Frugal Life · Travel · Uncategorized

New York City in a Weekend

I have always dreamed of visiting New York City.  There is just something about the lights, the buildings, and the hustle and bustle that appealed to me.

I’ve talked about this dream with my sister for years and one day she stopped me and said, “Let’s do it! Let’s go visit New York City this year.”  And I said, “Ok!”  We decided to try to keep the budget low and to only visit for 3 nights, one weekend.  We made our list of “must stops” and started planning.

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Day 1:  Thursday

We arrived in NYC at around 6 pm and after checking into our hotel we hit the streets!

*Money Saving Tip*

–We booked our hotel Priceline.  We found that they had the best deals (this is NOT sponsored!).  We also used ebates which gave us an extra 6% off the price.  We scored a boutique midtown hotel (with a king bed) for only $200/night.

Our first stop was pizza at Uncle Pauls Pizza.  The pizza was delicious and only $4/slice.  Win, Win!

After dinner we walked around and enjoyed sight seeing.  We visited Grand Central Station, St.Patricks Cathedral, window shopped down 5th Avenue, and ended the night in Times Square.  Everything we saw Thursday night was completely free!

 

Day 2:  Friday

Breakfast Friday morning was at Home Front Deli.  This is a small little restaurant, but boy was it delicious!  They made the best bagels I tried all weekend!  I highly recommend!

After breakfast we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met for short.  This was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip!  It is WELL worth the money!  You could spend DAYS in this museum.  We focused on the Egyptian Room, The American Wing, and European Art.  Everything was absolutely incredible!

 

*Money Saving Tip*

–To help on costs we bought the Explorer Pass.  This was the cheapest option we found for us to be able to see our “must stop” places.  We used it for The Met, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can customize the Explorer Pass, enabling you to pick and choose the places you want to go.

After The Met we rode the bus down to Top of the Rock and were treated to absolutely amazing views of New York City.  Going to the top of Top of the Rock is not only cheaper than the Empire State Building, the views are also better.

 

Next, was lunch at The Halal Guys for the best Gyros I have ever had.  This is seriously a must stop.  The portions was huge and only around $8 for a platter.

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That night we had tickets to go see The Lion King on Broadway.  This was one of our big splurges for the trip and it did not disappoint!  We paid full price for our tickets to The Lion King, but there are ways to get discount Broadway Tickets.

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*Money Saving Tip*

—You can buy same day Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth located right in Times Square.  These same day tickets are heavily discounted for a select shows.

–For Hamilton tickets download the Hamilton app onto your phone.  You can enter a lottery with the winner given the option to buy two Broadway Hamilton tickets for just $10 a piece.  Warning:  I have entered this lottery numerous time with no success!

–Check out Today Tix for discounted tickets that can be bought in advance.  We used this service for a Broadway show Saturday night and were very pleased with it!

Day 3:  Saturday

Saturday breakfast was at Zuckers Bagels.  I didn’t enjoy this breakfast quite as much as Home Front Deli, but it was still really good!

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Immediately after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 museum.  We were treated to an amazing museum full of heart wrenching photos, survivor stories and gut wrenching facts.  We spent about 3 hours walking around and taking it all in.  We honestly could have spent all day there, they had so many exhibits and information to look through.

 

 

After the museum we headed Downtown to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a completely FREE ferry that takes you right past the statue of liberty.  It was so simple to walk right on to the ferry.  I recommend going to the very back so that you can also be treated to a view of the NYC skyline.

The views of the Statue of Liberty were even better than we had expected!  Once we arrived to New Jersey, we walked off, went around the corner and walked right onto the next ferry to ride back to Manhattan.  This was really easy, and you just can’t beat FREE!

Next, we headed to Brooklyn for a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a wet and stormy day, but we still enjoyed the views on the bridge. The architecture was incredible!

 

That evening we had dinner at The Melt.  They make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was amazing and very budget friendly!

After dinner we headed to another Broadway Show, Waitress.  To save money on this show we bought our tickets using TodaysTix.

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Day 4:  Sunday

We had half a day on Sunday before needing to catch our plane.  Breakfast was at Wafels and Dinges.  Which is absolutely delicious, and a MUST stop when in New York City.

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Following my sweet tooth we went straight from breakfast to Levain Bakery for the absolute BEST cookie I have EVER had!!!  You MUST, I repeat, MUST stop by Levain Bakery.  Their cookies were absolutely amazing!

 

We ate our cookies in Central Park and then spent the rest of the morning wandering the paths and enjoying the day.  It truly is a beautiful park with so many unique areas and sights.  I loved strolling through all of the different areas.

 

Our trip was a busy whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change anything!  We were able to see everything we wanted to see, and had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t wait to go back again one day and visit even more of the amazing sights.

Be sure to check out my post 20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City for more budget friendly New York City ideas!

