Completely revised and updated, the fourth edition of The
Original Cheap Bastard reveals even more great finds for visitors
$ - How to land a low-cost apartment in a luxury building without paying a broker s fee $ - Where to find free food, including coffee, sushi, and pub grub $ - How to gain free entrance to plays, concerts, museums, and television tapings $ - Where to find free classes in anything from yoga to small business development $ - When and where to find great furnishings in other people s trash $ - How to get a free haircut, color treatment, manicure, or low-cost massage
Winner of the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for Travel Guidebook of the Year!
A thoroughly impressive roundup of freebies and cheapies found throughout the boroughs. Pucci Meyer McGill New York Post
is a native New Yorker and has lived in 4 out of 5 of the boroughs ( I
will make it to Staten Island one of these days. ) His varied career
has included stints as a writer, actor, producer and Massage Therapist.
Rob wrote the Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City and Washington DC,
which has given rise to a new series of Cheap Bastard books. Rob s
other writing credits include the soon-to-be-published book The Cuddle
Sutra (Sourcebooks), scripts for the National Public Radio show Jazz
From Lincoln Center as well as articles for local newspapers and
magazines. He also created and produced the A&E reality series
House Of Dreams. As an actor he has appeared at regional theaters
through out the country, and on television in Law & Order, Law
& Order: SVU, The Job, All My Children, and the HBO film American
Splendor as well as a number of national commercials. He is a graduate
of the American Repertory s Institute for Advanced Theater Training at
Harvard University. As a Massage Therapist, Rob has relived many sore
and aching backs around New York. Rob currently lives, works and does
his darndest not to spend any money in Manhattan.
A FEW YEARS BACK WHILE I was visiting England, I found myself low on
cash but still wanting to see the sights. Not to be deterred by this
minor detail, I proceeded to figure out ways to sneak into some of the
Brits most expensive and heavily guarded tourist attractions. My
proudest feat was making my way into the impenetrable Tower of London.
Take that, William the Conqueror! I was having such a good time getting
around the system that I thought this would make a great first in a
series of books Getting Around London: How to Sneak into Anywhere. Upon
further consideration (and after speaking with my brother the lawyer),
it seemed there might be an array of legal problems with this kind of
book. But somehow the idea wouldn t go away.
back home in New York, I watched the Pulitzer Prize winning play Wit
one evening for free (and legally!). After the show, I stopped by a
favorite haunt of mine to get a little snack (free, thank you), and
made it home to my spacious Upper West Side apartment (for which I pay
$560 a month in rent and found without paying any broker s fee). As I
sat relaxing in my leather easy chair (free, too!) and thinking about
my yoga class the next morning (you guessed it, free), it dawned on
me I am one cheap bastard. I also understood that I have a mission in
life to figure out how I can get or do practically any thing I want
without paying one red cent, and usually on the up and up. And I felt
compelled to share this my life s work with the world. So I humbly
offer to you The Cheap Bastard s Guide to New York City.
CB Guide is not only a collection of specific destinations, listings,
and tips on how to get almost anything imaginable for free or
ridiculously cheap (more on my definition of these later), it s also a
celebration of life on the cheap. The myth is that New York is a great
place to live or visit if you have the money to enjoy it. The truth is,
no place offers more for free than New York, but only if you know how
to find it. And once you find it, oh the joy! Anyone can pay their way
into a Broadway show, but when you get in for free, some how the lights
are brighter, the songs are sweeter, the drama so much more
heartbreaking. There is no thrill in buying a dinner, but the taste of
a free Buffalo wing is spiced with adventure, the crunch of a crisp
free Granny Smith apple is the sound of triumph, and the kick of
getting a free cup of coffee puts just that extra spring in your step.
big part of the value of getting something for nothing is the story
that goes with it the history, the event. What can you tell me about
any piece of furniture in your house that you bought? I went to the
store. I liked it. I bought it. But everything in my house comes with a
heritage. Every time I sit in my leather easy chair, I m reminded of
how I came to own this piece of furniture that by all rights I could
never afford to buy. I was walking along a few blocks away from my
apartment, my arms loaded down with books I was donating to my local
library, when I saw a chair sitting on the curb waiting to be picked up
by the next sanitation truck. While at first glance it looked like it
might truly be ready for the trash heap, with its torn-up seat cushion,
I knew right away I wanted it. Still, I couldn t stop to grab it then.
