How to Live Cheap in Austin

Posted by Brad Pauly on Friday, October 2nd, 2015 at 5:18pm.

Money in Your Pocket

Want to keep more of the money you earn in your pocket and still enjoy all the cultural experiences of Austin?

Austin is a great place to live. But it's not always the cheapest. If more money in the bank sounds great to you, take advantage of these tips for living on the cheap and under the radar in Austin, Texas. The glamor of downtown Austin may look like it's ready to zero your bank balance. But underground Austin hides some incredible spots with rare treasures for the taking.

Outfit Your Home for Next to Nothing

Take a look at some of the places where you can fill your home, closet, and your wallet.

Vintage Furniture

Furniture in front of store

There are more places packed to the brim with vintage furniture than we can list here. Take a look at some of the stand-out stores that deserve your attention.

Room Service

Toward the north end of Lamar, you'll spot a classic storefront with a low ceiling. It's hard to miss the diamond-patterned sign that harkens to a casino in Reno, Nevada. That's Room Service, and it's jam-packed with goodies from a bygone era.

Room Service shines in its presentation. You may find your eyes darting from wall to wall analyzing every knick knack that you discover. Everything is well arranged to help you find exactly what you're looking for. The store stocks furniture as well as other housewares, such as rugs and lamps. Their prices are rock bottom and almost everything in the store is an incredible deal.

Uncommon Objects

The store on South Congress is one of the more well-known spots for vintage goods. They have a clean presentation that matches the vibe of Austin and the locally owned shops nearby. You can also find some of the weirder objects Austin has to offer here. It's a step up in price from Room Service, but you'll only find quality and unique items.

Top Drawer

Situated on Burnet Road, Top Drawer caters to those looking for a more traditional vintage look. The furniture available here is donated by all kinds of locals. They are great for decorating a more classy home. Prices are more than reasonable, and a large portion of their profits goes toward HIV and AIDS research.

Austin's Furniture Depot

This spot is well-known for clean, quality furniture and an incredible collection of tabletop and wall decor. If you're looking for the cheap complete solution for your home, Austin's Furniture Depot offers everything you'll need at half the price of new items.

Thrift Stores

If your threads are getting a bit worse for wear, Austin's second-hand clothing shops have you covered. Revive old styles or just find some cheap, functional clothes at one of these affordable second-hand stores.

Top Drawer

Top Drawer doesn't just do furniture. Directly next door is their selection of secondhand clothing. You're likely to find only women's clothing here, but there's a huge selection of items that you won't be able to find anywhere else. Prices here tend to match the rarity of the items more closely than other stores. Some of Austin's most unique clothes hide out on Top Drawer's racks.

Uptown Cheapskate

Uptown Cheapskate started in Utah in 2009. Although it has only recently emerged in Texas, they offer some of the best prices for selling your clothes in the secondhand market. They are known for being selective about the clothes they buy. You'll find name brands at prices you won't believe at Uptown Cheapskate.

Buffalo Exchange

They started in Tucson, Arizona but have made huge waves in Texas. Buffalo Exchange is also particular when it comes to buying used clothes, but the trade-off is incredible. You'll find shirts and pants that cost hundreds of dollars new on the Buffalo Exchange racks for $20. They also sort by size so you don't spend your entire day fishing for something you love only to find that it's too big.

Getting Around With an Empty Wallet

Girl Riding Bike

Few cities are as equipped as Austin to handle traffic other than automobiles. From biking to walking, Austin has prepared transit for all kinds of travelers.


Bike-friendly Austin has tons of bike rental shops available all over the city. In the city center, Barton Springs Bike Rental has the largest stock of rental cruiser bikes that can be rented hourly at $7.50 an hour or can be used for the day for $22.50. You can rent mountain bikes for $11.50 an hour or road bikes for $14.50 an hour. They also offer accessories such as kids seats and trailers that open their rental bikes up to a wider audience.

