Living in the Big Apple? Whether you’ve recently relocated, are planning a move, or are a lifelong New Yorker, there are plenty of ways to make big city living better on your wallet.
You don’t need to stay in your house or move to a cheaper location to save money in NYC. With plenty of free and cheap things to do, plus ways to cut down on necessary expenses, living in the Big Apple can still be affordable.
To save money in NYC, start by looking for ways to reduce your main expenses. This can be getting a roommate to cut down on housing costs, using public transportation instead of your own car, taking advantage of discounts on dining and entertainment, and free public programs.
Look for free and cheap things to do as a New York City resident to make the most of your big city life.
How To Save Money In NYC
There’s no denying that New York City is a high-cost-of-living (HCOL) area. Rents are higher than almost any other city in the United States and there are so many wonderful (and expensive) ways to spend money on world-class food, drinks, and entertainment.
Saving On NYC Housing Costs
Housing is one of the most expensive aspects of living in New York City. The New York Post reported that the median 2021 rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,810.
The average rental cost in Manhattan, one of the most expensive areas of New York City, is $4,009. Even if you can’t bring overall rent costs down, you can find ways to cut your own housing expenses.
Roommates are popular in NYC due to the high housing costs. You can find someone with a similar schedule, interests, and lifestyle to make living as roommates easier. It is a great way to split the cost of rent with someone else.
Another great way to keep your housing costs manageable is to live further out from the city center. Manhattan is the most expensive area of New York City for housing (in general).
By living in another borough or even across the river in New Jersey, you can find cheaper housing while still being close enough to take advantage of the city’s life and amenities.
You can also get rid of your vehicle to save money on rent and amenities. Parking is at a premium in NYC so many buildings don’t provide it, which means you need to pay additional costs to house your car.
If your rental does include parking, it probably costs quite a bit more than a similar building that doesn’t offer parking. The public transportation system in New York City is well developed and efficient, often running faster and more reliable than dealing with NYC traffic.
Tip: Sign up for a monthly pass to get the best savings on public transportation. The 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard is the best deal and works with both the subway and bus routes.
Learn about Your Schools
If you have children, there are plenty of prestigious (and expensive) private schools in New York City. The public school system can also be great, especially in some of the boroughs further away from the city center. Look into all of your school options, including scholarships, tuition assistance, and public school to make the best financial and educational decision for your family.
Insurance may not be the most exciting way to save money in NYC but finding a good insurance plan that works with your budget can really help your bottom line. If your employer offers an insurance plan, talk to them about ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs that can work for your health needs.
You can also work directly with teaching hospitals and practices in New York City to keep your healthcare costs down. The same goes for haircuts, massages, photos, and other services. There are always new providers who want to build their portfolio and are willing to offer their services for a great price.
Tip: Reach out to schools that train service professionals to get in touch with their new students. You can enjoy savings on everything from professional photos to catering to haircuts and color.
Choose Your Dining Options In Advance
It can be very tempting to enjoy all of the amazing food and drink options in New York City. With options from dive bars to award-winning chefs, the options seem endless.
Cooking at home can save a lot of money. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of the wonderful food NYC has to offer.
You don’t need to skip going out to eat altogether. Just plan it in advance so that it works with your budget. That way you are able to enjoy the meal without any of the financial guilt that comes with impulse spending.
If you are a foodie, it’s a good idea to get plugged into the food scene to find out about special deals like NYC Restaurant Week and soft-openings of new restaurants. You can often find great deals on meals that would otherwise be out of your budget.
Save on Groceries in NYC
Many New Yorkers don’t have cars, which can make buying in bulk a little bit more difficult. But there are still plenty of ways to save on groceries in New York City. There are plenty of markets that have great prices, especially on produce and in-season items.
Following a few tried-and-true strategies to cut down your grocery bill can help immensely in New York City. Try cutting back on costly items like meat occasionally and meal plan to make sure that you are getting the most out of the foods that you buy. This can also prevent you from throwing out food that spoils before you eat it.
If you are living in NYC as a family, get your kids involved in picking out groceries and making meals. This will help them get invested in your family cooking rather than asking to get take-out at every opportunity.
You can always still buy in bulk to get some of the best deals. By carrying your large quantity purchases home, you might be able to save on a gym membership, too!
For one of the most iconic urban cities in the world, New York City has a lot of great outdoor spaces to enjoy that are 100% free. Central Park is second-to-none when it comes to outdoor recreation in the city.
You can run on the trails, walk next to the lake, or just lounge in the grass. Many organizations also host free and low-cost events to get New Yorkers together in the park.
Bryant Park and the Brooklyn Bridge are two other outdoor spaces that are completely free to enjoy. Many other outdoor venues, such as the Bronx Zoo, offer free days or discounted admission.
Of course, nothing compares to some good old-fashioned people watching on the streets of NYC. Grab a slice of famous New York pizza for $1 and enjoy an alfresco lunch while watching the crowds go by.
Join A Community
New Yorkers are known for being a hustle and bustle bunch but that doesn’t mean that they don’t take time to find and create community. If you are new to the city or just want to branch out a bit more, look for a MeetUp group that caters to your interests and hobbies.
Many have free or cheap events where you can meet new people, participate in an activity together, and find new things about your home city. Volunteering is another great way to get out in the community without needing to spend a lot of money.
Buy Things Secondhand
Thrift shopping is a great way to save money in any area but is extra special in New York City where the thrift shops are almost bursting with treasures from its wide variety of residents. If you want something high-end, visit thrift shops in the more expensive and exclusive parts of the city.
For more eclectic tastes, look at secondhand shops in some up-and-coming neighborhoods with a creative spirit. You can also snag some amazing vintage finds for one-of-a-kind style.
New York City Living
If you are getting your budget ready to live in New York City or want to tweak the budget that you already have, here are the top categories to consider when looking for ways to save money in NYC:
How Can I Spend Less In NYC?
Start by considering your necessary major expenses. These often include:
- Vehicle Expenses
Look for ways to keep these costs down while living in New York City. Once you tackle some of your biggest expenses, you’ll free up money to save or spend on other priorities.
Cheap And Free NYC
Ready to overhaul your New York City living budget? Here are our top resources, programs, and deals to make the most of your Big Apple lifestyle on a small apple budget.
The New York Public Library: Free classes, events, and (of course) books to check out make this a great resource for learning and community-building in NYC.
Bryant Park: Free ice skating in the winter
The Bronx Museum of the Arts: free
Hamilton Grange: free
MoMA: free for residents
Grand Central Terminal: free to visit
Staten Island Zoo, Bronx Zoo: Some free days
9/11 Memorial: Some free days for the memorial, free to visit site
New York Aquarium: Some free days
Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum: Some pay-what-you-can days
Brooklyn Children’s Museum: Some free days
Staten Island Ferry: Get a free view of the Statue of Liberty
Shakespeare in the Park: free tickets available
Parades: Annual parades are free to attend, although can get crowded
NYC ID card: Get a resident card to access free days and discounts at a number of attractions
There are plenty of other free and cheap attractions in all five boroughs. Many also offer discounts for NYC residents or free days just for residents.
They do tend to get busy on free and discount days, so make sure that you get there early to take advantage of everything these attractions have. Special exhibits and food often cost extra.
If you dream of living in NYC or are already a resident looking to maximize your budget, consider these ways to save money in NYC. Cut down your major expenses like housing, transportation, insurance, and food by getting a roommate, getting rid of your car, using employer insurance, and planning your meals ahead. You can also enjoy the amazing experiences that New York City has for residents at free or discounted attractions.