Category: Misc

Early 2017 Faves

February 24
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Hey guys, I know I haven’t been doing regular favorites posts lately but I wanted to jump in and share some things I’ve been crushing on lately.

This is my version of the street tacos

 

If you know me, you know I love Mexican food and of course tacos.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking my taco making skills up to the next level with two AMAZING new recipes.  First I made these yummy Beef Street Tacos, and more recently I tried out these Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa.  Spoiler alert: They were both great and I can’t wait to work them into our meal rotation.

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In other news, I’ve been working on my dining room lately. One of the new items I have added is this great teal rug from Walmart. Yes, Walmart! I was in there picking something up the other day and saw it and it was only $80 which was great.  I love the bold color, but if I get sick of it in a few years I can just replace it as I didn’t spend a ton of money on it.  Now that I have that rug in there I am going to be working the rest of the room around those colors.

I know I’ve got valentines colors in here, I’m working on that.

 

Both January and February found me visiting Antique Extravaganza at the Rennigers Flea Market here in the Orlando area.  First of all, (as I am sure you are wondering) yes, it is big enough of an event to be called an extravaganza. Anyways, I picked up two new cute home decor pieces; a window and a dough bowl.  I know these are both trend items and the bowl is reproduction, but I think they are super cute and really work in my dining room. (Which, as you recall, I am working on.)

 


I think it must be the early nightfall or the cool air, but I have just been loving curling up on the sofa after work with a good book and reading until bed. When I get out of the  habit of reading physical books I don’t miss it, but once I start back up I swear they are as addictive as coffee and Publix cookies. (Oatmeal Raisin of course.)
Not a favorite yet, but I am considering trying Lipsense. Have you tried it? Do you like it? I am looking for an Orlando area consultant so I can try it before I buy it. Not sure what Lipsense is? It is a long wear lipstick that appears to really stay for 18 hours. It is only sold via direct sales so ask around in your area for a consultant.

 

Anyway, I hope you liked this collection of a few random things I am enjoying.  Loving anything awesome? Share it with me in the comments! Want to see more things I love? Follow me on Instagram!

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Six tips for saving money at Michaels

September 2
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If you’re anything like me, then you love craft stores. I am there all the time for planner supplies, personal craft supplies, work supplies, and sometimes just to get some inspiration.  However, if you’ve ever been in Michael’s then you know you can easily drop a pretty penny there. I am going to share with you here some of my tips for saving cash at Michael’s.

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1 Download the app:
The first thing you need to do to start saving at Michaels is to download their app.  The app is free and available for Andriod and iOS devices. With the app you have access to store locations, coupons, and sales flyers at the tip of your fingers.

2. Check the ad:
Michaels have items on sale all the time.  These sales very from 25%-60% off and BOGO Free and BOGO 1/2 off of items.  You may sporadically see B2Get1 Free and other sales throughout the store.  Most (But not all) coupons are for regular priced items.  If you plan to use a coupon you need to check if an item is on sale before you attempt to use the coupon.

2. Check your coupons:
Generally if you have the app all available coupons will show up there.  Of course you could have special coupon from an event, email, or other source. Michaels regularly puts out a 40% off one regular priced item coupon.  This can be found in the app, ad, or on a receipt from a prior purchase.  This coupon can be used over and over again, but is limited to once per day.  Because there is a Michael’s near my workplace, if I need more than one item I just go back the next day or have my husband go with me and buy it.  Be sure to check the wording on the coupon.  Some coupons only apply to one item, some coupons only apply to regular-priced items.  The wording matters.  Many items are regularly excluded from coupons.  These items (currently) include Silhouette, Circuit, Polaroid, and other brands as well as everyday value products and others.  Check out the entire policy here.  Keep in mind these are just the general exclusions, check the fine print on your coupon to see what exclusions apply.

