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Here’s how to eat, shop and enjoy the Big Apple without going broke.

Fact: Being a college student is rough. From trying to balance work and internships to classes and homework — and the two things that may be the most difficult to balance, social life and finances — it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and limited as to what you might be able to do based on your budget. Add going to school in a metropolitan area like New York City and it might seem like doing the above is near impossible. Well, fear not, because today I am coming at you with a guide to enjoying Manhattan on a college student’s budget.

If you’re anything like me, chances are anytime you meet up with friends, food is going to be involved in some shape or form. When you think about eating in Manhattan, however, you might think that the only dining options for broke college students are McDonalds, dollar slices and maybe the Olive Garden in Times Square if you’re feeling fancy. Thankfully, there are tons of inexpensive options in Manhattan that don’t include fast food and chain restaurants (unless that’s your thing, in which case, you do you).

One of my personal favorite places in Manhattan for some eats is Chelsea Market. Located in the Chelsea neighborhood in  Lower Manhattan, Chelsea Market serves as a great place to escape the crowds of Midtown whilst enjoying some delicious food, beverages and dessert. The Market is set up food hall-style, with each vendor selling a different type of cuisine, like sushi tacos and crepes, and the prices are quite reasonable, making it easy to please both the adventurous and picky eaters of the group on a dime. Also make sure to check out the High Line afterwards.  It is just minutes away from the market and offers both a great view of the city and an opportunity to walk off all the fantastic food you’ve just enjoyed.

Another favorite of mine, and of New Yorkers in general, is Shake Shack, home of one of the greatest, if not the greatest burgers in New York City. I was unfortunately late to the Shake Shack game and didn’t enjoy my first Shackburger until my junior year, but I have tried to make up for lost time by hitting up the burger joint as often as I can. While Shake Shack does not offer several types of cuisines like Chelsea Market, it still aims to please every group member. In addition to delicious cheeseburgers, crinkle cut fries and seasonal shakes, the Shack also has delicious chicken sandwiches, hot dogs with all the fixings and even a ‘bella burger for your vegetarian friends.  With a single burger, shake and order of fries coming in at a little under $15, Shake Shack is another fantastic dining option when out in Manhattan or any of the other boroughs.

Moving on to entertainment. This tends to be an area that college kids think is impossible to partake in while on a budget. I am here to tell you that just because you aren’t Carrie from “Sex and the City” or Don Draper from “Mad Men,” it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy New York City favorites, like seeing a Broadway show or catching a Yankees game. My school, like many in the New York City area, offers tickets to various NYC events, like Broadway shows, baseball and hockey games, and the opera and ballet. These tickets are typically extremely discounted and not only make for a great cheap night out, but a potential way to meet fellow students who share common interests. If your school doesn’t offer discounted Broadway tickets, there is always the tried and true TKTS booths in Times Square, South Street Seaport and Lincoln Center, which offers reduced price same-day tickets for both Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

If you and your friends have more of a refined taste and are also strapped for cash, I highly suggest hitting up one of the many world-renowned museums that Manhattan has to offer. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The American Museum of Natural History offer free admission to New York residents and students who attend college or university in New York State.  The MOMA and the Whitney offer free admission on Fridays during certain hours also. In addition to museums with free admission, there are also several that offer student discounts, like the Guggenheim and the Paley Center. P.S. These museums also make for great photo ops for your ‘gram obsessed pal.

Do I have any bibliophiles in the house? While it may might claim itself as one, New York City, and Manhattan specifically, is a book lovers paradise for a few reasons. One being the fact that there are so many bookstores to choose from and most of them have some great bargains. Gone are the days of having to track down the five dollar table at Barnes and Noble. There are an abundance of local bookstores, like the famous Strand Bookstore, which contains a whopping 18 miles of books, both new and used. Speaking of used, Manhattan boasts several amazing used bookstores like Codex and Housing Works, which allow you to get armfuls of literature under $20, making them great options for obtaining some new books to read or add to your collection that has become dorm decor at this point (guilty). 

Shopping and Manhattan go together like peanut butter and jelly and whatever other cliche pairing you can think of. While there are plenty of pricey designer stores and fast fashion retailers, one of the best things about Manhattan is all of the different thrift stores and vintage shops it has. Shopping second-hand allows you to grab basics and those designer pieces you’ve been eyeing at a fraction of what you would pay retail, meaning you can revamp you whole wardrobe without breaking the metaphorical bank. Check out Beacon’s Closet, AuH20 and Buffalo Exchange for some recent trends on major discount.

In summary, you don’t have to be Rich Uncle Pennybags to take in everything the city has to offer. Sometimes a student ID, a couple bucks and a Metrocard is all you need for an unfuggeddable day in Manhattan.


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