Consider this part two of the two-part blog I’m writing on how to make the most of your New York internship. In part one, we covered the basics: Scoping out your internship location, finding housing, discovering the city’s cultural districts and navigating public transportation. Now onto the fun stuff (or at least the stuff that’s more easy to explain).
Which metro card to buy:
The best way to get around the city is the Metro, or subway, system (as explained in my first post). As soon as you get to New York, you’ll want to buy a Metro card. You don’t have to fool around with the people in the glass box thing at the Metro station. Just go to one of the computer kiosks, and swipe your credit card.
I recommend getting the unlimited 30-day card. It costs about $100, but if you think about it, you probably spend more on gas each month in the Midwest, and this will get you on every subway and bus in the city until it expires at the end of the month. Don’t lose this card. Put it somewhere safe, but also accessible because you have to swipe it every time you get on the bus or subway (which is a lot). The only thing your Metro card won’t work for is taxis, which you can pay for in cash or on your credit card.
Which Bank to use:
When I was in New York for a semester, I opened a Chase Bank account because there was a bank and several ATMs near my apartment. Chase is all over New York, so if you have an account, you can use that. If not, just get one when you get there.
How to save money?
People ask me this question all the time about New York, and I always laugh a little when I hear it. Save money? In New York? Spoiler alert: It’s not going to happen. Everything is super expensive. Even your basic trip to the grocery store will cost way more than it does in Indiana. But the good news is, there are a few cost cutting measures you can take.
1. Don’t shop for groceries at Duane Reade, if you can avoid it.
When I first arrived at my apartment, there was a Duane Reade drug store right around the corner, and I bought a ton of groceries there. When I came home, my roommates laughed at me for paying too much. Duane Reade is basically an upscale version of Walgreens, and the groceries cost way more than they do at average New York grocery stores.
Even so, Duane Reades are conveniently located (and they do have great deals on certain products, like a $7 pair of snow boots). But when you need to get groceries, go to a grocery store. New York grocery stores have weird names. I think the one by me was called World Foods or something, but it was nice and affordable.
Also, when you’re buying fruit, always shop with your local fruit cart man who will probably be parked right outside the grocery store. His fruit is better and his prices are cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else.
2. Don’t pay full price for Broadway.
There’s a secret to attending tons of Broadway shows at a fraction of the cost, and it’s called “standing room only.” Most Broadway shows (besides the top sellers like Lion King, unfortunately) offer majorly discounted tickets if you go to the ticket booth an hour or two before showtime, and you’re willing to stand. Here’s how you do it.
Find the theater and show time you want. Then go to the box office about an hour or two before the show starts. Tell the person at the box office that you want last minute tickets to whatever show at whatever time. At first, he might try to sell you the tickets for something like $50 or $70, but tell him you don’t want those. You want the “standing room only” tickets. They should be in the $25-$40 range. And the good news is, even if you pay for “standing room only,” you might not have to actually stand. Once the show starts, the ushers will sometimes let you sit in the empty seats if people don’t show up and claim them.
3. Shop at Goodwill, Forever 21 and H&M.
Everyone in New York looks fashionable every day. Every single day. If you’re a shopaholic like me, you might have trouble controlling yourself and feel constantly under-dressed for every occasion. But even though it’s worth your time to browse the big names like Bloomingdales, don’t spend all your money there. You can get something way cheaper (and possibly better) at any of New York’s Goodwill stores.
Goodwill in New York is not like Goodwill in the Midwest (and it’s pretty great here). When you go to Goodwill in New York, you can find designer names for unbelievable prices. I splurged on a few expensive things when I was in New York, but I still get the most compliments on my $5 Goodwill finds. I hear there’s even an outlet in Queens that lets you pay by the pound regardless of what you’re buying. I never went myself, but you should look into that.
When you want to find cute clothes for work, shop at Forever 21 or H&M. Again, these stores have their best collections in New York, and new stuff comes in literally overnight. In the Midwest, items from these stores might be too trendy to be considered office apparel. But in New York, everyone dresses a little more trendy all the time, so I’d say it’s safe to buy nice items at these stores and wear them to your internship.
If you’re looking for something more office appropriate and still affordable, try the sale racks at Anne Taylor or J. Crew. You should also try the sale racks at Urban Outfitters and Anthropology if you’re just looking for fun clothes to hang out in.
4. Eat meals at home, go out for dessert and only buy drinks on special occasions.
The best way to save money in any city is to eat at home and cook for yourself. When I was in New York, I learned to make delicious chicken fajitas with chicken tenders, cheese, salsa, tortillas and prepackaged fajitas spices. I also packed my lunch almost every day at work with a cold cut sandwich.
