Last weekend, we went to New York City to unwind and discover the Big Apple. It was a great way to forget about our daily routines and enjoy the high-pace of the city. A few weeks before our trip, we planned a few activities and got our free hotel stay through reward points.
We booked a hotel in Midtown (right in Time Square) for $325 a night. However, we actually paid a total of $0.00 for our whole stay. The secret is, we used credit card reward miles. 🙂
Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!
Visiting New York can become really expensive really fast. With a little planning, we were able to spend under $100 per day and still have a great time. Our main expense was food and drinks since we stayed away from the traditional tourist traps. Of course, we would not be anywhere near this figure without our free hotel stay.
When we checked in our hotel, another hotel guest leaving the city generously gave us subway day passes that she was not able to use. That saved us a few subway fares. (Regular fare is $3 and the 7-day unlimited pass this woman gave us is $32.00)
Thank you random hotel lobby woman! 🙂
We spent our first day walking around lower Manhattan and exploring the great architecture it has to offer. We stopped by Madison Square Park and ate an amazing burger at the original Shake Shack then visited the New York Stock Exchange, the 9/11 Memorial, and the New York Public Library.
At the library, for example, you can get free tours at 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday.
We did not get to it but if you want to see the Statue of Liberty, you can always pay and go with the tourists or you can take the Staten Island Ferry for free and it offers a great view of the city. It runs every day and anyone can just hop aboard.
We then ate amazing, cheap, authentic Thai at Pure Thai Cookhouse near our hotel and ended the night drinking $3 beer at Rudy.
On our second day, walked through Central Park and then visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They ask for a “recommended” amount of $25 for entry but it is completely up to you. Most tourists just go with the what the sign says and pay the full amount. However, you simply tell the cashier how much you wish to pay and that will be your fare.
With all its grandeur and spectacular skyline, New York City is definitively nice from great heights. Unfortunately, visiting the observation decks of the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, or the 1 World Trade Center each cost over $30. The cheaper option is to enjoy a nice drink on a rooftop terrace for roughly $15. We went on the rooftop terrace Metropolitan Museum of Art overlooking the obscenely expensive real estate around Central Park. Other great options in Midtown are 230 Fifth, Sky Terrace, The Skylark or you can also get a great view of the skyline from the Staten Island Ferry or the Wythe Hotel rooftop terrace in Brooklyn.
The view from the Met rooftop.
We then ate huge sesame bagels filled with Lox salmon and cream cheese over at H&H Midtown Bagels East. in the Upper East Side and then walked the High Line. This 1.45-mile-long linear park was built on an elevated section of the old West Side Line train track. The greenery and liveliness of the place were very refreshing. Street performers were entertaining the tourists and the lavish plants have overtaken the train tracks. Our walk ended at the Chelsea Market where we ate at Los Tacos No.1.
The High Line.
On our third day, we visited the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium both located on the Upper West Side of Central Park. Just like the Met, these advertise a suggested price but you can contribute any amount you want.
We did not have time to visit it this time but the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street is free on Fridays from 4 pm and the Museum at the Fashion Institute is always free. We would have liked to visit a few more but ran out of time. You can look up the free museum days offered around the city and easily save a few bucks.
Another great activity we wanted to try is free kayaking in Queens. The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaks on weekends and holidays and the Long Island Community Boathouse offer free kayaks and tours for you to roam around and explore the shore. We wanted to experience the sensational sunsets the water has to offer but never got to it.
All in all, we spent slightly less than $100 per day on food and enjoyed three fun-packed days. We experienced new things, tasted new flavors, and saw new heights that we simply cannot see back home. Visiting this ridiculously expensive city made us think about all this wealth. The big cars, fancy apartments, and expensive cocktails must make people happier right?
Would you be happier if you could live in a $30,000 per month apartment in TriBeCa?
How about an $80,000 per month townhouse in Upper East Side? Would you be happy then?
$80,000 per month townhouse in Upper East Side
Findings from a study by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that spending money can increase our happiness when we spend on things that fit our personalities. These purchase that meets our psychological needs can make us happier but again, that is only true once our basic needs are met.
Our findings suggest that spending money on products that help us express who we are as individuals could turn out to be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighborhood or even the right friends and partners – Sandra Matz
For some people, fancy things might answer their esteem needs but to what point? A 2010 academic study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton found that happiness increases up to an income of $75,000. After that point, the extra dollar has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment.
The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness. – Robert Frank, WSJ.
In states like New York, however, it costs much more to cover your basic needs. This happiness number is therefore higher. Using the current cost-of-living indexes per state from the Council for Community & Economic Research, we can find this optimal income level for each state.
Source: Advisor Perspectives
If we go even deeper and look at Manhattan, the equivalent of $75K soars to $162,500 based on this cost of living index. Now if we want to be even more accurate, we should account for inflation since the Kahneman-Deaton study appeared in 2010 and was based on 2009 survey data. The annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows a 15.56% increase from 2009 to 2017 so the Manhattan happiness number is more around $187,850 in 2017.
Our happiness number is greatly influenced by how we see ourselves in relation to others. If you live a simple life in a simple neighborhood, there is no reason to keep up with the Jones. Live life to your own standards, not the ones of others. In conclusion, New York City is a great city to visit. We had a great time but boy is it expensive to live there! Spend your dollars wisely and be happy, Xyz.