New York for next to nix (United States of America)

By Tegan Forder

Ideally when visiting New York City one would like to have enough money to swan around pretending to be one of the Sex and the City characters. But in reality we’re unlikely to have the type of money to stay in the heart of Manhattan and spend every night drinking cocktails in a hip down town bar.

For me, my eight-day visit to New York City was scheduled in the middle of a five-week holiday to the USA and Canada, so the pennies had to be counted.


I knew my budget wouldn’t stretch to filling suitcases with new clothes so I stuck to the awesome second hand clothing stores like Buffalo Exchange, and bargain hunted at Century 21 Department Store. And, while it may seem extreme, I deliberately took a small backpack to put a physical restriction on my purchases. Before replacing it with something new, I had to give away or bin something. This worked well and I had the added bonus of getting my bag onto domestic flights as carry on and avoided those pesky baggage fees.

My spending priority was food but thankfully that’s one thing that is relatively cheap in New York City. Yummy salads from Whole Foods Market, gourmet sandwiches from the corner deli and slices of heavenly pepperoni pizza found on the Upper East Side were affordable options. The money we saved on the cheap eats, we then splurged on an Italian feast in the Lower East Side and a meat-sweat inducing pig-out at Delaney Barbecue in Williamsburg.

Feet or ferry: Take the scenic route to Williamsburg.
Feet or ferry: Take the scenic route to Williamsburg.

Here are some more tips to help you save some dollars while still experiencing everything this fantastic city has to offer.

Accommodation: If you’re past the backpacking stage in life but are loath to pay more than $AUD150 for a hotel room, venture outside of Manhattan to Brooklyn where it’s cheaper and quieter. To get the benefit of your own kitchen, check out what’s on offer on, a website where private owners advertise everything – from rooms to whole apartments – at affordable rates.

Transport: When your feet get weary go the subway – $2.50 a ride or $29 for a seven-day pass. It can take you all the way from Harlem to Queens, to Coney Island and everywhere in-between. For water views take the cheap East River Ferry and hop off at various points including hipster-central Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Tegan enjoyed the ferry to Williamsburg.

Museums: Save $25 by going to The Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) between 4pm and 8pm Fridays for nix. Pay what you want at The Guggenheim between 5.45pm and 7.45pm Saturdays and keep the normal $22 in your pocket. Entry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) is advertised as $25 but technically only a donation is required.

Tall buildings: Go to Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre) for $27 rather than the Empire State Building ($42 to go to the top deck). The queues are smaller and there are fewer barriers to hinder amateur photography. And you’ll get a better view of the Empire State Building if you’re not standing on top of it.

Gorgeous views from the top of the Rockefeller Centre. Cheaper than the Empire State.
Gorgeous views from the top of the Rockefeller Centre. Cheaper than the Empire State.

Statue of Liberty: Avoid the crush of tourists and long security lines for Ellis Island and Liberty Island; instead take the free ferry to Staten Island. You’ll get amazing views of the famous statue without the claustrophobia.

Parks: There is no shortage of parks to visit. The most famous, of course, is Central Park but another contender is the High Line, a 1.6-kilometre linear park built on a section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad. It weaves through the lower west neighbourhoods of Manhattan providing a birds-eye view to the streets below and into some fancy apartments.

Tegan and her boyfriend, Brendan Dimech, high on life in New York.
Tegan and her boyfriend, Brendan Dimech, high on life in New York.


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