For northerners, Texas Bike Tours in Hyde Park also offers rentals, but they specialize in bike tours. You can find electric and tandem bikes for rent, but you'll have to call them or head to their shop for pricing. In the south, Cycle Progression specializes in high-performance bikes for off-road cycling. They have a flat rate of $70 a day for bikes, but if you rent early, you can squeeze two entire days out of your rental.

Austin's own Ozone bike shop has a has a Used Bike Program that exchanges old bikes. If you buy a used bike from them at a discounted price, you also get a free sizing and one free 90-day tune-up. Plus, they'll let you test ride it to make sure it's right for you!


Try slapping on some sunscreen and start walking! Austin is not only bike-friendly but also pedestrian-friendly. Crosswalks and traffic lights are plentiful. To beat the sun, be sure to put on a high-SPF sunscreen and wear quick-dry fabrics under your clothes. Carry a bag with water everywhere you go - the sun and heat will dry you up well before you realize.

Many Austin crosswalks have sound-enabled crossing lights that assist you when trying to judge when you can cross. The parks in Austin are also very centralized. If you have a long distance to traverse, you can often take that walk through a park. Shoal Creek runs alongside major business on Lamar. Austin's famous Zilker Park connects all of the businesses and residential areas between Loop 1 and I-35, the city's two major highways. You are also free to walk through low-traffic areas such as the University of Texas or the Capitol building that connect the north and south ends of Austin.

Public Transit

Austin has a superior public transit system. Most buses are on-time and the passenger train runs regularly. Both north and south Austin are accessible via public transit, and downtown routes are especially handy. The City of Austin offers 6-month bus passes for long and short routes at only $20. Regular bus passes can be bought for about half the price of your monthly gas bill.

The Austin MetroRail runs weekdays only from Leander all the way up to downtown Austin. It also runs Saturday, but its route changes to a line from Lakeline to downtown. The train is scheduled to fit the bus schedule so you can move from one to another without a long wait. You can also bring your bike onboard the MetroRail. The train is equipped with bike racks that allow up to 8 bikes on board, but if the passenger load is low, the conductor may just let you keep your bike with you.


If you simply must get there and cannot walk, bike, or take public transit, you still have options. ZipCar vehicles are located all over the city. By downloading the app, you will be pointed to the nearest car. All you have to do is get in the car and go. Prices can range from $8-$10, which can get you where you need to go cheaply. Car2Go has a similar feature with prices that can be affordable as well.

Eat Like Royalty

Fish and Tomatoes

There's one golden rule to follow when trying to save money on food in Austin - cook for yourself. The amazing selection of Austin restaurants makes eating out a tempting idea every night of the week. Those restaurant bills can add up fast. Be responsible and eat out only on occasion.

HEB and Central Market

Texas is lucky to have HEB and Central Market readily available in its major cities. HEB is more common, but carries high-quality fresh produce as well as top-notch meat, eggs, milk, and bread. HEB prides itself on the quality of its staple foods. It shows in the effort they take to make cooking accessible to everyone.

The HEB Cooking Connection is a great way to learn new recipes in store for absolutely free. There will usually be a Cooking Connection kiosk in your local HEB. The chef there will prepare delicious meals before your eyes with ingredients that are all available at the kiosk.

Central Market caters mostly to customers with bigger pockets, but they also have bulk foods available at low cost. From grains to spices and even nut butters, Central Market's bulk foods section is sure to put some money back in your pocket.

Local Grocers

Austin also keeps its local grocers alive. Though the selection may not be as sizable as national supermarkets, local grocers such as the one in Hyde Park are well known for stocking very fresh products and adding a personal touch at competitive prices.

Keep Yourself Happy

Above all, saving money should improve your happiness and well-being. Austin is outdoors-oriented. The city encourages free activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, walking, and exercising. Its large, meandering parks attest to the spirit of natural living that embodies the city.

Even if you don't feel comfortable outdoors, you can still entertain yourself with the many free things you can do in Austin. At Pauly Presley Realty, we love to prove that, with all the things to do - from free movies to live music - you don't have to spend money to love Austin.

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