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Growella Games Matches Savings Goals, Dollar for Dollar
Events, Personal Finance,

Growella Games Matches Savings Goals, Dollar for Dollar

The following post is sponsored by Growella.

According to Investopedia, Millennials (aka “Gen Y”) face the most uncertain future when it comes to money matters. These twentysomethings feel like the generation least able to achieve the material goals lauded so highly by the older generations they look up to. It seems daunting just thinking about the steps and money that go into buying a house, undergoing higher education to land a dream job, or retiring at a reasonable age.

There are a few notable reasons why millennials have difficulty saving:

  • >75% of millennials want to have the same clothes, cars and gadgets as their friends (thanks a lot, social media!)
  • Half of these people use credit cards to pay for basic necessities
  • >50% receive monetary support from their parents
  • 75% would rather spend their money on experiences

Money Saving Tips

Sometimes saving money is a matter of understanding how to be the most effective with the money you have. This tips can get you on the right track to start:

  • Set a budget: Connect all financial accounts (credit card, checking, savings, loans, etc.) to a tool like Mint. Categorize each transaction. Set a monthly limit for each category, and measure your efforts to stay within the budget you set – then adjust next month as necessary!
  • Pay yourself: A tool like Acorns or Digit can help you automate savings/money-growing efforts.
  • Contribute to your 401k: Or IRA, if that’s what you’re into. If you work at a company that sponsors a retirement savings plan, set up a specific monetary amount or percentage that gets taken off before your paycheck is deposited into your bank account. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Stave off wants: Getting tech toys cheap often comes down to having godlike patience. Work diligently to pay off your credit cards and student loans, prioritizing these payments over shiny new things. Thanks to interest, these two kinds of debt accumulate over time and cost you more in the long run if ignored!
  • Ask for help. With so much personal finance advice on the internet, it can be hard to know what strategy is right for you. But companies like Growella exist to lend a helping hand.

Also, take a moment to consider if you’re spending too much money shopping online, or on vacation travel.

Growella Games: A Money Challenge

Growella is a resource for money, career, and life advice for twentysomethings who want to achieve more.

In the spirit of their reason for existence, Growella recently launched a money challenge game. Just about anyone can benefit from the results, whether they have a certain money goal to hit, want to pay off their student loans, or start saving.

Participants undergo an 8 week challenge to save money. If they succeed, Growella will match their savings – dollar for dollar. Bailey Cummins (of started with the goal to save money for her emergency fund, and you can read about her progress here.

How to Play Growella Games

First off, get yourself registered for Growella Games here. What are you waiting for? It’s free! Next, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to your player profile.

From there, you’ll share your money goals, and how you think Growella Games can help you. Based on your profile, Growella will assign a specific money challenge to you. To give an example, a player with student loans might be challenged to reduce their student loan balances by $500.

Every player’s goal is personalized. As you make progress, you’ll record weekly video updates to be shared with the Growella community, and on your personal Growella Games player page.

one person is selected to play from all completed registrations, and that player selection will happen at the end of April (for the current round). The challenge runs for 8 weeks. If you successfully complete it, your money is matched dollar for dollar.
Challenge yourself with Growella Games. Who’s in?

Review: Thrones! the Musical
Entertainment, Events,

Review: Thrones! the Musical

Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not is irrelevant – my guess is that you’ll still find a way to enjoy Thrones! The Musical. This musical parody of the popular HBO show starts out with a group of GoT fans talking to their uninitiated friend. The following scenes serve to explain the intricate relationships between GoT characters, and kingdoms, across several seasons. The perspective shifts from the fans explaining the progression of the story, to actors playing fan favorite GoT characters.

The show was written by the creative team behind another similar show – “50 Shades! The Musical Parody.” Again, fan or not, there’s a lot of fun to be had with talented cast members poking fun at these popular entertainment franchises.

Thrones! The Musical is fast paced. After all, they’re covering Game of Thrones plot points across 6 seasons! GoT fans will nerd out over 21 original songs, and an all-Chicago cast that works together to play more than 40 of the show’s principal characters. It should go without saying, but if you’ve never seen GoT, expect some intense spoilers!

