5 Tips for Students on a Budget in NYC 

New York City (NYC): the bustling metropolis that never sleeps, filled with endless opportunities and experiences. If you’re a college student in NYC, the vibrant city offers an unparalleled backdrop to your academic journey. However, it can also be a financial shocker, especially for those new to its high cost of living. Here are some essential budgeting tips to help you navigate life as a college student living in New York City.

Thrift Shop

1. Embrace Thrift Stores 

New York is a fashion capital, but you don’t need to break the bank to dress well. Thrift stores offer a treasure trove of affordable clothing options. You can find stylish, quality pieces for a fraction of the price you'd pay at retail shops. 

Popular Thrift Stores to Check Out: 

  • Goodwill: Numerous locations around the city offering a wide range of items 
  • Buffalo Exchange: Known for its trendy and vintage clothes 
  • Housing Works: A great place for both clothing and home furnishings 

Shopping second-hand not only saves money, it’s also an eco-friendly choice. 

2. Eat Smart  

Eating out can quickly drain your budget, especially in a city known for its staggering array of restaurants. Instead of frequenting restaurants, buy your own groceries and cook at home. It’s usually significantly cheaper than eating out, and you can make meals in bulk to save both time and money. 

Check Out: 

  • Trader Joe’s: Known for its low prices and signature items, this grocery store chain has locations throughout Manhattan. The closest one to LIM’s residence hall is at 1st Ave. and East 59th St. 
  • Farmers Markets: Fresh, affordable produce straight from local farms. The Union Square Farmers Market is especially popular. And if you’re an LIM College student living at FOUND Study – Midtown East, you can take your farmers market haul back to the large communal kitchen to prepare your meals.  
  • Aldi: Take the M15-SBS bus up 1st Ave. to East 117th St. to visit this popular grocery chain known for its low prices.  

3. Take Advantage of Free and Discounted Activities 

The city is brimming with entertainment options, but some come with a hefty price tag. Look for free or low-cost activities to enjoy the city's vibrant culture without overspending. 

Many establishments in New York City offer discounts for college students. Whether it's public transportation, museums, theaters, or retail stores, always carry your student ID and ask if a discount is available. Taking advantage of these can lead to significant savings over time. 

Affordable Entertainment Options: 

  • Free Events: Websites like Time Out NY and Eventbrite list free events, including concerts, festivals, street fairs, and art exhibitions. 
  • Student Rush Tickets: Broadway shows and other performances often offer discounted day of performance tickets for students. 
  • Public Parks: NYC's parks, such as Central Park, Prospect Park, and Bryant Park (which is right near LIM’s campus) host free concerts, movie nights, and other events throughout the year. 

4. Save on Transportation 

New York’s extensive public transportation system means you don’t need a to have a car - and all the associated expenses like gas, insurance, parking, and repairs – to enjoy city life. 

Transportation Tips: 

  • Biking: Citi Bike offers affordable memberships for students and is a great way to explore the city. 
  • Walking: The most cost-effective option. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to discover the city's hidden corners. 
  • Subway to Bus Transfers: With a free transfer between subway and bus lines, you can travel throughout multiple boroughs on one $2.90 fare. 

5. Make a Budget Plan 

Creating a budget is crucial. Track your income and expenses to ensure you’re living within your means. There are several apps designed to help students manage their finances, such as Mint and YNAB (You Need A Budget). 

Basic Steps to Create a Budget: 

  1. List Income: Include all sources, such as part-time jobs, internships, and any regular support you receive from family members, if applicable. 
  2. Track Expenses: Categorize spending (e.g., rent, food, transportation, entertainment). 
  3. Set Goals: Determine how much you want to spend each month in each category. 
  4. Adjust as Needed: Review your budget regularly and make adjustments. 

Navigating the financial landscape of New York City as a college student can be challenging, but with a bit of planning and resourcefulness, it can also be manageable. Embrace the city’s diverse and affordable options, and always keep an eye out for deals and discounts. By following these budgeting tips, you can start to enjoy all that NYC has to offer without breaking the bank.