Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City

NYC+Taxi

New York City.  The city so nice they named it twice!

Before I show you frugal, cheap, and free things to do and see in New York City let’s look at the first paragraph from Wikipedia:

New York City (officially The City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1625, it served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the nation’s largest city since 1790. Located on one of the world’s finest natural harbors, New York is one of the world’s major centers of commerce and finance. New York also exerts global influence in media, education, entertainment, arts, fashion and advertising.  The city is also a major center for international affairs, hosting the headquarters of the United Nations.

Pretty cool, huh?

NYC is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island – though many people mean Manhattan when they say NYC.  All but the Bronx are islands.  I tried to spread the love around the entire city as much as I could but don’t be offended if I don’t give every borough equal weight.

So here are Frugal And Free Things To Do And See In New York City (in no particular order):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of LibertyDedicated to the US by the people of France in 1886 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island to greet visitors to the US and NYC (immigrants to the US would first pass through nearby Ellis Island before entering the US).  The ferry fee to visit is $12 and $10 for kids under 13.  Nowadays you can only enter the statue up to the pedestal (You used to be able to visit up the statue itself and I remember a time when you could go all the way up to the torch!).  If you ask me $12 is a lot!  A frugal way to get up close is to take the Staten Island Ferry from the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan near Battery Park City.  Fare for the SI ferry – FREE! The SI ferry runs between Manhattan and Staten Island and passes close to the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a beautiful ride across the New York harbor with additional views of Ellis Island, NYC skyscrapers, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (One time the longest suspension bridge in the world and also the start of the NYC marathon).

Wall Street/Financial District

This area, located in lower Manhattan, is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, City Hall Park, Federal Hall National Memorial (where George Washington was sworn in) and is close to Battery Park and the South Street Seaport.  To walk around this area is to truly take in the early history and continuing legacy of NYC!

Brooklyn Bridge

NYC is home to well over thirty bridges!  But in my opinion the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, is the most beautiful.  Warm Having just celebrated it’s 125th birthday, the bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel wire suspension bridge when it opened in 1883.  What makes this bridge truly special is the pedestrian/bike pathway in the center of the bridge above the vehicle lanes.  The Manhattan entrance to the bridge is located close to City Hall.  Walk across and see the bridge up close as well as see an amazing view of the East River and NYC!  Feeling adventurous?  Sign up for the NYC Century Bike Tour which crosses the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the 100 mile ride (I’ve done three of them and they are a great way to see NYC!).

Empire State Building

It’s hard to think of NYC without imagining the 102 story Empire State Empire State Building HDR Building (located at Fifth Ave and 34th st).  Completed in 1931,  it was the world’s tallest building for more than forty years until the completion of the World Trade Center’s North tower.  The building can be seen from all around, from New Jersey to Queens!  The building has an observatory on the 82nd floor ($17.61 fro adults) you can visit as well as one on the 102nd floor (an additional $15).  I can’t say it’s cheap but the panoramic views of NYC are spectacular (even King Kong had to see the top)!  Other notable buildings to see: Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church, Woolworth Building

The High Line

So what do you do with an old train freight line that sits above-ground in Manhattan’s west side?

That’s right, you turn it into an awesome walkway and garden!

The High Line runs from West 30th street down along the old line to Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District.  It runs through Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton through West Chelsea, and into the Meatpacking District (don’t worry, those neighborhoods aren’t as scary as they sound!).

Along the way expect to see wonderful gardens, included big lawns to hang out on, art installations, as well as incredible views of NYC, its architecture,  and the areas around it (you can see the Statue of Liberty from one spot).  There is a water spot for the kids to run in barefoot as well as a picture window that hangs over the street to look eastward over the city.

The High Line truly a remarkable place to see when you consider it was all train tracks in the past!

Zoos, Gardens, and Aquarium

NYC is home to the world famous Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Free; check out the cherry trees from late March to mid-May), Central Park Zoo ($8 for adults), Prospect Park Zoo ($6/adult), Queens Zoo ($6/adult), New York Aquarium ($13/adult), Staten Island Zoo ($7/adults), New York Botanical Garden ($6/adults, extra for special events), Queens Botanical Garden (Free), and Staten Island Botanical Garden (Free).

