It’s no secret that New York is expensive. Even Carrie Bradshaw supposedly bought Vogue instead of eating when she first moved here. So for all the tourists who think they can’t visit because they don’t have enough money, if you’re eating magazines that’s the real New York City experience.
Over my time here as an underpaid post-grad, I have come up with a few tips and tricks to save money so I could get the full New York City experience.
- $1 Pizza
- If you think $1 pizza sounds gross and you regularly eat pizza from Domino’s…don’t come here (jk I have a place in my heart for Domino’s cheesy bread). But seriously, $1 pizza in the city is actually great and most of the places have tables to either stand or sit at to eat it. So while you’re running around dropping $50 for every attraction in the city, stop by $1 pizza for lunch. It’s honestly the most authentic New York City experience you will have.
- Street Meat
- I know that’s not the most appealing name for it, but it’s honestly not as bad as the trucks look. My personal favorite is Halal Guys. For $5 you can get a huge sandwich or for just $7 you can get the meat over rice in a bowl. It will definitely be enough to fill you up for the day. Also, don’t be scared of the hot dog stands. I have eaten at many of them and I’m still alive so there is a good chance you will survive (do not sue me if you get sick though I can’t afford it). Don’t count out the food trucks during your trip. They are the cheapest way to eat in the city and some of them are hidden gems of culinary excellence.
- It amazes me that I even have to say this. But, I have had many friends come to visit the city and never get on the subway because they “couldn’t figure it out” or they were “scared of getting lost.” If you are a civilized human in 2016, you most likely have Google maps on your phone (if you don’t, get your life together). When your phone picks up that your location is in the general vicinity of New York City public transportation, it will include directions via the subway. Use it! Stop getting in cabs that will drive you around in circles because they know you have no idea where you are and will pay anything to not have to deal with the subway.
- Another thing, do the math! I would do it for you, but no one wants that (not my strongest subject in school). Look up the prices of the different subway cards and figure out which works best for the time you will be here and how often you will use the subway. Keep in mind that each card is worth $1. If you are just adding money on the card everyone in your group can share the one card, but if you’re adding time you will each need a card.
- Pick a Rooftop View
- I will never understand spending $50 to go to the top of the Empire State Building. When you think of the Manhattan Skyline the most iconic building that sticks out from all the rest is the Empire State Building. But once you’re on the roof, that’s obviously not going to be in your scenic skyline pictures anymore. And, it’s the most expensive rooftop to go up to.
- The Rockefeller Center is a fan favorite. It has a lot to see at the bottom of the building, including shops, the ice rink in the winter and the restaurant in the garden in the summer, and an NBC store. From the roof, you get a view of Central Park and the iconic Empire State Building and just past that you can see the One World Trade Center off in the distance. It has great views of the Manhattan skyline and makes for great photos. I would suggest not going at night though because unless you’re using a professional camera the skyline will just look like a lot of black with a lot of lights and you will not be able to see Central Park that well because it will be dark. Tickets start at $32 for adults.
- The One World Trade Center was my personal favorite rooftop to go to. You could make the same argument I made with the Empire State building, that now you’re on the roof of an iconic building so it’s not in your skyline pictures. But, I think you get enough in return that it makes up for it. Unlike the other rooftops, going up to this rooftop is actually an entire experience where you learn the history of the city and once you’re at the top they have people that can help give you ideas for other things to do in the city. From this rooftop, you can see all of Manhattan (and even Jersey if that’s something you’re into). You also get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and of Brooklyn and the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Tickets for adults are $34 and if you buy them in advance on their site you can save $3.
- Another idea, skip all of those rooftops and go to one with alcohol and finger food with a skyline view. My favorite view of the Empire State Building is from the Skylark. 230 5th is another favorite for tourists looking for a view of the Empire State Building (get there early it gets way too crowded). Bar 54 on top of the Hyatt Times Square has amazing views of Times Square. Top of the Strand is one I have yet to go to, but it’s on my bucket list. The Monarch Rooftop Lounge is definitely a younger happy hour party crowd, but it also has great views of the Empire State Building.
- Museum Hack
- I wrote a post a while back about Museum Hacks to make sure you can see as many museums as you want for as little money as possible. But since I know no one reads this or pays any attention to my solid money saving ideas, I will repeat myself. DO NOT PAY THE “SUGGESTED” FEE! (sorry museums one day when I’m rich and famous I will donate to make up for this). You do not have to pay the “suggested” fee, that’s why it’s a suggestion. Give them a $1 tell them that’s all the cash you have and ignore their eye roll and go see some museum stuff. All of the museums run by the city (Natural History, the Met, Brooklyn Museum, etc.) have suggested fees. For the pretentious private museums that charge $35 a person, there are days when they let in the common people for free or pay what you wish (I always “wish” to pay $1). The fan favorite, the MoMA, has free entry on Friday nights from 4pm-8pm sponsored by UNIQLO. The more obscure Whitney Museum offers a pay what you wish option from 7-10pm on Friday nights. Never pay more than $1 for a museum again (sorry museums).
I believe this classifies as a “major key.” This tip is for all the students and recent post grads or even hoarders who still look like they did in college. YOUR STUDENT ID IS KEY! Even if you’re at a hardware store in the city, ask if there is a student discount. My hardware store actually has a student discount and I’m pretty sure the owner is still trying to figure out where there is a St. Bonaventure University in this city. So never check out in this city without first asking if there is a student discount. Most of the museums, rooftops, and stores have student discounts. So carry those student IDs around for as long as you can because the money you save from them on your trip might add up to enough for some food from a real restaurant (or maybe just a deli).
If you have any other money saving tips for New York City comment below!!