12 Ways to Save Money in NYC
It’s no secret that New York is an expensive city. However, whether you are visiting or living here there are simple ways that you can cut down on your expenses and save money. I’ve complied a list of my top tips for saving money in NYC into this one blog post.
Be sure to watch my Budget Traveler series on YouTube to get detailed advice on saving money on everything from restaurants to lodging, bars and more.
1. DON’T EXCHANGE YOUR CURRENCY
If you are traveling from outside of the US there is no need to exchange your money to US dollars when you get here because everyone accepts credit cards. Not exchanging your money will save you the expensive foreign transaction fee and exchange rate fee that you would get at currency exchange places.
Plus if you have a travel credit card then you will not get any foreign transaction fees and get points with every dollar you spend towards future trips. Here is a great list of travel credit cards on the market today.
2. BUY SOUVENIRS IN CHINATOWN
If you want to bring back something that is NYC branded then buy it in Chinatown. Here you can negotiate prices and you’ll find the lowest prices in the city for souvenirs. Absolutely do not buy souvenirs in Times Square. This is where they are the most expensive in the whole city.
3. VISIT JANUARY TO MARCH
The winter season after the holidays is the least visited time of year in New York. If you want to save money then this is a great time to come because it is when all the prices go down. During this time of year, we have NYC Hotel Week, NYC Broadway Week, and NYC Restaurant Week. All of these are promotions that last several weeks where you can get serious discounts throughout the city. Plus there are tons of fun things to do in NYC in winter. I have a whole video on it that you can watch below.
4. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
NYC has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Because of this most New Yorkers don’t even know how to drive a car! A great way to save money is to use it.
If you are here for a week I recommend buying the 7 day unlimited Metro Card for $33. With this, you (and only you – it cannot be shared with another person) can travel throughout the city on subways and buses for the whole week an unlimited amount of times. To learn more about the public transportation system in the city, watch my video on it below.
5. BOOK AN AIRBNB INSTEAD OF A HOTEL
Hotels are on average $350 per night in NYC. To save money and have a more local experience I recommend using Airbnb. Airbnb is a trusted source for locals to share their apartments or private room with visitors.
It is significantly cheaper than staying in a hotel, at around $70 – $150 a night. I recommend finding a place within this price range in Williamsburg, Long Island City, or Astoria for a great experience. All of these locations are about 20 minutes from the center of the city.
If you’ve never used Airbnb then you can get $40 off of your first booking using my link here.
6. EAT AT FOOD TRUCKS INSTEAD OF RESTAURANTS
Restaurants can be expensive in the city, which is why I recommend exploring the food truck scene. There are a lot of great ones in the city, such as Halal Guys. You’ll be able to have a tasty meal but also your wallet will be happy.
I also have a video on my top budget restaurants and bars in the city that will help you save more. I highly recommend watching it and checking out my favorite place for a budget meal called Rudy’s. Here you’ll get a drink for $3 and a free hot dog with it!
7. HAPPY HOUR
I’m a big fan of the cocktail scene in NYC but unfortunately, it is not cheap. If you want to save money but have a good experience at a bar then go during happy hour. Happy hour normally happens right around the time people get out of work and lasts no later than 7 pm. During this time the bar cuts the prices for drinks in half.
Check out this excellent article with great happy hour recommendations.
8. DO ALL OF THE FREE THINGS
Of course, the best way to save money is to not spend it at all! There are tons of free things to do in New York. However, some of them don’t feel worth it because of tremendous crowds or lines. Watch my video below for my top recommendations on free things to do in NYC.
9. GET DISCOUNTED BROADWAY TICKETS
Broadway is the number one attraction in NYC and tickets can be very expensive. For the most popular shows you can expect to pay several hundred dollars per ticket.
However, it doesn’t always need to be that way! There are many ways to get discounted Broadway tickets. Watch my video below for more details on exactly how to do that.
10. EAT AT HOME
Yes I know that you might be on vacation and you want to experience the local food scene but do it strategically! Most people spend the majority of their money on lodging and food. Now that you know this, keep that in mind while you’re visiting NYC.
This tip is especially useful if you’re staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen because then you can cook some of your meals there. My general rule of thumb is don’t eat more than one meal out a day if you’re trying to save money. Are you a super budget traveler? Then only eat out a few times during your trip. The amount of money you will save will be extraordinary.
11. SKIP THE CAB FROM THE AIRPORT
Taxi’s from any of the NYC airports are going to be between $50 and $70 per trip. Why do that when you could spend $10.75 to get to the city?
Depending on which airport you’re flying from (JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark), there are different ways to get to the city center. Read my article here on how to do it or watch the video below.
12. BRING A WATER BOTTLE
This is such a simple way to save money. Just bring a bottle of water with you instead of buying it for $3 or $4 a pop in stores. If you need to get it filled Starbucks will do it for free and many other coffee spots or restaurants.
Plan your visit using the best resources!
Stay at the best hotels for the lowest price
Get the cheapest price on a rental car
Save even more money on your airline flight
Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.
I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this short article
together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments.
But so what, it was still worth it!
When I visited NYC, I found that you can get a good at Whole Foods. The buffet was excellent and you could sit and eat at tables inside the store. It was a good source of cheap coffee too !!
Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing!
Are all recommendations still available & good even during Corona v.time?
At home I see a shift in quality, because the budget of the restaurants are so tight.
What was good in the past is no longer so.
Is it simular in NY?
Yes, they are good during COVID! Surprisingly, I’ve noticed no change in quality here with restaurants. The only thing is that you have to eat outside because indoor dining is still not allowed. Things are slowly coming back to normal though!
More added to my NYC 4 FREE list ! Thanks !
Hi Sarah great guide thank you, am planning my upcoming trip to NYC and wondered does the 7 day unlimited metrocard include use of the airbus to and from the airport?
Hi Rachel! That’s a great question- the short answer is no, you need to load your card with the fare amount for that ride. This is what their website says:
Note: On PATH, AirTrain and Express buses, a MetroCard with both time and value will deduct the value based portion of your card (as these services do not accept 7- and 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard).
Have a great trip!