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11 great money-saving hacks in NYC

Written by
Tolly Wright

You may have heard the news that New York has now dropped behind San Fransisco and is only the second most expensive city in the U.S. to live in, but don't tell our bank accounts that. Between the latest MetroCard price hike and the struggle to find an affordable apartment, it can feel like we barely have enough money to splurge on the occasional avocado toast at brunch. Luckily we've got a few tricks to help you save. 

Actually calculate how many rides you’ll take on the subway each week and month

While it might be painful to shell out $121 for a 30-day MetroCard, that puppy will pay for itself in just 47 rides per month (that’s going back and forth to the office, an OkCupid date or brunch in your best friend’s neighborhood 23.5 times). Mostly bike to work? What about during a week of unrelenting heavy rain? A 7-day unlimited ($32) is cheaper than 13 rides at pay-per-ride prices. Likewise, if you’ve been buying the monthly out of habit but you realize most weekends you stay in your nabe and you take an Uber when you’re running late, then maybe cut back to paying per ride.

Get your IDNYC asap

You probably already have a driver’s license or state ID, but this city-wide ID, open to all Gotham residents, comes with some great perks, including a one year membership to the American Museum of Natural History, the Prospect Park Zoo, the Metropolitan Opera and the Museum of Modern Art. Find out how to apply and the full list of participating cultural institutions here.

Use the take-out option on Seamless

Yes, the real answer to saving money is cooking for yourself, but on days when you woke up too late to pack your lunchbox or the lines at Trader Joe’s are just too much to bear, choose take-out instead of delivery. Most of the places you order from are probably only a few blocks from home or the office, and while it’s easy to let your food come to you, it also comes with added delivery fees and more money shelled out for tips. Get off your butt and grab the food yourself and you’ll save $2 to $4 per pick-up, which, if you order as much as we do, it'll add up fast.

Take your crush on a free date

That special someone who is worth more than Netflix-and-chill can be swept off their feet without opening a new line of credit. During the summer, New York is home to a treasure trove of free outdoor events, including amazing concerts, plays and festivals. In colder months, many of the museums offer free hours and several comedy clubs offer free (or less than $10) shows all year round.

Shop wisely at bodegas

Like delivery, there’s no doubting the convenience of the corner deli that is open at all hours of the night. Yet, while the $1 toilet roll might seem like a deal (and a necessity at midnight), you can get a 6-pack of the same quality for $3.50 at Target. Likewise, that $3 bottle of beer might sell as part of a $14 six pack at the grocery store. The price for the perfect early morning egg sandwich, however, is probably right on point.

Take advantage of the discount stores

While shopping local might be ideal, you probably don’t need organically sourced linens for your bath mat and your cat doesn’t care what his litter box looks like. You regularly trek halfway across the city to try out the newest cocktail bar, so you can find time to shop at Lot-Less or Costco where the savings are real.

Be friendly

This might seem counterintuitive, but tipping well at your regular haunts could eventually lead to savings. While you might prefer to be the type of jaded New Yorker with a constant scowl, chatting up the barista or bartender at your favorite local spot might lead to a generous “tasting” of the new ale on draft, or your regular coffee in a large cup. Chatting up your driver might even get you their number and a quick off-the meter cash-only deal when you’re in their neck of the words. Even if you don’t gain any good transactional benefits, you might just make a fellow New Yorker's life momentarily a little brighter, which has to count for something.  

Keep track of rewards punch cards

Don’t let a fear of wallet clutter get in your way of getting that free coffee/sandwich/frozen yogurt/bikini wax. Even if you rarely go to the café in the opposite direction of the Subway station, chances are you’ll have enough hankerings for a cup of joe and a pastry that you’ll be getting that 10th macchiato free in no time.  

Set alarms on your phone

Does that monthly MetroCard expire at midnight? Do you know that if you leave your apartment after 8am you’ll need to take a taxi to get to work on time? Do you keep forgetting to enter the Hamilton Lottery until it's already closed for the day? Set a reminder for your future, less budget savvy self.

AirBnB Your Apartment

If you’ve finally saved up enough money for that 2-week European grand vacation, why not try to recoup some of the expenses spent by letting someone rent out your room for some (or all!) of that time. But be forewarned, there are horror stories out there, so do your research and be vigilant before advertising your boudoir.

Apply for housing lotteries

While the vast majority of housing lotteries are a long shot, and you'll likely only qualify for a few, somebody has to win those lotteries sometime, so why shouldn't it be you? Suck it up, fill out that paper work, and maybe that $519 LES studio will be yours. 

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