After diligently devoting ourselves to scrimping, saving, paying off debt and not spending on wants, we treated ourselves to a trip to the Big Apple. And we had a blast! No, literally it was a cold blast of winter. Brr!
For months, we’d planned to take a super cheap bus up to New York and stay with a friend during our seriously low cost adventure. After all, we are the Too Thrifty Chicks — no first class flights and four stars for us unless someone else is paying!
When the time finally rolled around for our trip we were pumped. We had visions of traipsing around the city under clear skies and skyscrapers, taking pictures, hitting up thrift stores, partying and people watching in balmy, but still chilly air.
Our visions and realities never even got in waving distance of one another, but we didn’t let a nasty bout of overcast skies, rain and eventually snow destroy this long anticipated trip. With our umbrellas in hand and our motto, “Just go with it,” guiding us we had a ton of fun.
Because of the icky weather we definitely didn’t explore as much of the city as we would have liked, but we certainly got to know Harlem and Brooklyn a little better. Our first night, fresh off the bus, we hustled hard to have dinner with our friend at the most fabulously, awesome Amy Ruth’s for the chicken and waffles that we had been thinking about the entire ride up. The waffles are so light, the fried chicken so crispy and the staff so nice, all we can say is this was the perfect start to our adventure.
The next day at about 9, we hopped on the subway and stopped first in Times Square were the bright lights and the smell of new stuff drew us in for a little look. That’s probably about where the plans for a frugal NYC adventure went off the rails a little bit.
Budget? What budget?
So Reese and I had this grand plan. We were going to try to do NYC on the smallest of budgets we could imagine: $250 to $300. Because we’re on this Operation Do Better train, we know that what we value most is experience, not stuff, so we convinced ourselves that we were only going to spend money on food, drink and access to the things that we wanted to experience. And we weren’t planning to spend a ton on eating out because a) we had access to a kitchen at our friend’s apartment and b) we are not opposed to eating pizza or from food trucks, which would keep our expenses low. Boy were we naive!
While we did in fact save money on food because we mostly ate at local spots in Harlem, but we soon realized that shopping in NYC is part of experiencing the city. And on that first day, we definitely indulged in some retail therapy at Sephora, Forever 21 and Uniqlo. Before we could do anymore damage we hopped a train to Chinatown for a deliciously inexpensive lunch of dumplings and noodles. We also stopped and promptly fell in love with our first taste of bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea.
With our bodies revived, we braved the weather once again and took the train to Brooklyn so that we could head into the Williamsburg neighborhood to check out the thrifty shops its known for. The whipping wind blew us into a little boutique called Rabbits and eventually to a thrift store called Junk, where we pulled out our wallets one more time, then called it a day. We had dinner at a Latin American restaurant called Ecuatoriana, that served gigantic portions of their seafood soup, shrimp and garlic with rice and plantains.
Day 2 brought more cold and rain, but at 9 a.m. we were ready to hit the streets and headed over to The Studio Museum in Harlem. Our main purpose for scheduling our trip for the time that we did was so that we could catch the Gordon Parks exhibit before it ended. Reese is a freelance photographer and I’m a budding amateur and we love Mr. Parks’ work. We really enjoyed the exhibit, but were pretty bummed that the museum has a strict, no photos allowed policy, that we think they should consider changing. On our way to the museum, we dashed into a GAP outlet store and the MAC store, but left empty handed — though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. By this time, our stomachs were staging a revolt, so we hoofed it over to an amazing crêperie called Crepes on Columbus were we chowed down on savory crêpes and a sweet one with Nutella and strawberries. We kept it light for dinner with pizza slices and lentil soup at a local spot close to our home away from home. Yum!
Our third and final day, we braved the snow to go back to Amy Ruth’s for more chicken and waffles (judge away) and then to the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture to see the Africans in India and the Visualizing Emancipation exhibits. After seeing the Gordon Parks exhibit, the Visualizing Emancipation exhibit, which was largely based on old photos that date back to slavery, was like watching a story told in reverse.
We also dropped into the Schomburg Center’s book store for a book and some postcards that will become part of an art project really soon. I still had two things that I wanted before I left NYC: a charm for my bracelet and a replacement of my favorite MAC lipstick and liner. So we headed back to Times Square where we were able to pick up my “if you don’t get them here, you can’t go buy them when we get home” -most wanted items. We then headed back to Chinatown for more bubble tea and then back to the apartment to collect our stuff just in time to have more pizza slices and wait, and wait for megabus to take us home.
Whew! It was a great trip and we can’t wait to return in the warmer months!