New York is home to tons of great restaurants, and you need to try some of them. But if you want to watch your budget, eating at home is an easy way to save, and it makes the meals you go out for even more special.
Instead of going out for dinner most nights, go out for a fancy dessert after dinner instead, and make a night of it. It’s fun to buy drinks on occasion, too, but you probably won’t want to make a habit of that if you’re on a budget. Even the cheapest drinks are usually about $10 in New York.
Just FYI: None of the restaurants split tabs, meaning that if you go to dinner with five people, all five will be on the same bill. An easy way to remedy this without doing too much math is for everyone to pass around the bill and write the total for what he/she ordered along with the last four digits of his/her credit card number on the back of the bill. Then give all the cards to your waiter/waitress.
What to do about space and stuff in your apartment:
When you’re living in a New York apartment, you probably will have at least one roommate and you probably won’t have much space. The airport’s luggage limits will help you pack lightly. Just try to pay for as few extra bags as you can. When I got to my apartment, I didn’t have much room to unpack my suitcase in the closet or on any of the shelves, so I went to Target and bought a cheap plastic drawer set and a cheap clothing rack so I could hang nice clothes. This was all a good idea until I had to carry it home on the subway and walk a few blocks. If you’re planning to buy big home items, make sure you plan ahead and get a cab if you need one. But basically, cheap dorm stuff at Target will do the trick for space solutions around the apartment.
As far as living with roommates goes, just know that it’s not like having roommates in Indiana where you can live together and hardly know each other. When you live together in a tiny New York apartment, you get to know people pretty well (which is a good thing). But you have to be honest about your needs and frustrations or it just won’t work out.
What to do about walking long distances, especially in bad weather or good shoes:
It’s bound to happen. At some point, you’re going to need to go to work on a morning when there’s torrential rain or snow. So be prepared to carry an umbrella and extra shoes. Actually, I recommend leaving a nice pair of work shoes at your office, and wearing good walking shoes every day. This is totally acceptable in New York and most business people do it.
Even if you take the subway or ride the bus, you’re going to end up walking a lot, so be good to your feet. During my internship, one of my friends was on crutches because she broke her foot walking in high heels for long hours. If you want to wear dress shoes, leave them at the office, and wear your walking shoes to and from work.
For women, there are five basic shoe types that you need to have in New York:
1. The shoe that’s practical for weather: Regardless of when you come to New York, you’re likely to face rain or snow, and since you’ll be walking outside most days, you need a shoe (or two) that can handle the weather. I was lucky enough to find a double duty rain shoe and snow boot pair of Sperrys I got on sale at Macys for $35. If you can’t find something similar, another good option is an insulated rain boot to keep your foot warm and dry.
2. The comfy office shoe: At your internship, you won’t want to wear shoes that will slow you down. I recommend a pair of simple black flats with some support. I found a nice pair at Target for $20. But you can find even nicer versions at stores like Macys if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
3. The comfy casual shoe: This is the shoe you will wear most often around the city. For girls, I recommend a flat boot of some kind, if it’s fall/winter. If it’s summer, opt for closed toe sandals or comfy flats. If you have open toes, your toes will get dirty and gross from the streets, so try to avoid that. One great option for every season is a pair of combat boots. This is a New York staple, and people wear them with everything from shorts to dresses and pants.
4. The gym shoe: You’ll probably want to join a gym or at least go for a run occasionally while you’re in the city, so bring a good pair of gym shoes for that.
5. The dress shoe: At some point, you’ll want to dress up for a big night out or an office event. If so, you can probably buy a pair of dress shoes at Payless once you get to New York. But if you want to bring some from home, they probably won’t go to waste. But like I said, just don’t wear them on your commute.
A quick list of Do’s and Don’t’s
DO: Rent bicycles in Central Park. Look for deals on Groupon. It’s worth every penny, and it’s a great way to get exercise.
DO: Make time to relax on the weekends. You’ll probably be exhausted from the daily hustle of the city. Don’t make plans in the mornings so you can sleep in the first few weekends.
DO: Eat at Shake Shack. Get the Shack Burger combo. You won’t be sorry.
DO: Try to attend a TV show. The Kelly and Michael Show. David Letterman. The Today Show. You have tons of choices.
DO: Try to attend SNL at least once. You have to camp outside for tickets all night, which is why I couldn’t do it. But you should really try. I hear it’s fun.
DON’T: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s exhausting, and the only thing on the other side is Brooklyn.
DON’T: Pay to see the Statue of Liberty. Take the Long Island Ferry for free and run to catch the Ferry back as soon as you get there. The ferry goes almost the same route as the paid boat, and it’s good enough.
DO: Pay to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Go right before sunset if you can. It’s beautiful.