Thrones! The Musical is the perfect pick me up for fans feeling blue between seasons of the popular HBO show. The fact that it’s a parody and a musical to boot provide a different perspective that fans will eat right up. It’s a great way to enjoy a night out in Chicago, with friends or family (as long as they know how violent and sexual GoT can be!). My suggestion? Take a drink from bingeing at the bar and grab a drink or two during this show’s intermission.

Thrones! The Musical has regular showtimes at the Apollo Theater, with multiple times available in the evening, from Thursday through Sunday. Additional times have been added during the holidays, but check the Apollo Theater’s schedule for the most up-to-date showtimes.

Depending on where you sit and what showtime you go to, tickets usually range between $36-59 (with student rush tickets available for $20). But here’s a special deal for you, readers!

  • 2 for $36 tickets for performances Thursdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 7 pm
  • 2 for $50 tickets for performances Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 6:30 pm and 9 pm and Sundays at 3:30 pm

Valid for all performances through December 24 using promo code HOHOHO. Information for reserving tickets is on the Apollo Theater’s website.

Have you seen Thrones! The Musical, yet? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


ParkWhiz Wants to Give You $500 in Free Parking

Please note: this is a sponsored post. Also, a blog writing client of mine!

Parking in Chicago can be expensive. If you don’t have a designated spot picked out, it can potentially become dangerous if you get into a car accident trying to parallel park. It’s just one of many costs a Chicago car owner can expect to deal with, after tickets, fees, insurance, gas, car washes, and more.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, at least for one lucky contest winner. That’s right – ParkWhiz is generously offering to take care of $500 worth of parking costs for a special Chicago car owner.


To enter, follow these steps:

  1. Follow ParkWhiz on Twitter.
  2. Tweet them a picture of you and your car with the hashtag #findyourluckyspace. I know you love taking selfies – might as well make them work for you. Bonus points for creativity, of course. OR instead of of a selfie of you and your car…
  3. Tweet a picture of yourself with the ParkWhiz street team at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the hashtag #findyourluckyspace

Alternatively, here’s another way to enter:

Book and park between now and March 17 with promo code “LUCKYSPACE” to be entered to win, plus you’ll get $1 off parking.

Now that’s what I call a deal. I hope you have the luck of the Irish on your side! The contest officially ends on March 20th, so don’t hesitate to enter if you’re interested. For complete terms see

ParkWhiz has spots conveniently all around the city. To search for Parkwhiz parking nearby, download the iOS or Android apps. Also, it’s quite easy to search parking in neighborhoods and monuments around Chicago by searching through their database of Chicago parking spots.

ParkWhiz is an extremely useful app for an urban driver (or suburbanite that commutes) because once you reserve a spot through the app, it’s guaranteed. This is especially useful during busy days and special events in Chicago. They also offer monthly parking solutions if you’re looking for more of a regular parking spot guarantee.

Do you travel often? ParkWhiz has a discounted parking solution for you. Here are a few options:

Also – be sure to check out their blog content. I’ve written a lot of posts for them about Chicago (like this one about romantic Chicago valentine’s day ideas) and budget lifestyle tips (like this one about budget travel) and topics. It’s very similar to the types of posts I write here on Chicago Cheap Ass!

Have you used ParkWhiz before? What would you do with $500 worth of parking credits? Let us know in the comments!

Go See A Show. Now. TodayTix Is Live In Chicago. (1)
Entertainment, Events,

Go See A Show. Now. TodayTix Is Live In Chicago.

Chicago is a theatre city. Everyone who lives here knows that. From world-renowned regional theatres like Steppenwolf, The Goodman Theatre, and Victory Gardens to smaller storefront theatres, living in Chicago affords art lovers a wealth of options to choose from if you want to spend the night going to see a show.

So why haven’t you gone lately?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a pretty busy schedule, and you try to keep a tight budget. Sometimes, it’s not feasible to make plans, like, 3 weeks in advance to see a show. Things come up! You might have a hot tinder date or something!

The ideal, obviously, would be to get tickets day-of, but often this isn’t possible due to budget restraints or simply due to the fact that the show is sold out.

