How to Save Money in a Big City And Still Eat, Drink and Have Fun

By Dana Covit |

© age fotostock / Alamy

This piece originally appeared in

So, somewhere along the line, you've found yourself living in a major metropolitan city. Life is pretty good, isn't it? Now that you're here and enjoying all that culture and the excitement of bustling city life, there's a small thing to consider: How to pull it off without going completely, utterly broke.

In addition to establishing some very crucial financial habits, there are also some learned-by-experience practices that will ensure you can participate in all of the goodness we love these cities for, without needing to relocate to the 'burbs. Read on for our best advice!

1. Get Regular

Make a point to create a weekly schedule for your errands and stick to it. For example, know that on Sundays you go grocery shopping, or that on Mondays you stop by the ATM, and so on. This will cut down on impulse spending (not to mention an inordinate amount of much money wasted on ATM fees, which can get crazy in major cities!).

2. Find Those Diamonds In The Rough

In other words, fall in love with those locations that are BYOB, have great brunch deals, that dish out free pizza when you buy a beer (yes, this exists!), the local falafel place that is clean and delicious, and so on! Lots of people move to cities and get sidetracked by all of the fancy eats, and forget about the little guys serving up legitimately great food at an affordable price. Yelp is an incredible tool here to give you the intel on those lesser-known locations—use it!

3. Eat Smart

Indulge in your dine-out cravings during breakfast, brunch, or lunch, rather than during dinner, which is reliably more expensive. Many restaurants offer the same, or a very similar, lunch menu—so it's a great opportunity to get the experience of your five-star restaurant without paying a huge bill at meal's end.

4. Be a Freeloader

Take advantage of your city’s free offers and events. In many cities, free concerts are aplenty during the summer months, and many museums offer a designated free entry day every month, year round. Local editions of TimeOut feature free event listings that are great to bookmark and check in on.

5. Know A Good Deal

Monitor deals on Blackboard EatsGilt CityGrouponLivingSocial, and Yelp. Restaurant deals and spa services are especially dependable! If you feel yourself due for a massage, haircut, or fancy night out, it will be worth your time to browse the offerings on these sites to see if anything catches you eye. Discounts are often in the 30- to 50-percent-off range!

6. Become a Homebody

Try your best to resist the near-constant temptation to eat out and prepare some meals at home instead. If you work in an office, packing a lunch even a few days a week will save you a ton. This also allows you to work your daily food expenditures into your day-to-day budget, which should always be a goal.

7. Become an Amateur Barista

According to studies, half of all American workers buy coffee throughout the week, spending more than $5 per work day and about $1,092 annually on coffee. Younger workers (18 to 34 years old) are spending about twice as much weekly on coffee. So, invest in whatever you need to make a good cup of coffee at home.

8. Become a Member

Are there certain activities you do regularly, say, once or twice a month or more? Maybe you love visiting the museum or taking your kids to the zoo, or catching movies at the theater down the street. Lots of these locales offer membership programs whose yearly membership fee will save you money (and may even include perks like free events or discounts at partner locations).

9. Pregame The Party

We know, we know. Pregaming? Just tweak the title to "having friends over for drinks," and you'll be able to transition the college practice to your adult lifestyle. Restaurants and city bars are a fast track for spending a small fortune on libations, so enjoy your a glass of wine or two at home and cut back on ordering cocktails on the town.

10. Get Social

If you're attending an event with friends, take the time to pause and explore group deals the particular event may have available. Sporting events and concerts often sell big batches of tickets at discounted prices, and they're commonly unadvertised. Call the specific venue or ticket sales service to inquire, then rally the troops!

11. Get Cozy With Subscription Services

Sign up for Amazon subscription services for your oft-cycled through nonperishable necessities (you’d be surprised how much cash you drop on toothpaste, shampoo, or that iced tea you can’t get enough of). Plus, you won't believe how excited you'll get to receive that surprise package or two every so often filled with all of the items you've been "meaning" to pick up on your way to work.

12. Travel Right

Whenever possible (daytime is a good rule!), try to walk, bike, or take the bus or subway. Treat a taxi or convenient Uber car ride as an indulgence or last resort to be exercised late at night or during bad weather; you'll save money and appreciate the service more that way, anyway!

13. Wander and Explore

Is your city walkable? There are few better ways to spend a day than walking through neighborhoods. You'll discover possible new gems (like that pizza place with free beer we mentioned), and get your day's exercise without dropping money on an afternoon pilates class.

Do you have any great tips for saving money while living in a major city? 

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