wikiHow to Live Cheap in Manhattan

Four Parts:Exploring Rent Reduction OptionsReducing Food CostsSaving on TransportationReducing Entertainment Costs

Manhattan is the most expensive borough in New York City, but there are ways to make it more affordable. You can save on rent, food, transportation, and entertainment if you know how. Learn more about your options to make living cheap in Manhattan a possibility for you.

Part 1
Exploring Rent Reduction Options

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    Live with roommates. Rent will be your largest expense in Manhattan, and one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of rent is to live with roommates. You can look on websites like or to find roommates, or you can consider asking friends or people you already know.[1].
    • You should do at least a basic screen of your potential roommates to ensure they have a fairly stable source of income.
    • There are also many new services that help find roommates in New York. One of these is, which matches your personality and preferences to other potential renters. also has discussion forums on Manhattan apartments.
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    Consider using NYC Housing Connect. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for New York's Housing Connect program, which is an affordable housing program that allows you to search and apply for affordable housing. You must qualify for each property based on your income and other factors, at which point you will be entered into a lottery for that particular property.
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    Make sure that you make enough money to rent an apartment before you apply. Apartments in NYC have financial requirements that you will have to meet in order to rent from them. Most landlords require you to show that your annual income is 40 to 50 times more than the monthly cost of renting an apartment.[2]
    • For example, if an apartment costs $2,000 per month, then you would need to make $80,000 to $100,000 to qualify to rent that apartment.
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    Explore other options. Housing is competitive in NYC because there simply is not enough of it. The level of competition makes it even harder to find affordable housing. Programs for reduced rent are competitive as well, which is why it is difficult to get into an affordable apartment. Apply for a reduced rent apartment if you qualify, but make sure that you explore some other options as well.
    • To give an example of how competitive housing programs are in NYC, the New York Affordable Housing Preservation Fund reports that 15,000 applications were submitted for just 200 affordable apartments.[3]

Part 2
Reducing Food Costs

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    Prepare meals at home. Food in Manhattan can be expensive, and the fact that there is a wide assortment of options everywhere makes spending money on food quite tempting. Even a casual meal in Manhattan (like at a cafe or deli) can cost $10. Preparing meals at home can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
    • Instead of spending $10 for a lunch, you can prepare a lunch for $5. The cost savings over the course of a month would be $150 simply by making one meal per day.
    • Set limitations for how often you can eat out. Once, or twice a week is reasonable and strikes a good balance between saving money and enjoying what Manhattan has to offer.
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    Consider a grocery deliver service. Manhattan markets are expensive due to the fact that high rents are passed onto consumers in the form of high prices. As a result, grocery delivery options can provide a significant source of savings.
    • There are many services available in Manhattan, and doing an online search can help you pick a choice that works for you.
    • Peapod is one popular option that allows you to make orders seven days a week, for deliver within a two hour window that is convenient for you.
    • Consider doing one large order every two weeks to save on delivery costs.
    • Other major providers include Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Fresh Direct Holdings. Note that a recent study found Amazon Fresh was the most affordable NYC option.[4]
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    Make lunch the main meal of your day if you plan to eat out. Many restaurants offer lunch specials, so you can save money on eating out if you opt for lunch instead of dinner out.[5] Watch for specials and don’t be shy about reading the menu before you decide to eat somewhere.
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    Skip the alcohol. Bars in NYC are known to charge a lot for drinks, so you may want to skip the drinks while you are out on the town. Opt for a club soda instead or consider having a drink before you head out if you must have a drink.[6]

Part 3
Saving on Transportation

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    Buy a weekly or monthly unlimited ride pass. Buying an unlimited ride pass is a much more affordable alternative to paying per ride if you use the bus or subway often. For example, your cost for a single ride is currently $2.48 cents. If you ride 60 times per month, you would pay $148 per month. A 30 day unlimited pass would only cost $116 per month, generating significant savings for you.[7]
    • If you ride more than 60 times per month, your cost per ride is even lower because you are spreading more rides across that same $116 per month cost. Therefore, the more you ride, the more you save with unlimited monthly passes.
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    Ride a bike as your main form of transportation. Riding a bike is a great form of exercise, but it can also be a great way to get around the city. If you already have a bike, then riding it to get around New York City is a great way to save money on transportation. There are also lots of bike shops in the city where you can purchase or rent a bike.[8]
    • Make sure that you get a combination lock and always lock up your bike when you are not using it.
    • Wear a helmet to help protect yourself when you ride.
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    Walk as much as you can. If you don’t have a bike or don’t want to ride a bike, then use your feet as your main source of transportation. Walking will save you lots of money on transportation and Manhattan has some great sights that you might never see if you take the subway every time you want to go somewhere.[9]
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    Skip the taxi. Taxi trips may cost $10-$20 depending on where you travelling. Taxis are also more expensive than other forms of transportation in the city. Taxi costs can add up considerably, and you can save hundreds each month by taking the bus or subway.
    • You can get a bit of a discount on a taxi if you are willing to share a cab with someone else. Look for a "Group Ride Stand" and you can pay as little as $3.00 for a taxi.[10]

Part 4
Reducing Entertainment Costs

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    Name your admission price at museums and other attractions. Many museums and other attractions offer a name your own price option. This means that you can pay any amount for your ticket. For example, if the admission price for a museum is $10 and you only want to pay $1, then you can. Some of the museums and attractions that offer a name your own price option include the:[11]
    • Museum of Natural History
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • Cloisters
    • Bronx Zoo (on Wednesdays)
    • New York Aquarium (on Fridays after 3 pm)
    • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (on Saturdays from 5:45 to 7:45 pm)
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    Watch for free summer concerts. There are lots of free concerts to enjoy in New York, especially in the summer months. Watch for fliers and search local event pages to find out about free concerts that you can enjoy.[12]
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    Get discount tickets to a see shows on Broadway. If you are a student, then you can get tickets to a Broadway show for as little as $5.00.[13] You can also visit a TKTS booth to get same-day tickets to a Broadway show for up to 50% off the normal price.[14]
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    Take a free ferry ride to Governors Island. Governors Island is a 172 acre park that is open to the public in the summer months. While you are there, you can enjoy stunning views of the city from the island as well as explore the island itself.[15] You can ride the ferry to Governors Island for free.[16]
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    Visit the New York Public Library. You can easily spend a day in this large library exploring the collections. The New York Public Library also has its own museum with a permanent collection as well as rotating special exhibits that you can enjoy.[17]


  • Keep in mind that you don’t need to visit a museum or pay to see a show to have fun in New York City. Try taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or through Central Park and enjoy the sights.

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Categories: Budgeting