Oh, well hey, look at that, a new app just launched in Chicago that is specifically geared towards same-day, discounted theatre tickets. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Chicago is now joining a growing list of cities including London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. in which TodayTix is live. In short, it’s an app. You tap a few buttons, add a payment method, and get tickets for a show whenever you want to go and see it. The great thing about the app is that the guys over at TodayTix have built relationships with so many theatre companies in Chicago, from large companies like Second City and Victory Gardens to storefront companies like the Neo-Futurists, to much smaller theatres. They have put a lot of effort into making sure that there are shows on the app to fit everyone’s tastes and budget.

The idea behind the app is to get more young people into the theatre, and it appears to be working. It’s convenient, the tickets are discounted, and perhaps above all, makes the entire Chicago theatre-going experience a bit more manageable.

Plus, they won’t pull any Ticketmaster-style fee nonsense on you. TodayTix charges a flat $5 fee no matter the price of the ticket, so you won’t be blindsided by service charges or anything (unless you want to plunk down a little extra to get your tickets hand-delivered to you).

TodayTix is also savvy enough to know that Chicago theatre lovers like a stiff drink with their show, so they have agreements with certain theatres including the Annoyance and iO where if you buy a ticket using the app, you are eligible for free drinks or exclusive drink specials. So even if the show isn’t that great, at least you can drown your sorrows.

Bottom line, Chicago’s theatre scene is key to experiencing the city. So if you want to impress your next tinder date by taking them to dinner and a show, but you need same-day tickets and are on a budget, well…

There’s an app for that. Oh, and it’s on Android too.

Will you be checking out the TodayTix App? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

chicago cheap ass

Chicago Musical Theater: Get Ready for High Fidelity

Does it get more Chicago than High Fidelity?

It all started with Nick Hornby’s classic novel, then Stephen Frears’ feature film adaptation, set in hipster Wicker Park, Chicago. Chicago natives John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Lili Taylor brought the book to life. But they’re the cast of the past and today’s actors bringing the story back to life are a part of the Refuge Theatre Project’s contemporary musical theater production.

What is the Refuge Theatre Project?

Refuge Theatre Project bills themselves as “Musical theatre for real people.” You won’t find any stuffy renditions or B.S. here – it’s all crowd-pleasing good fun. Ross Egan and Morgan Briggs recently founded the project back in 2015 and aim to use musical theatre to appeal to Chicagoans. Their goal is to make the the theatre community as a whole more accessable to all. At any production, you can expect to hear stories about people dealing with life in a meaningful and fun way.

Their cast looks like a fun group of characters:

chicago musical theater high fidelity

Tell me more about High Fidelity

Ok. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a little background:

The main character, Rob, owns a vintage record shop, where most of the story takes place. This performance is unique in that it will also take place in a record store created especially for the production – “Refuge Records” at 666 W Hubbard Street in Chicago.

We find Rob after he’s recently split up with his girlfriend Laura, and he’s lamenting over the “top five breakups” of his life. Sounds juicy!

What’s next for Refuge Theatre Project?

Besides their production of High Fidelity, which runs from now until the end of February on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Can’t make it to High Fidelity? (Or want more from the Refuge Theatre Project?)

You can look forward to more musical theatre and other performances including:

  • Audition Diaries (dates to be announced)
  • bare: A Pop Opera’s (Fall 2016)

Visit the Refuge Theatre Project’s fancy new website to stay up to date on upcoming productions!

Refuge Theatre Project is also doing some fundraising on Kickstarter. Support the local arts by contributing to their campaign. Their perks are definitely worth the contribution, starting with a date night for two (not to mention a tax deduction)!

Are you ready for High Fidelity? Purchase tickets on Eventbrite and maybe I’ll see you at a show!

*Please note: free tickets were provided in exchange for this post.

Events, Life,

Spend Your Birthday Collecting Free Stuff

Birthday Freebies

Source: Flickr

October is my birth month (10/29 if you want to put it on your calendar). Although it is no longer as fun to get older, it is fun to spend the day collecting freebies from various local businesses. So for my birthday, I’m giving you a gift – a list of free stuff you can get on your birthday!

