By Lexi Churchill

I have always loved New York from afar. For two years in a row I set my sights on working in the Big Apple, applying to as many journalism internships there as possible.

When I finally received a call from the financial news network CNBC, I almost couldn’t believe my goals were coming true.

If this sounds familiar at all, you’ve probably been dreaming of the big city without thinking through the big costs. This cost of living calculator from Bankrate estimates the cost of living in NYC compared to my college town, Columbia, Missouri, is about 136% higher overall.

Trust me, you feel the difference — when you go out, at the grocery store, everywhere. Here’s a few tricks I figured out along the way that helped my tight budget stretch over those costly three months.

  • Skip your school program. Unless you need the credits, it’s not worth the extra cost. For me, I couldn’t get out of the six credit hours attached to the program, which would’ve doubled the cost of my stay for classes that didn’t count toward my graduation progress. Instead, check out all of your school’s alumni pages and see who’s subleasing for the summer. They may even cut you a deal if you wait it out long enough.
  • Buy the unlimited monthly metro pass and skip the Ubers. You’ll hate to see that $130 leave your bank account at the beginning of the month, but when you find yourself swiped in on the wrong side of the track or lost in the middle of Queens, you’ll be grateful each swipe past the terminal didn’t cost $2.75.
  • Use Yelp whenever you can, especially when it comes to checking menus ahead of time. I personally judge a restaurant’s cost by the price of its fries. If a serving is over $7 and it has more than two “$” next to its Yelp description, it was a no from me.

Save your spending for the weekends. Going out to lunch with your coworkers everyday may sound like tempting bonding time, but it absolutely adds up. Try loading up at the grocery store on Sundays, bringing your lunch during the week and saving your splurges for the weekend. After all, you can always take your Tupperware along for the lunch break.

Take advantage of all things free.

Do you love working out? There’s plenty of free classes at a park near you. Love theater? There’s free Shakespeare in the park throughout the summer. Whatever you love doing on the weekends and during your free time, there’s pretty much a free alternative. Sign up for newsletters from websites such as Thrillist and download apps like “Time Out New York” to stay in the know.

Lexi Churchill is a senior studying investigative convergence journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.