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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?


CheapWeek: Cupid’s Undie Run

7/13 – Leftovers and Ramen Contest

So I made a LOT of food over the weekend – primarily soups. I had some delicious Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup and Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup to get through before leaving for Colorado on Thursday. It’s nice to have your meals almost completely planned out before the week even starts…

In other news, I told you guys about a week ago that I entered Furious Spoon’s ramen rap battle contest. I’ve got great news – I won! I decided I would take my Chicago Cheap Ass bloggers out the following week to reward them for being such brilliant writers.

7/14 – Flywheel (Protein Bar), Fleming’s Networking Event, and Social Media Beast Interview

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I have an awesome relationship with Protein Bar, especially their Brand Manager, Teddy. After seeing him at Social Media Day at Rockit, he invited me to an event sponsored by a new Protein Bar partner – Flywheel! I’ve done spin before at David Barton Gym, but this was completely different. The shoes clicked into the pedals, the resistance and speed were easy to measure, and the instructor was incredibly uplifting. I’ll do a better recap later, but I had a blast. Teddy dished out some awesome Protein Bar samples and swag afterwards 🙂


Social Media Beast started working with the River North Business Association (RNBA) recently, which means I have some new networking events to check out and new, interesting people to meet! This one was at Fleming’s Steakhouse. I met some interesting people and they had some nice goodies for attendees – a box of chocolate truffles and a $25 gift card to come back. I’m excited to see what the next one has in store – I think it’s at Weber Grill.


Every employee at Social Media Beast is getting a spotlight interview on the blog. Mine went live today! Check it out here.

7/15 – Shanahan’s in Forest Park, Hyde Park Itinerary and a Marketing Blog Post

Most of the rest of the week after today was spent getting to, being in, or coming home from Colorado. I met up with my parents in Forest Park at a Creole restaurant called Shanahan’s. I tried fried green tomatoes for the first time. Basically anything fried to me is delicious, but this was something new! I handed over my dog and went back home to pack before the trip.

Two blog posts I wrote were published today.

One fits the scope of this blog – an itinerary for Hyde Park for Choose Chicago’s Chicago Like a Local blog.

The other is for one of my freelance clients, and is about Gmail plugins for sales success and productivity. There’s likely to be something you can use in there.

7/16 – Giveaway, Hootsuite Ambassador and Colorado!

An exciting announcement for the blog – My Argo Tea and Adagio Teas giveaway is live! There’s $50 worth of gift cards on the line and the contest ends 7/30 – get on it!

Another exciting thing that happened today was my acceptance into the Hootsuite Ambassador program. Basically, the program encourages Ambassadors to use Hootsuite and it’s various features, sharing them with their network. In return, Ambassadors get access to Hootsuite Pro and Hootsuite University for free. Not to mention, it’s a great association to have for someone going into digital marketing. And sometimes they send out some fun swag 🙂 I’m excited to get more involved in the program and meet fellow Hootsuite Ambassadors!


Finally, I began my journey to Colorado after work. I recently accepted a position as a Race Director for Cupid’s Undie Run. We were all to meet in Estes Park, Colorado at Peaceful Valley Ranch for a weekend of training and team bonding.

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I got to the airport and met the fabulous people I would be sharing a shuttle with. We got a bite to eat and some beers and waited until it was our time to get to camp. Eventually the shuttle came, we turned it down, got to camp, and called it a night.

7/17 – Camp Cupid Day 1

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I woke up bright and early to get breakfast. I met a couple people, then got ready for a day full of training sessions.

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I was grateful for the information overload during the day. A lot of people had a lot of knowledge of Cupid’s Undie Run, even from the volunteer side of things. I only knew what it meant to be a runner. A marketer at heart, I enjoyed getting event planning knowledge from an organization that has a great track record of making things happen and making themselves known.


We had a brief rest after training, then made our way even higher up the mountain for dinner. They served a really solid BBQ dinner. We met in teams after dinner and came up with skits as one of our first team building activities. Ours was modeled after 50 Shades of Grey. Not sure if I’m allowed to get into more detail than that 😉

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7/18 – Camp Cupid Day 2


The second day was a lot less training, a lot more team building. Throughout the day, we got into an intense group Rock, Paper Scissors contest, Trivia, Flippy Cup, a Twerk Off, a Scavenger Hunt and a Relay Race. I’m competitive by nature, so we had a lot of fun, but were cheated out of some wins (hehe). The night ended with some barn dancing complete with a line dancing instructor. Nobody wanted to say goodnight, but eventually I had to – my shuttle left at 7am the next morning.


