Living in Manhattan on Budget – Tips and Tricks

A woman holding many dollar bank notes while smiling widely and looking at the camera.

By: Jassica Mendez

Manhattan is a beautiful place to live, but it comes at a price. Even though the location has never been inexpensive, many have tried to make it their home. I certainly don’t blame them! However, by doing so, they’ve helped raise the living prices to be as high as the nearby skyscrapers. Although Manhattan has become the most expensive borough in New York City, there are ways to make it a more suitable location to live in. You can truly enjoy the authentic New York (and Manhattan) experience without compromising on what makes a living here so rewarding. With my best recommendations for living in Manhattan on budget, you can be your own Carrie Bradshaw and enjoy everything New York offers.

Explore your housing/ renting options

If you want to live in Manhattan, you must accept that rent will be your most significant expense. More often than not, you won’t be able to afford the best of the best. And that’s okay! You don’t need that to enjoy New York.

To start living in Manhattan on a budget – get creative, examine your possibilities, and research to the best of your abilities. While researching, you may stumble upon such a thing as the Housing Connect program in New York. Based on your income (and other criteria), this program allows you to look and apply for affordable housing. Everyone who applies is entered into a lottery that selects the lucky few. There is a high possibility of many applicants and not many affordable housing options available. Keep that in mind.

On the other hand, getting a roommate is a surefire way to cut your housing costs. Roommates can be found on various websites, including forums and social media groups. Make sure your potential roommates have a regular income by conducting a basic background check. On the other hand, you might have a friend or friends who share your Manhattan dream. So why not ask them to share this experience with you? After all, this is something that will benefit all of you.

Two women sitting on a green couch and enjoying some popcorn, pizza and wine while watching something on their laptop.
Who knows, you may even form everlasting bonds with your new roommates. Photo via

Cut costs on transportation

We all need to get around the city somehow. After all, how else will you be able to enjoy Central Park and Long Beach all on the same day? Obviously, using public transport can help you explore the area and go where you need to go. I recommend purchasing an unlimited ride pass for a week or a month since it is very cost-efficient for people using public transport often.

On the other hand, you may opt to train your quads by riding a bicycle through the breathtaking areas in New York. When it comes to bicycles, you may purchase one (look for bargains online) or use the CitiBike membership available across New York City. 

Finally, what else requires transportation? Your items! Although you may feel like transporting these items yourself is a cheaper alternative, this is not always the case. You may have to pay a significant fee for transportation while also risking damage being done to your belongings. So, why not take advantage of so many local movers in NYC who provide skilled and affordable assistance? This is a one-time expense that may save you money in the long run. 

Shop wisely

If you want to live in Manhattan, chances are you enjoy shopping! And don’t worry, you may still do so while staying on budget. When purchasing everyday items like groceries, check for coupons, shop at discount stores, or buy in bulk. Manhattan is fairly pricey when it comes to such goods, so use your preferred mode of transportation and get your things just a few miles away.

Who doesn’t enjoy shopping for new outfits to wear when strolling around New York’s famed streets? I certainly enjoy it! Fortunately, there are many thrift stores where you can acquire unique and affordable items that no one else has. You might be surprised by what you may find. Of course, if you want to splurge on something important to you, I advocate saving up ahead of time and purchasing whatever your heart wishes (and wallet allows).

A person looking through articles of clothing hanging in a store with a red note saying they are on 50% sale.
Living in Manhattan on budget is way easier if you love to hunt for good deals.
photo via

Opt for cheaper dining and drinking options

Food in Manhattan may be expensive, and the fact that there are so many different options makes spending a lot of money on food very enticing. However, don’t let this deter you from living in Manhattan on a budget!

Preparing meals at home is a terrific way to save money and learn a new skill. This can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each month. Invite some people over, cook a delicious meal, and save money doing so.

However, if you love eating out, you have quite a few affordable options to choose from. For example, there are many 99-cent pizza slices all through NYC. Alternatively, Chinatown has a wide array of shops and restaurants that can be pretty affordable. If you want to grab a quick, already packed, and ready-to-go meal, look no further than a Japanese grocery store called Sunrise Mart. 

As for drinks, always limit your consumption since they can drive a hole in your wallet (especially in Manhattan). Furthermore, take advantage of happy hour for the best drink discounts. Finally, make your own beverage whenever possible to save as much money as possible.

A gathering of people dining at someone's home with a person holding a pot filled with delicious food.
You and your friends are sure to enjoy a nice time even staying in.
photo via

Have fun on a budget

Of course, I haven’t forgotten about all the other fun things you may want to enjoy! After all, you decided on living in Manhattan on budget for a reason. 

Learning a thing or two doesn’t have to be expensive. A few museums are always free to visit, while others have a “pay what you want” policy. On certain days, many museums, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Museum of Modern Art, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum, are free to enjoy.

You may occasionally splurge on a Broadway show you’ve always wanted to see. However, if you want to save money while doing what you love, NYC has you covered. If you appreciate music, there are free concerts held throughout the year. For example, I highly recommend Bargemusic, a floating music hall in New York City. For a nominal price of $35, you can listen to classical music or attend one of the various free concerts offered. If you enjoy yoga, though, you can join the yoga to the people program, which offers yoga classes for a donation. There is something to suit everyone’s tastes and budget, making having fun and living in Manhattan on budget easy and straightforward.

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