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1. Buy cheap bus tickets. While traveling by train or plane is faster and more luxurious, it's also more expensive. I took the Vamoose bus, mainly because it leaves right from Bethesda, which is super-convenient for me. A round-trip ticket was only $40. You may even be able to find cheaper tickets from companies like BoltBus and Megabus; I've never used them, so I can't say.
2. Stay with family and friends. My grandmother has lived in Queens for decades, and whenever I have visited New York, I've always stayed with her. When it comes to hotels in NYC, especially over a holiday weekend, you can easily spend more than $100 just on a hotel room for one night! NYC is such a big city: I'm sure you know someone who lives there who would be willing to have you crash there for a few days.
3. Eat with family and friends (This goes along with #2.). My grandmother has always been willing to feed me any time I've stayed with her (Duh, she's a grandma. That's what they do.). She even fed me for several months when I lived with her during college when I had internships in New York. But now it's even better: she has since moved to a senior living center, where she gets three meals a day, AND meals for her guests. So the majority of my meals were free! And even when I did pay for food, like when I was out with my friends, we ate at the types of places where we weren't going to pay even close to $10 for a meal. And it's NYC, so the food is delicious, even if it's just a few bucks!
5. Take the subway. The subway in NYC is an icon. You've got to ride on it while you're in town just for the experience, but it's also super-efficient and well-priced. For a regular metro card, you'll spend just $2.75 for each trip, no matter how far you're going! It's not like in DC, where you pay more the farther you travel. It's just one flat rate, and the subway can take you into all five boroughs of the city. I only took two round-trips on the subway this visit, so that was just $11. Compare that to cab fare!
6. Shop smart. Of course many women love to visit NYC for the shopping. But, seeing as I'm a young professional who is trying to save money, I shop on the cheap. I shop in discount stores, cheaper brand stores, and ALWAYS on the sales rack. And although I love to shop, on this trip I only bought a pair of yoga pants from Macy's and an egg timer from Bed Bath & Beyond for my grandma (Note: I did NOT pay that much for the egg timer, and it didn't really work that well anyway, so I don't recommend it!). (You should also know that in New York City, clothing purchases of under $100 are not taxed!). So for shopping in New York, I spent less than $20!
So let's do the math:
$40 for a round-trip bus ride
$0 on hotels
$10 on food (since I mostly ate for free)
$11 for subway fare
$20 for shopping
And that was for a long weekend in New York City. You can't beat that!