7/19 – Coming Home & Surprise Party

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I got to the airport about an hour before my flight. Not exactly the ideal situation, but it was kind of out of my hands. Next time I’m taking an earlier shuttle! Anyways, after cutting a few lines, I made it to my flight just as it was boarding. I walk into the plane and it just so happens that my second cousin, her husband, and their 7 month old baby are there! I traded with their almost-seatmate and spent most of the flight catching up 🙂 The rest of the flight was about getting through “The Martian” which is a crazy page turner I highly recommend.

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My parents were in town for my uncle’s surprise birthday party. I thought I wasn’t going to be back in time, but managed to hitch a ride with them after they brought my dog back. It was nice seeing my family, but I was exhausted. I had a crazy weekend!

Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.


CheapWeek: Getting Involved

This week was action packed – guest TA-ing a class for General Assembly, Volunteering for Chicago Cares, and representing Zipcar in Pride!

6/22 – #BrandChat and Solar Charger

Today was an interesting day for me.

Let’s start with one of my favorite Twitter Chats – #Brandchat. It’s Wednesdays at 10am CST, and last week I won a participation reward. The physical representation was a branded hat. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’m becoming more and more recognized for having some expertise in the Twitter Chat community. This is a huge part of my Twitter growth strategy, especially as it relates to growing the Chicago Cheap Ass brand. On that note, a post I wrote for Social Media Beast got picked up by Business2Community and has been shared 160+ times and counting! Kind of a big deal.


As far as future blog posts go, I received a solar charger in the mail from Verizon, so look forward to a post about that in the near future! I’d like to give it a full test at a music or neighborhood festival before revealing my opinions 🙂

6/23 – #Foodiechats and Professional Development Considerations

The most exciting news of the day was being invited to another #Foodiechats event. This one is the Monday after the Fourth of July Weekend, at Frontier in Chicago. I’m looking forward to it! I owe you all a play-by-play of the last event I went to… But look forward to that and a lot of other posts in the next week 🙂

Also, a lot of friends have been reaching out to me for help with their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter handles. Rob is taking the lead on networking events, but are you interested in seeing more professional development-related content? Although this website is Chicago Cheap Ass… I want there to be some aspirational elements. Basically, we all have to start somewhere… but it’s good to have goals. And it’s important to have a roadmap for how to achieve them. I’m happy to throw together some posts/ebooks/how-to guides if you guys would be into that and get some use out of them 🙂

6/24 – General Assembly Possibilities

Let’s start with lunch. I got it for free at Fresha Place, which I’ve been DYING to check out. It’s all nutritious ingredients that are well-balanced so you stay full throughout the day. But I’m sure you’re wondering how I got it for free. Well, first I’d suggest following them on Instagram… they giveaway freebies all the time, no funny business necessary. But I’d also recommend you download the Freebie app and connect your social accounts. Your connections may be worth tons of free meals!


So one of the great nerd loves of my life is Front End Web Development. I was talking to a General Assembly staff member at a Zipcar event last week and inquired as to the teaching side of things. On Wednesday I attended a class as a guest TA to get an idea of how classes are run. I’m going to look into it further as an after-work activity to get back in the game! I’ve been taking more freelance clients lately so it would be great to teach or assist in teaching the subject to refresh my own knowledge.

Do you have extensive digital or technical experience? Do you like sharing ideas and teaching beginners? You should look into working part or full-time for General Assembly.

A funny sign at the ParadigmNEXT office

A funny sign at the ParadigmNEXT office

Because one thing is never enough to fill up my day after work, I also attended a networking event at ParadigmNEXT for Techweek Chicago. I met a lot of interesting entrepreneurs, Chicago Chamber of Commerce members, and even saw and old buddy from high school at the Graffiti Lounge! Small world. It was a free event, like many at Techweek, so there’s no excuse not to check out these things!

