love doing it because I get to have a doggie companion but I don’t have the costs or stress of actually owning a dog.

Visiting New York? Use Hotel Tonight or Airbnb

Perhaps you don’t live in NYC but you’re planning to travel here? Hotel rooms can be expensive in New York and really tiny. I used to use Hotel Tonight – it’s an app that has heavily discounted last minute hotel rooms up to 100 days in advance. What I love about Hotel Tonight is that the app tends to feature a curated list of the best and hippest boutique hotels.

I find Airbnb to also be a great alternative to hotel rooms because you usually have cooking/kitchen facilities so you can cook some meals at home. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up with my link to get $33 in Airbnb credit to use towards your stay.

Get your Broadway tickets at TKTS booths

Want to see a Broadway show? Get same-day tickets at a TKTS booth for up to 50% off regular prices. TKTS has a flagship booth in Times Square so just show up on the day between 3pm and 8pm to get tickets for evening performances.

Visit free museums or go on free evenings

Entry to MoMA is free on Fridays between 4pm and 8pm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is pay-as-you-wish, meaning you can pay whatever you like. The Jewish Museum is free on Saturdays during regular hours. There are so many awesome free museums and galleries to visit!

Quit drinking

The biggest drain on your budget is most likely alcohol. I quit drinking for about 8 months and now I’ll drink maybe one when I’m out. Soft drinks are so much cheaper and when I order a ginger beer, sometimes the bartender will just look at me and say “don’t worry it’s on the house”. You’ll save so much money if you simply cut back on alcohol altogether. More money for travel and other fun stuff!

Get an air miles credit card

As soon as I moved here I signed up for the Delta Skymiles credit card in order to get 30,000 bonus miles for signing up. I put all of my daily spending onto the card so that I can earn enough miles for free domestic flights whenever I feel like escaping the city.

So there you have it – a bunch of ways to save money in NYC. Living here or visiting doesn’t have to be expensive if you do it right! Have your own tip? Leave a comment below! 

Victoria Brewood

Although very much British, Victoria always felt like she was meant to be living the 'American Dream'. She loves the US and has travelled to over 14 states.

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