Oh, New York. The City is at the top of my list of favourite places to visit but, those who’ve visited will know, it’s one of the hardest cities to do visit on a budget. Thankfully, with the help of local friends – and making a few mistakes along the way – I’ve been able to find plenty of ways to save money while visiting the city.
Broadway shows, shopping, eating, tours, transport… everything can become very costly if you don’t know where to find value for money or those secret deals locals always seem to be able to find.
My top tips to save money in New York City.
The first thing you should do
Taxi’s and uber are great, but those $10 rides begin to really add up.
Do as New Yorkers do – buy a weekly transit pass (for anywhere MTA cards work, including the subway and buses) or hit the streets in your comfiest pair of shoes and get walking!
Get out of Mid-town
I’ll be honest, this is one of my worst habits because the bright lights of Times Square, cheap prices of Macy’s Herald Square and delicious Korean BBQ at Miss Korea pull me in, but the further away from Mid-town you are the more you will save!
While Mid-Town has some great attractions (and Broadway!), food and accommodation prices are way higher than many other places in the City.
For food, check out the West Village, NoHo, Tribeca, or East Village.
For the cheapest accommodation prices, consider staying in Brooklyn or Queens!
Find the cheapest Broadway show tickets and Lincoln Centre
While the TKTS in Time Square is a well-documented place to get cheap Broadway tickets on the morning of the show, consider heading to their South Street Seaport or Downtown Brooklyn branches. Shorter lines means more chance to scoop up that ticket you want!
Another option that I’m yet to try is to get ‘rush tickets’ or be part of the ticket lottery. Rush tickets are usually given away when the box office opens (usually around 10am) but there are very limited quantities. Generally, tickets are around $25-30, seated in the front row or the next best seats available!
Ticket lotteries are another option and take place around 1.5 – 2 hours before the show. Head to the ticket office, place your name in the bucket and keep your fingers crossed!
You can find tickets for Lincoln Center events by visiting the David Rubinstein Atrium at the Lincoln Centre on the morning of the event.
Take to the water
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most visited sights in New York but if the idea of crowding onto that tiny island or waiting in the queue to do so puts you off a little you do have other options to see Lady Liberty.
Running 24/7, the free Staten Island Ferry is the easiest and cheapest way to see the Statue of Liberty. The free ferry runs between Whitehall and Staten Island.
New York Water Taxi‘s runs a daily shuttle from Wall Street’s Pier 11 to IKEA Brooklyn. Monday – Friday the shuttle costs $5 – but spend $10 or more and you’ll get a $5 credit towards your purchase when you show your taxi ticket – but on weekends it’s absolutely free! Now who’s up for a boat ride and some Swedish meatballs?!
$1 pizza slices: the biggest bargain in the city
There’s a place to eat for any budget in New York and for the most budget of all is the $1 cheese slice. There are a number of places to find the Dollar Slice. but this map has a lot of them listed. Even if you can’t find the dollar slices, pizza slices usually cost around $3 and they’re pretty filling!
Do Lunch instead
If you really want to save big money, consider having your biggest meal of the day at lunchtime. Lunch specials are a pretty common sight around the city, especially when it comes to sushi!
Two words: discount shopping
New York is a shopping paradise, especially for us Aussies where we can find brands considered designer back home on the cheap.
At any of the major department stores, stop by customer service to pick up an international visitor discount coupon (be sure to bring your passport) which will give you a minimum of 10% off the ticketed items. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t apply to makeup.
For cheap(er) than Australian prices makeup, head to Sephora.
For discount shopping stores, head down to the Century21 Discount store near the World Trade Centre Memorial. Prices can be up to 65% off retail prices.
If you’re seeking out designer goods, check Gabay’s Outlet which houses overstock from department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendal at 50-80% off retail prices.
My number one tip for shopping in New York is NOT to shop in New York. Take the bus across the Hudson and into New Jersey to malls like Westfield Garden State Plaza or Newport Centre. I found without the state taxes applied (New Jersey has no tax), I saved hundreds of dollars on clothing and makeup, and $100 off a Canada Goose jacket from Nordstorm!
Use GoAirport Link to get to/from the airport
While taxis and ubers do have set fares for passengers heading to the airport, if you are by yourself or with a partner then it might be cheaper to take the AirTrain (serving Newark and JFK) or take a shuttle service, like GoAirport Link.
Book your GoAirport Link in advance and be ready to go during the window they give you. You’ll probably end up at the airport an hour earlier than you needed but for the cost and convenience it’s a small price to pay.
Free or ‘Suggested Admission’ Museums
Museum-hopping in New York can be costly, but there is an art to saving on admission. Many of the museums offer pay-what-you-want days. And, while some museums advertise a suggested admission fee, you can actually pay what you can afford instead of the suggested price at those museums. Also, take advantage of museums that are always free.
Pay-what-you-want museum admission days:
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – Free Fridays 4 to 8 p.m.
The American Museum of Natural History – $16 suggested admission
Museum of the Moving Image – Free Fridays 4 to 8 p.m.
Whitney Museum of American Art – Pay-what-you-wish Friday 6 to 9 p.m.
Enjoy free events
New York has dozens of free events, especially during the summer.
Bryant Park hosts free weekly outdoor flicks and Central Park’s Delacorte Theater is where you’ll line up at dawn for free tickets to performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
Time Out New York regularly updates their schedule of free events.
Take part in a free tour
There are so many free walking tours in New York! If you have the time, be sure to join one of them. (NOTE: Please remember to tip your guide if you think they’ve provided great service!)
List of free tours in New York City
Big Apple Greeters – be sure to book your greeter well in advance! (also, there is a no tipping policy!)
Free Tours by Foot – check their website. They have dozens!
Sandemans New York – 11am every day from the Museum of the American Indian
The Grand Tour – tour of the Grand Central neighborhood. 90 minutes, every Friday at 12:30pm beginning at the sculpture court at 120 Park Avenue.
The High Line – Tuesday at 6:30pm, Saturdays at 10:00am between May 4 and September 29
Central Park Conservancy – Check their website for their full range of free tours.
Brooklyn Brewery – free on Saturday + Sunday, USD$8 Monday – Thursday
Consider using Airbnb instead
New York hotels are some of the priciest around so why not consider staying in an airbnb property? Rent a room or a whole apartment for the same, or cheaper, than a New York hotel. You can choose what amenities are important to you (WiFi, please!) and hosts often have great tips for the neighbourhood to help you feel like a local.
…or stay in New Jersey
You can say a small fortune on hotel taxes by staying across the river. Consider trendy suburbs like Hoboken where you’ll be paying half price of what you would in NYC and still be just minutes from Times Square or any other New York location!
Somethings are actually cheaper in NYC than Australia
Let’s get real. Some things are actually cheaper in NYC than Australia. Here’s my top list of things to buy when I’m in the US because they’re cheaper than back home.
- Cinemas (tickets cost $13 in the big city and less in the suburbs. Best of all, movies come out weeks in advance!)
- Designer brands (especially at department stores!)
For those who love a bargain, head to the Port Authority and take a bus #163 to New Jersey where the taxes are so much cheaper! I recommend visiting Westfield Garden State Plaza which has a huge range of stores and department stores. Buses depart hourly. Click here for more information on how to get to Garden State Plaza.
Let me know in the comments
What’s your top tip to save money in NYC?