6/25 – Chicago Techweek

I left work a little early today to check out Techweek Chicago with Social Media Beast’s Director of Content. We checked out panels as diverse as “Think Before You Tweet” – general legal considerations for posting on social media and a panel on dating in the digital world. I’ve got to say – I was not as impressed with Techweek as I had been last year. It seemed a lot less claustrophobic on the main floor last year… not to mention more and better panel discussions. It was also incredibly difficult to figure out just what and when the panels were. The schedule on the website and the app were not very user friendly. Definitely a disappointment that prevented me from coming back the next day. Although I did get a cute little Nalgene bottle from Mira if that counts for anything. I’d say in the future… if you can get a free media pass – check out the Thursday speakers and see what you think. But not something I would’ve paid out of pocket for.


One awesome thing that happened today was our Graphic Designer Drew traced a picture I sent him and made me a nifty new profile picture. Check it out!


6/26 – Townhouse and Jurassic World

One easy way to feel classy is by purchasing upscale dining deals on Gilt City. I just bought a sweet lunch deal for Tippling Hall. My boyfriend had bought one (well two actually…) for Townhouse Restaurant and Wine Bar. For $45, we had $90 to spend, which was enough for two appetizers, two entrees, and four drinks. Now that’s a steal. The food was great, and the perfect pregame to the latter part of our evening. We saw Jurassic World FINALLY after waiting for awhile to have the time. GO SEE IT. It’s crazy. It’s action packed. And it’s a great date night movie.

6/27 – Chicago Cares and Weird Al


My mom somehow managed to convince me to wake up at 7am for a charity event (Serve-A-Thon) through Chicago Cares. Honestly, one of the greatest joys in my life revolves around volunteering and getting involved with different charities. Chicago Cares is a well-oiled machine that involves itself in many service projects at different Chicago institutions, notably schools. About 5,000 people gave their Saturdays to make a difference. My mom, myself, and her friend were sent to Edward Burke Elementary School and got to exercise our creative muscles painting a quote on the wall. Chicago Cares costed a $10 registration fee with the expectation that you raise an additional $50 (although they don’t really enforce it). In exchange, you get breakfast, lunch, and early dinner (or a late lunch depending on how you look at it?), not to mention a t-shirt, drawstring bag, and Gatorade water bottle my boyfriend was pretty jealous about. I mean… don’t do it for the fringe benefits, but know that there are some good ones. It all ends in a big party in Daley Square complete with free beer, hotdogs, and a live band. I’m definitely doing it again next year – especially if it means I have a whole day to spend with my mom who I never get to see.


Later in the night, after hanging out with some friends who also did Chicago Cares, my boyfriend and I went to go see Weird Al. Everyone thinks we’re ridiculous, but it was one of my favorite concerts to date. The tickets are among some of the most expensive I’ve bought recently, but TOTALLY worth it!

Weird Al Stormtrooper

Weird Al Stormtrooper

6/28 – Zipcar at the Pride Parade

One of the reasons I love working part-time for Zipcar is because they’ve got their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the city. We had a “float” (really a decorated car with speakers, but who’s judging) in the Pride Parade, and had a ton of cool swag to give out to parade-goers. I’ve participated on both sides – on the sidelines and in the parade. I have to say – I absolutely love being a part of the parade and interacting with everyone along the route. Definitely get involved if you get a chance! Ask friends what their doing or see if your company or any organizations you’re a part of are doing something!


Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.

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Events, Food, Life, Transportation,

Chicago Ideas Week: Exploring Chicago on the Cheap

It’s no secret that I love participating in Twitter Chats.

Yesterday, I was asked to cohost Chicago Idea’s Week Twitter Chat: #Ideaschat (Tuesdays at 11am CST). In a nod to this blog, the topic was “Exploring Chicago… on the Cheap.”

In addition to just documenting this momentous occasion (my first time hosting a Twitter Chat!), I’d like to share some of my favorite responses for each of the questions, which all revolved around topics my blog holds dear!

Question 1:  What is your best tip for living in Chicago on a Budget?

Question 2: Festival season is approaching! What’s your best tip for attending on a budget? What festival will we see you at this year?

Question 3: What’s your tip for getting from one place to another in Chicago (on a budget, of course!)?

Question 4: Where do you go when you want the most bang for your buck for a meal?

Question 5: What’s your favorite free Chicago activity?

Thanks for everyone who participated and made this chat useful and informative! I know I learned something new about the city I call my home.