I love living in New York City. That said, it’s not perfect. These days, the trains are delayed, the rats are thriving and the cost of living is rising. There’s nothing I can do about the subway, and while I wonder every day, how do the rats afford to live here?, I know they will never tell me. Instead, my focus is on how to do fun stuff for cheap! Here are five suggestions for things to do that will cost you very little and make you remember why you love New York…
1. Beach It. Winter, for me, is beach weather. I’ll take no further questions at this time! I cannot emphasize enough how much fun it is to put on your coat and boots, then get the bus to Brighton Beach. The boardwalk is gorgeous in the winter light and even prettier in the snow. Warm up with the traditional Georgian treat of khachapuri, or ‘cheese bread,’ which is easily found in the neighborhood for under $5.
2. Book It. I identify as a book. If you do, too, make friends with your local library and your local bookstore, then stay on top of their event listings. These are often free events where authors you love and authors you’ve never heard of will literally appear in front of your eyes and then you can show off to other book nerds like me for months afterward.
3. Bark It. Dogs are expensive, but you don’t need to own one to get the benefits of their sweet companionship. Check if your local shelter needs a volunteer dog walker, like Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn. There are lots of cute dogs who are happy for fresh air and company. It’s not a big commitment; you can drop in any day from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and fill out a short form to walk a dog, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a lovely time in the nearby park with your goofy sidekick.
4. Bike It. Even a canny casual cyclist like me has been caught out with expensive bike repairs. The city offers free classes in bike maintenance, including an extremely useful one in truing your wheels. I know that sounds like a spell, but it simply means keeping your wheels spinning straight and ‘true’ by properly adjusting the spokes.
5. Bring It Home. Redecorating sounds pricey, but Craigslist and Freecycle have tons of free stuff your fellow New Yorkers are giving away. So, cheer up your apartment. Stained glass window panes, pretty vintage bookends, handy document boxes; in just one afternoon, I found all of these treasures online and available for pick up from my neighbors’ homes.
These five ideas I offer to you, gladly, for free! You’ve probably already spotted that not only do these ideas show you a fun time, they also bring you closer to your community. That is important, because we all need one another and you, yes, you, are a very important part of this city we love. Now I’m curious: What would you add?
Maeve Higgins is a writer whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and The Guardian. A New Yorker originally from Ireland, she is an NPR favorite and hosts a live comedy show each week in Brooklyn. In 2020, her starring role in the comedy horror movie Extra Ordinary garnered acclaim around the world. Her new book Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them comes out today.
P.S. Our winter guide to NYC and Joanna recaps of 20 years in NYC (including a funny breakup story).
(Top photo by Vivienne Gucwa/Stocksy. Author photo by Mindy Tucker.)