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22 ways to spend and save wisely in NYC

Written by Cleo Bergman

Being broke is second nature for most New Yorkers, yet our desire to keep spending knows no boundaries. That's why it’s imperative to build habits like making lunch at home or shopping in thrift stores to save money. That way, by the time we’re ready to treat ourselves, we can. Here are some recommendations on how to achieve that balance as painlessly possible.

1. Swallow your pride and pick up a stray Metrocard from the ground to save you the insulting $1 fee to buy a new card.

2. Don’t stick your nose up at the frozen food section or store brand foods when grocery shopping. You know you can’t argue with that $0.99 bags of frozen Brussels Sprouts at Trader Joe’s.

3. If you love getting work done in cafés, only buy a $5 coffee if it’s made from the beans of a unicorn’s butthole. In other words, just spend money on food or drinks that you wouldn’t be able to make at home.

4. Make lunch at your apartment and bring it to work instead of buying it every day. In fact, make a week’s worth of lunch and freeze them in packs (Note: Fried rice and stir fry are easy to make in big quantities.) Treat yourself occasionally with a fancy burrito.

5. Pre-gaming = not racking up a giant tab at the bar.

6. See also: Free wine and snacks at gallery openings in Chelsea and Soho.

7. If you’re itching to go on a shopping spree, ask your friends if they’re cleaning out their closets. We all have a fabulous shirt that's been collecting dust for over a year that would make at least one of our friends happier than it’s ever made us.

8. Collect your own old or never-worn clothes and see if you can sell them at thrift stores like Buffalo Exchange or Beacon’s Closet. A few extra bucks never hurt nobody. Make sure to donate your rejects to a charity instead of throwing them out.

9. Speaking of thrift stores, hone your inner Macklemore and peruse those racks instead of regular retailers. You’ll find unique pieces that aren’t easily found in the average retail store for a steal.

10. Pack a picnic for your dinner date. You’ll be setting relationship goals and looking cute and cozy in the park.

11. Stay in for brunch and take control of the amount of champagne that goes into your mimosa.

12. Sign up for newsletters or rewards programs for anything that offers free things on your birthday (makeup from Sephora, lunch at Au Bon Pain, ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s etc.) You don’t even have to be a regular customer to enjoy the benefits! Though most places will only celebrate with those who’ve been members for longer than like, a few days.

13. See if any of your go-to places offer a rewards card, and check out the benefits that come with it. Starbucks, for example, offers free refills of coffee or tea when you scan your members card.

14. Check to see if your favorite coffee shop offers discounts for bringing your own mug.

15. Bringing your own water bottle is cheaper than buying a new bottle of water every time you go out.

16. Go to for cheap and free hair services. You’re welcome.

17. If you have window light and a green thumb, consider investing in potted herbs instead of buying them from a grocery store.

18. The next time you visit your doctor’s office, grab a fistful of free condoms on your way out.

19. Those mega-long receipts from CVS may seem cumbersome, but they can save you a pretty penny if you actually read the coupons they offer. This applies for any store or newspaper that offers coupons.

20. Rather than go the traditional route of entering lotteries or buying rush tickets to see a show, check out up-and-coming talents from productions in universities, colleges and even high schools. Actor Ansel Elgort and Broadway singer Kyle Jean-Baptiste were LaGuardia H.S. alumni. Both played major roles in their school musical Hairspray, then went on to become big stars.

21. If you’re into social media, follow your favorite brands for promos or sales. It feels less intrusive than emails, and you’ll probably be the first to hear about sales.

22. If you find yourself in charge of bringing the wine to the party, invest in a good quality jug wine. It’ll cost just about the same as a regular bottle of wine, taste just as good and it’ll keep the party happy the whole night through. Not to mention your wallet.

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