Visiting New York

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

I have today just returned from a quick and tiring but fulfilling trip to New York. I know New York well. My father is from New York and I lived there for two years after university. A lot of my friends and family are there, so it was a mainly a trip back to see them and to bring my son for the first time.

We had a 5 day trip planned to fit in with my son’s half-term break from school. We were flying with British Airways and as luck would have it, right before we were about to board our flight, global BA IT systems crashed and all flights were cancelled. The 5 hour period in Heathrow after the cancellations were announced were absolute chaos (think crying children, 4-hour long queues, missing BA staff and low food supplies). We had to drive 2 hours back home without our bags.  We ended up purchasing another flight the next day online (which we are claiming back from BA), but it meant our trip was cut short by a day. Four days in NYC jet-lagged, on a budget, wanting to visit people and see attractions is just crazy, I would not recommend it.   On top of that we didn’t receive our baggage until day 3 of the trip so we had to spend most of the first day buying toiletries and clothes. Thank goodness BA have confirmed they will reimburse expenses and pay compensation. I have already put my claim in but we are currently out of pocket by just shy of £4,000 until the reimbursement is paid!

Once we finally got to New York, we were lucky to stay in a large 2-bedroom Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn, two blocks from my old apartment and steps away from the subway. It was the perfect base from which to explore the city. We did mainly free activities where we could meet friends and family and see the sites without having to pay extortionate entrance fees. New York does not have free museums like London or Washington DC, so you have to seek out free attractions.  Here are some of the free things we did over the three days:

  • We went to The High Line. I had never been here and this place blew my mind. It’s an elevated, disused railway-line in Manhattan that has been turned into a free public park. The planting is beautiful.  There are views of the Hudson river to the west and the park snakes through the neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. I recommend going early on a weekday as there are narrow sections that can get quite crowded. We went at 9.30am on a Tuesday and it was perfect.
  • We walked from The High Line to the Flatiron building and then to Union Square and around the streets of Greenwich Village. Meandering around Greenwich Village is one of my favourite things to do.
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The High Line, New York City
  • We went to Cortlandt St Stration on the R line and walked around Westfield at the World Trade Center and viewed the 9/11 memorial. The Westfield building is incredible to see, it reminded me of a rib-cage.  The space is very calm and peaceful even when packed with people.
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Westfield, World Trade Center
  • We went to Grand Central Station and stood in the lobby for a good 15 minutes, then walked to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. From there we walked to Times Square, walking in and out of the shops.  Then we walked to Central Park, found some green space and relaxed.

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Times Square
  • We visited Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This is a great part of Brooklyn and offers amazing views of the lower Manhattan skyline.
  • We walked around the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope for hours and hours. There are tons of little shops, cafes, music venues, and beautiful quintessential Brooklyn brownstones.

 

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

This is not to say that I did not have moments of weakness. I am prone to frugal failures, after all. I spent $100 just on myself to eat out with old friends. We were in a restaurant for 6 hours eating and drinking and talking and the restaurant was expensive (but delicious!). I also bought my son a couple toys and I purchased some cheesy souvenirs.

Overall though, assuming we get the money back from BA (we better!), we have spent much less than our budget of £1,000 spending money for the week. The £1,000 was put aside for budgeting purposes but I wanted us to spend significantly under this – and we did! I am still reviewing spreadsheets to work out exactly how much we spent that won’t be reimbursed, but I’m thinking it is closer to £500 including my lavish dinner out.

There are lots more free things to do in New York that we did not get time to do and I want to give a big THANK YOU to the great tips I received from other bloggers. If anyone else knows of other free attractions in New York that I did not mention above, I would love to hear about them in the comments.

Five frugal fails

Frugal fails

I loved posting about my five frugal victories last week and I think the #5frugalthings meme that Cass, Emma and Becky have set up is fantastic. However, I have had one of those weeks this week, where the victories were in short supply and the fails kept coming. And I think it is just as important to recognise fails and try and learn from them as it is to celebrate victories. So here are my 5 complete frugal failures this week:

  1. I posted last week about coming into work early and avoiding my usual £2 car parking charge. This backfired when I was told that I am not allowed to do that and I had to pay work back for the day I didn’t pay. Not only did I not save the money, but I felt embarrassed too. Double fail.
  2. I received my car insurance renewal documents yesterday. I went online to comparison sites to get the best deal. Being completely tired at the time but wanting to get it done, I accidentally renewed the insurance on my other car! So I now have one car insured twice and the other car not insured at all! Obviously I am going to fix this today, but ugh, this is so annoying. Lesson learned: do not do important life admin tasks after midnight.
  3. I went out with work one night this week and was going to drink water and only pay for food, but I had a glass of wine and a diet coke. I’m not sure if I should count this as a fail, but it felt like a fail the next morning when I realised I spent £10 more than I had budgeted.
  4. I made a costly mistake in matched betting this week and have now lost over £20 so far this month. I need to stop rushing when I place bets and check all details thoroughly. There is no point in speeding through the process when money is on the line. I would have been better off not doing any betting at all at this point.
  5. I had a haircut  and it cost me £36. With my new focus on frugality that feels too high. Is it too high? I need to do something about this, so I will research the cost of haircuts near me and see if anything is cheaper. But it will be very hard to leave my hairdresser, who I like – so I am still pondering this one.

Have you had any fails this week that you want to confess? I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Let me know if you have been able to learn something from your fail to help you in your savings goals in the future.

Five recent frugal victories

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Since starting this blog a few weeks ago, I have become extremely focused on the actions we take as a family and how they affect our debt pay-off plan. In the past, we would spend throughout the month hoping we were within our budget, often getting to the end of the month, tallying the figures, and saying “oops, we overspent again”. Now, through the help of this blog, my whole outlook has shifted. I think about every transaction. And I now want to celebrate every small frugal victory in the knowledge that each small saving is a step towards financial freedom. Inspired by the #5frugalthings meme, here are five frugal victories for our family this week, big and small:

  1. I normally pay £2 per day to park at my work car park. On Thursday, I drove into work 45 minutes earlier than normal. I was so early that the car park attendant had not yet arrived (he arrives at 7.30am) and I got into the car park for free!
  2. I made a huge batch of vegetable soup last Sunday with leftover vegetables.  It was enough to feed me and Mr Small lunch for 3 days.
  3. I was picking up my son from a friend’s house and noticed his friend’s twin bed. I mentioned to the other boy’s mother that my son was still in a cot bed but we are planning to get a twin bed for him soon. She said she had a spare twin bed frame in her garage that she was going to donate and asked if I wanted it. “Yes please!” I shouted – perhaps a bit too excitedly. We will pick it up next week. 
  4. I completed a survey for a University research project and received a £5 Amazon voucher for participating.
  5. Not really a frugal thing, but I worked out the amount of SIPP contributions needed to push Mr Small under the higher-rate tax threshold and then set up a direct debit to transfer this amount to a SIPP fund each month.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.