How to save money when in NYC

New York City is a vibrant, bustling metropolis often labeled as one of the most expensive cities in the world. In fact, Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index ranked NYC among the top 10 most costly cities globally in 2023. However, there’s a silver lining for those wishing to savor the Big Apple’s unique allure. With the right strategies, you can indeed save money when in NYC. This will help you turn the concrete jungle from a financial burden into a profitable opportunity. Our company, Best Movers NYC, calls this city home and has been navigating its financial ebbs and flows for years. We’re here to share our top money-saving tips to help you relish all the city offers without breaking the bank.

Housing options that won’t render you penniless

Transitioning to life in NYC often starts with securing a place to live. However, the city’s median rent, which totals $3,500 in 2023, can give anyone jitters. Fear not; alternative options allow you to save a little on housing. One of the primary strategies is to explore apartments in outer boroughs like Queens or less popular neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Take, for example, Bay Ridge – where the median rent is $1,658. These areas provide significantly lower rental rates than Manhattan’s, often offering more space for the buck.

Picture of a laptop that is displaying statistics
You can save money when in NYC by living in a less popular area.

Mapping your finances

Living in NYC demands a comprehensive budgeting strategy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the average resident of this city spends approximately 16% more on general expenses than the national average. Therefore, creating an effective budget is vital to keep your finances in check.

To actually save money, you must categorize your expenses into necessities like rent, utilities, groceries, and discretionary items such as entertainment and eating out. Prioritize your spending on necessities first, then allocate a portion of your budget to leisure activities. Use an app like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to help you manage your finances more effectively.

Now, if you’re moving within the city, consider hiring local movers NYC has to offer. Their price might be aligned with the city’s cost of living, but they offer competent services – for a reasonable price. Professional moving services can also help you streamline your moving process, saving time and avoiding unexpected costs. After all, time is money, especially in New York.

Affordable transportation alternatives

The city’s public transportation system is one of the most comprehensive and cost-effective in the world. The subway, operated by the MTA, consists of 28 lines serving 472 stations, ensuring a vast reach across the city. For instance, the popular A line connects neighborhoods from upper Manhattan to far Rockaway in Queens. Similarly, the 7 line takes you from the lively Times Square all the way to the ethnic mosaic of Flushing, Queens.

New Yorkers spend an average of $121 monthly on unlimited ride MetroCards, according to MTA’s 2023 fare information. This becomes incredibly affordable when compared to the cost of owning a car in the city. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reported in 2023 that the average annual cost of car ownership was $4,236 when eliminating parking fees and other financing expenses. Therefore, utilizing public transport not only connects you to multiple neighborhoods but also significantly helps save money when in NYC.

For larger transport needs, such as ones associated with moving from another state, consider acquiring services of experienced long distance movers New York companies provide. Specialized in moving larger items over long distances, they can provide cost-effective solutions, saving you from potential self-move expenses and hassles.

Picture of a NYC subway station
Using public transportation is more affordable than owning a car in this city.

Eat well, pay less

Switching to food, dining in this city can be a culinary adventure without burning a hole in your wallet. Numbeo’s statistics report that while a meal at an inexpensive NYC restaurant averages around $25, many hidden gems offer quality food for less. Consider the food trucks, for instance. They serve everything from classic hot dogs to gourmet offerings, often under $10. Neighborhoods like Jackson Heights in Queens, renowned for its Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese cuisines, or Sunset Park in Brooklyn, famed for its authentic Latin American and Asian foods, offer diverse meals, often for less than $10 as well.

Take advantage of lunch specials or happy hours. In the city, more than 50% of bars and restaurants have happy hours, typically between 4-7 PM, according to data from HappyHourFinder. Here you can enjoy discounted meals and drinks, sometimes slashing your bill by half.

For those preferring to cook at home, local markets like Union Square Greenmarket offer fresh, locally sourced produce, allowing you to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals. You can decide what goes into them, but you will have to buy groceries yourself and do the dishes afterward.

Free or discounted entertainment options

The Big Apple is renowned for its arts scene, iconic landmarks, and sporting events. However, enjoying these doesn’t have to be expensive. For instance, many museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History offer pay-what-you-wish admission. Additionally, NYC’s Parks Department hosts numerous free events throughout the year, from concerts to fitness classes. So, it’s indeed possible to stay entertained while trying to save money when in NYC.

Now, when it comes to moving an entire entertainment-related business to the area without breaking the bank, remember that commercial moving companies NYC has to offer are the help to seek. They are experts in moving office equipment, avoiding damages, and ensuring business continuity, which ultimately saves you money.

Picture of NYC at night
Entertainment in this bustling city doesn’t always have to break the bank.

Utilizing NYC resources and discounts to save money

It’s no secret that the city is brimming with community-driven initiatives and discount programs aimed at making living affordable. An example is IDNYC, a free government-issued identification card for New Yorkers. This card offers benefits like free one-year membership to 35 cultural institutions, including zoos, museums, and performing arts centers. In the process, it presents opportunities to save money when in NYC after using the services of residential movers NYC has in store.