 

 

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Frugal Life · Travel

20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City

Did you see my post about our recent whirlwind of a trip to New York City?  We had so much fun in the big apple!  I fell in love with all of the beautiful buildings and delicious food.  We tried to keep costs low and were still able to find plenty of fun activities to do.  During all of my research and planning I just couldn’t believe how many completely FREE things there are to do in NYC.  I’m sharing a few of those ideas with you today!

nyc on a budget

20 Free Things to Do While in NYC

Explore a City Park

1.  Wander Around Central Park

You could literally spend DAYS in Central Park.  There is SO much to see and do!  We loved wandering around watching the performers and enjoying the beauty.  Be sure to visit The Mall, Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Fountain.

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2.  Walk the High Line

The High Line is a beautiful elevated park.  It was made from an old railroad no longer in use.  The High Line provides a miles of walking paths and gardens.

3.  Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park has over 9 acres of beauty located in Greenwich Village.  It is well known for the landmark Washington Square Arch.  This park provides many different things to see and do.

4.  Bryant Park

Bryant Park is located right in midtown, making a visit quick and easy.  We visited Bryant Park in late October and they had their Christmas Shops and ice skating rink set up.  It was so fun to walk around looking through the cute little shops.

5.  Battery Park

Located near the entrance to the free Staten Island Ferry you will find Battery Park.  It is another large city park with paths and many statues and memorials.  A visit to Battery Park will also give you a good view of the Statue of Liberty!

Famous NYC Landmarks

6.  Take the Staten Island Ferry to Statue of Liberty

You may not be able to go visit the Statue of Liberty for free, but you can get a free boat ride that will take you right past Lady Liberty.  The Staten Island Ferry is a completely free round trip ride with fantastic views!

7.  Visit Grand Central Station

It only takes a few minutes to pop in and visit Grand Central Station, but it is WORTH it!  The architecture of the building is absolutely breathtaking!  I loved ever minute we spent inside.

 

8.  Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

We had so much fun walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  The architecture is absolutely beautiful and it only takes about 30 minutes!  The best views are when you walk from Brooklyn into Manhattan.

 

9.  9/11 Memorial Plaza

To gain entrance into the 9/11 museum you will need to pay, but walking around the grounds and seeing the site of the beautiful memorial is completely free!  There is a special reverence on the grounds that will touched me.

10.  Times Square

There really is nothing quite like Times Square.  A true melting pot of lights, colors, people and sounds.  Times Square is completely free to visit and a great place for people watching!  It’s fun to visit at least once, but I wouldn’t recommend staying for more than 5-10 minutes.

11.  Rockefeller Plaza

Home of the famous Rockefeller Skating Rink is Rockefeller Plaza.  It’s a fun section of the city to walk around and explore for a few minutes.  We visited when the ice skating rink was set up and we loved watching the skaters for a few minutes and window shopping past the buildings.

 

12.  Flat Iron Building

The iconic Flat Iron Building is a perfect spot for an Instagram photo!  It is such a unique building and I can’t wait to visit it someday.

10.  New York Library

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t really believe a library was a worthwhile stop on our trip, but I was SO wrong!  This building is absolutely beautiful!  We spent about 20-30 minutes to quickly walk around and view the different rooms (be sure to stop at the Rose Reading Room!).  This was one of my favorite buildings we saw.

 

11.  Charging Bull

If you are in the Wall Street area, you must stop by and see the famous Charging Bull.  It’s another picture perfect spot!

Free Museums

12.  Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is the home to many unique art exhibits.  It is large and open and rarely ever crowded.  The best part is it is completely free!

13.  Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

If you have any interest in clothing and fashion, you would probably enjoy the free Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  It’s exhibits showcase the history and workings of the exciting fashion world.

Visit an Old Church

14.  Trinity Church

A visit to Trinity Church on Wall Street gives you not only a visit to a beautiful old church, but it’s also has an old cemetery on the grounds.  You will be able to find a few historical figures buried there, including Alexander Hamilton and his wife.

15.  Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The Cathedral of St.John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the world.  With plenty of detail and beautiful stain glass windows, it is worth stopping at!

16.  St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patricks Cathedral is a must see when in New York City.  I originally thought we would only stop by for a few minutes, but the cathedral was so gorgeous with lots of details to look at, we ended up staying much longer.

 

Explore a New Neighborhood

18.  Walking Tour

Google “NYC Walking Tour” and you will find countless free guides that tell you exactly where to walk and what to visit in each neighborhood.  One of my favorite parts of New York City was taking in the beauty and uniqueness of each neighborhood.

 

19.  China Town

There is really nothing like visiting China Town.  I love walking through the streets, browsing the shops and taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells.  China Town is a place you could spend hours in, or just walk through quick, it’s completely up to you!

20.  Window Shop on 5th Avenue

We had so much fun walking down 5th Avenue and peeking in all of the different stores.  This is not shopping for the cheap!  But, it is free (and fun!) to look!