Museums

Are you a museum person?  Do you like American history or do you prefer modern art?  Whatever your tastes there’s a museum for you in NYC!  Check out the admission rates if you plan to go to one of the following.  Many are private museums and may be pricier while others may have suggested donations. There also may be free or discounted days at many of the museums. American Museum of Natural History (you remember Night At The Museum, right?, American Museum of the Moving Image, Anne Frank Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Center For Jewish History, El Museo Del BarrioGuggenheim Museum (the building itself is art), Louis Armstrong House & Archives, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York Hall of Science (fun for the kids), Skyscaper Museum, Transit Museum.  There are so many museums in NYC that it’s hard to list them all!  Personally I love the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.  The New York Hall of Science is fun too (and it’s not far from the Queens zoo and also a great park for the kids)!

Transportation

How do you get around to all of these places in NYCSubwayDriving is an option but you have to listen to the traffic reports and know the parking situation where you’re going.  You can find taxi cabs all over Manhattan, and that could be good for a short trip, but they can get expensive quickly and they aren’t as easy to find in the outer boroughs (not Manhattan).  Another option is to use the city’s own transit system, the MTA.  There are tons of buses and trains that can bring you all over NYC.  The out the MTA Trip Planner site.  You put in where you want to go and where you’re coming from and it will suggest ways to get there via bus and train!  Oh, the bus or train is only $2.50 (more if you take an express bus)!

Parks

With the millions of people that are in NYC you might think there’s no room for parks.  Unisphere That would be a wrong assumption!  There are tons of parks in NYC!!  Here are some you might want to check out: Central Park – A biggie, located in Manhattan and home to the Central Park Zoo, Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and much more; Bryant Park – another Manhattan park, much smaller than Central Park but home to the HBO Summer Film Festival (free movies on the lawn) and Good Morning America Summer Concert Series (free concerts); Flushing Meadows Corona Park – a huge park in Queens which is home to the New York Hall of Science, the US Open, the Mets (Citi Field), Queens Museum of Art, 1,255 acres of athletic fields, and includes many sculptures and building (such as the Unisphere) built for two World’s Fairs; Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve; Prospect Park; and many smaller neighborhood parks!

Biking/Walking

NYC has built over 100 miles of greenway trails for walking, running, skating and bicycling across the five boroughs.  These are great trails to get out and exercise on!  As well as the greenways NYC also has two mountain bike trails, one each in Highbridge Park, Manhattan and Cunningham Park, Queens.

Sports

NYC is home the the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, US Open, NYC Marathon, Brooklyn Cyclones, Giants and Jets (though they play in New Jersey, go figure), Liberty, and the Staten Island Yankees.

For more frugal tickets in a smaller stadium check out the Cyclones and the SI Yankees which are minor league baseball teams.  You can find less expensive tickets for the other teams, just watch out for expenses like food and souvenirs at the stadiums!

We went to a Cyclones game and had a blast!  We started off with a walk along the boardwalk in Coney Island before we went to the game.  That day’s game was bat giveaway day.  My son was quite happy to get a full sized Cyclones bat as a souvenir (they have a lot of souvenir nights).  At the game we got to meet two of the Cyclones mascots.  Our littlest even got a autograph on her hat!  Something goes on in between every inning to get the crowd involved, be it a silly race, food eating contest, or launching shirts into the stands.  Really, minor league game is a lot of fun for the family and it costs a fraction of a major league game.

Food and Shopping

Seriously, if you can’t find the food or shopping you want in NYC then you really aren’t trying at all!  You can find virtually anything you want here!  To dine we have everything from five star restaurants to hot dog carts on the corner.  You can shop for the top designers or check out neighborhood flea markets.

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NYC Neighborhoods

NYC has many great areas that you should check out.  Among them: Times Square, Coney Island, Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Park Slope, SoHo, Flushing, and many, many more!

Other Events

There’s always something happening somewhere in NYC, it’s hard to keep up with it all!  The NYC.gov site lists a good number of events going on. Resources – Here are a few places to further investigate frugal things to see and do in New York City: Time Out New York, NYC.gov, NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation, Village Voice, NY Times, nycgo.com.

