Although hardly ultra-cheap, there are some bargains to be had in the generally large and modern hotels surrounding Avenida Paulista. Though the surroundings are less than bucolic, you have the advantage of being smack dab in the middle of all the urban action.
Ideally located in terms of bus and Metrô service, you are in walking distance of a fair number of neighborhoods and attractions, which means less time-consuming, stress-inducing exposure to infamous Paulistano traffic jams.
Part of the budget Ibis chain owned by Accor hotels, the Ibis Avenida Paulista (Av. Paulista 2355, Cerqueira César, tel. 11/3523-3000, www.accorhotels.com.br , R$129 d) offers fantastic prices for the privilege of staying right on Avenida Paulista  (and the edge of Jardins). If the rooms are a little on the bland and impersonal side, they are also modern, spotless, and well-cared for.
Another good bargain only five minutes from Avenida Paulista is the Augusta Park Hotel (Rua Augusta 922, Cerqueira César, tel. 11/3124-4000, www.augustapark.com.br , R$98–122 d). Though the apartments are pretty basic and a little cramped, they have the advantage of living rooms and kitchenettes. Opt for one in the rear of the building to avoid the noise of passing cars and weekend partyers. The rooftop boasts a swimming pool and gym and the staff is quite helpful. While some stretches of lively Rua Augusta are seedy—with all-night peep shows and prostitutes—the area is more tawdry than dangerous.
Hotel Pergamon (Rua Frei Caneca 80, Consolação, tel. 11/3123-2021, www.pergamon.com.br , R$250–280 d) brags that it was the first hotel in Brazil  to introduce the concept of “Chic & Cheap,” back in 1999. Its pioneering efforts have met with success, and this early boutique hotel is the darling of increasingly hip Rua “Gay” Caneca. The ultracontemporary, minimalist decor resists being too cool by the occasional splash of tropical color, warm natural woods, and works by Brazilian artists. Rooms on the upper floors offer terrific panoramic views.
Equally comfortable but much more traditional is the Grande Hotel Cá d’Oro (Rua Augusta 129, Consolação, tel. 11/3236-4300, www.cadoro.com.br , R$215–260 d), which hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1953 as the city’s first five-star hotel. Owned and operated by multiple generations of an Italian family, the hotel oozes Old World style. Rooms are large and refreshingly non-designer, while the lobby and living rooms are warm and welcoming with leather armchairs, Persian carpets, and a fireplace. Service is old school as well.