I'm unemployed so I went exploring. Here are some things I did (and would recommend) for an inexpensive NYC outing
  1. Museums' Suggested General Admission is only suggested
    Several museums in New York have suggested general admission. Know what that means? You can pay what you can! So for me that was $5. The Cloisters: $5, The American Museum of Natural History: $5, The Met: $5, Long Island City Sculpture Center: $5, baby!
  2. UCB
    Love this place in LA, so I had to dip into UCB here and it has two locations, and guess how much shows are? $5!! So if they suck, it was only $5! PLUS unlike the LA theaters, these serve beer and it's cheap too ($3)
  3. The Creek & The Cave
    This is a standup venue that hosts some shows for free! And the others are just $5!
  4. Subway sandwiches everyday for lunch
    Kidding. But I guess you could go for the $5 footlongs if you're capping each expense at $5. I wasn't.
  5. Unlimited 7 day metrocard
    I was slated to be in town for 5 days and anticipated quite a bit of commuting via the subway so instead of paying $2.75/trip I spent $31 in one go and definitely got my money's worth
  6. Central Park is free
    And has plenty to meander around and look at. This time I went and saw the Alice statue for the first time (and I have been frequenting New York since I was 12 and pitched a fit until my parents gave in and took me and my sibs to Rockefeller center at Christmas; we did not go ice skating)
  7. Eat at Markets
    Chelsea Market, and Gotham West Market: both have a variety of options and they're fairly inexpensive (you could comfortably eat a filling meal for $10)
  8. Stay with your brother
    Okay, I guess I was pretty fortunate in this regard because I made breakfast here and also didn't have to pay for a hotel or Airbnb. And he's an actuary so most nights he was paying for my dinner too.
  9. Happy hours are everywhere for your imbibing needs
    And some of these start as early as 11am and go until 7pm on weekdays. AND beers are $3-$5: that's great considering what this Angeleno has been used to.
  10. Walk
    There are so many walking paths here! I forgot what that's like. I went to the High Line, and also Roosevelt Island (I did a self-guided walking tour here that I found on freetoursbyfoot.com). Plus your metrocard allows you to take the tram out to Roosevelt island and that's pretty neat.
  11. So many weird shops to window shop in
    I found one accidentally that was called Evolution and had taxidermic specimens for sale, and looking is free so as long as you can exhibit self restraint this is a cost-free activity. The Strand bookstore is another spot that's great too.
  12. Bring a reusable water bottle
    Holy shit, this city has so many water fountains! I always bring a reusable water bottle when I travel, but I have run into situations where I've still had to buy bottled water so as not to suffer from dehydration/dry mouth. But not in New York City! And you can spend your saved dollars on sweets like cookies from Levaine Bakery, or cupcakes from Butter Lane bakery, or Magnolia, or Baked by Melissa. Or just save the money. I don't know. Live your bliss.