Last minute NYC weekend on a budget

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This post is sponsored by OneMain Financial.

As a native New Yorker one of the things I pride myself on the most is in being able to bypass all the expensive, shining things that draw visitors to the city, but also put a burden on their budget.

So when OneMain Financial, as part of their Customer Appreciation Days, challenged me to take on two days and one night in New York City with only $200 in my pocket – including a hotel stay – I jumped at the opportunity, and ended with $20 still in my pocket, smack in the middle of holiday season too!

Getting around:

How you choose to get around the city can really impact your budget long before you even do anything fun. In general, walking remains the fastest and most affordable way to get from one place to another. For most New Yorkers, walking 30 to 50 blocks is really not a big deal and we are pros at planning our pedestrian commutes with the time that a walk would take and the extra time we would need to stop into that favorite coffee shop or store.

Another popular way to get around is by renting a commuter bike. They aren’t the most comfortable bikes, and they are also really heavy. But these bikes are simply meant to take you from point A to point B, and through traffic quickly and affordably. The increase in bike lanes has made it easier, but keep in mind, not many people respect the lane as well as they do in other bike-friendly cities, so stay alert!  A day pass for renting a commuter bike is $12.

NYC weekend

NYC weekend

For $10 dollars, I was able to buy a Metrocard that allowed me to ride the subway and busses throughout the city. The free-transfer (within the hour of your first swipe) from train to bus or train to train keeps the cost down too and I never had to worry about traffic. I am a fan of the free CityMapper app which tells you everything from best route options, hop on and off stops, and even an alert option when you reach your stop – super helpful for newbies and visitors!


It may not look it, but I am actually not a huge eater when I am touring around the city. I am so busy on the go, that a stop for a coffee or hot chocolate will often hold me over for a long while.

However, the food courts throughout the city are my favorites when it comes to having a quick bite, that’s also really delicious, offers healthy options, and is inexpensive. Granted you can also splurge at these venues, but the point is you don’t have to in order to enjoy a really delicious meal.

My favorite food courts are at Grand Central Terminal, Chelsea Market, Gotham West Market, and The Pennsy, where I picked up a nice sized chicken and kale soup, with a side of warm bread from Mario by Mary for only $6.00.

Penny Food CourtDelicious soup from The Pennsy

I also like to save most of my food budget for dinner with friends. On this trip, I chose to eat at Clinton St. Baking, which was only a few blocks from where I was staying. This place usually has really long lines for brunch, but if you arrive for an early dinner, you’ll be able to get a seat right away. For $20 I enjoyed a generous portion of fried chicken with a side of fried green tomatoes and an entire small loaf of jalapeno corn bread!

The next day, I ventured into The Harold in midtown Manhattan and enjoyed the serenity of a trendy bistro, while I planned my afternoon and sipped on a $5.00 cappuccino.

Warm drink from The Harold

My on the go meal was while I was walking around and taking photos through Central Park. I didn’t want to sit anywhere because I was already on my second day and was going to be heading home in a few hours, so I just grabbed a $3.00 hot dog and kept moving.

So much to do, so little time

Two days is not nearly as much time as I would have liked in NYC, but it was all I had. In that time, I got to admire some of the holiday windows, I got to tour around Times Square and window shop. I went ice skating in Bryant Park (free!). I got to spend an entire day in Central Park and take tons of pictures of the late fall scenery and art vibe there.

Bryant Park

Bryant Park Bryant Park

I walked a lot, and probably would have done even more if it hadn’t started to rain so heavily on my first night.

2016 Holiday displays NYC 2016 Holiday displays NYC

Where I stayed

With enough advance planning it is easy to find an affordable hotel stay for one in the city. I am not a hostel person. I like my private room, with single bed and private bathroom. But if you are planning a last minute trip like I did, then your best option is a booking site and if you have a discounted last minute hotel app, even better!

I was able to book a last minute hotel room at the Orchard St. Hotel for only $135! Small, clean, comfortable room right in the center of all the Lower East Side fun too. My hotel room also came with two complimentary bottles of water which I carried with me and drank while walking around the city.

Orchard Street Hotel Orchard Street Hotel

Total budget: $200

Food court lunch: $6.00

Metrocard: $10.00

Dinner with friends: $20.00

Hotel room (with two free bottles of water!): $135.00

Morning coffee: $5.00

Quick bite in Central Park: $4.00

Total weekend cost: $180.00 with $20.00 to spare!

Central Park Fall 2016 Central Park Fall 2016 Central Park Fall 2016

At the end of my weekend, I got back on the train to New Jersey with $20 to spare. Had I more time, I would have gone to The Met, though many museums in NYC have free-admission days, as well as suggested admission. A little more money, and I would have purchased a last minute discounted theater ticket through TKTS too.

The point is, enjoying the best of New York City is possible without going broke. My weekend sponsored by OneMain Financial proved that. And they can work with you when you need a little financial boost. They’ll help figure out what’s right for you. 

For more on my last minute weekend getaway to NYC, check out my video on YouTube and learn my tips for making the most of a NYC weekend on $200!

This post is sponsored by OneMain Financial. As always all opinions are my own.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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