 

There really is nowhere like New York City.  You can enjoy this great city, without breaking the bank!

New York City (1)

Be sure to check out New York City in a Weekend for more budget friendly NYC tips and tricks!

Christmas · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Gift Ideas · Good Ideas · Holidays · Homemade · Recipes

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

Hot cocoa is such a fun staple to have in your home during these cold winter months.  My kids will spend hours playing outside in the snow and the first thing they ask for when they come inside is some hot chocolate!

Back in my “spender” days I use to buy hot chocolate mix at the store like it was nobody’s business!  Once I started learning how to save and live a frugal life I learned how to make hot chocolate mix from scratch and I have never looked back!

Not only does making your own hot cocoa save you money, it is also so quick and easy to do.  It also tastes much better than what you will buy from the store!

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Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup powdered creamer

1/8 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Store in a tightly covered container.

To make hot chocolate:  Stir 1/4 cup mix with 3/4 cup boiling water.  Enjoy!

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We usually make this mix for our family to enjoy all winter, but it would also be a really frugal christmas gift for friends and neighbors.  Whip up a large batch, portion it into cute jars and tie a bow around it. Done!

 

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting

Teaching Kids to Help with Family Chores: Including free chore chart printable

Teaching my kids how to work is a huge priority for me.  In today’s world with busy schedules and so many kids focused on screens, it’s hard to find the right way to instill a hard work ethic.

I’ve tried so many different methods to try to encourage my kids to be hard workers.  Many of those methods have failed, but the method we are using right now has been going strong for 5 years.  That’s definitely a record in my house!  I don’t know if it is teaching them the hard work ethic I desire, but I know it has been teaching them a lot about household chores and so I am happy with it!

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My cleaning system is nothing fancy, SO un-fancy in fact that it probably shouldn’t even be called a “system”! 😉

My kids have 4 main household chores that they are responsible for each week.

Bedrooms

The kids’ bedrooms are expected to daily be kept clean and tidy, including making their bed each day.  This usually only takes 5 minutes each morning, sometimes more or less.  Once a week they are required to vacuum and clean their rooms.  I always check on Saturdays to make sure they did what was asked of them and to verify that they haven’t stuffed anything under the bed or in their closets.  😉  One of my printables includes our Bedroom Responsibilities chart.  This is hung up in each of my kids rooms so they can make sure the chores are completed correctly.

Dishes

We have three “Dish Duties” that we rotate each week between our three kids.  These duties are:  Load the Dishwasher, Sweep the Floor, and Wipe the Counters.  After our nightly dinner the family all cleans up the dishes together with the kids each helping with their specific assignment.

Household Chore

Each week my kids are assigned a Household Chore.  The Household Chore is usually centered around a room in the house; one that the entire family uses, so we all need to help keep it clean.  These chores are rotated each week through each of the kids.

Our current list of household chores are:

-Kitchen

-Bathroom

-Great Room

-Basement Family Room

-Your Choice

I include a Your Choice week so that the kids have one week where they can have a little control over the area they clean.  They really look forward to this week!  The Your Choice options are:

-Do the Laundry

-Wash the Walls

-Clean the Car

-Clean out the Refrigerator

-Wash the Windows

These household chores are rotated weekly between each child.  This way everyone gets an equal amount of turns with each chore.

Paid Chore

I assign my kids one paid chore each month.  (other paid chores are given when they request it).  Our paid chores revolve around taking care of our animals (six chickens, one dog and one cat).  They will ONLY get paid if the chore is completed.  These chores are rotated monthly and the kids are paid monthly.

You can read my article Teaching Kids Smart Money Habits to learn more about my views on giving kids an allowance.

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This is how we do chores in our house.  Are my kids perfect?  No way!  Am I perfect?  Not even close!  But, we are trying.  And for now, this is what has been working for us.

I have turned my Family Chore Chart and Chore Responsibilities into free printables for you!  These are the exact charts we use!  You can get them emailed to you by following this link:  Free Chores for Kids Printables.

How to Use Chore Chart Printables

I highly suggest laminating the Family Chore Chart after printing it.  Or, you can just stick it in a page protector like I do!  😉  This way I can use a dry erase marker to write down all of the chores and adjust them each week.

You will want to cut the Clean Chores printables into sections and laminate each section.  This is obviously not necessary, but I have found it helps to keep the instructions more durable with my kids use.

I keep the chore instructions hung up in a bag for my kids to pull out of when it is their turn for that particular chore.

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I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is teaching them how to work.  They WILL look back one day and thank you for giving them this gift.  I whined and yelled and cried and complained and told my parents they were the meanest in the world…..but I grew up….and I realized just how GRATEFUL I am that they taught me how to work!

The saying says there is more than one way to train a horse!  That falls true with kids too!  This is what works for my kids, you might find something different that works for your family.  All that matters is that we are TRYING.  Keep trying mamas!  We got this!