If you are traveling to NYC, having a great travel rewards credit card can help you maximize what spending you need to make and potentially give you benefits like free hotels and more.  The key, or course, is to make sure your card is paid off in full every month, otherwise your benefits probably won’t exceed the interest you will be paying.

This has got to easily be one of the longest articles I’ve written. I thought it would be easy since there’s so much to do in NYCbut it’s really tough trying to pick out the best stuff for you!  To say I left out a lot would be a major understatement.  Truth is there is just too much going on to put it all down in one article.  You can easily spend thousands, if not more, in this city but there’s also plenty to do for free!

Enjoy!  Let me know what I left out in the comments!

This article is part of the “Frugal Things To Do In…” series by the Money Life Network.  Check out the rest of the cities featured!

photo credit: wwarby Statue of Liberty, photo credit: lohit Wall Street Bull, photo credit: racreations Brooklyn Bridge, photo credit: ajagendorf25 Empire State Building, photo credit: Stig Nygaard Subway, photo credit: upabreak.com Flushing Meadow Park, photo credit: pwbaker NYC Skyline.

There May Be Unclaimed Money Or Property Waiting For You

Don't Let The Emperor Keep Your Unclaimed Property!!

Did you know that you might have property or money waiting for you to be claimed?

I had heard about it but didn’t really understand what it was.  Well, I recently came across the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.  They provide a list of state department sites where you can find your state and check for unclaimed property.  They also provide a link to MissingMoney.com which is a database of state unclaimed property records. ( I suggest you check both!).

“There’s no way any of that money is mine” you may be saying.  You’d be surprised!

Here is a list of accounts that may have unclaimed money (from the NYS Office of the State Comptroller):

  • Savings Accounts
  • Checking Accounts
  • Uncashed Checks
  • Telephone/Utility Deposits
  • Rental Security Deposits
  • Wages
  • Insurance Benefits/Policies
  • Safe Deposit Box Contents
  • Mortgage Insurance Refunds
  • Stocks and Dividends
  • Mutual Funds
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Trust Funds
  • Estate Proceed
Have you moved, opened an account and forgot about it, change utility providers and forget about the deposit, forget to cash a dividend check?
All of these are reasons money can go unclaimed.  State laws require unclaimed funds to be turned over to the state after a set period of time (varies by state).  This money sits with the state waiting to be claimed.

I was skeptical so I tried it out.
Ends up I have unclaimed funds for dividends I never cashed.  Long ago my Grandmother bought us all a share of stock in our name.  The dividend checks were never that big so I probably misplaced or lost it.  I’ve since moved a number of times so the checks never caught up with me.  The NYS site provides a form that needs to be notarized and sent back to claim the money.  Check your state for exact details on claiming property.

So what are you waiting for?  Go check to see if there’s money waiting out there for you!

photo credit: Gaetan Lee

Sprint SERO Meet Everything Plus

sprint-everything-plus

It was just a little while back that I updated you on my Sprint SERO plan.  Now it seems the Sprint SERO plan is no more.  To recap, the Sprint SERO plan was an employee referral plan that offered great rates and included unlimited data (read internet) and unlimited texts.  For $30/month you got 500 minutes and unlimited data and texts.  All you needed to sign up was an employee’s email address and those were all over the internet!  As I noted in my follow up we are saving at least $10-$20 over our last Verizon plan and the Verizon plan didn’t include data or texts (my wife and I both have a plan).

Sprint SERO meet your successor the Sprint Everything Plus plan.  The new plan is now $59.99 for 500 minutes and $79.99 for 1000 minutes.  For more minutes there’s the Simply Everything plan that’s widely advertised.  So basically the 500 minute plan doubles in price!  This may still be a bargain compared to other plans out there but not nearly the knockout punch it used to be.  The new plans add GPS navigation and Blackberry Internet Services.  The Blackberry inclusion could also still make the plan economical since some carriers charge extra for it.

But wait, there’s more!  Or less really. Even if you think the new plans are still a steal they are much harder to sign up for now.  Rather than just any employees email address you now need an employee’s email AND the last three digits of their employee ID (CID).  So you may actually have to know someone to get into the program.

Don’t sweat it if you were fortunate enough to already be on the Sprint SERO plan.  Existing SERO customers are grandfathered in on the old rates.  Whew!

