Budgeting while Visiting New York City

Your flight is booked, your hotel is confirmed, now you’re not sure how much cash to budget for when you arrive in New York City. What will I want to buy? What extra activities like museums and shows will I want to do? How much does a meal really cost? Below are some tips and information on budgeting while visiting New York City.

Budgeting while Visiting New York City


​I always remind myself when traveling that meals are going to cost more than what I’m used to. I’m also more likely to splurge on a meal when traveling, like trying a fancy steakhouse, seafood, or cuisine I’ve never had. For New York, that is no exception. How do I “alleviate the pain” of the higher cost? Simple. Only one to two meals a day. I have a small meal/snack for breakfast from Starbucks or a nearby corner bakery. Then do one or two bigger meals throughout the day. On one meal days, I’ll usually find a snack around lunch/in the evening depending on when I’m planning for the more expensive meal.
Plan ahead. I know that I really love Gallaghers Steakhouse in Times Square. They were the inventor of the New York Strip Steak. I also know that my steak of choice there is $56, not including sides. This is a price that I would never pay at home, but when in New York, right? By looking at menus and planning ahead, I won’t be surprised by the bill.
I also want to add, the prices at Gallaghers aren’t typical of all NYC restaurants—there are some that cost more and some that cost less. I think you’ll find that most aren’t that far off in price than restaurants at home.


​Something I do for all trips is pre-book activities (attractions, museums, shows, etc.) that I know I want to do. Though in all cases it may not be a savings, it does help when budgeting. Plus, when you get there, your activities are paid for, then you have more cash for other extras. Now, you’ll likely find other things you want to do while you’re there, but you at least have most already covered.

Skip the Taxi

Taxis and Ubers in New York City are expensive in comparison to the subway. Take a taxi once if you must, otherwise stick to the budget-friendly subway. I’ve share more tips about using the subway here.

Plan your Shopping Ahead

​Do you want to shop at Tiffany’s or Saks Fifth Avenue? Then you know you need a larger budget. Do you want to shop small like at local shops or markets? Then you can make your money go a lot farther. My favorite place to shop for goodies to bring home during the Christmas season are Christmas markets. You can find ornaments, scarves, nick knacks, shirts, and more. You might also consider visiting vintage shops to find luxury brand pieces at great prices. There are great lists of vintage shops on Pinterest. I’ve pinned a few here.
I also can’t resist a visit to Macy’s Herald Square which is much more on my level of department store shopping than Saks Fifth Avenue. They always seem to have great sales as well. I do plan to purchase a little (I reiterate little) something at Tiffany’s the next time I visit New York (something I’ve always said I wanted to do, but never have), so I’ll look at their site online, get an idea of what I want and how much it costs so I can plan accordingly. Shopping wise—it’s about how much you want to spend. In my opinion, pricing is well in line with items at home.

​Skip the Times Square Souvenirs

​There are vendors on every corner in Times Square (and the Brooklyn Bridge)—just keep walking. Most of the items can be found at markets, Chinatown, or take your own photos for a way better price. There are also hordes of souvenir shops in Times Square filled with cheap t-shirts and post cards. Pop into to American Eagle instead and grab a quality “New York” t-shirt that won’t fade after one wash.
I know there are endless budgeting tips for New York City, but these are just a few to get you started. Do you have any thoughts or questions? Or do you have your own tips to add? I’d love to hear!


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