Let’s not sugar coat things. Living in New York City is expensive. According to Business Insider, NYC is the 11th most expensive city in the world. But, having lived here for over 3 years now, I’d say I have a comfortable level of expenditure where I don’t feel like my wallet is being prised from my clenched fists and every single last cent is being emptied from it every time I purchase something.
There are ways and means to save on your everyday and discretionary expenses. Below are 10 ways we save money living in the Big Apple…
- 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, I know the weekend subway is frustrating but it still gets you from A to B. And it’s ridiculously cheap. Even though the price of the 30 day metrocard has already risen once since I’ve lived here and will rise again in March 2017, it still beats the cost of underground travel in London.
- Take public transport to the airport
Unless you’re packing up and moving to a different country and have 15 bags with you, just take public transportation to the airport. It is SO much cheaper! 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.
- Shop at 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. When we moved here, I almost fainted the first time I went to Duane Reade and CVS in need of some toiletries. Nowhere to be found were the 3 for 2 offers or £1 shower gels I’d been used to in Boots. Everything I needed seemed to have a generic price tag of $8. It took a few months but I finally discovered Harmons, on 22nd and 6th. They sell everything I need at less than half the cost of your neighbourhood drug store. I simply keep a note of what I’m running low on and make a dedicated trip to Harmons to stock up.
- Trader Joes for groceries
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!
I have always shunned my neighbourhood grocery store as it’s just so expensive. $10 for a frozen pizza? Now I understand why people order takeout all the time! So, I’ve always travelled for my groceries. It used to be Whole Foods but I slowly moved over to TJ’s. It’s still not as cheap as I used to pay in the UK but items in TJ’s are generally at least $0.50 or more cheaper than the equivalent in Whole Foods.
- 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. Simply save a ton of money by going to the dollar store – there are lots of choice of dollar stores in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. 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 and stationery to name a few.
- 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. Even though I don’t need anything, I’ve been tempted more than once by the near pristine items some people throw out when they move on.
- Get your 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. The cost of visiting museums here was a real shock to me after moving here from London, where museums have no entrance fees.However, there are ways around the $25 price tag most places charge. Most (not all) museums are pay what you feel is appropriate. The entrance cost is just a ‘suggested donation’. I’ve gone to the MET several times by just paying $5 at the admission desk. 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 & MOMA I’m looking at you).
- New York City 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 website to see what’s going on around the city.
We have gone on an amazing historic walking tour around Central Park and a trip to the little red lighthouse in Washington Heights, all for free!
- Summer is where it’s at for free outdoor activities
Apart from picnics and games in the park with your friends, 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.