Here’s how to make the best of your time living in or near a big city without spending money:
- Throw away your credit card(s).
- Go into your room.
- Never leave your room again.
I’m totally kidding. Chances are, if you are in college, then you have probably experienced the reality of spending money for yourself a lot, or maybe all the time. For those of us living in or near a big expensive city, our options for enjoying the city are endless… and limited.
Here are some methods or ways of thinking which can help you get the best out of your experience in a big city with the limited resources you have. And yes, many of these are pretty obvious but sometimes you just gotta see it in writing to really have it be set in stone in your mind.
1. Consider how much money you have at the moment.
This one is pretty obvious, but sometimes, just taking a second to check your bank account (or count your cash) is a good way to estimate how much you can really spend for fun and not for personal needs.
2. Leave your credit card at home when going out.
In the city, every store and food place is a temptation because there are just so many of them around. If you’re just planning on taking a stroll through the city and do some sightseeing on your own, leave your card at home and bring $15-20 in cash instead.
3. Find cheap places to eat at.
Basically, the best way to do this is avoid the financial district, the touristy districts, and head straight towards Chinatown or places that are not directly in the center of the city. Doing this is pretty easy– if you have a phone or access to wi-fi, Yelp and Google will be your best friends in finding places that are both cheap and delicious. And plan ahead! Find these places before you go out so you’re not stuck in the middle of a busy street outside trying to find places while having poor cellular connection.
4. Take advantage of free events.
Big cities have the advantage of constantly having events that are open to the public and that are free. Seize the day and find these events! Easiest way to seek out free events in the city is to go on Facebook and see what things your friends are going to.
5. Be smart about transportation.
If you can get somewhere that is a reasonable distance, do that instead of spending money riding the subway or the bus. Besides, it’s always a good thing to get some fresh air and exercise.
6. Separate what you need versus what you want.
Alright, repeat to yourself this sensible mantra: get what I need, not what I want. Do I really need to buy this five dollar coffee drink? Or do I just want to because I’m passing this Starbucks on my way to the free art museum? The need vs. want dilemma is probably one of the greatest problems that students will always, always encounter when spending money. The more you can train yourself to save those five dollars, the easier it will get to abstain from spending money on things you don’t actually need.
7. Save, save, save.
Direct deposit part of your paycheck to a savings account so you never have the temptation of spending a huge chunk of your money that you earned in one night. By doing this, at the end of the year you may have enough money in your savings account to put towards that backpacking through Europe trip you had planned in the summer, or something similar. There are so many benefits to saving money (obviously) and the payoff of saving feels so good when you do.
8. Sell things you don’t need.
Every school has some form of a Free and For Sale group. It never hurts to check around your apartment or dorm room to see what things you have never used or don’t actually need. And hey, there’s no harm in making a quick post about it online. You’d be surprised at the things people want to buy.