Sunday, April 22, 2012

New York City on a Budget

This past week, a friend of ours in a similar financial position (family of 5 also living on a Resident's meager salary) asked how we were possibly able to afford our recent trip to New York City.  Though we didn't do anything 'special', she couldn't believe we had spent so little, so I promised to account for every dime we spent and show her.  So this post is mainly for her. :)

On our budget, we are only able to save $50 per month toward travel.  As of February, we had $300 in our 'travel' fund.  We (especially the Mr.!!!) really wanted to visit New York City for February vacation, so we decided that, if we could do it for $300 or under, we would go!  After doing some research, we decided we could spend 3 days and 2 nights there and come in right at budget.

Here's our cost breakdown:

~Transportation - $176
         ~Gas (we drove 5 1/2 hours each way): $120
         ~Tolls: $27
         $10 on the Maine Turnpike ($5 each way)
         $5 in random tolls ($3 for a bridge, .75 another spot)
         Lincoln Tunnel $12 (we first went to the Holland tunnel and, upon learning it was $12 to cross, changed our route and headed (far out of the way) to the Lincoln tunnel, only to learn that it, too, was $12!  Some costs are inevitable!)
         ~Public Transportation: $29
         Staten Island Ferry - FREE
         PATH train $2 per adult each way when purchasing card in advance ($8 per day for our family)
         Bus $5 ($2.50 per adult - we took the bus one day when we were going from the PATHs station to the 911 Memorial - a couple of miles that we didn't want to walk)

~Lodging: $140 (We stayed (2 nights) in a hotel in Jersey City, just a short (8 min) train ride away from Manhattan.  It was only $70 per night (including taxes and fees!), and included free parking and a continental breakfast.  It was certainly not the Four Seasons, but it was safe, clean, and only for 2 nights!)

~Food: $38
         Breakfast - continental breakfast was included in our hotel (it was meager, but it was only for 2 days!)
         Lunch - $10 (We were driving there during lunch time the first day, so we ate a picnic lunch that we had packed that day.  Our second and 3rd days, we purchased 5 hot dogs / pretzels from stands on the street at $1 each and ate fruits and veggies we had brought with us.)
         Dinner - $10 (We ate a picnic dinner that we brought with us the first 2 nights - chicken sandwiches, salad, and fresh fruit.  The third night, we splurged on Pizza and salad at COSTCO - 3 slices at $2 ea plus a $4 salad - we wanted to get their delicious chocolate almond ice cream bar for dessert but they were sold out!)
         Other - $18 - a small bag of M & Ms at the M & M Store (HUGE splurge - we didn't realize it would be this much when we were getting them, but we didn't feel honest about not purchasing M & Ms we had poured into the bag!)

~Entertainment: $18
         $18 - 4 tickets ($4.50 each) for the ToysRUs Ferris Wheel
         Central Park Playground with huge slide FREE
         Central Park Hike FREE
         Central Park rock climbing FREE
         Seeing Statue of Liberty from Jersey Shore Park - FREE
         Brooklyn Children's Museum FREE with our Children's Museum Pass  (There were at least 8 museums in NYC we could have visited for free with our Children's museum pass, but ran out of time!)
         ToysRUS with lots to see / toys to play with / play house to visit FREE
         FAOSchwarz with a giant piano to run and play on / toys to play with / lots to see FREE
         M & M store with games to play and free samples FREE

Grand Total: $372 for a 3 day trip to NYC

So, as you can see, we came out $72 over budget, but we took $38 out of our monthly food budget for the food, and $34 out of our monthly gas budget, because we eat and drive even when we are home, so we would have spent money on gas and food regardless of whether or not we were travelling.


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