I hurried to the library, dropped off my books, and rushed back to the
chair. Of course, someone else was check ing out the merchandise by the
time I got back. I thought I had lost it. Who would pass up such a
great find? I waited on the corner sending evil thoughts his way . . .
and miraculously, he walked away. Great, it s mine! When I was in the
middle of inspecting my chair, seeing if the cushion really was beyond
repair, another guy walked up to offer his advice. Eh, you don t want
that, it s falling apart, he said. I thanked him for his words of
wisdom and continued to poke and prod at the chair. He then walked
away, and I noticed him heading back to his double-parked van just down
the block. Nice try, buddy, I thought. I knew I had to grab it now or
kiss it good-bye. I heaved it over my head, man aged to lug it the few
blocks home and the rest is history. All I had to do was to fashion a
new cover for the cushion, which cost me no more than $30. The chair
has now served me well for more than five years.
Each and every
listing in this book offers you an opportunity for some thing more
valuable than money: a memory, an experience, a story (and of course,
the chance to save a boatload of cash ain t such a bad thing, either).
listings in this book can be split into two categories:
Free and Ridiculously Cheap, with the vast
majority of the listings being
free. So let s define what I mean by these terms.
free is getting something without having to pay any money for it. So,
here are some of the things you will not find in this book: Buy One,
Get One Free ; First Month Free ; Mention the Cheap Bastard and get
in for half price ; or any other scheme that is ultimately about
get ting cash out of your wallet. What kind of free listings will you
find in this book? Two basic kinds: free-free and free-with-a-catch.
Free-free is just that: no-strings-attached,
give-it-to-me-but-I m-not-giving-you-anything free. For example, you
can get a professional facial for free at Shiseido Studio in Soho, no
strings attached. Free-with-a-catch generally means you ll need to
exchange some time or effort to get that something for free. For
example, you can see almost any Off Broadway and some Broadway shows
for free by being a volunteer usher. Show up an hour early, help seat
the paying folks, and watch the show for nothing. I have tried to
clearly lay out any catch you may need to know about by including the
category The Catch (ingen ious, eh?) wherever necessary.
cheap listings are those things that, yes, you will have to lay out
some money to get. Still, the cost is so minimal that when you re asked
to pay, you do it quickly for fear they ll realize their mistake. For
example, does $75 a year for a gym membership sound pretty ridiculous
Let me also mention what makes someone a Cheap Bastard.
I see Cheap Bastard as a proud term referring to someone who enjoys the
thrill of the hunt, not someone whose end-all and be-all is not
spending money. This isn t some one who will deny himself or anyone
else anything simply because it will cost some money. Most importantly,
this isn t someone who is looking to cheat another person; nor is it to
be confused with stingy. A Cheap Bastard is not out to beat another
person out of a few cents; he is out to beat the system.
book is intended for visitors and natives alike. Whether you re a
backpacker from Australia who has just shown up in the city at the end
of your round-the-world jaunt with less cash than you planned; a
born-and-bred New Yorker who needs to stretch that paycheck a little
farther; someone who s just moved to the city and working his first
(low-paying) job out of college; a college student who needs to figure
out how to make that student loan last all year; or even one of those
folks for whom money is no worry, but, hey, you just like getting
something for nothing (and who doesn t?) this book is for you.
all the information in this guide is accurate as of press time, but
things change quickly in New York, so I have included as much contact
infor mation as possible for each listing. Always call, check the Web
site, or stop by to make sure all the information in this book is still
accurate. If you have any thoughts, comments, corrections, or
suggestions for future volumes, I would love to hear from you. Please
send all correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org (you guessed it, that s a
free e-mail address).
