If you want to live in NYC the first obstacle to clear will be the astronomical cost of apartment rents. These skyscraper numbers can send innocent newcomers into instant shock. So when searching for your first apartment, be prepared to do whatever it takes, short of committing a felony, to land an apartment with affordable rent. Chances are roommates will be part of the deal, but for splitting living expenses, the more the merrier. When you’re making bigger bucks later on and considering your own place, the mecca of course will be a rent stabilized apartment with rent far below market rates. So get your tentacles out the second you hit the city to begin your search for that needle in a haystack, a rent stabilized apartment. If by some miracle you actually manage to bag one, NEVER brag about it in a group of renters paying top market rates if you don’t want to end up being despised by all.

There are two ways to save big bucks on food. If you value your health, forget fast food joints. If you’re a dunce in the kitchen, un-dunce yourself and learn how to prepare easy, fast meals with fresh ingredients and cheap rich proteins. For the best deals on fresh fruits and veggies, check out neighborhood street vendors. For fun, consider picnic dinner feasts in Central park or on park benches, watching the sun go down along our River shorelines.

Going out to lunch can burn up lettuce fast. Preparing and packing your own lunch puts you in control of quality, taste and calorie content. Rather than eat in the office why not take a refreshing lunch break in one of the city’s numerous parks or, if it’s winter, at one of the tables set up in the city’s pleasant light-filled public spaces like the Sony Arcade or the IBM Atrium.

Two good sources for affordable meals out on the town are: New York Magazine’s The 2010 Cheap List packed with restaurants from all the boroughs including special spots “Where Chefs Eat Cheap” and the Guardian’s  celebrated author/waiter’s tips on bars and eateries popular with the city’s “waiter mafia.”

The fastest way to navigate the city is by subway, but the cheapest (and healthiest) is pumping your own two legs. In fact many facets of my life have been arranged so I can hoof it to and from just about everywhere. So pick up your pace and join the city’s super charged walkers whose healthful locomotion may help explain New Yorker’s longevity.

Also on the subject of health, where else can you play tennis or swim or cycle or skate or play on countless courts and fields for free or the tiniest of fees thanks to NYC’s great Dept. of Parks and Recreation. Every morning during my earlier years, I used to ride my bike to Central Park to play tennis, even during freezing months when only a few hard courts were open. (Quite a challenge playing in gale force winds).

If you have to furnish an apartment, consider browsing the street treasures aka the cast-off furniture lining city streets one night a week before sanitation pick-up. You’ll be amazed at the variety of stuff people throw out, often in perfect condition. I have hauled metal file cabinets, a radiator cover, numerous arm chairs, a needle stitch painting, straw deck chairs and tables up four flights of stairs to fill out my apartment decor.

I’ve also scooped up amazing finds in thrift shops including an Elsa Peretti Tiffany glass heart box for a few dollars, a Christian Dior blazer, designer skirts and black cashmere tunic sweater all costing well under a ten spot. A number of the better thrifts are located in the eighties on the upper East side. For super prices on CDs, books and movies, thrifts are in a class by themselves.

Yes, premier seats at a broadway show cost an arm and a leg, but New York also bubbles with plenty of free or low cost entertainment. Free Sights and Attractions has the low down on all the exciting freebies and activities around the Big Apple. NYC GO lists weekly free deals and events.

An excellent value-packed info source for both tourists and residents is the New York Times two part series, Going Deep for the Cheap in New York which contains hundreds of insider tips from residents in the know. If you have any further money-saving NYC tips, please share them in the comments.

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