As I mentioned the plan may still be worth it to you but you really need to check out other plans as well.  Look at all of the features and options and see what works best.

It’s sad to see the SERO plan go but I can understand why.  They really did give a great package at an insanely low rate.  The new Sprint Everything Plus plan puts the prices more inline with their Everything plan.  I’m happy I was able to get in while I could!

Goals Are Great Motivators

Marathon de New York : Verrazano Bridge

Goals can be great motivators to help you achieve! I find that when I have a specific goal it’s much easier to focus on what I want to accomplish.  For example: For me to save money is one thing but when I have something specific to save for I find that I can save up much quicker.  When I was younger I wanted a new stereo (the hand-me-down I was given still had an 8-track in it).  I made a goal of saving up for a new stereo.  When I sacrificed some expense for savings I knew i was to help me get that stereo.  When I worked extra hours in the supermarket I knew it was for the stereo.  In no time I had enough to go out and buy a new stereo, equipped with not one but two tape decks! (Have I dated myself or what?)

Let me give you some other goals I’ve set for myself and accomplished:

Ran the NYC Marathon – In 2005 I decided I wanted to run the NYC Marathon.  I knew I needed time to train and run enough races (you have to run 9 NYC RoadRunner races for guaranteed entree).  In 2006 I mapped out what races I would run to qualify for the next year’s race.  It was tough to keep up but I ran and finished all nine races for entry.  In 2007 I started a training program to get me in shape for the marathon.  In June I started my longs runs every weekend to get me ready for the distance.  The first Sunday last November I woke up at the crack of dawn and hopped on the Staten Island ferry to get to the start of the marathon.  Later that afternoon I would be able to call myself a marathon runner.  I don’t think I ever would have run the distance without a specific goal of running the marathon.

Paid off my credit cards – Some years ago I finally got fed up with how much I was paying monthly in interest for my credit cards.  I resolved to pay them off.  It started slowly but bit by bit I started to gain ground.  After an incident that led me to move back with the ‘rents I was able to turbo charge my payments and finish off my credit card debt.  I haven’t had more than a month’s charges since then (I pay my cards off in full every month).  Without resolving to pay off my credit cards once and for all I would still be idling along with minimum payments and a ton of debt piling up.

Started a personal finance blog/site – In October of 2007 I had discovered blogging via Zen Habits then Get Rich Slowly.  I was already itching to find something productive to do with my time and had healthy interest in personal finance.  I set a goal of starting up my own blog and making it successful.  I’m still in the middle of this goal but I feel like what I’ve done so far has been a success, especially when I look back at my first month of original posts on my Blogger site.  Without my goal I might be surfing fantasy baseball sites instead of writing this article.

Build up our savings – My wife and I wanted to make sure we had enough in savings for any emergency and then some.  Rather than hope to put some money away with what was left over at the end of every month we calculated a specific amount we could afford to do without and set up our ING savings to automatically withdraw money from our checking every week.  We have since achieved our emergency savings goal and exceeded it.  If we didn’t create a specific plan our savings would be considerably less and we’d be scratching our heads wondering where our money went.

The lesson here is that I was motivated to accomplish different things because I set a goal to achieve!  Having a goal in mind keeps my mind focused.  Without a goal set I would have just floated along in many cases.  My savings would be lower, my credit card debt still existing, my running much less, this site just a thought…

One way to accomplish a goal is to make it SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. (Thanks to Cash Money Life for turning me onto that concept.)

I also like to think in terms of short and long term goals. For example – The goal of saving up for a down payment on a home, while an admirable goal, may seem a bit too big to ever accomplish.  That could be a long-term goal.  To make it more achievable you can create a short-term goal of saving X dollars a month towards a down payment.  This way you see your small goals achieved which helps build up the confidence to achieve your bigger goal.

Check out this article on the science of setting goals.  When you set a goal you are actively engaging your brain to help you with your goal!

What goals have you accomplished?  What are your current goals and how will you achieve them?

