NYC On A Budget: Your Guide To Living In The City Without Breaking The Bank

Allow me to state the obvious: living in New York City is expensive.  We’ve already covered the basics on how to save money while you’re interning and how you can create your own personal budget, but let’s take it to the next level.  Even if you’re not tempted by the irresistible smells wafting through Magnolia Bakery or the gorgeous Manolos in the window display at Saks, being a savvy shopper in the city is still a challenge.  But just because you need to be frugal doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.  From food to entertainment, we’ve got some tips and tricks so you might just be able to afford a little chicken for your Ramen this summer.    

Food for thought

A girl’s gotta eat, right?  Here’s the problem: dining at restaurants every night and ordering takeout at lunch with your fellow cubicle-mates will make you go broke.  And those stale pretzels sold on the street that taste like cardboard?  They just aren’t going to cut it.  The solution?  Farmers’ marketsThese fabulous markets provide healthy, fresh, local produce to hungry New Yorkers every day and are the perfect place to hit up before heading home after a day at the office.  We know it’s a pain to carry extra bags on the subway, but trust us: it’s worth it—especially since you’ll know exactly where your food is coming from. 

Greenmarket farmers markets has 22 different locations in Manhattan alone, pulling in over 250 customers during peak season.  So grab your favorite eco-friendly bag and load up on all of the fruits and veggies you can carry. 

Also, be sure to get a discount card at your local grocery store.  Just ask for one at the register when you check out, and they’ll probably give you something you can stick on your keychain. 

Get your culture on

NYC is a cultural melting pot, so what better way to soak up the best of what the city has to offer than by visiting one of the many museums?  Tons of museums have free days in addition to offering discounts for students, so grab a friend and have those IDs ready.  

  • American Museum of the Moving Image: Free on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Bronx Museum of the Arts: Free Wednesdays
  • Jewish Museum: Free Saturdays
  • Museum of Arts & Design: Pay-what-you-wish on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Museum of Modern Art: Target Free Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 pm
  • New York Hall of Science: Free on Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Guggenheim Museum: Pay-what-you-wish on Saturdays from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. (last ticket issued at 7:15 p.m.)

Walk this way

Now’s the time to splurge and get a great pair of sneakers—because they’re going to be your new best friend.  Not only is walking excellent exercise, but it’s FREE.  Cab rides are super-pricey, so for longer distances, the subway is your best bet (though you can always share a cab with a friend).  Lucky for us, student fare tickets are even cheaper.  In addition, the Downtown Connection is a shuttle service that runs between Battery Park City and South Street Seaport seven days per week, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. 

Gym hop

People bar hop, so why not gym hop?  Many gyms provide one or two-week free trials, so you can beat the system by working out at different gyms for months.  Gym bouncing not your style?  Try the City of New York Parks and Recreation Centers, where for an annual membership fee of $100-$150, you have access to numerous facilities in all five boroughs.  Like the gym, some of these recreation centers hold indoor pools, gymnasiums, fitness rooms, running tracks and more. 

And as always, with Central Park at your fingertips (or rather, your feet), you can join the masses by kicking your cardio into high gear with a few loops around the park or tossing a Frisbee with friends—no membership fee necessary. 

Taylor Trudon (University of Connecticut ’11) is a journalism major originally from East Lyme, Connecticut. She is commentary editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, a blogger for The Huffington Post and is a proud two-time 2009 and 2010 New York Women in Communications scholarship recipient. She has interned at Seventeen and O, The Oprah Magazine. After college, Taylor aspires to pursue a career in magazine journalism while living in New York City. When she's not in her media bubble, she enjoys making homemade guacamole, quoting John Hughes movies and shamelessly reading the Weddings/Celebrations section of The New York Times on Sundays (with coffee, of course).