The Guide to Having Fun in NYC When You’re Broke

The Guide to Having Fun in NYC When You're Broke - Free and Cheap Things to do in NYC // ew & pt

Now that I’m about to graduate, I’ve been extra aware of how and where I spend my money, but I don’t want to let my saving interfere with where I find entertainment, ya feel me? I’m sure you don’t want to either. I’ve noticed that some of the most fun times I’ve had with friends are times where not a lot of money needed to be spent, and thus this post was born.

These past two weeks I’ve been having a lot of fun in NYC. This has reaffirmed three things: there’s so much to do in NYC, NYC is very expensive and, most importantly, there are a lot of ways to have fun in NYC without spending a ton of money. While not all of these things are free, a lot of them are cheap or cheaper than the average thing to do.

1. Host or Join a Book Club

If you enjoy reading, this is an excellent and affordable way to have fun in NYC. Typically, with book clubs you only really need to have the book and, occasionally bring a snack or drink or offer your apartment as a place to host.

Even better? You don’t need to buy the book. Utilize the library to get the books for free. The New York Public Library is fantastic.

 {Related: 5 Books Every Millennial Should Read

2. Check Event Calendars

A lot of areas in NYC, from Chelsea to Bryant Park to Midtown have event calendars. These typically include free outdoor movies, yoga sessions, flea markets and other events. Oftentimes, browsing markets is fun enough and doesn’t require extra spending.

3. Groupon

Using Groupon, I’ve been able to take a French macaron making course and a flying trapeze class! Both were excellent gifts my boyfriend and I got each other, and Groupon made it an affordable option.

You can find anything on Groupon, from workout classes to activities. Additionally, whenever you’re heading anywhere, it’s worth typing it into Groupon to see if you can get a discount on whatever you planned on doing.

4. Check TodayTix

Again, if you’d like to see a Broadway show or off-Broadway show, this is a great way to do so on a budget. This app is fantastic and I’ve gotten a lot of great Broadway ticket deals from it. Basically, there are hugely discounted tickets that you can purchase the day of the show or about a month in advance.

5. Visit Museums 

The city is full of museums and generally, they’re free or you donate what you can. Some also have certain days of the week where the price is extra discounted. Always check the website and Groupon before visiting! Also, if you’ve still got your Student ID, it couldn’t hurt to see if there’s a student discount.

6. Research Group Discounts

When you’re heading somewhere as a group, you can sometimes receive group discounts. Always check the website or even call the place to see. It never hurts to ask.

Plus, trying to get a big group together to do something is a wonderful way to make new friends. Have your friends all bring a friend or two and boom! Socializing and getting a better deal.

7. Invest in a MoviePass

If going to movies is something you really enjoy and is something you do often, purchasing this $10/month Movie Pass to get into as many movies as you’d like is a great deal. It pays for itself after just one use a month and you can cancel it whenever.

That being said, if you’re not a movie buff, this might not be worth it. I don’t see movies at least once a month, therefore it’s not a money-saver for me.

8. Check Food Festivals

Always check if there is an entry fee! Sometimes an entry fee can make these extra pricey, especially if the price of food isn’t included. When there’s no entry fee, these can be a more fun way to buy your lunch or dinner. Or, if there is an entry fee, see what’s included. If you get plenty to eat, it’s almost like paying for the ticket instead of a meal.

9. Take Advantage of Happy Hour Deals

One of the easiest and most popular ways to socialize in NYC is by meeting for drinks or food. Going out for drinks can be pricey, so keeping track of your favorite bars with the best deals is key. Take advantage of happy hour deals and specials to cut the cost while still socializing,

10. Play Bar Trivia

A lot of bars have trivia nights, which can be an easy source of entertainment and socialization. If you stick to drink specials and splitting food, this can be a fairly affordable night.

11. Walk along the High Line

You don’t need to spend any money to do this. The High Line is great for strolling on, plus you can wander through the Chelsea Market below when you’re done. There are plenty of pretty views and Insta opportunities.

12. Make Plans that Focus on People

iI’s a lot cheaper to hang out at someone’s apartment where one person brings wine, and someone brings snacks. Board games and binge-watching are always a great way to have fun on a budget, whether you’re in NYC or any city in the world.

Plus, the snacks and wine don’t need to be expensive. Personally, my favorite wine is Barefoot Pink Moscato and you can snag a huge bottle for less than $15.

13. Enter Broadway Ticket Lotteries

Granted, these will not always be particularly cheap but this is the best way to see expensive, hard-to-get-tickets-to shows. I won the Dear Evan Hansen ticket lottery and still ended up paying around $120 for two tickets, but that being said, it was certainly cheaper than the $660 I would’ve spent on the same tickets otherwise.

The easiest way to find these is a simple search for “(BROADWAY SHOW NAME) ticket lottery.” You can typically enter once or twice a day, for matinee and evening shows.

14. Take Advantage of Nice Weather

When it’s very nice out, take advantage of the free, beautiful outdoors. New York City has a vast amount of parks and gardens that are perfect for an affordable picnic or even a bike ride. This is the cheapest and most refreshing means of entertainment.

{ Related: Unique Things to do in NYC }

What are your favorite cheap things to do in NYC?

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  • My best friend and I have been on a mission to visit every art museum in NYC, and it’s super affordable when we bring our student ID’s for discounts! And we try to figure out if any museums have days and times when admission is completely free. I’ve actually never been to a broadway show before because I always feel like it’s so expensive, but I didn’t know broadway ticket lotteries existed!!!! I’m definitely going to look into that!


    • I love getting student discounts on IDs! I definitely need to check out more museums, I feel like I don’t take advantage of being near so many of them! Yeah, they’re awesome for those pricey shows!! 🙂

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