*Keep in mind that most, if not all, of these freebies require signing up for the company’s email newsletters.


  • Sign up for Starbucks’ rewards program to receive a free drink of your choice on your birthday
  • Denny’s offers a free grand slam breakfast on your birthday
  • IHOP offers a free meal when you sign up, on your birthday and on the anniversary of joining their rewards program
  • Jamba Juice offers a free small smoothie or juice on your birthday
  • Einstein Bagels offers a free breakfast sandwich with purchase of a drink
  • Dunkin Donuts offers a free medium beverage


  • Noodles & Company offers a free noodle bowl that you can use ANYTIME during the month of your birth. Save this one for a day that’s not your birthday!
  • Red Robin offers a free burger on your birthday
  • Steak n’ Shake offers a free double cheeseburger with cheese fries on your birthday
  • Buffalo Wild Wings offers a free order of snack size traditional or boneless wings


  • Pizzeria Uno offers a free meal on your birthday
  • Devon Seafood offers a free entree (up to $25) on your birthday
  • Maggiano’s offers $10 off on your birthday (which could probably be combined with Lettuce Entertain You’s $15 off)
  • Flat Top Grill offers a free entree on your birthday
  • Hooters offers 10 free wings on your birthday


Most restaurants in Chicago will give you a free dessert on your birthday if you just mention that it’s your birthday. But if you want to skip the expense of dining with them, here are some standalone places to get a delicious dessert.

  • Portillos offers a free slice of their magic birthday cake if you sign up for their email updates
  • Join Coldstone Creamery’s rewards program for a coupon for free ice cream on your birthday
  • Baskin Robins offers a free ice cream cone on your birthday
  • Dairy Queen offers a free ice cream treat on your birthday
  • Potbelly offers a free cookie on your birthday
  • The Melting Pot offers free chocolate fondue for two on your birthday


  • Au Bon Pain gives you a free bakery treat and coffee on your birthday
  • Corner Bakery offers a free bakery treat on your birthday
  • PF Chang’s offers a free dessert or appetizer on your birthday
  • As does Olive Garden
  • Panera offers a free bakery treat on your birthday


  • Lettuce Entertain You’s reward program credits your account $15 to use however/whenever on the month of your birth!
  • Victoria’s Secret sends you $10 off to be used during the month of your birth
  • Anthropologie will send you a 15% off coupon
  • Goodwill will send you a 25% off coupon
  • Kiehl’s offers a free tube of lip balm

Enjoy your birthday, and make a day of being spoiled by freebies!

Is there a great birthday freebie that I failed to add to the list? Let me know in the comments so I can add it and make more people’s birthdays awesome!

Drink, Events, Food,

Oktoberfest? Try Argtoberfest at Argus Brewery

Munich, Germany is the official start of and home to Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest has been officially underway since September 19 this year, and will continue through the first Sunday in October… which is coming up this weekend!

You don’t have to be in Munich to enjoy the festive feelings and Chicago’s own Oktoberfest events. One I’m particularly excited about is the first-ever Argtoberfest at Argus Brewery, and not just because of the play on words.

Argtoberfest is this Saturday, October 3rd – the day before the end of Oktoberfest! If you’re looking for an excuse to go out and celebrate, here’s what you can expect…

$20 gets you entry and includes 4 beer tokens, samples from guest breweries (Atlas, Ale Syndicate, One Trick Pony and many more), a take home stein, live music, food (for purchase), stable games and more. Speaking of stable games… did you know that Argus Brewery is located in a stable? According to the Groupon for the event (which gets you an extra $10 to spend on Argus Brewery merchandise), the stable used to be used to house the horses who helped distributed iconic Schlitz beer. The more you know.

Argtoberfest runs from 3 – 9pm, but get there before 3:30 if you’re interested in a brewery tour! According to Argus Brewery’s Facebook page, the 3:30 tour will be the only one on the day of the event. There’s a Groupon for that too, obviously subject to availability on what’s sure to be a busy day.