I ve had a ball putting this book together, and I hope it helps you get the most out of the greatest city in the world.
Live well, live free! Rob Grader The Cheap Bastard New York City www.thecheapbastard.com
THE BRIGHT LIGHTS of Broadway to the cutting-edge antics of the
downtown performance world, New York is the undisputed capital of the
theater world. Any day of the week, there are literally hundreds of
performances going on in every corner of the city. And while the top
ticket prices for a Broadway show have surpassed $400, you can spend
endless evenings in the theaters of New York without spending a cent.
By taking on the role of a volunteer usher, you can make your way into
some Broadway shows and almost any Off Broadway show absolutely free.
You can also keep yourself very busy attending any of the many
just-plain-free performances at theaters throughout the city. These run
the gamut from full productions to staged readings of new plays and
Every time you walk into a theater to see a show, some kind person
takes your ticket and shows you to your seat. Often you find that these
folks are just thrilled to be doing this job. Ever wonder why? Well,
this isn t their regular job; they re just there to see the show, like
you. The only difference is, they haven t paid a cent to get in. Yes,
they re volunteer ushers, and you ll find them at almost all Off
Broadway and some Broadway theaters. Considering the ticket prices of
these shows (from $25 to more than $400), volunteer ushers get
paid very well for basically one hour s work, so why wouldn
t they be pretty darn happy? And it s easy to join their ranks.
Each theater has its own protocol, but essentially all that s
involved is making a reservation a week or two in advance, then showing
up an hour before the curtain rises. The house manager will give you a
quick rundown on the seating plan (warning: you do need to be able to
count to twelve to under stand this; sometimes you even need to count
backward), then you help seat the paying folks. During the performance,
enjoy the show. Ushers get to watch from seats that remain empty as the
show is about to start. There are almost always good seats many times
the best seats in the house for you to fill, even if the show is
officially sold out. On the very rare occasion that there are
absolutely no seats available, they will set up chairs for you, or in
extremely rare cases, ask you to sit in the aisles. Occasionally you
need to stay a couple of minutes after the show to help pick up stray
playbills. It s as simple as that.
THE ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY The American Airlines Theater 227 West 42nd Street (between Eighth Avenue and Broadway) (212) 719 9393, ext. 523 (usher hotline) www.roundabouttheatre.org Ushers per performance: 6
After years of hopping from theater to theater, one of New York s
most renowned theater companies has found a permanent home on Broadway.
And since they remain a not-for-profit theater, this is one of the few
opportunities to volunteer-usher on Broadway. They also maintain
productions at Studio 54 and the Off Broadway performances at the Laura
Pells Theatre (see below for information on these theaters). Their
productions often attract star perform ers and are almost always of a
high caliber (particularly the musicals). To book a slot at the
American Airlines Theater, go to the box office Monday through Friday
between 10:00 A.M.and 5:00 P.M. (but just from 10:00 A.M. to noon on
Wednesday) to sign up. They generally make dates available about a
month in advance, and once those slots are filled they close the books
till the next month. Call their hotline (listed above) to find out when
they are accepting ushers. They are very serious about the
black-and-white dress code for ushers.
JUST PLAIN FREE THEATER
THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL 60 Lincoln Center Plaza (Broadway and 65th Street on plaza level) (212) 769 7406 (Box Office) (212) 799 5000, ext. 251 (Drama Division) www.juilliard.edu
THE CATCH: You must call to get on the mailing list to get on drama division's mailing list to get their calendar of events.
