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Hey! Happy you’re here, I’m Cansu and I make videos to help international twenty-somethings like me navigate life in nyc. I moved here three years ago as an NYU student and had to learn how to be smart about how I spend money, so here’s my money saving tips for students in nyc!
Let’s get you settled: how to save on rent and furniture
So, first, you need a place to live. NYC is famous for its overpriced apartments, and the housing market is crazier than ever, but there are a few ways we go about this.
If you want to rent a place by yourself landlords require you to show that you have an annual income that’s 40 or 50 times your monthly rent. Given that you’re reading this, I assume that it’s not the case with you.
That’s why most students in nyc live with other people. You can check Facebook Marketplace or Gypsy Housing or Craigslist for sublet options (and be careful for scams), but in my experience, the best deals are never on these groups. Someone just grabs them before they can be posted online for everyone to see. Usually the person leaving the room shares it on their Instagram stories or the people still living in that apartment share it to find a new roommate. So I suggest you start following people who live in New York City on Instagram before you move here so you hear about the best deals.
Oh wait, I know someone!
I am not experienced in living in a dorm or a student residence but I know that it’s not your cheapest option. It may be convenient because you don’t have to deal with paying separate bills or figuring out your wireless service, but I suggest finding a room for the true New Yorker experience. And dorms may make sense for other reasons like meeting people from your school or security and safety, this is my financial reasoning.
And you can be smart about the neighborhood you live in to save on rent! For example, Upper East Side is generally luxurious and posh but Yorkville is basically the same place but has much more affordable options. Or apartments in Williamsburg are ridiculously expensive, but East Williamsburg is not too far away, is equally cute, and is much more affordable. Also, you can be deep in Brooklyn but if you’re close to the L or the A train, you can be in Manhattan in like 15 minutes.
I personally think it’s best to live in a nice place in a less fancy neighborhood than to live in a shitty room at the heart of the city. Also, I think Brooklyn is the best and I probably wouldn’t have lived in Manhattan even if I had all the money in the world, but I get why you’d think living in nyc means living in Manhattan, I did too! It’s really not. Living in Jersey City is something students choose do to save on rent, but it wouldn’t take you long to realize that people tend look down on New Jersey, because it’s not New York. It’s just not.
So fast forward you listened to my advice and found the perfect place within your budget in an adorable neighborhood, you’ll need to furnish it. The initial idea is usually Ikea, but it’s not the most affordable one. Facebook Marketplace is a great place to look for second hand furniture, but it’s not the best.
You know what is… stooping baby! Ohh you’ll like this. When you’re walking in nyc, you’ll notice a bunch of really nice stuff just left on the streets. It’s the stooping culture, people don’t want to bother with selling the stuff they don’t need anymore so they just leave it on the streets for someone else to take them. You should definitely follow StoopingNYC Instagram account to see all kinds of things left on the streets for you to take for free.)
So, a few things to keep in mind while stooping: the end of every month, especially July and August, is the best time for amazing finds because that’s usually when everyone is moving and getting rid of their stuff. But it’s a year round thing. Also, you can find designer credenzas or big screen TVs in rich neighborhoods like the UWS or Cobble Hill. I wouldn’t get a mattress or a couch off the street, because they may have bedbugs, and they may be disgusting, but if you think you can thoroughly clean them or if they look fine, I mean, who am I to judge?
Let’s keep you alive: how to spend less on food
Perfect, you figured out your living situation for as low cost as possible, now let’s keep you alive! The good news is that you can drink tap water in nyc and it’s almost always included in the rent.
To spend less on food, I used to go to all kinds of NYU events where they had food, like workshops, lunchtime learning series, networking events, game sessions, and I’m sure every school is organizing things like that because departments have budgets they need to spend throughout the semester and they usually get yummy meal partners to cater those events. Even if you don’t care about the event itself, they’re great opportunities to eat for free and meet new people.
You can also download apps like Too Good To Go, which connects you to restaurants and stores that have unsold food that otherwise would go to waste. And there’s a bunch of restaurants that give you free food once you download their app.
You should also know about The College Student Pantry. It’s for any college and graduate student in NYC who needs some food. You make an appointment and go to their East Village or Brooklyn location with your student ID and get groceries for free, no questions asked.
Also, cook your meals at home. It adds up very quickly if you eat outside even if you find cheap options. And be smart about where you get your groceries, a tiny bodega would be more expensive than a grocery store and Wholefoods is more expensive than Trader Joe’s. And finish the stuff you get. If you are throwing away half of the vegetables you bought because you ignore them as they sadly rot in your fridge, consider it money thrown into trash. Don’t do it, don’t be wasteful. Get the stuff that you know you’ll eat.
Let’s keep you educated: how to save on tuition
Simply put, be an amazing student and get scholarship. For most schools, even if you don’t get admitted to your program with a scholarship, you can get it afterwards and there are plenty of scholarship opportunities and fellowship grants outside school too. You just need to show that you deserve it more than anyone else. The need is not enough, everybody needs money. It doesn’t set you apart.
Imagine the room where the faculty and staff meet to discuss scholarships and to whom they’ll give it. The school or the department has X amount of extra money that they need to spend, and they know how much it will mean to the student. If you were in that room, what kind of a student would you nominate for the opportunity?
Well, most importantly, a memorable student. When they discuss to which student they should give this surplus funds, you gotta be one of the few students they remember to bring up. So if nobody can tell when you’re absent in class, it’s not good. Your professors should know you and want to help you more than others.
The best way to make sure they feel this way is to show your enthusiasm towards education. Make sure you give 100% to school and keep your grades high. If you are a quiet student in class, they won’t know you as well in contrast to someone who shares their ideas. This way you give some information about where you come from and your background and how you think so they’d feel closer to you.
Also, contributing to class discussions make your professors’ job easier, so they will appreciate it. But just because I advice participating in class, please don’t feel the need to say something about every single discussion point. If you say something just to say something, trust me we can tell. Only participate with valuable ideas that will move the discussion further or ask clever questions that will be interesting to discuss for the whole class. Then your professors will want to help you out and they will nominate you for grants and scholarships and fellowships and all the good stuff.
Let’s keep you entertained- how to spend less on activities
Most of us don’t even know what our school offers their students, make sure to ask and make use of them. These can be softwares that you can download for free. The gym, obviously, you don’t have to pay for a gym, you can use your school’s gym because you already paid for it. The library, you can get most books and movies for free, and NYU students had access to The New School’s library too so that’s nice. Make use of the student clubs, you can learn something new for free plus meet new people.
We had free admissions to a bunch of museums like the Museum of Modern Art or Whitney Museum of American Art as NYU students and I’m sure every school has deals with certain museums for complimentary student tickets. And some museums are completely free to every student in the NYC area. So you should spend less on activities leveraging being a student. Like at Carnegie Hall, students can get $10 tickets for incredible performances.
You just need to look these things up. I will link a few deals below but, just read it when the school sends you an email or google “free admission for cuny students” or like “discount for nyu students” and see what comes up.
You can also find free events on Eventbrite or Meetup, like for comedy shows or guided tours, anything. Also, the best things in life are free anyways, so just walk the city from one end to the other, go chill at the park, go to the beach, find people you love. You’re studying in the most incredible city in the world and you can enjoy it while being smart about money.