Tom Ritson for Unsplash

Tom Ritson for Unsplash

Ahhhh, New York.

We love to hate you, and we hate to love you.

One minute, living in New York is heart aching-ly beautiful and the possibilities that the streets offer seem endless. The next minute, you’re stuck underground for 45 minutes in the stinky train car with no cell service.

While NYC does have it’s shortcomings, it does make up for it with its amazing wealth of affordable things! We rounded up our favorite cheap eats, happy hours, gyms, therapists and places to work that aren’t coffee shops. Enjoy!



MATTO ($2 everything) - This is not a joke, absolutely everything is $2. This Italian bakery and coffee shop serves up some downright quality food for $2 including La Colombe coffee, kombucha and freshly baked pastries, egg sandwiches (that they’ll toast for you) and cookies. This bespoke little cafe looks seriously gourmet too and filters out any of the usual riff raff that like to make coffee shops their home (startup founders).


Two Brothers $1 pizza (Various locations) - The $1 pizza on the corner of 25th and 6th has single handedly kept entire startup businesses afloat. I, myself while on this precarious journey of building up ciaooo! have spent many a day counting out just enough coinage to have lunch for the day. Just $1 for a slice standing at the table, with a light dusting of pepper flakes, garlic powder and oregano, it won’t matter if you’re a broke founder, regular working joe or major CEO (which you will surely become one day).

DINNER - See our full neighborhood guide to Chinatown HERE.

CHINATOWN (cheap dinners) - Chinatown has some of the cheapest and delicious food in the city. If you’re going out with friends, share a large portion of food without breaking the bank and hit up one of these favorite spots. Not to mention, a few of the places are BYOB or just serve CHEAP alcohol.

-Hometown BBQ (Hot Pot) -One of the best, if not delicious hot pots I’ve ever been to. For $26, all you can eat, $3.00 beers and $25 bottles of wine it’s a place you wouldn’t want to miss. The clean and modern spot also features individual pots so that you can cook to your own desire.

-Congee Village (Chinese) - My absolute favorite spot when going with large groups of friends, friends visiting out of town. This bamboo thatched family-style restaurant is authentic with just enough strokes of modernity to make even your aunt from Idaho feel comfortable. Plus, they have a bar!

-Nha Trang One (Vietnamese) - This is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown, and I’m PHO real. There’s never really a wait, and since it’s a backstreet behind Baxter St there’s not too much foot traffic. The spot has incredibly cheap foods and delicious eats. I once came with 3 friends and we had a 3 ½ hour dinner, shipped 4 bottles of red wine between us and closed down the restaurant.

-Nyonya (Malaysian) My friend Lez is a native Singaporean and he comes once a month to get a fix of the Malaysian foods. Malaysian cuisine is in the simplest of terms, Chinese with an Indian influence. Try Roti with chicken curry as an appetizer and a medley of others!

-Shanghai Asian Manor (Dumplings) Soup dumplings. There’s no right way to eat them and there’s no single place to eat them. Let’s keep politics out of food, ok? I love this low key joint, it’ll be hard to get a table and it’s more of a neighborhood spot than for a huge group of friends but I guarantee it will fill your belly. And not for an insane amount of money.

Sure, NYC is expensive. But you can find deals if you’re creative and to a point, scammy.

Additional tip: Skip the line at the supermarket and, buy them from the original NYC farmers market, the outdoor fruit and vegetable stands. They’re SO MUCH CHEAPER, and the fruits and vegetables are JUST AS FRESH. You won’t get organic heirloom tomatoes but you’ll probably find some asparagus, avocados and enough veggies to make a decent salad and meal.

PS - tip the guy when it’s so cold out.


Are you on the APPS? No, not the dating apps. I mean the drinking apps!  As a broke startup founder, by now, you know that you’ve got to be extremely creative to get things done, especially when you don’t have the proper resources. I love the HOOCH app that lets you get one free drink a day at thousands of bars around NYC for only $10 a month.

THE “ HHH” aka Hotel Happy Hour - Yes, Happy Hour is cheap but it gets real expensive the second the clock strikes past 7pm. That’s why I’m a fan of the HHH “Hotel Happy Hour”. Because nothing is worse than happy hour that forces you to sip on shitty well drinks while in an even shittier bar, I like to go to hotel bar happy hours  to maximize on my drinks. The quality will be better, the digs swankier and surely the service and ability to sit with your fellow broke founders, much better. Check out the Rose Hill. And if hotels aren’t your thing -

Flask / Bottle of wine. I’m keeping it real with you, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve snuck a flask of vodka into my purse and ordered a single cocktail at a bar. Yes, it’s absolutely juvenile and uncouth and unfair to the businesses but listen, if you’re broke AF and you’re spending all your money on rent and trying to start a business that you think will change the world, then I think it’s OK for this part in time.


So you’ve got a great idea, drawn out your business plan, and if you’re lucky you’ve got a few friends who are down with the idea and willing to jump aboard with you. The only thing is, the coffee shop is starting to get tired of your little one coffee for 6 hours and you need a place to just sit and brainstorm with the team. Or maybe just a place for yourself to be alone with your thoughts when the bed isn’t cutting it as a desk anymore.

