VISTA life is about doing the most with as little as possible. Whether we’re in the office or the grocery store, creativity is key to surviving on poverty-level income. As a native Minnesotan, I’ve done my fair share of research on having fun in the Twin Cities without breaking the bank.
Here’s my guide to getting the most out of this vibrant (yes, I said vibrant) metropolis:
The Twin Cities has so many options to get around town. I don’t own a vehicle, but I do own a bike, a bus pass, and a car2go membership. With a brand new light rail line opening in June, there’s no good reason not to explore what these cities have to offer! Transportation doesn’t have to be expensive as long as you can plan in advance. And with websites like Google Maps and omgtransit.com you don’t really need to plan that far in advance!
- Find used bikes at places like (Northeast and Uptown) and Craigslist (bring a friend).
- Check out Lyft, car2go, Nice Ride (bike share), Uber, Zipcar, and Hour Car to see what might work best for you. The options are endless!
- What’s even cheaper: building your own bike for “free” with Cycles For Change’s Earn-a-Bike program
FOOD AND DRINK
Food is one of the first expenses people cut back on when faced with financial difficulties. My advice: Don’t. Do. That. Food is what keeps you healthy and therefore happy. Do what you have to do to get your nutrients and cut back on anything else. With that said, don’t spend money when you don’t have to. Plan your happy hours, start drinking tall boys or Grain Belt and challenge your friends to find the cheapest pho in town (Quang has my vote forever).
- Find your nearest farmer’s market! Many accept EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer or “food stamp” swipe card) and they all support local farmers. If you have roommates to share the goods with, fresh food is even less expensive.
- If you’re going out: Eat Street (Nicollet Avenue), University Avenue in St. Paul (Frogtown), and Central Avenue in Northeast typically have some phenomenal and well-priced ethnic restaurants.
- Yelp lets you filter results based on price-point, so plan ahead!
- ThriftyHipster.com (still in beta, so not the best working app/website yet) and MPLSdrinker.com (my preference) are the sites and apps to use when looking for your nearest happy hour.
My personal favorite way to spend money. Luckily, there are lots of options in the Twin Cities:
- Goodwill just opened their first Minneapolis location at 915 E Lake street a couple of months ago, there’s also one store in St. Paul and an outlet (meaning a lot of sifting through unsorted piles of clothes!) right on the border between the two cities.
- Vintage stores canbegoldmines. My favorites are:
- Consignment/thrift stores:
The more you know:
- The basement of the Salvation Army in the Warehouse District in Minneapolis is rumored to house all the extra stock from Target’s distribution center. I’ve never been, but it’s worth checking out!
THINGS TO DO
The possibilities truly are endless. First check with L’etoile Magazine’s “What’s What”, City Pages and the Vita.mn’s picks to know everything that’s going on. Fill in the gaps with any of these alternatives:
- Art galleries are awesome (and typically free) and it’s a great way to learn more about the art community in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
- Theater. THE TWIN CITIES IS BURSTING WITH SO MUCH THEATER I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START. I guess I’ll start with these:
- Guthrie Theater (Downtown East) – you don’t need a ticket to walk around the building! Just walk right in. There’s a coffee shop on the 5th floor.
- Southern Theater (West Bank)
- Mixed Blood Theater (West Bank)
- Bryant Lake Bowl (Uptown)
- Brave New Workshop (Downtown Minneapolis)
- Park Square Theater (Downtown St. Paul)
- Fitzgerald Theater (Lowertown)
- Music! It’s everywhere, but here are some typically free/cheap places to catch some great shows:
- Minneapolis Music and Movies in the Park (summer)
- Live on the Drive (summer)
- Mears Park in Lowertown (conveniently located near the new light rail line).
- 331 Club – the best dive bar and music venue in Minneapolis. Period.
- Amsterdam Bar & Hall (Lowertown)
- Turf Club (St. Paul)
- Icehouse (Whitter/Eat Street)
- 7th Street Entry (First Avenue’s little sister—a great place to check out something new!)
- Nomad World Pub (West Bank)
- Cause Restaurant & Soundbar (Uptown)
- Libraries are great for free speaking events and classes AS WELL AS fabulous books. Hennepin County (Minneapolis), Ramsey County, and St Paul Public Library are all good resources.
The more you know:
- The Guthrie Theater offers a “30 Below” program for people who are under 30 years old to buy tickets at rush line prices in advance.
- St. Anthony Main Theater has $5 tickets all day on Tuesdays for most films
- Mall of America Theater has $6 tickets on Wednesdays
- Hopkins Cinema 6 and the Riverview Theater are discount theaters with tickets around $3 every day.
- Volunteering typically leads to free things. Like tickets to shows and discounts and new friends. Think about it.
There you have it. No more excuses about being poor and bored! Let’s choose to be poor and engaged instead! If you’re unsatisfied with this list, go here for even more ideas.
Workforce Development Coordinator