3. Subscribe to emails:
New email subscribers receive a 20% off their entire purchase coupon.  This AWESOME coupon includes sale items. I suggest waiting until the items are want are on sale and then subscribing to the email list to get a coupon to use on top of the sale price.  Example:  Project Life albums are on sale 40% off.  You purchase on that is regularly priced $21.99.  With the sale is it $13.19 and then when you use the 20% off coupon it will come to $10.55.  That is half off.  Awesome!

NEW: Michaels has just started a new rewards program called Michaels Rewards.  This program is free to sign up for and members get exclusive coupons, early access to sales, and more.  Click HERE to register or visit your local store. 

4. Pay with gift cards:
Still want to save?  Pay with a discounted gift card.  Whenever I make a major purchase I check Raise for discounted gift cards to the store I am interested in.  Right now they have discounted cards up to 21% off.  Click here to get $5 off your first gift card.

5. Use competitor coupons:
Michaels, along with other craft stores, accept competitors coupons.  This means if you have a coupon to Jo-Anns for 60% off a regular priced coupon you can use it at Michaels.  Big Deal, I know.  They currently accept coupons from AC Moore, JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, Ben Franklin, and Hobby Lobby.

6. Be aware of sale cycles:
Just like at the grocery store, product lines and categories that go on sale do so on a regular basis.  As I already mentioned, I know that Project Life items regularly go 40% off every few weeks.  This means that instead of wasting my 40% off on one item coupon on an album, I’ll wait for it to be on sale and then use an email coupon or another coupon that includes sale items. Of course some items, like adhesives, never go on sale, so using that 40% off one item coupon on that would be a smart idea.

Have another tip? Share it below!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page.

9 deals at Ikea you need to know about

February 20
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The 9 deals at Ikea you need to know about. Hacks, products, and the best deals for your budget. AmberDowns.net
 
KOPPLA – 2 pack extension cord $5.99

I am always looking for another one of these.  2 for six bucks?  Great to grab just in case.

NACKTEN Bathmat $2.99

This simple mat is great to have as a spare. Grab two at that price


NACKTEN Shower Curtain $1.99

I know they sell shower curtains at the dollar tree, but have you used them?  They are too thin.  For two bucks you can get something decent that is totally disposable.  Perfect for a drop cloth, craft, or something you can toss if it gets dirty.

 

 ALKALISK Alkaline Batteries 10 pack  $1.99

Ten batteries for two dollars.  Do I need to say anything more?  Perfect for flashlights and toys.

 

 RAJTAN Spice Jar four pack $3.49

Although one of the more expensive items on my list, these jars are super cute and great for crafting, storage, gifting, and other uses.  Less than a buck each.

 

 PROPPMATT Chopping board $6.99

Again not the cheapest item on the list, but this is a great deal for a cutting board if you need one.  I doubt you’ll find a wooden board for less.

 

 TOKIG Salad Spinner $3.99

I love this supper simple, super cheap spinner.  When not spinning, this is great for popcorn bowl.

 


TRYGG Serving Bowl  $2.49

An Ikea staple, this large bowl is a must have item for entertaining.  A trifle would look great in this.


SMACKER Flatware Tray $.99

This lovely tray is a steal at a dollar.  An easy update for your kitchen that could also be used in a bathroom or office.

 

Want more Ikea info?  Check out my Ikea tips post here.

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Star Wars Valentine round-up

January 18
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FREE Star Wars printable valentines cards for kids and adults. Print one of these awesome valentines for your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or child.

Hey guys, I wanted to share with you the best Star Wars valentines I found on Pinterest. Every year I get kids valentines for the children in my storytimes at the library and this year I wanted to get them Star Wars ones. I think these will be great for the kids and maybe even my husband too!

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Two
Three
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Five
Six

 

These would be great for kids, adults, and everyone in-between. Which set is your favorite?

 

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Drinking more water

January 14
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One of my goals for this year was to drink more water.  I knew this would be an easy goal to conquer as long as I made myself learn a few new habits.

