How to See Broadway Shows When You’re Broke – Broadway on a Budget

Broadway when you're broke

If you’ve ever looked at full-priced tickets for shows in New York, you know that Broadway is a tough place for broke people. Want to see Hamilton on Broadway? You can expect to pay at least $200 — and some tickets go for more than $1,000! For us musical theater-loving peasants, that’s completely out of the question.

Don’t panic! You can still see Broadway shows on a budget — you just need to know where to look. With a little bit of knowledge (and lots of flexibility) you can get into your favorite New York Musicals without breaking the bank.

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Top image credit: Randy Lemoine under CC BY 2.0

1. Be Flexible with Your Broadway Show Selection

Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour under CC BY 2.0

The best way to see as many Broadway shows as possible on a budget is to be flexible. In other words, don’t pin all of your hopes on one show! 

If you’re a planner, our biggest tip is going to make you nervous: Don’t book Broadway show tickets until you arrive in New York City. The best deals — the deals that are going to stretch your budget — are easiest to get the day of or the day before the performance.

Does that freak you out? Skip #2 and #3 and go right to #4 and #5 below. 

A quick note: if you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to NYC and you’re dying to see a specific Broadway show, this advice is not for you. In that case, book that ticket in advance! You won’t save money, but you also won’t be heartbroken. (Also, look into #4 and #5 below to get cheap Broadway tickets without going broke)

You’re going to save the most money if you leave your show selection until the last minute!

2. Look into Rush, Lottery, and Standing Room Only Tickets for Broadway Shows

Many theaters in New York hold back small blocks of tickets — then, on the day of or the day before the performance, they release them. The prices are cheap, even for broke people! For example, Hamilton does a lottery — if you win, you get up to 2 tickets for $10 each.

These discounts are usually run by the shows themselves; you can find details on their websites.

Budget-friendly Broadway tickets at the last minute:

  • Rush: Rush tickets are available at the last minute — some theaters offer them 2 hours before the show, while others offer them the morning of a performance. To get a rush ticket, you usually need to line up at the theater before the designated time. The more popular the show, the earlier you should arrive. The number of rush tickets depends on the theater and seat availability. Be sure to check the theater’s website — some offer online rush seating, so you don’t have to be there in person.
  • Student rush: These tickets work like general rush tickets, but they’re limited to students. Usually, you need to bring a current student ID to qualify.
  • Lottery: Broadway lotteries allow you to enter your name into a drawing for tickets. A few hours before the show, theater staff draw a set number of names; the winners get to buy heavily discounted tickets. Some Broadway shows require you to submit your entry in person and be present for the drawing; others, like Hamilton, allow you to enter online.
  • Standing room only: As the name suggests, standing-room only tickets require you to stand through the entire performance. Not all theaters on Broadway offer these tickets; the ones that do usually require you to get them in person at the box office on the day of the show.

Don’t waste your time hunting through the individual show websites to find this information — just visit Broadway for Broke People for the information! This super-helpful website lists every current show on Broadway as well as the details for its budget-friendly ticket programs. 

3. Buy Same-Day Broadway Tickets at the Theatre Development Fund’s TKTS Booths

TKTS booth for budget-friendly Broadway tickets
Photo courtesy Grant Wickes under CC BY 2.0

TKTS is a time-honored tradition among Broadway fans. Operated by the Theatre Development Fund (TDF), this service sells cheap seats to plays and musical theater productions on the day of the show. For matinees, tickets are also available the day before.

At each booth, you can see a digital listing of the shows that are currently available, as well as the price and the discount. Usually, you can get up to 50% off, and many shows are under $100 or $50. (We know — that does not sound cheap when you’re broke! But in Broadway terms, that’s a steal.)

Want an idea of how often your favorite shows are available at TKTS? Want to see the approximate prices? Get the app, or visit the TKTS Live page. It’s only updated when the booth is open.

If you have a specific Broadway show in mind, get to TKTS early to get in line. There are three locations:

  • Times Square: Opens at 2 or 3PM for evening performances and 10AM or 11AM for matinees
  • South Street Seaport: Opens at 11AM
  • Lincoln Center: Opens at 12 PM

At Theater Love, we prefer to get cheap Broadway tickets at the South Street Seaport TKTS. The lines aren’t as long, the booth opens the earliest, and you can avoid the chaos of Times Square. Get there about an hour before the booth opens, grab a coffee from the Starbucks a block away, and enjoy the wait. Keep in mind that the waiting area is basically a sidewalk/pedestrian street that’s completely exposed, so dress for the weather!

Want to go to Times Square? People start lining up very, very early — like, hours in advance — so prepare accordingly. Dress warmly, bring something to drink, and get ready to chat. One of the goals of the Theatre Development Fund’s booths is to promote conversation and community among theatergoers.

Don’t panic if you can’t get to TKTS right away. Availability changes throughout the day as theaters send their unsold tickets, so you can get a really great last-minute deal any time. We still recommend that you go early!

Also: sometimes, TKTS is more expensive than TodayTix — make sure to download the TodayTix app and compare prices as you’re waiting in line!

4. Use TodayTix

Image courtesy of Prayitno under CC BY 2.0

TodayTix is an app (and website) that sells cheap Broadway tickets. It’s a godsend when you’re broke but you still want to see musicals! (At Theater Love, we’ve also used it in London and Chicago.)

Using the website or the app, you can look through the available shows. Best of all, you can buy these cheap Broadway tickets in advance. This app also allows you to select the section of the theater, which means that you can save even more. Buy the cheapest tickets, and you can see even more Broadway shows on a budget! (Which we love.)

5. Join Under-35 Theater Discount Programs to Get Broadway Tickets for Broke People

Image courtesy of Eva Rinaldi under CC BY 2.0

Broadway theaters are always trying to build their audience base — especially young, broke people who can’t afford high-priced tickets. To that end, some theaters have created special Broadway on a budget programs for people under a certain age. The programs are free.

If you fall into these age groups (usually, 35 and under), you can buy super-cheap tickets to most performances. Best of all? You can reserve Broadway tickets in advance! This is a fantastic option if you’re dying to see a specific show. 

Just keep in mind that these tickets can sell out fast — get them as soon as they go on sale.

  • HIPTIX at the Roundabout Theatre Company: $30 tickets for people ages 18-40
  • LincTix at Lincoln Center: $32 tickets for people ages 21-35
  • 30 Under 35 at the Manhattan Theatre Club: $30 tickets for people 35 and under
  • GreenSeats at Irish Repertory Theatre: $25 ticket for people 35 and under
  • 30 Under 30 at Second Stage: $30 tickets for people 30 and under

Whether you’re trying to do Broadway on a budget, or you simply want to squeeze in as many shows as possible, these cheap options are a lifesaver! Our Theater Love team uses them all the time. Broadway for broke people can be a challenging place, but with these discounts, you can see musicals without draining your bank account.