Holiday Shopping on a Budget, New York City

By Linda Griggs

Christmas shopping without financial resources requires you to tap into your other resources -- ingenuity, creativity and humour. This is a listing of stores and areas where you can find great bargains in the city.

Orchard Street and Chinatown

You can find good deals on clothing, home furnishings and leather goods such as pocket books and shaving kits, but no particular store stands out. Walk the length of the street and listen to the vendors yell, "check it out, check it out" until a price and an item suit you. Prices, by the way, are negotiable. Many stores on Orchard Street are still Jewish owned and closed on Saturday.

Start at Canal and walk down Mott St. There are gift shops all along the way. Price items as you walk. They can vary pretty wildly. Slippers at Pearl River Mart on Canal and Broadway are 2 pairs for $5. On Mott and Pell they're 2 for $3.50. This stuff might be common to a New Yorker but to relatives out of town it's exotic. My favorite store for pretty little dishes, tea in tins, ginger in beautiful ceramic pots, etc. is Kam Kuo at the bottom of Mott on the west side of the street.

Fleamarkets are great places to find unique items for little money. There is always some stuff that is overpriced. It's a good idea to shop around a bit before buying because vendors may have competitive prices. The largest market I know of is Greenflea at 77th and Columbus; you can find everything from beautiful craftwork to people's old junk to antique silver here. It is on Sunday only from 10am-6pm. For more markets, check out our flea markets page.

The durable beaded bracelets to the left are a mere $2 each!

Individual Stores

St. Marks Sounds

CD's are about three dollars cheaper here. Also try their other store just down the street and west of them.

20 St. Marks Place btwn 2nd and 3rd Ave, (212) 677-3444

National Wholesale Liquidators

Most people shop here for housewares, soaps and shampoos but you can also score good presents. The clothing upstairs is mostly stretch so one size fits all. The apple, peach and lavender glycerine soaps are more heavily perfumed and produce a less creamy lather than the Body Shops but they only cost 50 cents as opposed to three bucks. Buy a couple of dollars worth, wrap them nicely in tissue and they're a nice present for a friend at the office. Don't be shy about giving a friend a non-stick pan if you know they cook and don't have one. It's not hip or funky but they'll thank you for it for the rest of the year. In the food section they have a great deal on candy canes and huge bags of pistachios. For Grandpa, check out their Bing and Jack Benny cassettes.

632 Broadway and Houston and Bleeker St, (212) 979-2400


These places are hit or miss. You can find great stuff like a foam rubber, traveling chess set for $3 or beautifully, designed teak salad bowl for $15. Sometimes there's not much at all. They also sell food like crackers, pickles, vinegars and candy. They offer really good deals but if you want to buy more than one of anything that contains oils, buy one packet, go outside and try it. Sometimes oils go rancid, but nine times out of ten there's no problem.

132 Church Street and Warren, (212) 571-3283
45 W 45 Street btwn 5th and 6th, (212) 819-9780
2064 Broadway at 72 St, (212) 787-1644
116 W. 32nd St btwn 6th and 7th Ave, (212) 564-4545
475 Fifth Ave and 41st St, (212) 251-0613
48 W. 48th St and 5-6 Ave, (212) 764-1615


They have very good prices. Check out the plant section; they usually have healthy, inexpensive house plants and sometimes orchids for $10. If you are throwing a party at any point this season, they have tons of inexpensive party supplies.

770 Broadway at Astor Place, (212) 673-1540
1 Pennsylvania Plaza (212) 760-1188

Conway Stores

Truly the working gal's friend, this store has the best prices on kid's clothes and cheap and trendy office wear; who cares if you have to sew a button back on occasionally? They have been sued in the past for counterfeit Hilfiger and Levi's but I'm willing to overlook this ethical transgression because of their amazing prices. You know those little gift baskets of soap, bath oil and buff puffs that should cost about $2.00 to make but sell for $5.00 at most places? Here they are a cool $3.00. Cotton turtlenecks are about $5.00. I've never gone in there without finding something really cute for really cheap.

225-253 West 34th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, (212) 967-7390
201 East 42nd at 3rd Avenue, (212) 922-5030

Odd-Job Trading

This store is just wacky. You don't go there looking for anything in particular, just look for a surprise. If you buy food items like crackers, buy one, go outside and taste it to make sure it doesn't taste old, then go back and buy in bulk. They have clothing, handbags, cosmetics, games and toys, cd's - all eccentric.

465 Lexington Avenue, (212) 949-7401

149 West 32nd Street, (212) 564-7370
66 West 48th Street, (212) 575-0477
12 Cortlandt Street , (212) 571-0959