How-Tos, New York, North America, USA

Let’s Talk Budget: How Much does a Weekend in NYC Cost?

February 8, 2014

Considering how much I talk about traveling on the cheap, I realize that I have never actually showed you how much it actually costs me to go to these places. I don’t obsess over every penny and I don’t usually keep a note of what I spend my money on. That said, when people ask me how much I spend on my travels, I often just give them a rough estimate and never the exact amount. That is, until my most recent trip to Manhattan with Julia, who handles her finances in a much better way than I do! It amazed me that she knows exactly what she spent her money on. Long story short, I followed her lead and I started to keep track of where my money was going.

The content of my Moleskine.

The content of my Moleskine.

In an attempt to be more transparent and also to convince you that traveling doesn’t cost heaps of money, I’m going to show you exactly how much that weekend cost us. While we’re at it, please know that this is how I travel. Everybody travels differently and operates on a different budget, so if this doesn’t jive with you, then leave the given advice. However, if it does, let me know next time you need a travel partner!

Anyways, enough talks and let’s get to it!

Here is a quick breakdown of what I spent my money on:


Before you go crazy on me, I have an explanation concerning each of the category above:


With regards to food, we chose to go the simple route and still ate really well. No, we didn’t have extravagant meals at 5-star restaurants, but we did have an amazing Ethiopian food in the Village, and not to mention the delicious cream-cheese-loaded-bagel we had for breakfast that very same day. Manhattan can be terribly expensive, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you are street-smart and you know where to find what you are looking for. Know that you can NEVER go wrong if you eat where the locals eat.

Guess how much? Under $6!

Guess how much? Under $6!


New York, like any other great metropolis in this world, has an AMAZING public transit system that we took advantage of when we were there. Seriously, forget the cabs and take the subway instead. Better yet, walk it if you can! Bonus: It saves you a ton of money AND it counts as your work-out for the day. Tip: If you are landing in Newark, New Jersey, take the Air-Train to get into Manhattan. It can be a little bit slow, but it’s a much cheaper alternative than hiring your own private car.


I categorized everything else I bought into the infamous “miscellaneous” group. This includes things like souvenirs (i.e. this owl soap I got for Lisa), pajama pants from the GAP, and other random things I bought.


You may have noticed that this category is missing from my budget breakdown. That’s because we have an awesome friend who was more than happy to open his apartment for us to crash in (thank you, Daniel!!). It HELPS immensely with keeping things on the cheap. Tip: Get yourselves some friends in the Big Apple or consider alternative accommodations, like AirBnB, or book through Hotwire.


We flew Porter and it was amazing. Hands down, the best flight experience I’ve ever had. Porter can be ridiculously expensive on a regular day. However, they often have their 50% off sales and that’s when you should book your flights! We scored our flights to NYC for $261.79 return, over a weekend (leaving on Friday night, coming back on Monday night). It really doesn’t get better than this.

The view from the island airport.

The view from the island airport.

Outside of flights, my weekend in New York City cost me a grand total of $187.83, with majority of the money going towards food. I realize that having a friend who was willing to take us in helped keeping our costs VERY low (again, THANK YOU DANIEL!). However, even if you have to factor in accommodations, I still think NYC can be done on a budget; most of its attractions are free, after all!

Alright, let it out, people! Do you think I’m too cheap? That’s okay, I think I’m cheap. Actually, frugal would be a better word to describe my spending habit. Your turn – how do you keep your travels on budget? Spill it!


  • Reply Ella February 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Hey hey wait a second… I think being cheap but still able to splurge at appropriate moments are awesome! That means more trips and adventure! :)
    On another note, let’s explore more of good old Toronto with the enthusiasm of tourists but the budget and wit of locals! ;)

    • Reply Pauline February 8, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Yes! I LOOOOVEEE that last sentence – “with the enthusiasm of tourists but the budget and wit of locals” – well put, Ella!

  • Reply Bianca @itsallbee February 13, 2014 at 8:43 am

    This is such a good idea. In a way I always have a rough estimate of how much I will be spening on food and how much I will be spending on transport as I tend to research transportation to a T just so I know I have many options even if I do an aimless wander in the city. Might try and be a little more details as you have done above.

    Valentines Day | Cologne’s Love Locks Bridge

  • Reply Kellie February 13, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Ah NYC, would love to go back. When we went, we did not do it on a budget at all, so its good to know that it can be done. Its on our dream housesit list, so that should keep costs down.

    Nothing wrong with being frugal!

    • Reply Pauline February 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Agree! It would be amazing for you to do a house-sit in NYC!

  • Reply Victoria February 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I wish I was as disciplined as you at keeping track of my budget! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Reply Pauline February 18, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      I never was this disciplined…until I saw my friend doing it! I have to admit, it was tough to keep track of EVERYTHING though. I’m glad I’ve done it and I’ll probably continue to do it.

      • Reply Lisa March 14, 2014 at 8:53 am

        MINT makes it really easy and auto-categorizes common items, so you only have to sort through and fix its mistakes or the ones that it didn’t know how to categorize.

        • Reply Lisa March 14, 2014 at 8:54 am

          Also there is a phone app. Sorry for my scattered thoughts!

  • Reply Lisa March 14, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Yes, I would say that you are frugal! And I love my owl soap so it was a good use of money ;)

    Alex and I save money mostly in the food area, by making breakfast and lunch ourselves (as you mentioned in another post). We also use AirBnB which I love! Haven’t had a bad experience yet. We buy a bottle of wine at the store rather than in the restaurant. We rarely pay admission for places unless we’re truly interested. We try to source the cheapest transportation where possible. Otherwise we do splurge a bit on things that are important to us!

  • Reply Let's Talk Budget: How Much does a Weekend in Chicago Cost? | Tales of a Pilgrim May 6, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    […] the format of my NYC budget post, below is an explanation of each […]

  • Reply Fernando Arauxo May 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t think your how to spend an inexpensive weekend in NYC is apt because of Daniel’s hook up’s. If I go to New York, while it’s true that I want to eat where the locals eat, I als want to be wow’d and go the Gansevoort or Tavern on the Green in Central Park, not Joe Schmo’s deli.
    No offense, just saying.

    • Reply Pauline May 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Fernando,

      Thanks for your honest opinion. I think these budget posts are tricky because all of us have different priorities and different spending habits. As I’ve mentioned in the post, what works for me may not work for you. I am not one to spend a lot of money on food hence the cheap-eats listed in the post. No offense taken.


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