Cheap Chicago Activities/Chicago on a Budget

Bianca Bialk

To be blunt, Chicago isn’t the easiest for the budget-conscious. We can’t just go off hiking or swimming or spend really any time outside at all for about seven months of the year, so most of our activities are spent inside an establishment. Meaning we often spend money to be there. It’s the price we pay for warmth, ya know?

Last year I found myself repeating the same cycle weekly. I would go to work every day, go to the bars on the weekends, and hole myself up every hour in between. This year, I, one) refuse and two) will use this list as a reference sheet when I complain about not wanting to do anything because I’m broke.

Behold, my list of ways to stay on-budget and still do fun things in Chicago:

Tried and True

  • Lincoln Park Zoo – If zoos are your thing, this one’s free. It offers views, walking trails, and since you saved money on admission, you can go waste it on all the food and restaurants nearby.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory – Maybe you have an Instagram aesthetic to uphold, and maybe you just like plants. Either way, it’s donation only and offers a warm respite from Chicago’s cold and dry air!
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory – See above.
  • Millennium Park – Chicago’s #1 tourist destination (maybe)! Is it FUN? Not really, but we all go anyway.

Once In a While

Bianca’s Budget Finds (Grand Finale)

Chicago Budget Activities

    • Breweries:
      Lagunitas – Lagunitas’ Chicago taproom has a $10 tour M-F at 1pm & 3pm that gives you a couple beers and, more importantly, the opportunity to LEARN 👍
      Ballast Point – Get one of their flights for about 2 glasses worth of beer for $9. 

      Hopewell – Hopewell is priced similarly to many breweries, but they allow you to bring your own food in for a cheap(er) night out. They also allow dogs (!!) and encourage game-playing.

      Great Central Brewing – All pints are $6 – just a plain GOOD deal.
    • Comedy:
      – Monday Night Comedy at Gman Tavern – Free comedy shows at a bar, and if you sit in the first table in the front, you get a pitcher on the house! Free PBR for public humiliation? I will take it.
      Cole’s Comedy Open Mic on Wednesdays – Never been but I enjoy laughing on occasion.
    • Pop-up/Facebook events – If you keep your eye out on social media, there are TONS of brands that host events throughout the city (rooftop yoga, pop-ups, giveaway-type events, etc.)

I’ll probably continue to update this list as I exhaust all budget options, but here it is for now. What did I miss?

Outfit details:
Jeans: Forever 21 (only available in black) | Purse: Amazon | Shoes: Soludos | Bandana: Madewell (sign up for Madewell Insiders for free shipping and early access to sales!!)

10 Ways to be More Waste-Free

We’ve all seen the story about the people who have a year’s worth of trash in one small jar. Mad respect, but for most of us, that lifestyle is a bit of a reach. Now, I’m not here to lecture you on why you should care about the environment, but if this is something you’ve been thinking about or wanting to implement in your lifestyle, I’ve compiled 10 ways to move toward a waste-free life. I promise all of these are realistic, attainable, and in many cases, saves you money. Let’s do it.

1. Use Reusable Straws

Thought I’d start with the most obvious, here. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, tons and tons of restaurants and corporations are jumping on the no-more-plastic-straws train. While plastic straws only account for about 4% of plastic trash, this is still what environmentalists would consider an “easy win.” There’s hardly a lifestyle change involved, and it’s an inexpensive switch.

If you are able to, switch to metal or glass straws: 4 pack | 8 pack |  12 pack | glass straws

2. Buy Produce Bags

When shopping for produce, first ask yourself if it’s necessary to have a bag in the first place. For fruits and vegetables with a tough outer peel that are NOT edible (oranges, avocados, bananas, mangoes, onions, lemons, etc.) you do not need a bag. For fruits and vegetables that do not have a tough outer peel, (apples, spinach, grapes, broccoli, zucchini, etc.) opt for a reusable produce bag instead of the clear, single-use bags.