See tomorrow's stars of stage and screen today. This is considered
the preeminent conservatory for actors in the country, and they present
a full schedule of productions throughout the school year featuring
students at every level of development. Often productions are put
together by well-known directors both faculty members and guest
artists. All performances in the fall and early spring are free, though
tickets are required and go fast. Call to put your name on the drama
division s mailing list to get the calendar of free performances. Every
spring they remount all of these productions for a Spring Repertory,
but they charge for those tickets ($15). To get the free tickets, line
up at the box office on the day they become available, usually two
weeks before the performances begin; otherwise you ll probably be sold
out of the event. You can also line up an hour before the show to try
to get in on a standby basis. Performances by the music division are
also free, though not those by the dance and opera departments.
NEW DRAMATISTS 424 West 44th Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues) (212) 757 6960 www.newdramatists.org
New Dramatists is an organization devoted to developing playwrights,
both up-and-coming and established, along with their material. They
conduct an ongoing series of readings and workshops of new plays,
musicals, and screenplays staffed with many leading actors and direc
tors from the New York theater scene. Performances take place
throughout the week (Monday through Friday) in the late afternoon or
evening. All readings are free, and almost all are open to the public.
Check the Web site or call for a calendar of events.
Over 70 more Free Theater listings in The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City!
FAST FOOD, GOURMET FOOD, exotic food, health
food, breads, cakes, wings, hors d oeuvres, hot dogs, canap s, sushi,
Italian, Mexican, Chinese, food, food, food. Anything you desire, it s
in New York, and it s better than anywhere else in the world. But for
free? Yes indeed. Wander through the many gourmet markets and selected
specialty stores around the city and you ll find a delightful (and
filling) selection of samples to chow down on. Make your way to any
number of bars and restaurants that set out some grand and some
not-so-grand spreads during happy hours. And if you must spend money,
you can shop at some fancy joints for pennies, if you know when to go.
RUDY S BAR AND GRILL 627 Ninth Avenue (at West 44th Street) (212) 974 9169
for the Big Pig outside to find the place and pig out on the free hot
dogs. This is a real neighborhood joint. The franks are always
available (1:00 to 10:00 P.M.), but don t try asking for one without
ordering a drink first.
THE SUN ROOM 123 West 57th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues) (212) 664 1589
saying goes, God works in mysterious ways. Well, one mystery I have no
desire to see solved is the Sun Room. Sponsored by the Calvary Baptist
Church, this is by all outward appearances your everyday
Starbucks-style cof feehouse, complete with cozy couches, reading
material, and, of course, cof fee and snacks. Now, while you may not be
able to get your Caramel Macchiato here, you will save enough money to
fill your own coffers because everything in the shop is completely
free. Okay, you are thinking, what s the catch? Do I have to listen to
a sermon while I sip my coffee? No, you do not. Born out of the
aftermath of September 11, 2001, the cafe strives simply to be a
refuge from the noise. There is no proselytizing going on
everyone is welcome to stop in and get a drink, have a nibble, and
relax. Of course, if you do have some crisis of faith that a strong cup
of joe won t solve, they will be happy to talk it over with you.
Otherwise, no catches. Just free coffee, tea, cookies, muffins, and
more every Monday through Friday from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
ELI S 1411
Third Avenue (at 80th Street); (212) 717 8100 431 East 91st Street
(between York and First Avenues); (212) 987 0885 www.elizabar.com
by these dreamy gourmet markets often to gorge yourself on the generous
samples in their bakeries and to ogle at the tantalizing displays. But
be warned: While the fresh food is awfully inviting, the prices are
Over 80 more Free Food listings in The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City!
YORK IS an amazing place for kids, and not just for those who can
afford to go to the Manhattan Day School. Yes, at times it may seem
like there are so many places to go, sights to see, things to do and
ways to drop a load of cash that New York doesn t feel very
kid-friendly for a parent s wallet. Fear not. There are classes,
movies, fun and games, readings, even health insurance, and tons of
other fun and useful things for kids without Mom and Dad having to stop
at the ATM. During the week, you can fill out any day s schedule with
the endless free after-school programs. And on weekends there is never
a shortage of creative fun for the whole family in the major parks,
museums, and other institutions throughout the city.
THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA) Education Department 11 West 53rd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) (212) 708 9828 (high school programs) (212) 708 9807 (family programs) www.moma.org
is an absolute wonderland of free arts activities for everyone from
tod dlers to teens. The museum offers lively tours and special
activities specifi cally targeted at this young audience (ages four
through fourteen), as well as films, discussions with artists, and
workshops. All of these family activi ties are scheduled on the
weekends and include free admission to the museum for up to two adults
and three children. Many of the programs offer; tickets on a
first-come, first-served basis at the museum the day of the event,
others do require preregistration. For high schoolers, the museum
offers a number of eight-week and sixteen-week courses every year,
which might include drawing, printmaking, or curatorial and museum
work. Every Friday night starting at 4:45 P.M., high school students
are invited to chow down on some free pizza and watch a great selection
of classic, contemporary, and experimental films. Preregistration is
required for the courses, but you can just show up for the movies.
Check out the Web site for details.
PROSPECT PARK AUDUBON CENTER Lincoln Road and Central Drive in Prospect Park (718) 287 3400 www.prospectparkaudubon.org
in the wilds of Brooklyn s sprawling Prospect Park, the Audubon Center
offers a full roster of free activities for all nature-loving kids,
from toddlers to teens. Wednesday afternoons kids ages nine through
thirteen can drop by and join the Green Team to learn about the natural
wonders of the park and how to help conserve them. Friday afternoons
the Nestlings (ages three through five) have a fun afternoon full of
storytelling, music, and crafts. And on the weekends you will always
find special programs as well as regular crafts classes and
bird-watching and nature tours for kids of all ages. Some programs
require registrations, but all are free. Call or check out the Web site
for schedule and information.
More than 80 more Free Children and Teens listings in The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City!
EVEN CHEAP BASTARDS need love. And while it s true that introducing
yourself as a Cheap Bastard may not be the most successful way to get a
date, being a Cheap Bastard shouldn t get in the way of having a great
time. In fact, you might even score extra points by coming up with some
original ideas for romantic liaisons around New York. Here are some
great ways to spend days and evenings with that special someone that
won t cost you a thing (except maybe your heart).
THE UNTRADITIONAL TRADITIONAL DATE:
Why not put a twist on the usual date by seeing a free movie? In the
summer there are any number of starlit nights for you to set out a
blanket and cuddle while you watch the stars of Hollywood twinkle on
the screen. My personal favorite romantic set ting is the Movies With A
View, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge not too crowded, the skyline
of New York as a backdrop, and fun films on the screen. During the
cooler months move indoors with the free screenings at RiFiFi or Casa
Italiana at NYU. For more details and other film ideas, see the chapter
titled Film: Cheap Shots.
THE SWEEP-HER-OFF-HER-FEET DATE:
Swing down to the MoonDance at Hudson River Park any Sunday during the
summer for dancing under the stars to live music. Show up early for a
free lesson. During the cooler months, stick a rose in her mouth and
heat things up by going down to Chelsea Market to do the Dance of Love
any Saturday afternoon, when they offer a traditional Argentinean tango
milonga. For details and more dance ideas, see the chap ter titled Dance: Free Expression.
THE SURE-WAY-TO-SCORE DATE: Spend
a day of fun and games in Central Park by borrowing a free Field Day
Kit from the folks at the North Meadow Recreation Center. They throw in
all kinds of equipment for almost any sport you can think of. Your big
sack of fun includes a basketball, bats, Wiffle balls, football, Nerf
ball, horseshoe set, Frisbee, jump rope, and even hula hoops. If that
doesn t get the two of you working up a sweat, nothing will. For more
information, see page 283.
THE THIS-ISN T-QUITE-VENICE-BUT-HEY-YOU-AREN T-QUITE-SOPHIA-LOREN DATE: Your
gondola awaits you at the Downtown Boathouse on Pier 26 or Pier 96. The
bad news is, you have to do all the rowing and serenad ing yourself;
the good news is, it s free. Borrow a kayak for you and your love to
paddle up and down the Hudson any weekend from May through October. For
details, see pages 177 78.