How to drink more water every day

To make this a habit I added to my habits planner printable so that I’d see it daily and get to mark it off if I’m successful.

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How much water should we drink?  I haven’t found a solid answer.  the old eight glasses a day is a great start, but remember that is talking about eight 8 oz glasses for a total of 64 oz.  I generally drink 10 oz at a time so for me thats only six and a half glasses. According to the Mayo Clinic women should drink 2.2 liters a day or 74 ounces however they go on to state that up to 20% of our water intake may come from foods such as fruits.  Also, non-water beverages such as coffee, soda, milk , and beer can contribute to that total but should not be the majority of it.    Look into it yourself and see what you think is best for you.  I personally know I feel physically better if I drink at least 50 oz. a day.

One of the most important aspects of drinking more water is appealing to your own tastes.  To me, this means finding the water that you enjoy.  Don’t like tap water?  Invest in a filtration system.  Need ice? Make sure you have a good ice maker or trays. If you really hate water try infused water. Also, the drink ware you are using must be something that you enjoy.  Over the years I have tried everything from the water bottles from the vending machine, to nalgene bottles, stainless steel, tumblers with straws and glass bottles.  I just recently became aware of my personal favorite, a pint glass.  I’ve come to the realization that my favorite way to drink water is room temperature standing up from a pint glass. (Particularly those with our wedding logo on them.)

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So what did I do?  I brought a few glasses to work.  I left one in my locker in the break room, I placed one in the cabinets, and I keep the third in my office.  I grab a glass, fill it up and drink the entire glass several times a day and I enjoy it.  I am lucky to have a sink to use in my office but a two liter bottle or other container would work fine also.

Will this system for for you? Probably not, but think about what you like. Go to the store and touch some water bottles and pick one that you want to carry.  Find something that matches your personal style as well as is functional. Maybe you are fine with a gallon jug or a Dasani bottle.  If thats what works thats awesome.

If you still haven’t found your dream water bottle consider one of these options:

S’well– Many people enjoy these stainless steel bottles.

Mason Bar Company – I just ordered the regular lid to use with this size jar.  I am swooning over the cuffs too.

Infuser bottle – This is the one I have; it comes with a cool bag and a shaker too for protein shakes.

Ello– This company makes great glass water bottles.  This one has a rubber skin to protect the glass. You can also find them at Target sometimes.

Plastic Tumbler– I’m sure you’ve seen these everywhere but they are always cool.

Are you trying to drink more water?  Have you discovered a system that works for you?  Share below!

December faves

January 7
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December was a big beauty re-stocking month for me.  I ran out of several products and purchased several new items as well.  Because of this, my December faves will be mostly beauty-centric so bear with me. Here are a few of my favorite new things purchased or received in December.

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Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick
I was in Sephora the other day with cash to spend and I ran across the new Kat Von D liquid lipsticks.  It is a long wear product which I am always a sucker for and comes in 28 shades which is awesome.  I purchased Double Dare and am enjoying it.  As with similar products, it is drying, so I keep chapstick on hand and avoid using it every day.  I am the worst with lipstick staying on and I get a good several hours with this product so I’d call it a win.

CearVe Hydrating Cleanser
By mid-December I was dealing with pretty dry skin on my face and it was driving me crazy.  I was using a new cleanser and moisturizer and they just weren’t doing the job.  I did some research and for that CeraVe had a great hydrating cleanser and a moisturizer that work wonders.  For the cleanser I chose the Hydrating Cleanser.  This product is a mild cleanser that does not leave my face tight or tingly.  Did you know that your not supposed to feel like that after cleaning your face? No?  Neither did I. I generally only wash my face in the evening and this is totally doing the trick, I’m hooked.

CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion AM, SPF 30
To go with the hydrating cleanser I grabbed the SPF 30 AM Moisturizer by CeraVe.  Although this is an AM product I have been using it day and night. I am loving the high SPF content and have even been telling my husband to use it as well.  I love that it comes in a push top bottle instead of a tub as those tubs that you stick your fingers into just feel like a germ factory after a few weeks. Overall this product has been leaving my face nice and soft and not dried out like before.

Cat Lady Box
For christmas my husband gifted me a subscription to the “Cat Lady” box.  This is a subscription box like Julep, Birchbox and LootCrate and is full of fun cat-inspired stuff.  For the first month I got a canvas pouch, cat necklace, and kitty paper clips.  So far I think its super cute; we will have to wait and see what next month brings.

Jawbone Up2
This year I got my husband a Jawbone up2 and then immediately decided I wanted one too. These cute little fitness trackers track steps, workouts, food, and more.  Although we are still getting the hang of them,  I am really enjoying all the information. I picked the thin straps style in the oat spectrum color.  Look for a full review of this product once we try it out a little more.

Overall I’d say December was a good month. I was happy with most of my purchases and already have a couple things on deck to share next month.  As always, if you have any questions about this products mentioned please feel free to comment below or contact me via social media. (Links in the top right)

 

 

10 tips to reducing your trash

January 4
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10 steps for reducing trash from AmberDowns.net Recycling, reusing, reuse, conservation, zero waste.

 

You may have heard about the girl who makes no trash.  There was a YouTube video about her at one point that went somewhat viral. Although her idea is a noble one,  for most people that lifestyle isn’t completely feasible.   Recently another girl did this no-trash lifestyle in a week challenge and it brought this topic back into my mind.  Personally, I have no desire to live a trash-free life, however I am sure there are steps that I could take to reduce my output.  After reviewing these videos and a few other sources I have put together 10 tips to reducing your trash.

  1. Bring your bags.  I know we all know to bring our reusable bags but it just so hard to remember them.  I am seriously the worst.  Every time I go to the store I see someone else with them and then get angry I forgot mine.  So here’s the plan, I have picked out three bags for my car, three for my husband’s, and 3 for the house.  I then placed a hook on the back of my front door so that after we emptied our bags they would go on the hook to be placed in the car the next time we left the house.  Check back next week for a cute reminder for the car that I am putting together.
  2. Think before you purchase. Do you need this item?  Will it last? Will this purchase replace something that is already working fine? If you don’t need it save the money and skip it.
  3. Compost.  One of the first things we did when we moved into our house almost three years ago was create a compost bin.  We wanted to keep all fruit and vegetable scraps out of the trash.  To make this easy we keep a large plastic container on the counter with a lid.  We place all fruit and vegetable waste in the bin and then take it out to our homemade compost bin outside every few days.
  4. Combing shipping.  I love ordering from amazon but I hate it when I get four small boxes on my doorstep.  To fix this I am trying to combine my orders as much as possible. Recently, we have been using the no-rush shipping option which gives you a credit to use for Amazon digital items.  With the no-rush shipping Amazon will combine all orders over a few days and ship them all in one box.  This works great if you don’t need it in two days and a great way to rack up credits for movie rentals and album purchases.  HINT:  If you are purchasing a few items do each item separately and select no-rush shipping to get the credit for each item in your order.  They will ship all of these items together and you have enough promotional credits for a free movie rental.
  5. Recycle plastic bags. Even with the reusable bags everyone still ends up with plastic shopping bags. These, along with other plastic bags from packaging, newspapers and other places can be recycled at your grocery store.  Generally there are bins out front.  I keep a bag for these next to my regular recycling bin inside my home.
  6. Donate.  Just because you are sick of that pair of shoes or that hat doesn’t mean that its trash.  Keep a box somewhere in your home of useable items that can be donated instead of trashed.  You’d be surprised how quickly you fill it.
  7. Is the clothing item too worn out to recycle?  Save it for rags to clean the house with.
  8. Buy less packaged foods.  When shopping, look and what your buying and how it is packaged.  Skip single serve items or products with trays and other additional trash items. Generally speaking, healthier food comes less packaged so your helping the earth and your body.
  9. Kick the K-Cup habit (and purchased drinks altogether).  I love K-Cups.  They are so simple, but really are bad for our environment.  Try out your old automatic drip coffee maker again and splurge for some good beans.  They still might be cheaper than K-Cups.  Don’t have an automatic drip machine? Try a  French Press or Pour-over device like this one on Amazon.  By making your coffee at home you are skipping a paper cup and saving a few bucks.
  10. Cut the paper products. Paper plates, paper napkins, Swiffer, Lysol wipes, and face wipes are all products that we might be able to cut back on.  (Please note I did not say baby wipes, I am not asking that of anyone.)  Think before you grab one of these products and consider using the “old-fashioned” methods.  I am keeping more and more towels in my kitchen to use for clean uses.  Of course, if  the need is for meats and other bacteria laden issues use a paper towel and sanitize the surface, but why waste a paper towel to clean up some spilt water?  Use your towels and just remember to wash them regularly.