So what are you doing this weekend? Buy your tickets on Argus Brewery’s website before time runs out!

This review was written in exchange for free tickets to Argtoberfest. Hope to see you there!

chicago cheap ass (21)

Chicago Ideas Week: What to See & How to do it for Free

I first learned of Chicago Ideas Week sometime last year, a few months before the week, itself. Chicago Ideas Week is a weeklong series of events – lectures (“talks”) and hands-on learning and understanding (“labs”). The topics have a wide range: political, spiritual, educational, technological, and more. At the end of the day, Chicago Ideas Week is the organizers’ attempt at exposing you to something new and opening up your mind.

The speakers are all of an extremely high quality – some Chicago natives and business, and others from across the country or even oversees. Last year I shook hands with Reverend Al Sharpton! This year is their 5th anniversary of putting on the event, so you can expect an extra-special lineup.

In retrospect, I knew that one way or another, I had to get involved.

I’m a big fan of volunteering – putting your time in to get into an event for free. You may recall my article on getting into Lollapalooza for free as a volunteer.

With Chicago Ideas Week, you can volunteer as little or as much as you’d like. The shifts are clearly spelled out on their volunteer portal. Just make sure you don’t sign up for overlapping shifts. Some talks and labs are across the city or in Chicago’s close by neighborhoods, so you’ll need to plan travel accordingly. You’ll have to check in before the event starts and stay a little bit after it ends, but it’s a small price to pay for free admission to hearing some amazing speakers dive into topics you normally wouldn’t be exposed to.

As great as volunteering is, sometimes it’s nice to just attend the event as an attendee. Expect to pay $15 for lab and talk tickets. Become a member of Chicago Ideas Week, and save even more on tickets (with the lowest level membership starting at $45). Buying a membership means supporting an amazing organization that does everything it can to make sure income-level isn’t a factor for people interested in expanding their minds. A certain amount of tickets are held in reserve to be given free to interested community members that wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

If you’re overwhelmed with all the speaker and talk options, I’ve created a guide to get you started. Here are the labs I’m the most excited about:

Graffiti Art with Havas Worldwide Chicago
Thursday, October 15, 2–5pm

Learn about legal (commissioned) graffiti with Hava’s Worldwide’s Chief Creative Officer, and help create a live graffiti installation!

Designing the Front Page with RedEye
Tuesday, October 13, 12:30–2:30pm

Participate in the front cover headline brainstorm and how RedEye brings many different elements together for a polished, finished product.

Inside the Eastman Egg Company Monday
Monday, October 12, 2015, 6–8pm

I used to work at Groupon, and the Eastman Egg Company had a food truck that parked itself in front of the building at least once a week. The sandwiches are so good; any foodie would enjoy this tour that includes constructing your own egg sandwich!

Pie Making 101 with Bang Bang Pie Shop is another great option with a similar context.

Lagunitas Brewing 101
Tuesday, October 13, 4–7pm

Learn all about brewing from America’s largest craft brewery, looking at intermittent ingredients like hops and grain, then sampling the final product.

How to #MakeCoolSh*t with 555 International Wednesday
October 14, 10–11:30am

Meet with the president and founder of 555 International, responsible for creating The Girl and the Goat’s and Hard Rock Cafe’s space and feel. Then, learn more about the process of designing.

There are also a lot of amazing speakers and topics. A few I’m looking forward to:

Heroin: A National Epidemic

Time for “The Talk”: Your New Guide to Getting it On (There’s a free meetup afterwards!)

The State of Mental Health in America (This one also has a free meetup afterwards)

The topics are of a wide variety, but are certainly not lacking in interesting subjects! For a full schedule of labs and talks, click here.

One final note – Chicago Ideas Week has a really fun Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 11am Central Standard Time. It brings together a lot of Chicago residents and businesses, and the topics are always interesting to ponder. I was honored to be asked to host the chat a few months back 🙂

Whether as a volunteer or attendee, there is no shortage of events to check out during Chicago Ideas Week. What Chicago Ideas Week talks or labs are you the most excited about?

chicago cheap ass (24)
Drink, Events, Food,

Bacon AND Beer? Get Excited for the Bacon and Beer Classic

I’m a huge fan of festivals that combine an appreciation of craft beer with small bites for a satisfying experience all around. When those small bites all center around the theme of bacon… I’m in heaven.

