How To Survive in NYC on an Intern’s Budget


By: Vasavi Pandey, Communications & Digital Strategy Committee Member

Are you one of the lucky students that has the opportunity to intern in New York City for the summer? Congratulations! That’s something many people dream of accomplishing, and you’re already there!

New York may be a fun place to work or live in but, unfortunately, the city is pretty expensive and it can be very hard to manage the cost of living on an intern’s budget.

So, we’ve compiled a list of the best ways to survive in New York City on an intern’s budget:

Note: This list is created for people that are living in New York this summer; some point may be applied to those that are commuting.

1. Cutback on Caffeine

For many of us, coffee may be just as vital as oxygen or water. Daily trips to Starbucks, however, can get expensive. New York magazine reported that cutting back on Starbucks can save you $1,222. Think about it: Is the nonfat coconut milk latte really worth it?

As a better alternative, drink water. It’s a lot healthier and will keep your energy up, just like coffee. If you’re someone that just needs a daily dose of caffeine, consider buying a coffee maker or even going to Dunkin’ Donuts. By switching from Starbucks to Dunkin’, you could potentially save $233 (per year).

2. Get Your Walk On

Don’t waste time on a New York cab; it’ll eat up your money and take forever. If the distance isn’t bad, grab a pair of your comfiest shoes and just consider walking to where you’re trying to go. You’ll save money and get great exercise–no need to get that gym membership either!

For super long distances, consider the subway. It costs $2.75 per ride.

Tip: Make sure to save your MetroCard! If you need to refill money, you can just add it on to a used card and won’t have to pay the fee of buying a new one.

3. Don’t Fall for the Manhattan Spell

If it’s not necessary, you don’t need to live in Manhattan; the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens are nearby, cheaper and just as fun!

If living in Manhattan is something that is absolutely essential, search for the cheapest apartment. There’s no need to try and live in a five-star flat. Between work, friends and doing other activities, you won’t be spending much of your time in your apartment anyway.

4. Forget Grocery Bodegas

As close as they might be, by spending money at local bodegas, you’ll be paying about 50% more than typical grocery shops. Instead, consider going to Costco or Trader Joe’s and buying your groceries in bulk. If you’re running short on time, Fairway will deliver your groceries to you for less than $10! If you’re all about organic or healthy eating, local farmers markets will fulfill your needs!

5. Don’t Fall for Tourist Deals

If you’re looking for fun Broadway shows or other events, never go for the full-priced ticket deals! There are tons of opportunities for different discounted tickets. Students can sign up for deals at, which offers discounted tickets starting as low as $5! You can also check out the TKTS Booth, which has discounted tickets for just as cheap. You can also check out the TKTS Booth for discounted tickets for day-of shows!

If you’re looking to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art, don’t pay the recommended fee! When buying a ticket, you will be asked for $25, but it is not necessary to pay that price. Don’t feel bad about not paying the full $25. According to The Atlantic, “the MET has a $2.5 billion investment portfolio and uses admissions to cover only 11 percent of its operating costs.” Pay what you feel is appropriate!

6. Free is Always Better

Surprisingly, in a city as expensive as it is, New York offers tons of free activities and places to visit. Take advantage of that before you start going to more pricey sites. The FIT museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology displays a free collection of student creations. Some other popular museums that are free:

The New York High Line, another popular site, is an elevated park that runs along an old freight train line. Not only are the views pretty – they’re free. Central Park, Bryant Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Washington Square Park are just a few of the parks located in the city that you can travel to.

7. Extreme Couponing

Channel your inner extreme couponer and look for deals in local papers and magazines. If you don’t want to make a mess with cutting, you can find thousands of coupons online from various websites. Some popular ones are, and

8. Be Your Own Gordon Ramsay

Cook for yourself as often as you can. It might be tempting to go out to eat five out of seven times in the week, but the bill can really add up, and you won’t get to spend money on other fun things. Cooking for yourself will save you money and also allow you to learn and experiment with different recipes to see what you like and maybe discover that you actually enjoy cooking!

Tip: New York City hosts biannual “Restaurant Week” where many upscale restaurants will provide lunch for around $25 and dinner for $35. Both are usually three-course meals, and you get a chance to sample cooking from some amazing chefs. Restaurant Week for the summer spans from July 20, 2015 through August 14, 2015.

9. Bars Aren’t Worth It

If you are 21 and go out to bars every other night, your entire budget will be eaten up pretty fast. Instead, drink at home with your friends or even plan a picnic at a park with a bottle of wine – cops won’t bother you if you are behaving.

You can get cheap beer at RiteAid, Duane Reade, 7/11 or almost any convenience store instead of expensive local grocery stores.

10. Gym Hop/DIY Pampering

If you’re willing to work out after all the walking you’ll be doing, don’t waste time paying hundreds of dollars in gym fees. Many gyms in NYC provide 1-2 week free trials so you can cheat the system by using different gyms. You can also try the City of New York Parks and Recreation Centers, where an annual membership fee costs $100-$150.


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