Buy versatile groceries and try cooking with friends.
Cooking is probably the best way to save a few bucks in the concrete jungle. Yes, you probably want to try all the food options available, but it’s best to save eating out for the weekend or other special occasions (like Valentine’s Day).
After I arrived in Manhattan, I hit up the local Whole Foods with my sister and purchased:
- A huge bag of greens (spinach usually)
- Beans beans beans (black and garbanzo)
- Bell peppers
- Lemons (or limes)
- Blueberries (or any other fruit since bloobs can get pricey)
There are a ridiculous amount of meals you can make with these simple ingredients. And feel free to substitute fruits or vegetables for what’s in season or on sale at the time!
Bring your own food.
Oh yes, you know I packed a whole bag full of snacks to keep my vegan-self happy and satisfied. Plus, these are all easy to transport in containers or bags. Since I had a bit of a routine going back home, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t too out of my element. I can’t go too long without superfoods:
- Hemp seeds (and/or chia seeds)
- Cacao nibs (and/or powder)
- Clif bars
- Dried fruit (bananas, dates, prunes)
- Tea bags
Look for deals on Yelp, Groupon, Postmates, and Grubhub. Use coupons.
Whole Foods has a new app that lets you browse coupons now! And food ordering apps always have discounts for new customers.
Sign up for fitness classes with free trials, or ask friends for guest passes.
Besides using my sister’s Equinox guest pass on two separate occasions, I’ve scoured the city for affordable fitness classes (less than the normal $25 drop-in rate… I know, cray). Today, I signed up for a free month trial of Classpass and was able to take a yoga class at Sky Ting in Chinatown. You get five classes a month and are allowed to visit each location a max of two times. Plus, walking 20 minutes to/from class was a great cardio warm up. Next up, I’m trying Crunch Gym.
Walk and take public transportation.
Ubers and Lyfts are obviously way more convenient than leaving 20+ minutes early to a dinner reservation, but those charges can add up fast. I hate waking up to email notifications that I spent $30 on transportation the night before. Sigh.
The NY subway system is fairly easy to navigate and a single ride is around $3. However, you can always check Uber Pool and Lyft Line ahead of time to see if those rates are comparable to a subway ticket.
Don’t drink the alcohol.
Pregaming isn’t just for college students! If you’re not interested in dropping half your paycheck on watered down drinks at bougie bars/clubs, stock up on your favorite beer or liquor at home. A solid game plan would be to limit your drink-spending to ONE drink while out ($10-$18).
Let friends know in advance about your finances. Set a budget.
When I first visited NY as a vegan, my friends and family would take me out to ALL the cool spots: byChloe (burgers and shakes), Hangawi (vegan Korean BBQ), Juice Generation (açaí bowls), Candle79 (bistro cuisine), and so much more. Yes, the food was incredible and I was properly inspired to create similar dishes, but it always left a dent in my bank account.
As mentioned before, special events and weekends can warrant a fun dinner out. But having supportive friends can make a drastic difference in your conscience. You don’t have to let them know outright what your financial standing is, but you can always let them know that you’d prefer to spend your money in other places. I’m sure they’ll even thank you in the end.
Research creative past times like visiting museums, exhibits, parks, etc.
I’ve been rather busy during my visits to NY mainly due to classes, but when I have some free time I’d love to see some local museums. I know a few honor free passes on the first Sunday of each month (might have to look into that on a case by base basis) and even discounts for Bank of America customers. Either way, there are always alternatives to dropping major $$$ around SoHo.