While Wework has glamourized the office space for startups, it’s still pricey for some of us pre- startup founders. Here are some spots for you to start up your dream space without breaking the bank.

  • THE GOOD OL’ FASHIONED LIBRARY  Maybe the last time you went to the library was that 8 hour Adderol infused study bender during finals season in college, but libraries in NYC still have a place for the grown adult. With a library card, you can use any of the facilities across the five boroughs with free wifi, AC and plenty of quiet. I recommend using the SCIENCE LIBRARY in midtown that offers up tons of resources for startup founders including free office space for 2- 10 people for a meeting. Reserve a small meeting room

  • HOTEL MOTEL HOLIDAY INN Coffee shops. Blech. I can’t stand them. $6 lattes. Gross bathrooms. Annoying hipster looking screenwriters on Macs scrolling through Facebook. And who could forget the blessing that is the continuous interruption of the ear piercing espresso machine? Most high-end hotels have a lobby or coffee shop for their guests, and some even strive to have locals come to give their lobby that “local vibe”. One of my favorites is the Indigo Hotel in LES, whose lobby is located on the 14th floor with floor to ceiling views of the city. Also, check out the  Arlo Hotel and the W Hotel (where you can steal wifi from Sephora when your two-hour wifi runs out).

  • VOYAGER - Ok, so you need some actual space. A desk. A place to put your papers and be able to leave your laptop every time you pee. And maybe just a place you can be so that you don’t feel like a vagabond bum mooching off a place’s wifi anymore. I personally don’t love apps like Croissant where you take up seats at random places because you don’t get the support system of a regular community.  Hit up Voyager, it’s a boutique co-working space for the travel tech community. And with rates like $225 a month for a dedicated desk, you simply can’t be beaten.


Open every startup book and you’ll find some insane anecdote about hustling into all hours of the night, sacrificing personal happiness to cultivate an idea into a reality. While yes, absolutely, hard work and consistency is necessary, so is personal health. Living on diet coke and lara bars hunched over a computer for 14 hours a day is no way to sustain your energy. Eating healthy, working out and being extremely wary of your mental health is essential.

  • Peloton - Soul Cycle Who? If you’re a freelancer or startup founder with a “make your own” schedule type of situation, you should take full advantage of Peloton’s free mid day cycling classes. Every day between 10:30am and 430pm, M-F, Peloton offers free cycle classes. Plus you get to use their fancy facilities for showers afterwards. Super swanky and thanks to fellow startup founder @walshcostigan for this one.

  • Blink Fitness - At a zesty $15 a month, Blink seems like a gym membership too good to believe. Surely, there must be Soviet era workout equipment in basement with a single light bulb somewhere. But Blink’s the bees knees. Clean, sleek spaces with modern equipment, bright staff and locations all over NYC. They’re also owned by Equinox so you’re still getting great quality, just less eucalyptus towels or Lululemon sporting chicks. Plus, depending on what your membership is, you have an unlimited amount of guest passes so you could hook a friend up. If you’re curious how these cheap gyms stay in profit - read this interesting WSJ article.

  • Hudson River Park -  Sure, Central Park get’s all the love for working out, but it’s also square in midtown and overrun with tourists. No one wants that. During the summer months, hit up the West Side’s Hudson River Park from Pier 25 and north.  There are countless free spaces alongside the Hudson River, including running along the Hudson, tennis, beach volleyball, mini golf, basketball and plenty of other sports. Most of which are free.


While people often think of therapy as kind of a “for other people” type of thing, therapy is definitely more accessible than you think. When you’re going through the extreme highs and lows of startup, you will need someone to talk to in order to understand all your feelings and what you are going through. NYC has a lot of great facilities that offer low-cost therapy, including public hospitals and universities.

  • The Brief Psychotherapy Program and Mount Sinai / Beth Israel – provides low-cost, specialized treatment for various emotional and interpersonal difficulties of a longstanding nature, including problems with anxiety and depression – sessions are $30-$50


So you’ve got your great idea and you’re wondering how to get started. Everyone knows one of the keys to success is finding a great mentor, but DM’ing Gary Vee or Elon Musk is not going to get you any closer. The Small Business Administration (remember learning about this in HS history class?) actually offers FREE business services for small businesses including mentorship.

SCORE - The organization is run by volunteers who were leaders in their industry and now want to pass off their wisdom to help start new businesses. You’d be surprised to find how many different industries there are, and how supportive the members are. I’ve met with my mentor,  Bob Mate nearly every week for months and months and still remain in touch with him today. It helps to keep you accountable, and they offer you wisdom in ways that are so overarching. I highly recommend mentorship from here and the best thing is...it’s FREE.

Now stop scrolling through the internet and get your shit started!

If you’ve got a tip for more cheap options - email me at chau@ciaooomag.com or leave a comment on our Instagram @ciaooomag and we’ll share it in our next list!