It is my hope that these tips are able to help you to cut down on your trash output.  Have a great tip?  Add it to the comments below or tweet me @_amberdowns,

 

10 steps for reducing trash from AmberDowns.net Recycling, reusing, reuse, conservation, zero waste.

10 Tips for visiting Chicago on a budget

October 23
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CHICAGO

Earlier this month, my husband and I had the chance to spend a few days together in Chicago. I was excited to see a city I’d never been to and he was excited to enjoy their style of improv.  As an improvisor here in Florida, he has a few friends that way who had shows while we were there. We wanted to enjoy this trip, but at the same time we wanted to keep within our budget as we are planning a trip to Europe in the spring and didn’t want to go overspend in Chicago. Although I am by no means an expert on the city, I was able to pick up a few tips I’d like to share.

 

airbnb_logo_fons_blanc1.Airbnb

Due to the high cost of lodging in Chicago we chose to try out an Airbnb for this trip.  We ended up renting a bedroom and bathroom about a 20 minute train ride out of the city for less than the cost of a sketchy motel an hour outside.  The host and room were great, and even though we hit a snag before the trip the host was great and getting it figured out.  Interested in trying out Airbnb? Here’s $20 off your first trip.

 

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2. City Pass

If you’re looking to do the big attractions in Chicago (Art Institute, Willis Tower, Sci and Tech Museum, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium) then go ahead and get yourself a city pass.  this $100 ticket gets you into all 5 attractions and has a fast pass feature at several of them.  They claim to have a 50% or so savings, which is a little high because you don’t necessarily need the most expensive ticket to each attraction, but in the end if you’re going to do them it really is the easy way to go.  We arrived in Chicago early on a Friday morning and I wanted to go to the Willis (Sears) tower that evening.  Being that it was a Friday evening the place was PACKED and had a 2+ hour wait just to get to the elevator.  We were able to skip both the ticket and elevator line and get up within a few minutes which  is usually $40 ticket itself.  Find out more about CityPass here.

 

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We found someone to take a photo of us with our custom message

3. Willis Tower

Speaking of Willis Tower- I wanted to share a tip I picked up.  If you contact Willis Tower at least  2 days before your trip the will put up a custom welcome message up to 60 characters for free.  I gave them a two hour window of when I planned to arrive and then didn’t tell my husband about it.  He was so surprised to see that they knew we were coming!  To set this up simply send an email to sales@theskydeck.com.  For more information go to: here.

 

IO Chicago

4. Improv

Interested  in taking in a show while you’re in town? We enjoyed a few improv shows at iO Chicago. You can check out their schedule here.    While you’re in that part of town be sure to grab a bite and a craft beer at Burger Bar which is right outside the Clybourn subway station. Shows at iO vary in cost from $8 and up.