Frugal living and money-saving hacks

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle can significantly reduce expenses. According to a study, the average American household spends an average of $1,500 on clothing annually. This is due to many fast fashion trends, which make people buy more clothes than they need. Ultimately, this leads to cluttered wardrobes.  By reducing clutter, not only do you create a more organized living space, but you also prevent unnecessary purchases.

This is where affordable home organization strategies come into play. Particularly in New York City, where the average apartment size is around 866 square feet, efficiently utilizing your space can result in substantial savings. IKEA and The Container Store offer budget-friendly storage solutions that can transform your living area, saving you the cost of potentially needing a larger (and more expensive) apartment.

Additionally, second-hand shopping has gained popularity, and it’s a trend that can significantly contribute to your savings. According to ThredUP’s 2020 Resale Report, buying used clothing extends a garment’s life by about two years, which reduces its carbon, waste, and water footprint by 82%. So, not only are you saving money, but you’re also contributing to environmental sustainability.

NYC boasts an impressive selection of thrift stores like:

  • Beacon’s Closet
  • Vintage Thrift Shop
  • Cure Thrift Shop
  • Goodwill and many more

These shops offer everything from clothing to furniture at heavily discounted prices. For instance, a shirt that might cost $50 in a regular store can be found for as low as $10 in a thrift store. By incorporating thrifting into your lifestyle, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars annually, making it another effective way to save money when in NYC.

Picture of a person that is thrifting to save money when in NYC
Thrifting is a great alternative when shopping for clothes.

Creative ways to maximize savings

Let’s not forget that time is money, especially in the Big Apple. Therefore, finding creative ways to maximize your savings is crucial. For instance, energy costs can be minimized by using electricity during off-peak hours, typically from midnight to 8 a.m. and weekends, as per Con Edison’s Time-of-Use rates.

Likewise, meal prepping on weekends can save both time and money during the work week. Consider crafting a weekly menu of simple, cost-effective meals like stir-fried vegetables with rice, pasta dishes, or homemade salads. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, home-cooked meals are not only often healthier but also cheaper than dining out. Plus, you can control portion sizes, further extending your food budget. Additionally, cooking large quantities and freezing meals for future use can help reduce cooking time during the week and prevent the temptation of ordering takeout.

Save money when in NYC by sharing the apartment

Housing costs present one of the most significant expenses in the city. However, this burden can be eased through co-living or sharing an apartment with roommates. Co-living spaces offer furnished rooms in shared apartments, with utilities and amenities included in the rent. Rent in these spaces can be up to 30% cheaper than traditional apartments, making it an attractive option for those wanting to save a bit of money.

Likewise, finding roommates for traditional apartments can cut costs significantly. Websites like Roomi and SpareRoom make the process of finding compatible roommates easier. By sharing the cost of rent and utilities, you can live in desirable neighborhoods without spending a fortune.

What’s more, adopting a minimalist approach to possessions can further save costs. In this respect, you can use apps to sell unnecessary belongings. Platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Poshmark can turn your clutter into cash, providing extra income while promoting a less-is-more lifestyle.

Side jobs and skill-building opportunities in NYC

The gig economy is booming in New York City. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1 in 10 workers are employed in “alternative work arrangements,” which includes gigs and freelance work. Whether it’s driving for Uber, delivering for DoorDash, or offering freelance services on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, side jobs can provide additional income to buffer your living costs.

Furthermore, NYC is a hub for learning new skills affordably. Organizations like the Brooklyn Brainery offer low-cost classes on a wide range of topics. Websites like Coursera and edX also provide free or low-cost online courses from top universities. In addition, investing in skills can open doors to higher-paying job opportunities, helping you earn more in the process and worry less about the costs.

Plan your shopping to save money when in NYC

Strategic shopping can lead to considerable savings. Shopping during sales and using money-saving apps like Honey or Rakuten can significantly reduce your grocery and household expenses. According to a study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, strategic shoppers can save up to 37% on their grocery bills. Buying items in bulk from stores like Costco or using online platforms like Boxed can also trim your budget.

Picture of a person who is grocery shopping to save money when in NYC
Adopting a strategic outlook on shopping can help you save money.

Conquer the high costs like a pro!

While the city is renowned for its high cost of living, there are numerous strategies to save money when in NYC. Whether it’s housing, transportation, dining, or shopping, every aspect of city living presents opportunities for savings. It requires an informed approach, leveraging local resources, and being strategic about spending. Remember, the city is brimming with possibilities, and with the right strategies, you can make the most of living in it without breaking the bank. As a newcomer, it can be difficult to navigate all of this. But with time passing, you will ease into the new lifestyle and get the hang of it. In the meantime, have fun and enjoy everything that the Big Apple offers!



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Newbery, E. (2023, July 6). The average American spends this much on clothes every year. The Motley Fool.

Time-Of-Use Rates | Con Edison. (n.d.).

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