Part of working as an intern or entry-level employee is the less-than-ideal pay. We’ll all got to start somewhere, and most of us start on a limited budget. This is even trickier when you’re a 22-year-old surrounded by people with limitless energy and seemingly limitless bank accounts. It’s hard to be budget-conscious when everyone else wants drinks after work every day, dinners out every night, and plenty of shopping trips and coffee runs in between.
This summer, I’ve felt especially strapped for cash, as I complete an internship while living in downtown Chicago. As anyone will tell you, cities are expensive, and going out in Chicago for just one meal can mean $20-30 gone.
So my friends and I started getting creative with our weekend activities. Here’s 10:
1. Rent bikes
Chicago has an amazing bike rental system called Divvy bikes, and I know other cities have similar systems. Basically you pay ten bucks for a code, which you use to unlock a bike from any Divvy bike rack (there are Divvy racks everywhere). The code is good for 24 hours, which means you can bike around as much as you want- as long as you don’t have one bike out for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you’re active and you want to see your city in new ways, this one’s for you.
2. Visit Chinatown or Little Italy
On the other hand, if you mainly want cheap food and fun gift shops, Chinatown is for you. Little Italy is another great spot for great food amd a mini cultural adventure. The last time I went to Chinatown, I pigged out on dim sum, duck, and Chinese donuts.
Caffeinated tip: Be sure to grab a cup of bubble tea while you’re there. It’s not coffee, but it’s the most fun you’ll ever have drinking tea.
3. Have a pizza picnic.
No matter where you go, you can always bring pizza with you. Order a box of ‘za, find a park/beach around you, and have a lovely date night outside with the love of your life: deep-dish sausage and pepperoni.
4. Ice cream in a new neighborhood
Literally get on a train and go somewhere you haven’t been yet (I chose Wicker Park in Chicago), then make it your mission to locate THE best ice cream place (I chose Jeni’s). Alternative: The best taco place. Equally acceptable and potentially dangerous if they offer tequila shots.
5. Cheap (or free!) outdoor concert
Another benefit to cities: Concerts. I’m not talking music festivals, I’m talking those outdoor shindigs with families and lawn chairs. They’re actually fun. Bring beer and blankets, and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent happy hour.
I’ve seen Weezer and Passion Pit both for $20, and plenty of other shows for absolutely zilch. Check your fairgrounds and sports arenas– one time I stumbled on the Grateful Dead playing at Wrigley field.
6. Take a day trip to a brewery and take advantage of the free tour.
The MillerCoors tour in Milwaukee? Free. The three beers I got at the end? Priceless.
Even if you don’t drink beer, brewery tours are fun and you feel like you’ve learned something without being in a museum. The beer does not hurt either, though…
7. Shop the sale section of Forever 21.
Alternatively, visit Goodwill or another thrift shop. There’s good stuff there for the taking if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
8. Go to a museum on a free day (or show a student ID if you can)
Usually free, with great food and drink specials. If your friends are cool enough to not worry about looking cool, you’ll have a blast inventing an absurd team name and arguing over the answers to obscure 80’s song titles.
10. Stay in and have a Harry Potter marathon.
Arguably the best option of the ten.
Im the end, even though they’re expensive, cities make up for it with all the free events and locations. You just have to know where to look!