Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 2. Hacking New York

Everyone knows that living in New York City is expensive. It can empty your bank account faster than you can say “Check, please.” BUT, if you know where to look, you can find affordable prices sprinkled all around New York. You just have to work to find them. For your reading pleasure I have compiled a list of some of the best ways I have found to live on a budget. With these "hacks and tips", you can now at least attempt to move to New York and probably not blow your life savings within the first week.

Cheap food comes in two categories: That which you make on your own, and that which you pay someone to make.

That which you make on your own- When it comes to saving money on food, the best way to do it is to make your own food. When you eat out you are paying a premium for labor and location. Buying a loaf of bread and making PB&J for the week can save you loads on your lunch bill. The more ways you can find to prepare your food yourself, the more you will save in the long run because eating out anywhere in New York will quickly add up. Here’s a quick breakdown of possible expenses:

Lunch eating out: 10 dollars a day x 5 days a week = 50 a week
Making PB&J: $2 (loaf of bread) $8 (PB & J)= 10 a week
The math says it all folks.  The More  you make your own food, the more money you save.

That which you pay someone to make THAT SAID. Finding affordable places to eat out is always a treat. Here is a list of restaurants I have found to be the best bang for your dwindling buck.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli - 114 E 1st St #3 - Don’t go in expecting to anyone to speak English. Instead be ready to point to a selection of freshly cooked Indian veggie dishes that they will take
Best bowl of who knows what on rice.
and throw on top of a bowl of rice for you, all for $3. It’s totally Vegan Friendly and totally affordable.

Vanessa's Dumpling House - 118A Eldridge St --Chinatown’s best kept secret. I frequented this place often when I lived down in Chi-Town. You can get 5 dumplings for a dollar, a big-as-your-face sesame pancake for another dollar, 3 pork buns for yet another dollar,  and half enough food leftover for lunch the next day.

Dollar Pizza – Various Locations – If you live in NYC and you've ever been out late drinking, or running between jobs, you know the glory that is dollar pizza. There are a dozens of dollar pizza deals all across the city from chain restaurants like Papa Johns and Domino's to local chains all serving a slice for a buck. Don’t expect any frills or protein though. You get exactly what you pay for: a single slice as thick as the paper plate it comes on.

Papaya Dog -- 333 Avenue of the Americas, 578 9th Ave – This magically unhealthy food establishment makes its business by frying up some of the cheapest comfort foods you can find in town. 5 bucks will get you a burger and fries. 3 bucks will get you 2 hot dogs. Their fried food tastes delicious and destroys your arteries, but the price is unbeatable. Oh and their corn dogs are to die for. Literally.

So you've filled up on the cheapest eats in Manhattan, now what? How about filling up your soul with culture? While Broadway tickets are insanely expensive (Book of Mormon tickets are around $200 dollars), you can still see shows and get culture without breaking the bank. Check out this website and sign-up for their will-call club. The way it works is that they get tickets from shows and offer them on their site, first come first serve, that you can reserve for five dollars. Sometimes they are big budget shows, sometimes they are tiny shows in a downtown theater. Either way you get an evening of entertainment for a fraction of the price.

Theatre on Film and Tape Archive- This is one of the biggest unknown gems in all of New York. Since the 70’s every Broadway, and some off Broadway shows, have been recorded on video. This organization, thanks to Lucille Lortel, has them all in one place free for you to view. There are a lot of restrictions, of course: You must make an appointment, you can only watch them there in the center, and on older films you cannot pause or rewind. But what you have access to is a high quality video recording of every Broadway show, entirely for free. All you have to do is ask.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Arabs Crossing the Desert
MET Museum of ART and American Museum of Natural History-  Whether you have a passion for history, or a passion for art, you can get enlightenment and knowledge from either for next to nothing. Both museums tout massive collections of priceless artifacts from all across time. Like the full scale Egyptian tomb in the MET Museum of Art or a 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a blue whale at the Natural Museum of History. The best part? Both Museums offer Pay-What-You-Can tickets with a minimum payment of 1 cent. Go out and be enriched!   

I imagine you will want to spend your hard earned pennies on other frivolities  right? Well fear not, there is always a cheap place waiting for you with steep discounts. Here is a short list of everything else I have discovered that is secretly affordable in a not so affordable town:

Goodwill Store -- 512 W 181st St  -- Wearing old vintage clothes used to be a thing people did to save money, but now it has become a style of fashion all its own thus causing thrift stores to drive up their low prices! That said, you can still find cheap clothes if you know where to look. The Good Will store in Washington Heights is your answer. It has the prices you would expect from a regular good will store, but the clothes you’d expect old rich manhattans to discard. High End designer clothes are a common sight at this store. So if you are in the  market for clothes, make this place your first stop.

Heating and Cooling - Turn off the A/C and put a fan in the window blowing air out. It creates circulation, cooling your apartment.

Internet- Don’t pay for expensive internet if you don’t need it in your apartment. Starbucks, McDonald  and even certain parks give it out for free.

This glass of whisky cost $15. I only had one.
Umbrellas, chargers, and sunglasses- Lost and Found is your friend. Go into random hotels and ask them for a lost iPhone charger or umbrella or sunglasses. Odds are they will have one and give it to you without much question.

Transport- The subway will cost you 120 a month if you use it. I choose to bike to work, it saves money and burns calories all at the same time.

AlcoholDon’t Drink! Take it from a drinker. It’s expensive as hell. But if you do intend to partake, drink during happy hour or find the bar's specials. Bourbon Street on 46th has a magical drink called "Hurricane" that is filled with rum and happiness, and only costs you 5 bucks. Its a cheap way to get intoxicated on any evening of the week. 

Well there you have it folks. Some tips and tricks from yours truly, to you. Hopefully your next visit wont cost you an arm and a leg but, if it does, I guarantee you there is a store here that will sell you a new one. Until Next Time!

"When you draw, form is the important thing. But in painting the first thing is to look for the general impression of color….. Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day”.

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