The Bacon and Beer Classic happens yearly in New York City, Seattle, Indianapolis and of course… Chicago! You won’t have to wait long, since it’s happening Saturday, October 10 at Soldier Field. Depending on if you prefer your weekend sips earlier or later in the day, you can pick between the “brunch” session (1-4pm) or the evening session (7-10pm).

Bacon and Beer Classic

So what can you expect at the Bacon and Beer Classic? Let’s take a look:

  • 3 hours of drinking and eating craft beer and bacon
  • 48 2-ounce craft beer samples from participating breweries. If that’s not enough, you can purchase 10 more for $5
  • 40 bacon-inspired dishes featuring local Chicago restaurants, like Public House, Haute Sausage and Porkchop
  • Souvenir Bacon & Beer Classic glass
  • Music, games, photo booth, and more!

If you opt for VIP admission, you get in 1 hour early for either session and exclusive access to craft beer that you can’t get with a General Admission ticket. VIP is perfect for a real craft beer aficionado.

Tickets are $59 and $99 for General Admission and VIP and can be purchased on Eventbrite. Use code “CHEERS” for 20% off 🙂 See you there!

chicago cheap ass (10)
Events, Fitness, Life,

Protein Bar gets Sweaty at Flywheel Chicago

Protein Bar is one of my favorite healthy fast-casual concept restaurants in Chicago. I love them so much that I featured them in my roundup article about where to get salads in the loop. I recently ran into Protein Bar’s Brand Manager Teddy at the Social Media Day event, who invited me to take a spin class at Flywheel a few weeks out. Protein Bar recently struck up this partnership, as the brands both target a similar demographic and they both promote healthy lifestyles.
Protein Bar and Flywheel
So while I’ve never been to Flywheel before, I have taken my fair share of spin classes. I used to work out at David Barton Gym on a daily basis when I worked at Groupon. Spin was a critical part of my cardio days, even when training for races, because it’s awesome cross-training. What I love about spin is:
– Cardio with resistance and elements of HIIT so you’re burning hundreds of calories
– The instructor tells me what to do. I don’t have to think, I just have to show up
– It’s fun! Spinning to a loud, uplifting beat is an awesome way to spend my lunch break
– I’m tired but energized when all is said and done
Anyways, David Barton Gym did a great job with their spin program, but Flywheel specializes in spin. They’re able to produce a much better product, because it’s all they do.
So what makes Flywheel different from your typical spin classes?
– They have special shoes that click into the pedals. At David Barton Gym, my feet sometimes felt weird because they weren’t specially-designed for spin and fit differently into the pedals.
– Flywheel has a special gauge that shows resistance, pace, and energy output in an easy-to-read format
– It’s competitive! Regular attendees are assigned a username and they can track their energy output through class, that week, that month… all against other regulars!
Besides the differences in the class, the facilities were really nice. The lockers didn’t require a lock – instead you program an easy to remember four digit code. The showers were clean and stocked with everything you need to get ready after a sweat session, including shower necessities like shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, spray deodorant and more.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

After class, Protein Bar hooked everyone up with cold-pressed juice, headbands, free smoothie cards, and special Protein Bar trail mix. The cold-pressed juice was a refreshing tangy mix of greens – perfect for rehydrating after class. I later redeemed my smoothie card for an Avo-Matcha smoothie – a new favorite of mine.
Flywheel and Protein Bar


All in all, Flywheel is expensive. There’s no way around it. Depending on the package you buy, it’s about $20-25 per class. What I can tell you is that if you’ll actually use it, it’s definitely worth it. You’re not going to get that kind of workout on your own (unless you’re REALLY good at motivating yourself and know what you’re doing), or at a fitness studio (barre, pilates, etc.). For people who want to be fit or are looking to lose weight, this is a great step in the right direction.
At any rate, I’m definitely going back – who’s with me?
Thanks to Teddy from Protein Bar for providing photos!