THE TROUBADOUR DATE: If you
don t have the voice to serenade your sweetheart by yourself, here s
the next best thing. Catch one of the very inti mate performances at
the Postcrypt Coffeehouse on the campus of Columbia University any
Friday or Saturday night during the school year. Any candlelit evening
of acoustic music is the perfect setting for a romantic evening for
two. And hey, there s even free popcorn. For details see page 30.
THE MAKE- EM-LAUGH DATE:
A surefire way to win someone s heart is to put a smile on their face,
and there are many free funny nights every week around the city. During
the week you ll find some top-notch comedy per formances at PSNBC and
at the Upright Citizens Brigade on Wednesday and Sunday nights. For
more details and other comedy destinations, see the chap ter titled Comedy: Cheap Jokes.
THE LOVE-BIRDS DATE: See if a
walk among the birds and the bees inspires anything for you. Stop by
Belvedere Castle in Central Park and borrow a free Birding Kit for a
delightful stroll through the wilds of the park. Your kit comes
equipped with your very own set of binoculars, a field guide, a sketch
pad, and colored pencils. For more details, see page 139.
THE PRETENTIOUS DATE:
Show your date you can bandy around words like cubist, conceptual,
minimalistic, and postmodernist with the best of them at any of the
many art gallery openings that go on every week. If that doesn t have
any effect, maybe all the free wine or beer will. For more details, see
the chapter titled Art Galleries: Show Me the Monet.
THE FUN-IN-THE-SUN DATE: Spend
a day at any one of the local beaches. An old reliable free day. Sorry,
they can t all be gems. See pages 181 83 for beaches.
THE SHOW- EM-YOU-GOT-CLASS DATE:
Take in a museum on one of the many free, suggested donation, or
pay-what-you-want nights. The best one is First Saturday Night at the
Brooklyn Museum free live music and dancing, free films, and, oh yeah,
there s some art there, too. For more museum details, see the chapter
titled Museums: Free to See.
THE NOT-QUITE-THE-GREAT-WHITE-WAY DATE: Take
my advice: If you want a second date, don t try this on a first date.
If you ve been dating for a while, though, and it s clear that you re
both Cheap Bastards, then why not pick a Broadway or Off Broadway show
for you to volunteer-usher at together? For a list of theaters to usher
at, see the chapter titled Theater: Free Speech. If you don t want to
seem chintzy, get free tickets to a pro duction or concert at Juilliard
or NYU or any of the other free theaters listed on pages 20 26.
THE YOU-THINK-WE VE-GOT-PROBLEMS? DATE:
Hitting one of those rough patches in the relationship? Well, there s
nothing like reveling in someone else s misery to make you feel good
about your own life. Take your date to see a taping of The Montel
Williams Show, The People s Court, or Maury and by comparison, your
troubles will surely seem insignificant. For details and more TV taping
ideas, see the chapter titled Television Tapings: Public Access.
THE GETTING-TO-KNOW-YOU DATE:
Why not take the time to get to know each other as you get to know a
bit of New York? There are some great walking tours that will give you
the time to walk and talk your way around the city. Check out Take a
Walk, New York!, Urban Park Rangers tours, or the delightful jaunts
through Central Park given by the Central Park Conservancy. For more
details, see the chapter titled Walking Tours: The Freedom Trail.
THE HEY-THIS-IS-GOING-PRETTY-SWELL-I-MAY-JUST-WANT-TO-KISS-YOU SPECIAL ADD-ON TO ANY DATE:
It may not be as romantic as the Titanic, but a ride on the Staten
Island Ferry will leave you feeling like you re on top of the world.
Particularly if you end that date with a romantic kiss on the boat
while you ride by the dramatic New York skyline with the wind in your
hair. For more details, see page 224.
More than 1000 Free listings in The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City!