 

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Chicago CTA station

5. Mass Transit

Speaking of subway stations, we used mass transit for every single trip except one.  It was so simple getting on the train from the airport.  Both the airport and our Airbnb were situated off the same train so we had no problems getting into town.  The trains come very frequently and many lines run 24 hours a day so even on the late nights we had a ride home.  We chose an airbnb that was less than 5 minutes from a station because we knew we’d be using it alot.  This was a great decision.  We purchased the 7 Day Pass which was good on all CTA trains and busses for only $28 each.  Find more information on transit here.

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6. Uber

The one car we rode in was an Uber.  This was our first time using Uber so we had a ride credit which made it free!  Using the app was super simple and our driver was friendly and professional.  Due to the mass transit available Uber isn’t a necessity in Chicago, but It was nice to have the app and credit ready in my phone if we needed it.  In case you’re wondering, we used used it to bar hop.  Classy, I know.  Want a free ride?  Click here for a free $20 credit for your first ride.  Also, Uber is so much cheaper than cabs so $20 actually goes a long way.

 

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The view from Cindy’s

7. Chicago Athletic Association

While on our trip we met up with a friend who introduced us to the recently reopened Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.   This 125 year old building once was a popular athletic association full of famous faces but closed its doors in 2007.  It reopened this year as a hotel with several locally owned bars and restaurants inside.  Although we didn’t get to check out the rooms, the public spaces were lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed the view from Cindys, the rooftop bar and restaurant. The building faces Lake Michigan and Millennium Park and is a great place to grab a cocktail and enjoy the view. Although the drinks are pricy, it’s worth it for view, and is much cheaper than staying the night at the hotel.  We visited on a Sunday night and the place was busy, but not crazy and totally not a tourist trap. Eat dinner elsewhere and enjoy a drink and a view without breaking the bank.

 

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The view from the door of our “chamber.”

8. Virgin Hotel

On the last night of our trip we stayed at new Virgin Hotel in Chicago.  This trendy new hotel is located on the loop right in the middle of everything.  The hotel is in a renovated bank building with 250 guest rooms or “Chambers.”  They tried to keep as many parts of the old architecture as possible while also adding tons of swanky new updates.  One of the awesome perks of staying at this hotel was the complimentary happy hour from 6-7pm.  We were offered free drinks during this time in their 2nd floor bar/restaurant. This was a great opportunity to try out some fun specialty cocktails which we usually pass on.  There was also a cute rooftop bar, but we didn’t get a chance to really try it out.  Overall, if your interested in a fun hotel in the city I would definitely  recommend this one.  Because they are new, their rates are fairly low for the area. Read more about them here.

Enjoying a free happy hour drink

Enjoying a free happy hour drink

 

 

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9. Inside Chicago Walking Tours

Whenever we visit a new city we love to do a walking tour to get to know a little about the history of the city and really get a feel for where we our.  The small group settings and knowledgeable guides are great for learning more about a city. Often times they can be a little pricy for an hour or two, but we stumbled upon Inside Chicago Walking Tours via Livingsocial and tried it out.  We loved our tour with Hillary and it was totally worth her rates!  Although this is a new company the guide has done her research and only gives information she has verified as well as awesome notes she has come across during her research.  She is also an entertaining speaker so even if history isn’t your thing you will enjoy what she has to say.  Check her out,  you won’t be disappointed.  There is currently a deal on Livingsocial where new accounts get $10 off their first purchase of $20 or more.  Click here to get that deal and then here to get 2 tickets for $20!

 

10.  Lincoln Park Zoo

Although we didn’t get a chance to visit, the Lincoln Park zoo is worth mentioning in any post about cheap things in Chicago.  This FREE zoo is located north of the city, but is easily accessible via CTA busses.  Parking is expensive, so really consider taking the bus and not having to deal with the cost or traffic.  It’s a great place to spend the day.  Find out more here.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Please let me know if you used any of them or, if you have suggestions of your own please add them in the comments.  We plan to return to the city at some point and will need new ideas!

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