Sign up with ING Direct and get a $25 bonusFree From Broke.

photo credit: Martineric

Dealing With Financial Problems With A Loved One

Purity

There may come a time when a financial problem comes up between you and a loved one. Maybe it’s a late payment that runs up some fees.  It could be an old debt that rears it’s ugly head again.  Perhaps someone did a little too much damage with credit card spending?  Whatever it is the issue will have to be addressed so a solution can be figured out.

Here are some things to consider when confronting your loved one about their financial management problems:

Don’t blame or accuse the other person for the problem.  Arguing and blaming doesn’t help.  When you lay blame and argue it’s like telling the other person that you’re right and they are wrong.  It may be that’s the case but nobody likes to hear that.  Start off a discussion like this and you immediately turn your loved one off to what you are saying.  Remember the situation has already happened.  The point now is to figure out how to solve it.

State the facts.  Talk about what has actually happened.  Try not to get your emotions involved.  This means no name calling.  It also means talking about the situation at hand and not bringing up any past discretion.  The facts will help you find a resolution.

Talk to your loved one about how the problem arose.  How did it get to this point?  Ask what they think can be done to solve the problem.  Offer your help.  Suggest some ideas of your own as a solution.  Assure your loved one that you are their for them and that you are in this together.  This leads us to…

Take accountability for the problem with your loved one. “But it wasn’t my fault” you might say.  Maybe not directly but by sharing in the responsibility you let your loved one know that you are there to help them.  The fact that this person is a loved one makes their pain yours as well to some extent.  Take that extra step with the olive branch and assure them that together you’ll figure out a solution.

Remember you want to open the person up to discussion. Getting into a financial mess is embarrassing for most.  Your loved one probably knows they screwed up somehow so they don’t want to be reminded of how bad a blunder it was.  Listen to them.  Work on finding a way to both fix the problem at hand and prevent it from happening in the future.

Hopefully you don’t have many financial problems with loved ones in your life.  If you come across any, these ideas should help you work things out.

photo credit: timsamoff

A CD Ladder Plan For Beginning Savers

a ladderAre you just starting off building up your savings? I’ve mentioned before that a great way to save is by putting money in a high yield savings account such as Capital One 360 Savings.  A way to make a little more interest is to open a Certificate of Deposit, or CD for short.

What is a CD?

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

A certificate of deposit or CD is a time deposit, a financial product commonly offered to consumers by banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions.

CDs are similar to savings accounts in that they are insured and thus virtually risk-free; they are “money in the bank” (CDs are insured by the FDIC for banks or by the NCUA for credit unions). They are different from savings accounts in that the CD has a specific, fixed term (often three months, six months, or one to five years), and, usually, a fixed interest rate. It is intended that the CD be held until maturity, at which time the money may be withdrawn together with the accrued interest.

So if you are investing/buying a  CD you want to make sure you don’t need that money for the length of it’s term (otherwise you will have to pay a penalty to cash it in).

Here’s a great way a beginning saver can get started with CD’s:

  • Figure out a monthly amount of money you know you won’t need for 12 months.  Don’t be scared now.  It can be a small amount like $10.
  • Log into your ING account and go to their products page.  Click on CD’s and proceed to open up a $10 CD for a 12-month term.  (If you can afford more by all means do so.  Remember this is money you won’t touch for a year.)
  • Now every month do the same thing for a total of 12 months.
  • At the end of a year you will have 12 CDs worth more than $120 (imagine if you put more in each month?).  If you can, re-invest the CDs as they mature.  See if you can add to the amounts, again even if it’s only a few dollars.

“What have we done?  Anyone can buy CDs!”, you may ask?  Remember this is for a beginner who is starting to build up their savings.  Here is what the beginning saver has accomplished:

  • This builds up a habit of saving.  By putting the money in a CD we’re limiting the ability to take the money out (without a penalty at least).  Once this habit is in place a beginning saver may have the discipline to expand their savings.
  • It creates a great sense of self-esteem for the saver.  You get to see your CDs growing every month.  How great is it to see a year’s worth of savings?  Once a person realizes that saving is an achievable goal they will be more likely to continue!
  • You’re earning interest.  Not only have you saved but you’re savings are growing too!  You’re taking advantage of laddering.

Savings aren’t usually built overnight.  But by saving bit by bit you will see your savings blossom over time!

photo credit: naama

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