Option 1 | Option 2 | Option 3

3. Bring Your Own Bag

Another no-brainer that I STILL see people neglecting. Luckily, some states already have legislation on plastic bags, whether they’re simply unavailable or only available for purchase. For many people, the battle on this one is making it a habit. Know yourself and your habits when it comes to shopping – do you go straight from work? Do you always drive? Do you make your sister drive because you don’t have a car? Me too! Keep your bags in a place that will be convenient to you.

4. Befriend Skoy Cloths

If you’re anything like me, you can go through a roll of paper towels in a matter of days. Not only is it expensive, but when your garbage can is half-full of half-used paper towels, something’s gotta give. Skoy Cloths are a reusable and biodegradable alternative to paper towels – equivalent to 15 rolls! When they’re dirty, you can throw them in microwave or dishwasher to disinfect, which is key when you pay for laundry. 😅 We love ‘em.

Skoy Cloths (Colorful) | Skoy Cloths (White)

5. Stop Using Makeup Wipes

I grew up using Almay eye makeup remover pads, and many of my friends use large, towelette style face makeup wipes. Again– expensive and an unnecessary amount of waste (some wipes even include microplastic to make them stronger). Your face wash should be cleansing enough to remove most of your makeup, and an oil can remove the rest – I use coconut oil for my eyes and it works wonders. I’ve linked two tried-and-true face washes that bring me from a 7 to a 3 in no time! 🙂

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Face Wash (much cheaper in-store!) | CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser (my dermatologist recommends this)

6. Swap in Tupperware for Plastic Bags

Any half-used vegetable or fruit does not need a plastic bag. Throw them in a Tupperware instead. Bam. Done. OR, better yet, I just discovered that Trader Joe’s now offers waxed cotton food wraps. If anyone tries, let me know if they’re any good!

7. Carry Reusable Mugs and Water Bottles

Coffee shops and juice bars are getting better and better about accommodating this request, and many even offer a discount! Added bonuses: my Hydroflask with a straw lid has me drinking water all day, and my reusable mugs often get me more coffee than I paid for. My coffee mugs are probably from TJ Maxx or some festival that hands out branded promotional items, but here’s some quality stuff if you DON’T lose things like a child:

Hydroflasks (the BEST) | Yeti Rambler

8. Learn How to Recycle

Each city has specific rules and ordinances for what they’ll accept. Do a quick Google search of your city and see where you can improve. A rule of thumb: anything tainted with food or grease (pizza boxes, empty jars, cans, etc.) are not accepted– so make sure you’re rinsing everything well before throwing it in the bin.

Chicago Recycling Guide

9. Get Creative

One of the biggest sources of our everyday plastic purchases are bathroom items – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, body scrubs, you name it– many (if not all) are packaged in plastic. Think about what you can make or swap out. Things like shampoo bars (I, too, am a conditioner snob and cannot compromise yet), bamboo toothbrushes, and homemade washes/scrubs are a good place to start. This will also save you money! Win!

Lush Shampoo Bar | Bamboo Toothbrush

10. Switch Up Your Coffee Method

Keurigs and K-Cups are convenient and all, but the amount of waste it’s producing is scary. One article said “the amount of K-Cups trashed into landfills as of today could wrap around the planet more than 10 times!” Who knows if that’s true at all, but you get the point. Opt for a reusable K-Cup (it’ll save you so much $$) or if you’re in the market for a new coffeemaker, find one that doesn’t use paper filters.

Reusable K-Cups | Coffee Makers with Reusable Filters

Pin this post by clicking below, and happy Earth saving!

Well, guys. I did it.

I made a blog. And you’re here, so thank you! And Welcome!

You may be asking yourself, but it’s 2018? Who reads blogs? First of all, I do. Secondly, I got sh** to say. (Doesn’t count if you put the asterisks in)

Now on a ~more serious note, I’ve been wanting to do this for YEARS and I finally decided there will never be a good time and to just do it. So here it is. I’ll be talking about travel and food and books and fitness and life in general— in a “budget-friendly” lens 🤓

Scroll around if you’d like, but stay tuned as I roll out some real posts. Thanks for clicking on this link and being somewhat interested in what I have to say!

-Bianca