Putting the ¢ back into the City: NYC & San Fran on a budget

Let’s face it – students aren’t often the richest of people. This can be especially true for those studying internationally. Spending on tuition, textbooks, accommodation and your social life can be hard on your bank account!

Being an international student on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all that your city has to offer, it just means you may have to go about it in a different way. We’ve put together some of the cheapest (or better yet – free!) things to do and see in both New York City and San Francisco so that you can make the most of your city!

Art and Culture


Venue: The Bronx Museum of Art

Location: 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY

Cost: Completely free!

NYC is known around the world as a cultural hub, and for good reason. The city is home to so many different types of museums and cultural attractions, and the majority of them are free or cost just a handful of change! The Bronx Museum of Arts is one of these. The Bronx is in NYC’s northernmost borough and is known for its diversity of people and culture. The Bronx Museum of Art showcases contemporary art from artists of diverse cultural backgrounds. It’s easily accessible by transit, and the best part about it — it’s completely free 7 days a week!


Venue: Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology

Location: 227 W 27th St, New York, NY

Cost: Completely free!

There’s more to NYC museums than just paintings hanging on a wall. For those more interested in style and fashion, you can check out the Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology. This is the only museum in NYC dedicated solely to art and fashion and has rotating exhibits of both current and past designers with authentic pieces of clothing. Opened in 1970, it now boasts over 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present. Oh, and did we mention it’s 100% free?


Venue: Conservatory of Flowers

Location: 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA

Cost: Free every Tuesday!

 San Francisco is known for its abundance of nature and beautiful views, and these can both be found at the Conservatory of Flowers. This greenhouse and botanical garden houses a collection of rare and exotic plants nestled in the Golden Gate Park, and just so happens to be the oldest building there. It’s so well-known that is has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you have a love for plants and flowers, the Conservatory of Flowers is best enjoyed on Tuesday – because that’s when it’s free!



Music and Nightlife


Venue: Fat Cat

Location: 75 Christopher St, New York, NY

Cost: $10 all-you-can-play!

 Located in the popular Greenwich Village, Fat Cat is famous for its combination of live jazz, ping pong, pool, checkers, shuffleboard, foosball and cheap beer! If you’re feeling like you need to relax, there are several couches set up around the bar to chill out. Fat Cat might be easy to miss, with its small door, and unusual name, but just keep an eye out for 75 Christopher Street, go through the doorway, and down a flight of stairs and have $10 ready to get all-you-can-play of any game.  What a deal!


Venue: Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre

Location: 153 E 3rd St, New York, NY & 307 W 26th St, New York, NY

Cost:  $8 per person

 This famous theatre has been the launching pad for many household names. Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Jenny Slate and several other Saturday Night Live alumni and other successful comedians got their start at the UCB. They even opened a sister theatre under the same name in Los Angeles. You can expect to have a night full of laughs, and in addition to cheap drinks, the theatre offers affordable, high-quality shows seven nights a week. Who knows – you might even bump into a celebrity.


Venue: Bottom of the Hill

Location: 1233 17th St, San Francisco, CA

Cost: $12 per person

 Referred to “as the best place to hear live music in San Francisco” by Rolling Stone magazine, Bottom of the Hill has hosted big bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes. It showcases great music seven nights a week, including both local and international bands catering to a variety of music tastes from jazz to rock to pop. With a full bar, kitchen, and patio all open late, it might be a good thing to end up at “the Bottom.”


Food & Drinks


Venue: Ike’s

Location: 901 Polk St, San Francisco, CA

Cost: approximately $10 per sandwich

A famous San Francisco sandwich shop, Ike’s was first opened in 2007 and has since opened an addition 35 locations – so you know they’re doing something right. With creative sandwiches names like “Nacho Girl,” “Pastrami-Charmed Life,” and “Kryptonite,” Ike’s makes their sandwiches as unique as their customers. Did we mention that all the bread is baked fresh to order? Are you hungry yet?


Venue: Fort Mason Center

Location: 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA

Cost:  $5 – $15 per plate

 What’s better than one restaurant? 30 plus! The “Off the Grid” food event at the Fort Mason Center runs every Friday until October 27th and is home to over 30 food trucks and vendors, as well as 3 bars and live music. Take your pick from deep fried Mac n’ Cheese, torched marshmallow fluff, or a multitude of other indulgent and decadent snacks – all at cheap food truck prices. If you get too full, they have free yoga classes in between meals, all with the iconic Golden Gate backdrop.


Venue: Lombardi’s

Location: 32 Spring St, New York, NY

Cost: $5 – $8 per slice

If you go to New York City and you don’t eat some NYC pizza, did you really even go? The iconic Lombardi’s Pizzeria, located in the Little Italy area of Manhattan (only a 12-minute subway ride from ILSC-New York!), was founded in 1905 and is known as the first pizzeria in the United States. This little slice of history offers “beautiful, smoke-crusted coal oven baked pizza, topped with fresh mozzarella and basil” – enough to keep customers coming back for more than 110 years!


Interesting art, tasty treats and exciting nightlife can all be found for cheap if you know where to look. Both New York City and San Francisco are unique, amazing cities that have a lot to offer those who live there – especially students!



Related posts