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How to budget your money in Chicago

Internships are an investment in your future. That said, unpaid opportunities mean slashing expenses whenever possible. Learn how to make the most of your abroad experience without breaking the bank with our best budgeting tips for Chicago.


1. Shop at the city’s many farmers markets

Get wonderful produce at low costs by choosing to get your fruits and vegetables at one of your local farmers markets. Try places like the Logan Square Farmers Market, Pilsen Farmers Market or the Lincoln Park Farmers Market. Even if you don’t make it to a market, opting to buy ingredients and cook meals instead of going out to eat is a highly effective way of saving money.


2. Opt for public transit

Taxis and Ubers may be convenient, but if you’re traveling solo, it’s more cost-efficient to take public transportation when getting about the city. Taking the bus or the “L” subway system, or walking, are much more affordable alternatives to taking a private vehicle. Plus, moving around more is healthier anyway.


3. Check local museums for student discounts

Many of Chicago’s amazing museums carry student discount deals with dramatically lower costs for students. Discounted tickets are available for students at renowned museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago History Museum, for example.


best budgeting tips


4. Eat local favorites

Local street food like pizza and hot dogs can be found for affordable prices on-the-go. Opting for street food can help keep costs down while also living a truly local Chicago experience. If you’re hankering for a restaurant visit, see if a friend will split an entree with you and opt for water instead of a more costly refreshment.


5. Choose lake front workouts instead of buying a gym membership

One of the best things about Chicago is that it’s positioned on the banks of Lake Michigan. The 18-mile Chicago Lakefront Trail, for walks, runs or bike rides, is a great place to exercise instead of paying for access to a gym.


6. Bring lunch and snacks to work

Don’t deplete your dinner funds by spending money on lunch every day. Those lunches add up. Investing a little time in bringing your lunch to work will help you save big bucks on daily lunch expenses. It’s amazing how quickly the savings add up after a few weeks.


best budgeting tips


7. For sightseeing get a CityPass or GoChicago

Admission fees can be steep for an intern abroad. If you’re looking to see a lot of attractions in a short period of time, both the CityPass and GoChicago deals offer big discounts on admission to amazing Chicago spots like the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. Read up on the deals and decide what makes sense for you.


8. Choose parks over restaurants and coffee shops

There are plenty of beautiful and free places to see in Chicago when the weather is nice. Free spaces like Millennium Park and Navy Pier can make for a cost-free afternoon of fun.



Learn more about how to boost your career in Chicago.




1. based on Chicago skyline, by Daniel Dionne, CC-by-SA 2.0

2. based on Marilyn in Chicago , by Phil Roeder, CC-by-2.0

3. based on Chicago at Night, by Roman Boed, CC-by-2.0

Photos and blog by Elizabeth Trovall

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!